What We Say (Five Questions That Are Hard To Answer)

June 11, 2015

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A few weeks ago I was standing in line at the post office when a woman with four young children trailed in behind me. She was carrying a large box, an overstuffed purse, and a very tired baby. I said a quick hi, how are you. She replied good! And then we both pretended I didn’t just ask a mother of four how’s she feeling with a bunch of hangry kids at the post office during lunchtime.

It’s part of the social constructs of life. Someone comes up and asks a polite question and we give a polite answer back. It’s not that they aren’t sincere or that we’re not honest, it’s just that not everyone needs to know that “I’m fine” means “I’m tired and possibly have a sinus infection.”

The concept of TMI is insulting to those of us who like to just tell it like it is, but I will admit to small talk for the sake of saving everyone the long version. I’m also the kind of introvert that is an open book with friends, but quiet as a church mouse with the other moms at the library.

Five questions no one really wants to answer, the last being my personal favorite as it usually involves panic and mild hives.

Here’s to finding middle ground.

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1) You have a newborn! How are you feeling?

What I say: I’m doing okay. A little tired and sore, but hanging in there.

What I mean: The other day I sneezed and I think part of my vagina fell out. I’m not sure. When I called the doctor, they put me on with a nurse who said to apply ice and maybe take a few deep breaths. I hung up and ate fourteen individually packaged brownies to cope. Breastfeeding is going okay, minus the blinding pain and cracked nipples. My cousin told me to put cold cabbage leaves down my shirt, but so far I just smell like coleslaw. I’m doing the best I can. My plans include survival and lifelong abstinence. I don’t know, I haven’t slept since last Tuesday.

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2) What do you do in your spare time?

What I say: Read, write. I haven’t had time to watch much TV, but I heard Broad City is good!

What I mean: Let’s see, watch as much good TV as humanly possible while also keeping up with library books, writing projects, and herding the kids from room to room. Also have you ever seen the hit TV series Friends? Because I’m still watching that, too. Lately I’ve been dragging myself to aerobics at the gym so I don’t die of a frozen pizza induced heart attack at 30, but most of my very limited spare time is spent doing things that don’t require thinking, talking, or making eye contact with strangers.

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3) How are the kids doing?

What I say: Good. Very busy!!!

What I mean: Yesterday my one-year-old took one of my sneakers, dipped it into an unflushed toilet and drank it shot style. She would have gone for seconds, but I intervened which was pretty devastating. Have you ever heard the mating call of a howler monkey? That’s the sound my daughter makes when I take away her feces water. If one more person asks me to make them a sandwich, I’m going to lock myself in the bathroom for the remainder of the week.

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4) Are you thinking of having any more children?

What I say: I’d like another one, but Austin isn’t sure. We’ll see!

What I mean: I AM SO TIRED BUT ISN’T THE MIRACLE OF BIRTH AMAZING. I love birth. I could give birth all over this place. I love screaming for an epidural and pushing out a new slippery human into the world. The recovery is semi-horrifying, but have you ever smelled fresh baby scalp? It’s a heroine shot of love. How could that phase of my life be over? YOLO. Let’s do this one more time. It should be the easiest one yet. They can sleep on the floor like Tarzan and eat table scraps from the other two. My husband disagrees, but I think that’s because he enjoys sleep, hobbies, and easy vacationing.

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5) What are you up to lately? Anything exciting?

What I say: Oh, I don’t know. {Insert advanced stuttering}

What I meanI found a five dollar bill in an old pair of pants the other day, that was pretty thrilling. I wish big things were on the horizon; that the book I’m writing is finished or that I’m planning a cross country road trip to California. But the truth is the list of writing projects is long and money is tight. I hired a once-a-week babysitter and am starting a babysitting swap, but like most people– every day is about balance. Finding joy in the mundane while moving forward with the big picture. I am happy but it’s also a lot about eating a burrito in the dark after the kids have gone to bed. That’s about as good as it gets.

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22 thoughts on “What We Say (Five Questions That Are Hard To Answer)

  1. Dara

    You are brave to be starting a babysitting swap. I can barely handle my own 4 and 1 year old boys. The thought of watching other kids? Anxiety attack. I have a “mother’s helper” (basically an 11 year old girl who plays with the kids while I get some chores done around the house) and that has been a godsend!

