Monday, February 28, 2011

Birthday Party Overload

At a certain age, maybe by the time they reach the tender age of three, children become highly aware of their birthdays.  Preparation for the momentous party begins approximately one week after the last birthday, and their young, naive imaginations lead them to bigger, grander, and even more expensive party dreams.  Last year she had a princess cake?  Well, this year it needed to be a three-tier castle cake complete with a fairy princess and dragon. When she turned three a ballerina danced at her party?  At four, she'll need a glittery, magical princess that sings in a fairy-tale voice.

Over the past few decade, parents have become extreme in almost all aspects of parenting, including the party planning. This season, on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, two of the housewives threw their own dueling outrageous kid parties.  Kyle Richards spent over $15,000 on a party for her 2-year-old daughter that included a a french fry station and a petting zoo.  Taylor Armstrong, and her revolting husband, shelled out nearly $60,000 on their daughter's 4-year-old Mad Hatter Tea Party themed birthday.  The party resembled something more on the lines of a fancy, yet dull-as-can-be, bridal shower, than a child's fantasy celebration.  It was complete with expensive flowers flowing out of hovering tea pots, bite sized tea sandwiches and pettifors, champagne flutes, and a band that wrote a song especially for the birthday girl (as tears from the cranky youngster flowed down her pudgy face).  The party also favors included $100 Barbie necklaces for all child attendants.

I could write off Kyle and Taylor's extravagance as being just part of the Real Housewives franchise, until TLC (the channel that brings us riveting television, such as Toddlers and Tiaras, as well as Mall Cops) debuted its latest brainchild- Outrageous Kid Parties last Monday, February 21st.   In its pilot, a normal-looking Utah family was in the midst of throwing their soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter, Gracie, a truly fairy-tale celebration, set in a castle with guest adorned in lavish costumes fit for a Shakespearean play.  Here are just a few of the ways little Gracie's parents made her 6th birthday so special:
  • 42 floral centerpieces
  • $3000 on invitations
  • $2,100 on a 9-tier cake (which caused Gracie to melt down in tears when she discovered that the bird design was purple, not blue)
  • 200 person guest list
  • a spa day, to help her relax, the day before the party
  • personal hair and make-up team (complete with dressers) for the birthday girl
  • a Cinderella carriage to drive Gracie and her bff's to the party
  • Grand Total = $32,304.28 
Umm.... okay.  I think you get the point.  It was totally disgusting.

Even in San Francisco, where homemade outshines store-bought, and crafty always trumps elaborate, children's birthday parties have truly become ridiculous.  In the past three weeks we have been to one party with a balloon twisting alien, one with a face-painting, magical fairy princess, and one with a real live pony (and this was in the city of San Francisco where houses are small and backyards even smaller).  Bouncy houses are practically mandatory and a fine selection of adult beverages, including coffee and mimosas, is expected. 

So what does all this dazzle and sparkle actually cost us mere mortals who do not qualify for reality television?  If you want to lease out the party, so that wayward children do not destroy your own living space, there are the prices for a few Bay Area favorite celebration locations:
  • Pump-it-Up (indoor jumpy house arena) costs  $320 just to use the space, no food or cake included.
  • Urban Recess (indoor playground) rents their space for 1.5 hours at a mere $400.  Again, no food, drink, party favors or decorations included.
  • Peekadoodle Kidsclub's (another indoor play space) package goes for a meager $1395.  This does include pizza, juice, party favors, and a "Red Carpet Treatment".   But still, that's a bit absurd!
    Growing up in a quiet Oregon town, birthday parties were small affairs- Six close friends, a few celebratory games, cake and ice cream, then everyone was sent home (most independently walked back to their own house).   And, this was awesome!  We were ecstatic to have a few friends over and open a Strawberry Shortcake or two.  It was enough to last us another 364 days.

    When did this change and why? What drives us to throw elaborate birthday parties for children at an age that would be just as happy rolling around in the backyard mud puddle?  I pondered this question carefully and couldn't articulate a sensible reason until I discussed this with my friend while pedaling the elliptical machines at the gym.  She quite eloquently explained that since the birth of her two children, her desire to host fancy dinner and cocktail parties for friends, has been overshadowed by her need to have a nearly silent house after bedtime, and that she is unable to form complete thoughts after the hour of 8 PM.  In order to have an outlet to exercise her hosting skills, she now throws child centered parties, offering plenty of opportunities for the adults to relax, chat, and ignore their kids for a few hours.  Instead of preparing three course meals, she now puts that creative energy into ornate birthday cakes and simple party food agreeable to both toddler and adult palates.  Engulfed in lives revolving around nap time and sippy-cups, this is how the modern parent entertains her friends.

