Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Jane's Story


I grew up in an old neighborhood in Cleveland along the shores of Lake Erie. It was a colorful Irish/Slovenian neighborhood that, I think, was perfect. One step outside, and there were always kids to play with! That is, if you didn’t want to play with one of your five siblings. We played outside all day and night until my dad whistled us in. We biked, swam, played tennis, board games and cards, and went ice skating and sledding in the winter.
 Most of the moms in the neighborhood, including mine, were home, but many of them worked. One helped out at the family business, another was the Church secretary. Even my Grandmother worked at the family insurance agency with her husband! So there were all kinds of working women around us, but in such a tight-knit neighborhood, it seemed that someone was always looking out for you (and wasn’t afraid to yell at you if you were doing something wrong.) My main memory of my mom is that she was always there.

I didn’t have many interests. I loved to read, watch TV, play outside and be near the water. I tease my mom that, since I was the youngest of six, she didn’t have the energy left to take me to Girl Scouts! In fact, in a one-car home, if you couldn’t walk to it, you didn’t do it. So my one extracurricular activity was piano lessons because I could walk the seven blocks to my teacher’s home.

I went to an all-girls high school where I was a bright student who aimed to please. That was before there were honors classes and many sports. I didn’t know what I wanted to “be” when I grew up. I just always figured I would be a mom. I took college prep classes and loved math. I also loved typing class and art class! (In hindsight, I wished I had taken sewing classes.) I explored science and engineering and was encouraged to study chemical engineering because “women chemical engineers were in demand and earning great starting salaries.” I was starting to grow out of my shyness, enough to know that I wanted a career that would allow me to interact with people.

As I explored colleges, I also asked about pre-med programs. I thought I could study engineering and fulfill pre-med requirements. That way, I could go on to become a doctor or, perhaps, a biomedical engineer. Back in those days, we only applied to two colleges. After my acceptance letters arrived, I made the entirely impractical decision to turn down a full scholarship to a private school in Ohio to attend the University of Notre Dame. Why did I do that? Well, there was a rich tradition of Notre Dame Football in my house as my dad was a “subway” alumnus. I used to tell my mom, well before women were even admitted, that I was going to attend the school. And, then, when I visited the campus, I knew I had to attend. Notre Dame is a special place in which tradition is palpable.
Engineering was rigorous. It was junior year by the time we got into the core chemical engineering classes and I got my first C. By that time I wasn’t even sure I liked engineering! I also realized that I was not committed to the idea of studying medicine and continuing my education for seven more years. I felt that if I went to school that long that I would never be able to “give it up” when I became a mom. It’s funny how I felt so conflicted. I didn’t even have a boyfriend. I had barely dated! But deep down I felt my vocation was to be a mother. So that year, I made up my mind that I was going to have many careers in my life.

I came back to Cleveland as an engineer and as part of a corporate program which provided a Master’s Degree in engineering. No, it was still not my passion, but the training program was excellent and I was able to get the degree while working. I also had a great group of friends at work and in the city. One of those friends eventually became my husband.
My husband and I talked about our dreams and plans. I know he would have supported me if I wanted to work full-time or even part-time. But we wanted a lifestyle that would enable me to stay home with our kids. When we first were married, we lived on one paycheck, paid down our college loans and bought a house. (At that time, home loans were easy to get. Still, we didn’t listen to what our realtor said we could afford. We calculated what we could afford. There was a huge difference!) We lived under our means. I’m fortunate to have a husband who is a saver and a planner. We kept our social life simple, maintained our cars for 10+ years, painted and furnished our home simply, and didn’t have cable and cell phones. We weren’t deprived – we had plenty of lovely things and could provide for our kids. But we made decisions based on our budget. Saving, planning and discipline are key elements to success. I am grateful for all the blessings bestowed on us, including good educations and jobs. But I also know we worked hard and saved hard - hard enough to pay for our house and put our kids through private schools and, now, college.

