November 14, 2006

Here is an odd realization I had recently: my office job is currently the most relaxing thing I do. From the mostly solo commute time when I can blare music at top volume and set my brain on Standby to my three days a week of email, meetings, and phone calls, compared to toddler-wrangling it’s all one giant stress-free bubble bath.

It’s not that my job has changed, or my environment – there are still last-minute projects, poorly planned activities, and colossal miscommunications (although, nothing that’s particularly unique to my own workplace; if a job exists that doesn’t occasionally flail around in its own dysfunction I’ve yet to find it), but everything, literally every single thing, is one hundred times easier than taking care of Riley.

I’m not saying it’s preferable (although it sometimes is), and I’m definitely not issuing some blanket statement about parenting being harder than career work, I’m just saying that for me personally, the same job that used to cause me to grind my teeth and wake me up at 3 AM to stare at the ceiling and compose long-winded monologues I would never actually deliver, is now akin to a thrice-weekly spa treatment.

Who would have fucking guessed that, huh?

Perhaps you can tell I had a bit of a challenging weekend. As I mentioned, Riley and I went to visit my family in Port Angeles (my aunt deserves some kind of nationally-recognized medal for driving us there and back), and let me tell you, by the time I got home on Sunday afternoon all I could do was turn on an Elmo DVD, collapse on the floor, and pray fervently for bedtime to arrive. I think the boy is teething, as evidenced by the bucketloads of drool constantly cascading from his lower lip, and that was maybe a contributor to his general…uh, cantankerousness the last couple of days.

I don’t know, I guess I sort of thought things would get easier as he got older, but each stage just raises the bar. There are so many times when I don’t know what the hell to do in any given situation, and it’s frustrating; I wish there were hard-and-fast rules, I wish I had more confidence in my own parenting abilities.

I look back on some of the journal entries I wrote when he was a younger baby and I miss some of the feelings I had back then; I was starry-eyed about almost everything (“O the miracle of your poop! O the angelic chorus of your cries!”). And I was proud of myself for stepping up to the tasks at hand.

Now it all feels more…like the pretty Gaussian blur has been removed from the job of parenthood. It’s harsher and everything moves faster and the yelling is much, much louder.

In some ways the rewards are greater, too. Watching my son grow and learn is a brilliant gift that makes me happy every single day. His little face never fails to make my heart feel full, my soul lifted and given flight. He responds in ways he couldn’t before, in ways that shatter me and dissolve all the bleakness I’ve ever carried. He makes me feel like the world is inherently a good place; that life is, by default, a wondrous and magical thing.

But it’s also so hard, and so relentless. I know that sounds whiny as hell. I know. I wish there wasn’t so much second-guessing, and plain old guessing (Is he teething? Hungry? Tired? Possessed by demons?), when you’re stressed out and exhausted it sucks to play Mental 20 Questions over and over. I hate worrying about vaccinations and being asked which schools we’re looking into (Um…schools? What? You mean ‘the one that’s closest’ isn’t the right answer?) and whether or not it’s okay to still let him drink from a bottle and what to do when he has a complete and total meltdown in public and jesus, this is nothing compared to all the shit we still have to face, and I just want to do the exact right perfect thing that will ensure his happiness, well-being and safety, forever and ever, is that too much to ASK?

Which is all to say that this year, preparing for the Macworld Expo in January is a goddamned breeze. A tropical fucking breeze filled with salt-tinged air and little paper umbrellas. Bring on the nightmarish deadlines and botched print jobs, because, and I think this would make a fine T-shirt slogan, trade shows are easier than toddlers.


41 Responses to “Comparitive difficulties”

  1. zoot on November 14th, 2006 1:38 pm

    Ditto on insanity inducing tantrums, toddler teething, and work being much more relaxing than motherhood!

  2. Mona on November 14th, 2006 1:44 pm

    Sometimes when I see pregnant women, I think, “HA! Oh you think your swollen feet are something to cry about? Just you wait, my preggy…”

  3. Bridget on November 14th, 2006 1:46 pm

    I try to keep a cheerful outlook on things, too, but it CAN be tough sometimes. I have found writing about it to be SO therepeutic, though, don’t you? Being able to pour your heart out and have an audience that is THERE – they are in the SAME place and can tell you – don’t be so hard on yourself! You are doing a great job. The fact that you worry about making the right decisions is proof to me of that. Good moms worry. It’s one of the (drawbacks?) job responsibilities. I know where you are coming from. I just put JJ in daycare and the first week, I received TWO incident reports. Apparently, there’s a little rufian in his class. I don’t know what the right answers are. It’s good to hear I’m not alone!

