Monday, March 28, 2016

Seven Years and About Three Kids Later...How I'm a Different Mom

As we're about to bring baby #3 in seven years into the world I keep thinking or mentioning to my husband how different things are this time from the first time. In some ways it's financial; in some ways it's just a different mentality than it was seven years ago. Thank God my second was a girl because we wouldn't have been able to buy all the new stuff we just did back then if she was a boy. We barely bought anything for her because we had just bought or received brand new baby girl stuff just a few years before with our first, and we were focused on trying to hopefully move out of the city soon.

I like to think even as chaotic as it seemed at times that I enjoyed my girls while they were babies and toddlers. I wouldn't really say I miss those days though to be honest because I absolutely love the ages they are now, and I love where we are in life now.  Financially adding kids was hard, especially as we were still in those early years of building our life with masters degrees and buying a home out of the city,  and I let finances stress me out way too much. With my first daughter I coached the first two years of her little life while finishing grad school and with my second I taught PT at the community college after my regular school day for two years while her dad did grad school, and I ended up working the only three summers I've ever worked as teacher in ten years. Three summers of the four summers that I've had two young kids at home I worked summers; not that I necessarily worked a ton any of those three summers. I did the minimum of what I needed to pay the bills so I still had more time at home with my girls.

Besides the stress of finances the other big change is just a different mentality than seven years ago. I  remember my anxiety about being a working mom both times. With my first it was that first time mom anxiety of am I doing the right thing for her by going to work, what am I going to miss, am I going to be able to handle working full time and being a mom. My mom stayed home with my sisters and I for the first ten years as did pretty much all the women in our family until my generation with my sisters, cousin, and I. All three of us were returning to work after the birth of our children even though the older generations (aka Grandpa-got to love him though) criticized us for having babies if we were just going to leave them in someone else's care. With my second it was mainly the fear of being overwhelmed with two little ones at home and working full time; the known feeling of guilt that occasionally accompanies motherhood. Yes, there was guilt at times, there was doubt at times, there were failures at times, but I also found wonderful relationships in the women I entrusted with my daughters' care over the years. I look at my daughters now and I know they've thrived in the environment we and their caregivers created for them.

This time around because I know my capabilities to balance motherhood with a full time career, I don't feel the same anxious rush to return to work like I did with my first to prove to myself I could handle both or the same dread I did with my second, but rather am first looking forward to my longest stretch at home as a stay at home mom for four months (minus the few days to two weeks I'll go back to close out the school year) but feel I'll be more than ready by the end of those four months to return to the balanced role I've found in the last year or so as a working mom. I feel in a place mentally where I can just really enjoy being home with my babies these next couple of months but also confident in the transition back to work at the end of those months.

With my first too I remember the fear and doubt of us taking on parenthood with no family around for additional support. I expected it to be hard, and it is hard. But maybe I'm just use to it now or again confident in our roles as parents now, but in the long run it hasn't been as hard as I expected. It has its moments, but it's not a neverending hardship. So again as we embark on bringing home baby #3 I'm confident in who we are as parents and know we can tackle the challenges that await us as parents of three.

I started this blog to reflect my struggles of how unput together I felt at times in trying to wade my way through motherhood and even adulthood I think. Just as we like to think we turned 18 so now we must be an adult, we think "I've had a baby so now I'm even more of an adult in this role called mother". But they're both a process. They're not just something that occurs over night with a special event. It's trial and error and learning and growing. When I published my book Moms, Monsters, Media, and Margaritas back in the midst of not being sure if I was swimming (more like treading water) or drowning in motherhood I built the theme around the idea that motherhood is a long journey that takes us from the girl we were to the woman we become. Even though the book was finished and published almost two years ago now I was really still in the midst of finding my way to being the more confident mom I am today. Maybe it's why getting to this point of three kids included the past year and half of struggles that it did because even though I was headed in this direction a year and half ago I wasn't there yet; I wasn't to this place of contentment and confidence again.