At the time I became pregnant, I was unhappy with my job and had been looking for another job. Maybe – if I had loved my job – I would have considered going back part-time. But my job dissatisfaction made it easy to quit. Well, even though I wanted to quit, it was still hard to do! I felt like I was letting all womankind down. When our son arrived, I knew I had made the right decision. It was an overwhelming, terrifying and wonderful experience becoming a mother for the first time. Nothing prepared me for it! But like many mothers before me, I adapted to my new role.
More babies arrived – four in all. Throughout that time, I had a few “you’re wasting your education” comments. I felt pangs of guilt. I heard my engineering professor, who told my friend, “You’re wasting a spot for a boy” ringing through my head. I would read my alumni magazine and see the amazing careers of my classmates and feel a tad jealous. Years later, while back on my alma mater’s campus, I saw a beloved old chemistry professor, who is still a legend on campus. We shook hands and he asked me what I was doing. I hesitated, and then told him I was busy being a mom. And he told me it was the most important job I could be doing. I beamed. Despite those pangs of guilt, I do not feel my education was wasted. I deepened my love of learning and thirst for knowledge. I met wonderful people and had many fun and meaningful experiences.
Those early mom years were filled with new experiences, fears, and growth. When there were days filled with frustrations, my husband would remind me that I was “building cathedrals.” (Have you read that story?) I was able to connect with neighbors and other moms I met at the kid’s schools. I also discovered a love of sewing and knitting – hobbies that I had learned when I was a kid and which, now, gave me a creative outlet during naptimes.
By being home, I could help my kids experience the freedom of playing in the backyard, going to the beach, riding their bikes, and boredom. We put many miles on the strollers as we walked through the neighborhood or to the parks.

By being home, I could also be a housewife or homemaker, although I never loved those terms. I don’t love cleaning, but I do love a clean and organized house. Even though the housework falls along traditional lines, I admit that my husband has done every one of my chores, while I have yet to cut the grass! (This year I managed to use the snow blower for the first time!) He was particularly helpful during my pregnancies and when the kids were little – cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes, and grocery shopping.
Of course, as the kids got older – and especially as they entered school – people would ask “what are you going to do now? I had thought about it all these years. I wondered if I could reenter the workforce as an engineer. I thought about technical writing. I was already doing a lot of volunteer work for the kids’ school when I was asked if I would like to substitute teach. Every parent should have the opportunity to be in the classroom – to see that our kids are not the angels we think they are! I liked working with junior high kids and it was a wonderful arrangement to be at school with my own kids. The work was sporadic, but I enjoyed getting out again.

When our school closed, I found a very part-time job at a local online fabric company. I could come and go as I pleased. The owner encouraged me to open an Etsy shop with some of my sewing creations. I did so, and my business has grown since then. Having my business has enabled me to continue my love of learning. It has enabled me to explore my creativity, which had lain dormant for a long time. It allows me to work from my home. I’m thrilled that, at 51, I am entering a new career! I am glad that I made the decision – back when I was 20 years old - to have many careers in my life.
I have thought often about whether or not to pursue an outside job. My husband and I feel it is in our family’s best interest to have me home, even now that my youngest is a teenager. (Sometimes I think that this is an even more critical time to be home.) I like being home when my kids get home. I like being accessible if they are sick. I like preparing meals and having my family around the dinner table. I want to keep an eye on what they are doing. I want to “be here” if it happens to be one of the rare moments my teen decides to have a conversation.

I will also add that it is not easy working from home. I started my business in my late 40s and am working “full-time” at it now. Even with older kids, there are many distractions and interruptions.

I am grateful that we, as women today, have so many options available to us. I love the woman I have become as a mother. It didn’t happen overnight, but I am stronger, wiser, more confident and less shy.

If you feel a calling to be home, listen to your heart. Use your heart – but also your mind – when choosing a mate. Then, together, carefully, choose your path. Realize that life is a journey.

Jane blogs here and Etsy shop here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ordinary Days but TGIM

I sometimes look forward to Monday-that is my life right now!  Busiest weekends ever-don't get me wrong I love them-but my head spins.  Weekends are when all the action happens around here and they are busy as all heck.  I am the center of the storm, the air traffic controller, the pit stop, the answer to all questions, the coordinator of all schedules, the food maker, the soccer cleat finder.

