Tag Archives: working mom

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Boogers, and Board Books: An Honest Inside Look at the Life of a Working Mom

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Let me paint you the scene. It’s midnight. I just finished baking Nutella stuffed chocolate chip cookies. I’m in charge of our “connecting activity” for work tomorrow and I have carefully planned five “Minute to Win It” games. I’ve somehow also managed to sign up to bring food for the breakfast tomorrow, so along with the white elephant gift exchange present, the props for Minute to Win It, and the 9 X 13 pan of cookies, I am picking up bagels and cream cheese early tomorrow morning.

For a minute this afternoon I contemplated trying to make it to the 6:15am group work out class at the women’s gym I joined last month. Don’t worry, I’ve eaten enough chocolate this evening to tamp down that idea.

Tis the season, right? The season of way, way, way too much to do. I have always felt this way, but somehow having a son and wanting to squeeze every moment of time with him out of each day leaves very thin margins on the book-ends of my day to accomplish, well, everything.

And I do mean… everything.

This week we had a professional development for work. And she was there. You don’t know her, and yet, I’m pretty sure you do. She’s adorable, she got a work ethic to make Ben Franklin proud, she’s a step higher on the career ladder. She’s so nice that it’s annoying and yet, you realize that you can’t not like her because, ugh, she is so nice. She doesn’t have a kid yet, but I can guarantee that when she does, her days will have extra hours and she will not be awake at 1am writing a blog about how much she envies someone else. She will instead be busy being the President of the United States. Or something like that.

I’m exaggerating. Obviously. But there’s nothing like showing up to a work event having barely brushed your hair and wearing a Coldwater Creek shirt you bought from Goodwill that may or may not have gone out of style ten years ago that can send you into the spiral of down, down, down into the comparison game. Or maybe it’s just me.

I do not need anyone to remind me about how this is NOT what Christmas is all about. For that matter, I don’t need anyone to remind me that this is NOT what mothering, being a woman, being a person is all about.

And yet, here we are.

For some reason, what keeps coming into my mind over and over, and I do like to pay attention to such things, is this moment of conversation I had with a coworker this week. Not “her”. A different one. Her name is Katie. She’s the kind of person that asks how you’re doing and really wants to hear the answer. So I told her.

“Last night my son screamed for three blocks through the middle of downtown Oak Park, bucking his body wildly against me because I wouldn’t let him play with a knife at the restaurant where we’d ordered dinner.”

She had true compassion in her eyes, probably because her son is only a few months older than mine, so she gets it. And then she went into a several minute long story about, and I am not making this up, sucking boogers out of her son’s nose with the Nose Frida.

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It might have been the best conversation I had all week.

What in the world do boogers have to do with Christmas, the comparison game, and being up way too late?

I guess nothing. And everything. Because she offered me such a gift. Katie offered me the honest, real look at her day to day life. And right now, in a tale that is very familiar, her day to day life consists of… boogers.

Right now my days consist of speculation on and about the rhyming patterns of Sandra Boynton books. I can explain in incredible detail how and why Barnyard Dance is superior in every way to Birthday Monsters. My husband can chime in on the conversation because (and this is a little embarrassing) we talk about it. Kinda a lot.

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I was an over-committer long before my son came along. I can’t blame him for that. But having a son has spread the icing on the cake thin enough that it’s embarrassing to serve it. Things have slipped, and there are glaring holes in the facade I like to believe I used to be able to pull off. (For those who know me well, just go with me here. No need to burst my bubble.)

Yet, here I am. Blogging in the middle of the night after a marathon day of “doin’ too much.” Adding a few more things onto my plate so that maybe I can fool everyone else into thinking that I haven’t slowed down at all since becoming a mom. I really can do it all.

But the truth, as I’ve already laid out, I can’t. These days I get really nervous just trying to make small talk. I hate the moment in conversations when it lulls and I am expected to fill it with some thoughtful remark. I scan the Rolodex and more often than not land on… boogers. Or Sandra Boynton. Or my son’s screaming through Oak Park. Not exactly cocktail conversation.

Maybe the best I can do is this. Writing this. Telling my own version of the booger story and letting it all hang out for you to see. Would it probably have been even more meaningful, a larger step away from the comparison game, if I had bought cookies from the store? Maybe. Does it help make my point to know that I ate way more than my fair share of chocolate chips today? Maybe.

But know that despite what my chocolate chip cookies and sunny Christmas card may imply, I’m just winging it. Like everybody else.