I was reading a student's paper the other day in which he was telling the story of a great game he had; however, he kept focusing and beating himself up about the one play he missed. How often as mothers, as women, do we do that? We focus too much on our screw ups or flaws and miss enjoying our kids and the things we do right. That was me at points, usually with a heavy dose of sarcasm. I've beat myself up too many times about the times I didn't handle myself so well because of frustration or exhaustion, the times I felt like I didn't give my kids, work, or something else the effort I should have.

 Now as I head into baby #3 I know there will be guilt but it doesn't need to consume me; I know I will fail at times but it will be okay because I'll learn from it and do better next time, and even though my confidence in my role as a working mother has grown there will still be moments of doubt but I will confront them and move on.

I know now it's not all failures; it's not all successes. I know there will be times I will struggle and fall down. But I also now know I will get back up. I'm confident in my ability to be a working mom now. I know my capabilities but I also know my limitations. I know my kids don't need a perfect mom because it's through my efforts and my mistakes they'll learn themselves that we try our best and in trying our best we'll have our good days and our bad days but just keep learning, growing, and moving forward.

I'm so ready for baby #3, to begin this journey of a mom of three. Will I be a better mom now? I don't think necessarily; I'm just a different mom now than I was. Honestly I like her better. Not because she's necessarily better but because she's confident and she believes in what she's capable of again.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Not Letting My Kids Quit

"No, you started you're going to finish. There is no quitting."

This was so drilled into mine and my sisters' heads that by the time I was an adult years to even decades later when I had reached my lowest point in my chosen career and seriously just considered quitting in the middle of the school year after seeing a coworker do it, I couldn't do it because I seriously heard my dad still saying this to me. If at the end of the year I decided it was time to move onto something else then that was one thing but to just quit right smack in the middle of the year because I was frustrated and didn't want to deal with my current situation anymore had been drilled into my child adolescent mind for so long I just knew it wasn't an option.

Whether it was playing for a team I didn't want to play for anymore or one of us wanting to give up pitching because we were struggling and having a rough year, my father was adamant in us girls knowing "You DON'T quit. You start you finish."

Some might have thought my dad was too hard on us. My grandmother would always remind him "we were girls". God love Grandma but girls need tough love just as much as boys! You cried, you dragged your butt on the field, or you let a few failures beat down your self confidence, it was like the old Marine in him came out. I remember going through this phase where I was afraid of the ball so he took me out to the side of the yard and hit grounder after grounder at me. For every one I raised up from staying down on it was ten push ups. I'm pretty sure I did well over a 100 push ups that day. I'm sure there were times my sisters and I would get mad at his "lack of understanding" that would bring the tears or wanting to get down on ourselves. Even though all the "you don't quit" lessons I remember were on an athletic field or court, I imagine we all three see now how they were quite valuable in our lives later.

So tonight I had to pull out the tough love on my daughter. It was kind of hard and I'll admit I felt kind of bad for being so hard on her. This isn't the first time nor will I'm sure it be the last. Sometimes my husband tells me I'm too hard on them (but they're also daddy's girls so they get babied plenty by him). Even though she's the youngest on her softball team and doesn't know anyone she's seemed pretty interested in the past three weeks. Her and I have gone out in the yard a few times. But today was their second outdoor practice. In the cold and wind. It was cold, but this kid goes outside and plays in all types of weather all the time. About twenty minutes in she is leaving the field, whining and wanting to go home. I tell her no, she can tough it out like the other girls, and she plays outside in cold weather all the time. Then she starts crying.

