Chris Loprete, daddysden, Dads
* Blogger’s note: Due to the graphic nature of the following story and the family nature of this website, please note that throughout the blog, the word “laugh” and it’s uses will be used to represent the word “vomit.”
Ever had a stomach virus? For those that have, you may skip this next paragraph as I would hate to conjure painful flashbacks. For those that have not yet had the pleasure, let me describe a bout with a stomach virus. Imagine the worst 48 hours of your life. There. That’s pretty much it. Imagine dying of thirst, but not being able to drink even water because you can’t hold any liquids down. Imagine setting up a makeshift bed on the bathroom floor tile because there’s no real point in leaving the room where you’ll be spending most of the night plus you can’t waste precious seconds running all the way from your bedroom. Imagine involuntary chills, but a temperature of 102. Imagine if a genie appeared to you and said, “What is your wish, master?” and you unhesitant in your joyous answer, “Genie, kill me. I wish for death. Make it swift, but make it happen.” Of course this would be a strategic error because you could probably just as easily wish for the stomach virus to go away and still enjoy the rest of your life.
The TODDLER was taking a late afternoon nap when he laughed *(see above note) for the first time that Saturday. As adults when it comes to the unpleasant but inevitable task of laughing, we are experienced enough to run to the bathroom commode, laugh it up and flush it down. Toddlers can’t get to the bathroom so they just laugh and laugh. And man, there’s nothing more unpleasant than cleaning up projectile laughter. You find laughter in places that seem impossible. The TODDLER wasn’t done though. He began laughing every 15 minutes. The poor little guy was miserable. He didn’t understand what was happening. He only understood that he wanted it to stop. Every time he felt the laughter start to rise he would whine a meager, “No. No. Done. Done” as if to reason with his stomach that he was no longer enjoying this thank you very much. A doctor was called and prescribed an anti-nausea medication. Since it was after 6:00 on a Saturday evening, the prescription was called into an all night pharmacy. It was in the next town over and about a 15 minute drive. The FATHER raced over only to find that the all night pharmacy was closed from 7 PM to 7 AM that particular night due to “unforseen circumstances”. Of course it was. Upon arriving back at home empty handed the FATHER discovered that the TODDLER had been laughing in his own room, giggling in his parents’ bed, chortling in the hallway, and guffawing everywhere else. The MOTHER and FATHER would try to put a bucket in front of him, but the TODDLER began to associate that action with laughing and would push it away in hopes that it would stave off the next joke. Of course it didn’t and only made things quite a bit messier. Carpets needed to be scrubbed. The TODDLER’s bedsheets were soon soaking in the bathtub in an attempt to save them for future use. An attempt that would prove futile. The MOTHER and FATHER’s bedsheets were thrown into a washing machine that was about to have a very long night.
The FAMILY rushed to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. The title “emergency room” is one of those oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp” or “holy war”. Nothing about that place moves at the pace that emergencies should. And if you ever feel depressed because you’re sitting home on a Saturday night, take a walk over to your local emergency room. After spending 5 minutes in the packed waiting room of miserable, injured, and sick people, you’ll walk out feeling like a million bucks happily returning to your boring but healthy Saturday night at home. The FAMILY arrived at 9:00 and was seen at midnight. The TODDLER was given some medication that actually seemed to help. He stopped laughing long enough to hold down some liquids. The little guy was exhausted from his 6 hour ordeal however. The doctor looked at the PARENTS and said, “It’s so sad isn’t it? You just wish it was you going through it rather than him, don’t you?” Stupidly the FATHER agreed. And the irony began. When the FATHER turned to the MOTHER, he noticed that her face had gone deathly pale. She looked at him and said, “I don’t believe this. I’m about to start laughing.” She excused herself and went off to find a ladies room to chuckle in private. It was like the end of The Exorcist. The TODDLER was no longer possessed, but the evil spirits had hopped over to the nearest warm body. The hospital prescribed an anti-nausea medication (the same one the doctor had prescribed over the phone 5 hours before) and released the FAMILY. The pale MOTHER and recovering TODDLER headed out to the parking lot while the FATHER settled the bill. As he was filling out the paperwork, he suddenly felt the blood completely leave his face like the tide rushing out to sea just before a massive tidal wave. He felt his mouth go dry and his hands go clammy. You’ve got to be kidding me. The clerk handed his insurance card back and said cheerily,”You’re all set. Good night!” The FATHER grunted something incomprehensible and pondered turning right to the bathroom or left to the parking lot. Being the good father that he was, he decided to get his sick wife and baby home. He walked out to the car where the MOTHER was already in the driver’s seat. He was trying to talk himself out of laughing until he arrived home. No such luck. Things were just too funny on this night. The car was barely moving when the window was rolled down and the FATHER shared a joke with the parking lot. And then there were three…
