I took a moment today to think about my place in the universe, well, not quite that philosophical, really. I tried to think which cartoon I most represented. What brought that on? I got a call from my husband mid-afternoon, and he asked me, “What are you doing?” I know, it’s different from “What are you wearing right now, isn’t it?” Yep, and wouldn’t it have been fabulous to hear “What are you wearing right now?”
But even with a good imagination, I don’t know what I could have come up with too quickly. So I told him I had rollers in, a cigarette hanging from my mouth, and I was folding laundry. You try to decide which of those was true. Only one.
I’m wearing my favorite fuzzy short sweat pants that I got on triple sale at a boutique store. They’re my favorite of all time. They always make me feel younger than I am, and so I wear them at home when I’m cleaning. It’s like wearing red panties. It kinda tricks me into thinking I’m not a housewife, while I’m cleverly rearranging the laundry baskets per the recommendation of my six year old. Big accomplishment today! And sadly, I will regale my husband when he walks through the door with my domestic engineering feat for the day, and I might not mention that my six year old brought up the convenience of moving it from the closet to say, the laundry room. It made sense!
And then I go back a moment in my head. How hilarious am I and not in the, “wow, what a witty mind” sort of way. I mean, how hilarious is my life? My husband calls, and I know he’s just being nice. He doesn’t think of me as the sex goddess that I might have thought myself at some point. He’s not going to ask me what I’m wearing. He knows what I’m wearing, one of my three home outfits. It’s either the Amish mom shorts, the shorty shorts that show off my glowing white thighs, or the pink fuzzies. And it’s not that I can’t afford another home outfit. It’s just that these fit me just right! Why spend more money there? And he did choose to ask what I’m doing. Was that because he wanted to see if I was eating bon-bons and watching the Oxygen channel, or cleaning throw-up off the couch, or having happy hour with my most fashionable friends? I don’t know, but I had to answer truthfully and sarcastically because part of me realized I was doing absolutely nothing interesting or fabulous or even remotely glamorous. I am cleaning, and I have been doing it for hours today.
I spent an hour cleaning with the boys this morning. They thought it was fun to do chores. They ran around me, while I whisked through the house, and they laughed and ran and played and actually helped quite a bit. They kept telling me how fun it was. No really, they did. My six year old didn’t whine once while I had him clean the urine off the baseboards. Don’t ask me which one’s “pipi” has sprung a leak, but I just want it cleaned up periodically. The greater beauty is that my cleaning lady doesn’t think that falls into her jurisdiction. My three year old was beaming and grabbing his brother’s hand as they ran down the hallway one more time to grab a trash bag. He kept telling his brother, “You’re the best.” They thought it was great being together, hanging out, doing something productive and seeing me feel accomplished. Don’t think they don’t know the difference between mom who is stressed about never catching up and mom who is relaxed and happy.
They then napped like crazy because, well, they were freaking exhausted, but also because they had helped me. Instead of yelling at each other because I was trying to get my chores done and them trying to get my attention, we worked together almost flawlessly. I realized for a large moment that this is why I stay home and wear my fuzzy pants and worry about homework, developmental progress, emotional stability and a host of other things. I saw my boys feel happy, secure, helpful, loving and working as a team. It wasn’t glamorous. I have tried over the years to do so many fabulous things with my kids so they will want for nothing. Having my three year old tell me he just wants to stay home with me every day has been a huge wake up call. Realizing that my kids just want to be with me, hear they’re wonderful and so very important is better than taking them to do something terribly educational and expensive every day. We spent more time together just talking and laughing and learning about each other than we would have at a playgroup, at the bouncy house, the zoo, the Children’s Museum or the latest dinosaur exhibit. I realized that the feeling of accomplishment and usefulness that I seek in my life, the reason I take parenting so seriously and try to relax all at once is the same way they feel. They want to be important, just like I do. They want to matter in the world, but they sometimes learn this greatness by mattering at home, by being part of the processes that I had been protecting them from. I think I thought they were supposed to have this happy, carefree childhood that screamed of ice cream, friends and endless afternoons playing with one of their 450 toys. Truth is, that’s what we feel like doing as adults, and we need to remember that we enjoy resting because we work hard. We have to realize that we are proud because we are going to graduate school, saving for retirement, volunteering at school, teaching piano lessons because it is our way of being important in the universe. Our kids want to be part of that.
So the next time my husband calls from his seemingly fancy job where he wears nice suits and talks to intelligent people and drinks coffees quietly at his desk, I will remember that my job is important too, for different reasons. Our jobs support each other’s in a way that is more important than I imagined. He works at his job so I can work at mine, so he can have a home and children like we do. I hadn’t thought of it all in that order before. Sure I look ridiculous some days, and I’m lost most other days– as to what good parenting really is, but I have to remember that the moment is sometimes deeper than I imagine. Sometimes I accidentally stumble into the maximum parenting moment where love, work, sacrifice and self-worth all intersect. The effort we are putting forth might be more impactful than I knew, and if I choose to embrace it, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. Of course, you realize, next time my husband calls, I AM going to ask him why he doesn’t want to hear what I’m wearing.