With each phase Rachel enters into, I enter a new phase of self-doubt as a mother. Right now Rachel is in a bit of a rebellious phase. Her response to everything is “no” and it’s not just a matter-of-fact “no” – it’s a much more emphatic “NO!” that translates to “I-hate-what-you-just-said-or-did!” She has an opinion on every detail of the day, and it’s almost always contrary to mine. (The exception to this is ice cream. We always agree on ice cream. Which means, of course, that we’ve been eating way, way too much ice cream lately.) Irritated, I ask myself how can she even have so many opinions, how can she be so argumentative?
I get it, I get it…She’s the apple, I’m the tree. Still, I roll my eyes and struggle to bite my tongue. I’m a generous, loving and fun mom. Why am I met with so much resistance?!
I wonder if we’ve done something wrong. She’s really good at daycare. Maybe she’s mad at us for not giving her enough structure at home. Maybe she sees her grown up teachers manage her day so well and she resents us for not doing the same. Not that I can change any of this, and not that I’d really ask her for her honest opinion. I’m partly afraid of the truth, but mostly afraid of the power of suggestion. Maybe these crazy ideas in my brain never occurred to her – I don’t want to be the one to plant the seed.
Kids don’t really think their parents are incompetent, do they? They trust us, and maybe that’s the scariest part of all. This phase, whatever it is, is just a phase, and she trusts me to help her through it. I just don’t know if I trust myself. What if I fail and she’s a bratty, demanding, contentious person for the rest of her life? What if we have several mini-arguments a day, every day for the rest of her life?
I realize this is likely (not the part about her being a contentious brat…the other part). And I suppose this is part of the fun of raising this person, my child. I get to share my life with this amazing, passionate small person, and she doesn’t judge me or doubt me (just yet). Maybe I’ll learn to give myself that same courtesy.
So many things I never got around to telling you about this month.
- Rachel loves her new daycare. We are calling it preschool, because she hated daycare so much last year. (If we even drive down the road that leads to the daycare she gets a little antsy.) Before her first day at the new daycare we kept telling her that it would be so much fun and that she would make new friends. It’s now quite endearing when we’re hanging out with grownups and they ask her what she does at preschool all day and her response is, “Make new friends!” Her teachers are so loving and the facility is top notch. It couldn’t be a better fit. Rachel’s favorite day so far was “pajama day,” because she finally got to wear her Tinkerbelle top to school.
- Jim and I celebrated our wedding anniversary. It was a simple celebration, which I think is the best kind. It involved candles, Tastycakes, dill pickles, havarti cheese, and red wine. Oh, and flowers. Can’t forget the gorgeous flowers. And lots of reminiscing about our awesome wedding. (The vase pictured above is a “gurgling cod.” Have you ever heard of these? Very New England, I’m told. It was a wedding gift from Jim’s aunt and when I opened it up at a wedding shower in Massachusetts, I kind of made a confused face then I heard a collective “ahhh” from the women attending the shower, followed by, “very traditional gift.”)
- I helped to host a baby shower for my very best friend. I never thought I would say this about a baby shower, but it was truly delightful. The other women who planned the activities and such simply nailed it. (I stuck to handling what I know, which is food. And incidentally I now know how to make the silkiest, melt-in-your mouth quiche, ever. Use this recipe.)
- Our garden plot is thriving. Our two plots I should say. I upped the ante this year and asked for a second plot, and thankfully an extra one was available. I cannot say enough about community gardening. I’ll definitely share more in a separate post.
- I am running a lot these days. Just saying that makes me nervous for some reason…like I might jinx it or something. I am taking it way easy half the time, and mixing in interval workouts the other half of the time. I think this is helping me not to push myself too hard every single day.
That just about catches us up, I think. I’m so excited that it’s officially summer. We’re planning trips, and adding summery recipes to the must-try list, and getting excited for pool/beach season. How ’bout you?
So I thought I’d take a departure from our adventures and talk a little bit about how we Maddens get through the day-to-day. If you don’t know us in person, you may not know that I work full time at an 8-5 office job and Jim works part time, goes to school part time, and stays home with Rachel the majority of the time. People ask me all the time what it’s like to be the primary earner in our family but I never talk about that here. I do refer to our tag-team lifestyle from time to time, but those have just been hints of what our home-life is like.
We’ve had this setup (give or take the extra caregivers) for all of Rachel’s life, and it has definitely been a challenging dynamic. I often wish I had more time with Rachel and Jim often wishes he had more time at work. I have now gotten to the point where I sometimes just wish that I had more time in my home. I feel (whether it’s true or not) like I’m the person who spends the least amount of time there, and I fight the frequent primal urge to be the queen of our hive, the keeper of our nest. It’s not a feeling that I ever expected to feel, so there must be something biological at work.
When I was a teenager, I was known for being tough. I was a pretty good athlete with really tough coaches and sometimes I would push back on them as hard as they would push me. One day one of them said to me, “Whatever man ends up with you better have a big pair of pants,” and just remembering that comeback stings a little bit. What was he saying? That I’m tyrannical, control hungry, not easily tamed. But also that women need masters, someone to control them, that no matter how tough I was, I would still someday rely on a man. So much distortion tied up in that quip…
Needless to say I never wanted to wear the pants, or bring home the bacon, or whatever the f expression you want to use. Eight years ago I met a man and I fell in love with him and I wasn’t thinking about any of that. Eight years ago I had the mindset of any college-bound kid our age: that I could do anything…and then I made some bad decisions, and then the economy went to crap. I never thought of a career. I never thought of earning potential. I don’t really think that Jim did either.