This weekend:
Taxes paid.
Stations of the Cross Presentation for 8th graders and potluck.
Three soccer games.
Little Sibs Weekend-Patrick and Andrew visited Isaac and had so much fun.
College visits to Chicago.
Palm Sunday Mass (two hours in a hot stuffy church and we all made it, even Janey, by the seat of her pants).

Cramming for the ACT the night before, with a friend.

Andrew is a very passionate soccer player this season.

Jeff's tax face.

Janey's tax face.

On Sunday night I was looking at a disaster of a house and a laundry chute backing up to the first floor.  For some crazy reason I had enough energy to tackle it on Sunday night so I could start lovely Monday a little caught up-that was the only incentive I needed.  

And what a difference a little sunshine and warm temperatures make for me energy, and mood-wise.  We got a bike ride in, Janey loved it and giggled at every turn, and a few nice walks, and the boys played outside a ton.  I always say-if we could just skip winter-PERFECTION.  Straight from fall to spring.
Did you see the Pink Moon?
It is beautiful!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Rose's Story

I always thought I'd be one of those working moms that seemed important, and the reason why I wanted to be one was because of my mother. I wanted to do better than her, and complete my education and go all the way. I wanted to be able to provide the necessities that my mother couldn't provide. Little did I know that "living to work" was not fulfilling, that money didn't buy happiness, and that tiny human beings were (still are) more important.

I have a certificate of completion in Computer Office Technology, and continued my education at Del Mar Community College in Corpus Christ where I majored in Public Relations. I moved to Utah in hopes that I would transfer to a different school, but to no avail. I chose marriage, and to have a family first. 

Growing up my mom worked really hard to support us, and because of that she was hardly around, hence the decision in always knowing that I would eventually be a stay at home mom, but my perspective changed, and even with a hardworking husband I felt that I "needed" to work in order to "define myself" & of course survive. I didn't quite understand the whole concept of motherhood. Truth is that because my childhood wasn't peaches and cream I felt that I would mess it up by having kids. And then the time came in the summer of 1995 when I had my firstborn. 
^^^ Sierra at six months, circa-1995 ^^^
I was very fortunate in landing jobs without a bachelors degree. Being bilingual in the state of Utah sure had its advantages and my confidence grew, and my knowledge expanded with the great jobs I had in the clerical field. I loved working alongside a bunch of sharp lawyers, but there was a point in my life where I was getting burned out. I thought that I needed to make a name for myself, and that money bought happiness. It didn't. I could tell that deep down inside my husband's heart he wanted me to stay at home to raise our daughter, but he let me be. He let me be. We had trial after trial, and even though we had a faith in God so strong we weren't as active in living upon it.

Sometimes a bold act can make you see "the light", and in this case moving to Texas in the summer of 1999 was the answer to my prayer. My husband and I grew even closer to the Lord, and in the year 2000 we unexpectedly had our second daughter. That unexpected pregnancy was expected to happen! Having my second daughter helped me in ways I could never imagine. It was as if she was sent down from heaven to soften my heart to let me know that my place in this world was to be at home with her, and her older sister.
^^^ Sierra (4), Lexie (a few hours old) circa-2000 ^^^
And I did.