  4. omuchacha on November 14th, 2006 1:51 pm

    Oh god, you just encompassed my feelings right now into one tiny little blog entry. Except in my household the insanity is increased exponentially because my father passed away two months ago, and my husband’s mother passed away two weeks ago, and our son has had two different visits to the ER in the last two weekends with the mystery illness that just won’t go away. If you think vomit fest was bad, picture swinging between that and problems on the other end for two weeks straight with a one year old who won’t eat. Not to mention I’m supposed to fly with him by myself for Thanksgiving and I’ve got the LSAT the weekend after – and I’ve missed study time because of the sick child and the funeral.

    Yeah, one crappy missed printing deadline or not finding the right shape of tables for the event on campus this week is the least of my worries!!!! Work is the one space that I can sit and think, honest to god think, for more than a minute without having to say, “No, no G… that’s for mommy!”

  5. Pete on November 14th, 2006 1:56 pm

    I have found that the workplace tends to operate by some set of rules and is ‘kind of’ predictable. With any given circumstance you can more or less predict what will likely happen. Even if you are wrong there are a limited set of outcomes to prepare for. For most people predictability equals comfort. On the other hand, with toddlers, there are no rules except for the ones they make. And they change them at a whim. You can never be sure if how they reacted yesterday is how they will react today, or tomorrow for that matter. Unpredictability equals stress. It does get better. Just in time for the second child. ;-)

  6. Melissa on November 14th, 2006 1:58 pm

    Perfectly written. Relentless is a great word for it. And I haven’t even come as far as you yet! Oh no!

  7. Kaire on November 14th, 2006 2:00 pm

    I’m in a similar mood as Riley’s so perhaps I’m teething as well ….

  8. Sonia on November 14th, 2006 2:22 pm

    When my son was 4 months old, I went back to work part time. I couldn’t WAIT! Lunch breaks! No poopey diapers! No incessant crying for at least 9 hours of each day!

  9. dorrie on November 14th, 2006 2:28 pm

    Word infinity.

  10. Jenna on November 14th, 2006 2:47 pm

    So well written. So true. My husband and I tell everyone we know that the weekdays are SO much easier than the weekends and how we sometimes look forward to Mondays (while feeling like terrible parents in saying it). It’s incredibly true what you say…it’s a lot of work watching a toddler, rewarding, but a lot of work.

    I am one of those moms blaring my music on the way to and home from work in my kidless minivan – it is the only time of the day when I am truly alone, and I enjoy brief brief moment of it.

  11. Jennifer on November 14th, 2006 3:00 pm

    So you’re saying that if I have a baby, I’ll like my job more? Now THAT’S an avenue I hadn’t considered. Screw… I’m going off the pill!

  12. H on November 14th, 2006 3:25 pm

    I agree with Pete when he wrote:

    I have found that the workplace tends to operate by some set of rules and is ‘kind of’ predictable. With any given circumstance you can more or less predict what will likely happen. Even if you are wrong there are a limited set of outcomes to prepare for. For most people predictability equals comfort.

    I’m the mother of a 15 year old and an 18 year old (senior in high school, so still living at home.) The impact of an error in parenting judgment can be huge, and that feeling never goes away. You’ll find other parents with similar standards, values and goals, and you’ll be sounding boards for each other. It helps, but it’s never easy. It’s scary as hell.

  13. Swistle on November 14th, 2006 3:55 pm

    I found that the time between about 10 months and about 2-1/2 was the hardest for me. Sometime in that 2-1/2 to 3 range, things suddenly got a whole lot brighter and easier.

  14. Brooke on November 14th, 2006 4:11 pm

    My husband was saying the other day that he likes the fact that his 7-year-old is barely 40 pounds and barely 40 inches tall because she’s “still like a toddler”. I didn’t want to call him an idiot because we’ve been married only 3 weeks and I didn’t want to ruin it right away. I thought, do you not wish for her to grow up and be a self-sufficient lady with a job that makes her happy and her own life, instead of a whiny little person who is convinced she can’t do anything for herself? Oy! I believe I gaped at him with my mouth open, but maybe he didn’t notice….

    Anyway, that said, Sundry, I have my own 7-year-old, in addition to hubby’s, and I hate my job and would love to quit so I could be at home when school ends. So, it does get better.

  15. fellowmom on November 14th, 2006 4:32 pm

    Here too. I miss them during the week, but by Sunday night I am exhausted and looking forward to work the next morning. Something I never thought I’d say pre-parenting. I also think they look forward to daycare when they’ve been away for a couple of days. Or maybe that’s just what I hope.

