Monday, August 18, 2014

Mommy Advice of the Day: Roommates & Kids Don't Always Mix

Lately there's been something troubling me, and I just need to get it off my chest. Since this website gives me a convenient platform to voice my concerns and get an opinion on them, I'm using it now to its full capacity and will (hopefully) simultaneously enlighten you on some tips to looking for roommates if you have kids, and/or living with roommates who have kids.

I have a friend who is extremely agreeable, kind, caring, and has put up with a lot in her time. For the sake of this, let's call her Ann. If you were to ask her about looking for roommates when you have kids, he would tell you that unless that roommate is your own mother, father, or in-law, or a markedly mature dear friend (one with whom you always get along well), DON'T DO IT without thinking it over very, very carefully. I don't care how perfect the roommate seems. If they do not themselves have children, there is a high likelihood that you will end up in a scenario similar to the one in which Ann now finds herself.

This is, of course, not to say that every childless person will make a terrible roommate, but unless you're one of the lucky ones, the chances are great that the person will either a) come to resent you & your family, b) fail to understand why certain things aren't allowed in the house, or c) they will leave you feeling as if you are taking care of another child - one that hates you and isn't the slightest bit grateful for all that you do, no matter how much headway you give them or how responsible they seemingly were beforehand.

I typically prefer to stay out of this territory and keep things private between the involved party. However, since the posting of a rather threatening status by the offending party against my friend (only part of a string of even longer passive-aggressive statuses have been posted - despite my friend never having been approached to hear these complaints in person from the one who wrote them), I've been compelled to address this, if only to give comfort to my friend and show her in solidarity that she is NOT in the wrong and rather should be commended for being such a good mother in spite of all she's having to deal with.

So, let's start at the beginning, shall we? And of course, for privacy reasons, names have been changed, so that the bitch in question isn't publicly shamed by her actions. Also because she doesn't deserve the attention. This is, for all intents and purposes, a public service announcement to serve as a cautionary tale to others.

My friend and her husband, let's call them Ann and Mark, moved out into a nice little home. Since the cost of all the deposits on a newly rented home can be a little steep, they figured they'd make use of the extra bedroom and offer it to Mark's friend, John. John was a great guy - kind, helpful, friendly, and had been Mark's friend for ages. Ann was equally fond of him. The only downside was John's freeloading girlfriend, whom we shall call Amanda. Neither Mark nor Ann cared for Amanda, as she was highly annoying, off-putting, self-centered, and excessively lazy. Unfortunately, she would be accompanying him, which Mark and Ann were none too pleased about, but figured since she claimed she was "good with kids" (the first of many outright lies from Amanda), she would at least be able to perhaps help a little with their toddler should Mark and Ann get the rare opportunity to go out on a date, and they had borne her incessant yammering about herself before when they used to visit with John prior to their move, so they knew it could be done.

Besides, John just got a new job in the area Mark and Ann had happened to move to, so they were both (especially Mark) glad to help him make his commute a little easier, even though Mark's commute was still over an hour... because Mark and Ann were awesome and helpful like that.

They had always a high opinion of John, who had been friends with Mark for some time. He was mature, responsible, helpful - everything his freeloading girlfriend Amanda was not. So, naturally, they assumed that he would make sure to instruct his girlfriend (who had only ever lived with her parents) on how to conduct yourself properly and maturely, and how to be a good roommate in a situation where adults are sharing a roof with other adults.

By the end of the first month, Mark and Ann realized that this was not so.

It started off small enough. The first week, when they were getting settled, Ann started noticing that every night she would come upon a literal sink full of dishes - Mark and Ann's dishes - when they themselves were subsisting only on TV dinners and take out for the time being since Ann was going through a rough patch in regards to her health and was too worn out from mothering all day to cook most nights (which is totally understandable, babies can be a handful). John and Amanda would soil more dishes in a week than Mark or Ann could in a month (even though Amanda would never lift a hand to cook anything herself and coerced John into doing it for her), and then left it to Ann to put away in the dishwasher herself, on top of watching her toddler all day and working from home.

