Tag Archives: Happiness

My SAHM Confessions

27 Jul

This is what my workspace looks like on any given day. He’s been doing this forever, and it’s kind of surprising my computer’s never exploded from the extra heat. Or the pressure.  Quite often Poppy likes to join us and annoyingly sit between my head and the computer monitor. Add to this the fact that Isobel is on my lap if I’m here and she’s awake (and sometimes even if she’s asleep–note below), and it makes for a full house.

Recently, I wrote about the SAHM gig and how it’s treating me. I wrote about our schedule and the logistics of staying at home, and I briefly touched on my deepening bond with Isobel. It’s been a few months now since I’ve left the library, and writing that post has made me think about how I’m different and the things I have learned.  I realized I have some confessions to make.

This is probably going to sound very obvious, but it wasn’t at all clear to me until I left my job and had some distance. You know what? I did not at all enjoy being a mother who worked outside the home. I loved my job and I loved working–until I had Isobel. Then my job just became another item to cross off on my list of unpleasant tasks. It became a never-ending chore.

There’s a lot of talk pitting moms who stay at home versus moms who have careers–parenting is fertile grounds for self-righteous one-upmanship– and as someone who has done both I can unequivocally tell you that there is little difference in my actual parenting. I was a fantastic working mother and I am still a fantastic stay at home mother. The vast difference between these two scenarios is that in this one I’m happy.

Staying at home doesn’t make me a good parent. I was a good parent before. I was a great parent, even. But I am an even better mother now because I’m happy.

I know incredible mothers who work outside the home because they have no choice, and I know some wonderful mothers who choose to work outside the home  for the same reason I chose to leave the library: happiness and personal fulfillment. I have no doubt that those working moms are just as capable, caring and wonderful as those who are able to stay at home. It was the right decision for me, but it isn’t right for everyone.

This new surge of happiness and well-being makes sense on a physical level. I try not to bore you guys by bringing this up repeatedly, but I have Crohn’s disease, and my health is rather delicate. Now that I’m home all day I can rest when I need to,  eat what I need to when I need to, and get sick if I need to. And that is okay! My new boss doesn’t care! Working at home has significantly relieved the stress on my body and my new routine agrees with it greatly. This alone has made a huge difference in my quality of life.

Aside from the realization that I really didn’t enjoy being a working mother, I’ve realized another thing about myself, too. One that’s almost embarrassing to share with you because it’s such a cliché: I have learned to savor the moment and to truly embrace my current limitations. As weird as it sounds, experiencing  PPD and all those struggles I went through really helped me realize this. I had internal levels of perfection that I would demand of myself, and I didn’t dare stray from those expectations.

Once I had Isobel and PPD kicked in, I had no choice but to let things go.  I found out it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t keep on top of the (non-diaper) laundry every day. Dirty dishes could sit in the sink and without blowing up. I could go weeks without vacuuming and the world still turned. Sure, all of this was a symptom of my illness, but I have come out of this experience a much mellower mama. I no longer strive for perfection–I strive for happiness.

So much of my former mindset was really counting on Things Being Perfect One Day. I’m no longer waiting till things are perfect. I’m letting go. And I’m realizing which things are worth holding on to.

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The SAHM Gig

18 Jul

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for awhile, and indeed I had intended to last month, but then I realized I had only been home with the baby two weeks—the length of time I’m usually home with her during Christmas vacation. I really felt like I needed to give it some more time before I could really weigh in on the SAHM gig.

The first week was bliss. I didn’t stick to the work schedule I had created (more on that later) and simply overdosed on time with Isobel. It was lovely, but I got nothing done, and what I did manage to accomplish, I did so inefficiently. Efficiency, I’ve learned, isn’t just a workforce trait: it’s necessary when you work at home with a toddler underfoot as well.

The second week was Anthony’s vacation. What remnants of the schedule we did stick to went out the window when we took off for San Jose and did massive amounts of yard work. The week after that shall be known as The Week of the Tantrum. That was a hard week, and it seemed that the days were one long sobbing and/or screaming fit from Isobel. But we got through it and I learned more about it and now when I see one starting, I have a better idea of what to do or not do, and to accept it when it comes.

Some time after that, our whole family took turns getting really sick with the nasty summer cold that’s been making the rounds. Yay. Yet throughout the vacations and the tantrums and the illnesses, a pattern began to emerge. I had a weekly schedule all picked out but a daily schedule developed, and that is what I lean on when times get tough.

