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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

So You Want To Be A Stay At Home Mother?

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I was home 10 years raising my children.  I don't think the author of this blog will make it.

I Want To Throw Myself Into Traffic: An Essay On Being A Stay-At-Home Mom  about Hannah

January 8, 2014
The following is a talk I gave to a group of Moms a few months ago.  I was going to save it in the event I was ever invited to do another talk, but as my wonderful (and supportive) husband pointed out, “That’s not gonna happen for a long, long time.  It was good – you should publish it.”  Again, the king of the backhanded compliments never disappoints.  Enjoy. 
Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god
oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god
Making the decision to quit my job and stay home full time with my kids was not one I entered into lightly.
Part of my choice was based on the fact that I felt like I was missing out on all of the good stuff at home. My daughter was seven months old at the time and our nanny was sending me videos of things like the first time she rolled over, and emailing me pictures of their first trip to the zoo. And seeing her starting to grow without me made me sad.
But between us girls, the real reason I left my job is because working is awful.
I was a senior brand manager at advertising agency, which, if you’ve ever seen an episode of Mad Men, is exactly nothing like that. I was surrounded by people who thought it made them interesting if they didn’t bathe. I would get in fights with my creative team over things like no you can’t give an entire presentation in a pirate voice, or using sock puppets. They were egotistical, selfish, and thought the world revolved around them because they knew how to use Photoshop and wore fedoras.
When I wasn’t busy babysitting the creative team, I was bent over in a boiler room somewhere getting it Shawshank style from clients who couldn’t understand why we did things like charge money, or need more than an hour to come up with a revolutionary idea that would totally turn their dying business around. Usually their qualifications to run a multi-million dollar company were that they were born.
They would stroll into our meeting 20 minutes late, inform us their 16-year-old son disliked the shade of blue we used in the print ad, and kill an entire strategy and creative campaign that robbed us months of our lives with a wave of their hand.
It was not uncommon for us to pull an all-niter to meet a deadline they moved up on a whim, and then have them call the next morning as we drove bleary eyed to the meeting to see if we could present next week instead.
Clients had no idea how much time and effort it took for us to make the gears of the marketing machine turn, which, to be honest, was sort of by design. We feared if they peeked behind the magic curtain and saw how things really worked and how the campaign got to their table they would be appalled at the disorganized chaos.
So I left it all behind and didn’t look back. The stress, the manipulation games, the rat race. I couldn’t wait to slow down and truly experience what life was all about. I envisioned the perfect life I would have as a stay at home Mom. My kids and I would spend our days strolling through museums, swapping gossip magazines as we got our toes done, taking long naps and end the day sitting around the fire talking about all the boys we have crushes on.
My house would be the epitome of a Pottery Barn catalog and our yard would be the envy of our neighbors. Every evening my husband and I would walk hand in hand through our backyard Japanese garden and we would gaze adoringly into each others eyes as our children tossed pellets into a pond filled with those giant creepy goldfish. My husband would wonder how he got so lucky to have such a perfect wife and prance me around town like a sparkly little show pony, and my kids would idolize my every move. Usually this fantasy also included me winning a break dance competition of some sort in front of a crowd of hundreds.
I was certain my life would be perfect.
Fast forward four years to a few weeks ago when my family all got the stomach flu at the same time. I was hunched over scrubbing their rancid vomit out of the carpet and my daughters screamed bloody murder because my butt was blocking the way of their cartoon.
And P.S. – because my turd of a husband has a “real job” he threw me to the wolves. He got to barf in the privacy and comfort of our bathroom all night while I shared a bed and a bucket with three little girls in the guest room.
And the next morning, when I was barfing so hard I saw the ghost of my dead grandma hovering over the toilet telling me to come to the light, I heard my four year old whisper to my three year old, “Hey, maybe we’ll get a NEW mommy!”
Four years ago I didn’t know how good I had it with sock puppets and pirate voices.
At least the creative team had the decency to wait until we were back in the privacy of our ad agency to throw a tantrum. My kids don’t give a hoot who is around. They’ve thrown themselves upon the finest floors in the city in front of dozens of horrified onlookers. In fact, they prefer to misbehave in public because it practically guarantees my reaction will be within the confines of the law.
Now, I live and die by my kids’ happiness. Not a minute goes by in my day that I’m not thinking about how I can somehow make their lives better, constantly worrying that they are not happy enough, evaluating myself as a mother and continually thinking of ways to make sure they have the most perfect lives possible. I look at these kids and understand the meaning of life. I went to Yo Gabba Gabba live for god sakes.
And in return, my children are physically incapable of being happy unless I am actively waiting on them. For example. I sit down to dinner completely exhausted. I’ve been running like a crazy frantic person all day breaking up fights and diffusing tantrums and cleaning up poop and a cornucopia of other usually unidentifiable bodily fluids.