Ever since then I knew that my role in this life was to be a stay at home mom for my children. I now have four, and they are the best thing that's ever happened to me. 
I have enjoyed doing the "mommy" things with my last three that I missed out with my firstborn. Changing diapers, going to the park, playing tea party or diner, potty training them on my own, and actually making breakfast for them without having to rush out the door to go to work. I could see it in my oldest daughters eyes that she was happier. Happier that was the one picking her up from preschool, and not a friend, or relative.
^^^ Sierra (5) Lexie (one year)- circa, 2001 ^^^
I am so grateful for this decision that I made in sacrificing a career to be a stay at home mom to raise & nurture my children. My oldest daughter is now in college and is doing exceptionally well. I see how much goes into those first years, now that I have been home with her younger siblings and I would have loved to been there every day for her first four years.  Children grow so quickly and they are out of our nests before we know it-every day is precious. 
^^^ me and my lovely daughter Sierra ^^^
 I see a huge difference in my children compared to the way my sister and I were raised. We are very bonded as a family, and although we are not perfect we certainly are a family that prides on love, and family time. We strive on living the Christian values that I didn't have growing up. Communication is key especially when one moves far away, and that is something that is solid within our family.  
I am lucky that I hardly received negativity as to why I'm not pursuing a career. There may have been a few people who would advise me to further my education in hopes that I'd be some hotshot working mom, but I know what I am. I am a hardworking mom who tends to these wonderful kids everyday. Today my mother, sister, and mother-in-law, and of course my husband, are happy that I have made the decision to put my family first before any job. I learned the hard way years ago that money does not buy happiness, and how important it is to raise my children first. Nice cars, a big house, and material things will not make the lifestyle of a family better. Sure those are nice things to have, but it's only a temporary happiness that can't be built on love. What's important to me is my children, and they will always come first before any paycheck. 

^^^ me and Noah ^^^
I also know that finishing an education is crucial especially with these next generations today, and I have advised my children to do the same thing, but to know that family is number one. I am fortunate enough to be able to stay at home with my four year old son while my girls are at school, and no matter how old they get I will continue to stay at home "career free" as long as they are living under my roof...and I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Rose blogs here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ordinary Days

The typical look in my living room.

And on my kitchen counter.

Little flowers brought to me by a special boy.

Storm windows up, screens down.  Too soon, I know, but fresh air smells so good.

April Fool's Day, green milk. Matt, I knew it was you.

Abbey presented me with this photo she took of Janey for her photography class.  It captures Janey perfectly, and I was overjoyed to receive it.  Her curls, her shy look, her sparkly eyes and little nose.  
Thank you Abbey!  

I am reading this right now and it's good.  
No, I'm not going to home school anyone probably ever (never say never)-I love our little parochial school, and I'm hoping it will always stay special-but I like to read about learning and teaching and education.  I understand more and more why parents are choosing to go this route, and I think it's just pretty darn cool.  There are things that have been happening in education lately that I don't love-the introduction of the one-to-one IPad program in high school and junior high (don't even get me started, honestly) and I am not loving the Common Core especially for the younger years.  And "school" (it's called school now, for even toddlers?) for younger and younger children makes me sad.  I remember when kindergarten was optional and the best way to learn was to be at home with your mom.  So much of it is NOT about the child and learning-which is the purpose of school, right?- but just about everything else (politics, competition, marketing, and money, ick.)
Do any home school moms that might be reading have any other good books to suggest?  I would love to read more, I just bought this one randomly from Amazon.

Three days straight outside, ALL day.  Sunburn on faces, fresh air in lungs, I LOVE IT.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Stephanie's Story


I remember so vividly the moment I told my boss that I was pregnant with my first child. I had just started working at my big post-graduation job - I was a customer service rep for a software company. Ha! It was the worst, and unfortunately the best my degree in Home and Family could give me at the time. She asked me if I planned on returning to work after the baby came and it honestly took me a minute to understand what she was saying. Because the idea of going back to work after I had the baby was something I had never even considered. Even though my husband still had a year of schooling before he graduated and wasn't working. Even though without my paycheck we would have no income. And no insurance. And still, it wasn't even a consideration. I'm not sure how we made it, now that I think about it. Maybe we were naive to think we could. I know my parents gave us quite a bit of help, and Mike worked here and there. I am sure it was difficult to make ends meet, although I don't remember it being so. I was so consumed with my new role as a mother that the rest blurred into the background.

Let me back up a bit.

I went to college to get married. There, I said it. :) And I chose a major that I thought best suited to my plan - Home and Family. My studies focused on managing a home, providing good nutrition, family relationships and human development, with lots of sewing thrown in for good measure. Most of the girls in my major (there were only girls in my major) were going on to become Home Ec teachers. That didn't interest me one bit.

