July 29, 2013

Shut Up, Ali MacGraw

I've been yelling an awful lot lately. More than I ever wanted to, when I imagined myself as the working from home mother of three. (I'm also less pretty than I imagined, and my hair is much less manageable and effortlessly glamorous. Crap.)

I get up at five to work until six-thirty. I run around after the kids, clean up breakfast and do housewifely type things until nine-thirty, when I get another hour while Lucy naps and The Other Two watch an episode or three of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends or Spider-Man (Just Spider-Man) from 1983. 

We usually head outside after that, and I bring my phone because Work , and often end up emailing or Twittering or catching up on the eleventy-billion finance blogs I read, and the one Lannis. (Which should explain why I comment on her excellent posts so sporadically and - let's face it - spastically.)

They're all in bed napping by twelve-thirty, which means most of my client calls are scheduled for one o'clock (to make sure Oscar has gotten out of bed all nineteen times and finally gone to sleep). Norah's big enough to understand and actually follow the "if you wake up and the gate downstairs is still closed, play quietly in your room until I come get you" rule. Oscar does not, and Lucy? Ha! I laugh at your naïveté!

If I don't have a client call, I get about an hour and a half - two, if I'm lucky - to get more work done before they all troop downstairs in search of a snack. (And a drink and a "watch something"). They usually get another half hour or so of tv while I rush madly to finish up whatever analysis or report I'm working on. 

Afternoons usually happen outside, or at the grocery store if it's a really busy day, and they're also when dinner has to be prepped (or at least cursorily thought of and then forgotten about), laundry has to be washed and dried and folded and put away, or something. (One out of four is still a passing grade, right?)

Lets not even talk about the state of my floors, or fridge, or closets, or basement. Lets definitely Not Talk about my bathrooms. The caulking is supposed to be pink, alright?

And then there's the eating of supper, the cleaning up of supper, the brushing of teeth, the cleaning up of toys, the reading of stories, the singing of songs, and the puttings of Oscar to bed twelve more times with varying levels of annoyance and frustration, after which I can usually fit in another hour or two of work before finally sitting down on the couch for an hour and then trudging up to bed. 

Not every day is that bad, really. We go to the park, or the other park. We get spontaneous ice cream, and go on kid  dates that always manage to involve candy somehow. We have impromptu dance parties in the upstairs bathroom and birthday parties not in the upstairs bathroom. We have movie suppers in the living room that usually end in pyjamas snuggled up on the couch. 

Only the days that are bad lie to me, and whisper slyly that every day is like this, and you're a horrible, impatient parent, and you make your kids feel like they're in the way instead of loved

And so - in my frustration with myself, my full days, the newness of this life of working at home, the fact that all is not glitter and unicorns and bottomless tubs of Nutella, I yell. 

I yell at Norah to stop picking Lucy up when she doesn't want to be picked up. I yell at Lucy to quit splashing her hands in the toilet bowl. I yell at Oscar to stop whatever thing it is he's not stopping. I yell at Seth because in his effort to help me filter the frying oil into a Mason jar so it can be reused, he spills it all over - All. Over. - the counter. 

I yell, or I get angry and pouty, and they get grumpier, or even more unruly, or - worst of all - they cry. Um. The kids. Seth doesn't cry. Good golly, imagine? (He's also ruly most of the time.)

I feel horrible. I want to stop yelling. Sometimes I manage to grasp a little perspective and realize that this stress is just temporary, that I'll find a rhythm that works, that if I'd just put my phone down when we're outside the world wouldn't end, that I could read less money news and no one, least of all me, would notice. 

I say "I'm sorry" a lot. And then I think about how awesome it would be to never have to say it, but not because "love means never having to say you're sorry," because that's utter bullshit

Love - the kind I'm interested in, anyway - means saying I'm sorry when I act like a crazed harridan instead of a mother or a wife, all the while trying - with divine help, thankfully, or I'd be in a rotten pickle - to act in a way that won't necessitate apologizing again. 

Real love means saying you're sorry and then being better. 

So Ali MacGraw can eat it.