Upon arrival home, the MOTHER and TODDLER wearily climbed into the master bed which was now a bare mattress with a bare comforter. The TODDLER quickly fell asleep while the MOTHER made a few more trips to the bathroom. The MOTHER and FATHER debated getting the prescription filled immediately or waiting until morning. The MOTHER reasoned that there would be no sleep without some form of medication. The FATHER reluctantly agreed, climbed into the car that didn’t have remnants of laughter all over the passenger door, and headed out to the other all night pharmacy which coincidentally was in the strip mall across the street from the previous all night pharmacy. This begs the question: what’s wrong with the inhabitants of this town that they need two all night pharmacies within fifty yards of each other? The FATHER felt queasy and exhausted, but was proud of his heroic efforts to take care of his family at 2:30 AM. In fact he felt downright thirsty. And he remembered that as a small boy, his mother always let him have Coke to help his upset stomach. So he picked up a bottle on his way out of the pharmacy. But always mindful of his weight, he settled for Diet Coke. Now this was stupid because A. he had probably dropped a pound or two anyway in the last couple of hours; B. the sweet coke syrup not found in Diet Coke was what helped upset stomachs and C. sipping the Diet Coke was probably the way to go rather than gulping half of the 20 ounce bottle in one swig. Needless to say the FATHER was halfway home when he felt the urge to cackle which quickly turned into a strong urge to hoot and holler. Having no time to pull over he rolled down the window and leaned out while acrobatically keeping the car straight. N
ow this was also stupid because if he had paid attention in Physics class he would know that expelling an object out of a vehicle moving 50 miles per hour would just bring said object right back into the vehicle at an equal velocity…or something like that. The joke was now on the FATHER not to mention the front seat of his car. Laughter: 2 Family Cars: 0. Had anybody been witness to this pathetic display, they would have seen a grown man driving a car down the highway screaming,
”AHHHHHHH! AHHHHHH! OH MY GOOOOODDD!!!!” Upon arrival at home, the FATHER quickly undressed and threw his clothes into the overworked washing machine. He jumped into the shower, scrubbed himself with the ferocity of an obsessive compulsive, toweled off, gave a pill to the MOTHER and took one for himself. He then staggered into bed and the family enjoyed a restless sleep for 2 hours.
The next two days were spent alternately on the couch and the bed. Frequent trips were made to the bathroom by both the MOTHER and the FATHER. The TODDLER was thankfully good as new and couldn’t understand why his parents didn’t enjoy it when he gleefully climbed all over them or jumped on their heads and why they remained in bed moaning all day. The MOTHER and FATHER were actually grateful that the TODDLER felt better. It would have been impossible to take care of him in this state. The FAMILY eventually recovered and actually relished in the weight loss. But they never will forget the night of 1000 Laughs.
So why do I recount this graphic tale that at times crosses the line of over sharing? Because looking back, it was a 72 hour period of time that can only be endured by people who truly love each other. Never has the term “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” been put to the test more. Because nothing says happy family like a night filled with laughter.
I was a working parent, and struggling with one of the most difficult years of my life. As much as I dreamed of winning the lottery and being able to spend time with my beautiful new baby boy, only 5 months old when I returned to my day job, I did not believe that I had a choice. I searched online often for the perfect opportunity that would make me stand up and go, “this is it! This is what I’ve been looking for! This is the perfect way to make money from home. Now I can quit!” But I never found it. It felt almost paradoxical that I was getting a decent middle income salary but I really only worked 10% of the time I was actually at my office- the other 90% just did my best to make myself look busy so that I wouldn’t be “found out.”
I needed the stable paycheck to pay for daycare. I grew to rely on that income, and not because I needed extra indulgences. Once we became parents, we cut out a lot of extras – going out to eat, we commuted in one car to save on gas, we gave up morning starbucks when the office coffee was just fine and free, and we stayed above water, but barely. So, believe me, it’s not as if I didn’t want to give up a posh lifestyle. With the cost of daycare, we were paycheck to paycheck and our incomes were the only stability we knew.
I was pretty convinced, even with all that internet searching that there was no alternative to this life. Although I found ads for millions of companies promising to give me EXACTLY what I needed, ironically, it was the very reason I didn’t feel that I could trust any of them. I wasn’t trying to be difficult and talk myself out of a good opportunity just because I was afraid. As a reasonably intelligent person, I know nothing was a guarantee, but there were just too many gray areas…the fine print that one doesn’t discover until AFTER you’ve already made the leap and are knee deep in your new “woops” career that will go nowhere and will eventually be shrugged off as, “well, I wanted to try.”
