I forgot how challenging it is to entertain two small boys for an entire day. It’s a tough job. Granted, it’s the TOUGHEST job (Bill Burr has a fantastic bit about who has the tougher job, stay at home moms or coal miners), but at the end of the day, I am exhausted, in desperate need of a drink, and incapable of doing anything that requires thinking.
Six months ago, my in-laws moved to Phoenix for their first stint as snowbirds. When I heard they would be spending half a year in our neck of the woods, I had mixed feelings. I have always liked my in-laws, but I had never spent longer than a few days with them. Would being in day to day contact cause friction between us? Would I be counting the days until they hit the road for their second home in the northwest?
When their car pulled away last week, I was the only one in my family crying as we waved goodbye- not their son, or their grandchildren. Me, weeping, distraught to see them go.
My husband and I have largely been on our own since we had children. Both of our extended families live in other states. We have visitors throughout the year, but we have primarily had to rely on each other to care for our children. Then this snowbird thing happened.
At first, I was cautious about asking for too much help from the grandparents. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds. That quickly, and by quickly I mean mere minutes later, changed to “Can you watch Kellen on Tuesday mornings? What about taking both boys Thursday afternoon? How about a sleepover on Saturday? Maybe they could just live with you for a month or two?”
For the first time in six months, I could breathe. I had time to think of what I wanted to do. I signed up for college courses. I trained for a triathlon. I took up mountain biking. My husband and I went out more than once a quarter.
The babysitting was fantastic, but it was more than that. They invited us over for dinner once a week- meaning they cooked, they gave the boys baths. We simply ate and enjoyed the meal. We had a standing lunch date on Tuesday afternoons. If I had a doctor’s appointment, I didn’t have to pack a bag of snacks, toys, and books in hopes that I could somehow keep my children entertained for the extended stay in the waiting room- I could go to the doctor by myself.
The best part was having someone who had already been through it to offer encouragement. My mother-in-law never judged me (at least not outwardly). She simply did her best to help me and make my life a little easier. Recently, a friend of mine emailed about a trip to Costco where she had no choice but to bring her sick, cranky kids with her. The other moms in the store, glanced at her as if thinking “why did you bring them? Why don’t you do something about their behavior?” However, the grandmothers stopped to pat her on the back and say how beautiful her kids were. I think that is something special about grandmothers- they have already been through it and know you are doing the best you can.
After six months of this blissful support, going back to mom duty all day, every day was a shock, to say the least. I made the mistake of trying to have a low-key day at home, forgetting that my boys pretty much hate being at home. To the untrained eye, my house looks like a ton of fun. We paint, we cook, we make rockets out of containers from the recycling bin. All of those activities are because I’m desperately trying to keep them engaged in one activity instead of hurling every toy we have on the floor and at each other.
A girlfriend commented on how she didn’t know why some moms have a scheduled activity every day- that it is so exhausting. I know exactly why moms get overscheduled. If you are somewhere else, so is the mess. And for whatever reason, children, at least my children, behave better when there is novelty involved. It’s almost as if they are tracking how many craisins and goldfish they must grind into my carpet before I give in and take them to the park.
I’m a big fan of playdates, but lately it has become more of an addiction than a nicety. My son’s preschool lets out at 11am. If I don’t have a meetup scheduled by 10:30am, I’m frantically texting every mom I know “what’s going on today? Anyone want to hang out? ANYONE? PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME ALONE WITH THEM!!”
To those that scoff at the idea of how can a job where you play all day be that tough, I challenge you to hang out with two kids under the age of four, and see how long you last. This morning, I woke at 6am. From there, I played with pretend cats, read a couple of stories, had bouncy time on the bed, made and ate pretend ice cream, made and ate real blueberry pancakes, had a dance party, took a shower, attempted to blow dry my hair, took another shower after Liam got into my black eye liner while I was blow drying my hair, made a nest out of pillows and pretended to be a mama bird hatching my baby birds, drove in a motorcycle race using coat hangers as handlebars, constructed a train track, got two kids and myself clothed for the museum, packed a light lunch for the trip, spent two hours wandering the museum and playing with everything in it, cut out and constructed paper dinosaurs, had a picnic, drove home, carried them in from the car and put them down for naps (which is completely unusual for them both to go to sleep), sat down to write this blog.
Sounds exhausting just to read it, right? Imagine living it. And I still have at least five hours before the day is “done.”
I may not have the toughest job, but I do have a pretty tiring one. But it’s also pretty fun- shhh, don’t tell anyone I said that.
Gotta go. Maybe I can squeeze in a cup of coffee before they wake….oh shit.