Working Parent

I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. This should be nothing new to those of you who know me…I was always much more likely to sit inside than head out for recess. I always loved studying and genuinely enjoyed going to class. Although I’m glad to be done with school, my inner nerd comes out every once in awhile.

I was in a training session for work the other day and we took a learning styles assessment. I love personal assessments, because they teach me to think about my own style in new ways. I don’t think I learned anything groundbreaking from this particular assessment, but there was a section about learning styles and parenting that I thought was interesting. Also, for other nerds out there, you can read more about learning styles and experiential learning here.

We all learn and make sense of the world in different ways. There are four learning styles (learning by doing, learning by experiencing, learning by reflecting, and learning by thinking). You can probably think of your preferred learning style just from the descriptions. When we parent, we will most often teach in the style that we prefer. But are we being sensitive to how our children would like to learn? Or should we try to strengthen weaker styles with our kids? Here is a brief description of the styles for kids:

Learning Styles

After reading through the styles, do you have any inclinations about your kids? Of course, the best approach with your kids is using a blend of styles. Interesting stuff, huh? Told you I was a nerd.


Naomi sent me this article to post on our Facebook page which I will do… but first I have some things that I would like to say on this topic.  I wasn’t planning on writing a post today so this might be a little ranty.

Working Mom (WM) vs Stay At Home Mom (SAHM)

I work.  Darby goes to day care that is about a half-mile from my office and maybe 2 miles from my house.  Before I had Darby I was 100% certain that I wanted to work after she was born.

Mama and BabyMy maternity leave was three months long.  When Darby turned two-months old it hit me that I’d be going back to work and would not be with her all day.  The thought of sending her to daycare made me cry — just, like, out of the blue I would think about it and cry. (You know you did the same…) I think there is often the assumption that moms who work want someone else to care for their baby for part of the day.  They want to be free of the responsibility and burden of caring for their baby 24/7.  Or they need the money.  For me that was not the case.  I loved having that time with Darby during the day.  Like any mom, I needed a break and having my husband come home from work gave me that.  Working had nothing to do with whether or not I wanted to be with Darby.   I love my job, I work for a very family-friendly organization, but mostly I wanted time in my day to be me.  And FOR ME, working was the best way for me to do that.

***Emphasis on FOR ME***  

I think a lot about how being a WM impacts my family and our future.  My salary is decent and is more than the cost of daycare but that may not be the case once we have two kids.  Should I keep working?  Is it about the money?  Is it about how much I love my job?  What’s best for my kid(s)?

Here’s the big picture FOR ME: I want Darby to be proud of me.  In seventh grade when she has to write a paper on the person she most looks up to, I want it to be me and for good reason… not just because I’m her mom and because that is easier than researching Abraham Lincoln.  I want her to recognize that part of being a good mom to her meant being good to myself.  FOR ME, being good to myself means feeding my brain and challenging myself by working.  I want her to know that being a good wife doesn’t have to mean being Donna Reed, but it can mean being a breadwinner while also being the bread-maker.

I sit around and think about what I want for Darby and it all comes back to one thing: I want her to be herself.  How can I give her the tools to always be herself if I’m not giving myself the tools to do the same?  FOR ME being myself means working.

Then there’s the whole Dad issue… this isn’t only about working/stay-at-home MOMS anymore.  My husband has a higher earning potential than me so he most likely won’t ever be a SAHD.  But… he also has a higher earning potential than where he is now.  We — together — chose a certain lifestyle in favor of money at least for right now.  He could go earn the big bucks but it would mean long hours which would likely mean missing dinner time and bath time and play time… FOR US, this was the right choice.  It has never been and most likely will not ever be an easy choice.

I did say that money isn’t the reason that I work.  But if money were the issue, rather than sending my husband off to earn lots of money and lose time at home, I would continue to work to pay for daycare so that my husband didn’t have to miss out on family time.  No question.

Now… I’ve stayed pretty cool through this whole post.  (Hooray, Me!) But I need to lose my cool for one second.  Few things make me more angry than hearing one parent judge another parent for making a decision that they think is best for their kid(s).  To the judgey WMs and SAHMs (both are guilty): You. Have. No. Right. SHUT YOUR FACE.

Ok.  I’m cool.

FOR YOU the best thing for your family might mean being a SAHM.  Everyone is different.  I would never say that being a WM is better or being a SAHM is better.  I know what was best FOR ME. It is a personal choice and, you know what?  Babies in BOTH situations turn out just fine… and if your kid turns out to be crazy, most likely your being a WM or a SAHM had nothing to do with it.  It may have to do with how you spend the time you DO have with your kid(s).

