Tag Archives: SAHM

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.

Things That Have Happened Since I Quit My Job

5 Jul

* I have a bruise and a bump on my nose from being hit in the face with a large, plastic barn. Don’t lay too close to your child if they are prone to barn-related freak outs.

* Isobel has decided that Pikachu is her baby. Every so often she’ll tattle on him and tell me “Pickachu’s not sharing.”

* She has been sticking her hamster (named “baby bunny”) down her shirt and telling me, “the baby’s in the belly.”

* While playing with her plastic zoo animals, she asked herself, “What noise does a hippo make?” without skipping a beat she answered, “OINK!”

* I drink a lot of EmergenC in my house to prevent dehydration. When you have a condition like Crohn’s disease, hydration becomes very important, so her whole life she’s watched me down gallons of the pink stuff. One time she asked me for a sip, and when asked if it was good she said, “…it’s PINK!” Good enough for her, I guess! She also has watched me drink cup after cup of coffee, so now when she hands me packets of EmergenC she sometimes calls them, “pink coffee.”

* Isobel would happily watch Babies on an infinite loop if I let her. She prefers it even to The Osos.

* I was able to convince Isobel that a whole wheat bagel spread with vegetable cream cheese was a doughnut. She loved it.

* I spend an inordinate amount of time every day wrapping Isobel up in a blanket while she pretends to be a baby. To make matters even more ridiculous, she hated being swaddled when she was an infant.

* Every day she asks me if she can wear her pink “simmin’ scoot.”

* We go outside on Mondays specifically to watch the garbage trucks do their rounds, and we’ve noticed a few other kids do so, too. Our sanitation workers are rockstars on our street, and they know it.

* Isobel tends to refer to things that are hers as “my Isobel’s.” As in, “This is my Isobel’s sock!” However, I asked her if she wanted to go play with Baby Kingston one day and she responded with a hearty  “I LOVE MY BABY KINGSTON!”

* We’ve been dutifully watering our new lawn and Isobel likes to hold on to the hand sprayer. To get her enthusiastic about the chore I taught her how to find the ‘baby rainbow’ in the sprinkler mist. Now when she holds the hose she shouts, “I see the baby rainbow, Mama!”

* Once while playing at the park a scary-looking duck wandered into the toddler play area. I don’t really know how to fully describe the horror of this duck. Most ducks are beautiful creatures but this one had a face like a turkey vulture. All the other kids, and I mean even the fifteen year olds, backed away from this duck as it strutted into the play area, obviously used to the power of being feared. Isobel, however, walked right up to it and said, “HEEEEY, CHICKEN!”  It backed off immediately.

* We made Sunday’s delicious Chicken Puffs the other night and they blew Isobel’s mind. Also, she calls them “Chicken Pups.”

* She is trying to dress herself more often these days, which usually results in her wearing no shirt and two pairs of shorts at the same time.

* I’ve noticed she dips her bacon into barbecue sauce if given the opportunity. She might actually be a genius.

* We were playing in her room one afternoon when she motioned to the changing table. “This is for the buns,” she said, matter-of-factly.

* At breakfast one day she requested a strawberry and a banana. She started playing with them and I heard her say, “No fighting, strawberry and banana!”

* Listening to her read “Blue Hat, Green Hat” to herself damn near killed me.

The Gray Space

19 Apr

I feel like I’m living life in a gray space. An intermediary space. Ever since we made the decision for me to leave my job at the library and stay at home with the baby, I’ve been going through my normal routine with only half of my brain engaged. Part of me is already making plans, updating the etsy shop, and enrolling Isobel is summer activities. The other half sits behind a desk, helps students find research material for home work, shelving books. I’m undeniably distracted.

I’ve always been this way: impatient to get on to the next thing when I know a change is coming. I’m not good at these temporary situations; I become consumed with anticipation for the Next Thing.  It’s hard to focus on my job and what’s worse is I’ve done it so long I can actually function well without being fully present. I’m doing what I need to do, but my heart’s not in it. I’m miles away, deep into the summer, going to swim lessons and story times and working on craft projects and cooking.

Everyone at work has been supportive (so far, the wider population doesn’t know yet), but I’m asked repeatedly, Are you sure? Is this final? I can tell they don’t want me to go. It makes me feel guilty.

Things are changing in education. Especially in California, where the district budget has been riding on fumes for several years now, the new structure isn’t supporting the old models. Earlier this year I came to terms with the fact that librarians in our district will probably be phased out. The database that will eventually replace me is still in the works, along with other money-saving ideas meant to cut costs and slash staff.

Maybe it’s better I say goodbye to this job before it says goodbye to me.

But hopefully not. Hopefully there will be librarians in this district by the time Isobel is enrolled in school. I don’t know, but I hope so.

Quitting my job to stay at home has long been a fantasy, but there’s a part of my brain that rails against the idea. You idiot. Give up a full-time librarian position in the middle of the largest recession since the Great Depression? What do you think you’re doing? Who do you think you are?

Anthony reminds me that I’m giving a wonderful job opportunity to someone else. Some other soul who wanted to be a librarian as badly as I did will have the chance to step into my shoes, shake things up, and call this place their own.

I am wildly excited to stay at home. My reservations are not strong enough to keep me from embracing this opportunity. The challenge for the next two months is to focus on what I need to do to get there, instead of what I want to be doing.

It’s Time for New Adventures

13 Apr

Last Friday I told my principal that this year would be my last year as school librarian.

I want to stay at home with my daughter.

There are many things I love about the job, and many things I’ll miss, but I’ve been feeling stagnant and ready for a change. I will work through June.

I love domesticity and at heart a part of me has always wanted to stay home. A larger part of me wanted to be in the library, of course, until Isobel came along.

We are so lucky that Anthony found work in this dismal economy. We are going to be taking a huge pay cut by going down to one income, but we can mange. We’ve managed all these years on less. While home I plan to develop my etsy business, do more portrait sittings, and sell more photos to Getty. It won’t replace my income totally, but it will help. When it comes time for Isobel (and any possible future siblings) to start school I’ll have that foundation to grow my businesses further.

By going now I’ll leave this job knowing the district will have the funds to replace me, unlike when I was laid off last year. Big changes often come with mixed emotion, and I am sad about leaving at times, but at other times I’m jubilant with anticipation.

It’s going to be an interesting summer.

Wherein I am a laid off librarian

21 Apr
Glasses and Librarian Bun

Glasses and Librarian Bun

You may have already heard, but California isn’t doing so well financially. Our state is in one giant sinkhole of debt and everyone agrees something needs to be done but nobody can agree on what that might be. Schools are especially hard hit by budget woes. As a result, my school will no longer have a librarian as of July 15, 2010.

While this fills me with sadness and not a little bit of anxiety for the future, I am looking forward to spending more time with Isobel and cooking, crafting, and photography. I also plan to post here and I’ve opened an Etsy shop to sell some of the wonderful things I don’t need but can’t pass up while thrifting.

My heart aches for the kids who will go to school next year without a librarian.