The dishwasher, by the way, that was a mere foot away from the sink where they haphazardly stacked up dishes that didn't even belong to them. In addition, they would soil the countertops and scatter dirt and crumbs everywhere and again, expected that it must've been Ann's "job" to clean up after everyone else, including these so-called "adults" who have clearly never been in a real roommate situation as they didn't have a clue how to clean up after themselves.

Well, that's not totally fair - John, for what it's worth, is a guy, and my gypsy heritage leads me to not fault him for not knowing how to clean like a woman should know how.

Oh, and before I catch flak for this - I'm not being sexist, and not saying that all cleaning should only be done by women. Simply saying that ladies are just inherently better at it, especially if they embrace their natural gifts! Guys can be just as good, of course, with enough practice and determination. ;)

Also, Ann did note that he made a commendable effort to clean up after his slovenly girlfriend, but I shit you not when I say that girl is a fucking mess inside and out. Ever see the show Hoarders? Ann is convinced that Amanda strives for that level of chaos in her surroundings.

Herein lay the first problem that needed to be addressed. But how to address it? Ann, who has always expressed herself better through writing than through speech, opted to write a firm but friendly (and even slightly humorous) note and attached it to the fridge, hoping that would be enough to remind everyone (even her well-meaning husband, Mark) where dirty dishes need to be put and why it's important to wipe up messes right after they occur as opposed to leaving them to sit, making set-in spots that are harder to remove.

Seems like a note you'd be putting on your fridge to remind your kids how to clean, doesn't it? It's sad when someone who is a legal adult (Amanda) doesn't understand these things to the point of needing to explain them as you would to a 4-year-old.

Despite all this, and Mark having asked John to relay the message to his chick, dishes kept appearing in the sink. Every night. For weeks. Can you imagine how maddening that is? You help someone out, do them a favor, ask nothing in return but for them to take care of themselves, and then they move in and start dirtying your dishes and leaving you to wake up and find a pile of them stacked high in the sink that you just cleaned out the day before, with the stack growing ever taller each passing day. All this while you're trying to keep your house as clean as possible to set a good example for your child so that they'll appreciate cleanliness and keep a clean house of their own someday.

If you've ever tried to keep a house clean when there are kids around, you know how much of a near impossibility that is in itself. Add to the equation an unkempt, fully-grown mooch running around doing absolutely nothing but fucking up your shit and lazing around all day, it's enough to send even the saintliest person into a fit of fucking rage.

Somehow, Ann kept her cool enough to not flip out on the offender, as she didn't want to make things uncomfortable for the other roommate who was pulling his weight and trying, for some reason, to pull hers as well. Not wanting there to be conflict in front of her kid, she wrote another note in a bit more of an assertive tone (while avoiding saying anything inflammatory) and placed it next to the sink, reiterating to the reader to please put the dishes in dishwasher.

This, for some reason, pissed Amanda off... presumably because instead of being mature about it and realizing that she wasn't trying to be mean, she took it as an instance of an adult telling her what to do, not even considering that she herself was an adult.

So, what does an adolescent-minded idiot do when an adult tells you to clean up after yourself? You get pissy and rebel, of course! Oh, and you spend all your time griping about it to everyone other than the person who you're angry with. Because that makes you a badass. I put myself in the shoes of a thirteen-year-old to gain that perspective, so it must be what was going through Amanda's head.

Before you say the note was mean, trust me, it wasn't. Both attempts at getting through to her were well-worded and kinder than what I would have wanted to say. It wasn't the note. It was her immaturity that misunderstood it and took it as a personal attack.

Eventually, after Ann approached them both and laid it out for them as best she could, Amanda started either understanding or just doing what was being asked of her, which was no more than any other grown person rooming with someone would have already expected of her to begin with. Problem solved, right?

Wrong. It only set the stage for the next problem, which was a thousand times worse and has me fuming just thinking about it.

Mark and Ann never really discussed it with them in detail, but they thought it was kind of a given, seeing as there was a small kid in the house, that smoking indoors was strictly forbidden. It's just not acceptable. You go outside or you don't smoke, period. Though they never really addressed it outright, those were the rules of the house and it was believed that they understood that it's just not okay to smoke in a house with a small child.

