Thursday, January 27, 2011

Working Mom *Update*

So after a good night's sleep and some good cuddles with the sick baby, I was able to get some perspective on the issue. I think one of the problems was that my boss was not exactly supportive or sympathetic to my situation, and I felt that I was someone hurting my standing by taking care of the baby. But as I was lying there next to Syd, with the house dark and my family sleeping, I had an epiphany. Or really just remembered what I already knew. My family is my priority. I love my job, but if it came down to it I would choose my family without question. I've worked hard to get to a place where I should be trusted enough not to punch a time clock, and I'm lucky that my union agrees with me. Additionally, my job knew I had small kids when they hired me. In fact, Eli wet his pants during my interview, and they later told me that I was chosen because I was so "real." So if they're not going to be understanding than it's not the right place for me to build my career.

No. I didn't quit my job. And I'm not going to. I enjoy my work and I don't know that I would have as much fun at a different place. But remembering that these are my priorities, and these same things are what make me good at what I do, both as a mom and a psychologist, gave me the confidence and perspective to stop worrying so much about what everyone else thinks. It doesn't matter what the daycare thinks, what my boss thinks, what my neighbors think, about how we balance work and family. This is what works best for my family, and when I took a step back I realized that we're doing a pretty good job. The house is still a mess, and I feed my kids PB&J for dinner more often than I care to admit (but with a side of carrots!) but we are, for the most part, healthy and happy.

Thanks for letting me whine for a minute. I may eventually take that post down, but for now I like letting the crack in the armor show.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rock beats scissors

Eli called me into his room tonight hours after his bedtime. I asked him what he was doing still awake and he said "I'm scared. I'm scared about what would happen if rock and paper and scissors came down on my and squashed me or cut me or covered me." Love it!

Sometimes being a working mom sucks

This is a total pity post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Today was a bad mommy day. Syd's had a cough since last week, so after a particularly rough night I made her an appointment with the doctor yesterday. Unfortunately the only appointment was at 11:00 (of course) so I had to leave work at 10:00. Which maybe wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been out sick all week last week. But whatever. So I take Syd to the doctor, sure I'll be dismissed with "just a cold." In fact, the doctor even commented that she was too smiley and happy to be very uncomfortable. A double ear infection and bronchitis diagnosis later we were armed with antibiotics and albuterol. The first call I made wasn't to C, but to the daycare to determine the rule for how long a kid had to be on antibiotics before she could come back to school. Nothing says "Dedicated mother" like frantically trying to figure out how to pawn my kid off, ASAP. And my poor baby girl was being such a trooper.

I'm super behind at work. I've got a shit ton of paperwork, plus groups to run, plus each of my client's still needs their individual sessions. I've got two new patients to intake, and new treatment plans to set up. I walked on the unit today and was mobbed by clients. Before Syd got sick I had planned to work extra hours this week, so that I could get caught up and start our new program with my best foot forward.

C was able to stay home with the baby today, but it broke my heart knowing that Syd was home sick and probably wanted her mama to snuggle up with her. Sometimes this work/life balance thing really blows. Driving home I was on the verge of tears because it all felt like such a failure. The house is a wreck, the kids are sick, I'm not snuggled up with my babies and I don't have it all together like I feel like other working moms do. I feel like a shitty mom for staying at work instead of going home. I feel like a shitty employee that I already took off early once this week and I'm operating so far below my self-imposed acceptable level of quality. I feel like I'm developing some kind of spot-light as being flaky, though I'm hoping that's just my own neurosis and not reality.

I know that each family has to figure out what will work for them. Most of the people that I work with have a stay-at-home spouse, so I feel like there isn't a lot of guidance. I'm interested in how other working moms handle this. What do you do when your kids are sick? And how do you handle feeling like you're torn in a two, without being able to give either the attention it deserves?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It's like heroin, but with more ric rac

PSA: If my humility is a characteristic you admire, you may want to just skim this one.