How do you feel about your choice to be a WM or a SAHM?

So, I’m a bit overwhelmed.  I have one of those email addresses where they give you the option to “prioritize” certain incoming mail, mark other mail as less important and put stars next to even more mail.  It is meant to keep one organized, but it hasn’t worked out so well for me.  Right now I have almost 150 messages in my “priority” inbox.  I have hundreds in my starred category and literally (I’m not kidding) thousands in my regular mail.  I’m the type that needs lots of time to sit and focus on a task so that I can complete it well.  I’m not a good multi-tasker and I have a hard time getting things accomplished when I only have time to complete part of it.  So, that explains why I have probably 25,000 emails.  I may have time to read the email, but if I don’t have time to respond or follow up on the email right at that moment, then it gets marked as unread so that I know to come back to it.  Invariably, it will be forgotten.  Then if I do come back to it, yup, I get overwhelmed.

At issue as well is my house.  We have had our fair share of school projects that have come home with both kids from preschool.  Most of it I keep.  How could I not??  Now that Seth is in Kindergarten, he is coming home with even more.  This is the real stuff.  Real School.  I can’t possibly throw any of this stuff out.  So my question is . . .now what?  If I can’t keep my virtual world clutter free, how will I ever succeed with my real life one?  Suggestions?  Oh, and when during my hectic life do you propose I find the time to organize all the stuff?

When I was in Middle School we had something called “Late Day”.  Late Day happened twice a week and it was a day when we could choose to stay after school for an hour for an elective.  The best part was that we were old enough to buy a snack like Rolos, Twizzlers and/or a can of soda from the Student Council to eat beforehand.  The electives were varied enough so that everyone who wanted to attend a class could do so.  At 4:30 pm we would either take the late bus home or get picked up by our parents.  Sounds fun, and it was.

What reminded me of Late Days was seeing the parents that have been steadily streaming through my school’s doors today.  You see, many of the kids that go to my school also go to the after school program located at my school.  For some of them, Late Day isn’t 4:30 pm, it is more like 6:00 pm.  For many of them, Late Day is every day.  Now I know that many parents work 9-5 jobs, so 6 is the earliest they can feasibly get to their kids, but I just wonder how that affects the whole dynamic of family time.  I know that when my kids were at their old preschool, I was able to get to them and get home by 4:45.  Earlier if I wanted to.  Now that they are further from my school and it takes more time to get there, get them, get them to agree to come to the car, and get home, we get home later.  Getting home later means that things get pushed later into the night.  Things like dinner, showers (my kids aren’t much into baths), pajamas, books (Maya made a pile higher than Mount Kilimanjaro last night) and bedtime get pushed later because the time they used to have for things like free play, coloring, and riding bicycles is slowly ebbing away.  They need this time to decompress from their day, and frankly so do I.  So I wonder . . . how do the kids that are just leaving school at 6pm deal with it all?  Do they get any family time before it is time to get up the next morning and start all over again?  I guess this is what they call “the daily grind” elementary style.
Before becoming a mother, I thought there is no way my child is going to watch TV on a regular basis. He will be forced/encouraged to play outside (like I was) and allow his imagination to take him to fun and unusual places. What kind of parent allows their child to watch TV almost every evening??? Apparently I am that parent.  Who knew that at the end of a busy work day after “making” dinner and bathing my filthy child (Really, how does he get that dirty? Does he just roll around in the sandbox at school all day?) I would be the first to plop down on the couch and turn on the TV?

Sprout is an educational channel (thank you PBS) so I have minimal feelings of guilt that my child watches Nina and Star each night before we read our books, say our prayers, and go to bed. In fact he is learning a few new things during his (our) quality time with Nina, he learns new signs, Spanish words, and stretches/yoga moves. We talk to Nina and Star like they are our friends.

Is this the right way to end a long day? Well, if there is one thing I have learned over the past 23 months there is no right and wrong way to parent. Every parent/family is different. Sprout works for us. You may not agree with our choices and I am okay with that.

What are your night time rituals?

Hmm.   Let’s see.  Being a teacher means getting summers off.  It’s a nice perk because I can make appointments without saying “What do you have after about 3:45?”, get errands done, clean the house (yeah, right!), and just take a break.  Taking a break is a hard thing to do during the school year.  I get up before 6 and I could literally walk out the door by 6:30 if I wanted to.  And I did-before kids.  Before my kids were born I had lots of time to get things done, my house was not nearly as cluttered, and I think I actually cooked most dinners that my husband and I ate together.  Now, it’s a race to get anything done.  My son is our early riser.  He will be 5 in November and he has never been what you might call a great sleeper.  Right now he’s currently fighting a losing battle with my husband over why he has to take a nap.  Seth refuses to give in even though he knows he’s tired.  Maya loves her sleep, and when she was younger she’d sleep for 12 hours a night and take her naps without a fight.  She still sleeps well, but a certain almost-5-year-old has biased her and she can sometimes be heard saying, “I don’t want a nap!”  Those are usually the days that she sleeps for 3 hours plus.  Yesterday afternoon serves as a nice example of that.

