Sunday, February 8, 2009

Balancing Act

Some days, I wonder why in the hell I got married.

Other days, I look at my husband in wonder of what a great guy he is.

Today is the former.

Texan Papa is a great judge of character. That, I take as a compliment since he wanted to marry me. He has a million good qualities. Well, maybe not a million, but a bunch. One of those good qualities is that he's a great dad. He's very protective of our children and very hands-on with them. Not so much in the diapers department, but in other areas.

He's kinda been a good balance for me. I'm more of the school of thought that when kids play, they do just fine. Unless I see blood or screaming for more than 30 seconds, no need to jump up and react. He's more of the opinion to build a plastic bubble around them so that they can't hurt themselves. Just kidding. But seriously, he's helped me recognize that yeah, there are times when my laid-back attitude is not enough for little kids. But, other times, he really makes me wonder.

About 2 years ago, when the Peanuts were 7, 6, and 4, we lived in rural IL. We had a huge backyard that was just grass - no fence whatsoever. As a matter of fact, the gravel parking lot of the church was the boundary for our yard. One day I saw a teenager driving through the parking lot kinda fast and I made a comment to Texan Papa about that. HUGE mistake. From then on out, he insisted that our kids could not play in the back yard by themselves, in case a fast-driving, out-of-control, irresponsible teenager came blazing through the parking lot and perhaps would be unable to stop, careening into our backyard and flattening our kids. He insisted that I must be outside with them if they were in the backyard. No, I couldn't watch them from the kitchen window. I was all, WTF are you talking about? First of all, there were like 2 big trees that would have stopped an oncoming car. Second of all, the likelihood of that happening??? And third of all, can you say PARANOID??? And fourth of all, like me being out there would help. In a split second, could I throw my body between an oncoming car and my children, thereby avoiding my kids getting hit? Don't think so.

Perhaps, though, the reason that bothered me the most was the one that I couldn't get past in my own brain: I wanted them to play outside because some days I needed a break from them. I didn't want to WASTE TIME sitting outside while watching them play. It's not like I don't play with them other times too, but occasionally I want to have some time where I'm not breaking up a fight, or being begged to push someone on a swing, or playing Hot Wheels, or holding a hand.

Not every day, but every once in a while.

This bothered me because, although I felt like his request for me to be on guard 24/7 was annoying, I wondered why I couldn't do it. Or, why I didn't want to do it. Don't I want my kids to be safe? What's so wrong with spending time with my kids? Is what I'd be doing otherwise THAT important?

Now, here in Texas, I am revisiting this mental volley between "oh he's just blowing off steam. Don't pay it any attention." and "I should respect my husband's wishes, even though it's hard on me. He is my husband and this is important to him."

I have found a Mother's Day Out program at the church just around the corner from us. It is about 1 mile from our house. It meets on Friday, 9am-12noon. They only have 8 kids right now and they have room for Baby Sally. It's run by a conservative Christian (Lutheran) church. And... IT'S FREE. Absolutely no cost. I asked the administrator, what's the deal? She said, it's their evangelism outreach, run by volunteers. Texan Papa was the one who saw the sign and encouraged me to check into it. I'm so happy I did!

I told Texan Papa about it tonight, and he said, "Do you know anyone at that church?" Me: "No." TP: "Well, you're not going to leave the baby there, are you?" Me: "Well, I was going to. Why shouldn't I?" TP: "I think it's kinda dangerous to leave our 16-month-old child in a place where we don't know anyone. Don't you?" Now, how am I supposed to answer that? Me:"Well, you are the one who told me to check into it." TP: "Well, I'm never going to suggest anything like that again if it's only going to come back and bite me in the ass later." Me: "Seriously, I don't want this to start a fight, but what's the big deal?" TP: "I don't think it's a good idea to leave our child with people we don't know."

Now, I'm thinking: 3 hours a week! A break! And it's FREE!!! And Baby Sally can learn how to stay with other adults!!! (Really, I hardly ever get a babysitter and we have NO family here in town and when she goes to the nursery at church they usually call me out of church to come get her.) So, I figured this would be a great way to acclimate her to separation from her Texan Mama.

Apparently, Texan Papa was thinking something different. That people in this world are crazier than ever. That a 16-month old can't tell us if she's been hurt or mistreated. That the news today is riddled with stories about child care centers' irresponsibility, resulting in the children's deaths. I mean can you ever keep your children too safe?

Seriously, we're not talking about keeping our kids from dating until they're 18, or putting a GPS tracking chip under their skin, or keeping them from ever eating grapes on the off chance that they might choke. We're talking about being smart when it comes to our children and the people who care for them. Especially people who we don't know.

At the same time, we're talking about my sanity. Not that I'm on the verge of going crazy, but let's face it: those extra 3 hours a week could make Texan Mama a happier version of me. And, as a result, I'd probably be a better, more productive person.

Is what he's asking really so impossible? Is what I'm asking really that impossible?
It's a balancing act. I want my kids to be safe. I know my husband wants me to be happy. I mean, how do I decide what's more important? My sanity or my kids' safety? Because, really: am I in danger of going insane? And are my kids really in danger of being abused? Is that what this whole thing is really about? Or is it about the gentle give-and-take between a husband and wife. I know there must be some middle ground here somewhere. I just haven't found it yet.


stephanie (bad mom) said...

I'm all about sanity.

Is it possible to meet the people in charge before you drop off your babe? Then you know them...Problem solved. :D

(You must do this)

Jana, Mom to Mr. Q and Miss E + 7 said...

I will err on the side of safety. Till my children can talk and very well at that. They only stayed with my mother. Now that my mother has passed, the only people to babysit my youngers are two of my daughters !

