Tag Archives: Choices

I will try to do better

I’m disappointed in myself today.

Yesterday I was up at Bethesda with Benjamin. We went to have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory as a treat. I put money in the meter, we went inside and had a lovely lunch. After we pulled away and were heading home Ben said to me:

“I’m sad we didn’t give that man who was homeless any money.”

“What man?” I asked.

“The man, who was there at the meter.”

“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t see him.”

But then it struck me. I HAD seen him. I had seen a man sitting on a pile of stuff but didn’t take the time to really look at him and see him as a real someone; someone in need. I think I did realize he was homeless but I didn’t process it properly and realize I could do something.

I don’t know why, since I’m usually quite attuned to that sort of thing. Maybe it was because of the doctor’s appointment I’d had with my son, or because I’d scraped the car in the parking garage on the way out of the hospital, or because I have been so tired given all the running around or

…..really…WHO CARES WHY…I DIDN’T LOOK AT HIM and I didn’t SEE him.

But my son did.

I think that makes me feel worse in some ways. He saw a man who needed us and his mom didn’t do anything to help him.

I hope today that if I see someone in need I really do SEE him or her and don’t just think about myself.

Thank you son, for opening my eyes and reminding me to look and to see and to realize it is not just about me.

Today I will try to do better.

SAHM

Over time I’ve come to realize that some days seem explosively important when you’re in them and turn out to mean nothing. Other days pass unnoticed until you see them in life’s rear view mirror. So after great thought I recognize that the most important day of my life was the day I bought a pair of bright yellow crocs.

You know the shoes; crocs? Those much maligned much cajoled, much defiled boat like foot coverings that scream middle age. I know what you’re thinking. In a world filled with Prada, Gucci, and Fendi, why would anyone, especially a woman with some modicum of self-respect, choose to walk around in big pieces of rubber. The answer to that defines the importance of the day.

Yesterday or what seems like yesterday; I graduated college and embarked on my life as a young, professional woman. My mantra at the time was that I could do anything. I rebelled against the traditional roles I had associated with my wonderful stay-at-home mother and vowed I would not have children immediately, would not look to marry quickly, and would certainly never be dependant on anyone for my lifestyle. I’d come to believe that being anything short of an independent, professional, high salaried position was falling short of what I owed women-kind at large. What an ego.

I dressed meticulously to fit the demands of the day. Strings were cut from clothing, shoes were cleaned and shined, buttons and hair always in place. For many years I pushed myself physically, mentally, and emotionally to become a leader and mentor in my field. As time passed I developed a very positive reputation within my profession. And you know what? I loved it.

I loved the work and the people I worked with. I was intellectually and emotionally stimulated, and honestly couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling way to live my life. Then something happened during the last five years of my 20 years at my job. Well, actually four “somethings” happened. My husband and I had a family. In those last five years we were blessed with four little boys. Even with everything we’d done professionally, we recognized our four children would provide a greater impact on the next generation than anything we could accomplish at work. With the birth of our youngest, Danny, and after four years of managing daycares and nannies, laundry, and work, I knew I could no longer serve two masters. My children demanded as much as I had to give; so I left my go-to-work world and became a stay-at-home mom. Of course, I was still very much a working mom but at home my bosses were much more demanding.

To me my choice was best captured by a poster I admired of a world-class athlete. The caption beneath her photo read, “All it takes is everything you’ve got”. THAT, to me, was motherhood. I could see that perfectly toned, tanned and muscled athlete being replaced by a woman in a long baggy t-shirt, stretch pants, shadowed eyes and unmanaged hair. With a bottle in one hand and a diaper in the other, my poster child was readying herself for a sleepless marathon. As my new life unfurled, I could best explain some aspects of my days as drudgery. How many times a day could I mop up a spilled sippy cup? How many loads of laundry did I need to do in order to have a onesie with no stains when I needed it? And how many potties did I need to clean before one of my potty training boys would actually hit the toilet. There were days when I LONGED for my professional freedom. My memories of enjoying a meal sitting down rather than standing at the sink swallowing a child’s leftovers, or dressing in the morning in clean, starched clothes vice throwing something on with baby burp stains and nursing flaps; those memories were like forgotten lovers calling my name to come back. I was so overwhelmed I found myself coveting the lost luxury of being able to use the bathroom without four little heads peeking through the door.

Don’t get me wrong there were tons of sublime moments when my heart filled with joy and pride at the little men I knew I was so positively impacting. I cherished the feeling of having them snuggle beside me to watch their favorite children’s show, even if it meant I had to sing along with a big purple guy for 30 minutes. I daydreamed in the sweet scent of the backs of their little necks and loved the way they smiled involuntarily when the wind blew in their faces. But ashamedly, I was unsettled.

I often wondered why I found it such a challenge to handle the responsibilities and stress of staying at home with my own children. Women like my mom had done this for years. Yet this incredibly wonderful, incredibly frustrating and maddeningly sleepless reality of being a stay at home mom seemed to be kicking my butt. How in the WORLD did my mom do it? In a surprising moment of clarity I asked her. Her answer was simple: she decided to do it and to love it.

My mom decided to love the job of raising her children. Things were just as frustrating for her. She had four children, very little money and never learned to drive due to significant problems with her eyesight. She had a husband who was demanding, a house to keep clean, laundry to stay ahead of and meals to make…but she’d decided to make her life one of joy and fulfillment by accepting her decisions and living them with gusto. I, on the other hand, was so busy trying to be recognized as a working mom who was staying home that I’d lost how important it was to love my new endeavor. During a rare, very, very, rare shopping trip with just my husband, I decided to stop the madness and be a mom who didn’t make excuses for choices I’d made.

