Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Plunge

My new coworkers. They rarely listen to me and they're
always leaving a mess around the office.














Recently, I chose to leave a job that I loved, and begin one that I hope I'll love even more--as a mom who doesn't work full time outside the home (I haven't found a better title).

Professionally, I was fulfilled, challenged and had accomplished an impressive amount of work in four years. Personally, though, I was a mess (not a hot mess, although I certainly wouldn't mind being called hot now and again). I craved more time with my babies, and not just physical time, but the energy and brain capacity to actually be with them.

I was not ok with my 2.75 year old casually using phrases like "I'm too busy, I'm too tired," and "I can't, I have to work right now." I wonder who she's heard that from.

Being a professional mom is tough, it's so tough. (Let's face it, being any kind of a mom is tough.) Especially when you genuinely love your career, and feel you're making a positive impact on society. But my time with my little ones was slipping away, and you just can't get that back.

I have to admit that sometimes being a working mom can make you feel like Super Woman. There's a strange thrill I get from click-clacking around the house in high heels with a baby on my hip. I've often wanted to tell difficult people in the workplace, "Putting up with your crap is no big deal. I've already been crapped on today, literally. And vomited on, and snotted on, and (insert other bodily fluid here) on."

Getting out the door every morning is a tremendous chore. It usually goes a little like this.

1. Force myself out of bed after being up with the baby several times at night.
2. Stumble to kitchen, start pot of coffee.
3. Milk the cow (only some of you will get that)
4. Clean the milking machine, pack it for work.
4. Shower (unless E wakes up first, then put her in high chair in bathroom with bottle and shower).
5. Dress (unless A wakes up before I'm dressed and screams for me to come up and get her).
6. Go get E out of bed.
7. Dress E (unless she's had a blowout, then I strip her bedding, give her quick bath, put bedding in washing machine).
8. Put E in high chair with Cheerios and bottle.
9. Get A up.
10. Dress A (or chase her around, begging her to get dressed, yelling at her).
11. Get A's drink/breakfast (unless dog eats it first or she spills it on floor, then get her another).
12. Do something with my hair and makeup (usually nothing).
13. Brush A's hair/teeth (or chase her around with brush).
14. Put on A's shoes (where are your shoes!?) or, wait 10 minutes while she insists on putting them on herself, only to throw them across the room in frustration, because she can't quite do it yet.
15. Look for E's socks (that she had on and lost already).
16. Make sure purse is packed, juicer is packed (reference for my friend Dianne).
17. Grab E's milk from freezer.
18. Give A her vitamins.
19. Go grab the (insert random item from A's room here).
20. Wrestle the girls into their coats.
21. Load both girls in car (unless E's had a blowout, or A needs to go potty, again).
22. Lock the door.
23. Pull out of driveway (unless I forgot something, then run back in).
24. Drive seven miles to sitter, drop off girls, then drive another 38 miles to work.

Then, after fulfilling my professional duties, I'd slide back into the driver's seat, and hoof it back home, usually winding up oozing through the door at 6:15 or so. Then, I'd throw something together for dinner, give the girls a bath (every other night), nurse E to sleep, then the bedtime negotiations with A would begin. She's in bed by  8:30, and then I have just enough energy to mumble a few words to my husband, maybe get a little more work done, and then face-plant into bed around 10:30 or so.  Laundry and housework would pile up until the weekend, and then I'd spend the majority of my free time catching up with cleaning rather than engaging with my children.

Perhaps this sounds overwhelming to you, or perhaps this sounds like a mirror image of your day. Either way, I decided it's not what I want anymore. I've tried to stop comparing myself to other moms as a litmus test of whether or not I'm doing the right thing. After all, people do all sorts of crazy things for money, and that's perfectly ok for them. Some choose to dance on a pole, others choose to carry a weapon for their country, and others choose to forge their own paths. I, for one, will not be dancing on a pole or carrying a weapon (don't worry mom), so I guess that leaves forging my own path.