    Well, I guess if it every one's happy, bring on the diamond studded party shoes!

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Toddler Birthday Parties: Win this Demon Hat!

    Recently my eldest turned four and we threw her a party that included a three-tier castle cake and a real live fairy-princess.  She is already planning her next birthday party, and expects something even more magical.  Looking back, I am slightly embarrassed, and quite frustrated about the levels of expectation my husband and I have set for our children.  When, more importantly why, did a preschooler's birthday become such an event?

    I decided to write an "article" about this very topic.  So, in order for you to win this adorable Devil Hat, just tell me this:

    What is the most ridiculous, over the top, child's birthday party that you have ever attended?

    As always, the winner will be randomly selected on Sunday.

    Hat comes in sizes Impious Infant, Terrible Toddler, Pain in the Ass Preschooler, or Evil Elementary Schooler. 

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    Division of Labor

    When Elana, my eldest daughter, was only a few weeks old, my husband would come home from a long day at the office and I would eagerly greet him at the door cradling our infant daughter in my arms.  As a brand new father, Ted was still in the honeymoon stage and enthusiastic to help with the cooking and chores.  However, after a quick "Hello" and a kiss all I really wanted to do was hand him the baby. I remember remarking, "I will lick the toilet bowl clean with my own tongue if you just hold the damn baby!" 

    Four years later we have settled, however disjointedly, into our new roles as parents.  A few weeks ago Ted arrived home edgy.  (I have to admit that I have a hard time relating. To me his work involves listening to whatever talk radio he wants during his commute, having adult conversation that were not centered around preschool nor playground politics, and lunch meetings that don't serve PB&J.   To Ted my day probably revolves around three-martini playdates, long luxurious mid-day naps, and well behaved toddlers that clean up after themselves.)  However, in any case Ted came home frustrated- Maybe a deal went sour, or Red Robin ran out of Buffalo Dipping sauce.  When he arrived, the kids were taking a bath and I was relieved to see the extra pair of hands.  “Oh, good, you’re home.  Now I can clean up the kitchen.”  Ted reluctantly took over bath duty with a loud sigh.  After wiping the floor and putting a load of dirty towels in the laundry, I hear Ted calling for help.  It seems that he is having difficulty getting both girls out of the bath simultaneously.  After chastising him for his ineptitude, he responds “Well, it feels like I have two jobs!” Dude!  

    Do I need to list for him the number of jobs I have each day (mother, nurse, scheduler, cook, chauffeur, housekeeper, sibling wartime referee)?  Maybe he was channeling the olden days, when girls in pressed dresses with bows in their pageboy haircuts greet the daddy at the door?  He enters the house loosening his tie and hanging his hat on the coat rack.  The wife mixes him his favorite cocktail as he settles into his La-Z-Boy with his remote and slippers.  After a lovely meal of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, canned green beans, and red Jello salad, everyone relaxes in the family room reading quietly to themselves while listening to Buddy Holly on the turn table. 
    Obviously we can’t regress this far (mainly because I have no idea where to find a turn table, and my children can't read).  In the past 50 years women have progressed to claim 46% of the workforce, with almost 16% of Fortune 500 companies having female CEOs.  We have earned the right to vote and wear pantsuits to the office.  In addition, nearly 3% of stay-at-home parents are now dads.  It seems as though the women have stepped up their game, but the men are still playing in the first quarter.

    As cultural values, gender norms and families evolve, there is no longer a clear delineation between who does what chores. Each family must negotiate their own system. A recent nationwide poll of gender roles and housework among a sample of 2,500 Americans found that women felt that they bore most of the burden for maintaining a household. 91% of the respondents believed that women have taken on a far greater role in providing for the family financially while 68% believe that women are expected to do most of the chores around the house. Men and women disagreed about how chores were being split: 69% of women believe they do most of the housework, whereas 53% of the men said that household chores are evenly divided ( Even with more mothers working outside the home, women continue to feel responsible for most of the household labor. 
    Who does what?