As a new parent, I couldn’t take that risk. Not when I had to think of my family. I’d made mistakes falling for the wrong get rich quick schemes before, and although it stung a bit, I would eventually get over it.
But this was different. I couldn’t afford a mistake this time. Not when I had a son, a mortgage, and job that gave me group health insurance.
It wasn’t until I was suddenly laid off and was forced into finding a new alternative that I saw things differently. With the severance I received, a bit of unemployment, and the daycare expense now non existent, I now had time to stay home with my son, at least for a little while – until I discovered what my next move would be. I had time to breath, even if only for a moment, and I wanted to take advantage of every second that I was able to stay with my son until the day I had to go back to a new job. I knew that day would come fast, but for the time being, I was just going to hug my son and breathe…just for a moment.
6 months later, I had a new viewpoint. After seeing my son flourish, my husband and I both feeling less stressed, time to actually spend weekends together rather than a frantic rush to finish laundry and grocery shop for the week, I called a family meeting and made a very important announcement.
“I am not going back to work.”
I didn’t care if I had to live in a cardboard box. I would never work for anyone else again, and leave my son. When I told my husband this, he stood there quietly staring at me, as if he was waiting for the punch line at the end of the joke.
Finally, he said, “Um, okay. That’s a nice thought, but…you can’t just DECIDE not to work again…”
Yes, I could. Every fiber in my being told me that I belonged at home with my son, and that if there was any way to make it work, I wanted to find it.
As a recent mother, I became intensely aware of the “maternal instinct” which fascinated me to no end. I had watched myself transform into everything a mother is supposed to be- even though a year later I was sure that there were things I wouldn’t be able to adapt to. I also learned in all my prenatal classes, how important our instincts really are when caring for a child, and how listening to them will almost always guarantee your best parental performance.
It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that extreme pain and turmoil I was in when I first dropped my son off at daycare to return to work after my maternity leave. This pain was unlike anything I’d ever known- and yet, I did my best to ignore it just to get through my work day. NOW, I was seeing in clearly- my instinct was shouting and pleading with me – “NO! Don’t leave your son. You aren’t ready and neither is he!” As much as I tried to avoid it, it followed me every where for an entire year. Once I went back to work, I couldn’t stand any “down time”. Infact, it made me crazy…so crazy that I’d walk in and out of every office asking if anyone needed any help with anything. I was afraid that if I stopped for a spilt second to think, my mind would take me to the one roomed home daycare where my child was growing up without me. So I kept myself as busy as I could to avoid that reality.
Yes, being at home with my son and living off of an unemployment check may have seemed irresponsible, but I was certainly earning that paycheck. And the more I thought about the kind of work that was involved in being a stay-at-home parent, the more it angered me that I wasn’t going to be able to keep that income flowing in. Didn’t I deserve it as much as anyone? Especially when I’d spent the last 5 years at my day job doing approximately 75% personal stuff, anyway?
NO! I wasn’t leaving my son again. I didn’t care what it took, I’d find a way to stay home. I’d even be willing to sell our house, our 2nd car, shop at thrift stores and garage sales. Nothing else mattered. I would not leave my son again. I knew, beyond any doubt that I would find the answer I so desperately tried to find on all my internet searches 6 months before. Because this time I HAD TO.
Literally keeping me up at night, I couldn’t shake the idea that there had to be others who were just like me, not knowing that it was possible to make a change and have a better life. It made me horribly sad to think that had I not been laid off, I’d still be working, surfing the internet and praying that the miracle answer would come save me. Ironically, my lay off was the answer to my prayers- even if only temporary. It brought me home to my son and showed me that I clearly didn’t belong anywhere but here. I began jotting down some ideas.
Although it’s easy to blame others, for the situation I was in- Bosses who should have promoted me, or been more flexible, allowing me to telecommute, better and more affordable daycares, politicians who didn’t spend our tax money in areas that would have helped better our situations, our government for not making paid maternity leave longer, my parents and inlaws for not being able to retire, move in from out of state and become permanent babysitters… the fact was, I didn’t know who to blame.
We live in a democracy, and what that means to me is that no one is allowed to tell me what career to have, or what role to have in my life. Although they may not be easy to find, there is always an opportunity to work, to make money, to seek a better education. We all know we can do anything we want if we put our mind to it, so then why aren’t we doing it? Why are so many of us struggling? What are we missing? These are the questions that kept me up at night.
