Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Blurry Lines of Working Mom-hood...

One thing that I am realizing about being a Working Mom ( Or Working-Outside-of-the-House Mom, or whatever the PC expression is these days, because I REALLY do not want to offend the moms who take care of their kids at home during the day. Those moms work damn hard!) is that you are never TRULY a 100% Working Mom during the day. You are more of an 80% Working Mom, yet still holding onto that 20% Mom-Mom role. It's one of those things that just happens, even if you try and convince yourself that you CAN go to work and forget the fact that you have kids for 8 hours. Kids are sneaky that way. They make themselves Unforgettable.

Take today, for example. I had a prep period right before lunch, which already got cut short about 10 minutes when I had to take time out to go and deliver  Skyelar to her toddler class. After hurrying back to my classroom to deal with the stack of marking that I had to do,  I was met with an email from Kaia's teacher, informing me that my dainty, darling daughter had somehow managed to cut her lip during recess time. She suggested that I come on over and take a look.

I had a pretty good idea of how it happened, as she DOES seem to have my grace and coordination. So, you know, I figured that she just fell down while walking. However, the Mom Voice in my head told me that unless I wanted to be racked with guilt for the REST OF MY LIFE, I'd better high-tail it on over to the elementary campus and make sure that she was OK.

Obviously, this voice was also accompanied by visions of my sobbing daughter, sitting in the nurse's office with a giant bag of ice to her mouth, wondering why her mother hath forsaken her. Because that's just me. Then the visions drifted into the next scene, which found me comforting my traumatized daughter in the emergency room as she received a dozen or so stitches in her mouth.

Again, you've met me, right? My motto is "Prepare for the worst".

Needless to say, I high-tailed it on over to the elementary campus. Did I mention my giant stack of marking? Consider it re-mentioned.

When I arrived at the building and ran to find my "traumatized" daughter, she was in class, cheerfully showing everyone her lip. She saw me and was elated to take me outside and show me exactly how it had happened (and just as I'd thought- it wasn't too far from my Fell-While-Walking theory. Do I know my offspring? Yes, yes I do.)

There were no tears, no ice packs, no stitches to be had. Just some odd looks from other staff members as they expressed their sympathy and I responded, "Ah, she's fine! I'm just glad that she still has all her teeth!"

This entire episode lasted for most of my ONLY prep period that day, and for some reason, that ginormous stack of marking hadn't magically corrected itself while I'd been gone. If anything, I'm convinced that it somehow GREW in my absence.


So, once again, I'll be hustling to get it done in a timely manner. And waiting in anticipation for whatever child-related distraction will interrupt TOMORROW'S prep period,  thus ensuring that I'll be going home with a stack of marking to entertain me during my weekend.

It's a good thing those kids of mine are so stinking cute...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

M is for....

My husband and I wanted to live and raise our kids overseas for a number of reasons, some of which include the fact that we can teach in schools that don’t have metal detectors or annoying standardized tests determining whether or not we are “good’ teachers, free tuition for our kids (we are, after all, poor teachers!), and awesome travel opportunities. Yep, we can get on a local budget airline and be in Singapore or Thailand in less time and (with the price of gas in the US these days) with less money than driving up to a cottage in my home state of Wisconsin.

And that? Totally rocks. My 19-month-old daughter has already lived in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, has visited Singapore and will be spending the summer in Thailand. My four-year-old has already had to have new pages put into her passport and has visited four continents so far- four! That is one continent less than the number I have visited, and the difference in our ages is WAY more than I care to admit here in public.

There are some unexpected limitations to raising your kids overseas (please don’t even get me started on the horrors of 24+ hour flights home for visits. Just…don’t. Because I may start to shake uncontrollably and end up huddled in a ball on the floor in the corner. I wish I were kidding. But I’m so not.). However, there are also some unexpected benefits that we didn’t even consider when we decided to make the move to expat living, the biggest of these being the lack of commercial advertising.

Yes, they advertise overseas- you’ve all seen those ridiculous commercials and ads featuring Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston hawking things like Heinneken and Rolex watches, for which they get paid millions of dollars (seriously? MILLIONS of dollars? That is one of the great imbalances in the world). However, one thing you just will not see very much of overseas is advertising toward children. We’ve lived in Malaysia, Qatar and now Indonesia, and we have YET to see even one commercial for any type of breakfast cereal or toy. I swear, it’s true! People in the US don’t believe me when I tell them that, because they just cannot begin to even FATHOM watching a TV show without their kids begging for something.