    Swistle, it’s good to know there are easier phases to come.

  16. fellowmom on November 14th, 2006 4:36 pm

    P.S. I enjoy my time in the dental chair like never before. My dentist thinks it’s hilarious. I have been pretty lucky to have had no dental problems in the last few years, and a routine cleaning now seems peaceful and relaxing. It’s all relative.

  17. Melanie on November 14th, 2006 4:44 pm

    I totally hear you – there are days when it’s time to go to work and I’m just so pleased about it (I work nights). Parenting is definitely the hardest job – if only because it is just relentless. Even a CEO has a little time off, but you don’t get time off from parenting, not really, no matter how many hours you work. Plus a child is way more needy than any job, and there is that level of love that just changes everything… I even like waiting at the DMV and doctor’s offices now, just because it’s a totally guilt-free few minutes to be by myself, no obligations. Not that I don’t love my son and love hanging out with him, of course, but MAN, no one told me it would be this hard!! Oh, and about the difficulty – I think Riley is at a tough age – learning to walk, learning to talk, teething all that combines to make him utterly frustrated and tired from working so hard and just generally cranky. Once he’s got more of that stuff down pat, he will probably calm down a little bit and mellow out some… and it does get easier as time goes on and they get old enough to play on their own and not be watched like hawks. You’ll make it thru, girl!

  18. Wendy on November 14th, 2006 5:03 pm

    You pretty much summed up everything I lamented about with my therapist last night! :) I’ve always set pretty high standards for myself and that hasn’t changed since I quit my job to become a full-time mommy. I’ve often wondered the same thing…would the job that always stressed me to the core suddenly be a cake walk compared to parenting. I bet it would! I guess that’s one good thing about parenthood–it certainly gives you perspective.

  19. jonniker on November 14th, 2006 5:07 pm

    Oh Lord, the terror just grows and grows and grows for me. I want one! I don’t want one! I want one now! Maybe tomorrow! Maybe never! Maybe just an infant, not a toddler!

    It was the tradeshow comment that killed me. Oh lord, I know it must be hard if tradeshow is nothing, for gah, I hate tradeshows. Hate ’em.

  20. Stephanie on November 14th, 2006 5:10 pm

    Not to rain on your parade, but I think parenting gets harder with each passing year. I have three girls (8,6, & 2). The two-year-old is, by far, the easiest to parent right now. She has no homework, she doesn’t fight with her sister, doesn’t complain about what I serve for dinner, isn’t sassy, doesn’t beg/whine/complain for or about anything. Of course I have no idea what lies around the corner, but I’m beginning to accept that today’s challenges will seem trivial in comparison. That said, I love my little ladies like crazy and wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’ve just given up saying how hard things are, because I’m learning it only gets harder as you go.

  21. Danielle on November 14th, 2006 5:56 pm

    So it IS true!! I am a stay at home mom to a 2 yr old & expecting #2 in Feb….there are countless days when I complain to my husband that I JUST WANT TO GO BACK TO WORK! He just does not understand what I mean, it is so nice to see that I am not crazy about my fantasy of cubicle world…I really do miss my cubicle. Ahh, just me, quiet, those 3 walls…..who would have thought I would want to go back there?

  22. SJ on November 14th, 2006 6:03 pm

    AMEN to that! You summed up my recent thoughts exactly with every word. I have two boys (ages 3 and 14 months) and holy crap…..what was I thinking?! It’s all worth it though, don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t trade motherhood for a thing.

  23. Katie on November 14th, 2006 8:03 pm

    I am jealous that my husband gets to go to work. And, I’m even jealous of the time he spends commuting, alone in a car–not having to clench the steering wheel and hunch up his shoulders in anticipation of Melt Down. Also, he has never watched our kid for more than 3 hours at a time. And he will make comments about how I must not do much at home. I SWEAR TO GOD……

    I started working part time from home just today because I am about to lose my damn mind with being a full time mom. Now, I fear I have just really made it worse on myself. I think working part time OUTSIDE the home would have been a much better choice.

  24. Kristin on November 14th, 2006 9:39 pm

    The ‘removal of the Gaussian blur of parenthood’ as a description of what transpires during this more-than-slightly hellish phase is so apt I kind of want to cry.

    Nolan is also teething/sick/tired/cranky/inhabited by sadistic alter egos.

    I commiserate.

  25. Kim on November 14th, 2006 10:10 pm

    OH JOY, this is all very encouraging as I tuck my 2 month old into bed…I am tired just thinking of how “relentless” it will be, yet somehow excited to be run ragged by my little man.