    Most Grocery Shopping
    Prepare dinner 4-6 times/week
    Never prepare dinner
    How are chores divided?
    Answered Yes to “Are chores shared?”
    Answered Yes to “Does one person do all the housework?”

    I did some research for an article I wrote for a local parenting magazine on how three different couples, with three very different lifestyles, split the household chores, including childcare.  (The names have been changed to protect the identity of the lazy husbands.)

    Meet Laura and David.  David works long hours as an investment banker and Laura stays home with their two delightful daughters, ages 4 and 2 years, in addition to actively volunteering with Girls on the Run.  Since David is often away on business trips, Laura is delegated with most of the household duties including: laundry, cooking, grocery shopping, childcare, light housework, master calendar, major projects, garbage, as well as the finances and general paperwork.  David is responsible for the more manual work, such as mowing the lawn, tending the garden, and putting together "some assembly required" toys.   Laura estimates that she spends around 25-30 hours a week on her chores and David estimates around 10 hours/week for his.  Both feel that the split is equitable, at least in the grand scheme of things.  

    Laura enjoys her time at home with the girls and feels that she would be dissatisfied emotionally if she spent her days in the office instead. While Laura’s volunteer work allows her to access her creative and intellectual needs somewhat, she still feels that something is missing. 

    Next we will look at Melissa and Brian.  They met in a hospital in Australia where Brian was doing his residency as a heart surgeon and Melissa was a nurse. Around four years ago, they relocated to San Francisco, had a daughter (now three-and-a-half years old) and a son (now two). Melissa traded her scrubs for a double stroller and long nights of interrupted sleep.  She is in charge of 99% of the housework, while Brian, often coming home late from the lab or the operating room, takes on about 1% of the work (typically tasks that require climbing a ladder or heavy lifting). 

    Although Melissa is responsible for almost all of the household duties, she is generally satisfied emotionally, but is feeling less intellectual fulfillment as the kids get older. With her youngest nearly in preschool, she’s finding herself less needed and with more time to consider other possibilities.  

    Finally I looked at Lori and her husband Adam.  They both work full time and split household and child-rearing duties as evenly as possible (nearly 50/50). Adam drops their three-and-a-half year old at preschool each morning before embarking on his 45-minute commute. Lori leaves work slightly earlier to cross the Bay Bridge and be on time to do pick-ups. Adam is in charge of the mornings and packs lunch. Lori makes dinner and does baths in the evenings. On weekends they spend most of the time together as a family, both attending classes and sharing in the chores. 

    Lori wishes that she could work less than full-time to spend more time with her family.  While her job provides her with intellectual and creative stimulation, she is somewhat dissatisfied with the quality of time spent with her husband and daughter as weekends get filled up with chores like grocery shopping and laundry.  

    What does this say about mothers?  Has the advances in gender and relationship equality enhanced our satisfaction levels, or made women feel less appreciated and less content in either role as a stay-at-home-mom or a working mother?

    San Francisco-based couples counselor Brook M. Stone, LCSW, (and my aunt) believes that our current role of motherhood is highly demanding. Expectations to parent perfectly lead to over-parenting and over-managing of children, as well as an overall over-extension of mothers. Brook strongly emphasizes that, in general, the more women can exercise all parts of their brainsnot just the maternal but also the creative and intellectualthe happier they are. But for many women, balancing the sometimes dueling roles of “mother” and “creative intellectual” depends on your partner. Spending more time being creative and intellectual means that partners need to be willing to participate more, take on more responsibilities around the house and actively work together to create time and space for mothers to explore. This kind of participation may look and feel very different than the traditional role of bread-winning “father” that many of us grew up with.
    For us, when Ted is home on the weekends, we end up splitting chores a bit too evenly: we trade off sleeping in on Saturday and Sunday, who puts which girl to bed, who empties the dishwasher, ect.  In fact I'm sure that our lovely neighbors have heard me call out on many occasions, "Ted, I changed Maisy's poopy diaper on Saturday, it's your turn today!"  Things could be much worse.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    The Perfect Storm

    This week the perfect storm descended down upon my family: the kids and I all got strep throat, my husband had an extremely busy week that included a business trip to NYC, and our nanny came down with food poisoning. The storm effect resulted in me being solely responsible for two cranky children for a full 48-hours while fighting off my own mild fever and sore throat.  As a threesome, the kids and I were completely isolated, fussy, and applying the term "cabin-fever" to its extreme. 

