Entrepreneur or homemaker?

My future entrepreneur/home maker

My future entrepreneur/homemaker

Avery went through my magazines this morning and asked to take Inc. and Southern Living with her in the car to school. Of course she can’t read and doesn’t realize the significance of her selections. It struck me though and that’s why I took a picture. It made me wonder which choice she’ll make as an adult: entrepreneur or homemaker or some combination of the two.

I’ve written before about the concept of women having it all – a fulfilling career and a happy home life. It’s a choice all moms have to make at some point. Finances often guide our decisions, but some women are meant to be stay-at-home moms and some are not. I’ve always considered myself in the latter category. I adore my kids, but I like working. I’m enjoying this break, but I still have the kids in school for part of the day, so I can work on business ideas and seek out potential work.

I was talking to a newly pregnant friend yesterday about working, telling her you really don’t know what is best for you until the baby is born. I have friends who I thought would stay home who went back, and others who I thought for sure would continue working, who quit. Some couldn’t imagine ever leaving their babies and others went back to work after six weeks.

I was lucky I had four months off with each baby, and I worked from home (with them) two days a week when I went back to work. I took my most recent job when Avery was nine months old and lost that flexibility. It added so much stress to our family, which I didn’t fully comprehend until the past week. My new schedule of working out in the morning, working at home during the day, picking the kids up early and having dinner ready when Chase gets home is pretty fantastic.

There is a balance between the Southern Living girl in me and the Inc. girl in me. My recent job loss is going to let me find her. I’m hopeful she’ll do great things!

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Why l love the Disney Princesses

The top row of Avery's toy bin. Hello, princesses!

The top row of Avery’s toy bin. Hello, princesses!

I live with a two-year-old, who, more often than not, is wearing a princess dress over her clothes. She only has two of them (Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) and they are both falling apart at the seams from constant wear. She has a princess stepstool, princess dolls, princess books and most of the Disney princess movies.

I became aware of this “anti-princess” movement a few months before Avery’s infatuation began. I read complaints that the princesses teach little girls that their looks are all that matters and that they should wait for a prince to come rescue them. Some critics even say that the princesses discourage girls from trying hard in school. Really? One princess dress and you’re not getting into Stanford? I highly doubt that.

I’m not going to attack the anti-princess moms, because the one thing I’ve learned in almost five years of being a parent: what works for one family does not work for everyone. You have to figure out what works for you. For us, the princesses work.

I’ve gotten Avery out of the house on slow-moving mornings by allowing her to wear a princess dress over her clothes in the car. I’ve convinced her to take nap by pretending she was baby Rapunzel (from Tangled) going to sleep in her bed. She shrieked with excitement when she got new princess dolls for Christmas, thanking us repeatedly. She’s stayed in her bed at night telling stories to Merida (from Brave) and Cinderella. Even Clay has gotten in on the princess action: he loves the new Disney series, Sofia the First, almost as much as Avery does (side note: the series teaches kids to accept others, try their best, etc. – it’s great!).

The princesses have good manners. They are friendly, welcoming and seem to handle challenges (Ariel losing her voice to a witch, Merida turning her mom into a bear, etc.) well. They aren’t bad role models for my daughter, but they also aren’t her only role model. They are a fantasy, just toys and movies and fancy dresses. It’s not real life. Real life isn’t always easy, and Prince Charming doesn’t always sweep in and fix everything. I want Avery to know that, but it’s our parenting that will teach her those lessons, not her toys.

Avery’s new thing is to put on princess dresses and sing at the top of her lungs. We have video, but I won’t post it here to save everyone’s eardrums. She puts on a dress, becomes someone else and has a blast. Who wouldn’t love that?

Choices

We’ve all heard clichés about life being full of choices, but I didn’t understand the magnitude of these choices until I became a parent. When you are single, your choices mainly affect you. Getting married adds some complexity, but nothing compared to the responsibility you take on when you have kids and the decisions you make, both good and bad, affect them.

