Monday, March 17, 2008

Lottery ticket, anyone?

For years, I insisted to Matt that I believe lottery winnings would only ruin us. While the majority of me still believes this, on days when I'm home, I wonder.... We are such different people--such different parents--and our kids are so well-served by these differences. I wish there was a way that both of us could have more time with them, and they with us. After Matt sacrificed that time for years with a more demanding (and higher paying!) job, it is now my turn to give in to the demands in the interest of the family-supporting paycheck. I'm good at my work, and I receive a great deal of affirmation for what I do. It can be easy for me to believe the lines I put out there for the world: "The kids are better off being home with Matt. He's the fun parent. I'm the 'let's clean the toilets for fun' kind of parent who worries more about folding laundry than getting out there in the yard." While there's truth in this, on days like today, when I am home with the kids, I realize I am as good at home as I am at work.

Matt's away with his parents for a few days, and I'm working from home in order to care for the kids and not blow all my vacation days. By noon, I had already managed to walk Kyra to school, accomplish some of that must-be-done work, arrange an afterschool visit from a friend of Kyra's (promising to bring home a neighbor's child, too!), dig into the homemade zucchini bread we made yesterday with lovable Lucas (frozen zucchini from last year's garden--can't wait for the growing season to begin!), dust and spot clean the house, finish the laundry, and go through all of Lucas's clothes, weeding out three bags for Freecycle. Had I managed to play with Lucas? Does it count if he played near me? You get the picture!

The same drive I bring to work appears when I am home, and long-lingering projects are accomplished in minutes. While there's different satisfaction in my work, there's something satisfying about creating a happy home for the kids, too. Though I am likely the parent who needs to set a timer to remember to get down on the floor and play for 20 minutes a day, there is a benefit to attending to the environment in which they play with such gusto and satisfaction.

Later in the day, as I meandered down the woodsy path from school with Kyra's friend's mom and the six kids we had between us, I realized there are other gifts I give to my children--I link them to the world. I bring friends into their lives. I'm fortunate--in every time period of my life, every home I've lived in, I've had a circle of close friends. Meeting people and engaging them is something I do with relative ease (hence some of the praise at work). Matt would be the first to admit that this is not his gift. Add to that the awkwardness of being the one dad in a sea of moms, and it's not surprising that the kids are mainly home with him rather than surrounded by friends and playmates. (My hat is off to him for one day taking Lucas to meet not one, but two moms and their kids at a nearby indoor playspace!) In recognizing my strengths, I remembered what fun it can be to be here. We played basketball outside in the yard. We dreamed with Kyra's friend about all the future times we'll play together. And even as I'm having that fun and dreaming aloud with her mom, I realize that it is not my season to be home. The fun we will share will not likely be on my watch. This week is an exception.

And now we've arrived back to that lottery ticket. I don't mind working. In fact, I think parents who work outside the home bring unique outlooks to parenting. Having a wider circle of meaning alleviates pressure for the kids. They are not my sole accomplishments--and perhaps not "accomplishments" at all, and because of this, I can revel in their individuality. I can enjoy them without needing them to somehow be something that states my meaning to the world. That is established in other times and other places. But a little bit less work would be good. More balance would bring joy, I suspect. And those choices are always linked to money--having enough, knowing how to get enough, and somehow surviving on enough.

At one point Lucas locked himself in our bedroom, and the door handle, perpetually threatening to break, finally did just break. There was no unlocking that door. As I soothed myself (more than him) with calming words, shuffling around for a screwdriver with which to remove the handle, I was reminded of the work it can be to be home. And perhaps if I have too many more "locked in the bedroom" moments with both kids home for three early release days, I might go running back to the office by the end of the week. At this moment, though, I'm wishing for just a little more time.... They are so precious to me.


Sue said...

Oh, how I completely related to this post today!!! And ... needed to read it, to remind myself that what I do is a good, good, meaningful thing. I smiled to myself as I read the first half, finding yet another similarity between us. I too would be the toilet-cleaning parent ("would be?" Try ... I AM!) and struggle with the "task" of actually playing WITH my children. But then, as is so wonderfully typical, we veered off again when it came to the SOCIAL activities. :) Aidan has not had a single play-date with anyone in his class (not all my fault, let me say, but I won't get into that here) and I am content to have them just play nicely here at home. So far they have raised no objections so all is well. :) Or is it? Bah ... I'm with Matt on this one! (Kudos to him for mingling ... at a plaything, no less!!!).

And yes, by all means, my hands would be outstretched in a minute for a lottery win, no doubt about it. I guess where we are right now (which feels like it's been an eternity), "ruination" is not the word I would use. :)

Love to you, Mommy friend!

Anonymous said...

There is always a delicate balance between work and children. Had you spent all your time with Kyra and Lucas there might have been guilt that you weren't doing any work. Your mother worried that she didn't have the proper balance - but she, and you are people for whom the word 'mother' has particular significance. I always felt that I didn't spend enough time with you and Heather, and you were fortunate in having a mom who DID. so I worked too much and played too little.... It is not the amount of time spent playing, it is the quality of such time, and in that regard as mother and teacher, you and Heather keep alive Mom's spirit... dad