A little dab of SAHM…

February 25th, 2011

Everything in balance, right?

I spent a decade as a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). I did it for ideological reasons, believing it was the best choice for my family for that time. NOT because it is my nature. I hate going the park.* I don’t like pushing swings. I detest housework, and the satisfaction I get from a gleaming, dust-free house is in no way increased by doing it myself.

As many of my readers know (“many” might mean three of you), I have transitioned over the last couple of years from SAHM to part-time WAHM mom to full time WAH and out-of-the-home mom. And I love it. I find the balancing act a constant challenge. I never have enough time. There are a lot of things I still haven’t gotten right, and I am always backed up on laundry.

At the same time, I love what I do. I am finding tremendous satisfaction and fulfillment from my work, and I believe my children benefit a great deal from my happiness. When I had 5 kids ages under the age of 6 (!), being home was the right move. Now I am enjoying the transition to this new phase of a house of “big kids”.  ( I hope I feel as happy about phasing into a house full of teenagers. But that is for another time.)

Yet there are of course times that I miss doing with my youngest two what I did with my older guys. It is inevitable. I have heard it said many times that the fate of a working mom is to feel guilty while at work over everything she isn’t doing with her family, and to feel guilty while with her family about all of the work she isn’t getting done at the office. I am trying to avoid this cliche.

Last Monday was President’s Day, which is “Family Fun Day” at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ.  My husband had arranged for three tickets to “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”. It was a puppet show of actually three Eric Carle stories put on by  the very talented Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia. It was beautiful,  a “shush free” performance, and very, very slow. It is just the kind of thing that would have driven me completely nuts back in my SAHM days.  Crowded manuevering, packing food ahead, and trying to navigate the bathroom.  It all used to make me grumble and groan.

Now? This was time off. This was time to savor my little guys while they are still somewhat little. The soon-t0-be three year old sat on my lap oohing, aahing and exclaiming “airplane” when the little cloud turned into one. My five year old, who can read and write and is starting to shed the little girl inside, nestled into my arm. It was an hour of bliss. It was worth the parking, the potty visits, the wrestling with jackets, and arranging it so everyone  could see.

I am not sure that I will ever find that perfect balance. If I will ever get each plate spinning in the air at the right speed at the right time. If I can ever know what to trade off for what.

But I do know that a little dab of SAHM goes a long, long way right now.

*Added note: I couldn’t find a single picture, with an extensive google search, of a woman at the playground or park with her kids, bored out of her mind. The moms in the photos were all ecstatically happy. Every single one. So, either it is just me, or we clearly don’t want to get caught.

I wrote a post a while ago about my plan to work from home with a little turning-two year old at home. A friend, www.tricolon.wordpress.com, and I decided to try working in the same place (my house) while our two babies ran around and played. The original ideas was to hire a mother’s helper to watch them, split the cost and get work done while saving money. Sounds great, right? The mother’s helper seemed to be a constant sign that we must be going out any minute now, and said children got much clingier. We got rid of the mother’s helper but kept on working.

Now that the school year is starting to wind down, I think I can declare the experiment a success!!!

We have both managed to get work done, and I think more than we would have gotten done working separately. It doesn’t hurt that tricolon occasionally changes my son’s diapers when I am on a deadline and stressed. It has cost me time in preparing lunch for two instead of one, but much less than it has cost me.

The challenge has been with the talking. If we work and don’t share, work gets done. I have often cut my friend off so I can force myself back to work. But the sharing is also urging to make the at home business work and to push ourselves.

What I wanted to write about was the unexpected benefit which has seemed to me to be the very best part of the arrangement. Our sons have bonded in such a tremendous way. Just was twins develop strong love long before they are verbal simply through closeness and time, these two boys have such love for each other that they manage to express even without being able to speak.

My son has such a special place in his heart for this boy and for his mommy. And the face of her one year old lights up the whole room when he sees my son. They hug, they share and they laugh.

We wanted them to be a distraction for each other so we could work. What they have turned into is an opportunity to develop empathy, love and compassion at a very young age in a way that just doesn’t happen with “Ima”.

The socialization benefits of preschool without all of the many problems of preschool and my hugs on hand when needed. Truly the best part of the experiment.

Happy Birthday to me.

March 23rd, 2010

It’s my birthday today. It is both my English and Hebrew birthday. Since the Hebrew calendar syncs with the Roman one every 19 years, I am either 19, 38, or 57 today. I will let you guess.

I don’t really expect or enjoy much fanfare on my birthday. I remember my 30th, because I spent it in bed with a stomach flu. The rest past about 16 are pretty unmemorable, and that’s okay with me.

For me, birthdays are a day for reflection and gratitude. (And handmade cards from my kids.)