We make decisions every day that impact our kids. Some are less serious, like earlier this week when I took them to a park 15 minutes from home. We have five parks within walking distance of our house, so we rarely drive, but we tried something new. So, of course Avery had to poop while we were there. Not a big deal, right? Except Avery puts it off until the last possible minute, so she had to go “right now!” Because all the parks near us have sand, my kids immediately remove their shoes within a 50 meter radius of a park. We grabbed Avery’s easily in our rush to the bathroom, but Clay’s were nowhere to be found. I had to make quick decision: let Clay come to the bathroom with no shoes or let Avery poop in her pants (actually, her bathing suit because there is a lake at the park. A non-swimming lake, in the middle of winter, but you try telling Avery what to wear these days. No, thanks!) I haven’t had to clean poop in months, so I made the choice. Clay would pull a Britney Spears and enter the park bathroom with no shoes. I made myself feel better by comparing the park bathroom to the one at the beach, and lots of people use that one barefoot. And dirty feet are slightly better than poopy bathing suits. I scrubbed his feet with baby wipes and so far, so good. No weird foot diseases (knock on wood). I took a gamble and made a choice and we’re all okay.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the more important choices parents must make. The first one that every mom faces is whether to return to work after having a baby. I’ve written about this before and since I am happier working, the decision for us was not if I would work, but how could I make it work for us while having a family. I had a family-friendly job and worked from home two days a week, so it felt like a good balance for me. I’ve had friends decide to stay home and others who have switched to part-time work. We all made choices, and at times I’m sure we all question those decisions, but we hope in the end it will work for our family.

There are other tough decisions we have to make. What about where to live: close to family, in certain school districts, in an urban or suburban setting? Do you buy a house or rent? Send the kids to public or private school? Feed them organic food? Send them to school with a cold? Let them sleep in your bed? Buy a car or an SUV?

Every day presents new choices, some big, some small. For us, I work. We live close to Chase’s family, in a good suburban school district so we can send the kids to public school. We (along with Bank of America) own our house. I try to feed them organic fruits and veggies, but other food I don’t worry as much about. Both kids have been sneezing since they got their flu shots, but it’s not the actual flu, so they’re at school today. We let them in our bed in the mornings, if it’s after a certain time, otherwise they are sent back their rooms for a few more hours before I drive them to school in my SUV. Chase picks them up in his car. For now, all of this works for us, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be faced with new decisions and dilemmas as the kids get older and our needs change.

Jean-Paul Sartre said, “we are our choices,” but for parents, it’s not just us. It’s our kids. It’s a lot of pressure making decisions on behalf of someone else. For their sake, I hope we make the right ones.

Empathy

I’ve cried for other people’s children twice today. First, on my way to work listening to a radio telethon for our local children’s hospital. Then again now, reading the news of the horrible tragedy in Newtown, CT.

Before I had kids, when I heard stories about sick children or tragic deaths, I felt bad for the families involved, but I didn’t get that pit in my stomach that I have right now. I loved my family and my friends, yet the love I have for my children is unlike anything I’d ever imagined. A parent’s love goes so deep, and I would do anything to keep them safe and happy and healthy.

Along with the love I feel for my own children, I feel protective of all kids, knowing that they have parents who feel the same way about them as I do about Avery and Clay. The empathy I have for other parents has also multiplied. I cried today for the parents of the sick kids here in San Diego and those of the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Even the survivors go through more than any child or parent should have to deal with.

Avery was whiny this morning. I was irritated with her and the hospital telethon made me realize how lucky I am to have a healthy child. I was stressed about a work deadline before hearing about the school shooting. The news quickly reminded me that things could be so much worse. Who cares about work? Clay is safe at school. Avery is too. I am heartbroken for the parents who took their kids to school and went on with their day, in very similar ways to me. Their kids were supposed to be safe, but they weren’t.

I’ve seen calls for gun control and mental health policy discussions, but today isn’t the day for it. Just hug your children and think of those parents, who, just like me, wanted nothing more in life than happy and healthy kids. I have that. My kids are everything to me and I am praying for those who, today, lost their everything.

Dad saves the day

Pajama day at preschool

Pajama day at preschool

Like everyone else, this time of year is crazy for our family. We had plans every night this week, so that left us packing lunches late at night and doing homework early in the morning. Everyone has crazy weeks and we’re making it work. When I say “we,” I mean “we.”

On Wednesdays, I take the kids to school and we strolled up in Clay’s normal winter ensemble of a long sleeve sports-themed t-shirt and jeans. I wondered why kids were wearing their pajamas, then had a flashback to something Clay mentioned the night before: “Mommy, tomorrow is pajama day.” I told him he must be confused because I hadn’t received an email about it, but that I would write his teacher and ask. I should have emailed from the parking lot, rather than thinking I would do it when I got home. Somehow it slipped my mind while I did five loads of laundry, wrote Christmas cards and made dinner.

