Who’s Making Sacrifices?

In an attempt to take my weight loss seriously, I signed up for a 6 week session with a personal trainer at the local gym. In that first meeting, I sat across from my assigned trainer, listening to her life story.

“I was a stay at home mom with four kids and after ten years, I was overweight and depressed. Everyone was taken care of but me! So, I had to make changes in my life.”

I nodded along.

“And that’s what you need to do, too. You need to give yourself that time and stop worrying about only your family all the time.”

They struck me as powerful words as she was saying them. Of course, I constantly remind my friends all the time that they need to take time for themselves. You can’t constantly run non-stop without giving to yourself a bit.

But after that first training session ran late, I rushed out of the gym and jumped into my car to find a text message from Jason: “We were waiting for you. We’re going to eat now.”

One look at that text and the tears were streaming down my face. I had missed out on family time to take care of “me”. No matter how many times the trainer and Jason tried to tell me that everything would be fine, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a terrible mother for not being there with my kids.

The week continued in the same manner. I was struggling to find the balance of spending time with the kids and taking the trainer’s workout schedule seriously. Every night resulted in me crying on the drive home. Just when I finally thought I had it under control, I came home from my Monday night work out to find a very sullen tween.

After giving him a hug good night and sending him off to bed. As Anthony walked out of the room, I looked over at Jason, wondering what was going on.

“He said he wishes you were home more often….”

Oh no. More tears. This just wasn’t working. Missing the family during the only two hours I get with them in the first place wasn’t “taking care” of my family. And honestly, it left me feeling empty and disconnected from the people I most cared about.

It’s time to make it work. I realize that I shouldn’t be sacrificing my own health to take care of others. But on the same note, my family shouldn’t have to suffer for me getting myself into shape. Whether by working out at 5am or at 9pm, there’s got to be a way for us all to have our needs met.

Barely Balanced

Ever since the Deeds household relocated to Pennsylvania, going to the Renaissance Faire has also been a favorite pastime. The boys would get dressed up in their Renaissance gear and we’d make a day out of going to see the shows and enjoy the medieval food.

Whenever we’re visiting the faire, the boys’ favorite show has always been Barely Balanced, an acrobatic comedy show where the trio performs stunts of flexibility, standing on each other and doing ridiculous backbends. And if that’s not enough, sometimes there’s fire involved.

I have to admit that I also am very fond of this show, if not for the same reason that the boys are. While the boys get a thrill of seeing whether the performers fall or light each other on fire, I am always delighted when they end the show unscorched.
It gives me a sense of hope.

Each day as a parent feels like another day of barely balanced aerobics. Juggling the schedules of work, school, the kids’ sporting events, errands, chores around the house… And then to add to it the back bends of trying to fit some exercise in our exceedingly busy schedule.

Some days, as we’re looking at the to-do list a mile long of daily chores and house maintenance, I wonder how we’re going to make it through the day without at least pulling a muscle or setting ourselves on fire.

But somehow, every day we wake up in one piece. Whether we accomplished our to-do list and made it through our hectic schedule or whether we ended up sitting in our pajamas all day, exhausted with drool partly hanging out of our mouth… we dust ourselves off and get ready to put ourselves into yet another ridiculous position.

Choices

In the twilight, I rocked my baby girl back to sleep after she had woken up screaming. At 15 months old, Keira very rarely wakes up crying. Instead, she may cry for a second before lulling herself back to sleep. In fact, it seems as our little toddler has become so independent that the moments of need pass all too quickly. But there in the dark, I lulled her back to sleep after what I could only assume to be a nightmare. I felt her tiny arms grasping at me tightly. She needed her mama to hold her.

I rubbed her back gently and begin singing back to her. She sighed briefly before giggling and closing her eyes. I laid her back down in her crib and her eyes fluttered softly to gaze up on at me. Sweetly, I rubbed her face and told her I loved her. She sighed again before snuggling into her stuffed Piggy and I gently closed her bedroom door behind me.

I stood at her door for a moment, filled with that overwhelming feeling of love. I had soothed my daughter’s tears from her fear, her giggle letting me know that I had set everything right. In that moment and for the first time I pondered, “Is this what it’s like to be a stay at home mom?”

