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Friday, July 22, 2016

Welcome home, Dear. Here are your slippers and your paper!

I worked until almost 6:00 today.  Around 5:15 the guilty thoughts settled in my mind.  Somewhere around 5:30ish I wondered what the ratio is of men to women who feel guilty when they work late or worry about what their family or spouse will think about it.  I made a mental note to research that and filed it away for later. -->

On the way home, I watered down my mom-guilt by reminding myself of something I had learned in a training session a few years back.  Studies have shown that children didn't mind so much that their parents spent time outside of the home working; what children resent is when the work causes parents to be tired, stressed and disconnected when they are at home.  So, on my drive home I made a very concerted effort to remove my executive hat and put on my mom hat.  Yes, I was in back to back interviews all day today.  Yes, I'm tired.  Yes, I would love to just sit down in a dark room and read something on my phone or watch some trash TV for about 2 hours to decompress.  BUT.  My family is everything to me and so on that drive home I vowed to not be stressed or tired when I walked in the door.  I vowed to be smiling, upbeat, and ready to interact as I arrived home.

I pulled up to the mailbox and, as usual, my youngest was sprinting to the car.  "Hey, there, Little Lady!"  (Mentally, I patted myself on the back for succeeding in having a cheerful disposition right off the bat!  Go me!)  Seriously, though, she is the cutest.  If you saw her bounding out to your car with her auburn braids and dimples, you couldn't help but be cheerful yourself.  I marched right in that house as if I owned the place.  (Ha, ha.  See what I did there?)  I kissed everyone, made some jokes, and started right in on dinner.  Piece. Of. Cake.  Who says you can't have it all?

But... My husband.   I'd given the kids some chores to do today and they did what I had asked.  JUST what I had asked.  So, as I was floating around the kitchen making dinner and chatting with everyone, he began giving his further "instruction" to the children about all the things that needed to be accomplished in the house and expectations that hadn't been met I felt something in me getting more and more uncomfortable.  Not really upset with my husband, just very uneasy and unsettled in myself.  So, when I made a crack (in front of the kids.  I know, I know...) about how apparently the instructions I gave them for cleaning were the wrong ones, you can probably guess how that turned out.  

Fast Forward.  It's 11:00 p.m.  I spent some time at the track exercising with the family.  The kids went to stay with my parents for the night.  My hubby was in the shower.  I started in on cleaning up the kitchen.  I felt like I could breathe for a minute, you know?  No one needed me.  No one needed me to be tuned in, turned up, or toned down.  If I needed to devote 100% of my attention to wiping off a cabinet and sweeping the floor, that was okay!  There would be absolutely no guilt to be felt about someone needing me to pay attention to them in that moment.  It was just me, cleaning up, with my thoughts.  And, that's when the realization hit me.

For almost 10 years now my husband and I have been dancing around this huge difference in our after-work agendas and driving each other insane.  I've been killing myself to try to make sure that my first few moments at home are free of stress, cheerful, fun and lighthearted for my family.  I have taken great strides to really try to shake off any of the day's stress in order to just be present and give my best self to my family right when I get home.  So much of that does stem, I think, from guilt that women tend to feel from devoting themselves to a career.  I love my job - I'm committed to it and I'm passionate about it.  But, there is always that underlying fear that my kids and my husband will think I'm not as committed to them.  There is that huge pang of guilt on a hard day when I take a super long bathroom break right when I get home because a need a few minutes of alone time to decompress.    There is always that feeling that I'm failing just a little bit when I look around at my house that needs the baseboards dusted and still has winter jackets hanging on the coat rack in July.  Somehow when my husband seems a little cranky about the house there is a voice in my head (however heinous and unreasonable this witchy little voice may be) that tells me if I were just better at this domestic stuff, and my house was tidier, then I'd finally achieve the after-work zen I've been after!

On the other hand, my husband wants to get things done so he can relax.  He comes through the door in "work-mode."  He's ready to tackle whatever chores still need to be completed so that it is all out of the way and we can all relax later and not have to worry about it.  I don't think he has "work-guilt."  Is that sexist?  Just the way we were raised?  In-born traits?  Remnants from a patriarchal society structure?  I don't know!  I'm not saying some men don't feel guilty, but I think working and supporting his family makes him feel really great about himself and I don't think that on his way home he mentally prepares himself to to be warm and pleasant as he walks in the door in order to compensate for being away from his children during the day.  He comes through the door after a long day of manual labor ready to get everything done so he can lay on the couch and relax without feeling guilty.  Because, he does suffer from couch guilt.  While I would love for everyone to just come in and sit around and chat it up with me while I make dinner, there is no way my husband could relax while I was up moving around and cooking.  So, he starts doing chores and barking orders at the kids to do chores in order to "help" me and get business taken care of so we can all relax later.  But, really, it just completely derails my whole cheerful, peaceful, stress free homecoming agenda that I work so hard for!

