Why I Am a SAHM

Sometimes, I think I am damaging my children’s understanding of what women can do by being a SAHM. Are my boys going to look for wives who will only be homemakers? Will my daughter think her career options are limited? Am I reinforcing gender stereotypes?

Of course, I know intellectually that the whole thrust of feminism isn’t to force all women into the workplace and devalue motherhood and being a homemaker. The point of feminism is to give women and men equal rights and opportunities so that if I want to work, I can work. If I want to stay at home, I can stay at home. (Same goes for my husband.)

Hapa Papa often jokes that I pulled a Bait and Switch on him. I looked good on paper: graduating from UCLA, working in marketing then becoming a financial advisor. And then, BAM! I popped out Cookie Monster and decided I never wanted to work again. (No, this is not a discussion on whether or not caring for children is work. Yes, it is. But I am merely referring to “work” as in an occupation for which I am paid taxable dollars.)

I always assumed I would work after I had kids. My mother worked and my brother and I turned out fine (dare I say, AWESOME?). But I do know that as much as I appreciated the freedom of being a latch-key kid and the hours and hours of TV we’d watch after school, I envied my friends whose mothers were home. Part of me longed for someone to welcome me home when I got back from school, perhaps with snacks.

Please don’t misunderstand me. My mother never missed a concert or school event. She always knew the gist of what was going on at school. (This is especially impressive since she was an immigrant and this was all PRE-internet!) She knew who my friends were and was incredibly strict regarding who I was and wasn’t allowed to hang out with. I am incredibly grateful – especially now that I realize just how easily influenced I am! (I am no stalwart independent. I am quite the follower and easily misled!)

At any rate, as soon as I took one look at Cookie Monster, I knew I would never work again. I didn’t want to miss a single moment of his little life and the lives of his siblings. I wanted to shape my children, for better or for worse. When the kids eventually go to school, I want to be there at pick up and drop off. I want to know their teachers. I want to be involved in the PTA and their classrooms. (Ok, I take that back. I definitely do NOT want to be Room Mom. NOPE. Not for me.)

But mostly, I want our home to be a sanctuary. A hub. I want the kids to bring their friends over after school, play, hang out, do their homework, eat, and bask in the inanities of life. I want to be in the background or foreground (depending on what is needed). I want to be the constant heartbeat of their lives until they launch themselves into college and young adulthood. I want to be their security. Their home.

I want to provide my children with the stability I never felt when I was growing up. I want to be their rock.

Of course, many parents provide these things even while working. But to me, I want to be home full time. Even when all the kids are in school, what place of work would have me work from 10-2? No one in their right mind would hire me unless it were shift work. Plus, I am more than certain those precious child-free hours would be quickly eaten up by the millions of little things it takes to manage a family of several children.

I am just so grateful that Hapa Papa’s job makes enough money so that we can live comfortably on one income without hardship. I am grateful that Hapa Papa supports me being at home. I am grateful that I get to be present for almost every glorious, boring, mundane, infuriating moment with my children. It is an incredible honor.

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Things That Make Me Happy

I have several inchoate posts in the queue and I just can’t seem to sit still long enough to write something coherent and meaningful. (Truthfully, I can’t stay away from the interwebs because, hey! Email! Quizzes! Wikipedia! Facebook! Random articles! Apparently, they are all more interesting than writing a blog post.) So, instead, I’m going to just list a bunch of things that have made me happy lately.

So, here they are in no particular order:

1) I love watching my older two kids interact. They are such good buddies and even their arguments are hilarious. Some examples:

a) Inevitably, the first words out of whoever wakes up second are, “Where’s Gamera/Cookie Monster?” 

b) G: “Top [Stop], Cookie Monster! You listen to me! You have to listen to me!”
CM: “No, thank you! I don’t have to listen to you!”
G: “Top [Stop], Cookie Monster! LISTEN TO ME!”

Mostly, I find this amusing because they sound exactly like me yelling at them to listen to me.

c) CM: “Come play with me, Gamera!”
G: “Okay!” or, “NO!”