    Unfortunately none of us were tremendously sick, more mild cases that kept the four-year-old from attending preschool and all playdates at bay.  There was a lot of "Mommy, let's play Rapuzel.  I'll be the princess, Maisy can be the horse, and you can be the ugly Mother Gothel."  By hour 28 I had run out of excuses as to why I couldn't play these silly games, and succumbed to my role as the evil witch (which actually suited my inner sentiments quite well).

    When the rapid step tests came back positive, I hoped for the critical patients that I wrote about in my previous posts.  I imagined the children lying listlessly on the couch watching back to back episodes of Max and Ruby and nursing juice boxes while I plied them with Children's Tylenol and lollipops.  Sure, they were happy to watch an hour of TV, but then they wanted to play and I was running out of agreeable (to me) activities that could be done in our home.  I contemplated locking them in Elana's room with a few tubs of play-doh, some magic markers, and glitter glue, but I then came to my senses and read them stories until my voice grew tired and my patience was exhausted.

    Maisy, my 22-month-old, used these two days stuck at home with Mommy to practice her exorcism skills.  Whenever anything didn't go according to her toddler plans, she attempted to drive the demons from her soul with body spasms and fierce shrieking.  These spells could be triggered by the slightest change in the wind: the wrong color socks, blueberries touching her cheese cubes at lunch, or a baby-doll unwilling to stay balanced on its tiny plastic feet.  On a normal day I would have chuckled at her insane little body flailing like an epileptic seizure, but I didn't have the energy for that, so I just left the room (or bribed her with popsicle). 

    On the bright side, we did venture out to the public library to borrow a copy of the Disney classic, Robin Hood.  I cannot emphasize strongly enough what a great pleasure it was to finally watch a movie that did not revolve around a princess being rescued by the love of her prince; my children already speak enough Disney Princess (on any given day you may hear my eldest muttering, "Oh, this is just what my heart desires!").  Even though Elana was mostly enthralled with Maid Marian, she also found some room in her little pink sparkly heart for the lovable Robin Hood and Little John.  I used the opportunity to lecture the girls about regressive taxes and helping those less fortunate.  Elana nodded sagely at my speech, and Maisy just said "Prince John, fuhhh-ney!"

    Today the kids (and I) are much better.  Elana is back in school (yipee!), my fever is gone and my cough is dissipating, and Maisy is still a toddler desperately trying to have her every need understood and immediately met.  We all survived the last few days and even though I would like to declare that I am stronger for it, all I can really say is that I am so, so grateful for preschool, babysitters, and a husband's presence at bedtime!

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    Your Marriage on Toddlers

    A few months ago, my family was having a nice barbecue with another family with two children around the same age as my own.  After a few glasses of chardonnay, the children began playing well by themselves (or we stopped paying them attention) and the other mom and I were finally able to sit down and have an actual conversation.  She had recently given birth to her second son and was in the midst of a typical argument with her husband.  "Rhiana," she explained, "my husband is my soul mate, but right now I can't stand him."  She didn't need to elaborate, I understood her perfectly!

    Before we had children my husband and I lead a much different life.  We lived in Tokyo, sang karaoke and drank Kirin Ichiban until the wee hours of the morning.  We went on exotic vacations to Thailand and Vietnam, and regularly ate at restaurants with actual table cloths and no crayons in sight.  We never had to schedule a date to have sex, and we could spontaneously decide to see a non-animated movie on a Saturday afternoon.

    However, that was over four years ago, before the birth of our first daughter.  My how we have changed!  Nearly every aspect of our home lives now revolves around our two daughters.  Maisy and Elana dictate when we eat, sleep, wake up, and play.  We feel grateful to have two child-free hours before we ourselves can rest our weary heads.  Unfortunately, far too often, this time is spent in separate rooms- Ted watching sports or working in the office, me watching Bravo or writing in our bedroom.  Most days we are too exhausted to have a meaningful conversation, let alone lock the bedroom door.  And, I am embarrassed to say, we only eat about three meals together a week.

    A few months ago an old high school friend was beginning to ponder starting a family and asked me my opinion.  I took her question seriously, and may have provided too frank of an answer.  Having children changes everything.  You both will be more tired than you have ever dreamed you could be.  Endless night wakings and teething troubles will result in the two of you bickering, nit picking, and becoming way too worn out to even think about make-up sex.  Even as the children age, sleep remains an issue.  Night feedings are replaced with nightmares and bed wetting.  As one wise mother eloquently stated, "Sleep is the new sex." 

