Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sick Days and Working Moms

This week Katherine has been sick.  It started with a stomach bug, then moved into congestion and a sore throat.

The first day, my ex stayed my home... with her because I had major work commitments and could not miss.  The second day, I stayed home with her.

Yesterday she was still sick, so I brought her to work with me.

This is what being a single mom looks like.  I have some help - Bryan did take her for a day, but felt more comfortable at my house with her.  Of course, this means that I came home to half eaten apple sauce dishes and things in slight disarray; I have learned to not say anything because it doesn't improve things, and I bite my tongue so that Katherine doesn't have to hear bickering.  The second day, my work crisis averted, I actually enjoyed staying at home: we did a craft together, I stroked her back, and I also managed to get car tabs and mow the lawn AND have a friend over in the evening for a glass of wine.

But yesterday it got really hard.  Third day in a row, and I felt out of options.  I am lucky to have an office with a door, and so I drug the poor kid to work with me.  We packed a fuzzy blanket and a pillow, I made her a smoothie and put it in a water bottle, we put together some books and magazines, and I plunked her in my office.  I did my best to work hard.  I tried not to cry when I was in a different part of the building and got a text message from my girl that simply read, "Not well."

I can not imagine Bryan taking our daughter to work when she was sick.  He just shrugged and said, "You're on."  He can do that, somehow, in a way I never could.  When my daughter is sick, all I want to do is be there with her, and I can no imagine just walking away without a thought.

My boss was understanding, but at the same time, probably slightly frustrated.  My daughter was kind about it, understanding that my job pays the bills and I needed to be there....but she felt horrible.  And me?  I felt like a bad mom, and a bad employee.

I don't know how people do it, sometimes.  I'm lucky: my daughter's sickness was a garden variety virus, nasty enough but not life threatening.  (We took her to the doctor to confirm this, which made me 45 minutes late to work, which was worth it of course but still stressful.)  What about people who have kids with chronic - or worse - illnesses?  And the fact that I have a real office is a blessing, too: I actually have somewhere to stick my daughter when she's sick, and it's not a factory floor or a reception desk or even a cubicle.  I'm one of the lucky ones in many ways, with a boss who is accomodating, an office, flexible work hours, health insurance for that doctor's visit and enough money to pay the co-pay without checking my bank balance first.

Maybe this was so hard because it was the first time.  Maybe a year or two from now it'll feel easier.  I'm still learning to accept my new life, and its differences.  As a stay at home mom, it was so easy to do simple things like grocery shopping, and a child's illness meant some enforced down time for all, but not much more than that.  These days, I have to schedule time to go to the grocery store (Sunday afternoons), and if I forget something I've learned to just live without it for a week.  I feel like I'm operating at maximum capacity, so having to do extra things in the evenings (on top of homework and bath time and the chore of making food, eating it, and cleaning up afterwards each night) sometimes feels like it's going to throw me over the edge.  I can handle just a bit extra, but then if life throws me a curveball like sickness, I wonder if I have what it takes to get me to 9pm when I can turn off the lights.

Today I made her go to school, feeling slightly under the weather, and I feel guilty about it.

I am proud of myself for juggling all of this with some dignity, and ashamed of myself for the compromises I am forced to make.

I am sad that it's not easier, but I'm still incredibly grateful for my good fortune.  It could be a lot, lot worse, and I know I'm blessed.


How do you manage sick days as a working and/or single parent?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Online dating makes me shallow.

There, I've said it.

Online dating makes me shallow.

In real life, I believe that I judge people by their actions, and I'm drawn to kindness, intelligence, emotional connection.  I like the way that a person looks right at you when you're talking, I like people who choose not to stare at their phone screens for most of the day, and I like people who are kind to the waitress or the receptionist or the flight attendant.

I see dads out in the world, and I'm drawn to the way they interact with their kids.  Or I see the way a man walks down the street, and there is something in his stride that's really attractive.  Or I see a stranger on the bus, and the way he's intense about his book is fascinating.