Then we became parents, which changes everything for sure, and I think one of the number one things that it changed in our household was the dynamic of who is responsible for what. Who does the cooking, who does the chores. (It’s not all about who brings home the bacon, when you get right down to it. It’s also about who tends to the nest.)
I think about how my parents ran our household growing up. Mom took care of everything inside the house; dad took care of everything outside it. Arguably there are more “inside” duties to be done, but that’s why they had three little girls, my dad would remind us. My mother was in no way a slave to the household chores. She was a master delegator. Everything inside that house was her domain. She was the queen.
It was so typical. And society’s commitment to these roles is a tale as old as time.
Then I think about how my current household runs: we don’t own a home yet so there aren’t really any outside chores (though I very chauvinistically suggested to Jim that taking out the trash was a man’s job.) At this point, everything that needs to be maintained inside the house is maintained by both of us. When Jim’s home, he cooks; when I’m home, I cook; but to be completely honest, when we’re both home Jim does most of the cooking. We both do the laundry. Jim does most of the washing/drying; I do all of the folding. Jim takes the lead on handling the mail, giving me the items that I need to follow up on. We would probably both say that we do the dishes more often than the other. We both pick up the clutter. Neither of us ever dusts. We could both improve/do more in many arenas, but when it comes to running a household there’s always something more that can be done, isn’t there?? We honestly do not follow any sort of housekeeping routine or schedule. We both keep our versions of to-do lists, but by and large we just go with the flow and get things done.
It was definitely a long road to here. With Jim suddenly spending the most time inside the home, I think he was forced to learn a lot of things very quickly. None of that stuff is hard (technically speaking), mind you. Housekeeping is menial, mindless work (amen to those who do it with dignity, and shame on us for not paying those more who do this professionally), but you still have to know how to do it. The hard part of it is wearing the role.
During all of this time, I’ve had times where I’ve felt like I’ve done more than my fair share and times I’ve felt like I haven’t done enough. A cycle of resentment and guilt. I’ve felt like I have no authority within my own home, anger that the house isn’t orderly enough, that the laundry isn’t in the right place. (Ridiculousness!) At the worst I felt like I’d be better off doing everything myself. A dream of an alternate universe in which I was only responsible for myself and my space and did not need to coordinate with anyone else.
That’s a selfish and ungrateful place to be.
Amidst the clashing and negative emotions I acknowledge a few things that seem too true to ignore:
1. We did not set out to buck some trend. We did not choose to challenge gender roles or seek to conduct some experiment.
2. We never desired a traditional household. The roles society expects of us do not match what we expect of each other. We are known to dream of and do things that are unorthodox and the way we run our house has ended up being one of those things.
We’ve always questioned what equality looks like in a marriage, and tried to cultivate it, acknowledging that it might constantly change for us and will require constant effort. We’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but we work really hard. We try to have harmony. I think we do pretty well. When I stop to really think about it, I feel swept up with gratitude. All that I have, that we have as a family, is unique and wonderful and a blessing. It’s not what we planned but it is what we wanted. And yet, it’s all fleeting, isn’t it? A few years from now Jim will be a lawyer, and who knows what I’ll be doing, and Rachel will be in pre-school. I’ll miss my husband, who’ll be working long hours, and I’ll probably always wish I had more time with Rachel. And frankly, who gives a shit if the laundry is in the right place. When Jim comes home from a long day at the office and sees a messy kitchen he’ll probably cringe but he won’t wonder why I didn’t clean it. He’ll never make me feel like he’s wearing the pants in the family, because let’s be honest: there are no pants here.
::enjoying hot tea in April.
::letting Rachel live in her “Tinkerbell top.” A sick girl has every right to wear her special pajamas.
::trying to polish things up on this site.
::looking for a good 5 or 10k to run this summer.
::figuring out what’s next for my hair: bang trim/long, side-swept bangs/cut it all short & donate…all possibilities.
::filling out our application for a community garden plot.
::dreaming about putting an even larger plot in our small yard.
::reflecting on my upcoming birthday. Trying not to make a big deal about it, but also taking the opportunity to consider some things.
::excited to dye some Easter eggs this week. Jenna’s turned out just beautiful, don’t you think?
::hoping, at the last minute, that the Lady Irish win tonight’s national championship basketball game.
::studying up on Hunter Pence and other Phillies favorites. Bring on baseball season!
::obsessed with the idea of sheet pan meals. Tried one on Sunday; will try another tonight.
::pledging to channel my baking obsession into creating healthy-ish breakfast foods.
::considering a summertime challenge: find Philadelphia’s best ice cream shoppe.
::laughing out loud at these two Tumblrs: one…two.
::feeling light and content on this Tuesday, and hoping you are too!
I couldn’t resist. Even though it’s been quite chilly this week, giving last week’s tree blossoms and daffodils major confusion.
Two things more confusing than the weather:
#1. Last night I made coconut custard for a coconut cream pie. I planned on making a crust and whipped topping tonight, but my patience got the best of me and I had a bowl full of custard by itself. It was divine. Now I wonder, why does anyone makes coconut cream pie at all? (Really…why?)
#2. In Cinderella, after the fairy godmother turns the pumpkin into a coach she turns the mice into horses, then a horse into a coachman. Did you catch that? Why can’t the horse stay a horse and why can’t one of the mice be a coachman? (I know, I know…like this is the only thing about the story that needs further explanation.)
I told you this would be a random post.
PS- The most beautiful spring trees I’ve seen recently are the ones in Central Park and they can be found on Ashley’s blog and Sharon’s blog. They sooo make me want to visit NYC just for a minute this spring.