And they will purposely wait until I sit down and put the fork to my lips to tell me that they need a napkin. And then when I point out that their napkin is right there under their fork they will frown and frantically look around for something they’re missing that will make me have to get my old tired bones up from the table to get for them. And if they can’t find anything they will chug their milk until it is gone and whine that they are still thirsty until I get up and get them more.
They are sick and twisted little creatures.
And now my 3-year-old has started running into our room in the middle of the night, putting her little hands on my cheeks and whispering, “mommy tuck me back in!” about three inches from my face. And, like anyone who has seen The Grudge, my eyelids spring open and three weeks are immediately shaved off my life.
Now let’s think about this for a minute. She is three. Old enough to pick out her own outfit every morning and put on her own shoes and coat. Old enough to mentally run through at least a rudimentary decision making process as she lays awake in bed coverless at 3am. And the conclusion at which she arrives is that she would rather come into my room and wake me up in the middle of the night, startling the tuna salad out of me, and ruin my entire next day because it takes me five years to fall back asleep because now I can’t stop thinking about that little girl from The Grudge crawling up the side of my bed, than pull up her blanket.
And this is especially dangerous for her at this point in my life because since becoming a stay at home mom I have completely lost my fear of going to prison.
If I would have ever, EVER, had a co-worker wake me up in the middle of the night on a regular basis I would have put a mouse head in their lunch box, or at the very least change their computer password to “I am a giant butthole”.
But no. I will not stand for a sub par performance review from my kids. I drag my half asleep self out of my warm bed. I follow her to her room. She runs to her miniature bed and jumps in, curls up with her little stuffed sheep, and she’s asleep before I even spread out the quilt. And I have no idea where it comes from, but somewhere deep inside me I’m like, “awww!” and I drop the screwdriver.
Which brings me to my next point – my ungrateful fart knocker of a client. AKA my husband.
Like when we used to pull all niters only to have the client change the meeting at the last minute, my husband will suggest I have big fancy home cooked meal ready when he comes home from work. Which means a trip to the grocery store with three little kids, immediately catapulting it to a double Zoloft kind of day.
So I prepare dinner with three kids screaming and fighting at my feet. Do you have any idea what kind of self restraint it takes to continue to use a butcher knife to calmly chop vegetables while someone wipes their snotty nose on your bare leg?
And you know what he does, right as I’m getting ready to set the table and the food is hot and ready? My husband will call to see if I mind if he goes to the gym before he comes home.
And when he arrives home an hour later, he is completely oblivious to how much work is was to keep the house standing upright. In fact, he has the nerve to ask why there’s a Barbie in the toilet. And I’m just thankful he didn’t come home five minutes earlier when the cat was on fire and the baby went missing. There are so many times in my day where, if he were to come home and see what shape the house was in, he would fire me and re-hire the nanny.
So as it was best that the client remained ignorant of the process by which the advertising concepts made their way to their board room table, it is better my husband doesn’t know what accidentally fell into his dinner. I just smile and ask him if he enjoyed his workout.
And my identity as a professional has been slowly, painfully erased one day at a time. The part I was looking forward to the most – the part that I thought would be the easiest – was slowing down. But that has been the hardest. Letting my 4-year-old help me make pancakes even though I know it will take 20 minutes longer is like nails on a chalkboard. I have to leave the room as my 3-year-old slowly works on a puzzle because I can barely fight the urge to push her aside and finish it as quickly as possible so we can move on to the next task.
I never knew it was possible to develop anxiety from doing nothing. But yes, I have officially developed a case of the crazies, or as my doctor calls it: “alcoholism”. At my old job I could juggle thirty projects at once blindfolded. Now my sporadic attempts at simple, sentimental good old fashioned family togetherness without fail end in a blaze of glory.
I feel like I’m the only parent in the world who can’t manage a simple project. We are going to get pictures with Santa Claus. Let’s commemorate your first hair cut. We are going to eat dinner now. But the higher my expectations for perfection, the more chaotic and painful the experience.
A blowout diaper up the back right before they sit on Santa’s lap. Death grip around my neck every time the beautician comes at them with a comb. Hustling out of a restaurant in shame. I used to be the queen of manipulation, but now I just pray and wear comfortable shoes.
But the past four years I have been slowly transforming from type A to type MC – More Chardonnay.
When I first became a stay at home Mom I was terrified of the police showing up at my house because I made some horrible parenting mistake. Now, if they show up I will ask them if I can borrow their tazer for a second.
I used to sneak into the bathroom to pee in private like a normal human being, now I call all of my girls in to give them lessons on proper wiping technique.
I think about the months I worked on my master’s thesis as I eat cold and stale macaroni and cheese out of the pan over the kitchen sink in my pajamas.
I think about how I gave presentations to CMOs of some of the world’s largest companies as I sniff someone’s butt. Actually those are sort of the same thing.
I used to wear make up. Now, I don’t even clean the food out of my beard before I go to Target.
And I’ve learned that being a stay at home Mom is as challenging of a career as any. And as with any job, it’s all about balance. Using the nursery at the gym to give myself a break to blow off steam in a kick boxing class. Scheduling a massage while the kids are at pre-school instead of cleaning the bathrooms. Bringing my flask to the playground.
No, the best I can do is keep working, learning, and hope that one day I will become the Mom that I have been medicated to be