But online, I can't see any of that.

Online, it seems like there a few kinds of profiles:

1) Major mismatches with me.  This includes right wing politics, dogmatic religion, men who hate the outdoors, and also men who only like the outdoors and feel uncomfortable putting on a suit.  This also includes people who live too far away, and people half my age.  (The youngest to contact me so far was 19.  Seriously.)  Also people who don't like to read, and/or profess a major love of reality TV.  These may be lovely people, but they are not my people.

2)  Super-duper hotties.  They declare, all over their profiles, in big bold letters, that they LOVE going to the gym, and that you'd better be hot, too.  (One guy had in his profile that if his date showed up and she was a few pounds overweight, he'd "commando crawl outta there.")  They often have an abs shot that resembles an Abercrombie ad.

3)  Sex seekers.  They're looking for hook ups.  One wanted to lick my feet, one wanted me to dominate him, one wanted to talk and talk about my hair.

4)  Super sensitive guys who spell out in a fifty point checklist what they are looking for.  They are in touch with their feelings and so they are putting it out there for all of us to see.

5)  "Good guys" who are "laid back" and "easy going" and "drama free."  They "love to travel" but they are "equally comfortable watching a movie at home with someone special."  The problem is, they all sound the same.  (When did "laid back" become the siren call of men?  And what does it mean?)

Now, I want a good guy.  And a laid back guy who loves to travel and is drama free is exactly what I'm seeking, so you'd think I'd just rule out 1-4 and focus on #5....

But online makes me shallow.  Here I am, looking at checklists, and I find that I'm ruling out guys who are my height.  (At 5'7", I often wear heels, and I'm drawn to tall men.  But am I saying that a guy who is 5'8" isn't partner material?  Isn't that, ummm.....crazy?

And I rule out guys who don't have kids.  Because they couldn't possibly "get it."

And I rule out guys who haven't written much in their profiles.  And I rule out guys who have written too much in their profiles.  And I tend to rule out guys who have a picture of themselves sitting on a motorcycle, or taken with a cellphone in a bathroom mirror.  I look at education.

I rule out guys who seem too busy, and who seem not busy enough.

I think I've ruled out everyone, and I recognize that's about me, not then.

But what is a girl to do?!  I am genuinely busy and don't want to spend all of my free time going out with strangers I will likely never see again...but at the same time, if I reject everyone, I'm not exactly going to find lasting love.

What I'd like is to bump into someone in a bookstore, find ourselves in conversation, and take it from there.  Or meet someone at one of my friends' homes over a glass of wine.  Or on the beach in the morning.  Or next to me on the bus.  But those opportunities aren't materializing, maybe because I'm in a hurry at the bookstore, my friends all hang out with marrieds, and there isn't anybody on the beach at 5:30am when I get there, and on the bus we're all plugged in to our music or our books or both.

So, I keep going back online.

Please, someone just send me The Guy.  I promise to be my best self, just show me someone who can make my eyes sparkle.....because I'm having a terrible time finding that guy myself.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Of Bras, Panda Pillows, and Blissful Days

I have hesitated to write the first post here, believing that it must be perfect and set the tone for all things perfect in my new blogdom.

Well, if you'd like to read about perfection, you're in the wrong place, so after a week of being frozen, I'm just putting myself out there.  I don't think any of my readers wanted perfection - it's so boring after all! - so my hang-ups are all on me.  Sometimes I'm slow to learn these lessons.

As a matter of fact, one of the book titles I'm playing with is "Slow Learner."  I don't think it'll stick, but I come back to it over and over again.  Sometimes it is just so hard to learn the lessons...

But I digress.  Let me begin again.


Today Katherine and I hit a mother daughter milestone: our first time shopping for bras for her.  Now, given that she is ten and only has "mosquito bites" in the bra region, this is a couple years too early, but she was feeling uncomfortable in shirts, starting to hunch her shoulders and wear tank tops under just about everything, so a few girlfriends told me yes, it's time.  The bras are more for modesty and her own comfort than support, I'm told.