OUR SCHEDULE

This isn’t always how things unfold, but when a day is going well, it’s pretty close to it. This schedule allows for everything to get done and for Isobel and I to have the time we need. The times I’m listing are approximate, mostly to show you about how long we devote to activities, but nap time is sort of sacred around here, and we keep it as close to 2:00 as possible, meaning the day goes smoothly if we stay on this track. I keep things like fruit, vegetables, whole grain crackers and turkey or chicken on hand for mini-meals when the stretch between my mealtimes is too long.

This isn’t to say that we are perfect, nor that we get everything done. On the contrary, there’s so much to do that usually something’s gotta give: maybe I don’t eat as well as I should, or the laundry adds up, or I don’t get a shower that day. Mostly it’s my Etsy shop that has born the brunt of this, as I have easily a hundred items stashed away that I need to upload. At best, once I get caught up on some project that need tending and some things that I let go while I was working, I can stick to this schedule and bathe at the same time. A girl’s gotta dream.

So far, our days look something like this:

6:00-7:00 Get up; usually after six but before seven.

7:00-8:30 We do our morning chores, get ourselves dressed and ready, and we eat.

(8:00ish While Isobel plays, I drink my coffee and enjoy between 15-20 minutes of internet time, when I check into twitter, answer my mail, and post the link for whatever post I have up that day.)

8:30-12:00 After that we have our morning stretch: from about 8:30 until noon we tackle whatever is going on that day. This is the chunk of the day when useful and/or fun things happen. What we do here also depends on what day of the week it is.

12:00-1:00 At noon we have lunch, and sometimes start dinner (depending on the menu for that night).

1:00-2:00 We have an hour to play before nap time. If it’s under 95 degrees, we go outside.

2:00-3:30 Nap time! While she sleeps, I work out and edit photos.

4:00-5:00 After nap time, Isobel gets a bit of TV time while I clean up the day’s mess and start dinner.

5:00-5:30 I cook while Isobel plays nearby.

5:30-6:00 After Anthony gets home, we eat.

6:00-6:30 When dinner is done, Anthony and I clean the kitchen while Isobel begs incessantly to go outside.

6:30-8:00 Usually we go outside and generally have family time until about 8:00 pm when we come inside and begin our night time routine. Sometimes we stay in and clean, watch a movie, hang out, or run errands.

8:00-9:00 After the last story is read it’s usually 9:00 and I catch up on my blogroll or instagram from my phone while waiting for Isobel to sleep. Then I get ready for bed, fall asleep, and the whole thing starts over the next day.

DAILY PROJECTS

During that large 8:30-12:00 stretch, I focus on one of these projects:

* I devote one day a week to the house and various household projects, usually including meal planning, cleaning out the fridge and the pantry, organization and improvement projects, shopping, and errands.

Aside: One thing I don’t do a lot of on this day (or any other day) is cleaning. I take care of the chores such as the dishes, some laundry, maybe a quick toilet scrub down or a general pick-up, but as a rule I don’t dust, mop or sweep or do actual cleaning while I am home with the baby. Taking care of her, focusing on my business, and picking up after ourselves are enough. The deep-cleaning happens on weekends and after work, times when Anthony is around to help. He is completely supportive of cleaning together, and it’s important for me that Isobel sees cleaning modeled in a partnership, and not as “woman’s work.”

* I devote two days a week to my business. I get the bulk of my blogging done, I edit photos, I sell photos to Getty, I work on photography for clients, and I upload to Etsy. (So far Etsy has gotten the shaft, but I hope to clear up more time for uploading items in the near future.) My mom or Anthony’s Grandma helps with Isobel during this time.

* The remaining four days of the week are days that I do specific activities with Isobel: swimming, play dates, the water park, visiting family, going to the playground, and just generally having adventures. Two of these days usually fall on the weekends, so Anthony is included, or friends and family that normally work on the weekdays. On Wednesdays we like to have play dates with Kingston, and although we don’t always have an elaborate trip to the zoo, they always find ways to entertain each other. Friday we see baby Abby and go to the Farmer’s Market. I of course spend quality time with Isobel on the remaining three days, but our focus is the tasks that need to get done.

As you can see from this schedule, we are limited to doing things in the morning as lunch and nap time get in the way of the afternoon, and then once she wakes up I’m starting on dinner, but fortunately we’ve been able to find classes and activities and people up for doing stuff in our time frame.

OUR NECESSITIES

I have learned (sadly, the hard way more than a few times) not to leave the house this summer without these:

Hello Kitty Water Bottle: when it’s this hot, water’s a necessity even if we’re just going to the store. It closes tightly so I can throw it in my purse without worrying about leaks, but Isobel can sip out of the straw from her car seat without making a mess.