The elementary school where Clay attends preschool sends out a lot of email. I only skim over most of them, but I do read the ones I get each Friday discussing the upcoming week. Nowhere in Friday’s email was information about “pajama day,” which, as it turns out, was yesterday. Even his teacher was dressed in her pajamas (i.e. a Juicy sweat suit). I felt terrible. We are four months into preschool and because of the weekly emails, I’ve remembered inside out day, favorite college day and sports day. There Clay was with no jammies and a sad face. I thought about running home, but getting Avery in and out of the car three more times would have made me late. I apologized before leaving and Clay smiled, because that’s the kind of kid he is.

I told Chase about my “mommy fail” when I got to work and fortunately he had a meeting near our house. He ran home before his meeting and got Clay’s pajamas and took them to him at school. Clay lit up when he saw Chase and they went to the bathroom to get changed. He had the same pj’s as a friend at school (thanks to Costco), which they both thought was pretty cool.

It was the first time we missed something at school, but with two busy parents, it won’t be the last. This time, Chase saved the day! Next time it might be me.

Why moms drink wine

I grew up in a house where my dad drank beer and my mom didn’t drink at all. I have memories of my first beer bong experience (and subsequent puking) in high school, my first legal drink with my dad (tequila sunrise) and the first drink (Coors Light) I had after giving birth. Despite the puking, they are all happy memories. Since I’m a control freak, I don’t drink a lot around my kids, but I do enjoy a drink here and there.

In college, I drank: 1) beer at frat parties 2) whiskey snuck into sodas at football games 3) the ladies’ night specials at our favorite bar. As we’ve gotten older, most of my girl friends have turned to drinking wine, but I resisted for years. I liked the taste just fine, but Chase drank beer and it was easier to just buy one thing. I feared the headaches. This year I decided that I should try to drink more wine, since on top of helping you relax, there are heart health benefits and with my family history, it couldn’t hurt.

Last week a friend sent me four bottles of wine and now I’ve realized why moms drink wine.

1.  It doesn’t matter if it’s not cold, it still tastes good. This is probably the biggest advantage. I remember when I was pregnant and my coworker said “enjoy warm eggs while you can.” I didn’t understand what she meant until the day we brought Clay home from the hospital. We picked up food, but I didn’t eat until two hours later, after several feedings and diaper changes. My kids are older now, but they always need something at an inopportune time. I’ve gotten used to cold food, but I hate warm beer or melted ice in a cocktail. But room temperature red wine is still good!

2.  Your husband won’t drink it all. Many husbands will drink wine, but most I know prefer beer. On the rare occasion I’d crave a beer after work, I’d go to the fridge and realize Chase drank the last one. He may have a glass of wine with me, but he’s not going to finish off the bottle alone.

3.  It’s nice to sip while you cook. I am not a gourmet chef. I have friends who love to cook, but I just love to eat. I’m always hurriedly preparing food, so the wine helps me enjoy the process a bit more.

4.  It’s fun to share with friends. Whether you’re out to eat or having a girl’s night in, it’s fun to share a bottle with people whose company you enjoy. You’re not going to split a can of Coors Light or a bottle of Blue Moon, but sharing a bottle of wine is a good bonding experience. Especially when everyone has red teeth.

5.  It helps you relax. Stress is bad for you, relaxing is good. Busy moms rarely relax. So if something in a pretty glass can keep you smiling when your toddler colors on your walls, enjoy it!

I know I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve joined the wine-drinking mommy club. At least until next weekend when I’m tailgating for FSU homecoming, and I’m back to my beer and whiskey roots.

Cheers to a relaxing weekend!

Pumpkin patch field trip

Clay is on his first field trip today, and I’m sitting at my desk. I’m picturing the smile on his face while getting on the school bus (he was most excited about that!) and his apprehension about the hayride (“does it go fast?”).

He told me about the pumpkin he would choose. Of course, that sweet boy planned to “find a small one so it would be easy for Avery to decorate.” I told him that was very sweet of him, but he could pick one for himself and we would all go together soon and help Avery pick one for herself.

Today I’m missing my old job, where I had lots of paid time off and could have been a chaperone on the field trip. The idea of 20 four-year-olds is a bit scary to me, but it would have been worth it to spend time with Clay. He better save me a seat on the bus for the next field trip!