in Toby’s defense

Part of me knew that you might come to the conclusion that Toby was a “hands-off” dad when I wrote yesterday’s post. Part of me knew I should be careful not to paint too negative a picture of the way things are in my marriage. But I wasn’t careful because I was so caught up in my own frustration with the matter at hand (which is not that Toby isn’t involved as a father, because believe me he is…) but instead that I can’t figure out how to juggle what I have on my plate right now.

So I apologize, not to Toby, but to you because I made myself out to be some kind of super hero mom who does it all and I didn’t really make it clear that I have a wonderful husband (though eccentric and prickly) who makes it possible for me to be a super hero mom. Without him, I would be working a 9-5 job and probably hating it. I have the greatest career of all time. I am a mom who doesn’t have to work. I hope it is not too bold to say this, but in today’s society where it takes two incomes to make it, this is the biggest kind of luxury I could ever have.

I know this is a topic that could cause a lot of heated debate but this is where I stand on the matter. No matter how much I love to work and no matter how happy it makes me to be a money-making machine, my chief goal in life is to be the best mom I could ever possibly be to my baby. I guess my point of division might be: how much freelance work can I do and how many crazy whacky hobbies can I have before they start taking away from my time with my baby?

Here’s the part where I will try to paint a clearer picture of who Toby is. Yes, he read yesterday’s post and yes, it made him a little bit upset. Not because of what you might think of him. (Thankfully he’s long gotten over how he might be portrayed on my crazy blog.) But because he was hurt that I might actually feel this way about him too. Every day he comes home from work exhausted and he thinks he just can’t go on another day but when he sees his wife with a smile on her face and she’s holding a baby who’s getting chubbier every day, he knows it all is worth it.

Toby works on his computer color correcting images until four in the morning nearly every night. Sometimes six. Sometimes he doesn’t go to bed at all. And in the morning (though never very early) he goes out and photographs houses until eight or nine at night. He might not keep regular hours, but he works very hard. His phone rings off the hook. Did I mention he climbs rocks and hangs off cliffs too?

When he is at home he can’t walk by the baby without engaging her in some kind of complicated baby goo-goo game that often over stimulates her to the point that I have to stop him and take the baby away so she can calm down. Toby loves his daughter so much it’s crazy. He worries about her constantly. He’s paranoid and he won’t let me do anything without some kind of long diatribe about how I need to drive carefully and watch her head as I walk through doorways. If you were in Toby’s head you’d think the world was filled with crazy banshees who run red lights and talk on their cell phones while they eat cheeseburgers.

Toby loves his family and I’m worried that I don’t really talk about that much on this blog. I guess I just assumed that it was in between the lines because I write so many posts about how lucky I am to be able to be a mom who takes walks on the beach every day. One thing I didn’t write about is that I’m a rebel. I’m not really the submissive wife who cooks and cleans and makes sure there is a pitcher of iced tea in the fridge every day. Sure I do those things but I also argue and fight and I have a pretty sharp tongue on me. Ask anybody who grew up with me, or worked with me (thinking of you Karoni).

I also tend to grumble and I’m good at it. When I was working the corporate job, I grumbled about the morons who made me attend mindless meetings every day. When I was in college, I grumbled about the bureaucracy who made me stand in lines for financial aid for hours and then sent me home without any money to pay my rent because I didn’t have form Q filled out. When I was a teenager I grumbled about my parents who were so busy trying to put food on my plate they couldn’t always pick me up from school on a rainy day. I’m just a grumbler and when things don’t seem fair, I make myself heard.

What I was grumbling about yesterday was a little bit more about how I can’t seem to turn away freelance work and juggle my role as a mother and a little bit less about how I wish my partner in life would play a bigger role. I think I lead you down that path because I was anticipating your comments and your solutions and I wanted to quickly point out that I can’t just hand off the baby to my husband. Not because he is a bad father and partner but because we have chosen to make our living in such a way that Toby needs to work very very hard. I hope that seems clear and not a case of “me thinks thou doth protesteth too much, Brenda”.

We never actually made a hard and fast “deal”. That was just my perception of our arrangement. I just wanted to make sure it was clear that I knew what I was getting into. I take my duties seriously. I know my job is difficult and I face it like a woman who can jump tall buildings, make a pie crust from scratch and solve difficult word problems at the same time. I want to be this woman. I signed up for this. I didn’t talk about how I have a three-month-old who doesn’t take bottles because I sorta forgot to introduce them to her during the very important turning point in which she became the most stubborn baby ever who loves only her mommy’s boob. I didn’t talk about her Daddy who tries to hold her and babysit her but who’s heart breaks in two when he sees her lower lip jut out. I didn’t talk about this because I wanted to talk about how much I love working and making art and how I am frustrated that I can’t seem to fit everything in yet. But like a lot of you pointed out, I will figure it out.

And yes, he does call my art “crap” sometimes, but it’s not like I take that laying lying down. I’m a fighter.

airing out my laundry

I should change the name of this blog to “Tales from the Laundromat”.

