Archive for the ‘Working Parent’ Category

Working Is Harder Than Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom October 15, 2014

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Me with my kiddos.

I hang with moms and kids. That’s my crowd as new stay-at-home mom. I joke that there are days that the only adult males I interact with on the regular are my husband and the Starbucks barista. I’ve noticed a distinct difference between two types of  SAHM’s. There are moms who have never worked outside the home since they had children, and those who have. Meaning, I know moms who stayed home with their first child and I know moms, like me, who started staying home with their second child.

A conversation with a group of moms holding babies went something like this:

A SAHM with two kids who never worked after her first child was born asked me, “So, Amy. Do you miss work? Are you glad you’re staying home?”

I say, “It’s great! It was a really good decision. My daughter loves her preschool. We were a little nervous pulling her out of her daycare. We were sad to leave there. It’s a great place, but I love being home with the kids. I’m actually a ‘stay-in-the-car mom’ Ha! We’ve been so busy.”

She says, “Yeah, but it’s so hard taking care of the kids all day!”

A new mom holding her first baby chimes in, “Yeah, being a stay-at-home-mom is the hardest job in the world.”

::blink::

I looked around the group to try to catch the eye of a mom like me, one who went back to work after her first baby. No one like that was in this circle. I stayed quiet. I faded out of the conversation that turned into complaining about nap schedules, unhelpful husbands and struggles to decide what to cook for dinner.

Hardest job in the world? No. No it’s not. Working outside the home while still being a parent is harder. It is. It just is. I feel I can say this because I’ve done both. Take all the stress of caring for children, cooking for your family, maintaining your home and add the intense pressure of a full-time job to it. Add the commute. Add the limited time. Add the daycare bill. Add the pressure of counting up paid and unpaid maternity leave days. Add the agony of leaving your baby. Add the guilt. It makes it all harder.

I’m not saying it’s all roses being a homemaker. I’m busy, no doubt. My kiddos keep me on my toes. Napless days of wicked tantrums are exhausting and infuriating. Those are times I miss the outlet of work. I know there are mothers of children with special needs who have much more taxing days at home than I do. I understand there are mamas with colicky criers and mothers of multiples trapped in the house all day. I feel for them. I know they have rough days too.

I’m just saying that since I started staying home, our lives are so much better. There were days that I would spend less than two hours a day with my child. We’d get dressed in the morning. Eat in the car and I’d drop her off. By the time I got to her, I had two hours before she went to bed. That time was mostly for dinner and bath.

When two parents are working it’s like being shot out of a cannon on Monday morning and the cannonball lands on Friday afternoon. The cannonball falls exhausted into a messy house and an empty pantry. While we did have lots of fun on the weekends, we often did not. We often had to clean, grocery shop and do all the mundane things we couldn’t get to during the week. The weekend culminated with the Sunday night dread. I’d prepare with a gripping feeling in my chest because another work week was beginning.

I understand job satisfaction is part of this. I know some women who are very fulfilled in their jobs and feel that’s where they get the most validation. Other women I know work for companies with 12 paid weeks of maternity leave, mothers’ rooms for pumping that have lounge chairs and half-day Fridays. While I liked my job and the people I worked with, I chose careers that were not as conducive to parenthood. I knew that when I went to college and majored in journalism and communications. It’s hard being a mother reporting the news live on TV at 6:00 am or answering my public relations client’s email at 7:30 pm when it’s bath time. My friends who work in banking, for example, start at 9 and end at 5. That’s the nature of their business.

Now I can let my daughter play on the playground after preschool. I can take half an hour and make a gingerbread house with her. Hell, I can lay my head on the couch and take a nap when the kids do on a Tuesday because it’s raining and I have a headache. One parent is home to unload the dishwasher and start dinner so it doesn’t become this huge issue or argument. I can take the kids to the doctor when they are sick without scheduling it on my Outlook calendar or calling five people to make sure things at work are covered. None of that was possible when I was working full time and it was hard. Harder than this.