Gamera never asks to play with Cookie Monster. She just follows him everywhere and does whatever he does. It’s super cute.

d) Every time we drop Cookie Monster off at preschool, Gamera is sad and begs to join her older brother. She asks every time if she can go to school with him and I have to break her heart every time. She gets super happy when it’s time to pick him up.

e) Gamera plays with trains, reads, and does everything EXACTLY like Cookie Monster. Clearly, I’m not teaching her anything. They even talk and tell stories exactly the same. It’s clear from syntax alone that they’re related.

2) Even in sleep, they are close. Their interactions are particularly amusing since one or both of them are asleep.

a) I often find them snuggled together in bed, or alternatively, squashing the other. I have watched Gamera sleep crawl over Cookie Monster’s face and settle on top of his head with her stomach. I have even found them holding hands.

b) When Cookie Monster sleep talks, he usually says, “More!” or “Cookie!” When Gamera sleep talks, she yells, “MINE!” or “No, Cookie Monster!”

c) One time, Gamera rolled over and found herself pushed up against Cookie Monster’s feet. In her sleep, she started yelling, “Top [Stop] kicking me, Cookie Monster! Top!” All the while, hitting Cookie Monster in the face. He was so confused, even in a dead sleep. I couldn’t stop laughing but eventually, separated poor Cookie Monster from his unreasonable sister.

3) Since my college friend, DS, has been visiting this past week, I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with an old friend who’s life is completely different than mine. It’s been awesome to get to know him a little better, as well as have deep conversations (like the kind we used to have in college – even if he did go to USC). My kids are going to be SO SAD when he’s gone.

4) Glow Worm’s random noises crack me up. He’s taken to growling after nursing. Clearly, he takes after his big sister.

5) I caught up on all my TV shows.

6) I made some progress on my 2014 Goals. Incremental steps, but hey, progress nonetheless!

7) Hapa Papa is back from his business trips and as a result, I have ceded all parental duties to him. This past weekend, he took the older kids to two parks each day. That’s three more parks than I took the kids to all week. (Hmmm… wait… that’s FOUR more parks than I took the kids to all week.)

8) Cookie Monster recently told me he loves the song, Counting Stars, by OneRepublic. Hearing him sing along to the song on the radio (and mangling most of the lyrics and surprisingly getting a decent amount of them correct), seeing him glow as he grins and sings enthusiastically, watching him dance along to the music, it is so precious.

9) Glow Worm attacks all the activity stations on his exersaucer. He gets even more excited when he sees his big brother and sister. He wants so badly to be big.

10) Cookie Monster has been really good about speaking more in Chinese after a few months of speaking more English. I’ve been making more of an effort to force him to speak Chinese and pretending not to understand him if he speaks to me in English.

11) Because of my pretending not to understand English and forcing the kids to speak Chinese, Gamera has made up a language. She knows she can’t speak English, but for some reason (either because she’s not sure how to say it in Chinese, or she’s just stubborn), Gamera now either mimes what she wants, or she speaks gibberish such as, “Hee hee ha ha hoo?”

12) I haven’t yelled much at the kids ever since I started trying the techniques in Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood (affiliate link). Although very cheesy and seemingly stupid, the techniques have been working really well for me. I especially love giving my kids choices for incredibly stupid things, as well as having set things to say when I’m frustrated or mad so that I repeat those phrases like a mantra and refrain from screaming at my children.

13) My food restrictions have eased up a bit (due to Glow Worm’s allergy doctor saying I can have some egg and dairy in baked goods even though Glow Worm is allergic to dairy and eggs). So, every now and then, I sneak a food item that makes me feel normal again. Today, I had 2.5 chocolate chip cookies. They were AMAZING.

14) My acupuncturist says I only have to go to a few more sessions. Then it will be mostly on an as-needed vs weekly basis. My Saturdays are going to be free again! (Currently, I drive three hours round trip for the sessions every Saturday.)

15) My mother is finally not sick and healthy again (after being sick for at least a month). So that means my kids can finally hang out with her (and I can have a small break when she comes over). YAY!

16) Hapa Papa. Sometimes, I get a little entitled and become a bit resentful, but when I remember all the things he does for us (especially the kids), I am so grateful. He is a fantastic and involved father and my kids are so entirely spoiled by him. Plus, he really does go out of his way to make sure I am taken care of and happy.