Really there’s nothing new on the laundromat front, thankfully. It’s just that we were there yesterday and I thought Baby Bug looked cute in the laundry basket. I could only keep her in the baby carrier for so long while I was folding all the clean clothes. I thought my back was going to break. This motherhood thing is back breaking.

I saw another mother there with a thirteen-month-old. We chatted for a little bit and she eyed the parasite-baby growing out of my chest enviously. She said she tried to fit her baby in the carrier one last time before they came to the laundromat and he just wouldn’t fit. By the looks of her long face, I take it that doing laundry while trying to keep a thirteen-month-old happy is a lot more difficult than carrying around a ten pound three-month-old attached to your chest. I have a grim future ahead of me.

I’m struggling lately. Not so much with the baby… (although, who stole my happy quiet baby and replaced her with the yelling baby? Can you please bring her back, stat?) but more so with the million mile long list of things I want to do and can’t. My freelance work is killing me. All the clients I got rid of before the baby, by referring them to somebody else, have all come back to me saying my referral artist just isn’t good enough. That’s great for my ego but the work load is just impossible. And maybe I should do better research before I go referring people.

The thing that really gets me is that all the work I’m getting is fun, easy work and easy money. If I wasn’t a full time mom, I’d whip it out in no time. But add a baby to the mix and I’m slower than a snail trudging through molasses. Baby Bug only takes so many naps a day and at least one of those naps has to be spent blogging, right?

I know a bunch of you are going to say, why don’t you ask Toby to help? Or what about your mother-in-law or hiring a babysitter? Well, here’s the rub. When I decided I wanted to be a mom, I decided I really wanted to be a mom in the biggest way. The good and the bad and the never-ending-ness of it. Toby and I made an agreement that I would be the major care-giver ALL of the time. No daycare, no babysitters (other than grandma) and no every other-night-you-watch-the-kid-so-I-can-take-a-shower. That’s just the way things work in our marriage. I knew what I was getting into long before I even got married and way way way long before we ever started trying to have kids. So what I’m basically saying is I made my bed and now I have to lie in it and I’m stupid to be complaining about it on my blog. (Like that’s going to stop me.)

The mother-in-law thing was working great but Baby Bug has turned into the shrieker lately and she’s getting heavy for her grandma’s frail arms. Her grandma loves her oh-so-very-much but she’s just a little too much for her. I spend a lot of my time rescuing Grandma from Baby Bug. It’s easy to deal with a baby crying when you are holding them but when somebody else is holding them in the next room over, it feels like your finger nails are getting peeled backwards. The babysitter thing just isn’t going to work unless I leave the house and the baby. But that doesn’t fit into my pre-baby agreement I made with Toby. Baby comes first, work comes second. And there will be no escaping to Starbucks just to earn a few extra bucks.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I knew Toby wouldn’t be able to help me. Toby has his own business that takes up 80% of his day. The other 20% is taken up with him trying to get over his 80% work day. We don’t have weekends here. Saturday and Sunday are work days too. Not to be all stuck in the 50’s but Toby needs a wife who will cook and clean and not hand him the baby when he’s trying to decompress from shooting the house that belongs to the owner of Broadcom. We have a crazy life. This is just the way it is. Everybody has a simple solution that they think will fix everything for us but the reality is that we have to make our way to those solutions in our own slow and exasperating way.

I knew I’d have to put my career on the back burner. The error I made is that I didn’t know how hard it would be for me to turn my back on it. I guess I keep secretly thinking I can do it all and be so successful that Toby will have to start taking my business seriously and he’ll be okay with me hiring a babysitter now and then. But I have to do it all secretly because of our agreement. I promised. I made a deal. This is my life. This is what I get in exchange for getting to take long walks on the beach every day.

The problem with my secret plan on becoming successful behind Toby’s back is that the money is just not coming in as fast as the work is. I can’t let him know that I’m bursting at the seams. On top of all my clients who just won’t go away, I do some work for Toby’s clients too. And I’m a mom and a full time housewife with a house that is falling down and a landlady who is crazy. I just don’t know how I can keep it up.

Then fun things come along like making mermaid tails and developing a website to sell them just in time for Halloween. How can I say no to a fun idea like that? I’ve already gotten a few requests without even advertising a peep about it. When I tell Toby about my fun mermaid tail idea he gets mad at me and calls it my “arts and crafts crap”. (Except he uses a different word and the only reason I don’t type that other word on this blog is because I’m thinking of you, Mom and you, Aunt Kathy up in Canada who don’t like to think of your little Brenda using potty language.) In a way he’s right. I am a mother and that is my most important job of all time. But stopping all the fun jobs that come along is like cutting out part of my heart. I love making things. It’s who I am. And yes, a happy mom is a good mom. So somehow I’m going to have to do it all or figure out what to do and what not to do.

Anybody need some freelance graphic design work? Send me an url to your online portfolio.