My biggest fear about staying home was that I was going to be bored, lonely or unstimulated. Those are the complaints I hear from SAHM’s. I can say that I have not felt that way AT ALL. Not once in the last 8 months have I been bored, lonely or unstimulated. Maybe it’s because I immediately planned stuff for us to do and groups to be a part of, I dunno. But, I really attribute not being bored, but being happy to two things:

  1. I am not home with only a baby. I have a preschooler and a baby to keep me busy. Yeah, babies can be boring. Add a toddler, preschooler or older child in the mix? Party time! Boredom be gone!
  2. I know how crazy it is to have two working parents and I know this is better. It just is.
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Baby Marks- September 22, 2014

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Back when I was working full time I would constantly find reminders on my clothing that I wasn’t just an employee, but a mother. My babies made sure they left their mark somewhere. I remember a paci in my blazer pocket, a princess sticker on my leg or spit-up on my blouse. Being the sloppy klutz I am, these were usually after I had already spilled coffee on myself.

I got to thinking about Emily. Emily is my former co-worker on maternity leave after the birth of her first baby. She is soft spoken, kind-hearted and fiercely witty. Emily is an incredibly talented writer and I always enjoyed working with her.

Emily holding Henry when he was just 3 mo. old.

Emily holding Henry when he was just 3 mos. old. I was only back at work a week when I realized my new calling. This was during that week.

 

One morning in the kitchen we were brewing coffee. She was being very polite when she said, “Amy, I was just going to tell you that you have something on your chest right there.” She pointed to my collar bone. I touched something hard but sticky and pulled it off my skin. I looked at my fingers in horror. I held a half-dried, smeared booger. Yep, that’s about right.

I recalled earlier that morning my snot-nosed little girl had smashed her face into me in some traumatic, tearful fit.

Now that I’m part of a yoga pants-clad army of stay-at-home moms, the smears and stains on my clothes are less of a big deal. I think babies want everyone to know, no matter their mama’s job, she’s a mama first. They leave their boogers to prove it. Please tell me I’m not the only one with dried boogers on them.

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Preschool Teachers Rule The World- 09-10-14

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

How Preschool Teacher Rule The World

Greyson said good-bye one morning last week as I was wrangling Charlotte into school clothes and scooping baby cereal mixed with applesauce into Henry. A minute later he popped his head back in the door, “My car won’t start. I need your keys to jump it.” He took them off the kitchen desk while I continued to wrangle and scoop.

It was the first week back at school so naturally things had to be more frustrating. Greyson had no cell phone since he put it in the pool bag and it got wet during the summer’s last fling at the neighborhood pool . It was at the phone repair shop, so there was no way to contact him when he wasn’t at work.

Now that school has started we live and die by the clock. We have to be out the door at 8:45 am to be at preschool on time. You can guess what happened at 8:40 when I was loading the car. I searched the kitchen desk drawer where keys, old lip balms and broken ball point pens in our house go to die. The car keys were not there.

I went back out to the car that was already packed with my purse, diaper bag, breast pump bag and Charlotte’s lunch box. The keys were not there either. It was 8:49. I started to panic. “Charlotte! Do you remember where Daddy put the keys?” She replied, “No, Mama. Can I wear my ‘Frozen’ bracelet to school?” “You may not go to school today if I can’t find the keys.” That’s when she asked a bunch of questions I tuned out before whining about not being able to wear the bracelet to the school I couldn’t get her to anyway.

There was no way to call him. I cursed the day I let moisture into the bag that tainted his phone. I knew he had driven off with the keys! Blerg! We were going to be late to preschool. I texted my preschool mom friends to vent. It’s the 21st century so started wracking my brain for other ways to communicate. That’s when I turned to Facebook. I ran to the laptop and friended Greyson’s coworker, begging her to have him call me when he got into the office.

At 8:52 I heard him pull up. I literally ran out to the driveway to grab the keys from him as he said something. I feel like it was an apology, but I was in the zone. I shouted for Charlotte. He helped her in the car. He asked, “Charlotte, was Mama mad at Daddy?” She grinned and said, “Yep!”

He looked at me through the car window slightly puzzled and said, “Why are you so concerned with getting there on time?” My eyes grew large, I took an exasperated breath from the drivers seat and replied, “Because those preschool teachers have us by the balls, THE BALLS!!”

They do. They rule our week. I have to drop her off at the right time and pick her up exactly on time or face the dreaded walk of shame to the director’s office to retrieve my child. I already got a talking-to from the director once. I have problems disappointing authority figures. I can’t do it. Plus, I don’t want to be “that parent” who is always late and appears to neglect their child and disrespect the institution of preschool. I’ve heard some of the  moms talking smack on the playground about other moms who can’t get there on time. I can’t have that. Oh, no. I mean, if you wanna talk smack, come find me. Just don’t make the smack talk at my expense.

