There’s No Place Like Work

Some problems are so complex and frustrating that one feels like scrapping the whole thing and starting over anew.  Untangling those stupid “fun fur” yarns from the craft store is like that.  Right now, my whole life is like that.

Let me illustrate.  I have a degree; I double majored in art and religion.  Yeah, I know, but a degree is a degree, and I’ve at least proven that I can learn.  I managed a bookstore; I worked for a museum managing volunteers and the front desk.  But five years ago I chose to stay home with our children.  I thought it would be great; just me and the kids all day?  We’ll have so much fun!  Yeah right.  There were so many things I didn’t understand back then.  I didn’t realize how isolating it can be to stay home with children, how demoralizing to clean and clean and clean and see no difference at all, because the little hellions are manic about creating more mess.  It is their purpose in life, their calling, their destiny.  And to be in the messy house alone all day?  Is not exactly the domestic bliss I’d envisioned.

I’ve heard some people say “oh but you get paid in hugs and kisses and love!”  Well, how about getting paid in nasty looks, screams and venomous remarks?  No one, but no one, can hurt you like your child.  And Cameron is especially good at giving voice to his disapproval.  “This food tastes like slugs.”  “YOU should have done something!” (whenever anything goes wrong.)  And my favorite, saying that Daddy could do something I can’t, because he’s smarter … because he works.  (Which is totally not true, by the way, I’m plenty smart.  “I am so smart, I am so smart,  S-M-R-T … “)  It’s his talent.  Really, at this point, I would rather get paid in actual money.  At least I could spend that on therapy or vodka.

Others say that it’s the most rewarding, important thing I can do.  And yes, I agree, it is the most important thing I will do, raising my children.  But does it have to be the ONLY thing I do?  To say that is to say that any working mother is a bad mother.  And sorry, I’ve known plenty of moms who work, and they are great moms.  I know I’m glad my mom worked; I can be proud of her, and know that she did something extraordinary with her life.  Why shouldn’t I do something extraordinary with mine that does not involve my kids?  (She thinks so too.  When I first told her I was going to stay home, she said, “Why did we spend so much sending you to college if you’re just going to be a housewife?”)  And if raising kids is so important, so grand and noble, why is it that when I say I stay home with the kids, the light of interest goes off in so many eyes?  There is no value placed upon what I do, and no matter how many times I reassure myself, eventually the judgment of society weighs upon me.

I have wished over and over that I had a disposition that let me be happy at home.  I am so envious of Kim and Andrea, who are not only happy being home, but are really good at it.  I’ve wondered ever since Cameron was born, “What’s wrong with me?”  Let me tell you, that is not a happy mental place to be for five years.  I still don’t know what the difference is between me and them, but I wish I could wave a magic wand and change myself.  God knows I’ve tried.  It would sure be a lot better for everyone.

I’ve tried to make it better, more interesting.  I’ve acquired chickens, I’ve begun spinning my own yarn, I got a pair of rabbits to spin yarn from.  I’ve written a lot of stories, and published most of them.  But none of those make a significant amount of money, not anywhere near enough to cover the costs of child care, so they must remain hobbies.  And that’s such a condescending, patronizing term, hobby, when referring to something I’m trying to do to make money, to carve out a niche for myself.  There’s a desperation somewhere under all that, a scrambling feeling of a last-ditch effort to save my dignity and self-respect, that is wiped out when someone says “You don’t have to make money writing/spinning/etc.  You’re lucky that your husband makes enough for you to stay home.  But if you feel that way, I suppose it’s good for you to make a little money with your hobby(ies).”  Or even worse, “Oh that’s nice that you’ve got a little job!”  Gag me with a spork, can my significance be any more diminished?

But there are problems with going back to work, too.  The most I’ve ever made was $14 an hour, and that was for a few months at the library; those jobs are almost exclusively part time.  Hiring babysitters proved to just not work out; I needed the flexibility and assured availability of a professional drop-in daycare.  My one main babysitter was wonderful, but it was still difficult at times with syncing up our schedules, plus if her kids were sick she couldn’t very well take mine too.  She has now gone back to work, and I am so pleased for her; she seems very happy.  I can’t help but be envious, because I can’t find a full-time job that pays what I would need to make to pay for child care.  And I’m in Texas, which has a relatively stable and active economy.

Then there’s the issue of a third child.  It feels like there’s still someone missing.  Perhaps it’s because Curtiss and I both came from families with three children.  We would both like a third child, but is that for the best for our family?  Is it in my best interests, and the best interests of our current children?  Will I be able to give them the best of me, with a third little one?  Could I ever afford to work again?  Even when they’re all in school, there’s summer, breaks and illnesses to contend with.

So there’s my as-yet-unsolvable problem.  I need a sword for this Gordian knot.