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Relationships For The New Year

Happy New Year. The  new year makes me think about relationships, I guess it's the lyrics to the song.... Relationships are ever changing. We change, we age, we grow, we mature, or not?  Why shouldn't  our friendships?  Easier said then done, I think.
Relationships and friends hold special positions in our lives. Some friends we confide in, some friends are partners in crime.  Some friends are part of our past.... others make us better people, some are our conscience.  My work friend are my battle buddies, we fought the war together, and survived.  There is even a category of frenemies/ those you love to resent and bicker with.
There are couple friends, and friends your spouse can't stand. I mentioned how much I liked a new friend of mine and my husband said, yes but the other husband does not like him. There are friends who are also your relatives, and relatives that no matter how hard you try will never be your friends.
The saddest category is the friends lost.  Not lost by death but by action.  These are people I never could have predicted, would NOT have a place in my life. I let them go.  They hurt me, abandoned me, stop caring for me... moved on without me. Or maybe I did those things to them.  I am not sure but they were part of my life, once now they are not.  I wish them well.  I miss what we had.  I cannot turn back time.  Nor would I if I could.
I toast the New Year with love and cheer.  May it be wonderful for you.  May all your dreams come true. May the babies grow strong and smart, may your relationships bring you love and peace.   Judy

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Holidays Revisited 12/12

Teachers know all of the holidays.  Especially early childhood teachers. Each holiday, and there are many, I prepared worksheets, poems, and an art project or two, or twelve... and sometimes we cooked a traditional dish. Eating projects were always a favorite.  For years my curriculum revolved around ground hogs, black cats, eggs, and  revisiting dead Presidents.  Our family vacations were decided by Dr. King and Good Friday.  Retired now, I have to admit I miss it all.