Probably even “her”.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

God Bless Daycare

If you are a regular reader then you know that I have been on an emotional tilt-a-whirl when it comes to childcare for my son. For a good chunk of my maternity leave I was pretty sure that being a stay-at-home mom was the only route for me. And I was a good SAH mom for those three months. We went out on walks, we visited every store and free activity in a twenty mile radius, and we laughed and clapped and sang songs. All. Day. Long.

Going back to work was hard for me. Pumping at work, missing my son all day, trying to find pants that fit in a professional way–that was a challenge. But I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a satisfaction in not reading the Baby Faces book four hundred times a day. Or in not sitting by the door like a complete stalker from 4:30pm on, waiting for my husband to get home.

Anyway, this past week I re-appreciated the value of spending long chunks of time with my son, as well as the value of having a great daycare.

We spent the past week in a beautiful cabin in Wisconsin. I packed a bag of twenty books to read, and we set off. (I packed sweat pants and a tooth brush, too, if you’re the type that worries about such details.) After a long school year, quitting my job, going through the application process for multiple other jobs, accepting a job, etc, I was very ready for a break.

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We had a wonderful time in Wisconsin. Truly, we did. Also, I did not read a single book.

I had forgotten how hard it is to accomplish anything when you are following around a ten-month-old. One who has just learned how to pick himself up onto any and all furniture, how to find and open pill bottles, and how to fling himself head-first off of furniture (or attempt to, in any case, we have to draw the line somewhere).

I would be one paragraph into a book when he would find a power-cord to munch. Or would pull himself onto the stone hearth and start reaching for the fire poker. Or start throwing items off the coffee table. By the time I got back to my book, I had to reread the paragraph. And by that time, my son would have crawled up on me, snatching my book from my hands, flinging it behind his shoulder. With love, of course.

It wasn’t really a romantic trip, either, since my son decided that he no longer is interested in sleeping on his own, preferring instead to sleep if and only if he is between me and my husband in bed. Which is fine, except it isn’t. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

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Let me not get too down on the trip, because once I set aside my expectations of catching up on sleep, reading, and sex, it was actually a perfect vacation. We ate well past our caloric needs every day, discovered snakes and wild turkeys on our walks, and drank wine while listening to old records of Joan Baez and Johnny Cash. Idyllic.

I soaked in some incredible mommy-son time. I can hardly believe that he is just weeks away from walking, he’s saying mama and dada, and he has mastered the art of shaking his head to say “no”. It’s magical to see a little human grow and develop and change around me. I am thankful for every moment.

But it was also magical when my husband dropped my son off at daycare this morning. After arriving home well past midnight last night, it was an absolute luxury to sleep until 11:38am.

And it was magical when we went out for lunch, and I got to enjoy sipping on not one, but TWO mugs of tea. At no point during this lunch did silverware drop on the floor, bread debris float in my water glass, or food, eaten in haste, burn the roof of my mouth. I got to taste every bite of my delicious artisan macaroni and cheese.

Do I feel a tinge of guilt about being so gleeful to spend some time away from my son? Absolutely. Am I itching to go pick him up from daycare and smother his beautiful face with kisses? Absolutely.

And…am I going to drop him off at daycare for another “me” day tomorrow? Absolutely.

God bless my vacations with my son, and God bless daycare for the vacation away from him.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

 

 

 

This is Good: All of It.

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I spent most of my first Mother’s Day in tears. Even for a crier like me, it wasn’t how I had planned to spend the day. But I had the triple header of saying goodbye to family that had been in town for the week, saying goodbye to a house we had planned to buy, and preparing to put my son in a new daycare. (For those keeping track, this is childcare plan #4. Hubby astutely pointed out that we have had almost every form of childcare possible at this point: nanny, in home daycare, live-in care with my mom, and now a daycare center.)

Of these major life events, the daycare was causing me the most tears last Sunday. The idea of getting used to another stranger looking out for my son seemed almost more than I could handle. (Though the excuse to spend $150 at Target for “school supplies” for my son’s first day in daycare was some excellent retail therapy.)

SPOILER ALERT: I LOVE the daycare. The detailed daily report of what and how much he has eaten, the times and lengths of his nap, and the diaper changes and numbers of BMs calms my inner helicopter mama. Just kidding, nothing calms my inner helicopter mama. But it is an appreciated OCD step in the right direction.

No, my crying about the daycare has nothing to do with the quality or satisfaction with the daycare. Instead, it has everything to do with watching my beautiful baby boy go on his next big adventure. It is about seeing him grow up and go places and have adventures without me there.

I kept asking my husband, in the midst of my tears, “What if they don’t love him as much as I do?”

Because when it comes down to it, that’s what I want. A world that despite all evidence to the contrary will hold my son in kindness and compassion. A world that will accept him for the perfect person he is. A world that will nurture and adore him.

