Saturday, April 10, 2010

what works best for the team?

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.

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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.

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

18 comments:

  1. Whatever decision you guys make will be the right one. Call me when you get a chance. We have to talk about next week. Things have changed quite a bit...

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  2. I agree - my hubby would be an AWESOME SAHD...way way way better than me- he truly enjoys spending EVERY MINUTE of his time w/them. EVERY MINUTE. HE LOVES IT. I left for a week and HE LOVED IT - and the house was fairly clean and put together.

    Men can do it - I think we are shortchanging them when we assume they cannot. Of course, he CAN'T as his salary is the big one, but he COULD if the situation allowed it.

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  3. I hope Charlie doesn't take this as an insult, but I have to say, I've come to think of him as 'one of the girls,' right there along with you and the other two moms in our triplet playgroup. Yay for Super Charlie!

    By the way, tell him I'm still waiting for my drum lesson. With me as his student, he'll need all that patience you just blogged about. And a helmet---I'll be armed with sticks, after all.

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  4. All I can say is that I hear you. Loud and clear. I so know what you mean. But instead of praying for more patience, I thank God every day for my husband. And I pray that my daughter gets as lucky as me. :)

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  5. How many parents growl? Just about all of them at one time or another. You are very lucky to have a patient one like Charlie - and while you chew on your decision it should comfort you to no end to know he is there to do whatever is necessary.

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  6. I think Charlie is the perfect man for the job. Remember, Jen, that they are going to school full time in just a couple months and only their teacher will have to deal with them all day long.

    If it makes you feel any better, I was mopping the kitchen floor and saw my kids taking all their soccer balls and throwing them into the saguaro cactus to see if they would STICK. I didn't growl. Oh, no. I yelled at them so loudly, I LOST MY VOICE.

    Can you imagine what the neighbors think of us? Gah.

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  7. This is perhaps completely off topic, but I love that in the one picture, Henry is wearing a Bud Lightyear costume. *laughs* Your kids are such kids!

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  8. I never knew how task oriented I was until I became a mother. Then I realized that I really did want everything ot be just so and it drove me absolutely CRAZY to let housework go unfinished.

    I am glad that I changed that about myself. My house is not nearly as clean now as it was when my kids were little. But I don't regret a minute of my life as a stay at home mom. Someday there will be no sports equipment in the dining room, no flips flops strewn around the house. And that day is coming all too soon.

    HOWEVER, I have never had the earning potential that my husband has. And it doesn't sound like I have the earning potential that you have. For OUR family, it was just right that I was the stay at home parent and I knew that to enjoy that and enjoy my children, I needed to lower my standards when it came to keeping my house. (Now it appears my standards are so low, they've been buried beneath a litter of dust bunnies.)
    And I really have enjoyed the last 18 1/2 years - so very much.

    But if it's right for YOUR family that Charlie is the stay at home parent while you have a career - go for it. It doesn't mean you are less of a mother. You will still give everything you have to being a mother but you will also have the fulfillment of a career that brings you a lot of satisfaction. There's not a thing wrong with that. Your kids will see many examples of the "traditional" male/female roles. You could give them an up close view of another way for a family to be successful by showing them that moms and dads can do both.

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  9. It's the same exact way in our house. I landed a job last August and the company needed me immediately - not in September when I wanted to start. My kids had been having a perfectly fine summer with me (and my DH who works at home and is always around) but once I went to work he kicked it into high gear. Water parks, bowling, mini golf, regular golf, trips to the beach - all things I would never attempt by myself unless I had planned it out like the invasion of Iraq. He did it all and they all had a great time.

    It doesn't really matter which one of you is with them. In fact, I would make the argument that having a loving male presence who can do all the things mom can do is pretty darn great. They aren't going to grow up and say "Dad loved us better because he was home and mom went out to an office to work" they are going to say "we had an awesome childhood because our parents worked together to raise us and they were good at different things and capitalized on those differences".

    At least, that's what I hope they say!

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  10. I have loved reading your blog for such a long time now and very rarely comment, but after reading today's post, I want to let you know I think you have come to a great point in your decision making. My husband also stays home. It is just best for us. I think God knows who to put together to make the best team and you guys definitely are one. It's obvious you love your children and are there for them totally and unconditionally. They are well-adjusted and very smart and have total commitment from both parents. In my humble opinion, I say "stop worrying and go for it!" You are wasting your life worrying when you have so much to love and enjoy. Work, be the best mom you can be, let dad be who he is and be thankful that God has blessed your family with a husband and wife team that most people would die for and four amazingly beautiful children. Just as today you have a choice, so will there be a million more choices in the future and you and Charlie will make them in the best interest of your family. You know what you want...it's obvious. I, for one, will be looking forward to reading about what amazing adventures the Tripps will have in Virgina.

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  11. BlackOrchid4/11/10, 4:26 PM

    Okay I have no advice and just want to let you know that I hope it's helpful to get these things out via posts! I am happy to "listen" even if at this point . . . I got nothin.

    BUT! I wanted to show you this song from TMBG that is AWESOME at teaching shapes! "Nonagon"

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5ohtlewREI

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  12. I know you didn't ask for our opinions, but.. Having read, time and time again about how much you want to be home with your children and don't want to miss any part of their growing up-which is TOTALLY understandable... we also see your frustration. Often. This is not a criticism- I see a lot of that in how *I* was as a mom to young children.
    Charlie has the patience to be that parent who is home with the children. You have this amazing job- which you are obviously very good at, or you wouldn't be getting the offers you continue to receive.
    It appears you want the best of both worlds.. keeping your awesome job, but being able to be home with the kids, as well. And I think you've been VERY fortunate to have had that (or close to it, unless I am mistaken) the past few years. But the time has come when a decision must be made, and when you consider the stability and security of your position in an uncertain world, it seems to be a no brainer. You have the opportunity to provide well for your family.
    Jen, it's easy for me to sit here and type my 2 cents, but it's your life and your family.
    I wish you well, and peace in the decisions you need to make.
    BIG hugs
    Annie

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  13. I like that Henry is still dressed as Buzz Lightyear.

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  14. Jen
    I read your blog ALL the time and LOVE IT!!! I never expected to be a single mom, but 2.5 years ago my ex decided he "fell outta love". So here I am. My ex has seen our daughter a total of 1 HOUR in the past 2 YEARS!! People say that my expectations are too high, but when I see men like Charlie.....that reassures me that my expectations ARE NOT too high. Charlie is the kind of dad I want for my daughter. Thank you, both of you for reassuring me that wonderful men are still out there.

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  15. We all love Charlie! And in case you forgot - not all dad's can or will do what Charlie does! Derrick is awesome - but couldn't do the job - mainly for lack of interest. He loves 'em and is definitely my 50% co-parent - but has absolutely no desire to be the primary care-giver. I totally admire Charlie's interest and ability on the home front!

    Yours - jessica

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  16. Motherhood is the hardest job in the world. Charlie is great at it Amen! You are a great team!
    I think that you are doing a great job---both of you.MOM

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  17. I am a SAHM and always feel like everything has to be just so around our house. It doesn't seem fair. I have growled at my kids too, don't feel bad.

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  18. How many mothers growl at their children?

    *sheepishly raises hand*

    Put me down for one.

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