I'm lucky that I met Mike. He was everything I wanted in a husband, and we were married during my final year at BYU. We didn't plan on starting a family right away, but that's how it happened and I am glad it did. Mabel arrived feet first into this world a few weeks ahead of her due date, and at least a year or so ahead of "our plan". We were thrown into parenthood, and we were young, and it was hard, but so wonderful, too.

Since then, we've never looked back. I guess there have been sacrifices made so that I could stay home, but because we've never known any different, maybe we haven't noticed? Living on one income is not impossible, and stressful though it may be, my husband has always been willing to be the bread winner. There have been times when I have felt pulled away from my children to sew more, in order to provide a little extra spending money. That has been difficult for me. During those times, I was technically home, but completely unavailable to my family, holed away in my sewing room like I was. But those moments were fleeting, and I am better now at saying no to new projects. Or at realizing that the little bit of income sewing provided wasn't worth the stress on my family. And so I try to budget our money better instead.

There will be time later to pursue other things. But for now, my family needs me to be present at home, more than we need a little extra spending money, or anything else really.

When I am home, I can create an environment that provides relief from the wild world outside. I believe that my husband and children need that relief, more and more as the years go by. The peaceful feeling in my home is something that I don't like to disrupt, and so I make choices that contribute to that peace. I keep my home tidy. We try not to raise our voices. We don't rush about if we can help it. And the biggie: we stay at home as much as we can. This is what works for us.

I realize that wouldn't be ideal for everyone. And I understand that some women have to work. I believe that we are all doing our best. No one wants to fail as a mother, and so we find routines and activities that work for each of us. Judging another mother on her decisions doesn't do anybody any good, and so I turn my focus to my own family. I do what is right for us and I don't worry about what anyone else is doing.

This is what I know: being a stay at home mom is everything I dreamed it would be. Yes, there are hard days, and long nights, and sometimes difficult children. But as a stay at home mom, I get to decide the tempo and structure of our daily life. I choose what to feed my children, I am the one who reads them stories on the couch, and listens to how their day went when they come bursting in the door after school. But most importantly, I am here, always here.

The success of my life will be measured in how well I complete my role as mother. Period. It is my calling and my pleasure.

(Stephanie blogs here.)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sweetie Pie

Janey has been cracking us up lately with her funny faces.  I tried pigtails the other day-I don't think she or her hair is ready for that next step. She sure looked cute though-but a little too old-Isaac texted me the last time I posted a pic of Janey and said, "She looks like she is five!"  She is such a sweetie and so content and happy.  I finally was able to find some boots for her little feet and we can get outside in the mud.  And the teeth-finally in!  We are both relieved.

Matthew made his Confirmation last week and Abbey stood in for Isaac as his sponsor.  In the rush of making sure everyone was ready and looking nice and able to endure the long ceremony (i.e. had full tummies) I forgot to grab my camera battery on the way out.  Darn.

Happy Spring!  It has arrived!  The boys played outside all day Sunday and what a difference it makes.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Penelope's Story

(introduction to series here)


My name is Penelope, I live in Auckland New Zealand and am the mummy to two gorgeous boys E (5) and G(3). I have a BA in French, Italian and Political Science; a first class honours degree in French; a graduate diploma in Communications and Public Relations; and a graduate certificate in ESOL . I went to High School in NZ but spent my final year studying in Switzerland. I also spent a summer on a scholarship in Florence, Italy. Before becoming a Mummy I worked as an Account Director in a Public Relations firm specialising in IT and T.

My husband and I meet in a Politics lecture at the University of Victoria in Wellington. The paper was called ‘The Politics of the Self and the Political Economy’. Needless to say I remember nothing about it other than the lecturer wore his pet cat to class around his shoulders. We were so proud at the time as we were our only friends who hadn’t met in a bar – how intellectual!

I had so many plans - I was going to be a lawyer, then a Diplomat and then a PR consultant which fitted well with my language degrees and love of talking J.

