Monday, March 10, 2014


As soon as the daffodils start poking through the ground here in Georgia, the calls start. "Call from RUT-A-JERS," says our caller-ID lady in a flat monotone. "Call from Anne Marie." Who's Anne Marie, I wonder and then glance at the phone. Oh, Emory. I usually let the first few of these calls go because I know what they want. First, the pretense of checking to make sure my contact information is still the same, then the gracious thank you for my previous gift, and then the real reason for calling, hitting me up for more money. "I see you gave $100 last year. Would you care to bump up your donation just a bit to $10,000?"

I'm not sure what got into me lat week, but when "Rut-a-jers" called, I decided to answer. I spoke to a junior named Carmine. Sometimes the callers ask you about yourself: (Caller: "I see you majored in English, do you work in that area?" Me: "Yes, I speak English every day"), but Carmine was all business. He also said "you know" so many times that I wondered if he was playing a drinking game with someone in the call center who had to do a shot every time he uttered the phrase. Trust me, if this were the case, his friend would be dead. He also said, "I see you live in DECK-A-TUR, Georgia," which is fine because there's no reason that he should be able to pronounce Decatur correctly. But New Jersey is so full of towns with weird names (Paramus, Piscataway, Ho-Ho-Kus, Parsippany, Hoboken, Weehawken, Moonachie) that it's funny to hear someone struggle with Decatur, which is pretty much pronounced the way it looks (aside from the long "a"). Despite Carmine's less than suave delivery, I ended up donating to Rutgers because, well, for kids like Carmine who could use a decent communications class before they hit the working world.

Not to be outdone, Emory called the next day and I got to talk to Meredith, a freshman at the college. Bless her heart, Meredith was just about everything that Carmine was not. She was so chatty that I started to worry that she hadn't made any friends at school. She asked what I missed about law school. (My answer: Great professors, being in an academic environment. Truth: Going to a bar after my last exam.) She asked what activities I was involved with at Emory. (My answer: Activities weren't really common among law students, but I did work on a journal. Truth: I worked on a third-rate journal and was a functioning alcoholic.) Why did you decide to go to law school? (My answer: You learn skills in law school like critical thinking and persuasive writing, that are useful in any job. Truth: Why did I go to law school?)

I blame Oprah.

Meredith also wanted to make sure they had my personal information correct. "I see that we don't have any information on your employer. Do you want to update that?" She asked. "No," I said. "I don't have a job."Well, that put poor Meredith in a bind because she now had to ask someone without an income to donate money to Emory (a school with a nearly 6 billion dollar endowment, BTW). After apologizing profusely for even asking for a donation "because you're unemployed, and all" she made a lowball request for $75. I agreed, in no small part because I felt guilty about not adjusting her perception of what my "unemployment" is all about. I mean, it's certainly not like I'm sitting in a house with no electricity, eating beans from a can, and giving my last $75 to Emory (which will probably be used to pay service fees on the 6 billion dollar endowment).

Do exercise clothes count?
They do? Damn it!

Meredith and I chatted for a few more minutes and after she thanked me for the fifth time for contributing even though I am "unemployed," I just couldn't take it anymore. "Look," I said. "I don't want you to get the wrong idea. My husband is a lawyer at a big law firm. It's not like we're starving around here or something." To use a legal term that I vaguely recall, Meredith seemed to think this was a distinction without a difference. "It's just that some alumni aren't very nice and they won't contribute and they have jobs." Instead of defensively telling Meredith about the very important things I'd accomplished yesterday (Honey, that auction basket for the Baby's school ain't gonna wrap cellophane around itself) I just took the compliment. Yes, it is very nice for me to donate $75 to Emory, despite my unemployed status, and the fact that I incurred a bundle of debt to get a degree that I don't use. When we finished up our conversation, Meredith suggested some employment resources at Emory. "Maybe they can help you find a job." Oh, Meredith. Take my $75, but leave me with my will to live, I beg you!

Most folks probably wouldn't get ruffled by an 18 year-old who is probably required to solicit donations so she can keep her scholarship. But then, most folks are probably more well-adjusted than I am and don't suffer from a persecution complex. So, here's the thing that everyone should know about being an "unemployed" stay at home mom: It's a really hard job. Not commercial fisherman-hard or coal mining-hard, but hard none the less. One of the things that makes it hard is the misperception that it is a lot of lying around eating candy and watching "The View." While I realize that it was my (sometimes head-shaking) choice to have three children, they're here and someone has to make sure that they are fed, clothed, picked up from school on time, put to bed on time, and parented. Since the K has a (sometimes head-shaking) job that requires him to travel and work long hours, we made the decision that I would do the parenting trench work. Here's what I have to look forward to this afternoon and evening:

3:00 - Pick up the Boy from school.
3:15 - Warn the Boy that he has a batting lesson at 4:00.
3:16 - Dodge cleat that the Boy has thrown at me upon hearing about batting lesson.
3:17 - Tell the Boy that Daddy says the batting lessons have really helped and we've pre-paid, so he has to go at least three more times. Gentle cajoling fails to work, so turn to threats and bribery.
3:18 - Readjust picture which was turned askew when the Boy slammed his bedroom door.
3:20 - Gather baseball gear and hope that the Boy comes around because he's now too big to force to do anything.
3:25 - Make snack for the Baby to eat in the car because she won't have time to come inside before we have to leave for the batting lesson.
3:45 - Get the Baby from the bus stop
3:46 - Break the news about going to batting lesson. Tears, low-level screaming.
3:49 - Throw the Baby, the Boy (no shoes on, complaining endlessly), and the Dog into the minivan and drive to practice.
4:02 - Show up late to batting lesson and make an excuse about the traffic, although the real reason we're late is because the Boy purposely took his baseball bag out of the trunk and hid it behind the bushes in the front yard. He only confesses this when we are already halfway to the park and we have to turn around and go home to find the bag.
4:03 - Walk Dog and Baby over to the playground. Baby tries to jump over a puddle (the park, like all parks in Atlanta is in a flood plain and never fully dries) and instead jumps into the puddle. She is soaked with muddy water and starts to cry.
4:05 - Stranger walking by offers a crumpled tissue and I manage to dry off one of the Baby's ankles.
4:10 - Finally make it to playground. Baby is playing and having a good time. Dog finds some ABC gum and gets it matted in her fur before I notice. Forced to swipe Dog's mouth to extract ABC gum and walk through the mud to the garbage can to throw it away.
4:11 - Stranger walks by and observes that I am throwing gum in recycling and basically destroying the environment. Although I'm beyond caring, I fish the gum out of the bin and walk through more mud to the proper trash receptacle.
4:25 - Tell the Baby that it's time to go. More tears because she's finally having fun.
4:30 - Watch the Boy pick up balls in the batting cage and realize it's the first time I've seen him willingly pick up anything and wonder if I can hire the batting coach to be a cleaning coach.
4:45 - Arrive home and cut the gum out of the Dog's beard.
4:50 - Break the news to the Boy and the Baby that when the Girl gets home, everyone will have to pile back into the car to drive her to soccer practice.
4:51 - Tears, complaints, assurances that this is the "Worst day EVER!"
4:59 - Girl arrives home from Girls on the Run and is exhausted. Allow her to rest for one minute.
5:00 - Advise the Girl that she needs to put on her shinguards and cleats because we're driving the carpool for soccer practice.
5:01 - Sobbing.
5:05 - Resignation. Shinguards go on, socks, cleats. The Girl refuses to eat anything because, "I'll just puke it up all over the field."
5:10 - Advise children that we are leaving to pick up the carpool. Ignored.
5:12 - Second request to leave house. Ignored.
5:15 - Third request plus threats of no screen time.
5:18 - All in the car, neither younger child is wearing shoes.
5:34 - Drop of the Girl and two teammates at soccer. Half-heartedly apologize for being late, but realize that I'm always late so no one expects any different.
5:45 - Make dinner while fielding snack requests that come in approximately seven-minute intervals and timed impeccably for when I'm pulling something out of the oven.
6:30 - Finally get dinner on the table.
6:34 - Boy finishes eating.
6:40 - Realize that the Boy has basketball practice and I haven't asked anyone to take him. Text the coach and beg a ride.
6:43 - Throw some practice clothes at the Boy and tell him he's got to set the record for getting dressed.
6:45 - Coach pulls into driveway.
6:47 - Send the Boy out of the house carrying his basketball sneakers and a coat. (He'll leave the coat at practice and I'll never see it again.)
6:49 - Make lunches for tomorrow.
7:15 - Girl arrives home and finally eats dinner.
7:30 - Advise the Baby that she needs to take a shower. Tears, complaints, assurances that this is the "Worst day EVER!"
7:40 - Girl realizes she hasn't done her homework. Tears, complaints, assurances that she is "Totally going to flunk out of school and definitely getting left back in the fourth grade."
7:40 - 8:05 - Help Girl with homework which should take 10 minutes, but, because of complaints, takes at least twice as long.
8:10 - Girl gets in shower.
8:15 - Boy gets dropped off from basketball practice. Turns on television. I tell him that he needs to shower ASAP and get to bed. Tears, complaints, assurances that I'm "the worst mom EVER!"
8:35 - Everyone goes upstairs and start chasing each other around until the Baby trips over a chair and starts to cry.
8:37 - Baby calms down and everyone brushes teeth. I tell the Baby it's too late for a story and she sobs. I relent and say we can read a short story. "Okay, we will wead the showtest stowy eva," she shouts and storms over to the bookcase to find a book.
9:05 - Stories read, prayers said, songs sung, and I finally go downstairs.
9:06-9:15 - Empty dishwasher.
9:16 - Boy comes downstairs with a "stomach ache." I give him a Tums and send him back up.
9:18 - 9:30 - Set table for breakfast, make coffee for the morning.
9:40-10:00 Brush teeth, wash face (using Clarisonic, of course), and put on a layer of face cream to forestall the ravages of time.
10:00 - Bed.