Those are the moments that beat down a working mother: when you’re wondering if you’ve made the right choice. Of course, there aren’t a lot of “right” and “wrong” choices in parenting. It’s a balancing act of give and take. My career, while not the only part about me, has always been an important part of my identity. While I had earned a very important title to my identity as “Mom”, I couldn’t fathom walking away from the years of education and hard work and give away the career side of my identity. But the question was still ringing in my mind.

Then I pondered, would that hug, that grasp around my neck have the same meaning if I hadn’t been missing my daughter during the week day? Would I still experience the thrill and excitement of walking through the door after a day at work: Keira running across the kitchen and eagerly declaring “MAMA!” followed shortly thereafter by two tweens pretending to be toddlers? Would my boys relish our weekend errands as much if this was a part of our normal everyday process? Would I still find solace in cuddling at home after the kids have gone to bed if I had been at home the entire day?

There’s my balancing act. With my hours spent away from home, those moments with my family build up so much more meaning. With the confidence and happiness I find in my career, I bring that back home to share with my children. And in those moments before going off to bed, listening to my husband replay the stories with the kids gives up a point to connect our days together, bringing our marriage closer together.

No, I may not have made the “right” choice in all women’s eyes. But I had made the right choice for me.

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Missing Out

I love that my husband has been able to stay home with the kids. Life is starting to find some sort of rhythm like the days before when it was only the boys and Jason works from home. But what’s hit me by surprise? Jealousy.

On the way to a birthday party for one of Ethan’s friends last weekend, I asked Jason when Harry Potter was coming out. He told me it would be the following weekend.

“Oh. Bummer. I was hoping we could start from the first movie and watch all of them before going to see it. Do you think you could stand waiting a bit so we can get through the movies?” I looked over to see Jason pressing his lips closely together.

“We’ve already been watching them as the boys finish each book. We’re on number five already….”

“Oh…,” I sighed. “Well, that’s the joy of being a working mother…”

From the backseat, Anthony laughed. “You’re saying that a lot lately, Mom!” I tried to resist glaring at him from over my shoulder.

But I guess I was. Between the Harry Potter movies, play dates with my friends, and day trips to local sites, I guess I was starting to feel jealous of his role of being a stay at home dad. It’s hard sitting behind a desk and getting texts knowing that your kids and husband are out having a great time. Without Mom.

While I struggle through the jealousy, I remind myself that if the kids were in the right summer camps and daycares, they’d be getting to enjoy the same sort of fun experiences. So what difference does it make if it’s teenage college student sharing in those experiences or my husband? Why should I feel jealousy that my children are getting a chance to create precious memories with their father on a daily basis?

Instead of letting that jealousy turn into resentment or trying to guilt myself out of my feelings, I’ve decided to embrace them. Sure, it would be nice to be able to run around with the kids at playdates and to local parks. But at the same time, it’s nice having a chance to communicate with adults at work. While I’m at work sitting in jealousy over missing afternoon ice cream, Jason is fighting a rocking baby to sleep wishing he had the ability to use a restroom in peace.

A little bit of jealousy is a healthy thing. It reminds us to appreciate the moments while we have them. Every Friday I rush off anxiously from work to my family. And every Monday I am happily dragging my feet back to the office, ready for a break from the three-kid chaos.

Family Vacations: A Pause

Family life and working life. Always contradictory. Always bustling. Always jumping from one thing to the next. Quickly out of bed. Quick, get coffee. Onto commute. Work hard. Back home to watch little league. Work out. Make dinner. Put kids to bed. Fight kids to bed. Get some laundry before collapsing into bed, exhausted. Day in, day out.

Sometime you need a pause.

I thought getting that pause meant separating myself from my family. What I found was that getting away with the family, just for a couple of days, can be just the medicine needed to refuel and restart your engines. Not to mention, reconnect with your family.

Eyes on the road!

We took the kids off to a trip near the Potomac River to visit my uncle’s cabin. It isn’t a fancy place but that made it so much better. No computer to distract us from each other. No TVs, no video games, no park near by, no rollerrinks, no bowling alleys. But with that were no errands, no bills to be paid, no gym, and no laundry. Just family by the water.

