Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nancy Pelosi - A Sister Who's Doin' It For Herself, Me - A Sister Who CANNOT Do It By Herself

It’s time to salute one of our own, mamas. If you haven’t already heard by now, a whip smart mother of five – incidentally also someone who publicly dubbed President Bush a “liar,” “incompetent,” “an emperor who wears no clothes” and “dangerous” -- is now the first female to be at the helm of the House of Representatives!

Bravo, Nancy Pelosi! Thank you, Madam Speaker-elect for giving me a fresh, much-needed perspective on how much more arduous my three-kid juggling act could be (and how much of a total schlub I am for kvetching ad infinitum about the rigors of modern childrearing in the first place).

I can't be the only voting mama dying to know, Madam Speaker, how did you survive five labors and deliveries, become a grandmother of yet five more and still manage to conquer a cutthroat, mostly gentlemen’s Capitol club?

Pelosi, San Francisco’s Eighth District representative since 1987, during a post-victory press conference jokingly threatened to use her “mom of five voice” when a microphone malfunctioned. I loved it. Thanks to the wonders of live, "breaking news" coverage I got to hear that loaded maternal power nugget (so many moms surely can relate to) in real-time.

“Maybe it takes a woman to clean house,” Pelosi also said after learning of her historic victory. You weren’t kidding, Nancy, even if I can’t figure out whether this particular comment sets women back a few decades or not.

Whoa. Hold up a second. I can just see dedicated hubster rolling his eyes, since he, not me, elbows through most of the nitty gritty scrubbing (worthy of the white-glove test, I might add) in the nooks and crannies of our pad.

Speaking of women like Pelosi who continually champion fellow women and women’s interests, (kind of lame segue but work with me here) I’ve wondered a lot lately about just how far I would make it as a woman and mother without the continued help of fellow women and moms, some close friends and family and others complete strangers.


(For the record, let me now state that I do not and have not allowed strangers to watch or babysit my children. Never, never, NEVER! The brand of help I'm referring to from strangers is more along the lines of opening the door for me at the post office after saying the customary and completely unoriginal "Wow. You've got your hands full!")

Just today I leaned on the receptionist at 3-year-old Moody Cheeks McGee’s preschool to watch over (through stock tinted glass) my slumbering away 2-year-old daughter, Pigtail Sprite, in my still-running, parked minivan so I could pick up her big brother from his nearby classroom.

Trust me. Waking up an overtired feisty girl toddler who declared a walkout on naptime for the third day in a row is a very, very unwise idea. Please don’t try it at home. Let alone a minivan mafia monopolized preschool parking lot.

As usual on the two days a week Cheeks attends preschool (for only 4 hours each time but long enough for him to complain that he spends too much time there), Cheeks knocked completely off on the ride to pick up his 5-year-old brother from school. In the rearview mirror he looked like a grumpy old man, snoring away with tension-stitched brows.

I guess daubing himself from head to toe in musky, food-coloring tinted shaving cream really wears my little Cheeks McGee out. Either that or the senses-accosting sight of way too many wired 2-year-olds dressed in garish caped costumes even though Halloween is long gone and just "because they can" at Bohemian preschool.

Moments later and three or so miles away from Cheek’s preschool parking lot, I found myself pathetically asking for help again. I timidly called upon another female office administrator, this time at my kindergartner son's school, for help watching my minivan slumbering kids. If unloading one snoozing toddler is unwise, you bet your ass I’m not trying it with two!

If not for an acquaintance who offered her two very mama-capable arms to help, I seriously think I might have lost Pigtail Sprite in the dark while trick-or-treating. I'd give anything to turn into an 8-nerve-packed-sensitive-armed octopus when my three-kids-aster blasts off in three different, manic directions.

I can't tell you how many times I've asked my mom of one neighbor to watch the kids "for a sec" that turns into ten minutes of noodling around with mundane chores. She just took down the large"for sale" sign beaconing from her front lawn, opting to wait to sell until after the holidays. I keep telling her that she can't move. I don't know what I'd do without her. Thankfully I can return a fraction of the many favors she's done for me by watching her almost 2-year-old son this morning. Don't forget I owe you a date night babysitting too, neighbor.