The teachers aren’t gonna put up with crap from some thirty-something who’s only been a parent for 3 1/2 years. They’ve been teaching preschool for 25 years and have helped raise a generation of 3 and 4 year-old’s. Who am I to argue with them? Charlotte’s teacher told me that getting to school on time is crucial because that’s when they come in, get settled and form that day’s dynamics, reinforcing relationships. Also, when they arrive they will begin spelling exercises at the start of the day. She said that children who are frequently late are often not ready to move up a class in preschool because of their spelling. Ahhh! That’s the way to terrify a parent. Tell them their slacker ways will hinder development. I pictured my child living on our third floor, eating Doritos and taking improv classes at the community college when she’s 30. Gah! No!

Greyson was like, “We pay for her to go to preschool.” This is true, but I explained that it’s not like it was when we were paying for daycare. At daycare I could take her and pick her up whenever because it was open all day and we paid them as much as our mortgage payment. I felt like a premium customer.

At preschool, it’s less expensive, but they own my ass. Own it.  I do what the preschool teachers say. I wait in their long carpool line. I obediently sign out my child and wait in the designated area for pick-up. I write checks for the Booster Club. I buy only healthy snacks listed on the Snack List when I’m the “Snack Mom.”

They are genuinely sweet and kind people. I mean, they’re preschool teachers! But, for some reason I’m terrified of them, their sweet voices and perpetual upbeat attitudes. I smile at them and accept my child’s folder full of art work with gratitude. I can only hope they don’t see how frazzled and flawed I am as a parent and continue to educate my preschooler because I can’t.

preschool 2

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Sacrifice- June 26, 2014

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

I’m feeling foolish as I write this. Foolish because my last post was begging for your advice about strollers as my brain was consumed with our upcoming travels. We had grandiose plans to take our family of four to a family reunion in Nebraska this weekend. Now that it’s almost here I’m a little embarrassed to say we had to cancel at the last minute. Why, you ask? The short answer, money.

money pic

So often money is a taboo thing to discuss. I figure I talk about my leaking boobs and stitched up lady-parts on my mommy blog, so why should I be ashamed of discussing finances? I don’t know, but money is a touchy subject for most people. It’s private. It shows how vulnerable we are. That’s funny for a generation of people who are putting every mundane personal detail of their lives on the Internet to say that money is the thing that most shows our vulnerability, but it’s true.

Don’t get me wrong. Technically our family could afford to go on this trip, but at the price of some real financial strain later this year. It was going to cost an absurd amount to fly, rent a car and get a hotel room. We didn’t want to put a ton on credit cards. You know, credit cards. The cards people our age got when they walked on campus freshman year with their school logo on it.

Here’s the thing, we REALLY wanted to go on this trip. Bad. We had talked it up to our 3-year-old. We told her how great the zoo was going to be and how she was going to get to play with 50 million cousins she’d never met. We promised aunts they would get snuggle time with our squishy 7-month-old. I planned outfits and did laundry. I made arrangements for friends to dog sit. We bought plane tickets. We were going. We had our hearts set on it.

That’s the problem. We had our hearts set on going and wanted to go. I’ve found that Gen X/Millennials like us typically get what we want. Think about it. We came of age in the 1980’s and 1990’s. People my age knew nothing but mostly peace and prosperity until the economic collapse five years ago. Growing up, I figured things would always keep getting better and better. No, seriously. I just assumed my parents would always make more money than they did the year before, ensuring great family vacations and my college tuition taken care of.

This is not to say our generation is not innovative and hardworking. We are. I’m proud of how hard my husband and I have worked for many years to provide a great life for our children. We have a nice home near a good school, two cars and enough for preschool and dance classes.

Now that we are a single income household, we have had to make some adjustments. Sadly, we didn’t adjust enough. We didn’t plan. If we wanted to go on this trip so badly, we should have planned for it better than we did. Yeah, we did have some unexpected expenses pop up, but if we had planned better, it wouldn’t have been a problem. We made the choice for our family to have me stay home with our children. We don’t regret that decision, but we’ve still been living life as we were a double income household. We didn’t sacrifice.

Staying home from this trip is our sacrifice. We are learning the lesson of our generation. We can’t have everything we want all the time. Now, we have to raise the next generation to understand the same thing.