After seven years at university I took my career deadly seriously. I was at my desk by 7am and, as someone who naturally works very hard, found myself quickly promoted (three times in two and a half years) to be an Account Director. I was 28 and managing some of the largest PR clients and budgets in my country. 

Unfortunately? I had always wanted to be a Mummy.
I loved the PR industry. I was surrounded by extremely high-achieving females all of whom, when they had children, came back to work and most full-time. I adored these women and many are still close friends, however I did feel like I was playing a role. I was ‘just like them’, or so it must have appeared except … except that since I was really little I have loved children and desperately looked forward to having my own. I was that child in my neighbourhood who could immediately sense if a new family with a baby had moved in nearby. I was that child who would be waiting on their doorstep for them to get home with my arms outstretched to hold their baby.

I have great-great-aunts who were among some of the original suffragettes in England. The right of women to vote, participate fully in society, to be allowed to be both mothers and workers was something achieved - not by some obscure history text book women - but partially by my women. New Zealand was the first country in the world to give women the vote and growing up I definitely picked up that it is incredibly important, as a mother, to also work. Maybe not when your children are very young, but ideally as soon as possible after that and definitely by the time they start school. My absolute favourite sweatshirt was bright pink with the words ‘girls can do anything’ on it. It was a hand-me-down from our neighbours so a strong message quite literally circulating the area - although no one clarified it didn’t mean you had to do it all at once.
I don’t feel that any of the wonderful women surrounding me as I grew up told me I had to either stay at home or had to work.  I had great role models on both sides: my own amazing mum stayed at home before we went to school but before that I remember her also doing relief teaching work while I played at other neighbourhood mummies homes as did their children when their mums worked part-time.

My Grandmother, also a teacher, worked when her two children were five. I think for both of them working and contributing financially was probably quite important (I remember my Mum telling me that, ahead of a seven-month campervan trip around Europe with my two year old brother, she worked in a restaurant at night to earn her own airfare). On the flip side is my best friend’s mum who is also an absolutely fantastic mother and chose to work full-time with nannies at home and paid after-school care at other women’s homes. I love their Mum and have strong memories of waves of perfume, power suits and feet which, confined for long hours in stilettos, could no longer fit flat shoes.  But those were the options – New Zealand didn’t have childcare centers back then.

The working women I most admired of my generation often stated as a fact: ‘I have a brain and I actually like using it’. Here we have paid parental leave for 14 weeks and a year off for maternity leave. I think most people expected to see me within a few months. So rationally, pre-children, I decided I could probably squeeze in two children if I had them closely together. Then, by the time the youngest was say 18 months, the two of them could go off to daycare together. I had mental images of my two lovely offspring holding hands and walking through a childcare gate. Rationally, I concluded I could take maybe three years off? Rationally, I knew, even then, my career would be in tatters.

And then I had E. And even today I cannot write those words without catching my breath because that boy made me a mother.  From the second he was born, six weeks early, within seven hours - everything changed. I no longer cared what anyone thought, who I might disappoint or even who I might make proud. I immediately felt an overwhelming, humbling, certainty that I had been put on this earth to be his mother and the fact that I could, hypothetically, ‘achieve so much more’ was the most false statement ever written and least important thing I could ever waste my time thinking about.

I got to be his Mummy.

My husband is a teacher, so our plan was to wait until E was born, sell our house over the summer, find him a job in Wellington and move into my grandparent’s house which my mother still owned. This meant we could have me at home for hopefully a few years. We put our house on the market the week before the Global Economic Crisis hit and there it sat. Selling our house was the only way could afford to have me at home as I earned about 60% of our income. It didn’t sell. We had offers but the banks weren’t lending and it kept falling through. I remember being shell-shocked and utterly terrified – my baby had just come home from NICU and I was facing the certainty that I was going back to work. I remember having a conversation with my mother where I sobbed devastated and uncontrollably, watching her heart break for me, as I told her we couldn’t make this happen.

