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Welcome to the Motherhood
Grime & Punishment
By Melissa Jarvis
Plexus Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2004 Melissa Jarvis
All rights reserved.
Does the Stay-at-Home Mommy Want a Wittle Awwowance?
"Why Are You Worrying About It So Much? I'll Just Give you an allowance each week, that's all. After all, this is what you wanted, right?" My husband didn't, obviously, understand the images that shot through my head at that particular point in time.
The minute he said the word, "allowance," here is the little home movie that was playing for me:
Barefoot and wearing an old maternity top, even though "the baby" was now in school, I am standing in front of my husband as he sits at his imposing desk paying bills. I wait in line behind our five-year-old, who has just received a peck on the forehead and a five-dollar bill for her monthly allowance. I shuffle up to the front of the line as she skips away with big plans on how to spend her loot.
Clutched in my right hand are some cutouts from a magazine, and I nervously brush away sweat dripping off my brow with the other hand. Clearing my throat, it is my turn. I feel faint from the pressure. "Um, thank you for seeing me on such short notice. I know I've fallen a little behind in the housekeeping, and I'm still not sure how all your underwear turned pink in the laundry, but I'll get better, I swear."
Mike sighs and points to the little papers in my hand. "What are those?"
I stammer nervously, "Oh, these are just some things I thought I could buy if you could add maybe a dollar or two more to my allowance. See, I really need snow boots with this nasty weather we've been having, and I found some on sale. With the coupons and the money I've saved from last month's allowance, I just need two more dollars and I'll have enough."
He considers my request as he spreads the pictures of snow boots in front of him. "Why don't you just put socks on over your flip flops? After all, you bought those new flip flops last summer, and you just had to have them, even though they cost almost three dollars."
"Well, because that's not practical. My feet will freeze!"
Rubbing his temples and shuffling some papers on his desk, he grunts and reaches for his wallet. "Fine, but it's coming out of next month's allowance, okay?"
On bended knee, I thank him profusely and wait for the forehead kiss that never comes. With a tear, I walk away, silently cheering at the new snow boots I'll finally be able to buy. What a happy day!
"Mike, I cannot even begin to tell you how many things are wrong with that sentence. I know you mean well, but I do not want an allowance. The very word makes me shudder with horror, if you must know."
He shakes his head. "Well, okay, then, we'll just have to work out something that you're comfortable with. Maybe we won't call it an allowance. I'll just leave money in an envelope in the desk that you can use when you need stuff, okay?"
I narrowed my eyes. There wasn't anything wrong with that, actually. I was a new mother of twins. In a few months, a night job was opening up in my paralegal field. In the meantime though, there was no way to make any money to contribute to the monthly bills. Even if I did consider working full time, having two babies in day care would deplete any money I'd make anyway.
I would just have to get used to my new role. I brightened for a second. "Oh, I know what would make me feel better — let's get out those tax returns from the year we were first married when I made more money than you, remember? That was a good year."
He patted me on the forehead. "You're strange, but I love you anyway. I'm sticking twenty bucks in an envelope if you need it."
When I thought about it, I wasn't even sure what I wanted the money for. Hadn't I always dreamed of having babies and staying home to enjoy them? Apparently, as a temporary milking machine that bore but a vague resemblance to the independent woman who had walked into that delivery room, I needed something to cling to. You know — to remind me who I really was.
Some nights, I'd put the babies to bed and go through old pocketbooks, gently unfolding the faded receipts from my previous life.
One night, I did something that probably fell under the category of "crazy new mom." Mike was busy working two jobs to support us, and our mortgage was late. With him working so much, I knew my conversational skills were dwindling. Even the dog was bored by my attempts at witty banter. I was starting to question my sanity.
So I did it. I called a late night hot line that promised "adult talk." I have to admit, it was pretty exciting. It had been eons since I had discussed world events. This would be perfect!
After waiting patiently on the line for five or six minutes, a woman came on. "Ooh," she purred. "Are you ready for some adult talk?"
"Yes, and I have my credit card ready just like the commercial says." I was polite despite the late hour; after all, I needed this woman desperately. "What would you like to talk about?"
She moaned a little, and told me my choices. "Well, honey, we can talk about you. We can talk about me. We can even, for an extra $3.99 a minute, talk about you and me." She made that odd moaning sound again. She sounded a lot like the dog when we toss him the leftover burrito on Mexican night.
"Hmm. Well, actually, I was hoping we could talk about investment options, and whether you think it will be a bear or a bull market in the new economy. Or, if you'd rather, we could discuss the ethics of cloning." I was kind of hoping she'd pick the first one, but either would be fine by me. I smiled hopefully.
"Listen, %#@, don't @%# around with me again! I don't have time for this @#$*!"
It took about three weeks for the charges to show on my credit card bill. Sitting there looking at that slip of paper, I realized that my attempts at restoring my sanity had just cost me a small fortune.
When Mike came home and saw the bill, he sounded just like the moaning woman I had tried to discuss world events with. I thought about mentioning the coincidence to him, but there are just some things better left unsaid.CHAPTER 2
Rich Is ...
Eventually, Every Kid Starts To Develop A Concept Of money. It usually starts with the Tooth Fairy.
With my kids' penchant for eating sticky foods, their Tooth Fairy was racking up some pretty impressive frequent-flier miles. It wasn't long before they had a more attractive financial portfolio than their parents.
My son had just earned his first dollar from the Tooth Fairy when he asked me to explain what "rich" meant. I thought hard. This was important, and I didn't want to screw it up. On the one hand, I didn't want my children to grow into materialistic adults and value the wrong things in life. On the other hand, I certainly wanted them to appreciate a hard day's work and what it took to put food on the table each night.
"Well, son," I began. "Rich is when you don't have to split the toilet paper rolls between the upstairs bathroom and the downstairs one, hoping your kids are fast sprinters. Rich is when you have more than one good light bulb that you move from lamp to lamp, depending on where you want to read. Rich is when you require the services of a concierge and a sommelier in the same night. Rich is not laughing when you say the words concierge and sommelier."
I took a deep breath and continued, buoyed by his respectful attention. "Rich is hardcover, not paperback. Rich means never having to wait until it comes out on video. Rich is ordering dessert. Rich is not averting your eyes in shame when the woman who works in the restroom hands you a paper towel. Rich is bottled water, dry clean only, and valet parking."
Gently cupping his chin in my hand, I looked into his big green eyes. "Do you understand rich a little better now?" He smiled, sticking his tongue in the empty space between his teeth. "Sure, mom."
It was all sweet and good when each of them had one or two dollars to their name, but kids have a lot of teeth. Being fast learners, they quickly figured out how to work the market.
I borrow quite regularly from them, especially from my oldest daughter. She has the most gaps in her smile. If I let her stay up late she reduces her interest rate one percentage point. For a kid who has a hard time keeping her laces tied, she certainly has mastered the art of banking.
The other day she threatened to start keeping her money in an offshore account. Wary of showing me exactly where in her room she keeps her stash, she makes me wait in the hallway to do a deal. The piggy bank on her bureau is nothing more than a decoy containing a wooden coin from vacation bible school that says, "Jesus Loves Me." I wouldn't have been snooping, but late one night Mike and I had ordered a pizza and were two dollars short. Thankfully for us the girls had won a teddy bear at a Halloween parade that was covered in one-dollar bills. I carefully peeled off two from his back and hoped they'd never notice. The guilt gods cursed me with cold pizza, but I deserved it.
Excerpted from Welcome to the Motherhood by Melissa Jarvis. Copyright © 2004 Melissa Jarvis. Excerpted by permission of Plexus Publishing, Inc..
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