Playtime in the Sand

Playing Halo in a dark living room was replaced by water tubing in the bay. Keira’s many electronic toys were replaced by a swim and building sand castles in the sand. Anthony and I took turns burying Keira’s feet in the sand while she kicked and giggled. While tubing with Ethan, he cried out “don’t fall off, Mommy!” Reminding me of the little boy who used to stand in his shoes.

With the chaos of life, sometimes it feels like “simple” is something of the past. But putting the pause button on life reminds you that it doesn’t always have to be that way.

Boat ride by twilight

Room for a Working Mom?

I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It’s a growing, yet quiet county. There’s a focus on the community and the family with a fair cost of living. After growing up in over-priced San Diego, where the focus of the town is on the night life, Cow-town sounded like an ideal place to raise a family.

As a working mother, however, this has created a sense of displacement in my world with other parents. The community is filled with stay at home and work from home mothers who are able to keep the home life afloat. While moms are going to market once or twice a week to pick up fresh produce and local meats, Jason or I are running to the grocery store to purchase overpriced, over ripe bananas at midnight when the kids are all in bed. Markets and local stands are closed by the time I make myself home and don’t open until I’m already sitting at my desk at work. I’ve moved to belong to a wonderful community but I’m missing out on the participation.

I watch as my fellow Mommy friends have weekly play dates at 10am, drinking their coffees as they watch their young kids play in the park. Meanwhile, there are close friends who live less than 5 miles from my house that I haven’t seen in months. I shared my pregnancy with 4 other moms and we have yet to plan a play date, nearly 10 months later.

This isn’t the Beverly Hills of Pennsylvania. These aren’t the wealthy hiring a nanny so they can go get their nails and their hair done while they sip champagne. These are everyday families who have scaled back their lives so they can afford to slow down and enjoy the young years with their children.

And then there’s me.

I knew at 15 what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to have a high paced career with travel around the world. I pictured myself working hard through the week and coming home to my family on the weekends, doing stroller walks with like-minded moms on the weekends.

So where are those like-minded moms? In this family-focused community, am I left to socialize only with working dads? Is there room for stepping outside the stereotype?

Reconnecting

Saturday  morning, I pulled myself out of bed and stumbled off to the coffee pot. After taking a couple sips in preparation of heading into work, I  heard Keira mumbling in her bed as she began to wake up. I took a couple more sips and headed up to her bedroom to pick her up as Jason had already jumped into the shower. As I set her down on the changing table, I blinked as I fought my mind to think about the next step… and paused… When was the last time I did this???

Playtime before Bed

You see, I’ve been working long days and weekends these last couple weeks. I rarely saw Keira before I left for work and was lucky if I made it home before she went off to bed. My moments with my baby girl consisted of the 3am feedings when she’d finally get a chance to see me and would refuse to go back to sleep. Her mommy was home! It’s time to play!!

The boys reacted much the same way. Sometimes I would get up to an hour with them before they went off to bed. I was worn out and just needed a glass of wine before retiring to bed. They’d be jumping off the walls, excited to tell me about their day and what happened at recess. They’d talk over each other, or me, or on going… and eventually I’d snap at them in my exhaustion as they went off to bed. I’d then sulk up to bed feeling guilty that the only moment I had spent with them was spent snapping or arguing. I’d vow to myself to have more patience with them the next day but the long hours at work left me feeling too frazzled to tap into my patience.

As my busy season now draws to close and I begin to come home at a more reasonable hour, I think about how I can reconnect with my family. It’s still overwhelming to come home at night as they are filled with their excitement of me finally being around at dinner time. And I am still utterly drained. With a baby screaming to be held by me and only me and two boys jumping around, screaming, laughing, tackling me, it gets to be rather overwhelming real quick.

So, I set dates with my children. Sunday morning, as the boys are off to church with Nana, Keira and I will do nothing but play and dance together. No laundry. No cooking. Nothing but mommy and me time. For the boys, they’ve given them an assignment to come up with a “date”, spent with me alone. I’ve given them a $20 budget and a 3 hour time line and let them decide how they would like to spend that undivided time with me. My hope is reconnecting with each of them individually will give us both a chance to readjust to having mom around. Less overwhelming for Mommy and more fulfilling for each of them.

And can’t forget about Mommy. I’ll be investing in myself with a lovely massage to re-energize me back into my Mommy World.

As for my loving husband who’s supported me through these long days, well… that’s another post entirely.

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