I want to make sure Hapa Papa knows that if I went back in time to tell my college aged self what to do differently, I would ALSO be very upset and sad if the altered past erased HIM from my timeline. He came home Friday night and grumbled, “I noticed that you only mentioned you’d be upset if you erased the babies, but made no mention of me. I noticed because you only included the ENTIRE FAMILY EXCEPT ME. I’m not upset, you know, but it did come to my attention…” Oh, Hapa Papa. You are adorable.

Even coming up with this list made me smile. What is making you happy this week?

How I Know I’m a Parent Even When I’m Alone

As a SAHM, it is very rare for me to be without one or all of my children. So, when I am out by myself, it’s really weird. Of course, I revel in how simple and quick it is to do ANYTHING. And then, I run into the problem of not knowing what to do with myself.

Anyhow, here are some signs that remind me I’m a parent even when my kids aren’t around:

1) I have the urge to point out every single firetruck, police car, garbage truck, BART train, turkey, cow, horse, WHATEVER that would interest Cookie Monster or Gamera.

2) I don’t have any chapstick, hand lotion, wipes, snacks, water, or anything useful on hand because I was so excited to use a tiny purse that I barely remembered to pack my wallet and phone.

3) Instead of buying what I need for myself, I wander toy aisles, buy their favorite snacks and drinks, and look out for snacks and stickers and candy I can score for free. For the kids, of course.

4) The doctor’s office know me by sight and by my children’s names, but not by MY name so when I go for myself, they are somewhat flustered and have to ask me for all my insurance information and have me sign all these forms because I haven’t been in to see them for myself in over a year.

5) When I go to the grocery story I go straight to the bakery for our free cookies until I realize I am an adult all alone so I can’t get one.

6) Every task and errand is light years faster and I find that I have allotted myself way too much time. I find myself wandering the aisles just to bask in all my free time.

7) I am constantly checking my phone for updates about the children from Hapa Papa.

ETA: 8) Swaying and rocking the following (but not limited to): nothing, books, groceries, my purse, food, a tasty beverage. While waiting in line. While standing. While breathing. With no baby.

What about you?

Happiness is a Choice

Short of chemical and hormonal imbalances, I personally believe that happiness (like joy, hope, and most things) is a choice.

I’ve been a little too doom and gloom lately and it just doesn’t sit well with me. So I am going to make an effort to focus on the things in my life that make me happy. After all, just like being a SAHM isn’t always pretty, neither is it always alcoholism inducing.

So we take a little break from “telling it like it is” when things are the shits and bring you “telling it like it is” when your heart melts and feels two sizes too small because there is no way it can possibly contain your happiness.

In the interest of saving time, I will now present you with a list of stuff that is making me happy that is in all ways haphazard. (I need to go to sleep, people. I am old and sad that way, but it helps with the yelling. YOU DON’T WANT ME TO YELL AT MY CHILDREN DO YOU?)

1) Glow Worm’s skin is much improved (pretty much all better) and the intense care and doctor visits is slowing down. I know what to do if his skin flares up again. I am awaiting blood test results for Glow Worm’s possible food allergies/sensitivities, and I am finding more snacks I can consume so I don’t always feel on the brink of starvation.

2) When Hapa Papa travels, the older kids sleep with me and they are adorable and sweet and cozy and snuggly and I LOVE IT when they are sleeping with me. That is, until I wake up at the very edge of my king sized bed because one or both of them have rolled into me and used me as a wall and have pushed me to the last foot of my bed before I will fall off. Totally worth it.

3) Gamera gives the best hugs. She totally melts her body into you and curls her arms around your neck and sinks her head into the crook of your neck/shoulder and plasters herself into your chest and it is so perfect.

4) Cookie Monster is hilarious and goofy and I am so glad he is ridiculously good-looking because my goodness he is going to be such a dork and it’s hard to be JUST a dork but I am glad he is adorkable because then his undeniable attractiveness will be tempered and humanized so that instead of being one of those intimidatingly cool and attractive kids he will be a silly, approachable kid who is also incredibly beautiful on the outside. Wow. That was one huge, run-on sentence.

5) I love how after Glow Worm nurses, he has to chat. He has to chat and stare at me with his bright black eyes and chubby face and tell me all about his day and his insights into the human condition and how he has discovered the secret to cold fusion and by the way, he has also figured out world peace.