    You will resent all the time he gets to spend at work, away from the monotonous job of raising the children, and he will resent his absence of down time.  Long gone are the days when either of you could come home from work and lie on the couch with a drink and quietly watch the local news. (Even though I have by no means been an avid newspaper reader, I have never been so uninformed about current events since the birth of my children.  There may be a nuclear holocaust in Europe, but unless they interrupt the regular scheduled programming on Sprout, I won't have a clue.)

    The emotional stress of parenting (the tantrums, the dreaded bedtime rituals, and the dreariness of playing endless imaginative games with four-year-old) all add up to a life that is completely dictated by the children.  Every moment the children are awake, and even most of the hours they sleep, the kids control what you do and how you do it.  Sure, we love them, and it truly is a love like nothing we have ever experienced, but it is work, terribly hard work.

    According to a new study by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health a woman's general satisfaction level increases from the birth of her child to six months after, then slowly declines until it reaches it's lowest point when the child is three years old.   Likewise, the woman's satisfaction with her partner is at it's lowest when the children turn three, proving that toddlerhood is one big miserable era.

    Other studies have found that a couple's happiness level decreases considerably after the birth of the first child, and diminishes more with each additional child.   It only rises once the youngest child has fled the nest.  One study states that childless couples report being as much as seven percentage points happier than those with children.  According to Robin Simon, of Florida State University, "Parents experience lower levels of emotional well-being, less frequent positive emotions and more frequent negative emotions than their childless peers." 

    What's more is that each new generation of parents seems to be more unhappy, and more stressed, than the generation before.  According to a Newsweek article many factors come to play.  First, the cost of raising children has increased dramatically, not just counting for inflation, placing an extreme burden on many overly-strained, and overly-worked, parents.  Second, with many people delaying child bearing into their thirties and forties, many gain too strong a taste for the luxury and freedom of their single days.  The relief felt when finally getting the cranky baby to sleep does not compare to the thrill of a promotion, or the excitement of a first kiss.  Additionally, families are more isolated than ever before.  Long gone are the days where the grandparents live just around the corner and children venture alone down the street to play with the neighbor children only to return at sunset.  No, now every play date must be carefully scheduled around music and gym classes, and visits to grandma require an airplane ticket, or a long drive.

    I also question whether our generation is less happy with parenthood because of the ever increasing expectations placed on parents.  When we are constantly struggling to provide the best possible childhood for our children, we allow ourselves little room for mistakes.  With each new BabyCenter article we learn one additional way we are failing at parenthood.  In addition, the demands of modern parenting has taken quite the toll on our ability to care for ourselves.  While spending the days  breastfeeding on demand until the child enters elementary school, co-sleeping until early teenage years, and chauffeuring the kids to their various enrichment lessons, when do we find the time to take care of ourselves?  Many days it feels like in order for me to be a model mother, I must renounce nearly all aspects of my own life.

    Some people find all these studies depressing and discouraging.  I actually find solace in them.  It comforts me to know that I am not alone with my struggles as a mother and wife.  When I look around at all the smiling and exuberant mommies playing with their children at the playground, I sometimes wonder if it is just me that secretly longs for a month vacation from all things maternal and all things marital.  No, I am not alone, and I appreciate knowing that most parents understand the paradox that is my life- That I can love my children and husband deeply yet still mourn my single days.

    So, why do people ever bother to have children?  There are some benefits of procreating.  Parents do report feeling a greater sense of purpose and a more meaningful existence.  It seems that nature gives many of us the need to create life, just not the ability, nor foresight, to deal with all the consequences.  There is a reason little kids are so physically adorable; it camouflages the mass of destruction they bring.  In addition, as I mentioned before, the love one feels for her child is truly indescribable.