I wanted to post this picture for two reasons. 1) She's really cute (in my humble opinion) and Look! Teeth! and Sitting! On a chair! and 2) That dress? I totally made it. Myself. Over the weekend when I was alone with two kids. Sure, the house is a wreck and none of the laundry got folded but Look! And it does not suck (in my humble opinion). I bought the fabric back in Minnesota for a clothespin holder (because I'm 80, and *edgy*) but I think it's more adorable as a dress.

I spent yesterday compulsively reading the archives of this blog and the dress was inspired by her Itty Bitty Dress. I forgot how much I love doing this, and now I'm sort of obsessed. Seriously, we're like the freaking Von Trapps right now. I'm evaluating everyone with the thought "What could I make for you?" (including Ark, Eli's one and only doll who has been forced to wear a very silly sailor outfit since forever. Side note: Boys play with dolls. They should sell clothes for boy dolls.) I've totally convinced myself that Syd will have a complete wardrobe of cute little smocks and sundresses and that never again will I utter the words "How cute! We have the exact same one!" at daycare. I want the kids to have matching jammies, and the four of us to have matching pajama pants. I'll make napkins and aprons and potholders and purses. I'll design flattering and stylish shirts for myself and stop living in t-shirts... This will most likely get completely out of hand and require some sort of intervention. In the meantime, I'm eyeing every piece of fabric in the house trying to decide what to make out of it. We'll be well-dressed, but with no sheets, towels, or curtains.

With the leggings! It's killing me, it's so darn cute.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dear Eli,

I feel like you've gotten the short end of the stick this year, what with the new baby and your new penchant for whining and all. In the midst of the chaos, I sometimes forget to remind you of what an awesome kid you are. In the last six months or so you have become this boy. Not a toddler, barely a little kid, not even a preschooler anymore. More and more often I look at you and for a brief moment I can see with crazy clarity the 12 year old, 18 year old, 25 year old that you will become. It's exciting and heart breaking at the same time.

You are so funny, and you delight in making your dad and me laugh. A lot of the time it's poop and penis jokes, which I'll admit are pretty damn funny (it's my job to tell you otherwise. I'll explain when you're older). Then you tell the same joke over and over and over and over and over, until we have to explain why we're not laughing anymore. But you're learning. And your timing is impeccable. You've been known to tell complete strangers "My name is Eli. I was born in Oregon in a covered wagon" with a totally straight face, which has then led to some very interesting reactions. You have a special skill for physical comedy. One great example is that during Thanksgiving dinner, I was laughing with a friend about my reaction to a client who literally jumped out of her clothes. I heard your signature mischevious giggles from the other room and looked over just in time to see you streaking, butt naked, through the kitchen. I often have to ask you to take underwear off of your head. They're classics for a reason, kid.

You've always been curious, but lately you've outgrown my cursory explanations and I'm stumped so often that you've started asking your question and then immediately saying "We should look that up." Because of you I know what makes a rattlesnake rattle, that fish have ears, that the straps in boots are called "mule ears" and pretty much everything about the rodeo. Your vocabulary has grown so much that a lot of the time I don't know how to easily define the words you ask about. You're pretty sneaky when you're trying to swear ("fuckle" has been a recent point of discussion). And your memory is phenomenal. You've brought up things that happened years ago, and that no one's talked about since, like what we ate for dinner at a rest stop on the way to Minnesota. It's pretty amazing.