Cloth Napkins: for wiping the never-ending snotty nose, cleaning up after food related incidents, or wiping off hands that have been playing in the dirt.

Snacks: usually granola bars but sometimes cheese. Purse granola has rescued so many a doomed shopping trip by now that I’m nominating it for sainthood.

Diaper bag and the umbrella stroller: they pretty much live in my trunk at this point.

FUN THINGS

These are some of the really fun things we’ve been focusing on this summer.

Gardening – along with the pergola we have planted a sunflower, marigolds, poppies, onions, pumpkins and butternut squash. All of this with the help of our good friend Jake! Additionally I’ve been growing succulents forever and just started an herb garden.

Dress up – at any given moment, we are all wearing necklaces or some other form of dress-up garment. Even Zorro.

Cooking, both pretend (her) and for reals (me) – necessary on my part—good thing I enjoy it.

Play dates with friends – we’ve had a lot of fun with Kingston and Victoria especially.

Thrifting – Mostly fun for me, but Isobel loves a chance to discover new treasures.

Playing with Grandparents – she loves visiting their houses.

Swimming lessons and the kiddie pool – and painting, obviously.

Cleaning out clutter – fun for me, naturally, but Isobel loves it, too because she gets to play with things she’s never seen before.

Farmer’s Market – I push Isobel around in the stroller while she shouts MORE FRUIT! MORE FRUIT!, usually in Spanish.) I’m going to be so sad when this closes for the season.

THE FUTURE

This is how things are right now, and I know it’s subject to change. Summer will end at some point, the Farmer’s Market and fruit stands will close, and the water park will be shut down. Our long days painting in the backyard will be over. And yet that is okay because I feel like we haven’t been taking advantage of all the things I could be doing with Isobel: toddler story time at the library will start back up in September, and there’s tumbling classes, arts and crafts sessions, Mommy and Me. I want to eventually join the Moms’ Club. Our days are so full already; we don’t have to do it all. But it’s nice to have options.

The best thing about staying home, and the most surprising, is how much closer Isobel and I have become. I am so much more patient with her because I understand her more fully. I know how certain moods will play out and the impetus for some of her seemingly mysterious mood swings. I didn’t expect our relationship would change once I stayed home, but it really has. Each day we know each other better and I bask in our closeness. It’s strange, because as mother and daughter, I didn’t think we could get closer, but we have.

It’s not all sweetness and light, and every day has frustrations and challenges. I don’t expect this to change as she gets older, either. Sometimes I don’t get a break from her for days, and I’m slowly acclimating to that. It’s hard, it’s damn hard, but we are having a great time.

A very good friend of mine was worried I’d regret my decision once the summer started. I can easily say not at all. I am so happy with my decision, even if I am not happy every moment I am at home. I was not happy when I had the cold and still had to watch the baby, nor was I happy when she was throwing her epic tantrums. I was really unhappy in that moment. But I am happy with my decision, and I still have moments of just being totally blissed-out. It’s not easy, nor do I have lots of time that’s not already scheduled, but I am so very happy.

Life List: Take Isobel to the Local Water Park

4 Jun

Earlier this week I received a call from my friend Michael. Mike is a colleague of mine with two little kids, a boy and a girl born before and after Isobel. He’s one of the nicest guys on campus and his wife is the uber-talented lady who made this purse for me.

Mike and his wife Liz were arranging a tip to a local park with some other parents and kids we knew. Was I interested? Um. YES. I was so interested, in fact, that taking Isobel to that park to play and enjoy their water park equipment was on my life list. It would be more accurate to say I was ecstatic.

This park is in the older side of town, the side of town Anthony grew up on. Not exactly in the heart of the ghetto, but near it. The park is small and graced with mature shade trees and a reliable assortment of bums and drug activity. It also used to contain a tiny pool that was widely regarded a public bathroom. Eventually the pool was drained and abandoned and the park was left to its own, increasingly shady devices.

Recent years brought change to the park. The City decided to modernize it and bring children back to play beneath its lonesome trees. A play ground area was created and the nasty pool was replaced with a functional water park offering relief from 100+ degree weather to local kids who don’t have an air conditioner let alone a pool.

Now, I’m not usually always proud of our City. It’s done a lot of questionable, wasteful, and frankly, stupid things, but boy they got it right with this water park. Bringing families back has lead in a decrease of criminal activity and transients stay clear of the water and playground areas. You can still find them if you look, but children are safe there with supervision.

When the weather heats up kids flock to this park to play and splash in the water. I knew that one day we’d have a kid and we’d bring her to this park. I just didn’t know that day would come so soon.