My morning routine is similar and begins at 6:15 and wraps up at 8:00. So, between the after school stuff and the morning stuff, the hands-on childcare still takes about nine hours. Honestly, I don't know how people who work all day in between dropping off kids at school and getting them from school or aftercare do it (and by "it," I mean buy food, get the oil changed, wait for the washing machine repair guy, and remain sane). However, I'd be willing to bet that there aren't a lot of people who'd trade me for my schedule, either. It's funny how being unemployed can end up being so much work!


  1. Thank you for the laugh! I never ever ever never answer the calls that Neal gets from Vassar (hugely endowed like Emory) or Wharton (their endowment is less impressive - which in my opinion is shameful. You teach people about INVESTING - do better.) I do donate to Rutgers, because the Carmines of the Garden State need all of the help they can get. However, when I heard there is now a class on Beyonce, I was thinking they may have jumped the shark. Also, if it makes you feel better, I am currently unemployed AND have no children to care for. You are more than fully employed in my book!

    1. How is Wharton not rolling in dough? I am really surprised. Doctor heal thyself and all that! I have the tension each year between giving money to Rutgers, which I know they need and will do someone some good, and wanting to withhold money because Rutgers is always doing something embarrassing or foolish that devalues my degree! (Beyonce class is a perfect example). Emory keeps its head down and doesn't do anything dumb and the law school ranking goes up if more alumni donate (thanks to the weird US News system), so I feel like I should donate even though the school is not hurting for capital. Decisions, decisions...You are so employed! You are tearing up the blogosphere!

  2. Carmine doesn't need to use old fashioned communications skills. Why have a coherent personal convo. when you can text, tweet, etc.? I never answer solicitation calls. If the TV is on when one of them happens to call, the boys yell out "it's UCLA or Obama, or UGA." Ignore. True story: last week one of my charming children threw his shoe into the wall during a tantrum. It made a dent in the wall. We told him he had to pay to get it fixed. In response he said "I'll give you $10 to buy a parenting book." All I could do was lol. So the next time I get a cold call asking for money I will tell them I can't afford it cuz not only am I unemployed, I'm failing at my unpaid job according to my employees. I need the cash for therapy and parenting books.

    1. Seriously, SO funny. I think maybe he could get a job writing one-liners and pay off the dent debt.

  3. I love you, my dear. You always say it like it is, and it is always spot on! You make me laugh, and you make me want to cry- but most of all, it's just nice to know that someone else has a life just as crazy as mine (no offence, but misery can't help liking company). I had to read this one out loud to my darling husband. He doesn't get it at all, and I thought it might help for me to lay it all out there for him. His response (not a smart one) was that he works all day, and he is exhausted. Somehow, he makes me feel guilty -or maybe it's me feeling guilty, because "I don't work", but... when I think about it, I never stop working. Yes, I do get the occasional nap, but raising three kids doesn't leave room for anything else- Middle one's up at 6 and the last one's out of the door at 8. Then the errands, doctor's appointments, school volunteering, school volunteering, school volunteering, sick kids, kids saying they are sick, the neighborhood kids joining my heard, and snacks, and sports, and snacks, and homework, and snacks, and dinner. Bedtime starts at 8pm, but the oldest isn't down for the count around 10-11pm Most of his extra time is spent nagging about homework and chores and coming out of his room for more than 15 minutes. I need at least an hour or two to decompress from the trauma of dealing with the three of them since I starting picking them up at 2:30pm, so I finally go to bed around 1am. It is endless, and I think working or not, raising a family is exhausting, and we are all putting in 100%, even if we aren't doing the same thing.

    1. Yes, the decompression time is very important, but if you're still doing hands-on parenting at 10 or 11 or 12, when does that happen? I feel like I can manage when no one is sick, so I honestly don't know how you've been managing the last couple of months....or really the last six years. It's hard enough to keep up when you get those bits of peace and quiet to relax. It's impossible if those never happen. I'm glad you could relate because it drives me batty when I try to explain to people WHY it's so stressful to do this non-job. Just seeing an afternoon and evening schedule brings that into focus pretty easily!

  4. Simply said, I had no idea what parenting really meant. Pre-Andy, I once wondered how my 1st cousin could arrive at a family gathering I was hosting with her 3 small children in tow....the youngest minus her shoes. I also thought I would never act like my mother acted but more frequently than I care to admit, I think, "Oh my Lord! I am acting just like my mother! Being a parent is a huge job & the responsibility often overwhelms me. My part-time job helps me'escape' so to speak. Susannah, I hope your well spent time writing helps you escape, on occasion, as well.

    1. You really can't understand until you're doing it, can you? I love my children, but I can say that at times I don't love parenting. It's not like you are ever really finished and when you think you can't possibly add anything else to your plate, you get another obligation. I do like writing to escape...and to connect with other people who are feeling the same way! BTW, thank you for your offer to use your washer, but the guys are here fixing mine! Yay! Clean clothes for all!