Yesterday, as I was trying to get something finished up - and Charlie had to dash off to the store to pick up some cleaning supplies for the woman who was here scrubbing our house and apparently we'd run completely out of bleach and Comet and Pledge and every other cleansing agent known to man - I was solely responsible for watching the kids.
And it was crazy difficult. Because Henry had just gone down for a nap and the triplets were running around the house, acting rowdy and clearly still feeling the effects of the Easter candy they inhaled five days ago, and I was frazzled. Beyond belief.
It might not have normally been that difficult, but as I mentioned, I was trying to get something finished up. Which I know is the Cardinal Sin of Motherhood, that whole attempting to accomplish something while there are children under your care.
So as the kids were running around my feet, I growled at them.
Like a bear. Or a rabid dog.
Through clenched teeth, I growled at my children.
BE QUIET. GET OUTSIDE.
I need a few MINUTES to get something done.
Why does it seem like I ALWAYS need to get something done?!
Of course I'll sit down and play with the children, but within moments, I'm pulled off in to something else. There is always something to be done and if I see it, I'm the one to do it.
A load of laundry needs to be folded. Random crumbs on the floor need to be swept up. There's a dinner that needs to be thought about and prepared. I'll set up paints for the children, but instead of sitting and painting with them, I'm organizing furniture on the patio, or putting away a load of dishes. It's impossible for me to sit down and just enjoy the moment.
Charlie, on the other hand, is a master of enjoying the moment.
It once drove me CRAZY that my husband would feed the kids breakfast and then abandon the dishes on the table because he's taking the kids on a bike ride. Or to the zoo.
"Jen, I'll clean that stuff up later because if I do it now - it will add 30 minutes to us getting out of the house. And the important thing is to GET OUT. I can always clean later."
I've come to admire his ability to not get bogged down by something trivial because I could never walk away from dirty dishes on the table. The house might be on fire and I'd still be in there hurriedly wiping down the counters and loading the dishwasher.
(Which broke again. For those keeping tab, this would be the fifth time in 10 months, or 17th time in four years. Because we finally caved and bought a service plan last year, we are now automatically qualified for a new dishwasher under the lemon law. Yay. Although it might not be here until June. Boo. Thank goodness for Dixie paper plates.)
Tonight, as I was tucking the children in to bed, I apologized to William for growling at him. As I always do, I told him that I love him and I'm so glad that he came to live with me. But then, as I stood there by his bed, I was thinking.
WHO AM I?
Sure, I'm a mother, first and foremost.
But am I the kind of mother that could be home with her children all day, everyday?
I like to think that I could.
I certainly like the way that it sounds, because I say it enough.
I DON'T WANT TO MISS A SINGLE THING.
I WANT TO BE HOME ALL DAY WITH MY CHILDREN.
But is it entirely true?
Having done it on a full time basis, what with a full year of maternity leave on two separate occasions, I know that being home full time with your children is the most exhilarating - exhausting - energizing and yet sometimes, most depleting job in the world.
In my heart, a mother should be with her children. Because I'm fully aware of just how fast time is flying past and how quickly these kids are growing up - I'm trying desperately to freeze the here and now and be with them, non stop.
But when I look at the unending patience that oozes from my husband, I can't help but wonder if I'm even the right person for the primary caregiver job? I mean, how many parents GROWL at their kids? Good Lord, I wasn't with them for more than 10 minutes and I'm spewing saliva. Sadly, I can't even remember what I was doing now, but apparently, at the time whatever it was, was so critical that I acted like a wild animal.
Once Charlie returned home from his cleaning agent restocking mission, he pulled a steno pad out and sketched shapes, letters and numbers. And for the next hour, he calmly worked with them. As of this writing, three of our four children are fluent in all of their shapes including squares, circles, triangles, rectangles, ovals, diamonds, domes, hexagons, pentagons and octagons. They know all of their lower case letters and are able to correctly identify all numerical values up to 30.
Then, to exercise the other half of their cerebrums, Charlie crafted life-sized images of the children using sidewalk chalk which he had them color in.
Not once did he lose his patience.
Not once did he growl.
I am so fortunate. Not only to have healthy, happy, beautiful children, but to have a husband that will go to any lengths to support his family, even if that means putting his own career on the back burner. There is no doubt, Charlie and I are a team. We work together, for the most part, seamlessly. He possesses strengths that I do not, and vice versa. And I have always believed that by tapping in to our individual strengths, we are able to provide the best for our family.
In traditional families, the father is the primary breadwinner and the mother is a homemaker, caring for the children. Instinctively that seems like the right thing to do and the more I am drawn away from that, the more conflicted I feel. But in our situation, due to a number of events that have transpired over the past few years, our situation isn't traditional.
It's the exact opposite.
Although there is an overwhelmingly large part of me that wants for that to be me out there patiently interfacing with the children the way that my husband does (while also keeping the table cleared of dirty dishes), I don't know if I can do it as well as he can?
I don't want to be absent at all from our children's lives, but I'm also incredibly apprehensive to give up my career because it is so atypically great in today's world. Moreover, I feel like I would be capable of providing such stability for my family - now and in the long term - if I remain with my employer.
Of course, none of these thoughts would even cross my mind about working away from the home, if I didn't have an amazing husband who is willing to remain at home and who does an amazing job with our children.
Maybe Charlie really is the best one to be home with the kids? Or maybe I'm just trying to rationalize what appears to be an inevitable situation and this is my way of coping?
I honestly don't know anymore.
I'm going to go jump on my mini trampoline and ponder this topic further because obviously thinking about it 1,440 minutes a day for the past 10 days hasn't been quite enough.