    So, while acknowledging all of the difficulties that children bring to a marriage, and to one's own satisfaction level, I wanted to offer practical tips to reduce the ill effects of parenthood, and raise our own happiness levels.  I scoured the Internet and came up with a list of my favorite relationship and parental fulfillment advice:
    1. Create daily rituals with your partner.  Once the children are born, a "Goodbye Kiss" and a "Welcome Home!" greeting are often tossed out with the dirty diapers.  This special time that the two of you can share is critical in keeping a relationship intimate. 
    2. Regular Date Nights.  Trade babysitting time with a neighbor.  We have developed a great routine with another couple up the street from us.  Nearly once a week they drop their daughter off at our house and head out for a night of dinner, drinking, and live music.  We put the girl to bed in our spare bedroom, and they come and collect her whenever their night ends. They then return the favor the next night.
    3. Learn to fight (productively, of course).  Keep the lines of communication open and try not to store resentment and anger towards your spouse.  Learn to voice your needs and work through your marital issues.
    4. Put your children to bed early.  Children need lots of sleep, and parents need alone time, so get the kids in bed as early as possible.  I know that this is difficult for working parents that may not get home until 6 PM (or later).  Remember that your and your partner's needs are important too.
    5. Surround yourself with adults.  Schedule regular (even daily) play-dates with other parents you enjoy.  The isolation of parenthood can only add to our dissatisfaction with both ourselves and our relationships.
    6. Allow the kids to play on their own. Do not become a helicopter parent that manages each moment of the child's day.  At the end of the day, relax on the couch with your partner while the children keep themselves entertained.  Remember that it is healthy for the youngins to see a positive example of marriage.
    7. Do not play "Good Cop/Mom".  Kids quickly learn where their parents do not agree and eagerly play up those opportunities.  Take the time as a couple to discuss and agree upon ways to raise and discipline the tots.
    8. Find your own, separate, creative and intellectual outlet.  Discover and nurture the part of you that exists beyond the children and spouse.  
    9. Try not to take the role of parenting so seriously.  Learn to laugh at your and your spouse's many mistakes, and know that we are all just doing the best we can.
    10. Have frequent sex.  I know that you are tired, feel bloated, and generally just don't have the drive, but sex is an extremely important part of a marriage.  I like to think of it like going to the gym: You may really not want to go, but you never regret it once the workout is done.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Friday Giveaway: Bumper Sticker Day!

    I was absolutely petrified that my eldest daughter was going to leave for college still addicted to her bedtime paci.  So, my husband and I set a deadline for ditching that horrible piece of plastic- Birthday Number 4!  We hyped it up, told her that when she was four she was officially a big girl, able to finally watch Sleeping Beauty, and no longer in need of a pacifier.

    During the nights before the big day, she faithfully sucked every last drop from her beloved paci.  On Sunday, the day she turned four, she reluctantly handed it over.  That night, exhausted from parties, cake, presents, and general birthday excitement, she easily drifted to sleep listening to a homemade compilation of sleepy-time music on her cd-player.

    Ted and I were SHOCKED!  We expected tantrums in the extreme.  We expected nights of little to no sleep  And, frankly, I expected a major argument with my husband about whether to cave into her wailing demands for the paci.  To everyone's astonishment, it was the easiest transition of her four-year-old life.  Maybe, we were finally stored some good parenting karma?

    I have just one little question for you: what was the hardest transition you and your toddler had to go through?

    Winner will be randomly selected on Sunday.

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    When Mommy Gets Sick

    When Mommy falls ill, the whole world slowly collapses.  The children eat plain bagels, plucked fresh from the grocery store plastic bag, for dinner while glued to a DVR'd episode of Super Why.  Piles of dirty laundry litter the living room floor, waiting in vain for someone to put them in the washing machine, and the kitchen sink overflows with pink acrylic dishes.  It will only take a few more meals for all clean dishes to be dirty, and the family will begin pouring milk directly into the cereal box.  Needless to say, no one has bathed in over three days and the kids are beginning to let off a pungent stench that cannot be camouflaged with a puff of aerosol deodorant.  Luckily, my nose is stuffed and I can ignore all odors in the air.

    When another member of my family falls ill, I secretly love playing the role of nurse maid.  To me, the closer the patient is to death, the better.  However, I do not like caring for the slightly sick- Maisy when she is teething, Elana with croup, or Ted with an injured rotator cuff.  No, I like my patients nearly
    unconscious, lying on the couch barely able to focus on the television screen, and with only enough energy to whimper for a glass of water.  That kind of invalid I'm all about!  I will eagerly fluff their pillows, make special trips to the grocery store for Ginger Ale and Saltines, and rent their favorite movies.  However, during my full five days of fever and immobilizing cough, not one member of my family asked me if I needed anything!

