Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Home[ward] Bound

I need to banish the image of Celine Dion singing Shook me All Night Long from my head. Every time I hear this song, as sung by ac/dc, as I did at the gym this morning, I immediately recall a VH1 Divas concert that featured Celine in Vegas gyrating and dancing and singing this song. I kind of ruined the whole aura of the song for me. Nothing against Celine, of course. I just prefer her more subtle songs, like when she is singing about her indefatigable heart.

Regarding yesterday’s real estate post, both places cost the same, about 1.3 million. The house, which is in Western Massachusetts is amazing. It’s about two and a half hours north of New York City and right near Northampton, a beautiful and liberal and cultural nook of Massachusetts. If that house were here near NYC it would cost easily between two and three million with outrageous taxes. Taxes are insane around suburban New York. My friend’ mother pays $60,000 a year in taxes. A YEAR!! That’s 5K a month. It boggles the mind.

Two bedrooms in NYC average 1.3 million; three bedrooms average 1.8 million. Studios—one room in which you live your whole entire home life—average around half a million. What college graduate (or high school graduate) can afford $500,000 in their 20s?? New York really is becoming a city for the rich and the poor. Middle class need not apply. And when you look a what you get for your money, it seems even crazier. Looking at that apartment and that house, doesn’t the house seem like a much better choice? I know it comes down to lifestyle and all that, but sometimes I feel so ready to leave the city. I’ve been here for almost 20 years. It will always be my home. But now more than ever I feel the need for grass and garages and lawnmowers and space.

Today I need to clean our home, as it is teetering dangerously on the cliff of disaster. Here is one of the biggest disappointments about being at stay at home mom: There are no medals for cleaning or, say, putting away a box of matches. After several days of looking at said matches in the living room, I finally put them away in the kitchen drawer. And I expect an awards ceremony.

Did I mention that they were Nicole’s matches? From a fancy dinner out that she had while away in san Francisco for work? A dinner, I might add, that included no children and happened to be at one of my favorite restaurants ever? While she was eating here I was having my ninth meal in a row of leftover root vegetable gratin. I’m bitter like the celery root in my gratin! Well, not really, it was a business trip, not a week away for fun, but a dinner at Boulevard would be quite nice.

Seriously, when your job in life becomes Household and Child Management, you want accolades and acknowledgement for the simplest things. Perhaps even expensive gifts. At least, that is how it is with me. There are days when I wait anxiously for Nicole to come home to see if she notices what I did. I am practically giddy. Will she see that the toilet is shiny and clean? Did she note that the towels are hung up all nice? The recyclables were taken out? The bed is made? Will she leave a diamond bracelet under my pillow as thanks?

That’s an exaggeration but the point is, I need praise. And if you are me, you need a lot of it! This is my job now, and just like working in an office, when you want your manager to notice that you did a good job or you want a good review, you similarly want that at home. You also want lunch hours and coffee breaks. This is not to say Nicole is my manager. I guess colleague would be a more accurate description, if I were to keep the metaphor going. But still, you want your colleagues to say great job too.

And now that I have said all this, I have to say that Nicole does notice this stuff all the time. Maybe it’s hard not to: When the kitchen floor goes from having food-centered dust bunnies back to spotless clean, how can she not comment? In the early days of parenthood, there are times when our apartment looked like it was attacked by a pack of hungry bears. So it is hard not to appreciate it when it is even slightly organized and clean. Nicole acknowledges even my smallest household accomplishments, for the most part, which goes a long way to making me feel like I am doing an okay job. So all of my whining here is because I want medals too.

I completely glamorized what staying at home would be like. I didn’t think it would be like the Sound of Music (sans Nazis) but I did sort of think that it would be more ritualized and rewarding. Perfect little babies on a perfect little nap schedule, during which I would lounge about or nap or read for pleasure. They would laugh and giggle as I vacuumed around them. Sit happily in there play stations with me in the kitchen while I whipped up a standing rib roast and homemade creamed spinach. It’s not quite like that.

Let’s just say that I don’t exactly excel at the homemaking thing. I can admit it. I don’t want to dust each slat of the blinds. I don’t want to clean the stove again. I do not want to vacuum the damn moldings on the floor. Housework is boring and seemed, ironically, easier to do when I had less time to do it.