6) I am glad Hapa Papa interacts with the kids so differently from how I do. When he takes them to parks, zoos, museums, play areas, activities, whatever, the kids always have more fun with him. They run, jump, find sticks, eat snacks, walk, sit on his shoulders, look at lizards, jump, take pictures, run amok and free and wild and the pictures make me feel as if I’m a downer (I know I am) but also make me smile because I know my kids are so incredibly loved and adored by Hapa Papa and are having the time of their lives. Watching Hapa Papa love and care for our children makes me love him all the more.

7) When Gamera has a stuffy nose and says “My nose not working!”

8) How Cookie Monster always bursts through the door after preschool and runs to hug me with a huge smile.

9) Hapa Papa being a dork and dancing goofily around the house. Sometimes just to make me laugh.

10) This face:

Such a happy boy!

Such a happy boy!

11) And this face:

IMG_1958

How can we deny her anything?

12) And this face:

IMG_1974

What a goofball!

Amidst the frustration and yelling of parenting, I have many more moments of incredible joy. I just need to remind myself and choose to think exclusively of those every once and awhile. I feel much better today.

Sometimes, Parenting is a Slog

I came to an unexpected realization tonight. I don’t think I’ve been happy lately. A lot of it is due to me feeling overwhelmed about Glow Worm and then my two older kids on top of that. Then, I feel stupid for feeling so overwhelmed because let’s be honest. Glow Worm’s skin issues aren’t life threatening. (The infections may have come to that had I allowed them to rage on, but I didn’t and he’s much better now.)

After going to Stanford pediatric dermatology, they gave me some skin regimens that though labor intensive and a pain in the ass, are quite doable and are working. My main gripe with them is they care more about treatment versus prevention. They seemed skeptical about what I think is the root cause of Glow Worm’s eczema (protein sensitivities from food). So, short of repeated treatment (granted, effective treatment), they aren’t really helpful in terms of preventing this from occurring in the future.

I find this both disappointing and infuriating. It’s not like I suggested Glow Worm’s eczema was caused by aliens doing scientific experiments on him. FFS, be useful! It is NOT a fait accompli! Blergh.

So, hopefully, this is just a phase that I’m going through. Sorry my blog is nonstop complainy lately. Please don’t think I am not grateful for my life and my kids. It’s just a tough (for me, anyway) time at the moment.

What I am SUPER grateful, other than my family, are my awesome friends who go out of their way to babysit my older kids so I can take Glow Worm to doctor appointments without also having to deal with two small children, as well as offer to pick up and drop off Cookie Monster from school. It so strange how it was initially very difficult for me to accept this type of help. Now, I’m all for it.

Truly, I don’t know how people do it without any help from friends or family. I would just curl up and cry (more).

I am so tired that my house is a mess (I haven’t really cleaned it in at least a month – which in the grand scheme of things, is not a big deal, but the part of me that likes to get things clean and done cringes), my kids are barely fed and clothed, and I just pretty much let Cookie Monster and Gamera fend for themselves. In fact, this morning, I realized that not only do I have no idea how to play with Gamera when Cookie Monster is at school, I have no desire to.

I am not sure whether or not that is a good, bad, or neutral thing.

Part of me thinks that one of the perks of bearing multiple children super close in age is me no longer needing to entertain small children. The other part of me thinks that I am a lazy, half-assing parent. (Perhaps both opinions can be simultaneously true.)

I know several of my friends have suggested that I hire a baby sitter to come and watch the children while I decompress. While I appreciate that suggestion, the thought of doing so just causes me more stress. My kids have only been watched by family or close friends. Hiring a babysitter to watch all THREE of my kids (that is THREE kids four and under) is costly (around $25/hr or maybe more) and likely, traumatic for my incredibly clingy children. In fact, I think Glow Worm would be the most accepting of a baby sitter. Also, I find it really wasteful since the whole point of me being a SAHM is to STAY AT HOME. This is my JOB.