I have been out without the children twice in 3 years. When my Miss E was born, and for a company Christmas party last year.

Heather said...

FWIW, at our old church (where I was head of the Education team and therefore responsible for all the SS teachers, Junior Church leaders and nursery workers and volunteers), we had a mandatory background check that had to be done on each and every person. While it was rather a pain in the neck to get folks to comply (I mean, there were some people who were so insulted by it - "we're CHURCH MEMBERS!" - that they instead refused to help with SS or the nursery) but I guess it made everyone feel safer, having the workers all "vetted" and our church was informed at the time that we began doing this that more and more churches are now requiring all personnel, even volunteers, to be vetted.

If you asked and it turned out this church did background check their nursery workers, would that make TP feel better about leaving the baby there? 'Cause I'm with stephanie - I'm all about sanity!

Hope you find a good solution. I know how hard it is to not have family living nearby, ugh.

Mrs. S said...

I agree that it is important for both--you need to leave your kid somewhere, where both you and papa feel safe. But you definetely need some time as well. Can you go the first week and stay with them and see how the interact with the kids one week before you leave her there? Will that help Papa to feel better? Or like someone else suggested see if they had been background checked? There has got to be a happy medium somewhere!

MeadowLark said...

Full background check at the minimum, PLUS personally knowing (you can at least get a 'vibe' from them) the people watching your children. Otherwise, the program is great but then someone has to go somewhere and they leave their "daughter's boyfriend in charge "just for a little while".

Sanity is important, but Husband investigates too many abuse cases for me to leave my babies with anybody. That said, my babies are now 23 and 21, so it's been awhile.

Good luck. You may have to wait until they're able to effectively communicate.

Jennifer said...

I say leave her. Good for her, and good for you. If they are licesned (sp) you can check them out through the state. Ask around and see if anyone knows anything about the program or the church..

There is nothing wrong with needing a break.

Chris said...

In lots of cases, dads are sort of hypocritical & have double standards when it comes to how mothers care for their kids. I know that's how it is in my house. Like you did, I live in rural IL. There was always the argument of "they can't be outside alone" but if I were to say "They want to go out. Will you go out with them?" No way! They'd get MAYBE 5 minutes of play before he was ready to come in.

IMO, dads (not all of them) don't understand the insanity of being with kids 24/7. Especially when our only breaks are in the form of grocery shopping, where we receive 10 calls before we arrive home informing us that we need to hurry because the kids are nuts and out of control. *laughs*

I like the ideas that those who commented had. Ask about background checks and hang around for the first few weeks. Time for yourself is important! If Texan Papa was with them day in and day out for months at a time, with no break, maybe he would see it your way and be begging for just 3 hours a week to remember that there IS life beyond the diapers & snot.

(This comment is in no way meant to imply that Texan Papa is a bad guy or hypocrite. He's obviously super duper wonderful to have a catch like you. =D It's just some thoughts on how this situation is in MY home)

Anna See said...

i understand. i am currently weighing the whole cub scout camp overnight w/ out parents thing and am quaking in my boots. i do like the idea of asking about background checks, observing one day and GOING FOR IT!

Anonymous said...

I tend to be the over-paranoid-mama here, but Im learning the art of letting go some....where is that middle ground anyhow?! I always have trouble finding it myself! *lol*

Carrie Thompson said...

okay, I am totally "the mom" my kids do not go without me. So now I am a scout leader, worked in the church nursery, lead the book club, head up the field trip group.... oh did I mention I home school them! lol.

I totally understand needing a break. I really, really do...but I would tend to be on the side of Texan Papa. BUT and here is the but, I would maybe take a few weeks and get to know the ladies in charge, I would check on back ground checks and talk to the other parents who use the mdo program already. If there are only 8 kids do they ALWAYS have more than 2 workers? That is a MUST! I know that it is hard to imagine that it could be dangerous to leave our kids at a church but unfortunately we have that problem in this day and age. I do feel like you could get the vibe and maybe even hubbie could interview them together?

I do want you to feel peace with your situation if it is a no and not feel resentful that you cant use this awesome program... that is sometiems hard to stomach! I know! I believe that if you abide by hubbie, even if you feel it is dumb, that God will bless that. I know that is hard too!!!! lol

Someone Being Me said...

Don't feel bad my husband is the same way. I have Bear in MDO one day a week and he is constantly worrying about if the people there are responsible or if they are mistreating him. Plus I mentioned maybe putting him in 2 days a week once baby #2 gets here so I can adjust to having 2 kiddos and he gave me a huge spiel about how I quit my job to stay home with the kids not to ship them off for someone else to watch. Men have no clue how badly we need time to do other things during the day sans toddler like running errands, going to the doctor, or just cleaning the house.

E said...

I vote that you and baby visit three or four times together. You can "help" with the other kids and get to know everyone who works there in the mean time. This way you will also meet the other parents and can get casual and friendly references from the ones you get a positive hit from.
If there is any objection from them about your presence then I am with Papa.
Also are there any moms at school that you have bonded with who also have smaller kids? You could consider trading a 1/2 day a week or even every other week with them.
Or is there an older sweet grandmotherly widow type at your church that you like a lot? If so maybe you could trade a couple of hours of baby sitting for dinner one night a week. She could eat with you and your family or you could bring her dinner. She might relish the company or anyway not having to cook for just one. And you could get a manicure or just a nap now and then.
You need a break and you just need to give yourself permission to think creatively about it...You guys can solve this

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

I'm a believer in people and their ultimate goodness especially in a situation like this. The only gentle give and take I see here are GIVING yourself a well-deserved break and TAKING Sally to the place.