Suburban Snapshots

Dog Shaming and the
Reason You're So Damn Busy

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Last week I was emailing a potential dog sitter to plan our upcoming family road trip. In the middle of outlining each of our 3 animals' quirks — one takes medication in the morning, snores loudly, and doesn't like kids; one can't be let outdoors unsupervised, is cuckoo bananas on a leash, and jumps chest-high; one steals food, barks, and prefers to poop indoors — it occurred to me that this is how we become so busy without ever realizing it's happening, how much we absorb even in the smallest tasks.

Handsome Hank here appeared on last month.

To Steve and me, the dogs are kind of a pain but not a hardship. When we go away we know we need to plan for their care, when we feed them we have to spread out their bowls and watch the one who steals from the others, most nights we gate them in the guest room so we can have the bed to ourselves, in the morning one of them can be counted on to shit just inside the back door, then hide under the dining room table. It's just how it goes.

If you break down your daily routines into their discrete parts — getting a preschooler dressed, drop-offs before work, coordinating grocery store trips, play dates — it's amazing we keep everything functioning without having Siri call a meth dealer. And I'd argue that it's a good thing we do so much of this on auto-pilot, because leaving notes for the dogsitter and actually seeing all we tolerate had me feeling like a pretty shitty pet owner; Why haven't I gotten these tiny assholes better trained by now? How can I ask someone else to do all this? Why am I not a cat person?

So when you're feeling inadequate — wondering if you're doing enough, feeling as we all can that you're half-assing everything, struggling with guilt every time you open Facebook to tune out for a while — look at one part of your routine in all its mollecules, then pat yourself on the back and have a bloody mary for breakfast while posting a status update. You totally earned it.

An Open Letter to Those
Who Market to Children

Sunday, September 16, 2012

To Whom it May Concern,

I'm a mom and last week I turned 39. You've probably stopped reading already, because as of 4 years ago I've aged out of your target demographic. But I urge you to continue because I also happen to be in charge of the future purchases of a girl who will be entering consumer age faster than I care to admit.

I'm a mom who's going to have to be on my daughter's bad side often and who's willing to pick those battles regardless of slammed doors and hurled insults. I'm a mom who stands ready to utter tired clich├ęs about friends jumping off bridges. I'm a mom with a high tolerance for rolled eyeballs and silent treatments, for being dismissed as "un-cool" and for cold shoulders. I can put up with begging, whining and nagging with the stamina of an elite marathoner.

But here's what I won't stand for: I won't accept that a song can't be a hit if the lyrics don't repeat "sexy" 400 times in 3 minutes. I am not buying that the reason there are denim shorts for 5th graders no bigger than a pair of bikini bottoms is because "the market demands it." And while I'm sure they exist, I don't personally know a mom who found last year's lack of Steve Madden shoes for toddlers to be a hardship.

So you can assault our senses with mall stores that smell like whore houses and sound like clubs, tell our kids that jeans should be super skinny and cost at least eighty bucks and that confidence is something they can blow their allowance on, but don't dismiss us parents, because we're onto you. We recognize the too-mature clothes and overpriced shoes, we're watching you try and rush childhoods that are already too short and erode the innocence we know will go too soon.

You may have the power to persuade our kids that they need tiny shorts and sequined underwear but understand something — we're ready to protect their true best interests with passion and ferocity. We're ready for the stomping and sulking, the relentless insisting and demanding. We're prepared to be The Bad Guy.

If you doubt the tenacity and endurance of a bunch of women-over-thirty who continue to depreciate in value to your industry, remember — we signed onto this parenting gig for a lifetime. We are not a trend, childhood is not your commodity.

Please Make My To-Do List
Stop Scrolling

Monday, September 10, 2012

I work from home, full-time. For 8 or more hours a day after I drop Anna at school, I sit at my desk or the dining room table and call into meetings, respond to emails, and do other nerdy web type stuff that I  enjoy but won't bore you with.

When I tell people that I work from home they usually comment on how perfect a situation it must be, and for the most part it is; if I need to run an errand, I run an errand. Out of milk? I can get in and out of the grocery store before the senior housing bus is even done parallel parking. I can wear whatever I please, my commute is 10 feet and traffic is a pair of flip flops left in the hallway.