A few summers ago, we spent a month in the US, and I think the television was turned on for all of FIVE minutes when we’d already seen ads for SpongeBob sponges (and please explain to me why anybody in the world would spend $10 on a sponge for their kids. Because all I can think is if you are paying that kind of money for something that is usually one of the cheapest items on the grocery list, then you deserve to be targeted by Big Corporations), about 8 different kinds of cereal (NONE of it remotely healthy), and a bunch of toys that I’d never heard of, all of which were made of plastic and made really horrible noises.

It was a nightmare. One I am glad I only had to experience for a month. And it wasn’t even Christmas, which I imagine is obnoxious enough to drive relatively normal people to a level of insanity that can only end with them throwing their televisions out the window.

I’m not going to say that my daughter doesn’t ask for things. Yes, she comes to the grocery store with me and EVERY TIME asks for some chocolatey cereal with a cartoon on the box (EVERY. SINGLE. TIME), and she wants a Barbie for her birthday. No, she really really really really really REALLY wants a Barbie. Girl has simply GOT to have a Barbie. On a side note, we are currently investigating the least offensive Barbie available, so as to not start our 4-year-old down a path that her dad is convinced will inevitably lead to a starring role on “Toddlers and Tiaras”. So far, Veterinarian Barbie is taking the lead, but if anyone has any other suggestions, I am totally open to them. Librarian Barbie would be awesome…

Anyway, so no, we are not immune to childhood begging, but we have it on a much smaller scale, and it comes not from commercials, but rather from seeing her friends in class with these things. Plus, due to the fact that her classmates and friends come from many different countries, cultural differences prevent any trends from blowing too out of proportion.

Another example is the fact that my kids have been to McDonald’s exactly ONCE in their lives. That one time was when we were at the Science Center in Singapore and there weren’t any other attractive options for a quick lunch. Being vegetarians, I got the TWO things that are quasi-vegetarian on the menu (because I am not gullible enough to actually believe that those fries and pies are cooked in 100% vegetable oil. And I am pretty gullible. So that is saying something.). I took them to the table and…Kaia wouldn’t touch any of it. Skye ate some of the fries, but then again, Skye is a french fry freak and would eat fries that were coated in dirt, I am convinced of that.

Now, I am certainly not going to get on some high horse and try to come off as someone whose kids have such sophisticated palates that they will not DEIGN to eat something as low-brow as fast food, because I think I’ve shared enough of my kids’ eating habits to be called out as a big, fat liar within 20 seconds of making that statement. It’s just that we never eat fast food, and they are not aware of what they are missing because they are not bombarded with commercials and ads everywhere they go.

I’ll also clarify here that the reason WHY we don’t eat a lot of fast food is because we are vegetarians, and there just isn’t a whole lot on the menus to make it worth our while. Not because, you know, fast food just isn’t GOOD ENOUGH for M’Lord and M’Lady.  Because I do love myself an Egg McMuffin on occasion, and there are certainly times when a chicken soft taco or McNuggets do sound pretty darn good to me. Pretty, pretty darn good. But alas…

One time, Jabiz and I were walking with Kaia in the mall, and walked past the McDonalds sign. Kaia looked at it and said, “M! Look, Mama, M!” Jabiz and I shared a look of dread, wondering if this was where it all began- the demands for the Golden Arches, the indignation at the fact that she was not provided with free toys on a weekly basis, the craving for the nuggets whose meat is of VERY questionable origin…was this it?

“M is for Mommy!”

I cannot even accurately describe the relief and happiness that we felt in this moment, so I won’t bother trying. However, if you can imagine grown adults sobbing with elation while trying to hide this emotion from their child, for fear that she would wise up to exactly what was going on, that pretty much covers it.

“Yes, that’s right! M is for Mommy!”, and we continued to drill this point into her blond little head every time we visited the mall from then on.

“Look, Kaia! It’s the big M! The Mommy sign!” and she somehow never caught on. And she is pretty smart- way smarter than both of us. It’s not easy to hide things from her, but we manage it thanks to the wonderful lack of advertising overseas.

All that makes the 24+ hour flights worth it. Sort of.