    Reply
    1. May

      If you are really lucky, some of the kids will keep each other busy. A friend of mine is really happy when my daughter visits, because it’s like the only time her daughter will stay busy and not want something every five minutes.

      Reply
  2. Chelsea Queen

    I’m currently mothering a 19 month old and a 2 month old. Laughing and crying and nodding in understanding through so much of your writing. Makes me feel like I’m not going crazy as I scoop out appleslices from the toliet and find my self at a place in life where I have to have a secret stash of chocolate that I have to hide from a toddler.

    Reply
  3. Danielle

    BabySitting swaps are life. My best friend has two around the same age as Taylor, and we switch them all the time. It just so happens that our moms did the same thing with us and our siblings when we were kids. Sometimes we get weepy about the tradition, especially when our two girls act like the best of besties. Next generation!

    Reply
  4. Shana

    Its 6 in the morning where I live. I have been awake for an hour and a half so I can get ready and have coffee in quiet before the kids wake up and this post literally has me snorting coffee through my nose! I love it! Definitely a new follower!

    Reply
  5. Julie H.

    once again, i’m dying–you are TOO funny! and in case my fb friends didn’t already know your blog is comic realism wrapped up with toilet-dipped sneaker anecdotes, i posted this as proof.

    Reply
  6. Allie Fogle

    1st time reader of your blog over here and omg I laughed so hard my 3 year old asked me why I was crying. Can we be friends? Hilarious! Thank you for making me laugh when I’d rather still be in bed. If we can’t laugh at toilet drinking incidents in our homes (my son drank the dog water but don’t worry, he used a cup- sophisticated like) than what can we do? There is only so much crying one can do in a day! Like you said, everyday is about balance :)

    Reply
  7. Robin Raflo

    #5 propels me into a sweaty panic too. Like, I can barely remember what occurred in my life 3 hours ago, let alone the last few weeks! And to actually form coherent sentences about titillating events not involving babies- forget it. I often have this same dilemma of finding the balance of truth telling and polite generics, but I definitely think I over share wayyy too much. But hell- I always think that if I were talking to me, I would appreciate the authenticity. So I’ll continue making folks feel uncomfortable for the sake of being real! ;)

    Reply
  8. Kathryn S

    Haha! Kate! This is (as usual)- so funny, so poignant, so honest. thanks for this- feces water had me loling in the bathroom while I was drying my hair.

    Reply
  9. Shannon

    My (now 13) 18 month old son came toddling out of the bathroom gnawing on a wadded up piece of tp fished out of an unflushed bowl like it was Charmin jerky. And that happened when I only had 2. I feel ya.

    Reply
  10. Mavis

    I vote we bring awkward silence back. I walked into Home Goods today and a 17 year old boy asks… “Heeeeeey, how’s it going?”

    What do you even say to that? How about just let me walk around the store for 10 minutes without buying anything and then leave like I always do. I don’t need to tell you what I’m up to or what my plans or for the day. Idle conversation makes me CRAZY. Awkward silence is much, much better.

    Reply
  11. Christina Rauh Fishburne

    I used to read books. Now I read your blogs. I feel it is a vast improvement. I relate, I’m absolved, I get a much needed laugh, and most importantly: I can FINISH them. The day’s accomplishment list just got longer. Thank you.

    Reply
  12. Lindsay @ Trial By Sapphire

    My daughter will be four months old next Monday, and I’ve been asked all of these. I can’t help but answer with sarcasm, because after a long night of interrupted sleep (which is a modern form of torture) and a long day at the office, everything I say is dripping with sarcasm!

    Reply
  13. Marla Pi

    Hi, I’m a first time reader of your blog and this post made me laugh so much I’ve shared it with my “village”. Yep, I’ve been back-reading your posts, love them. Will definitely be back for more. Thanks a lot!

    Reply
  14. A Morning Grouch

    Haha, so true! I’m a teacher so I’ve been getting a lot of, “What have you been doing all Summer?” and I think about how I’ve been mostly just changing diarrhea filled diapers and puke off the carpet (2 year old and 1 year old have been sick on and off fo a month!)

    Reply

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