Now you have to know my daughter. The girl is a good girl; she has a big, loving heart; and she's a girl that genuinely cares about doing the right things. She really is a great kid;  however, she's not perfect and one of the things she's also a master at is pulling the drama card to manipulate to get her way. I've seen her do it many times. She loves to turn on the big crocodile tears. Daddy falls for it quite often. However, when she tries to pull it on me it just makes me mad (which I know is one of my big imperfect flaws). So I was that mean mom with the crying daughter that made her suck it up and go back out on the field cold or not. She started practice she was not going to whine and quit in the middle of it because it was a little cold. I was not very sympathetic to her and I probably didn't earn any mom brownie points (however none of the other girls were whining and crying to go home because it was cold). And I reminded her when she got in the car crying and trying to whine her way out of something was not going to work with me.

There are many things she's going to have to do that she doesn't want to do or like to do. Even when it's something she loves there are going to be moments that are hard to get through or make her want to quit because it's not easy or fun at the moment. But you can't just throw in the towel as soon as the going gets tough. Right now while she's young it's sports or other activities but later as my sisters and I came to see it's jobs, it's relationships, it's commitments to people and things we care about, financial and other responsibilities,  it's just life in general.

So maybe I was a little tough on her. Maybe I was why she cried because she didn't think "I was the one that was understanding". Maybe one day like my sisters and me she'll see it wasn't about practicing in the cold when she wanted to quit but more about teaching her to push through the hard spots when she wants to quit.

So, to my daughters and son when it's his time, I won't let you quit. Even when it's hard, even when it's not going your way, even when you're failing or struggling. You start something, you finish it.



Monday, March 14, 2016

Home vs Work

After two full weeks at home I am more than ready to return to work on Thursday for however short or brief it may be until baby boy makes his arrival. The battle of staying home verse being a working mom has been an internal battle my whole motherhood life. Maybe that's why it's the biggest mommy wars battle too because we each have our own internal battle with it.

I've always been a working mom but have had short stretches with the longest being summer vacation to experience the "stay at home" mom life or what my "stay at home" life would be like because part of my argument for the whole stay at home mom verse working mom debate is there are so many different individual factors that make each of our experiences easy or hard; it's not just the choice itself.

The two biggest points in my mom life where I thought I would really prefer the stay at home mom was first when my babies were babies. I feel a lot of guilt for not being around, present more that first year or so. Once they turn two I've found the outside stimulus necessary for my kids. The second point was dependent on how work was going. When I was having a rough patch at work I hated work  and assumed that meant I hated the working mom life too (my husband likes to remind me that for that one year I claimed constantly that I wanted to be a stay at home mom).

Again I fully believe there are different individual factors that make each of our choices to stay home or work easier or harder so this is my personal experience with the two. This is my positive and negative of me being a stay at home verse a working mom.

Some of the great things about being home is definitely being around in the morning to get my girls up and off to school in the morning. The other thing I love is there is SO MUCH time to get so many things done. My house is clean, my laundry is fairly caught up, I can tackle little cleaning and organizing projects around the house. There's plenty of time throughout the day to rest and not rush but feel productive and not overwhelmed at the same time so my evenings are not stressful at all. Because I've had the day time to do things I can focus without the rush on my family more in the evenings or even look forward to the girls' evening activities because it's something out of the house to go do.

The negative is I get bored really quick. I like to be busy; I like to be on the move. These two weeks I've worked from home for three hours every morning grading, planning for this leave and my maternity leave, answering emails (sometimes for well over an hour!), and working on my yearbook project. If I wouldn't have had that I would have ended up even more bored than I currently am. Now obviously with a newborn soon those three hours will probably feel a lot different and busier, and if I was home with 2-3 older kids I would so use that time to workout every day, but again I wouldn't need three hours to do that so I would need some kind of at home job, project, or something because I have to feel productive otherwise I would drive myself crazy.

Now that I'm happy in my job again, besides the shorter amount of sleep that a 530 am alarm leads to and the sometimes hour + awful commute the worst part of my actual job is the sometimes overwhelming grading and lunch duty; other than that I love it. I love the teaching aspect, I love the relationships with the kids, I love the sense of productivity with planning, grading, and whatever other projects teaching allows us to take on.  The plus of getting up so early is even though I miss my kids in the morning I am home to get them off the bus by 4 and get them to and from any evening activities or just enjoy the afternoon/evening with them.