Sometime during the second or third month, their toddler started coughing. It wasn't a cough they'd ever heard before, either. As soon as Ann noticed it was happening one afternoon, she immediately knocked on the spare bedroom door (the room where Amanda lazed each and every day away doing nothing but watching TV until her boyfriend came home from work to cook dinner for her - how fucked up is that, by the way?) and quickly clarified, in case there was any doubt, that there was to be no smoking indoors, especially now that her kid is coughing.

Amanda seemed to have heard her, as she acknowledged with a half-assed "okay" from what Ann told me, as the lazy fuck was still being snarky towards her about the whole "put away your dishes" thing. (Wow. I feel like I'm in high school again! Sheesh.) Ann's maternal instinct kicked on from that moment forward, ringing off an alarm every time the bitch smoked in the house. Amanda did, in fact, have a cigarette inside later that same day according to Ann.

Ann gave it a couple days, so she wouldn't step on any toes, but she knew that the smoking had not stopped. As many hours of the day passed where the Amanda, the human sloth did actually sleep away, she would wake periodically and even come out of temporary room to use Mark and Ann's kitchen and the hall bathroom, yet still she would not set foot outside until poor John returned from work at around five in the evening. As heavy of a smoker as Ann knew Amanda to be, she knew undoubtedly that she was smoking inside. She even knew when it was happening, but short of busting open the door when she knew it to be occurring, she couldn't just flip out on her no matter how badly she wanted/needed to at this point.

Then, one day, when her kid nearly had a coughing fit, Ann was pushed to the brink.

She took the time to write out a lengthy note explaining the concern for her kid and very clearly laid down the law on smoking in the house. It was not to be done, ever. End of story. This is what is happening because you're continuing to do it, and I'm not attacking or accusing, just begging you to stop. That was the gist of it.

I read it myself. It was, again, far kinder than I would have liked to be in that situation, but she very diplomatically said what needed to be said and gave very valid reasons behind the decision. However, I knew upon reading it that there would be one of two reactions, and each one would be quite telling of what she has or hasn't been doing behind everyone's back.

The two reactions would be either Amanda coming right up to Ann upon reading it and fervently deny any wrongdoing, in which case I advised Ann to see that as she has not been smoking inside and his cough may be due to an allergy, or Amanda would completely avoid her, which would indicate that she has been breaking the rules and smoking inside, and worse, causing her child's nagging, dry cough that, before the past couple of months, did not exist.

Amanda had the latter reaction. It was undeniably certain that she had been doing the exact opposite of what she had been asked to do, in complete disregard for the toddler, despite the fact that she professed to be "great with kids".

Funny story about that particular lie... Ann left her child once in the care of John and Amanda for two hours. Amanda wasn't even aware that the toddler was about to explode out of his diaper, which was full to the brim, when Ann and Mark returned from dinner. Amanda has not even so much as looked at the kid since then. "Great with kids", my ass. I for one am inclined to believe she's a pathological liar with the amount of deceit that poor Ann, who doesn't even know her that well, has had to endure.

Even worse, Amanda then proceeded to act offended by this note she received, which was essentially Ann pouring her heart out to her and pleading for her kid's sake. So offended was she by this completely not offensive note that she ripped out a half-broken coffee machine and can of coffee grounds that John had picked up when he moved in and replaced it in the room where she holed herself, in an act that would make any spoiled, selfish brat of a teenager proud. Imagine Amanda's displeasure (and Ann's fiendish delight) when Mark went out and picked up the same exact coffeemaker for half the price and her own big tin of her favorite brand of coffee.

We definitely shared a laugh about that one.

Not so funny, however, is what brought them all to this juncture. At this point, no one is really speaking to each other, although Amanda is seeming to enjoy vaguebooking her baseless grievances online. Mark and Ann don't fault John for the idiotic actions of his leech of a girlfriend, and truly wish to see him treated better than he's being treated by her. It is heartbreaking to witness such a deep-down genuinely good person put up with the shitty treatment he receives from Amanda. Naturally though, he feels he must side with her in any argument she has with someone, no matter how wrong she is, or else he'll never hear the end of it. Poor man. Ann and her husband hold out hope that one day their friendship will be as strong as it was, but know that after all of this, that won't happen until Amanda is out of the picture. Neither one want anything to do with her, understandably. Being the good friends they are with the guy roommate, though, they'll continue to help and be there for him if he needs them... even if he doesn't even look their way when he walks by.

