Monday, June 30, 2008

The Balance

Doing dishes tonight, I found myself excited about tomorrow's breakfast.  I was thinking about fruit, and how good it would taste with yogurt and granola.  I was looking forward to the time alone, time to cut the fruit without anyone whining for a bigger piece, time to eat and read the paper before heading out the door to a place where my efforts are generally appreciated and no one yells at me or screams with displeasure.

My little moment of fruit-joy was clearly really about feeling happy that I would be going to work instead of staying home tomorrow. I love my daughter, but as I have expressed recently, 3 is starting out rough. For every tantrum there are arms thrown around my neck, sweaty little cheeks pressed to mine.  But there are still the tantrums.

Mother-Woman has written some about the logic (and myths) of why she could or could not be a stay-at-home mom, both in light of thinking she had no choice and then again after getting a job offer. She tackles the idea of patience and the extent to which one must be child-centered to stay home with children. To her growing list of thoughts I add that I often wonder if I am too easily annoyed to be a parent.  Not just a stay-at-home one, but a parent at all. Children must be affected by their parents' response to them, how can they not? Ada must feel my irritation, my desire to growl back at her, to storm off in a huff.

Leaving aside the issue of whether my aggravation is causing her irreparable damage, I note that I am trying to use my response as a parenting "technique." Lately, though I am not growling or storming, I do reflect back at her the insanity of her behavior. After telling her again and again that I can not understand what she is saying when she screams instead of speaks, I tell her what I hear.  In a loud but friendly voice, I say: "I don't know what you want when you say 'aaaahggrrhhh'." Invariably this pulls Ada out of her fit enough to make her laugh.  She thinks it is hilarious when I act like this. In the short term it is helping a bit, though I do worry that she'll think it is so funny that she'll want to continue her nonsense just to hear it reflected in my voice.

I often love parenting, but I also love doing something else for a while. This is especially true after a weekend of tantrums and meltdowns. For me, there is some solace in balance. In working some days and staying home others. In talking to adults about health reform and children about cookie monster. In walking in heels and crawling on my knees. I am so lucky to have this balance, so few people get this chance to earn money doing something they care about while also getting significant time to be with someone they care about. But still I get annoyed, both at work and home.  I don't think it will ever be another way, but maybe once in a while I can temper my annoyance with joy. At least in the moments when those little arms are thrown about my neck in passionate abandon.

fairy dress at the windowduring a tantrum-free moment over the weekend


  1. as i was reading i kept trying to think of thoughtful, commiserating,empathetic, comforting things to say but by the end i can only say that children, they are really annoying. i question the sanity of anyone who is not frequently annoyed by toddler tantrums.

  2. I sometimes wonder if my children would fare better with a more patient mother. My four-year-old can be especially trying, and I am really working on more productive ways to respond to the tantrums and the whining. Some days are better (for both of us!) than others...

  3. oh yes.

    despite my words, i know my kids sense my irritation or boredom or annoyance...and i don't want that to be there.

    time for a bowl of granola and fruit alone.

  4. oh, yes yes yes. I was just saying to a friend yesterday that one of the main reasons I work is to justify having my kids in child care. Not to PAY for it, but to justify the NEED for it.

  5. "I often love parenting, but I also love doing something else for a while. "

    Oh, God yes.

    I was home all day yesterday with a cranky sick toddler AND trying to work while he watched movies and by the end of the day I needed a nap and a break so badly. And of course, he is in an all-mama mood these days.

    I was short with him this morning because I was irritated with his father and pressed for time, and when I got to work it was like, a deep breath of QUIET and RELAXATION.

    I dream of going 80% time. But I think I would leave my kid in full-time daycare if I did. I feel horrible guilt about this, but really? I need more time to myself.

  6. (un)relaxeddad7/02/2008 2:19 PM

    Four is a nightmare! I don't know how supermum would cope without nursery. But we're dreading the school holidays and feeling very guilty for doing so.

  7. wow I'm blushing, thanks for the honourable mention. I appreciate so much about this post but suffice it say... I can practically taste the fruit myself.