I also couldn’t shake the feeling that others out there, just like me, even less fortunate than I- who weren’t lucky enough to be laid off, and might never have the chance to experience what I had- and be given the answer that I had. I wanted others to know that they did have a choice and despite their fears in leaving their stable cor
porate jobs, they had no idea that it was seriously necessary. Thinking that I might never have been given the gift of knowing what it was like to stay at home would bring me to tears.
I had to do something. Now that I was seeing things so much more clear than the year before, I knew I had to find a legitimate way to bring in a supplemental income, at least as much as unemployment would pay. I had to use my passion to help others.
But, what could I do? Somehow get everyone fired from their day jobs so that they could collect unemployment, too? No- obviously not the answer.
I want to not only help other parents have the opportunity to stay home with their children, but to help them realize that they are not wrong in wanting to do so. I want for other parents to be able to stop denying themselves the truth in what they deserved. I want them to know that they do belong at home with their children and their families deserve to flourish.
We have listened to politicians from every group talk about family values as if it was the one thing that was ripping our country apart, and yet there doesn’t seem to be any concern for the fact that the average educated family with two parents and at least one child need 2 incomes to survive. If family values are really what our country needs to get itself into a healthier place, then why isn’t there more focus on keeping children at home with their parents rather than at a daycare?
In my frantic search for some answers, I found that there were many people who felt the way that I did, and some very smart groups had already formed movements to get themselves heard. I encourage you to check out some of these groups: www.momsrising.org and www.moveon.org
That is a good place to start.
Welcome to my brain. It keeps going and going and going- like the energizer bunny. I am anxious to see if OurMilkMoney helps the situation the way I believe it will. But if it doesn’t… you can bet I will keep on tweaking until it does make some sort of impact. I won’t give up trying. None of us should. Our families are counting on us to save the world.
daddysden, Dads, Family
Written by Chris Mancini
It’s always a treat to go to Whole Foods. It’s good food, it’s fresh, and everything tastes pretty good. Yes, it’s a great experience until you get to the cashier and you always think they made a mistake. I actually took a bag of grapes back because I thought $15 for the bag was a mistake. It wasn’t. No one needs grapes that badly, even of your winery just burned down.
With two kids, I want them to eat healthier. I want to eat healthier. So why is it now so freaking hard? When as a society did we get to the point where it costs more to have less shit in our food? “Oh, you want food that’s not going to kill you? Now THAT will cost you…”
So we’re trying to adjust our budget so we can afford food that won’t kill us. We mix in visits with Trader Joe’s and try to eat out less. And I told our three year old daughter that she’s now going to trade school instead of college but to enjoy the organic broccoli.
But there are other reasons I do love Whole Foods. There is entertainment value while you’re shopping. I love watching overly thin women in baseball caps take four hours to pick out the right vitamins. I also love watching the “poser” healthy people. The ones who want to be seen and want you to think “Look how healthy I am! I shop at Whole Foods. Look, I have a bottle of water in my hand right now.” You know afterwards they go home, eat four packages of Ding Dongs and then throw up. My wife even had a friend who would go there just to pick up men. And was never unsuccessful.
I love Whole Foods because they are trying to help me and my family eat healthier. I hate them because they are expensive and they shouldn’t be. I’m angry that it costs more to get fruit not covered in pesticides and food without chemicals in it whose names I can’t even pronounce. It shouldn’t cost more to get actual maple syrup out of a tree than to manufacture it in a giant vat from a bunch of chemicals. So until Costco goes organic, my second mortgage and I will be at Whole Foods.
I am grateful to have a roof over my head.
I am grateful that we have 2 cars, and even if they are older than the city we live in, we no longer have payments, and we somehow they always get us from point A to point B.
I am grateful for who I am, and who I’ve become over the years, and the road I took to get here, no matter how treacherous it may have seemed at the time.
I am grateful for my 2 year old son, who took 2 years to be conceived.
I am grateful for those 2 years of trying to conceive, because if it was any easier, I might not appreciate every moment I have with him the way I do now.
I am grateful that I am able to be my own boss, and to never have to make someone else’s priorities more important than my own ever again.
I am grateful that I am able to share my experiences to benefit others, and I am grateful for those who continue to share their experiences with me.
I am grateful for the friendships I’ve made through the years. Although some friends have come and gone, I’ve learned amazing things from each unique soul that I am happy to never forget.
I am grateful that my husband supports my need to stay at home with our son, even though it meant giving up my once very large corporate salary.
I am grateful to see how my son has flourished since I came home to take care of him.