Some years it was not so simple. One memorable parent thought my Halloween projects were spreading the devil's word.  I was careful not too wear  too much black eyeliner, or dark capes. I was the "Nightmare On  Elm Street" and I was part of the plot. Scary stuff.

The other event caused by the  holidays,  was the annual assembly programs. These are minor Broadway productions involving 50-75 five year olds.  I found myself turning into Gypsy's stage mother Rose, as I screamed " Sing Out Louise , Jamel,  Shemeca".   With Mr Zigfield in the audience casting for his next show... We had scripts, stage decorations, and after parties. I wonder if any of my budding singers and dancers ever made it to show biz? I wonder of they even remember?

I no longer celebrate the holidays in school. This year, I did read the precious baby "P" some cute Chanukah  books.  We celebrated with the BIG family, lite candles, and ate potato pancakes, opened presents, admired babies, congratulated our newest couple, and cried with cousins still feeling the effects and wrath of "Sandy". We all survived another year, and holiday season.

I want to wish you all a "HAPPY HAPPY", whatever holiday you may celebrate.  As I  told the  kindergatners holiday is about family, food, gifts and lights.

                                                                              Feel Well
                                                                              Look  Good
                                                                              Be Healthy
                                                                              Be Happy                 
                              Love  Judy

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back To The Future... Florida

I called to reactivate my mother's T.V. service, in Florida. " I need the social security number of the person  on record for this  account.  The person on record is deceased. My mother has been paying the account.  I am sorry what is the person of record's account, may I speak with him?
My father is DEAD, mother  wants to watch T.V., reactivate it NOW!

A pious man explains to his followers, it is evil to take lives and noble to save them.  Each day i pledge to save 100 lives.  I drop my net in the lake and scoop out 100 fishes.  I place the fishes on the bank, where they flop and twirl.  Don't be scared i tell the fish, I am saving you from drowning!.  Soon enough, the fishes grow calm and lie still.  Yet, sad to say, I am always too late.  The fishes expire.  And because it is evil to waste anything, I take the dead fishes to the market, and sell them for a good price.  With the money I receive, I buy more nets so i can save more fish.   
To my family and friends in Florida,  I love you.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Tea Party

It  was Thanksgiving, the apartment was warm, the TV was on. We had eaten and enjoyed the food. There were eleven of us, family and friends. The two toddlers entertained, because they were adorable, and smart. They jumped and danced and spun and fell. When you are almost two you talk and laugh and everyone in the room feels happy/  It's an age full of magic.

The little girl had gotten a gift. It was part of a kitchen set that would later be put together. The gift was a tiny tea set.  The tea set was made out of wood.  It was small and delicate but sturdy too. There was a pitcher, two tiny tea cups, a sugar bowl with little cubes and a wooden tea bag and spoon, and two tiny dishes for cookies.
We sat on the floor, and I unwrapped the tea set.  Dishes were being cleared, ice cream cakes eaten. For a few precious minutes nobody else was in the apartment. I poured the make believe tea, and the little girl dunked the tea bags.  We ate imaginary cookies from the tiny shiny plates. I poured more tea. She added the sugar cubes.  I heard the others, we drank our tea.  Then it was over, too soon, and I wrapped the dishes back in their box, for our next tea party.

I am going to bring two big hats, and some tiny cat cookies. I might even add a lace napkin for a table cloth. The words to an old Juice Newton song, came to me this morning, "  the sweetest thing I've ever known was loving you". Happy Thanksgiving, may your life be filled with Tea Parties.

Friday, November 22, 2013

How To Be Happy...

I wish I had written this article. It makes a lot of sense. I hope it speaks to you, as it does the me.