What I do like to do is play with babies. Take them on walks. Take pictures of them while they do anything. I am grateful to be able to stay home and take care of the babies, I really am. The alternative—that I am still on the TTC roller coaster and still trying to stay pregnant—is awful to consider. And while I do love it, wow, it can be hard. You forget who you are sometimes. You neglect to see the worthiness in what you do. You get lonely because the only other people in your home can only communicate through screeches and crying and smiles and giggles, the latter which I really enjoy. You feel like you are failing because the ironing isn’t done or the carpet needs to be vacuumed or the chairs need new little felt bottoms or your children smell a little vomit-y. By you I mean I.

I used to make a lot of phone calls to Nicole at work, little sanity breaks for me, because why wouldn’t she want to field forty phone calls from me each day? Eventually the conversations went a bit like this:

Nicole: This is Nicole. [rushed, business-like tone]
Me: Hi!
Nicole: What’s up?
Me: Nothing!
Nicole: How are the girls? [typing in the background]
Me: Fine!
Nicole: I have a meeting in ten minutes that I need to prepare for. [always managing my expectations; and if I had a dollar for every time she said that to me, I would have several new Anthropologie skirts]
Me: OK. I’ll talk to you later.
Nicole: Bye.
Me: Bye!

It’s better than the phone calls I used to make, which included me crying and saying I can’t handle taking care of the girls by myself. Those must have been phone calls to get in the middle of a busy work day. Those were tough days.

The highlight of my day is when Nicole gets home. That energy shift, of having another adult at home, it makes a huge difference, even when the girls are sleeping. Plus I just like having her around.

Pictured above is me and my turtleneck. I tend to cover my face with the turtleneck. I try not to do it in public, but it is such a reflexive thing. Bizarre. Anyone else do this? I can’t be the only one.


Anonymous said...

Huge standing ovation!!! Both for the well-articulated phenomenon of stay home mothers, as well as for all those efforts on the homefront. As for the turtleneck, yes --- that's why it's called "TURTLEneck. I wonder if a burka would feel safe like this.

j said...

One comment on the Mass house: It's location IS beautiful, I know the area well, though one must remember that along with that location comes the....sometimes unpleasant odor of the farms located very nearby. Seriously, many days from spring-fall, Hadley smells disgusting.

calliope said...

I soooooo know the need for praise. I am the exact same way. (not that our situations are the same)
Wen Mother comes home I want her to NOTICE the clean house, the fed Grandmother, the lack of dishes in the sink.
I think when I had a "real" job there was a lot of "atta girl" moments and I just miss the fuck out of those.

By the way- I am giving you 11 gold stars for putting away the matches (that weren't even yours!)


sara said...

I just want to say that I do that covering-the-face thing with the turtlenecks too.

Susanica said...

Way too funny. My sweetie is still home with Danny for just a little while more before she has to return to her job.

Interestingly, our phone calling pattern is quite the opposite. I call from work for the stupidest reasons several times a day. "Hi honey, did I forget to turn off the (fill in the blank with the name of any appliance?) And how's our Danny Boy?" or "Hi honey, do you need me to bring anything home from the store (even though we'd already had this conversation before I left for work) Oh, and how's our Danny Boy?"

You get the picture. And somehow I don't think I can really call his daycare provider every day and ask inane questions. It wouldn't be the same anyway.

Keep up the great blogging. It's so much fun to read your stuff. Why, you deserve a medal! -Monica

Carey said...

Ok... nothing to do with your post - but I wanted to say thanks for the books!!! :) That was so sweet of you!!!!

Shelli said...

I want medals, too. I'm the exact same way. TOTALLY.

And I So do the turtleneck thing, too.

Narda and I both have the Christmas week off, if you guys are in town, we could go do the children's museum one day. The girls would love it!

nailgirl said...

I do that with my sweatshirt while watching t.v. Oh and I just did a post not to long ago about not getting any rewards. Motherhood is a thankless job.

ms.bri said...

Does your stack of books you don't have time to read include that book I blogged about - What Mothers Do...? Cause it should.

I'd love to see you soon.

francesca said...

Oh, we all need more gold stars in our lives. Gold star for miles run, dishes washed, books read, racing thoughts contained....

As for deconstructing Goodnight Moon, you had me at hello. Tonight I am literally sitting here with my old friends Derrida and good ole' Judith Butler, and I want to institute my own academic gold star chart:: each page of a paper written, each citation checked, each spell check run. Alas, even grad school cannot cure me of procrastination so I am low on the stars. But I am high on the gummy bears, so that's a plus.

Did you know there is a "Good Night, Gorilla"?

How goes the running?