Two out of four of us have become pollen prisoners in our own home this week. So please forgive the cabin fever that begets a little stream of consciousness today. Tennessee in full bloom is no more of a joke than our moonshine. We spent two full days trapped indoors last week. Not snow days. Pollen days. Passing the time, we painted a window mural of a menacing thunderstorm across the kitchen panes to try to block out our yellow-dusted bikes lying dormant in the sunny grass. A lame attempt at a mind fake to make the great indoors seem more appealing.
See what happens here? Give me an open highway (a blank page) and inevitably, I’ll end up writing about what I know. I know runny noses, mucus viscosity, and which allergy med holds the ephedrine. I know that fits of sneezing after you have delivered a couple of babies will never be as safe as it once was (without a change of clothing). I know that the parenting manuals deliberately leave that out. Strangely, these are the very things that keep me going. Getting initiated by fire- then by slow, unanticipated rounds into this club called motherhood.
It is in those small, sneezy moments that the we versus they mentality incubates. We who have kids versus they who do not.
At one point in the not so distant past (college), I had dreams of finding a career then changing the world- in that order. Instead, I graduated and went to work on a dude ranch in Montana in hopes that the big sky would tell me what to do with my life. It never really told me. I was having too much fun to notice if it did. Somehow I ended up here…blogging between witching hours while one kid reads and the other plays the Wii…. or whatever they’re doing in the other rooms quietly right now.
Setting: Last Weekend. Wedding Shower. One of my closest friends is getting remarried. I am very happy for her. Lots of people are. She is one of those people who has spent her teen and adult years being very generous to others. She is the quintessential oldtimer pal with over two decades logged in one long, very confidential journal that is still writing itself.
We had our first and only seance in 7th grade over the Ouija board over 20 years ago. I still remember trying to lift the sleeping person into the air on our pinky fingers with four people stationed at each corner of the sleeping bag. This is the friend who knows all of your dirt and loves you anyway. The one who takes some of your dirt and smears it on herself so that you’re both…well, covered in dirt? The one who never screens your speed dials…even when the airline steward is threatening her with excommunication from not only first-class- but the whole plane.
This friend of mine also happens to be a very successful businesswoman. I try on her Louboutin heels when I visit her in New York and try to walk in them with my rolled up yoga pants just for fun. I need the wall to brace myself. I need her to brace me too…literally and figuratively most years. And she does. One of us has kids. The other does not yet (although two beautiful, lucky daughters are getting an equally lucky mom this June).
Being a parent can isolate you from the otherworld. When you are busy racking up those million joys and sleepless nights that come with being someone’s mother, there is this other world still spinning heartily without you in it. I try to keep my gasoline can of Type A hidden around the corner to ignite things when the going gets slow and lessons in shoe-tying get tedious.
My friend knows this about me. That I am still sitting on a goldmine of Type A-ness. That I’m still cool…that I still have the best dirty joke in the room right in my back pocket and that at the bottom of the diaper bag, there is most assuredly a bright red lipstick. But when I am around other women who are married to their extraordinary careers, I clam up. Get dizzy. Tread the air for common ground.
There I am- seated next to the CEO of some publicly-traded Inc. What the hell am I going to talk about if I can’t rip Dora the Explorer – or discuss natural ways to remedy child constipation – or why it is freaking fanastic that the latest school fundraiser didn’t actually require me or my kid to sell anything? My hardwon vocabulary has dwindled to include … can’t even think of the word for it right now.
When I do open my mouth, stuff like this comes out: This chicken salad is so good. Then during what seems like an appropriate lull in the conversation, I launch into a completely inappropriate story about my history with the bride-to-be in an attempt to make our friendship seem relevant. Then it happens. I am set free when another person at the table wonders aloud about the American Girl phenomena. From here, the childless folks get much new knowledge from me and the other moms-in-hiding that probably solidifies their decision about not having kids. And we, the parents of small people, actually get to teach them a thing or two about why they might have chosen the best route for themselves. It all comes out in the wash. See…even a laundry metaphor?
Simply put, having kids is not a required rite of passage for everyone. And when I meet someone who doesn’t have kids, I don’t think to myself what a cold cold heart…they will never love fully.
And I will admit, there are hours (ok, sometimes entire days) where that grass looks awfully, awfully green.
Sometimes, when I’m working on a freelance project at the local Panera and I side glance career ladies in suits that cost more that my last month’s salary, I do get a little bit (here’s that darn word) jealous. And after that annoying emotion subsides, the what-if centaur seizes an opportunity to rear it’s ugly little head next. What if I had done this instead of that?
Stupid what-ifs. They are not welcome here anymore. Not here where the grass is so green you to sneeze to cope.
In the meantime, I have a full-time job. It is called my kids. So forgive me if I talk about my job a lot. It is not a contract that I want to botch. I am up for review every single day. The critics are not that harsh but they need lots of reinforcement along the way. Many, many thanks to the friends who are not currently on diaper or carpool duty but are still hearing me out when I relay the minutes from the day’s agenda. Without some brilliant momtrepreneur, we would not have Boudreaux’s Butt Paste (the world’s best diaper rash remedy). All of us are needed to keep this world spinning.
My friend and I- we report to polar opposite jobs. She owns a thriving company. I own a goldfish. But we find a middle ground and still relate now just as much as ever. I would like to think that we keep this tipsy world a little bit more balanced by all doing what we love and loving what we do. One ruling the world, one trying to raise it. I probably wouldn’t last a day in her shoes. She may not last one day in mine, but we don’t need to tell each other that.
And it is acceptable (to me, anyway) if the wrinkle and child-free Gen X’ers roll their eyes in the nice restaurant when my child’s starts begging for an exorcism. I am sure that they will secretly be glad that they are ten tables away and happy in their decision to not sign up for this gig. I am happy to provide that service if they are happy to receive it for a minute.
I’m also sure that I will sit there and think before ordering…I’ll have what I’m having with a side of what you’re having too. We really are kind of in this together.
Pass the cloth napkin. No, I am not crying.
P.S. Yes, I know there are a few of you out there who are running companies and changing diapers. I know you exist. I can’t even talk about you yet because I don’t know where you stash your cape. It ain’t in your closet. Because I’ve looked.