The 20 Things You Need To Let Go To Be Happy

The 20 Things You Need To Let Go To Be Happy
Everyone has one common goal in life: to achieve true happiness. The biggest factor holding us back from achieving our dreams is, simply and sadly, our own selves. We put limitations on ourselves everyday, whether intentionally or unintentionally. There are so many ways we can alleviate these restraints.
Remember, life can either be something you embrace or something you hide from. Stop making things complicated and just live your life. It would be so much simpler and more enjoyable if we learned to just release certain limitations.
Let’s take a look at the things you need to let go of in order to become a happier person.

1. The Approval Of Others

Who gives a sh*t what other people think? If you are happy with the decisions you have made, then whose business is that but your own? Think of how much you could achieve if you stopped letting other people’s opinions dictate the way you live your life. Do you, and engage in whatever actions you think might better your life.

2. Anger/Resentment

Anger will eat at you from the inside. Learn how to make peace with those who have wronged you. This isn’t about letting the other person off the hook; it’s about alleviating the pain that resonates within you. Keep in mind that he who angers you, controls you.
“Life becomes easier when you learn to accept an apology you never got.”

3. Negative Body Image

There is only one person’s opinion you should be concerned with when it comes to your body and that is you. No one person determines what the “correct” body type is. If you are comfortable in your own skin, and you are healthy, then that should be the only thing that matters. Do not let others tell you that you’re not beautiful because if you believe you are, then you are.

4. Idea Of A Perfect Partner

There is no such thing as a perfect partner, so throw your checklist out the window. In life, what prevents us from moving forward is looking at the perfect image of a partner we concoct in our minds. Find the right person for you: one that you can love with all your heart, one you feel comfortable with and one that accepts you for the person you are. The sooner you realize there isn’t one perfect person out there for you, the better off you will be.
“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.” – Bob Marley

5. Perfect Life

Just like there is no perfect partner, there is also not a perfect life. Life is what you put into it, so if you are not willing to work hard and put forth effort, you will most likely end up miserable. The choices you make will directly reflect the life you lead. It is up to you to create the best possible world for yourself.

6. You’re Going To Be Rich

Too many people live their lives with the thought that they will be millionaires. While this can be a realistic goal for some, it is not something that can be achieved without hard work and dedication. Stop letting money be your sole motivator; find a career you are passionate about and immerse yourself in it completely.

7. The Idea That Good Fortune Will Arrive At Your Doorstep

You need to go out into the world and actively look for fulfillment. You cannot take a backseat in life and expect things to happen for you. Appreciate the life you live, and be grateful for what you have. Value each minute of every day. Live like there’s no tomorrow, and make the most out of any situation.

8. Excuses

Make no time for excuses. You want to work out, but you don’t have the time? Wake up early and get your gym on. Excuses are only rationalizations that make you feel better about yourself for not doing something you want/need to be doing. You desire results? Stop bitching, and start doing.


9. Thoughts Of Your Ex

This person is your ex for a reason. If you are going to think of him or her at all, try and think only about the lessons the experience taught you. Do not linger on any old feelings, as this will only prevent you from being happy with someone else in the future.

10. Stubbornness

I know it’s hard to admit, but sometimes you are just wrong. Other people have just as much capability as you do in providing the correct answer, so stop being stubborn and just embrace it. The less stubborn you act, the more open you are to learning new things. Think of all you could be exposed to if you stopped believing in opinions other than your own.

11. Procrastination

Stop thinking you will finally get to whatever task is at hand tomorrow. Live in the present, and get your sh*t done when it needs to be done. Maximize your time to the best of your ability. Complete each task you need to as soon as you can. This allows you to feel free from worry and stress by getting things out of the way as soon as possible. You also allow yourself more free time to enjoy the things you love.

12. Your Baggage

We have all been hurt one time or another by someone we loved, or we thought we loved. Carrying negative feelings into future relationships will only prove to be disastrous. No two people are the same, so it’s unfair to hold a future partner to a standard set by an ex. Try to begin each new relationship with a clean slate.

