Monday, January 9, 2012

A (Worthless) Hour in the Life of a Mommy

I recently spent the good part of an hour explaining to the clerk at a public health clinic why I only had proof of income for my husband. I needed an aching cavity filled pronto, and the clinic down the street seemed the cheapest way to go. The hold-up was the check stubs I'd brought along, which had only my husband's name on them.

“So you don't work?” he asked. “Then I need an official unemployment statement to show that you're unemployed.”

Unemployed. The “U” word. Adjective meaning unoccupied, idle, at liberty, jobless.

I'm pretty sure the guy doesn't have kids.

Lest any American citizen should forget, the mothers of young children are tireless workers who seldom sleep, eat, or use the bathroom while clocked out. We are union-less, require few breaks, and earn the saddest of incomes. Our achievements are rarely measured or noted, and on top of it all we have these outrageous hormones.

To illustrate this point, I will paint for you a picture of a mere hour of my day as a stay-at-home mom. This hour takes place between 1:30 and 2:30 pm on a Wednesday. Events occur in real time.

The hour begins as my pastor-husband settles down with our daughter in the living room to watch a movie. He is in between meetings, and has had lunch with us as usual. (It is such a blessing to live next to the church.) Now, the disciplinarian mom in me says, “Lydah shouldn't be watching a movie right now. It's nap time, not movie time.” But fun mom says, “Let it go, she can take the nap later. She's with her dad. This is quality time.” So I button my lip and go about changing our seven-month-old's diaper.

I should mention at this point that, in order to save on diaper expense and diaper waste, our family has embarked on a wonderful adventure called cloth diapering. And while they are more bank-friendly and much greener than their disposable counterparts, cloth diapers are terribly inconvenient when they are sopping wet in the dryer.

So, I leave Eve diaper-less for a few minutes on the changing table (safely strapped in, of course), and run up to fetch some laundry.

About this time, Greg needs to head back to work (did I mention what a blessing it is to live right next to the church?). As expected of a nap-deprived two-year-old, Lydah begins sobbing dramatically about Daddy leaving her.

I come down to console her and find that sweet little Eve, in the 2.33 minutes I was away from her, has managed to have the most remarkable bowel movement, sans the diaper to catch it. So there's poo on the table, poo on the wipes, poo on her clothes, and poo on her happily thrashing hands and feet.

I pin down her hands and speed dial Greg, who runs right back over (such a blessing to live next to the church.)

We work together to rescue the baby from her mess, bathe her, and clean it all up before Greg's counseling appointment. Lydah, meanwhile, settles back down to her movie without taking any notice of Daddy's return.

I am in the midst of toweling off Eve, and Greg has just walked out the back door, when our doorbell rings. So I run down the stairs with the naked baby and answer the front door, finding, of course, the church member who is wondering where her pastor is and is he still planning to counsel her and why doesn't he answer the church doorbell?

“He was just here helping me for a second. He should be there now. Try again!” I say in my super-sweet, covering-up-the-insanity-of-my-life voice. (Did I mention what a burden it is to live next to the church?)

Finally, I am able to dress the baby, and diaper her, using the now perfectly dry (and green and cheap) diapers from the dryer, and just as I am thinking how nice it might be to have Lydah take that nap after all, I hear a voice from downstairs cry out, “I'm all sticky and wet!”

None other than the two-year-old has managed to cover herself with a bowl of canned peaches, which she has sneakily stolen from on top of the kitchen counter. As an aside, I have to say how impressed I am with her physical strength – I didn't even know she could climb that high. Not so impressive, however, is the horrible mess she has made carrying the bowl from the counter to the living room, and the sticky peach juice that is tangling up her hair and dripping down her neck and all over her clothes.

This, considering that I had just finished bathing the sister. This, considering I had just scrubbed and vacuumed all the floors less than 24-hours prior. This, considering I had just changed Lydah's clothes for the third time that day due to potty-training accidents.

All of this considering, I am at the end of my rope, and make the horrible mistake of asking, a bit too loudly, “Why in the world are you eating peaches in the living room?!”

Now I am usually very committed to speaking in a respectful tone even in those moments when I want to scream till the shingles peel off. So Lydah's actions in the next moments are quite reasonable and forgivable. Mostly.

Rather than answering my louder-than-usual question, my sweet daughter begins throwing a truly awful tantrum, howling out “No! Mommy, no!”, stomping around in the peach juice, and throwing a pillow or two before I send her to time-out in the bathroom.

It was about this time that the hour ended, so I will spare you, Mr. Public Dental Health Clerk, all the details of the rest of my idle, unoccupied, unemployed day.

But for anyone else out there wondering what payment there is for a job like mine, I will let you in on what happened in the next hour, as I am toweling off Lydah, wiping her tears as she snuggles in my lap. After working to convince her that she can actually stop crying, that I'm not upset anymore, and that everything is just peachy (pun intended), I say, “Lydah, is it okay if I cry now too?”

She sits straight up and looks at me and says, “No, Mommy. You can't cry. Big people don't cry. Only little people do that.” She hesitates and says, “Well, Daddy can cry. But not you.”

We giggle together as I pretend to boo-hoo like a Big Bad Dad, but I think my two-year-old has hit on some truth. We mothers are irreplaceable. Indestructible. Heroic. If Mommy breaks down, the very core of the household is shaken. The little ones will question the worth of their lives. Even the Daddy will be lost in this world of diapers, blankies, and washing machines.

Unemployed? Not at all. I may not have the official document to prove it, but I hold the powerful, world-shaping position of Mommy.

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