Life list item accomplished! And holy cow, it was fun, more fun than should be had on a week day evening. Originally we planned on just Anthony and I suiting up the kid and taking her over there. Instead we went with four other families and an assortment of seven young kids ranging in age from four months to six years. Babies crawled on blankets while older kids splashed around. Parents relaxed and chatted. It was like a play date, barbecue, picnic and water day all rolled into one.

Isobel sat on my lap at first but after about 20 minutes decided, all by herself, to join the watery fun. She toddled near the sprinkler toys and giggled. She squealed. She screamed with happiness.

“Mama!” she said, “Agua!” She grinned in delight. The rest of the afternoon she kept repeating “Mama! Agua!” over and over and she toddled back and forth from the area where we set up our blankets and the water’s edge. She was fearless. She loved it and even though bigger kids splashed her right in the face several times she quickly got over her shock and went back for more.

Overall, this was even more fun than I could have imagined and we decided to make this a regular event among our friends. I can’t believe my luck that we have such a great (free!) water park, that we have such great friends, and that I have such an amazing, wonderful, courageous, and beautiful daughter.

After any adventure I like to come up with a list of things we’ll do differently next time:

  • Isobel has this habit of pulling things out of any bag she sees, including her diaper bag. When we got to the park we realized that she removed her swimming suit bottoms from the diaper bag and left them somewhere in the living room. Oops. She wore her diaper with no liner instead. It worked just fine but the whole suit would have been cuter.
  • Even though she had just eaten before we left all the playing, running, and keeping her body temperature up worked up an appetite fast. She was nearing a meltdown when we finally took her home. I would have felt a lot better if we had brought a pacha and snacks for us.
  • We brought our trusty car blanket out to sit on but a larger blanket would have been more fun.
  • Anthony and I got completely soaked running in to get Isobel when she was splashed. Next time we are wearing water-friendly outfits and towels.
  • Money for the paletas man.
  • Next time we are hella bringing my bestie’s family. Baby K would love this and so would his mom and dad.

Choose Happiness

26 May

I am a born and bred introvert. It’s a trait that runs deep through my genes on both sides of my family. I have spent the majority of my life paralyzed by shyness. Over the course of the last seven years I have carefully cultivated an outgoing personality mostly for the sake of my job. Kids who visit the library are shy, too, but it’s my responsibility to reach out to them.

But those who know me quite well also know the introvert. Reluctant to share. Shy and awkward.

I think that’s part of my frustration. The newer, more outgoing part of my personality is just as valid and authentic as the introvert. The introvert doesn’t get to spread her wings as often as she needs to.

After that long talk with Anthony I realized that I can deal with my frustrations either by being self-destructive or by finding another way to express myself. I choose the latter.

I’m tired of cleaning up my messes.

I’ve decided to reach out to happiness. Happiness in the little things is always my goal but now it’s my central focus. I’m letting things slide to be happy. I’m choosing to be happy in little moments.

For example–it’s the end of a long day. A day that started at 5:30 in the morning and hit the ground running. A day of managing the inventory of my library, the graduation preparation of my husband, and a fussy, teething daughter. I’m tired and I need to take my Crohn’s medicine. The house is a wreck and piles of folded laundry festoon the living room. My daughter requires all my attention.

I am frustrated but I have a choice: do I clean the living room and struggle to accomplish all the daily tasks on my to do list, or do I blow raspberries with my daughter? I choose happiness. I choose raspberries. It’s worth it.

I may be compulsively neat but you know what? I’m letting that go. Just for now. Just for this moment. For happiness.

It’s not always easy to choose happiness, but it is necessary.

Alphabet Magnets

5 May

Isobel’s new favorite thing is magnets. She loves the fact that she can set something on a vertical surface and it stays there all by itself.

Once she expressed extreme frustration at trying to make a piece of paper stick to a door. Every time it slid to the ground she shrieked with rage. I’m not sure why she thought that would work, but you could tell that when paper dropped down she felt betrayed by gravity.

I’ve noticed that Isobel tends to get very angry when Things Don’t Go According To Plan. Gee, I wonder who she gets that from?

Anthony went on a quest to Target for alphabet refrigerator magnets and searched the store in vain. He was going to make a trek to the next town over but I found some at the grocery store. The colors are kind of garish and awful but they get the job done. They stick magically to the fridge every time. Isobel loves them.

Things that make Isobel laugh:
-Watching me brush my teeth
-Hiding behind furniture
-Seeing the cats play
-Attempting to put her bottle into our mouth
-Giving raspberries
-Sometimes she’ll spontaneously laugh at nothing at all