Anyway, so I could leave at 6:30, but there are kids to wake up and get dressed, lunches to pack, and breakfast to serve.  All of this gets accomplished while my husband showers, gets dressed and gets himself ready for work so that he can drop the kids off at school.  I usually leave a little after 7, and depending on the traffic that day (for which there is no rhyme or reason) it can take me between 15 minutes and 45 minutes to get to work.  Once the school day begins, it is a mad dash to predict, clarify, question and summarize.  That’s hard stuff for the kids with whom I work, but we do our best.  After work, I struggle with going straight to pick up the kids, or running my errands sans kids.  Sure, sans kids is easier, quicker, and more pleasant all around, but I miss them and I can’t wait to hear all about their day.  Plus, pushing your sister in a shopping cart while narrowly avoiding the precariously stacked produce display is a rite of passage.  Once home, it is time to play and get dinner started.  If I’ve planned ahead, I can usually figure out what to make pretty quickly.  If I’ve planned ahead really well, dinner is already made and just needs to be warmed up.  If I’ve failed to plan, dinner is fish sticks and frozen vegetables (don’t worry, we do warm the stuff).  My husband is also quite crafty in the kitchen and often whips up elaborate meals out of basic staples.  After dinner we semi-clean up, have a little bit more playtime, and head upstairs for showers, brushing teeth, pajamas, books and bed.  Books are a big hit in our house.  First we read all together as a family, then Seth might read to Maya, then Maya might have only Mommy read to her or only Daddy read to her, then Maya gets put to bed, then Seth chooses his books, and then we read all over again.
Shortly after the kids are in bed, I’m pretty much ready for bed myself.  9:30 is my preferred bedtime.  9:00 is even better.  10:30 is already too late.
So, getting back to my original point, here are some of the things I remembered that I never accomplished this summer:
  • Number one on my list . . . cleaning/organizing the house.  Just didn’t happen.  Might never happen.  If I just keep that in mind, then maybe I won’t get so stressed out every time I throw a bunch of stuff in a box when we have company over.  What I really need to do is rent one of those storage pods and pretend it’s a shed.
  • Never chose a new primary care physician.  Still need to do that.  My old one just up and left the practice.  Maybe that will be Columbus Day’s main activity.
  • Forgot to make that online photo book that my old co-worker got for me.  Just didn’t have the time.  It all goes back to the fact that I’m horrible at organizing, so I really need to go back and choose the pictures I want before I can upload them and make the photo book.
  • Still haven’t framed the pictures of the kids I’ve been meaning to for the past 4 years and 2 1/2 years, respectively.  But hey, at least I picked up the picture frames.  Receipt says they were purchased on August 27, 2010.  So I’ve got that going for me . . . which is nice.
  • Get to one of those big shred events where they’ll shred your personal documents for free.  By the time I realize one is coming up, it’s already too late.
So, what is it that I actually did this summer?  I don’t even know.

I’ve never regretted being a working mom, until a month ago.  My daughter started at a Montessori school when she was only 8 weeks old. As hard as it was to hand her over to someone else at such a young age, I looked forward to having adult conversations and having at least 9 hours in the day where I didn’t have to worry about someone projectile vomiting all over me.  She attended this school until a month ago, when it was time for her to start kindergarten at a public school.

Over the past month she’s had to deal with a lot of change.  As much as I thought kindergarten would be an easy transition (she’s never had any problems transitioning at her previous school), we have seen behavior from her that we’ve never seen before.   We were even asked to move her from her after school program to somewhere else due to her making some bad decisions.  As we are scrambling as parents trying to figure out how to handle these new (hopefully temporary) traits of hers, we sat her down for a serious conversation to try and get her input on how she could improve in school.  She looked me in the eyes and said, “If you taught me.”

That’s when the guilt set in.

Here I am lucky enough that my child thinks the world of me, and she loves having me help her learn.  It wasn’t an emotional comment, where she was whining to try and get her way.  This was her being honest with me.  I realized I was having an adult conversation with her, and she was thinking logically.  At that moment I had my first indication that she was no longer my baby.  I have struggled the past couple of weeks trying to figure out how I can continue to work (for financial reasons) and also give my daughter the support that she’s asking for.  When did life get so hard?