Okay, then.

My mother didn't ever take me bra shopping.  One day I came home from school, and she said "I bought you a present!" and there on my bed was a white lace edged polyester bra and panty set.  I was devastated - I wanted to be part of the process, and I wanted a plain white cotton bra with a little pink bow in the middle, just like all of my friends.  I was embarrassed by her choice, in the way that only an adolescent girl knows how to be embarrased.  I asked her if we could exchange it, and she got mad and told me that nothing she did was good enough for me....

Well, it isn't my favorite memory.

So for Katherine, I asked her quietly if she was ready to go bra shopping.  She was, and she let me know she was excited about it.  This afternoon, the two of us went out together to an awful mall (all malls are awful, in my opinion) and went bra shopping.

It was all about her.

She got a bright sports bra, and a nude cotton bra and a white cotton bra.  We talked a bit about how it seems like white won't show up under clothes, but it really does, and how if she wears the nude ones nobody will see them.  We went to Nordstrom to get fitted and we went to her favorite pre-teen girl store, Justice.  She got some new clothes (why do they grow so fast?!), and then we went to the (mall awful) restaurant of her choice.

She also got a giant furry blue panda pillow at Justice, and a furry hat with a funny monster face.  This is where she is: one moment, poised and asking for bras, and the next, ohhing and ahhing over what is essentially a big stuffed animal.  It's confusing, and sometimes it's snarky, but it's also magical.  She has one foot firmly in each camp, child and woman, and it is a reminder that I should be grateful that she retains touches of the little girl she once was, because soon they too, will be gone.

In the car, we listened to Adam Levine and Taylor Swift (I can't hear "Trouble" without thinking of the goats know what I mean, right?!) and Macklemore on the way home.  I ventured the question, tentatively: "Did you have a good day?" and I got - for once! - the answer I wanted. 

"It was a great day.  I'm happy, Mom."

A sigh of relief.  I did not mess up this day that she will always remember.  I honored her, and was able to provide what she needed.  I'll never forget this day, either.  My daughter took my arm, laughed with me, enjoyed my company.  We shared jokes, connected, giggled.  I think she felt understood, and I felt appreciated.

Tonight we watched "Back to the Future" together.  She protested initially (it's not exactly new and hip), but I insisted.  We laughed together over the antics of Marty McFly, we talked about how the movie came out when I was fifteen, and we ate home made popcorn.  She loved it as much as I did, and I could barely fathom that I'd first seen the movie as a girl, never comprehending that one day I'd watch it in the basement with my daughter.

Small things.  Enormous things.  Bliss.


My day to day life is more and more about moving forward with the big and small in life, and less and less about divorce.  I'm still working out some of the documentation (filing a quit claim on the house is a hassle, but Bryan is working with me on it), but I'm myself again: my name is my own, and I have proof not only on divorce papers, but also on my driver's license, health insurance, Social Security, bank accounts, and passport.  With each new document I come alive: I know that I am meant to be the person I am (re)becoming, and the certainty gives me courage.

Katherine announced over dinner a few days ago that it's probably time for me to date.  She's ready for me to fall in love with "Mr. Perfect" (her words, not mine!) and is hoping that he has a daughter in middle school that she can play pranks upon.  (She has worked out the details of these "hysterical" pranks in great detail.)  She has told me I shouldn't date online, because that's "so unromantic."  She does not have other suggestions for how I should meet people.  I am feeling the pressure - if Mr. Perfect is here, perhaps he could identify himself to me?!

So we move forward.  It's imperfect, silly, often exhausting, but it's also pure bliss.  My tiny baby, the one who only fit into preemie clothes at first, now wears a little flat beige cotton bra, and has her head on a furry panda pillow this evening.  My belly is full of popcorn and bad mall food.  My daughter has accepted her life, and is encouraging me to live mine.

And I am happy.