You are so creative and inventive. One of my favorite things to do is to catch you playing when you think no one's watching. Because you're such a performer, much of your time in other people's presence feels like a show you're putting on, but when you're alone I can see a whole different side of you. You love to play with your Lego men and to build houses and cars for them. You also love to create obstacle courses for yourself and call yourself "Ninja Warrior." You have a couple of little hidey holes in the house that you use, and I am so envious of the way that you can find a private, cozy spot in the middle of everything. You'll play behind the chair for so long that sometimes I forget you're there, until you pop up unexpectedly and yell "Boo!", scaring the shit out of me and making your baby sister laugh so hard she falls over. You love costumes and dressing up, but you're also very particular about it. You were rocking the cowboy get-ups HARD for awhile, but you outgrew your boots and seem to be moving on. The Spiderman costume you favored a few months ago has been replaced by Clone Troopers and Transformers. Lately you've been obsessed with Astro Boy (which, by the way, has a very confusing to a four-year-old death/grief theme that you've explained to yourself in such a beautiful and sweet way that I have no intentions of correcting you on it) and you've asked Abba to make you "an Astro Boy suit with boots and an E on the shirt." I have no doubt that you will wear that costume to pieces, just like the Superman one and the Spiderman one before it. I love when I go check on you before I go to bed, to find that at some point you got up, took your jammies off, and put on your Frankenstein costume. Doesn't get more Eli than that.

At school you split your time pretty evenly playing tag with the boys and playing house with the girls (you're usually the daddy or the dog). You have a sensitive soul and you worry that kids don't want to play with you, yet you never let this stop you from trying. I'm learning to step back and let you navigate this part on your own, figure out the playground rules because 1) I always sucked at them and 2) you're doing a much better job on your own than with my help. My heart breaks when I see the confusion on your face, but you keep at it and have a ton of friends to show for it. We're trying to teach you to stand up for yourself a bit more, and it seems to be working. Daddy just told me a story about you playing house with your friends when the house was "invaded" by other kids. Spurred by your wife's call, you rushed over, flexed your muscles ala Superman, and demanded they leave your home. I have no idea where you got all that, but it cracks me up to imagine. You adore your teacher, and the feelings seem to be mutual. Last week, as you were doing her hair, you told her you were taking her on a date to Pump It Up.

It's been so interesting to watch you with Sydney. I'm not sure you're so sold on this big brother gig, but the two of you play together more and more, and have settled into the family in a really nice way. You hate when she sleeps in your room because it means you have to be quiet when you're supposed to be sleeping, which, to be honest, makes it a win-win for me. On the other hand, every morning you come into our room and crawl into bed next to her, pull her close to you, and the two of you laugh and play together, sharing smiles in the early light. She beams at the sight of you, and you're doing a good job of being patient and sharing your toys (and your mom and dad). I know it's tough Kid, and I try to be understanding. I'm sorry if I sometimes forget how hard it is to be the oldest. I know that it's been an adjustment having to share with the baby, but you've been a champ.

One of the things you ask daily is "How much do you love me, Mama?" to which I reply "More than anything else in the world." It's so much more than that though. When you were born, you unlocked a part of me that made me complete. Before you were born, I felt like I was always trying to define my identity, always looking for that one thing that defined me. And then you came and made it crystal clear. I am many things, but above all I am a mama, and you made me that.

I love you more than space,


Monday, January 17, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Know what's awesome?

I had big plans for today. I've been putting off grocery shopping for so long that we literally were down to peanut butter, bananas, a half a head of cauliflower, and a huge decaying leek. So the kids and I were going to hit Costco and the grocery store hard. I sat down and for the first time in months wrote out a meal plan and coordinating shopping list. I even broke out the cookbooks so we could shake out of the spaghetti-tacos-chicken-porkchop-meatloaf rut we've been stuck in for.ever. Two hours later, after remembering the consequences of shopping hungry, eating lunch, putting clothes on the kids (in that order, please tell me I'm not the only one who's weekends look like this) we set off. I even remembered, at the last minute, to grab the diaper bag and my phone.The three of us were in great moods, none of the kids were crying or whining, and traffic was even good. Pulled into Costco braced for the clusterfuck that is their parking lot, only to find a spot, on my first pass, right in front. Seriously, there was one car between us and the door. I would've paid money for this spot. Smiling to myself because the gods were obviously smiling down on me, I started unloading my still lovely, happy, behaving children. Because I am SO organized and SO together, I thought to put my membership card and debit card in my pocket o I wouldn't have to worry about a bag in Costco. On Saurday. Three guesses where my wallet was. Yup, in my bag. My work bag. My work bag that I'd thoughtfully put away Friday night as part of my effort to keep my house looking a little less sty-ish, and so did not have to step over to leave. Which means I didn't have the visual reminder to switch out my stuff. Son of a bitch. See what I get?