That day my husband and I went shopping was the day I bought my bright yellow crocs. That day I began to live my decision to stay home with the joy and commitment my mother showed me. I stopped thinking about what people might think of me and what people might think about my choices. I bought the crocs because they felt good on my feet. I bought them because I could run in them to catch one or more children making a break for the candy isle at Wal-Mart or making a dash across a busy street. I bought them because I could stand all day moving from one corner of the house to the next and not go to be with swollen aching feet and legs. My crocs were my statement that I was a stay at home mom filling probably the greatest leadership role I’d ever undertaken.

I’ve found that as the boys have grown I LOVE the freedom that being a stay-at-home mom gives me to support my children’s lives. I love being involved in their schools and in our community. I love taking those skills I’d used in the workplace to help others and make my boys’ entrée into life the best possible experience. When I show up at a school activity with all the boys in tow and people hear me squeaking down the hallway I feel good that they know our family’s team is coming. When someone asks at a PTO event “who’s in charge” and I hear them directed to “that woman over there in the yellow crocs” I am lifted that my description is a lighthearted one. Yes I am crazy with fatigue, frustration and the fabulous joys of motherhood but I routinely relish the fact that I am a leader and mentor to my children and that I am able to support others I might not have known if I hadn’t stepped out of one comfort zone and created a new one. The day I decided to buy those crocs was the day I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and making a great difference in the lives of my family and others. Sometimes I wonder why my revelations took me so long, and how in the world my mom got so smart.

To see what I’m up to now like me at Girl Smarts LLC on Facebook

Leadership 101

I’m baking cookies today; a lot of cookies.  I’m speaking at my son’s “Career Day” on Friday and I have to do something to beat out the accountant who’s coming.  I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to say.  I’m sure the teachers who were selecting the parents scratched their heads when I volunteered to speak about being a “homemaker”.  I looked up career and one of the definitions read:

a person’s progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking

Well, that’s me.  This homemaker’s effort is my current course of action.  It’s not that we couldn’t spend the money I’d earn if I went back to work but who’s going to do the all the things that need doing when you have four children.  What the heck were we thinking? 

Of course I wouldn’t trade any one of them for anything, but between doctor’s appointments, dental appointments and the god forsaken laundry, well there’s just not a whole lot of time left for anything of a professional nature. 

So I’ve been trying to figure out how to present this choice at the 3d grade level.  I want to let them know that if their mommies or daddies stay home, it isn’t because they couldn’t be doing something else with their time.  I  don’t want to be clinical and go through the litany of “skills” it takes to do what we do; chef, chief financial officer, budgeter, cruise director, home educator, and most of all family leader. 

We moms sometimes write off our requirement to be the leaders of our children.  That’s a big job.  We have to set standards, hold the standards in place and make sure our children get the standards.  Sammy was telling me the other day how a friend of his uses a lot of ugly words.  I was very surprised.

“Sammy, I’ve never heard him speak like that.” I said

“Well he doesn’t do it around you.” Sam said, “He knows he can’t say that stuff when he’s here. I make sure all my friends know.”

“What do you mean” I asked.

“I tell all my friends before they come in that they have to say please and thank you.  They’re not allowed to say stupid, or shut up, or crap or anything like that;” Sam said, “especially if they ever want to come over to play again.”

How cool is that I thought. 

“Thanks for letting them know that stuff Sam.”  I praised.

“Well I just don’t want to be the kid that never has any friends over” Sam confessed.

Still, he got it.  As leaders, we’ve got to stay in front of our children and help them understand that they have the obligation to work as a part of the team and emphasize that this family unit is the team.  I sometimes get so bogged down in the boredom and routine of staying home, that I have to smack myself to shake it off and get back to the business of leading.  One of our favorite statements we use when the boys are trying to explain why they messed up on something:

Child who has messed up:

“But I thought (fill in the blank).”

Mom who told him exactly what to do in order to be successful at the task:

“Don’t think, it hurts the team.” 

Now don’t go all purist on me.  Of course we don’t tell them everything to do and every way to do it.  They make a TON of mistakes and so do I.  But that particular statement just reminds them that we all have our part to do and sometimes you have to do it just like you’re supposed to for the team to be successful.  Trust me-I’ve gotten it back from them a bunch of times when I haven’t paid attention to what they’ve said needs to be done. 

“Mom-you didn’t put the note in like I asked”.

“Well I thought since I was coming in you wouldn’t need it.”

“Don’t think mom; it hurts the team.”

So I guess that’s what I’m going to tell the kids tomorrow.  I’m going to tell them that careers change and paths change.  Sometimes you lead by being in charge of a huge group of people, sometimes you lead by being in charge of yourself, and sometimes, if you choose to be a parent you lead by setting standards, creating environments for growth and nurturing, by coaching and mentoring and by making choices that are sometimes tough for you personally.

And then I’ll give them cookies.  I’m sure the cookies will make sense. 

Parenting Tip of the Day:  Chores are important.  Let your children start doing them as soon as they’re able.  They won’t do it right, they won’t do it perfectly but they’ll get in the habit of doing it.  Once they’ve gone to bed you can reload the dishwasher, re-vacuum the rug or re-wash the windows but letting them be a part of the household only solidifies that they are a part of the team.  Plus, in a few years they’ll get better at it.  Life gets so much easier.