It's funny, I don't remember "career day" in high school ever including non-traditional career paths. In fact, my only real memory from career day was licking hundreds of envelopes for a local insurance agency who took advantage of the free labor on job-shadow day (and who wouldn't take advantage of that?) Oh yeah, my other memory was the headline of the recap article in the high school newspaper, "Juniors Get First Hand Job Experience." Yep. Actual headline. I believe the teacher sent it to Jay Leno for his "Headlines" segment, but I'm not sure it ever made an appearance.

If you'd asked me in high school what I'd be doing shortly before 30, I probably wouldn't have imagined this. I  thought I would wind up exploring the world, writing for some travel magazine. While I would still love to pursue that dream someday, I'm content to explore the world through the eyes of my precious children.

And I'll need to pick up a little side work to pay the bills, so if you know of any travel magazines who'd like to send me on an all-expenses paid trip to some exotic locale (and provide a take-along nanny for my kiddos), let me know!

I'm taking the plunge. Here goes nothing. And everything.

Monday, November 28, 2011

When Toddlers Attack

I spent nearly 15 minutes lovingly molding our favorite bilingual adventurer (below) out of Play-Doh. I finished my creation, and set her on the kitchen counter for my two and a half year old to admire.

DO NOT make fun of my Play-Doh skills.
(For those of you without an active imagination, this is Dora.)

Of course, she wanted to "hold" her. And by hold her, I knew she meant destroy her. Because that's what my little angel does best. There's a reason we call her "destructosaur." First, it was the head that popped off. "Uh-oh mommy!" Then, it was her arm. "What happened to her arm mommy?" Then, it was this:

Poor Dora. Even Boots can't save her from this misfortune. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Everlasting Crush

This is our "before" picture. Note how well rested we looked!
November 23, 2001- I climbed into the passenger seat of his blue Chevy Blazer, my emotions a mix between nervousness and pure joy. He was a cute boy. A very cute boy. And he was taking me to the movies. Should I show my excitement? Play it cool? I must have handled myself quite well, because I'm now married to that very cute boy.

We met while working at Sheplers. I was 18, he was 21. I asked him to clean my boots. He happily obliged, and what started out as roller-coaster crush turned into something real. Something lasting.

A lot has happened in ten years. We've grown up together. We've fought like crazy and we've loved like crazy. We've moved five times. We bought a house, sold it, bought another house, and moved it eleven miles to our 80 acre patch of land. We've lost a baby. We've brought two more into this world. We've seen some of our friends get married, and some of our friends get divorced. We've seen family members die. We've laughed, we've cried and most of all, we've stuck together.

To my best friend, my lover, my partner in crime, I'll always see you as that very cute boy in the cowboy hat with the mischievous smile. Here's to another ten years together. And another. And another.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Notes from the Underboob

-Obviously a well-fed baby-
If the topic of breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable or squeamish, you may want to stop reading. Or, better yet, get over it.

Seriously, a woman can serve up her cleavage on a platter in nearly any public setting, and nobody blinks an eye (because they're all staring), but if a woman chooses to feed her baby in public? Scandalous! I know, I know, the breastfeeding environment in general has improved, but I'm still shocked at the comments I hear sometimes. Some people are just downright grossed out.

Everyone is entitled to their (misguided) opinions, but how can something so natural be so disturbing to some people? God gave women breasts to feed babies, and to manipulate men, but mainly to feed babies. I'm not a breastfeeding extremist, but I feel strongly that more women would be successful if society in general was a little more accepting. I even hesitated about writing this post, but the more people who talk about it, the better it is for moms down the road.

Here's the deal. I quit breastfeeding my first daughter at three weeks, due to an awful infection. I probably didn't have to give up, but I was so exhausted from trying to fix it, that I chose my mental sanity over my ability to breastfeed. She was raised on soy formula, and she's amazing. She's intelligent, funny and very attached to her momma. But she did have terrible stomach problems from the formula--reflux, constipation, you name it.

So, when my second daughter was born, I was determined to make it work. Even though I know formula is great, I wanted to avoid all of the gestational problems that can sometimes come with it. And through sheer will and determination, I can now say it's successful. I still have to supplement with formula (she's a very large baby) but I'm completely fine with that.