I'm not sure why it has taken almost 10 years and a late night sweeping/mopping session for me to make sense of this ongoing dilemma that we have faced for our entire marriage.  And, I'm glad to have finally analyzed it to death and have gotten to the root of it.  I still don't know the solution, though... That will probably be another post someday.  Until then, I'll just say how thankful I am my husband is not lazy and is such an awesome help-mate to me!  Even if we can't agree on the perfect time of day to sweep the floor.  I'm pretty sure it was swept twice this evening.  And, really?  Is that such a bad thing?  (Not at OUR house!!!)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Look for the Good - Be the Good

Watching the chaos on the television screen from the recent shooting in Dallas, I had to remind my children to "look for the good." Look for the helpers, look for the encouragers, look for the peacemakers. They far outnumber the small percentage of bad.

Lately my youngest has been focusing on the negative.  I.E. We were in our Dallas hotel room the first night and didn't get to go swim.  She was pouting. (Keep in mind she had already been to a water park that day!) I've been in discussion with her lately about how you have to make a choice to look for good in situations instead of focusing on the negative.  When she starts to go down that negative path I say, "But, what are the good things?"

I found out Tuesday afternoon while I was off work and at the lake that there was an important training the next day in Dallas at 9:00 am.  (We live almost 4 hours away - not including any traffic issues!) Could I possibly make it?  Well.  Anything is possible. I quickly made arrangements.

My 3 kids begged to come with and my immediate answer was NO. They'd have to stay in a hotel room alone in downtown Dallas during the day and I had a room with 1 King sized bed reserved.  No.  Way.  Then I started thinking (along with my Mommy guilt) maybe it could work.  After all, my oldest is 3 weeks from 16 and my training was literally next door to the hotel.  I arranged for them to hang out with a close family friend in the area the first day and it was settled.  They were SO excited!

Wednesday evening we walked around downtown some and had dinner.  We walked through a park on the way back with fountains and my youngest was promised that we'd come back the next night.  Thursday evening, July 7th, we had more time to kill.  We had dinner then stopped in a 7-11 to get slurpees and my kids noticed that a police officer in line in front of us bought a water for a young man hanging out in front of the store. On our way back to the room, we stopped at the park as promised and noticed some people starting to gather and a few reporters interviewing people.  I didn't think a lot of it. My youngest played in the fountains as planned and then we left for our room about 2 blocks away.  Time for the hotel pool!

Back at the hotel I looked up (good ol' social media) what was going on at Belo Garden Park, where we had just been.  It was the beginnings of a Black Lives Matter rally. At the hotel where my kids were playing in the ground floor outdoor pool they voiced concern over the police helicopters circling. One hovered right over our hotel for the majority of the time we were outside and I explained that it was just the police making sure everything stayed safe.  How do you explain racism to young children? Their sweet little hearts just don't really get it.

We went in just before 9:00. Just before all hell broke loose in Dallas.  Back in our room I flipped through channels and happened across a news station blasting the images of the hysteria happening two blocks away from us.  That explained all the sirens.  I quickly changed the channel to Full House reruns.  My 7 year old was distressed by the news and as Mom my role was the harbinger of calm and safety - no matter how I felt inside. 

I feel bad saying I was scared, tucked in my bed in my cushy 5th floor hotel room with the door triple locked.  I feel bad because meanwhile police officers on the street were up all night with their lives in danger.  Even the poor attendants at the front desk of the hotel had 100 times more reason than I did to be afraid.  At any rate, this girl from rural Oklahoma, sitting on the 5th floor listening to helicopter blades and sirens right outside my window, trying to be brave for my kids, was scared. 

I also felt bad for even having my kids there... at first.  I felt bad for exposing them to the violence and fear.  But, in the light of morning after the hotel was off of lock down, and we were safely headed back home, I decided maybe it was okay that my kids experienced this. Because as tragic as it is, you can find the good. 

The tragedy was a few people with evil in their hearts who decided to open fire and kill police officers.  But, as always, evil can't prevail where love is.  Because in committing this atrocity, they forced the police officers to jump to action and protect the very people who were protesting law enforcement.  They eradicated the issue of race in those moments of fear when bullets were flying and suddenly lives were just lives - not black or white or blue.  Officers were throwing civilians out of the way to put themselves in front of the line of fire - no skin color checks first.

That's what I want my kids to see.  This is the world we live in.  We live amongst evil and the impulse is to hide away - the way I didn't want my kids to come.  I wanted to keep them safe at home.  I want to keep them safe at home forever!  But, I can't.  I have to let them see they can be the good amongst the bad.  That you can't dwell on the bad - you have to choose to see the good.  You choose to see the police officer buying the less fortunate kid a water, the emergency personnel rushing to save the lives of those who persecute them, or the breeze the scary helicopter blades provide on a hot day.

Last night to calm my youngest down we prayed.  We thanked God for His perfect timing in when we headed back to our room, we prayed for peace for our country, we prayed for the emergency personnel and their families, and we prayed for safe travels home.  Today we debriefed together and talked things out.  We discussed the fact that we knew if Jesus were in the flesh today he'd be right downtown in the the midst of the fear and pain.  He'd be ministering through it all. 

We're not all brave enough to be downtown right now.  I'm not - especially not with my babies.  But, can we really, in good conscience, keep hiding in our cushy rooms with the doors locked while the sirens and choppers whir around us outside? We live in a scary world, but we have to keep looking for the good.  More importantly, we need to find ways to BE THE GOOD in our world.