  26. Staci on November 14th, 2006 10:34 pm

    I agree about work being easier than toddler wrangling. Just wait until you have two! I quit work to be a SAHM, and while I’m so thankful for the opportunity, I also have days when I wish I could go back to work. My particular job WAS easier than caring for my kids. Time for myself! Breaks! Paychecks! Co-workers to talk to! Sometimes I have a reason to go back to my old workplace and even the smell of the building makes me want to cry I miss it so much.

    On the other hand… in the summer when I’m in the backyard with the girls in the swimming pool in the middle of a workday I try to remember that every single person at work wishes they were home with their kids like me… and I try to savor my good fortune.

  27. Kim on November 14th, 2006 10:34 pm

    Mom of a 13-month old here…

    You know, I don’t think it’s just that the job is easier than parenting right now (although maybe it is).

    I think it has to do with the amount of value we place on that job. Back when the job was our biggest focus and a huge source of our identity, decisions seemed momentous. Obstacles were barriers to our advancement, possible disasters for our egos and careers and self-image.

    Now? We know a little better. Our job is… well, a job. And all our hopes and fears and identity crises and senses of self-worth are focused on a toddler that could either be ruined by us… or ruin us.

    Kinda makes the trade show look like beans by comparison.

    (I do have to grin, though, when my husband comes home from work, watches the gal for an hour and a half so I can go to aerobics, and then gasps out, “can you watch her?” and heads for the bedroom to recover when I walk back in the door. Weenie.)

  28. Mama Ritchie on November 14th, 2006 11:46 pm

    Two words: Baby Tylenol.

    I don’t even care if it works or not. Just for that moment, I feel like I’m doing something, even as little as squirting cherry-flavored medicine into his drooly, screaming mouth, to stop the insanity.

    I then say to myself my mantra: “This too shall pass.” I’m getting it tattooed just as soon as I can decide on which stretched-out body part I dislike the least.

  29. katie d on November 15th, 2006 2:25 am

    Oh, man. Huge hugs to you, trooper. You’re a great mom, and Riley is lucky. LUCKY. All my friends say life is *so* much easier once the kid starts school. Hang in there. It’s *got* to get easier or better, or word would have gotten out, you know? People wouldn’t go around repeating the experience (some of them several times) if it was too horrible for forever. My friend Will has 4 of them, and he said it gets to be more fun and enjoyable and less a freak-out-a-minute as they get older. And my parents actually had to go through the adoption process 3 times, and that definitely gave them time to actually *think* about it, and they still did it. AND owned a dairy they had to run themselves. So you can do it. I have faith. :)

  30. Joanne on November 15th, 2006 2:42 am

    When my boy was six weeks old, I got my haircut and almost wept as my hair guy washed my hair. He washed my hair for like TEN times the amount of time that I had showered in the previous six weeks, all tolled! I, too, now enjoy going to the dentist, or anywhere that gets me alone in the car for a minute. I am a SAHM but I wait tables on Monday nights and you can bet that all day Monday, no matter what happens, I am happy because I know that I am going to be on my own and talking to adults soon. I have said it a bazillionty times in the last 17 months, but this is by far the hardest job I have ever had and I have had some hard, shitty jobs! You are definitely not alone in this, and I am very envious of your three days a week. This week I took my boy out to lunch and there was a woman sitting next to us who told me HER 1.5 year old was in day care and she missed him so much. I thought, ‘where is that day care and can I drop mine off there for a while so I can miss him?’ because it looked SO great where she sat, eating her own food and not chasing anyone around the restaurant, or trying to keep her lunch partner quiet so he didn’t disturb other patrons. It’s hard – I love him like crazy, he is funny and sweet when he’s not screaming about teeth, refusing to nap, or throwing food at me. It’s just so, so much – this is the hardest job, the most important, and the one I seem to be the worst at. BUT apparently, according to EVERYONE I MEET, it gets easier, at some point, and then we forget all this. That remains to be seen, as far as I’m concerned, but some days it’s all I have to get me through.

  31. stan on November 15th, 2006 2:52 am

    After the weekend or a day off I’ve often used the phrase ‘Back to work for a rest!’ And that’s even though I have an instinctive ability (like most men, I guess) for avoiding the more stressful and arduous tasks in childcare and home management. I salute all you moms out there, stay-at-home or otherwise.

  32. stormy on November 15th, 2006 4:09 am

    if he is teething, three words — Hylands Teething Tablets. these are little miracles in a bottle, i swear! you can find them at almost any drugstore. and come to think of it, all of the Hyland products for babies friggen rock. and don’t worry, it gets a LOT better.