I look in his innocent face and think that there is absolutely nothing that has happened in his world yet that would make him believe that the world is anything other than those things I just listed. And I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the reality to settle in, for prick of the spinning wheel, his birthright in this broken world.

I’ll be honest, there’s another side to this coin. It isn’t just the avoidance of pain. The other question that I ask over and over again is… (I’m ashamed to admit this.)

“What if he loves someone else more than he loves me?”

I am the center of his universe. I am the most beautiful and hilarious and exciting thing in his world. And I just love that. I love all of it. I love the attention and the adoration and the acceptance. And if I’m being completely honest (and usually I am) I don’t want to give that up. And letting him go means giving him the opportunity to realize that I’m not the only amazing person in this world.

My husband and I were talking about our son last week and I said something like, “That’s my boy.”

And he replied, “He isn’t yours.”

I obviously responded charitably. Something along the lines of, “SHUT.UP.YES.HE.IS!” But I instantly knew it was true.

Ugg.

I get it. I know that my job as a mom is ultimately to let him go. To let him explore the broken and ugly world, teaching him to see the beautiful in it and to cherish the good. To trust that he will love and be loved by more people than just me; and that this is healthy and right. To put into practice my husband’s words: my son does not belong to me.

But that often seems impossible. Or leaves me in tears on Mother’s Day.

The week after our son was born we asked our pastor to come and pray for him. She came and gave the most beautiful benediction and blessing over his life. And she left me with the best piece of parenting advice. We had been told a lot of “get as much sleep as you can” (useless, useless advice) and “enjoy this time because just you wait, when he’s a teenager you will be miserable.”

In contrast, she said, “It seems like just yesterday that my kids were little, and now [my youngest daughter] is in college. And it was all good. From the time they were babies to now. All of it is good.”

Today is my son’s nine month birthday. We went to the park and he sat in the bucket-seat swing and he laughed and laughed as I made silly faces and kissed the top of his head when he swerved my direction. It is hard to believe that nine months ago I could only image his face, the dimple in his check, the blue of his eyes. And it’s even harder to believe that nine months from now he will be walking around our living room and climbing our bookshelves. In nine years he will be in school, and nine years after that he will be graduating from High School.

Each step of the way, I will be learning how to let go, over and over again. And maybe there will be some miserable teenage years. There will almost certainly be those who do not show my son the kind of love I believe he deserves. And I suppose it is possible that one day he may love someone more than he loves me. (Ugg, again.)

But I am holding onto my pastor’s words. Having faith that I, too, will look back and be thankful. This is good. This is a gift. The loving and the letting go.

All of it.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

The Brutal Honesty of a Photograph

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My dad recently posted some photos from our family’s time together at Easter. They are beautiful. They all show our smiling, happy faces, many surrounded by the lush and rich foliage from the nature conservatory we visited. I loved them all.

All except one. There was one I didn’t love. It was the one of my dad, my son, and me. Actually, it was the only one of me. And let me be clear, my dad and my son look great. But I look like a total bummer.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Like, the intensive sleep deficit my husband and I were rocking, due to our choice to drive through the night to get to my family’s house. We got there in record time, without the requisite hourly stops made when my son is awake. We also got there at three in the morning, and two weeks later I think it is safe to say we haven’t fully made up the sleep gap.

Also, my family has this thing about using local and organic and natural (the real natural, not the natural stamped onto Cheetos so you can fool yourself into thinking you’re being healthy) products. I am in favor of this completely. Except when it comes to shampoo. Natural shampoo is the equivalent of rubbing Aquaphor by the handfuls into my fine and oily-prone hair. So besides the bags under my eyes, my hair looks like an Italian mobster’s toupee.

But the biggest bummer of all, perhaps, is the fact that the picture is breathtakingly honest. That’s pretty much what I look like these days. Even without long distant late night drives and lotion shampoo, I generally have bags under my eyes and greasy, sloppy hair. This is what my life has become.

When I saw the picture I started down a shame spiral. How in the world had I become one of those women? You know the ones. They find a guy, settle down, and let themselves go. Also, everyone else looks put together in the photographs. Why couldn’t I at least have brushed my hair? Was that sweatshirt really necessary? Why so baggy and dirty? Is my face always so splotchy? Oy vey. You get the idea.

I started making resolutions about what I wouldn’t eat and what I would buy to make my hair shiny. I thought about the manicures and pedicures and hair cuts and wardrobes necessary to return me to my pre-baby, pre-“letting myself go” glory. I even wrote a full ending to this blog about taking care of myself and prioritizing mommy’s needs. Which I think is important.