    My husband truly wants to be able to step-up and play the role of super-hero father/husband, but whether it is nature or nurture, he has something missing (a maternal gene, maybe).  He attempted to take charge of the girls, fixing dinner, coordinating pajamas, reading stories, but they sensed his weakness and eagerly played up the tantrums.  Ted, not knowing any better, cave into demands for extra naked time, additional dessert, and longer story time. 

    Elana, my four-year-old, tried to help by jamming her Fisher Price thermometer down my throat and sitting on my back while stroking my face and chanting "Poor Mommy!"  Maisy, who is not yet two, could not comprehend a day where Mommy didn't feel like reading stories and going to the park, so she just proceeded as normal.  

    I quickly realized that when I am sick, I don't want a husband, nor children.  I want a mommy!

    For the past week I have not been the model of perfect San Francisco parenting.  Here is a few of the mommy misdemeanors I committed in the past seven days:
    • On Sunday, after spending most of Saturday alone with the kids, Ted voiced that he needed a few hours to himself, so I decided to take both girls with me on a shopping trip to Michael's Craft Store and Target, while Ted napped.  Needless to say, I fed the kids chocolate goldfish crackers (yes, they come in chocolate) and juice boxes for lunch because I was too exhausted to fight with them over a piece of fruit. 
    • On Monday Elana's preschool teacher gave me the ultimate "Bad Mommy" look when Elana arrived wearing her over-sized pair of high heeled, pink, plastic, dress-up shoes, with no back up pair in sight.  I can't honestly say that I didn't try too hard to dissuade her choice of foot wear. My mind was preoccupied with making sure I had taken the authorized does of Tylenol and Ibuprofen.
    • On Tuesday the babysitter came and took charge of the kids while I napped and watched reruns of 90210 on Soap Net.  When he returned the kids at 5 o'clock that afternoon, I didn't move from the couch and inserted one video after the other until Ted made it home from work.  Eventually the kids complained that they were thirsty, and I pointed them to an old bottle of water that had been buried in the couch cushions.
    By Wednesday, with the fever still lingering, I did what any reasonable person (with parents living in the nearby vicinity), would do, I convinced my stepmom to come and play over-indulgent Grandma for the day.  The consequence, I was finally able to be the sick patient lounging on the couch while watching reruns of Desperate Housewives and Grey's Anatomy on Lifetime, while my stepmom did the laundry, made a delicious and nutritious homemade dinner, and asked me what I needed!  By my fourth hour of day-time TV, I was seriously contemplating buying PajamaJeans (they're pajamas that look like jeans!).
    So, how do  moms do it?  What do we do when the one person who makes the world run (i.e. knows how each child likes her grilled cheese sandwich cut and where the favorite lovies are hidden), is laid-up?  Here is my list of tips to get you, and your family, through the worst of your illness:
    1. Ditch all rules about screen-time and television.  Utilize the electronic babysitter as frequently and for as long as you need.  Do not feel guilty after pressing play for the fifth time.  
    2. Don't worry about the kids nutrition.  If they eat left over, delivery, pizza with the occasional piece of fresh fruit (or not) for the next 72 hours, they will survive.   
    3. Call in the back-ups.  Do you have family/friends/babysitters nearby that can take the kids out of the house for a few hours so you can either sleep or lie on the couch watching bad, but oh so compelling, soap-operas?
    4. Find a way, any possible way, to rest.  If this means giving the kids a bag full of Halloween candy and locking yourself in your bedroom with a fan blowing a full speed to block out the sound of little footsteps, do it!  
    5. Voice your needs!   Chances are that your partner, and your children, do not have the mental capability to predict your needs, however obvious they truly are.  Be specific and be firm.  Learn to demand that nobody even think of knocking on your bedroom door for the next two hours.  Better yet, send them all out of the house until bedtime, and not a minute sooner!

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Friday Giveaway- The Demon Spawn Hat Returns

    Thanks to a very long lingering cold, I have finally found some time to knit, so the Friday Giveaway is back.

    To win this awesome devil hat for your own wicked offspring (or any imp you might know), just answer this one question:  How do you manage the children and the house when you get sick?  We need tips and suggestions for managing flu season!

    Winner will be randomly selected on Sunday.

    Hat comes in sizes Impious Infant, Terrible Toddler, Pain in the Ass Preschooler, or Evil Elementary Schooler.