The turning point for me was, however, not that moment, but the day a local warehouse had a huge fire. I stood watching the flames from my kitchen window. It was about 6pm and I was about to bath my baby when I realised that, because of the fire, our power was also off. I went into the bathroom to check for hot water and put my foot through the floor and realised our whole bathroom floor was rotted and this was just the first tile about to go. I may possibly at that point have said a very bad word very loudly but it was at that moment, profanity and all, I decided that I was going to make this happen or I would gladly die trying.

We cancelled all our bills that weren’t necessary, no cable for us, very basic internet plan that was so cheap and from such an obscure local company that more often than not we had no internet or landline, we wore layers of clothes rather than use heaters ,one car only used when necessary. I cooked exclusively from scratch (although my husband does remember the day I rang him at work to ask how to work our oven. We had already lived in our house for two years….). No new clothes, no coffees, no haircuts, if it wasn’t literally a basic need it didn’t make the cut. Even then we had no chance of breaking even and lived in savings for more than three years (thanks to money from my grandparents, a teacher and English professor, who spent their whole lives counting their pennies).

Still today when people ask how we can afford it I am quick to tell them “oh we absolutely can’t.” Now, as years lead to promotions and pay increases (my husband is now the head of English at a local highschool) we are in quite a different position financially. That said, staying at home has been absolutely financially crippling for us and we have quite literally watched every single dollar we have ever earned, or been fortunate to receive, pour down the drain. Thank goodness that drain is so cute J Only now are we plugging that drain and building things back up again.
Many of my friends work part-time, all are extremely careful about any childcare use and all adore their children as much as I do – but, and there is a but – I wonder if this being ‘just’ a Mum is getting the same level of encouragement as working does, particularly for those of us with degrees, with sparkling careers and prospects. I can’t help but feel there is a collective sigh of disappointment and wringing of hands over the waste when yet another Mum doesn’t return to the office.  I wonder if I see it slightly differently though.

Going to university, in my family, might as well have been part of compulsory education. My grandfather had a PhD from Oxford and my grandmother went to the University of London. My father went to five universities, my mother two, one in NZ and one in France. My brother is a lecturer at the University of Cambridge. I was always taught that education was for education’s sake, it was because of, and with the express purpose of furthering, a love of learning. It was never to get a job. Sure it made getting a well-paid one much easier but that wasn’t the reason for the degrees. So if I think what all those lovely letters after my name mean and how I can best use them, it really is within the walls of my home and in fostering that love of learning to my children.
I have had friends grappling with what to do and while I absolutely know what is right for my family I choose to have a limited opinion about what the next family should do. Yet I know, that if you want to stay at home it is rare that it can’t be made possible, while still personally knowing women currently suffering the pure heartbreak of it being simply impossible.

However for me, it simply has to be me, it must be me with my children. Not for all those gorgeous toddler moments saying cute toddler things – I’m pretty confident any one could manage that well -  it’s when they are sick or tired and quite frankly horrendous. It has to be me because I love them with a love so infinite that I can move mountains. Only I can kneel beside them, stare back into their eyes and have them to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I love and understand them better than anyone and I will do whatever it takes to work with them and make it o.k.

I want my boys to have a long, calm, confident childhood and grow up absolutely enveloped in the love we have for them, to know there is no place I would ever rather be even if that place has to be the now repaired bathroom floor singing songs and cheering on toilet training.  
Everybody has heard the saying that no one, on their death bed, has wished they spent more time in the office and I can’t help but wonder if this might be a big part of the solution. My hope is that more women will choose for themselves to take a deep breath, to leave those beautifully framed, hard-earned, expensive degrees on the wall and close that office door. My hope is that women will come to know that its ok, it’s a valid choice, you are wasting nothing and you might just come to gain everything you’ve ever wanted. You too educated, successful women, get to come back home. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Unplugged:Ideas For The Bored Kid

Rachel (mom of five boys and one darling girl) and I thought we'd come up with a list of ideas to help keep the troops entertained whilst Unplugged...perfect timing with Spring Break coming up.

Be forewarned: I grew up with this being the idea of how not to be bored: "Go outside. Or read a book."  I can't break free from my old-fashioned upbringing of total self-entertainment responsibility.