Now that's friendship.

In a bit of good news, it seems as though now Amanda has stopped smoking indoors. Hooray! I thought that would be the end of it until I saw a post from the bitch that was clearly directed at Ann, accusing her of being a hypocrite (Amanda naturally believes anything an adult says not to do they are probably doing in secret, which just isn't the case, and she might know that if she knew anything about how love for your child trumps all things - even if it means doing things differently from how you did them when you were younger) and suggesting she be "strung up" with barbed wire or something to that effect.

That's not okay. I REPEAT - THAT SHIT IS NOT OKAY.

Now you're messing in what becomes my territory - protecting my friends and family. This part of the message pertains to you, "Amanda", and only you - and you know who the fuck you are, even if those reading this do not.

"Amanda" -- get it through your childish fucking head that these people are trying to raise a child, a human being, keep them healthy and safe, and teach them how to live cleanly and responsibly so they don't turn out like a talentless, spiritless, ambitionless, deceitful fucking wreck like you. You brought every single note on yourself, and you deserved to be called out in front of your boyfriend, whom you should really strive to emulate (or 'be more like', if 'emulate' is beyond your vocabulary) more often. "John" is a great guy, and a great person. He deserves a hell of a lot better than you. If I were you, I'd start treating him better lest he quickly tire of cleaning and cooking for you everyday while you laze around on your ass and accomplish less than nothing.

This will be my last and only mention of you because you don't deserve the attention. All I want is for you to know that in five years, if how you've been acting now doesn't make you feel physically ill to think back on, you've failed as a fucking person. If you had tried to pull any of this shit with someone else, they would have thrown you out already. Realize how lucky you fucking are right now, because it's not going to last, especially if you continue to go around acting like that. Realize that the only people who run their mouths like they know everything know the least of anyone, and it's usually a trait those of us that do actually rise above adolescence tend to drop after a certain age as it's typically a big sign that you're about as mature and intelligent as a middle-schooler.

They haven't asked you to do any more than any other roommate would have asked of you, so you have no room to complain, even less than that as you are childless, jobless, unmotivated, fucking lazy and don't even pull a small percentage of your weight.

Oh, and stop blaming your torpescence on "bad scoliosis". Give me a fucking break, bitch. When scoliosis is "bad", you can visibly see it - kind of like how you can see me looking hunched over even when I'm trying to stand up straight. That is "bad" scoliosis, and with RA making it so my spine contorts even quicker over time than with scoliosis alone (not to mention making it more fucking painful), somehow I still manage to get off my fucking ass and clean my house, cook dinner most nights, pack my husband's lunches, and take care of my family. Seriously bitch, suck it up and do something with your fucking life. You are 21 years old and stand as straight as a pin. You don't even have the slightest idea what it's like to suffer through "bad" scoliosis.

I guess the joke will be on you though in a few years. If you actually did have it, then your doctors would tell you that stretching and exercise will help to keep you feeling better for longer. Since you don't seem to aspire to anything beyond laying around for as long as possible each day, your "condition" will worsen quicker (that's assuming you even have one), and if you're being untruthful about it, it'll cause you to actually get the condition you've been claiming to have had for however long, if not something worse.

It's one thing to actually be sick and not have the strength or motivation to get up. I understand that completely. It's quite another when someone is faking it for attention or because they are fucking lazy, and in this particular case it is clear as crystal what the real issue is, and it's not illness.

By the way, it is only after having been acquainted with them long enough do I even dare to make a remark against anyone who says they are struggling, because so many are and there are so many "invisible" diseases, including depression, and more than likely if they say they are struggling, they are. I do not make it a habit to pass judgement on anyone, because I know even without illness, life is still a struggle.

The only reason this case is the exception to that is because I know from all I've seen, beyond any doubt, that this is one of those situations where a scumbag is trying to take advantage of good people, like most scam artists raising money for charity that the charity never gets, or the douchebags that use military discounts when they've never served a day in their life. Though there are far too many of those types of people in the world, and I can't stand up to all of them, I'm standing up to the one person that I know about; one who continually upsets and takes advantage of wonderful people who are working hard to maintain a happy, healthy home. This person has and continues to act disrespectfully towards Mark and Ann even though all they wanted was for her to pick up after herself and not smoke indoors. She doesn't understand that these "rules" are in place for very good reasons and they're not out to bring her down or kill her buzz or whatever she thinks in her juvenile mind. All they want is peace, happiness, and a clean place to live. That's not asking for much, and if you're feeling like you have to sacrifice something to achieve that then maybe you should rethink how you live your life.