Keep in mind, I also do have a reasonable amount of alone time when Hapa Papa is at home or my mom comes over. I do leave the house sans children. Of course, when I come back, I usually have to be OK with the house looking as if a tornado swept through it and my kids in various states of disarray. (Not that this is not the situation when I watch my kids by myself, but it is even MORE overwhelming when I have just been all peaceful and happy and then walk home into what seems like a Disaster Zone and have to switch back into parenting mode. Then I find that all that Zen-ness immediately leaks away and my shoulders tense right back up.)

Anyhow, I find myself constantly tired and annoyed – even with going to sleep when the kids sleep (around 9pm). Granted, my sleep is constantly broken, but I AM sleeping. I finally got around to watching some TV the other day (I haven’t made a dent in my DVR in at least a month) and my reading seems to have picked up again. But mostly, I feel as if I’m treading water and anything I do to decompress just piles up the To Do list higher and higher.

Compounding this is Hapa Papa traveling a lot as well as my mom being gone for about two weeks with her own travels. Yes, yes. Cry me a river. I realize that so many people out there are single parents and have to deal with this AS WELL AS work full time. I get it. I am not special or unique in my travails. I’m not trying to start a “Who has it harder” pissing contest. I am just telling it like it is for me right now.

No doubt, I just have to chug through this and in a few weeks, Glow Worm will be markedly healed, I will get more sleep, my kids will miraculously listen instead of looking at me like I’m making suggestions until I yell at them and even then, they move SO FUCKING SLOWLY – oh right, I was in the middle of telling myself that it will all be better soon.

I know I would seriously feel less stressed if I did the following:

1) Sleep more.

2) Build in more time to account for the unaccountable SLOWNESS of my older children doing ANYTHING that requires haste.

3) Stop caring HOW my kids do things as long as they do it. However slowly.

4) Eat more fruits and vegetables. (Oh, let’s just be honest. Eat fruits and vegetables. That would instantly make it more.)

5) Stop worrying about if my children injure themselves. I can warn them all I want but if my kids seem to have an utter inability to sit in the center of the fucking chair, then they deserve to fall off. Every day. I just. Gah. I suppose that’s why we have health insurance. *sigh*

6) Choose to focus on the good moments.

7) Choose to let go of the bad moments.

8) Drink more peach bellinis. Mmmmm… I need to learn how to make me some of those. I have a VitaMix. And Google. It can be done. (Sigh. Now I’ve become a stereotypical SAHM who drinks. I don’t even drink! But I can start!)

Alright, who wants to have an afternoon (Oh, why lie? Morning sounds fine, too.) play date where we make and consume peach bellinis?

Grief on the Side

An old co-worker and friend of mine died yesterday morning. He would’ve been 44 in less than a month and leaves behind a wife and two teenage children. Although I knew it was inevitable (he had been in a painful struggle with cancer for a long time), it is still a shock to my system. (Obviously, my grief is nothing compared to his family and closer friends.) 

It’s a mixed bag, right? When people we love and care about die after suffering so much physical pain. On the one hand, we do not want them to be gone – for death seems so final to me (although the thought of a Heaven and him being in it brings me comfort). On the other hand, we do not want to prolong their suffering and pain. So though I am sad he has left us, I am relieved there was an end to his pain.

I must admit though, part of my grief (despite losing a friend who was a person who drew others in with his fun and positive personality – geez, even my attempts to describe him fall so flat, as if reducing him to a caricature of himself) is the thought of this happening to ME. I am sad for his family who are left behind, and I cannot stop thinking about ME. How I am so grateful that this is NOT happening to ME.

I am a selfish ass.

When I consider the possibility of my babies in a life without Hapa Papa, I can’t breathe. Not to mention just the practicality of WHO WILL PROVIDE FOR US? and OMG IT WILL HAVE TO BE ME!

Of course, my mind veers to the practical, daily providence side of things. Because to think too hard or too long of an actual LIFE without Hapa Papa, I just can’t. I feel an ache in the back of my throat and eyes just thinking about all the things that my kids (and by extension, my friend’s kids) will miss and all I want to do is cry.

After I heard the news this afternoon, I just stumbled about, letting my kids zone out on the iPad. All I could think about was how grateful that we were all healthy and alive and that I loved my kids. Of course, fast forward to this evening right before bed when I reached new heights (in terms of volume) of screaming and yelling at Cookie Monster and Gamera (POOR Glow Worm!) and I feel even more like a giant piece of turd.