I have a love/hate relationship with the chaotic craziness that results at times from being overwhelmed as a working mom. When it's a full work week with packed evenings, I love the busyness and sense of productivity/living, but I get a little overwhelmed that things around the house, especially the laundry, get abandoned during the week. We sometimes fall into too many dinners out for the week and talk about rushing through the kids' homework. I hate homework on those  weeks!  Any working out (which I've abandoned for most of this pregnancy anyway) routine I had gets missed.  My weekends become a work day of housework catch up where when I'm home all the housework is done during the week and there's no need to even worry about laundry over the weekend.

This is probably the part that makes my working mom life the hardest. With no family and a husband that has been pursuing career opportunities since the birth of our second daughter his evenings were first filled with grad school classes and now he has leadership responsibilities in his current position it seems like 2-3 nights a week so I am what I call parent 1 most of the time, and though he will help on the weekends when I get way behind on things I am technically home more during the week to do the running with the girls  and take care of the house too even though he is still the primary dinner maker so that's a huge help when we're both working. But balancing it all-house, kids and husband, full time job, myself with working out and other interests tends to get a little off balance during those chaotic weeks.

The good thing is the working mom life is not always the crazy chaotic extreme. It has its moments at different points in the year, but they pass and a nice even balance occurs for awhile. I know when it gets crazy again it is just for the short time being and then it too will pass.

One of the most annoying things to me with the stay at home mom verse working mom debate is the whole stay at home job is 24 hours and doesn't have a quitting time like the working mom except a working mom is still a mom and still goes home and does the job of mom and housewife after her working shift is over so if we're so set that everything about being a mom is work (which I could make a whole different argument about another time) they are both 24 hours. For me without a doubt the working mom life is more work than the stay at home mom life, but it's also one that the majority of the time I prefer. It's a better fit for me; doesn't mean it's a better fit for everyone.

I have a career I enjoy that contributes to our current and future financial security, and I even though I'm not there in the mornings for my girls and feel a little guilty that I don't make it to very many during the school day activities (field trips, lunch dates, or parent visit drop ins) I have a great relationship with my girls and rarely if ever miss those evening activities so most of the time I've found a nice balance as a working mom. I think really the stay at home vs working mom battle isn't with each other; it's with ourselves. Finding contentment in our choice and letting whatever guilt we have go.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Learning Patience over Control

If you don't know I have a control problem. Ask my husband. It can a very annoying, sometimes unhealthy thing. However, I am a continued work in progress on learning to let things go, that everything doesn't have to be done a certain particular way or maybe more specifically my way. I like to think I've gotten better with this over the last year or two.

However, my obsession with cleaning and organizing at times or my current obsession with getting everything in order at work asap is my way of feeling like I have control when things start to feel out of my control. As anyone knows life throws many curve balls at us that are out of our control.

Many times throughout this third baby experience I have thought how God or the powers that be (whatever you believe) are trying to teach me to let go of that need to feel like I need to control so much. I always have to plan EVERYTHING. Ask my family; they make fun of me for it.

So this has been a good test for me of realizing there's a bigger plan than my own at the moment, and I may have little control over it but to trust that it will all work out. First it was the struggle with not carrying a baby past the first trimester last year when we initially planned to expand our family so then it was getting past the first trimester with the third try this time around. Then it's been the unclear diagnosis of his heart tumor and having to wait 5-6 months to hopefully have a clear diagnosis and plan of treatment. Then it was the bacteria infection that started causing early labor at 30 weeks that even though an antibiotic got rid of the infection for now and stopped the early labor, we now have to plan to somehow make sure we're checked into the hospital four hours before delivery so I can be administered IV antibiotics so the infection isn't passed on to him. Now the latest out of my control development is he's currently breech. Which after everything else this should be a pretty minimal concern. There's still time for him to turn but of course we have to wait and see if he does. There's that waiting again that I'm suppose to be getting better at handling.  However, I didn't have a C section with my other two and am really not fond of the idea (you're talking to the girl who still hasn't had her wisdom teeth pulled because surgical procedures and the possibly of being put out freaks me out).