I also can't break free from the thought of rotting brains.  That is, if my kids are sitting in front of a TV, or playing a video game (which would be quite difficult because we only have an old broken set, that takes so long to set up it's not worth it), or on any other device where homework isn't being done, there is some alarm that goes off inside me, beeping constantly, saying, "Rotting brain, rotting brain, rotting brain."   Don't get me wrong, my kids DO sometimes rot their brains, but only in emergency situations (like the 14th day of 14 snow days (the worst winter in recorded history since history has been recorded), hyperemesis, or Mom has gone somewhere and Dad is home, yay!)

So if combine my fear of rotting brains with my old-fashioned "find something to do" upbringing I come up with a list like this:

1. Bake.  Yes, there will be a mess, it can be contained.  Whether it's brownies, or cookies, or hot pretzels, or an easy concoction that are really called Resurrection rolls but somehow were renamed Jesus rolls in our house.  This can keep one or two kids busy, and it can be as easy following directions on a box.  (And it's not just for girls, my boys love it also.)

2. Bike, scooter, Big Wheel obstacle courses.  We seem to have this sort of thing going on all summer long.  Sidewalk chalk is a must-for roads and signs and "how much air did you get on this one" contests.

3. Hide-n-seek.  Great in the dark too.  Inside or out.

4. Lego/Duplo villages.  The photo above is a Lego village that covers an entire table top-Andrew and Patrick and neighbor friends have been working on it all winter long.

5.  Make a tower of Kapla (or any blocks) as a target and use Nerf guns to knock them down.  Nerf gun wars too-those can get crazy, but have kept many a boy entertained here.

6.  This basketball hoop is the best thing I ever bought and games are played every day for hours.

7.  So this might not be something the kids yell, "Pick me, pick me!", but giving Sammy a show dog grooming session could kill a good hour and usually ends up being fun (and productive!).

8.  Good old-fashioned forts.

9.  Games.  I find that kids will play games if one of us gets them interested by playing as a family first. (Or if we are at a friend's house and their kids are into it).  One year "Monopoly Deal" was all the rage, this last year "Tensies" (a really easy dice game) and now my kids are playing Group Solitaire and Rummy.

10.  A yard project, weather permitting.  One year I built this (really easy, no sawing involved) sandbox with the kids (they were little so not really "with" them though they "helped" pick out the wood and dump the sand) and I know because it was a project "we" all did, it made the sandbox a huge hit.

11. Geo-caching. This is so fun...I didn't really "get" this till I read up on it, and a friend helped me (thanks Jane) but it's such a neat idea.  You will need a GPS, but basically other people (and you can too) "hide" things in specified locations around town (around the world?) and you go on a hunt to find them...the fun is in the seeking.  Some are far, but we found a few within biking distance in our little town.
Here's a much better description of what Geo-caching is. 

12. Once, in March, after a long cold winter (but one without any snow), I was desperate (crazy, idiotic, insane, slap-happy, cabin feverish) enough to let the kids sled down the stairs.  No one got hurt (not hurt enough to warrant medical help-which around here means your bleeding out so much a cloth diaper can't keep up, or your arm is hanging by a tendon and I can't stitch it myself, etc.).  I am not saying this is a good idea, just explaining that I understand boredom desperation very very well.

13.  Abbey and her friends loved "sewing" clothes for their stuffed animals and dolls.  Basically it was pieces of felt I had found at a craft store and extra scraps of material, glued (use Stitch Witchery or other fabric glue) and/or safety pins.  Sometimes they even just tied corners together to make little tops or skirts.

15. I had to include this photo too, because one spring break, when we didn't go anywhere "fun" our backyard flooded so badly (that's usually grass-we didn't realize we had a drain that had been covered by dead leaves) after a torrential down pour.  Andrew waded back to the shed and got out Jeff's kayak and paddle and had a great time in our beautiful back yard "pond".  

I guess the lesson in that is they'll find something to do.  If not, I have a bunch of jobs.... :)