I don’t know why the juxtaposition of these two events sits so heavily on my heart. I suppose it’s some trite message about how we never know when we’re going to die so we need to cherish the moments we have with our children.

Mostly, I just feel guilt.

But since I already wrote a post on being a monster, we can skip that guilt-fest for now. I think I am just going to chock all that yelling to misplaced grief, stress, and the sad fact of life for the moment. I’ll make better choices tomorrow.

At any rate, I miss my friend. We had somewhat lost touch in the past few years, but that did not dampen my love for him.

Rest in Peace, Nellie. My heart breaks for your wife and two beautiful children. You are with Jesus now and we are without you. Seems a bit selfish of Jesus if you ask me, but that’s just me feeling sad. You were one fucking awesome guy and it sucks that you’re gone. You are loved.

Not Ready to Make Nice

Every so often, I wonder to myself, “Why am I still not talking to my father?” After all, my parents are divorced, he is free to do whatever he wants. Shouldn’t I give him another chance? Shouldn’t I give him an opportunity to start over? I mean, if all children of divorced parents didn’t speak to their dads or moms because of adultery or bad behavior, there would be a lot of estranged families.

Perhaps there are.

My uncle and his family came to visit us this Christmas. This is the first time they have visited (other than for my brother’s wedding) in approximately twenty-five to thirty years. My uncle had refused to attend my wedding because my father was in attendance. My father was not invited to my brother’s wedding.

At any rate, I feel as if all my uncle and aunt could talk about was my father. Perhaps they simply have no one else to talk to about it. Or rather, no one else can quite understand their situation. It’s like a survivor’s club. But I couldn’t help but feel as if just by talking about him nonstop, giving an unending relational post-mortem, that we were still allowing my father to hold so much power over us. I suppose it is somewhat better than not talking at all about my father and the havoc he has caused. I often forget that my immediate family was not the only family torn apart by my father. He also tore apart his original family, with his brother, mother, and father.

There is a power in us never saying anything about my father. There is also a power in us ONLY talking about my father. Quite frankly, I was incredibly sick of the subject.

I understand. My father has now made it one of his primary goals to make my uncle’s life miserable. He has moved to the community where my uncle lives and has started to intrude in my uncle’s social and religious circles. My uncle is afraid and unwilling to do anything. He is just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t know why or what exactly the problem is – but I have ever been the aggressor. Also, I know barely anything about the situation. Perhaps my father really does want a public fight – and the only way to neutralize him is to ignore him and pretend he doesn’t exist.

I don’t know. I have always butt heads with my father. We are very much alike in temper and temperament. Of course, I am much better looking.

I confronted him on all the small things (except the only thing that really mattered – his lying, cheating ways). My mother and brother rarely confronted him. They just let him bluster on, unwilling (and perhaps, the smarter for it) to engage in an argument just to be right or be heard. I still haven’t decided which strategy was better.

I want to start a new conversation.

I want my children to go through life completely ignorant through first hand experience (not necessarily ignorant in general) what it is like to have an absent, unreliable, and selfish parent. I want my children to have nothing to do with violence perpetrated against them or their mother. I want my children to know peace, stability, love, and freedom.

I spent so much of my life afraid and hiding. Hiding my true feelings and thoughts about my father, my mother, my occupation, my studies, my everything. Because my family was built upon lie after lie to protect our dark secrets.

Such a fucking waste of time.

It was like covering up a cancer or a gangrenous limb. How can we get well if we pretend there is no illness?

Ultimately, that’s what it comes back down to. If my father were no longer a plague or a cancer, I’d consider allowing him into my and my children’s lives. He is still my father. But since he still is bent on revenge and only looking out for himself, it is my job – my duty – as a parent to shield my children. I am like Gandalf fighting the Balrog.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

It seems a tad overdramatic and silly now that it is in gif form. But the sentiment remains the same.

Also, I am allowed some gallows humor, right? If anything, at least my crappy father has given me so much potential blogging and parenting material! Thanks, crappy dad!

I now have a blueprint for what NOT to do as a parent. I can now screw my children up in an altogether new and different fashion. Babies, consider yourself warned.