  33. Sarah on November 15th, 2006 5:49 am

    Gah! I’m only 4 months pregnant – I have this to look forward to?! Having said that, if having kids will make me love coming to work, then bring it on because right now – not so much. Can’t it be a little less relentless if my husband takes over for a while and lets me nap? This is alltogether too scary!
    But you, Linda, are doing a great job – from what we all see and read on your blog. I’m totally coming to you for advice in a few months!
    Hope it gets easier, or you get to take a break, etc…

  34. Erin on November 15th, 2006 6:36 am

    Oh, you sound like me! I am a mommy of 2, and 3 in the summer and holidays. Talk about being f-ing insane at the end of some days. I try to keep my cool. try to get everything done from school projects with the 7 year, to stopping the 2 year from coloring all over said project because he CANNOT be at home without being with his brother at all times and doing everything that he does. Sometimes I just want to walk out of the house. I would never do that of course, and I find myself feeling guilty quite often about the voice screaming in my head, you two shut the hell up! But instead, I nicely say, boys- please quiet down. I am not sure that it is as effective, but you know it works about .00005% of the time. :) And yes, sometimes at 7:30 when they are both at school and I am on my way to work, I think, thank you lord. I can be normal for the next 8 hours.

  35. sunShine on November 15th, 2006 7:09 am

    Just this morning as I was strapping the babe in his carseat I was thinking about how wonderful it would be when I got to the office. It is quiet and peaceful compared to an angry toddler that only wants to be held because he is tired and WHINY! I completely know where you are coming from!

  36. Ang on November 15th, 2006 7:22 am

    About the work being the most relaxing thing you do. . . I can totally relate. I’ve got 4 kids. Work is a respite.

  37. victoria on November 15th, 2006 7:43 am

    Heh. My law firm job makes me crazy: I work early mornings, days, nights, weekends. I don’t get vacations. I have to cancel travel plans all the time because emergencies come up. Opposing counsel can be a real dirtbag. Witnesses can start foaming at the mouth during depositions. Courts can make dumb mistakes. Mostly I just never get any time off. I need a haircut but haven’t been able to schedule it. I was fanatiszing about how great it would be to be a stay at home mom. Thanks for disabusing me of that illusion.

  38. mo from ne on November 15th, 2006 8:07 am

    You are a smart person you’ll figure this out. Thanks for writing about all of it. All parents feel frustrated now and then about the all consuming processes of their children.

    Different stages of parenting suit different people. I’m a single parent so sometimes everything ended up being all me. I felt trapped, bored, and at the end of my rope when my son was a toddler. It was so difficult to figure out what he needed and how to balance discipline, love, worry, and everything else. I used work to escape feeling terrible about my parenting. I never took time off because of the guilt. I was frustrated because everything was so hard. I realized that most things had come easy to me except for parenting.
    We both had a rough time during his pre teen years but it didn’t feel as awful as the toddler era. It was just time intensive stuff I wasn’t very good at so I made his dad get more involved . Since my son could fend for himself and his dad was around more, I would take an afternoon now and then to go to a movie, or take a nap, or do something for me without all of the guilt.
    Now that he is almost 18, he has turned into a great kid, growing into a kind man who should be able to take care of himself.

  39. KJ on November 15th, 2006 10:13 am

    My grandmother had a mantra. She was the most graceful, together, cerealbox awesome person… like ever – and her mantra was “keep-a-goin”. It’s from the poem of the same name by Frank Stanton. Sometimes it’s infuriatingly optimistic and tends to make people really chaff, but sometimes the sentiment is just exactly right. Keep a goin. When it’s good, let it be good. When it’s hard, that’s okay, let it be hard and just keep a goin. Anyway, that’s my two cents. You’re a great mom, an awesome writer, and a brave brave soul. You’re pateint and wittty and adoarable and you have great hair. Keep a goin.

  40. fellowmom on November 15th, 2006 11:09 am

    I’ve been thinking about this post and the comments, and it occurred to me that parenting is comparatively difficult to so many other things because it requires you to subjugate your own needs/wants on a nearly constant basis. That’s something that I had not had to do before. So, work does seem like a cake walk. Plus, there’s the matter of perspective, which Kim mentions.

    The only job that might be comparable to parenting in terms of putting yourself second would be a high-end, service-related job for a high maintenance client, e.g., personal assistant to some crazy celebrity. The comparison breaks down after that because a parent’s motivation to put her kid first is more rational (i.e., I’d rather take a cell phone in the head from my 16-month-old than Naomi Campbell.)

  41. Mary Adams on January 14th, 2007 2:16 am

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