But the more I have thought about it, the more I have been remembering the day. The day that the photo was taken.

That day, after months of waiting, I woke up in my parents’ house and got to have breakfast with my dad. I watched my son play with his cousins. I had lunch with my mom. My dad and I took the dogs to the dog park and met really enthusiastic dog owners. (Are there any other kind?)

Then we went to the conservatory and looked at the flowers. A hush fell over my son the moment his stroller entered the fern room. He was mesmerized by the plants, often close enough to rip off chunks and immediately eat them. We took the mandatory family photos by the fountain with the naked girl and my mom got her grandma/grandson snapshot. We breathed deep the rich, oxygenated air, filling up on the green we’ve been missing for the past six months.

We went home and twelve of us squeezed around a table growing too small in a kitchen growing too small to hold the abundance of new members, married and birthed in over the past three years. While eating bowls of lentil soup we laughed until we couldn’t breathe. Because that’s what my family does. Then we played games and laughed some more. And ate some more, of course, because that’s also what my family does.

All of this I accomplished with greasy hair and baggy, out of date clothes. All of this, with the food stains and the glasses that are askew from being grabbed by my curious son too many times. All of this with the fatigue that is my familiar blanket. All of this.

I want so badly to be the person who can do it all. I want to have the career. And I do. I want the perfect house. And I (mostly) do. I have the husband and the kid, the car and the memberships. But I want to do it all with nice nails, long hair that wasn’t poorly cut during a disastrous Groupon mistake. Oh, and clean, trendy clothes. Maybe even a little make-up.

And those are things that I feel like I could have if I just tried a little bit harder. If I just bought the right cream or took the time to blow dry my hair.

But remembering that day makes me feel foolish.

Could I spend more time on my hair? Of course. Will I ever? Probably not. Because frankly, my dear, I just don’t give a damn. Or at least, not enough of a damn. There’s just too many other things that I care about too much more than whether or not my hair is washed with Vaseline, or if it is washed with Aveda.

Hear me out, I’m still going to buy the Aveda shampoo, mind you, next time I go to the salon (which should be soon because honestly, the Groupon hair disaster is still haunting me). I still like to pretend that there will come a day when I will buy the magic soap that will transform my skin in a single use. Or the super shampoo that will erase the need for blow drying, styling, and productifying. (I told you, I don’t do those things. I don’t even know the appropriate words for them.)

But in case I never do, and because I know I won’t (at least for not any meaningful length of time), I have to remind myself that a picture is just a picture. Sure, it will scroll across the computer screen at my parents’ home forever and ever amen. But it is just a picture.

And I choose the moment and memory. Even with the greasy hair.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_nRachel

I’m Pretty Much Nailing This Parenting Thing

There was bird poop on my porch steps this morning and I was elated. Because where there is bird poop, there is a bird who is chirping the message that spring, spring, spring is almost here (in weather, I mean, I am aware of how the equinox works).

Therefore, in celebration of the fact that it is spring, complete with showers, and the fact that our staff bathroom had toilet paper in it today (it’s the little things people), I am writing an uplifting piece about the milestones I (and my husband) have reached as a parent in the first seven and a half months of my son’s life.

Let me preface this by saying that I went into this whole parenting thing already sort of an expert. I teach, after all, and therefore know a thing or two about kids. So these milestones go above and beyond those basic achievements.

Now it’s time to report back on how well we have excelled as parents. Here goes:

The Disposable Diaper Achievement:

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At one month into parenting, we turned the corner on cloth diapering. Maybe it was the fact that our son’s diapers caused his rear end to be twelve times the side of his head and pushed him into baby clothes six months ahead of his age. Maybe it was too difficult to remember to put out the diapers for pick-up on Saturday mornings. Maybe it was too hard to hand-wash the wool diaper covers. Or maybe it was the fact that our son peed a lot. And insisted on being changed after every urination. Whatever it was, cloth diapers had to go.

While using cloth diapers it was not unusual for me to change my son’s diaper, put him down for a nap, and have to change his diaper again before he had fallen asleep. Ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m not sure if it was me or my husband who got the brilliant idea to switch to disposable diapers at nights so that we could sleep in longer than 15 minute increments, but I think we both knew that once we made that concession, we were well on our way to becoming a cloth-diaper-free house. And so it was that within two months we earned ourselves the Disposable Diaper Achievement.

Responsible Screen Time Award:

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We don’t own a TV at our house, a fact that saves a lot of time when Comcast tries to offer us their latest amazing deal. But we do own a computer and a Netflix subscription. Let’s be honest, that’s at least as good as a TV, and makes the opening statement of not owning a TV immediately less impressive.