So between the early labor concerns, the infection concern, the heart concern, and now the breech concern there's possibly little in my control as for when or how he comes. I know I need to patient and just keep my faith that even though things may not go according to "my plan" they will work themselves out and it will be a okay. In the meantime though I think I'll keep cleaning my house and prepping and preparing at work like a mad woman. Work in progress, remember??? And hopefully I'll have some kind of heads up warning before it's go time for his arrival so I can shave my legs. It takes a lot of effort to complete this task 8-9 months pregnant,  but I'd like to at least feel like I have control when it comes to going into labor with shaved or not shaved legs but not sure I can do it every day from here on out in preparation!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Compassion but Individual Motivation

The political wars over the upcoming presidential election are like a spreading fire of hate across social media. The sides are so extreme. History is being thrown out left and right with name calling, and everyone thinks the other side is the one that will destroy American society.

I don't really know if we need a politician to do that; sometimes I think we do a good enough job on our own as the social media wars have shown. I'm just as guilty for throwing my hate comments and name calling towards candidates as the next person. It's really hard to care or have a strong opinion in this election.

Trump is being compared to Hitler: I saw Clinton being compared to Hitler. The liberals and youth of today are accused of being naïve socialist who are going to destroy society rather than help it in the long run. One side is supposedly saying we need to look after the good of society rather than the individual and the other is supposedly saying we need to look out for the individual rather than sacrificing the individual for the good of society as a whole.

Here's my argument. Yes, we need to take care of the good of all of society, and this includes maintaining and improving with better regulations and accountability in place government programs that many want to label as welfare without truly knowing all the details of what welfare is or how it's managed. Life is not fair; if some people just had a little help they will work themselves to greatness. I read the story of a refugee who will be speaking at our school system's State of the Schools Address here soon, and she is just one example of countless others that yes had a little help from the American government and is now a thriving A student with goals and plans to be a great contributor to American society.

But on the other hand we there still needs to be incentive in place to motivate individuals to want to achieve greatness for themselves. As an educator because we work with immigrants, minorities, and children from poverty stricken situations we know the faces of people that need these programs to find their way. We also know the negative labels that society believes fits all in these categories. However, as educators we also know kids need incentives and accountability to push themselves to be better. If you don't have incentives whether it be grades, money, or the things money can buy as materialistic as that sounds people won't see the point to push themselves to their full potential. Just as it is not right to give someone the exact same grade for completing a class rather the grade they earn we have to have incentives which honestly in our modern day society is money in place. We do still have to care about the individual and what motivates them and work ethic still has to matter. Work ethic though is not a reflection of whether you may need help or "assistance" at some point. I know people, people that I'm close to and even family, that has had to rely on government assistance or programs at some point in their life, and believe me they are hard workers who rose above their situations (they were gifted into a life of middle class ease like myself) to do well for themselves.

We need the compassion the liberals seem to be standing for but we still need the individual and their personal motivation that the conservations seem to be standing for. We can have compassion and accountability. Part of that does start with our youth and not being so soft on them when it comes to participation trophies and the endless game of passing kids through because failures reflect badly on the school system rather than the student. There is an entitled, dependent thinking problem by some in our society but we don't erase that with hate and labels on particular classes of people. Just as work ethic comes from people of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, genders, and religions I've also seen that entitled attitude come from people of all races, backgrounds, genders, and religions

So yes, we need compassion in our society. Not bigotry labels against anyone that is not a middle class or above white Christian, but also not a soft society that makes the individual so dependent on the government that there's no motivation or incentive for individual greatness and success.We need a balance between compassion and incentive for our society. We can't ignore the individual but we can't abandon those in need either.