This year, my 10 yo made me a beautiful necklace, with her Safta’s help, without my knowing, and managed to keep it a surprise. I am pretty impressed, but I am also bracing myself that my kids are getting older as well, and in a much more dramatic fashion than I.

When I was just turning 31, my neighbor and close friend told me how great it was to be in her 40′s. I thought she was CRAZY. I didn’t want to be getting any closer to 40 myself. But she said that her 40′s were about implementing the wisdom she spent her 20′s and 30′s accumulating.

That was very little consolation to me on that younger side of my thirties.  Didn’t sound attractive to me at all. Now as I get closer by one more year, I totally get what she meant.

This year is about starting a very new chapter in my life. While I generally don’t rely on any plans I make, we don’t expect to be having more children.  And that has never been true before since I got married. And the ones we have aren’t a household full of little ones any longer.  I am also adjusting to my new work life. Conveniently for me it comes at a time that my schedule is minimized so I can prepare for Pesach, clean,feel the renewal of spring, and contemplate.

Now if I can just make this the year I get a decent figure back, and get in shape!!!

Someone posted this great article on facebook:  “How to do your Pesach Cleaning Cheerfully in Less than One Day” by Rav Aviner. It is a great guide. I hope to read it every year as a reminder, which means sending it to myself.

… I don’t buy it that one can or even should get it done in one day, and I have already posted that I like the spring cleaning as well as the cleaning for Pesach.  As of today I have unloaded about 10-15 bags of stuff we just don’t want or need anymore. Feels great. Someone else has given me an entire wardrobe for the 4 yo for the coming two seasons. (Thanks, Ronit.)

But the article gives a good perspective, and is blessedly brief. Of course the kitchen is only mentioned in a few lines and we all know that that is where the real work lies. I also think the article is specifically relevant for those living in Israel more than in the US. But Pesach, as all chagim are truly designed to be celebrated in Eretz Yisrael after all. There certainly is truth in the article for the rest of us as well.

Slow and steady seems to be working for me this year, more so in the past, as I juggle the schedule of a work at home mom.

I try – and it is always a goal more than an achievement – to remain focused on the removal of spiritual chametz as I clean and organize and prepare my house. That is, to remove grudges, old patterns, and the “yeast in mitzvot” which was explained to me this Shabbat by the very wise Rabbi Aaron Gruman, means that which allows us to get “puffed up” without doing much of anything. The combination of arrogance and laziness.

Someone created a facebook group called “facebook is chametz”. If one goes by Rabbi Gruman’s understanding as it was explained to me, then facebook definitely qualifies. It certainly allows me to become a) self absorbed, and b) very lazy  - all at the same time. I am going to try and stay fb free for as long as I remain chametz free this year.

I have been making a lot of  LISTS. Lists are what I do when I have lots to accomplish and no energy with which to do so. The lists help me organize that which I have to do, even if I am just too tired to actually do it.

I hope you are all making good progress; perhaps you are too busy to be reading my blog. :  )

I also hope you will let me know what you think of the article.

The Not-Sick Sick Day

March 10th, 2010

4 yo complained consistently yesterday of a stomach ache. There really wasn’t much to be done other than sympathize, as she didn’t have any other symptoms.

Last night at about 1:30 in the morning she was up with my husband (that’s why I married him) expelling whatever was bothering her through all manner of bodily fluids. I don’t think you need any more details.

Whatever was in there making her feel rotten has now been cleaned off of several surfaces in my house, so she is feeling great. But of course school policy mandates that she stay home until she is vomit-free for 24 hours.

It’s a reasonable enough policy, but it does creates moments like today, which I call the “not-sick sick day”. She feels fine and dandy, but my day now has to be about entertaining her and giving her structure and substance.

Please don’t get me wrong, a 4 yo doesn’t need to be in school at all in my opinion. There have been many times when I have been the all-day source of programming for a 4 yo all year round. It is just that she is accustomed to school and I have work and Pesach-prep obligations as well as important plans I had expected to accomplish today. I wish I could declare a not-sick sick day for myself too, and simply see it as a vacation opportunity with only two kids home.  I don’t have that luxury.

What will happen in the end, at least based on past experience, is that she will get half of that fun, happy, home-with-Ima experience she wants and deserves, and I will get half of my work and prep done. (Okay, half is probably optimistic.)

She probably isn’t too sick for the grocery store, which means shopping with two kids. That is seriously one of my most hated experiences EVER. Mind you, it is better than what my husband was doing at 1:30 in the morning.

I will probably spend most of the day preparing an activity for as much independence as possible, then scrambling to work while she is focused, until clean up and set up of the next thing. In those spurts I will try to work “adjacent” to her vacation, rather than really participating. Not as fun for either one of us, but today, well, that’s the best I can do.