My husband read a book that told us to limit screen time for children before the age of two. A worthy challenge. For the first few months of our son’s life we were careful to always point all computer or phone screens away from his face. Amateurs.

Anyway, the author of this book has clearly never been stuck in Chicago’s rush hour traffic with a screaming child, having already sung all verses of every song you’ve ever heard, exhausting all possible items of interest pulled from every bag and purse in the car. If the author had been in this situation, they too would have earned the Responsible Screen Time Award, an award that goes out to any parent who, in a moment of panic or fatigue, is able to use technology to soothe or distract their child.

If you need any assistance with earning this award, might I suggest a free download of the app “Magic Fingers”. You’re welcome. (I also endorse youtube videos.)

The Best Intentions Organic Homemade Baby Food Honorable Mention:

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At his four month appointment, the pediatrician told us we could start feeding our son rice cereal. My husband and I gave one another knowing glances. It was really a shame to see our pediatrician so behind in the baby food conversation. Doesn’t he know that rice cereal causes diabetes, is probably full of arsenic, and will make our child obese?

When he asked us directly, we smugly answered that we were making our own baby food. What we meant was that we have a food processor and intentions of peeling, pureeing, and storing our own homemade (organic) baby food. We hadn’t actually MADE it. (Our pediatrician gave us a sympathetic smile and said, “God bless you guys. But seriously, Gerber baby food is good, too.”)

Several days after the appointment I happened to be at Babies R Us, and there happened to be a sale on organic baby food. I picked up a box of twelve little jars. After all, we needed more storage containers for our homemade food.

It’s been three months since then and to date we have boiled and mashed one sweet potato. It wasn’t an organic sweet potato because Costco doesn’t carry organic sweet potatoes. Our son didn’t seem to mind. And that is how we managed to put ourselves on the list of parents who have earned The Best Intentions Organic Homemade Baby Food Honorable Mention.

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There have been a few other important milestones so far including, but not limited to, “Allowing Your Child to Sleep in His Swing Until the Swing Stops Swinging” Award, and the “Supplement With Formula Because Pumping More Than Once A Day At Work Is A Pain In The You Know What” Award. And let me not forget our newly achieved “Using Food To Stop Your Child From Screaming At Target” Award.

I am sure we have many, many more milestones to hit before we’re done. (Perhaps some will be shared by all the veteran parents in the comments section below.)

As my mother-in-law says, “Parents have to do what works.” (She gave very similar sex advice to us when we got married, but I digress.)

In any case, I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished so far. It makes me pretty excited. Almost (but not quite) as excited as seeing bird poop on my back porch.

For Starters

An introduction to my life.

It’s my son’s first day in daycare and I am convinced that he has died and the daycare provider just hasn’t gotten around to calling me to tell me yet. She texted me to tell me that he had been sleeping for the last hour and he is adorable, and all I could think was, “He’s been asleep for an hour? Well that’s impossible. Obviously something is very very wrong.”

I will preface this by saying that there is no solution to this, other than continuing to walk forward. Put one foot in front of the other, let the days pass, and love the snot out of him when I’m with him.

I’ve gone around and around in my head. When I hit a problem, I create every possible solution until one actually works. I have yet to find the solution to this one.

Thought 1: Quit work, stay at home. But then we will be very tight on cash. And also, I will be crazy. Not eccentric crazy. Open the door on the freeway crazy. Post partum has been mean to me like that.

Thought 2: Win lottery, stay at home: See above, minus being tight on cash. (Maybe don’t throw out this idea completely.)

Thought 3: Work, child in daycare. Current solution, but will probably lead to my child not fully attaching to me and resenting me for remainder of life.

Thought 4: Work, child with nanny. But then we will be very tight on cash, to the point of making work seem not worth the time.  Leading me back to thought 1. And thought 3.

You get the point.

I get the reasons why it’s ok to be a working mom. I read Lean In. It seems really wonderful to read about the studies and know that, at least statistically, I’m not screwing over my son (at least not more than anyone else).

But I think this is hard. I think it’s hard for moms who work and for moms who stay at home.

I was a crusader, adamant about a woman’s RIGHT to go to work, be a wife, and be a mom.

But the reality looks a little more like wearing the most ridiculous nipple suctions while sitting in a locked bathroom, having milk pumped out of me and worrying if there will be enough, or if I will have to supplement with formula. (Let’s add that to my list of insecurities.)

Welcome to being a working mom. Here’s to not having answers.

261755_10150290602379874_2436766_n Rachel