Along with profound gratitude for the help women so dependably (even if I don't necessarily know them very well) assist me and my children comes profound shame and embarrassment. Humiliation that I even feel the need to sometimes ask for assistance. Clearly this sister is not “doin’ it for herself” much of the time, and that hurts.

I’m sure all mothers out there (some of whom, like me, cannot afford babysitters and nannies) know all too well what I’m talking about. When I’m older and my children are off at college or smashing guitars into bumper-stickered amps or whatever, I hope to return the favor by helping a frazzled, over-her-head mother of three (or less or more). Maybe I'll lighten a random mom's load in some dangerously minivan in motion packed parking lot cope with keeping her brood in transit, and her head screwed on all right.

For now, though, I’m still the frazzled mother who can’t help but reluctantly ask for help more often than she like to admit, even to her own self. I feel like the opposite of self-help.

How often do you mamas out there ask for other women (especially mothers) to help you? Do you feel guilty about leaning on other women to help take care of your kids in a pinch? How are you helping fellow mothers and women now? How do you plan on continuing (or paying back, depending on how you look at it) the age-old cycle of sisterly support?


At 7:15 AM, Blogger Little Miss said...

Please! tell me about it-- I am SO SICK of hearing, "wow, you've got your hands full!" Gee, thanks, I didn't seem to notice. How very thoughtful of you!

And I don't feel guilty for asking other women to help out because I reciprocate that service in other ways. We trade babysitting quite often (huge savings on the babysitting funds), we ask "favors" of one another (car rides, lunch to school, keep an eye on my munchkin while i run inside real quick, etc.)

And the other thing I do--when I happen to be out on my own (rare but it DOES happen) I go out of my way to help others. I know I struggle at the grocery stores and post office, so when I see someone else struggle I jump right in and say "I have three kids, let me help you." Women rarely refuse help, i know because I am one of them!

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous chris said...

i took the help when my 5 were young (i once flipped a shopping cart with 4 of them on board.)and now i will always pay back when i can. (it DOES help to have 2 hands free now!) there was NO way i could have gotten along without it, and my guess is neither can you. i think it's a sisterly bond builder that any mom should give and take. nice post!

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

I don't think Sisters ARE supposed to do for themselves...

I think we should help and ask for help..isn't that what community is all about?

While in the winter I hardly see my neighbours in the summer we have all jumped in to help each other.

I have an online friend that puts together stress relieving playdates for me.

My mom steps in when she can even just for a moment so I can tackle just one kid at a time (and I only have two!)

I jump in to help any mom and hope they would help me too.

You should see the looks I get when walking both kids AND the dog!

At 12:01 PM, Anonymous karrie said...

Says quite a bit about our society that you feel guilty for asking for help in the situations you mentioned. Really, more people should feel guilty for not offering to help, not for asking when it's truly needed.

I only have one child--but he has the activity level of a whole room of 2 year-olds--and I can count on one hand the number of times I've received a sympathetic smile or offer to hold a door, etc. Lots of people feel free to chime in with Wow! You have your hands full!

You know who does help though? Pregnant women, the elderly and mothers pushing newborn triplets and carrying a toddler in a sling. I think you have to have "been there" to have the grace to offer help.

At 12:41 PM, Blogger sunshine scribe said...

I have a serious challenge asking for help. I have some wonderful mamas in my life who would totally help me out in a second ... but its that guilt thing, that martyr complex. Ug.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger jen said...

ahhh. the age old question and the struggle to admit we all need a bit of help from time to time.

that said, i rarely do it - and the consequences are high. that said, though..i get very few offers...i think i'd take them up on it if it was presented.

guilt is so overrated...take what you can get, sister...i think it makes us better moms. Nancy's got a million aids at her disposal.

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