Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The guilt of having sick kids

My younger son's nose was running when I picked him up at school today. What do you think my first thought was?

For those of you who guessed "Oh, you poor baby" -- nope. Try again.

What's that? You think it was "What can I do to help this boy feel better soon?" Uh, no.

Oh, so you say it must have been: "Wow, I hope he's better in time for our trip to Mexico this Saturday. It would be so miserable for him to fly with a cold."

Unfortunately, my first thought was none of these. Instead, it was: "Crap, he'd better not give it to the rest of us."

And my second was equally unsympathetic: "Don't touch me, kid. I know those fingers have been near your nose. I can't afford to get sick now."

I wish I were the kind of mom who cuddled her kids when they felt sick, got into bed with them to pass the day watching movies, hugged and kissed them to help them through the misery of their illness. Instead, I treat them as though they've got the plague, and I touch them as little as possible. I wash and Purell my hands every few minutes to get rid of their cooties. I won't let them use my cell phone or help set the table. GET AWAY, GET AWAY, I'm thinking constantly.

To be fair, if there are germs in the house, they always settle on me, and as some of you know, I never get a little bit sick. I get a lot sick. A small cold for everyone else turns into a major ordeal for me. Such is the burden of asthma. Still and all, I hate the fact that I treat my kids like lepers when they're sniffly, and I wonder if they're going to remember it.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I've got to go wash my hands.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thanksgiving in March

I would like to say thank you to my unbelievable husband M, for:
  1. Teaching E to play the cello. I never thought it would work for father to take son on as a student. It never would have worked if I'd been the parent doing the teaching.
  2. Having the patience to practice with E almost every day for the past three years. E is not always the perfect student (well, what kid is?), and because his teacher is his dad, E sometimes takes more liberties than he'd be able to with a non-family-member teacher. M has stuck with it through some snits and snarky phases that certainly would have taken me out of the game.
  3. Pushing E, even when he is no longer willing to be pushed.
  4. Giving E the first few bars of the Bach G major suite, a piece every violist and cellist plays at some point. Hearing E working on those opening arpeggios literally made me cry. I was older than E when I first played it, and I doubt my teacher realized that learning that piece was a defining moment in my musical education. Hearing E working on it brought me to my knees.
M, in case I don't say it enough - you are amazing for doing this, and doing it so well. Thank you for being a father our boys will want to emulate.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I am one conflicted mommy

After eight years at home with my kids, I am going back to work.

The decision itself wasn't a hard one; things changed in our family, and it was necessary. And, truthfully, I feel like Cinderella at the ball, because the job I'm going to start in a few weeks will be terrific. I'll discuss the specifics another time, but the high points are:
  1. It's directly in my area of expertise - developing new online products that showcase user-generated content.
  2. I've liked every single person I've met at this company so far.
  3. It's been voted one of the best places to work in Los Angeles several times by the LA Business Journal.
  4. It's less than two miles from my house.
So, as you can imagine, there are a lot of things to be excited about. And I am excited. But I'm also nervous, and most of that is about the changes this will mean for my kids and my relationship with them.

I thought I'd make a list for you, so you can easily see the breadth of my feelings on the matter:

I'm excited because...
  • It's been a long time since the business-oriented part of my brain has gotten a decent workout. The job search process reawakened it, and that felt great. Stimulating.
  • I've always been really good at my job, and this time, I know, will be the same. In fact, I may be better for having been away for so long - I have definitely learned a lot in the past eight years about time management, people management, selling my ideas to skeptics, harnessing creativity, and resilience.
  • My kids already seem to see me differently, with more respect. In the past, whenever I brought up my past career, they reacted with a combination of amazement and disbelief ("You had a JOB? in an OFFICE? No, Mom, your job is to stay home and take care of US"). Time for them to learn that women are equally capable of bringing home the bacon (not the kind from the grocery store).
  • I like earning money.
  • I think working will make me a more interesting person.
  • I really like feeling like I'm on the cutting edge, and when you work in product development for an Internet company, you are.
  • I'll be motivated to wear nicer clothes.
  • I'll get to meet smart new people.
  • The money thing.
But I'm nervous because...
  • I will have less time with my kids. Now, if it works out the way I think (hope) it's going to, most of my office time will coincide with their school day. The hours I'll miss are in the 3-6pm range, give or take. That's carpool time, snack time, homework time. Which I have really enjoyed. But their dad will be with them, and he deserves a turn to enjoy it too.
  • I won't have as much time to exercise, which is bound to have an effect on my body (and possibly my disposition). On the other hand, many days I'll be able to walk or bike to work, which is something, at least.
  • I'm worried that my kids will decide they like spending the afternoons with their dad more than they enjoyed spending them with me. Juvenile, yes, I know. Still.
  • Have I mentioned that I haven't worked for eight years? I wonder if I even know how to have a job anymore. My mom friends who've already made this transition assure me it's like riding a bike.
And I feel guilty because...
  • I don't think I'm actually going to miss driving on the 405 freeway in the afternoons.
  • I don't think I'm actually going to miss volunteering at school (although I will miss the other women I volunteered with, for sure).
  • I don't think I'm actually going to miss my kids that much. They're gone most of the day anyway.
  • I know I'm not going to miss homework hour.
  • I worry that my husband will equate being happy to go back to work with not feeling grateful for the years I was able to spend at home - and I am (grateful).
I know all these feelings, excited and nervous and guilty, are normal. That doesn't make them any less real.

Anyone out there who's been there, done that: Please post a comment and tell me how you dealt with all of these things. I need chatter.