"With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood." - Isadora Duncan
The other day it occurred to me that this is the first year in many that I have no office party to attend. Whether or not I actually went to past office parties is another story altogether, but the fact is that I always worked someplace that had one, should I have chosen to attend.
But no one throws office parties for stay at home moms, or moms of any sort. Unless you count lighting the Juban Princeling's menorah for him and wrapping his approximately 20,000 Christmas gifts, there would be no Holiday party to celebrate what it is I do everyday.
Or so I thought.
The same day that I recognized, and with minimal regret, that I have no office parties to attend this year, I received an invite from a mom in our neighborhood playgroup for a party she was having. Just for moms. A mom office party.
Don't get me wrong, I love being a mom. I LOVE it. I cherish the fact that I am in a position where I have the choice to stay home with my son. I know too many mothers who have no choice either way: either they have no job to go back to, or they have to work full-time outside the home because their families depend on that paycheck. I know that I'm lucky to get to stay home with the Princeling and that's what I choose to do.
However, I know of very few, if any, Americans who 100% love their jobs 100% of the time. Even my father, who is self-employed in a career he loves, hates certain aspects of his job most of the time, and other aspects of it some of the time.
My job is wonderful. I get to play with my son and watch him learn and explore and develop.
But my job is also smelly and gross and frustrating and exhausting and most days I'm completely wiped out by the time the Princeling goes to bed.
I love being a mother, but it's neither the most glamorous job in the world, nor is it treated with tons of respect. Too many other SAHMs I know apologize when they tell me they don't have a proper Job-job. As if raising children to be intelligent, productive, healthy, happy, considerate citizens of the world is something to be ashamed of, as if it's not enough. "Oh," they tell me when I ask what they do, "I don't work. I just stay home." Right. Like we all sit around watching TV and eating bon-bons all day long.
The working mothers I know run themselves ragged trying to find a "work-life balance" because if they work too much then they are neglectful mothers, but if they don't put in enough hours at the office or at their home business then they are lazy.
I love being a mother, but I not only don't get paid sick leave, but I actually am the one who pays out of pocket when I am sick. The day after I spent a sleepless 5 and 1/2 hours in the ER being treated for severe dehydration due to a stomach bug, I had to pay someone $80 to take the Princeling away for the day so I could get some much-needed sleep. I don't get weekends, or evenings, or vacations. In fact, I haven't had a proper vacation in more than two years, and when I want some time to myself I have to schedule it in advance with my husband to make sure he's home to watch our son.
So yes, I love my job of Mommy, but man, I sure could use an office party!
And that's where my mom friend, Her Majesty the Queen of England (she's British) came in. She graciously and Britishly opened her home to us neighborhood moms for our very own office party. She had a real fireplace with a real roaring fire and a real Christmas tree and real wine. Lots and lots and lots of wine.
I almost didn't get to go. My husband had to work very late, as usual, so my brother was set to come over and babysit that night. But my brother's phone broke that day and he works all the way out in Long Island and would have to stop by the phone store on his way and didn't know if he'd make it in time for me to go to the party. I casually mentioned this to my husband, who lovingly left work early to work from home all evening so I could go. Hooray for awesome husbands!
Thankfully, the Queen lives four blocks away, so I walked there in just a few minutes. I recognized many moms from playgroups we've had together, and met a few moms I knew only from their emails within our October 2008 neighborhood group. I found out that the Queen used to work at the same place my sister-in-law Daria works, and they have a total mutual admiration society for one another. (As Daria said when she found out that I went to a party at the Queen's, "New York City. Smallest big city in the world!")
I caught up with my friend Amanda Doss, whose roller derby team won the Gotham Girls championship last month, and found out that she is a fellow fan of Le Tigre and the Beastie Boys. I swapped picky-eater advice with one of my favorite mom friends. I found out that another mom friend is pregnant, and we all of us discussed whether or not we're ready for more babies yet, or whether or not we'll ever have another one at all. Those moms who work talked about work. We creative types talked about our creative pursuits.
We swapped horror stories of going through - recently or currently - Pukefest 2009, which has hit my entire neighborhood hard. (Though, I'm still the reigning champ because I had to go to the hospital.) One mom friend told me about all the new words her little girl is learning, and I told her how the Princeling loves to touch his private parts whenever his diaper is off. We compared notes on how much, if any, Holiday shopping and wrapping we each have left. (Me: done and done.) We toasted one woman's husband who baked brownies for us. We ate lots of snacks. (I ate three brownies and approximately 17 pounds of blue cheese, some of it on crackers.) We drank a lot of wine.
It was a proper office party, done right and done well, and every single one of us deserved it.
Since this is my last post of 2009, here's a little treat for my adoring public (my mom and husband).
Mer's 10 Favorite Holiday Movies of All Time Ever Ever Ever:
10. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
Not technically Christmas movies. But my husband and I have a tradition of busting out the special version DVDs and watching them all over three nights at this time of year. And drinking while we watch them. And making fun of everyone's hair.
9. Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas
I mean the original, not the one with Jim Carrey. I don't know what a "roast beast" is, but it sounds delicious.
8. The Santa Clause
Sue me. I'm a sucker for a Santa movie, and this one is just adorable and sweet and shut up.
Bill Murray is freaking hilarious in this, and I love the guy who sings "Feeling Hot, Hot Hot" as the Ghost of Christmas Past. "Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples!"
6. The Nutcracker Ballet, version 1977 starring the American Ballet Theatre and Mikhail Baryshnikov
My mom recorded this when I was a little girl and I watched it every year. This is the gold standard by which I measure all other Nutcrackers. I finally got it on DVD, courtesy of Netflix, to show to my in-laws this year.
5. A Christmas Carol, version 1999 starring Captain Picard.
There are perhaps a gazillion versions of this famous story out there, but my favorite is the one starring the greatest Star Trek captain of all time. Bah humbug, make it so!
4. The Hebrew Hammer
"Shabbat Shalom, mother f******!" A kick-ass Hanukah movie that tells the real story of the Jewish holiday: competition with Christmas. Heh.
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas
Seriously, who doesn't love this movie? Barbarians and terrorists, that's who.
2. A Christmas Story
"You'll shoot your eye out!" I'm that annoying person who still watches this over and over and over on TBS every year.
1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
To me, this movie embodies all the very best and very worst of what it means to celebrate Christmas in modern America. I just can't get enough of this movie. I'll watch it whenever it comes on TV. "If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I couldn't be more surprised than I am now." Classic!
And, that's it for me for 2009. Join me in 2010, won't you, when we'll look forward to such blog topics as: Will I ever get to go on vacation? Will I ever finish writing my novel? How will the Princeling handle swimming lessons next summer? Will my husband and I survive the initial stages of looking for a preschool? Can I convince my Republican friends that health care reform is not one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse? And most of all, just how "terrible" will the Princeling's Terrible Twos actually be?
(And for those of you wondering what the Princeling's real name is and what he looks like and what our apartment looks like, I have a special treat coming up in January.)
Happy Holidays, and a very happy, healthy, and safe New Year to you all!