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Birds to Blooms

Last Saturday was the GardenWeb Texas Forum swap in Fort Worth. I happened to bring 25 chicks to sell to one of the members there who had asked me for some. Therefore, I had money when I realized that day was the plant sale at the Botanic Garden. Bye bye chick money! I left the house with birds and I returned with blooms.

At the plant swap, I was kind of scarce on stock, but I did have pots. I ended up taking home many “orphans,” plants that people had brought and did not want to take home. So I was already loaded down with garlic, spirea, mints of all sorts and various perennials when I arrived at the Botanic Garden. I got pepper plants and a toothache tree for my brother (he has started a butterfly garden). Then, I saw the daylily table. Named daylilies for $5.00?! Yes please! I brought home 4.

I have always wanted a daylily garden, but they are expensive plants. Beautiful, though, just beautiful. The four I got were Grey Witch, Delightful Treasures, Copperhead and one named “peachy ginger thing.” Sounded pretty, and in retrospect, I was probably hungry. They are living in my front rock garden, heavily mulched, until I can decide where I would like to have a proper bed. Here are some pictures – not of mine, obviously, since I just got them. Credited below.

Delightful Treasure

Copperhead

Grey Witch

First: Delightful Treasure, photo by mystic Meadows
Second: Copperhead, photo by E and B Farm
Third: Grey Witch, photo by A Tide Water Gardener

Possumly the Cutest Vermin Ever

We have a possum. It comes into the yard near dawn a few days a week, looks around the yard for things to eat, climbs the tree near the fence, then walks along the back fence to return to the woods. I don’t leave food out for it, and I am very wary of it. After all, possums are mean, and this one is unafraid of people, as proven by the time I encountered it outside, and it sauntered away, unconcerned. It’s as big as a cat, the biggest possum I’ve ever seen. Part of me disliked it, but it’s also an impressive bit of wildlife simply due to its size, and the kids are always pleased to be able to watch it from the windows.

A couple of weeks ago the possum seemed abnormally fat and clumsy. Today, my husband woke me up to see why: she had babies! And baby possums are, like every other baby in the world, adorable. They clung wide-eyed to mama’s back, hanging on for dear life as she lumbered along the top of the fence. The chickens were not pleased, and raised the alarm with a cacophony of bawk-bawk-bawk-bawk-baGOCK! Miraculously, this did not wake the children.

So that goes to show that even when I don’t particularly like an animal, I can appreciate its place in our lives and smile when I see it doing well. I ought to give the possum a name … Any ideas?

Survived Another Year

It’s my birthday today. I always feel strange on my birthday, like something significant is supposed to happen and doesn’t. Like waking up from a wild dream that you can’t remember, but the feeling of it clings to the underside of your consciousness. I’m always a little afraid of birthdays, afraid something hurtful is going to happen and I’d rather it was just a normal day that I could shrug off and forget. Also I hate having Happy Birthday sung to me. My face turns red and I feel like I should be giving a speech, only I didn’t prepare one, so the best I can hope for is that when the song is over something else will happen to draw attention away from the expectant, uncomfortable silence.

Fortunately today the biggest disappointment was that I went to Home Depot exceptionally frumpy. This should be a safe thing to do. Unfortunately, the guy who helped me cut down a piece of plywood was a total hottie. Not that I have any inclination to do anything other than check said hottie out, smile to myself and carry on, but it would be nice to get checked out in return. But no, I was frumpy, and hadn’t showered, and was driving a dirty minivan with too much crap in it. Ah well. I’ll watch something with Wil Wheaton in it and eat some chocolate.

All but 6 of this last batch of chicks has been sold. I kept 6 of them back, one because it is ugly and needs to feather out (not its fault – it got stuck in its shell and pulled out the feathers on its back), another because it was pretty and I wanted to see how it looked with adult feathers. I found one chick had gotten stuck behind the feeder; by the time I noticed it and rescued it, it looked pretty well gone. I mixed scrambled egg and water and fed it drop by drop from a medicine dropper every couple of hours. Now it is spry, clean, eating and drinking on its own. >.> And its name is Olivia. I am doomed.

I’ve been writing some. When the laptop died I mourned its death greatly, because that meant the only way I could write was to go to the library and wait half an hour to use a public computer for an hour. Not fun. I did still get most of “Stockholm” done, the fourth in the “Chasing Tail” continuum. The short story collection is due June 1st. I am optimistic that I will have time to finish.

My friend Jen McCown and her family have bought a new house! I am very excited to go see it. I must get them many boxes. We had coffee today, and it was really nice. I was so happy to hear about all the fantastic things she’s getting to do these days with her career. Part of me wishes I could be a SQL database … person too, because she and Sean make it sound extremely cool. The rest of me says “You can’t even set up iTunes. You really, really really are not a programmer. Go spin some yarn, write a short story and feed your chickens.” Besides, can’t pick the same as me.

We got the boys bunkbeds, so that’s exciting. Can’t wait to see Cameron’s face when he sees them! It’s going to be awesome.

Happy Crafting!