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#WorkingMom to #SAHM 04-01-14

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

working sahm collage

The number one question I get lately is, “How’s it going being at home with the kids now?” The short answer? Awesome. Yes, we’re in transition, but overall it’s been a really good move for our family. I’ve been home two months after returning briefly to work following maternity leave with Baby #2. Honestly, I was nervous. Change is hard. I was terrified that we would be bored and that I would get lazy. Bored? Ha! No. We’ve had plenty to do but, that’s not by mistake. I knew we needed to have a plan. These are the things we did to ease the transition from working mom to stay-at-home mom.

1. Buffer Time- My last day of work was January 31. Our daughter’s daycare had a policy where they needed a 30 day notice of you leaving. We got our original deposit back from when I registered Charlotte at the school three years ago as an infant. I could apply that to my last month, so it was half the price. That was nice. So Charlotte was at daycare until the end of February.

It was one more month with Henry to get our act together. He was only 2.5-3 months old. It was kind of an extended maternity leave. He was really not sleeping much at night then, so this was key for us. Charlotte had a month of us telling her that “mommy was staying home and she would be going to a new school.” This information sunk in and it was not a shock to her. Word got out among the teachers and parents at daycare. My husband and I showed excitement about staying home with mommy and going to a new school, so Charlotte was excited.

The buffer month helped us figure out things financially as well. Even though I’m not the main breadwinner in our house, my income did contribute substantially. We had to make adjustments.

2. Mom Support- Since I was a bit apprehensive of the change, I contacted Erin who’s older son used to go to my daughter’s school. She started staying home after her daughter was born.  She is the same age as Charlotte. Immediately Erin let me know there was a spot available at her part-time two-day a week preschool. Boom! I’ll take it. Erin was my angel, ya’ll! She scheduled a play date with us and another family who has a son in Charlotte’s new class. She knew two kids going into her new school. Erin had been where I was, so she was able to give an honest answer to “Was it a good decision to leave work?” (The answer was “yes.”) She could tell me about transitioning from full-time to part-time care. She gave me the heads-up on the kids playing together after school. She introduced me to other moms. I liked the parents in Charlotte’s daycare class, so I really wanted to get to know these moms too.

3. Scheduled Activities- Yes, I’m staying home now so that I can spend more time with my children. Yes, we all appreciate the more enjoyable pace and not having the extreme stress of getting the entire family out the door in the morning before work. But, I knew my kid who had spent 8 to 10 hours a day in full-time daycare since she was 3 months old would need something to do.

The first day Charlotte was home, we started gymnastics class. Her two-day a week preschool started the next day. On the non-school days I tried to plan something fun like going to the library for story time. Her preschool is not as academically rigorous as her daycare was. That’s not a huge deal. I think they all catch up with each other by elementary school but, I’m not kidding you when I tell you that her 3-year-old class at daycare was learning things I learned in first grade. I try to do little things each day to continue Spanish, counting and letters.

Even our best laid plans fell through with recent snow days or someone getting sick. Like being a working mom, you just gotta go with it and hope for the best some times.

4. Ties To The Working World- I am fortunate to be able to do some contract work with my company. I was terrified of a resume gap. I was out of the house and in the office two days this month. I did other prep work from home. I’ve popped into the office with Henry in tow a couple times for a little bit. It’s been great to work some. I loved the two days, but was glad to get home to my little ones.

5. Exercise- I signed up for one of the stroller work-out classes I marveled at when I was working. What were these classes? What did they do in them? I mentioned before that I would be out at a client lunch, or eating with coworkers and I would see these moms with their strollers, exercising with their babies and my heart would ache. So, I had to give Stroller Strides a shot.

I can only do it when Charlotte is at preschool because I don’t have a double jogging stroller and I don’t have $600 burning a hole in my diaper bag. I took her to one of the indoor classes and she sat quietly and played on the floor of the gym. She was very good, but apparently this was a huge faux pas. It’s a liability to have them out of the stroller, even if it’s inside. Oops.

It’s awesome, though. It’s kicking me into shape. It’s forcing me not to rest on my nursing laurels, assuming that the breastfeeding calorie burn will take care of the baby weight. It won’t. I have to jog and do sprints and these things called burpees. Ugh! I’d rather eat ice cream and take a nap, but I really feel so much better working out.

Overall- So this has been good. I spoke with another mother who will be leaving her job soon and she said she’s not planning anything. They are just relaxing for awhile. I totally get that too. I feel like I got that time off during maternity leave, so I was ready for some in-home structure.

I don’t think this is really advice, it’s just what worked for us. So, no matter your hashtag, #WorkingMom or #SAHM, I’m interested to hear from you. What works? What doesn’t?

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