Wow. So that's what my poor friends are dealing with right now. Quite a mess, is it not?

Therefore, I caution anyone who has kids and is considering/requiring a roommate: 

  • Be very careful in your decision making. If you have even the tiniest, most inconsequential doubt about someone, do NOT live with them. Stay with parents, a good friend, someone with whom you have a good and strong rapport, and make sure all rules are laid out from the beginning so that there is no confusion.
    Roommates and kids can mix well, especially if the roommate does actually get on well with kids. See how they interact with your child or children before hand so you'll know whether or not you'll have someone on hand for an emergency date night... or not.
  • Be prepared to stand up to anyone who interferes with the health or happiness of your family. Sometimes you just can't forsee what is going to happen, no matter how much insight you may have. There are plenty of great people who have the potential to be awesome and kid-friendly roommates, and future family friends. Just make sure you don't put any friendship above your family should the friendship prove to be enabling behavior that is damaging to you or them.
  • To anyone who's about to embark on the adventure of living with a roommate who has kids, remember that the small things are some of the most important things. Your roomies will love you if you don't give them any extra work by cleaning up after yourself, putting dishes away, even picking up the vacuum and sweeping a room for them (just make sure it isn't kiddo's naptime)! It will mean so, so much to the man/woman/couple that are frazzled just trying to keep up with the litany of "small" things they have to take care of every day.
  • And for the love of the Goddess, DO NOT assume that a stay-at-home parent has the fucking time to clean up after you, or WORSE, that they don't do anything all day. (Especially when you're a slattern that really doesn't do anything all day, ahem "Amanda".) Stay-at-mommery (or -daddery) is hard fucking work, the kind our friend "Amanda" knows nothing about. It's akin to chasing chickens and wresting alligators every day, all while trying to teach them the alphabet and how to say "I love you"!

I'm the first to admit, I was one of those people who had this perception of SAHMs having it really easy, like it was the cushiest job in the world. That was, however, before I had kids. Fate had to teach me the hard way, but fate also showed me that all those other moms really weren't just blowing steam; it really is ultra-rewarding. More than I could ever describe using mere words. It truly is something that can only be felt once you become a parent, partially because it's so infinitely complex, but mostly because it is so powerful and transcendent. It cannot be described in words because it defies the very fundamentals of language and speech.

It isn't because we parents are trying to hold out on you who don't have kids or choose not to have them, or that we're trying to feel superior about ourselves. (Before I became a parent I misconstrued that statement so very many times when it was said within earshot of me... to the point where I'd get angry about it!) Nor is it because having kids is the only great joy in life, because as wonderful as they are, you can achieve similar happiness other ways, too. It's just that feelings are the only way it can be accurately described, and therefore must be experienced before it can be wholly understood.

Just like those who aren't too familiar with kids (or have only babysat a few times in their lives and consider that enough experience) can't grasp why being a SAHM or SAHD is such a Herculean labor. It is relatively easy to watch a child for an evening or a day. You are just killing time, making sure they don't electrocute themselves in electrical outlets or toasters and feeding them. When you are a SAH-parent, you must do all of the above, plus teach them basic language and counting/math skills, good morals, good behaviors, monitoring them for signs of possible infection, injury or illness (physical and mental), enforcing good manners, keeping track of every single thing they eat, worrying about shit that hasn't even happened yet, and trying desperately to be a better parent than yours were (even if they were awesome).

This advice also applies to husbands/wives who's spouse stays at home with the kids along with roommates who live with parents - DON'T SAY they do nothing all day or they need to get a job. They HAVE one, a pretty fucking brutal one at that. Take it from Dethklok:

I will conclude this one by wishing well to "John", and should he read this, know that nothing she does affects how much Mark values your friendship. Here's hoping to a peaceful resolution, or at least a cease in the negativity, for all involved.

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