13. Negativity

What you put out into the universe will come back to you, so change the way you think, immediately. Stop thinking of life as a glass half empty, but rather, half full. You have so much to be grateful for, if only you took a moment to appreciate it. Anything is possible in the mind of a positive thinker.

14. Judgmental Thoughts

Why do people feel the need to constantly worry about what is going on in other people’s lives? If we spent as much time worrying about our own behaviors as we do worrying about those of others, our lives would be a whole lot more meaningful. You have no idea what is going on in another person’s life, so who are you to pass judgment on the way they act?

15. Jealousy

Happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have. Stop envying others and learn to appreciate what you have. Everyone’s life is unique; you have certain things to offer that others cannot. When we act in a jealous manner, all we do is bring negative feelings into our lives. There is absolutely nothing to gain from behaving this way.

16. Insecurity

Happy people tend to have extremely high levels of self-esteem. They accept who they are and work it everyday of their lives. They radiate confidence, flaunt their pride and give off positive vibes. There is no reason to be insecure in life. If there are things you are self-conscious about, go out into the world and seek to change them. Only you have the ability to create the best version of yourself.

17. Depending On Others For Happiness

At the end of the day, the only person you can count on 100 percent of the time is yourself. Do not make the unfortunate mistake many people do and put your happiness in the hands of others. A relationship is not going to fulfill the void if you can’t even make yourself happy. You need to achieve happiness on your own before you can find someone else to share it with. This creates a detrimental dependency that will prevent you from becoming self-sufficient.

18. The Past

Stop living in the past! There is virtually nothing you can gain if you wallow in mistakes you have previously made. Take past mistakes as lessons learned, and move forward. You cannot wholeheartedly move on to a better future if you are constantly looking behind you. Things happened, and that’s that. Take them with a grain of salt and move on.

19. The Need For Control

Sometimes you just need to let life happen the way it is meant to. You cannot spend your life stressing about things that are outside of your control. Try to relax, and let things play out naturally. Embrace the unknown, as this is where you will be surprised the most. Let yourself be whisked into unforeseen endeavors, and relish in the excitement they bring.

20. Expectations

Managing your expectations is the key to happiness. If you let go of expectations, you will never be disappointed. Often, we tend to believe that the way we treat others will be the way we are treated in return. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Do not expect a certain result from any given situations. Go into an experience with an open mind. This will allow you to fully immerse yourself, without the pressure of living up to preconceived notions.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Am Now A Commuter

I am now a commuter.  True,  I only commute on the railroad one day a week. I have to buy daily tickets and don't wear my monthly pass around my neck, or on my phone like the " real" commuters.  I am learning.  As I wait on the platform I see what the commuters wear. It's cold in NY especially catching the 7:29.  Some people  wear heavy coats, but don't close them. This is a very popular look.  I cannot imagine the purpose of this, unless it is to give the impression of carelessly flapping in the wind.  I feel cold looking at them.  Then you have the parade of scarves.

Scarves have become a very important fashion statement.  I have had young teachers wear elaborate scarves in classrooms well over 80 degrees.  I recently sat across from a lady who folded and unfolded her pashmina for our 40 minute railroad trip.  It was like watching a silent how to video. I really learned a lot. Thank you scarf lady.

Aside from scarves there are now phones, I pads, and readers  to play with,  on the train.  There was an announcement that there were designated silent cars one could chose to sit in.  My car was packed not a sound was heard.  I had my kindle, it's great.  Some people still read newspapers/ I wish they wouldn't, because most of them leave them on their seats. 

Lastly I am fascinated with the train conductors, ticket agents....  the people who punch your ticket and sell tickets if necessary.  Why would anyone want to ride up and back on a train all day?  The uniforms are OK...I wonder how much money they earn? My wise husband says many have family that have done this, like police or firemen/ women. I have never heard a child wish to grow up to work on a railroad...  Commuting one day a week is OK. Thirty forty years.... I rather take the car.