August 2009

Chocolate in the underwear drawer

By Suzanne Strazza

“You keep chocolate, where?”

“In my underwear drawer.” Duh, doesn’t everyone?

“Well, that’s just weird.”

Why would my co-worker think it’s weird to hide chocolate in my delicates?

Oh. Because she doesn’t have children.

But when I mention this conversation to my friends that are parents, it makes perfect sense to them: chocolate in the panties, licorice in the linen closet, Oreos in the cleaning cabinet.

Nothing is sacred when there are children in the house (husbands, too, but I won’t get into that right now), not chocolate, Scotch tape, clean towels. Also, not quiet time, personal space, sex. EVERYTHING becomes group gear, group time, group space.

And for as much as we love our children, sharing everything, having no personal anything, at times, can feel like living at Guantanamo.

Like the chocolate, I am feeling the Chocolove these days with their chili, cherry dark chocolate. Since I am actually not a sweet-eater, the fact that I am craving this takes on great significance and that craving must be satisfied. In other words, when I need it, nothing had better get in my way. So, in order to ensure that I will not go searching and come up with an empty wrapper, I keep it in one place I know that no one else will venture. This works for me.

Although, after speaking with my non-parent friend, I have spent many hours fantasizing, not about the chocolove, but about being able to leave it on the kitchen counter, OUT IN THE OPEN. It is beyond my imagination. I can’t even begin to say how often I have come upon one teaspoon of grapefruit juice left in the fridge, or a crumb of chip left in the bottom of the bag and suffered great heartbreak because the one thing I wanted was gone.

But this need for “me” does not just cover food. When kids are in the picture, there is no privacy, no opportunity to be spontaneous, read a book, take a bike ride, talk on the phone. When my boys were little-er, I craved personal space so badly at times I could cry. I wanted peace, time to think, time when there weren’t little snotty hands pawing at me. We had two bathrooms at that point, one of which was teensy tiny, just barely enough room for a toilet. I would often claim the need to pooh, just to have the chance to sneak off into that room. I would sit on top of the closed lid and stare out the window, sucking in fresh, silent air.

Tom thought I had such bad digestive trouble that I needed to see a doctor.

I remember when a friend of mine was pregnant with number two. It was hot, she was huge and her son was 2 and needy. He wanted to be entertained (as all 2-year-olds do), wanted her attention and did not need five naps a day. She, on the other hand saw what her life was going to be like as soon as she gave birth to another and wanted to get in a little bit of reading before she gave it all up. She worked out a deal with her child; she could lie on the couch and read romance novels and he could play “Mountain Climber” on her enormous belly – as long as he didn’t talk to her.

Rather pathetic if you haven’t tried to read anything longer than the back of a cereal box with a 2-year-old.

Then there is the biggie – sex. You lose all, and I mean all, privacy when you have little ones crawling around, wanting to play, eat, sleep, cry, or just generally be in your presence. You become desperate; doing it in the garage while taking out the trash or on the hard floor while the child sleeps soundly in the bed. My friend’s father, who was in the military, rarely got the opportunity for intimate time with his wife. He was rarely home, sometimes gone for 9 months at a time, and when he did arrive, not only did his wife want some attention, but the kids ran around screaming “daddydaddydaddy.”

In his desperation, he would scatter 49 quarters throughout the back yard. Then, he would tell the kids that there were 50 of them out there and not to come inside until they found them all. When my friend got old enough he finally gave up on caring about the one last quarter and Dad had to come up with a new plan.

Desperation can also breed poor choices. But when you haven’t had a minute to yourself, or a bite of the chocolove, poor choices be damned. Sometimes Mommy’s sanity is more important than child’s safety. A broken leg can be fixed, but a crazy mother can’t be.

Imagine the mom whose phone rings at 8 p.m. It is her best friend from high school with whom she hasn’t spoken in six months. It is also the first adult that she has spoken with since noon the day before. NOTHING is going to get in the way of catching up. While they are chatting, the friend screeches; her child has just drawn five giant cows on the couch in red Sharpie. While our Mom is laughing, her daughter comes out of the bathroom licking the plunger like a lollipop. They continue to chat. Really, what’s a new slipcover or a little e-coli compared to a bit of adult time and sanity for our moms?

So judge at will. Laugh at the ridiculousness of a bra with chocolate smudges. Shake your head in disbelief when you see a mother talking on the phone while her child plays in the street.

Just please, please, don’t ever take for granted the freedom of opening the fridge and finding exactly what you put in there the day before, the joy of reading more than two sentences in one sitting, or the pleasure of long luxurious sex in your very own bed.

Suzanne Strazza is a wife and mother in Mancos, Colo.