Despite all of the challenges I've had, I can honestly say it's been worthwhile. The bonding, the lack of tummy troubles, the contentedness...it's all wonderful. Now, having said that, I would like to share some of the downsides that nobody really told me about. Everyone has a different experience, so please don't think all of these things would apply to you.

1. Breastfeeding is not free. 
Yes, if you're able to exclusively breastfeed (no pumping) and use washable breast pads, and borrow some nursing bras, and use regular pillows for support, and not need Lanolin, then maybe, maybe it will be free. Otherwise, you may have to purchase: nursing bras, breast pads, breast pump (not cheap), breast milk storage containers, Lanolin, support pillow, nursing stool, etc. The good news is, even with all of that overhead, it's still cheaper than formula over the course of a year.

2. It may not improve bonding with all of your children. 
When you have your first baby, marathon nursing sessions can be wonderful. Just you, the baby, and quiet time to relax and enjoy your little miracle. Now, throw a two-year-old into the mix, and it's just downright exhausting. "Mommy, I need a drink." I can't right now, I'm feeding the baby. "Mommy, I need a snack." I can't right now I'm feeding the baby. "Mommy, come stop me from opening the fridge and pulling out all of the contents." I can't right now, I'm feeding the baby.

You get the picture. Those first few months were tough. Very tough. But, my oldest daughter got to experience what it means to feed your baby in a natural way, and hopefully she'll have success with her own children someday.

3. You'll feel like a cow (or a milk truck)
If you return to work after having your baby, you'll become a prisoner to your pump. And pumping, my friends, is not fun. Don't worry, it's not horrible, it just gets old...really old. You have to continually remind yourself that it's worth it, and that you'll be in a world of hurt if you don't do it regularly. The upside is that working mothers can still provide breast milk for their babies. Imagine if this lovely invention didn't exist!

And with that, I must end this post. Because it's 10 p.m., and I have to perform my motherly duties before going to bed. ((Yawn))

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Darndest

Someday, I'll wish I'd written down the funny things my kids say. So, in order to avoid the pang of regret, I'll keep track of them here:

September 2011:

Anna: Mommy and daddy are married.
Me: That's right. And are mommy and daddy happy?
Anna: No. You're married.

David: Anna, you're crazy!
Anna: I'm not crazy, I'm beautiful!

Me: Anna, who taught you how to be sweet?
Anna: David

Anna to David: I'm not a boy. I don't do dishes.

Me: Anna, who taught you how to be cute?
Anna: David
Me: And who taught you how to be funny?
Anna: Baby Erica
Me: And who taught you how to be smart?
Anna: Catherine

Me: Anna, that makes mommy very mad.
Anna: Don't get mad, get glad!

October 2011:

Curtis: Look at the pretty sunset Anna.
Anna: Yeah, God made it for me.

Anna Singing Taylor Swift:
"Kiss me on the sidewalk, kiss me on a boat..."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Clay

Break me and shape me
Move me and shake me
Tear me down to build me up again
Too hard and I crumble
Too soft and I stumble
Mold me with your loving hands


Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Isaiah 64:8

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shed a Little Light

I attended the funeral of a woman today whom I did not know very well personally. We'd met several times at networking functions, and I was instantly impressed by her warm presence and ability to really look someone in the eye. She was a pillar of the community and a dear friend to many of my friends and colleagues.

I can honestly say it was one of the most beautiful services I'd ever been to. No generic accolades or vague terms of endearment. This was a woman who'd truly touched people.

As stories were told of her enduring nature and generous heart, I couldn't help but focus on the large pillar candles flickering on the alter. I began to wonder about my own legacy. What will be said at my funeral? Will I be known as someone who only looked out for myself, or someone who tried to "shed a little light"?

I think most of us live life trying to protect our own flame. We guard and protect the fire within us, and when it's snuffed out, all that's left behind is a darkened void. Fortunately, there are individuals who spend their lives reaching out to others, and igniting their inner spark. They move through life with compassion and kindness, and never keep their light to themselves.

And when their flame is extinguished, even unexpectedly and prematurely, their fire continues to glow in the friends and family they've left behind--and I really don't think there's a better way to shed a little light than that.