Our parking spot was significantly less awesome the second time around.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Not quite Martha

but not too shabby either, if I do say so myself.

For Eli

I actually sarted these over a year ago and originally made them too big. More "weapon of destruction" than bean bag. These are perfect palm size and a good weight. We picked up a paint can to toss into. He loves them, and I'm reminded of how great simple toys can be.

For Syd

I've been eying Baby Legs since Eli was tiny, but have never been willing to spend that much on not-socks/not-pants. So I made my own. Super easy and they. are. ADORABLE!

So fun to have time for hobbies again!

*In that bottom picture you can just barely see Syd's chompers. She had none until about a month ago. Now she's working on #4. Fun times.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Club (or Where I Get All Ranty)

When I had Eli, I vividly remember feeling like I had just gained membership to this super-exclusive, amazing club. Other mothers and I share conspiratorial smirks as our kids run amok and we half-heartedly try to reign them in. The empathic look as a mother wrestles her tantruming three year old out of Target. The knowing, inner glow that comes from watching another mom sway her baby, gently "shhhing" remembering the hours you spent doing the same thing, until anytime you stand still you still unconsciously sway. I love that. I love the knowledge that this motherhood thing is a team sport, and that for the most part, we all support each other, knowing that we're all doing the best we can. I love that, despite your methods, we all know the feeling of peace as you look in on your sleeping child. We all know the feeling of having your priorities completely rearranged by someone who weighs less than a gallon of milk. The joy of watching your babies smile. It's so interesting to me to work with the women that I do, because it really highlights how strong the bond between mothers is. I work with moms who've lost their kids, gave up their kids, shit even killed their kids, and yet, we're all in this together. The same look crosses each woman's face when she talks about her babies. We all just get it.

I feel strongly that we are all in this together. When I'm with my kids, despite the methods I claim to use or the "expert" I follow, about 90% of the time I'm really just trying not to fuck up too bad. I think that's true for most of us. We wing it. We experiment. We struggle, and when we find something that works we celebrate. Extended breast feeding, formula, co-sleeping, sleep training, infant potty training. They're all awesome.

I get so frustrated when parents start judging each other for doing the best we can. No one sets out to screw up our kids. Quite the opposite, we obsess and research and worry and beat ourselves up. But there are tons of studies that say the best thing we can do is try not to fuck our kids up too bad. I find that reassuring. For some people, their best means all organic, no vaccines, baby-directed, 24/7 baby-wearing. For others that means flash cards, Baby Einstein, the Ferber method and classical music in constant rotation. It really doesn't matter. What matters is that we're trying the best we can.

Despite the circumstances, I believe that we all love our children so much that it's indescribable. I believe that we all want the best for our kids, no matter how you define that. So daycare, formula, cribs, prison records. Let's all back the fuck off. This parenting gig is hard enough. I mean that both for those of us raising our kids and those of us who aren't. We all know the feeling that comes when that little person makes their big entrance, but we have no idea what's going to work best for another family. By all means, share your tricks. Listen to each other's struggles. Laugh through the frustration and at the utter ridiculousness of it all. Having kids is awesome, and amazing, and sometimes really really hard. But we're all in this together, and at the end of the day the majority of us are doing a damn fine job. Or at least trying not to screw up too bad.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Starting off on the right foot

C went out of town this weekend so I took the opportunity to be "the fun one" for a change. It was a total exercise in gluttony, if we're being completely honest. We made New Year's Cupcakes...

They taste just like they look. The most natural thing in them is the Spiderman wrapper.

I let the kids pick dinner, so they ate an entire pizza and three CANS of mandarin oranges. And the cupcakes.

There's water in her sippy cup. That's got to count for something, right?

By Sunday Eli was begging for fruit, so I'm calling the weekend a success. And joining weight watchers, cause I'm pretty sure my ass grew three sizes today.