But the flexibility also creates some pressure. Because I have a desk job while Steve is usually on a truck, I handle all the household admin except for the monthly bills. I make doctor's appointments, run to the post office, organize babysitting, call the bank, call the insurance company, buy birthday cards, thank yous and party gifts. When there's a lice alert at preschool, I pick Anna up and park her in front of whatever hideous show will keep her quiet and occupied while I work, then feel terribly guilty that she's watched 3 hours of My Little Pony while I sit with a headset on and my back to her. I make travel arrangements and plan weekends, respond to texts, RSVP to kid parties and potlucks, I fill out school forms and tax forms and 401(k) papers I don't totally understand. And I cannot sit to work if my house is a mess, so somewhere between waking up and sitting down, I'll clean out the sink, dishwasher if it's done, wipe off the counters, hurl Anna's shoes into her bedroom and Steve's bathrobe into ours, put plastic families back into their dollhouse, hang wet towels and refill dog bowls.

And then I sit to work alone until 3:35 when Steve walks in the door, which is usually when I remember that there's nothing defrosted for dinner and hope we have milk for the box of mac and cheese he'll make Anna.

Lately I feel like I'm not really doing anything all the way, you know? I try hard at work but know that my co-workers often stay later or start earlier than I can. I have a to-do list of work and personal tasks that grows as fast as I check things off of it -- build new web page, deposit freelance check -- and aside from work and the kid and the ever-stinky house, I have this blog (which I love) and my NickMom gig (which I also love), I do photo shoots (again, love) and maintain my Facebook page (ditto) and even though as I type this all out I can clearly see that it's a lot to handle, I feel like maybe I'm just not trying hard enough or organizing my time well enough, that we shouldn't be eating mac and cheese twice a week because it's too late for more than one dirty pot, that I need to get on top of the floors because all this shit sticking to my feet is totally grossing me out.

It might be that we were busier and away more with the summer here, and maybe the cooler weather will make more space for getting things done. It's the typical struggle of the working mom though, right? And the at-home parent too, I suspect. It makes more sense for us to handle household business, and I know it's fine if the floors are sticky and the sink is never empty and honestly none of that normally bothers me. I just feel really behind lately, behind everything.

Do you think it's the season? Have you found things slipping and notice yourself playing catch up lately, or do you feel this way all the time? Have any good ideas on the matter? I'll read them all just as soon as I get this toilet cleaned and call the vet.

I Might be Having a
First-World Parenting Crisis

Monday, September 03, 2012

Sometimes I don't feel like going through the hassle of booking an appointment with our counselor to talk over a single issue, and when that happens I turn to you, Internet, to play Unbiased Party. Plus you don't charge me a co-pay.

My 6-year-old niece has been taking horseback riding lessons for several months. We've watched her a few times and have seen her wobbly trot become a confident gallop, and though Anna is usually too distracted by barn dogs or horse penises to really pay attention, she's said more than once that she'd like to ride horses too.

To date Anna has taken and loved gymnastics, and though neither Steve or I are under the illusion she will excel and go on to spend thousands of hours perfecting her skills under the stern but loving care of a burly Russian coach (this description is based entirely on a bunch of movies I watched in the 80s) she'll continue. She took ballet which none of us enjoyed, and a quick stint swimming which will resume in a couple of weeks so I can stop growing gray hairs at the beach. Oh, and last summer she spent 3 days lying on a soccer field telling us she was tired.

Steve's been showing her BMX and skateboard videos and she's excited by them, she says she wants to try everything. I'm down for letting her have a go at almost anything except hockey, because I'm a morning person and I still think 7 a.m. games are kind of bullshit. Also the money tree died when we bought this house.

The trouble is that Steve feels the same way about horseback riding as I do about hockey.

It's a pricey activity, no doubt. I imagine that seeing my lanky 4-year-old perched on the back of a 7-foot horse will scare the manure out of me, and the whole thing is at odds with the world I was raised in. On Long Island, girls who rode horses also got BMWs at their sweet sixteens.

But the ones who keep horses at the stable where my niece practices look so responsible, or at the very least, so modestly dressed. They tie and brush, walk and shovel, and it all seems like there are so many lessons beyond how to get the animal to go this direction or that on command. They're just regular kids whose parents probably have to really work their lessons and boots and equipment into the monthly budget.

I've relented for now, I'm giving this one to Steve because gives into me almost 100% of the time. I know if Anna wants to do it she'll ask again, and if she asks enough he'll let her go because that's the kind of dad (and husband) he is. But I don't want to miss an opportunity and in general, it's hard for me to keep my trap shut when I feel like I have a valid argument.

What do you think, Internets? About horses, about kids being scheduled and overscheduled, about your own kids, or about how you live in a cardboard box outside a hockey rink somewhere so that your daughter can get to her 500 practices on time. Mostly that last part, because I don't want to have any guilt if she asks about hockey once she's old enough to play.