I am grateful for the internet, for it has allowed me to connect with so many others just like me who want great things for their children.
I am grateful to have met so many wonderful parents across the country who believe in my mission, have joined me in this ambition, and are willing to give what they can to make a difference.
I am grateful that I am imperfect, because learning is half the fun, and each day I am able to grow wiser and more knowledgeable.
I am grateful for my health and the health of my friends and family. Even when we are sick, we find ways to heal, and each illness makes us stronger.
But most of all, I am grateful for the life I have yet to live, for each day brings new lessons, new reasons to laugh and cry, and new insights to the mystery of my purpose on earth.
The storm did stop, but it rained on and off for a few weeks after that- the kind of drizzle that makes you feel like you can’t get out and accomplish anything, and the moment you try, it’s such a big dramatic event, you decide not to attempt it again until there is the slightest bit of sun poking through the sky. These dark and dreary days were the days I realized I was turning into a hermit in my house. There was only so much conversation I could have with my 15 month old, the house was cleaner than a hospital and my laundry had been folded and sorted by color 15 times since breakfast, and it was only noon. I was bored. I didn’t miss work, and the stress of leaving my son in that awful daycare, or the boss who wouldn’t let me leave 30 minutes early to go pick him up. But I did miss my friends. I missed the excitement of the day to day, and the gossip, which surrounded me on a daily basis working at a network television studio.
I needed friends. Although I had lived in my house for 4 years, I’d been commuting into the city for work, and my social life. I didn’t know a single person in my community.
I decided to join a play group. As selfish as this may sound, this group was more for me than for my son, and with every outing we made, you could probably tell how desperate I was.
You would have thought I was a teenager starting in a new highchool mid semester. Every day I woke up excited of all the possibilities.
I spent time researching our local paper and internet for activities and made a list of all the things we would attend together. Every morning I got us both dressed in our cutest baby and mommy outfits, paying extra attention to details such as dressing down enough to be the perfect stay at home mom, while applying my make-up flawlessly and practicing my “friendly smile” in the rearview mirror while in the car in route.
Although the rain and stopped, the clouds were still following me around as I desperately tried to attach myself to a group that I could connect with. I was still used to my friends and colleagues at work, the artsy entertainment folk, most of whom didn’t have kids, or if they did, left the raising of them to a nanny or a relative. Perhaps I seemed too eager to make friends. I’d sit in the mommy and me groups participating, singing, laughing, commenting on the other children, and rarely got much response from the other moms. I imagined them going home together, getting on their cell phones and laughing about the “new mom” who was obviously trying to hard. Perhaps I’d seen too many movies and TV shows about Desperate Homemakers, but since I wasn’t yet at ease in this new culture, those fictional stories were all I had to draw from.
I began to wonder if I’d been living in a vacuum for 4 years, and since I’d been commuting, I hadn’t noticed the zombies that were living next door. I couldn’t imagine myself ever being this cold to another human being. No matter what group I belonged to, I’d always made the newcomer feel welcome, and most of the people I’d known up until this point all would have done the same. What was wrong with these people? Did the koolade in this town turn stay-at-home moms into Babylonians? Would I eventually become one of them? I imagine a modern day version of Stepford Wives, except that our only form or communicating with one another was singing, “Come on everybody it’s parachute time” to the tune of “the wheels on the bus go round and round.”
Everyday while getting my infant son and I ready for the day, I’d remind him, “today, we are going to go out and make some friends today!” I was determined. Finally after 2 very long months of wondering if I’d ever fit in to any of the mom groups, I broke down and asked one of the teachers at a Mommy and Me class we’d been attending. Actually, it was just after she approached me to thank me for always being so smiley, upbeat, and participating in all the songs and activities, despite the obvious fact that I was being so rudely ignored. I hugged the teacher her with such relief and thanked her for noticing what a struggle it had been for me to fit in! “Please,” I whispered, “Tell me where all the ‘cool’ moms are!” She put her arm around me and said, “you didn’t hear this from me. Show up to the music class 9:30am on Friday.” It was as if I was getting a secret tip in Vegas to take part in an underground operation. I was so excited I could hardly wait.
Friday arrived, and I discovered exactly what I’d been looking for. A group of women just like me- just my age, first time moms, incredibly happy to be right where they were in their lives, and thrilled that I wanted to “play” with them. That day, the sun burned through the clouds for good. And it didn’t rain for the rest of the summer. Now, when it does rain, I have a nice cozy group of mommy friends to spend time with, and our kids all get along great too. This rainbow was definitely worth the storm that created it.