Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stay at Home Moms

I am feeling sentimental and overly thoughtful these last few days.  There's no particular reason for it.  It's just that sometimes, time catches up with me, I become acutely aware of it's constant passage, and I begin to think too much about it.

I am thinking, specifically, about my girls.  They are nine- and seven-years-old now, time that has passed in the blink of an eye.  I truly don't know where it went.  One day, I was bringing my oldest home from the hospital, all five pounds, 14 ounces of her, and the next, she's a sassy, smart, pretty 4th grader practicing her katas in a white tae kwan do uniform every Tuesday and Friday night. 

I often tell new mothers to enjoy their little ones, for it goes so fast.  I think it falls on somewhat deaf ears - they think they have all the time in the world, that the days drag in a slow, neverending stream of feedings and diaper changes.  But.  It goes so fast.

It's especially ironic that, as my girls get older, they occasionally look back on their baby years and marvel at the fact that they crawled around the floor so long ago.  For indeed, to them, it was a lifetime ago, something they don't remember.  Only nine and seven years, yet so much time has passed for them, filled with school and friends and games and play.  Time truly is relative.

So with all that being said, I must weigh in on the mommy wars debate a little, not to stir the pot, for I have no judgment one way or another for how women choose to live their lives, or for the circumstances that guide their choices.  No, not to stir the pot, but as testimony to my own particular situation in my own little portion of the universe.

When our oldest was born, I was a working mom.  I worked for a financial company in the south and boy I hated  working there.  It was a man's company all the way, it was stressful, and I remain convinced to this day that my daughter's tiny birthweight was entirely attributed to that stress, and financial stress brought on in part by our own financial issues and in part by uncertainty imparted by my employer in regard to maternity leave coverage.

So she was born, and I was off for three months.  I came back to work for five, cried nearly every day for those first weeks, and spent every lunch hour down the street at the daycare which was doing my job raising my daughter.

Needless to say, I quit.  I was not cut out for the working mother thing.  I simply couldn't juggle the household chores, the schedule fluctuations of an eight-month-old, the husband, successfully.  And two weeks after I quit, I learned I was pregnant again, so fate was definitely at work.

Financially, it was the most enormous struggle.  We had no money, I started a home-based business, we borrowed money from my parents to get our heads above water.  We soon had two children under the age of two, and I was stressed.  For five years, we struggled financially - the business failed, I put it to rest, we cleaned up our financial house once again... we struggled!

Yet, I will never be so grateful for the time, because looking back on it now, when finances are considerably improved, I know it is time with my girls that I was so fortunate to have and which I would never be able to get back.  I needed that time with them.  I needed, nine years down the road, to know that I gave them that time even though I see myself as the most imperfect mother who made so many mistakes.  Though I could have worked, pushed through and made it work so that finances weren't such an issue, I realize that, for me, doing so would have brought a different set of frustrations altogether.  No answer is perfect, but staying home was the particular answer for me.

I am glad I gave them our own vision of childhood - the ability to sleep in when they were tired, curl up with me when they were sick, play in the sprinkler on a nice day outside, go to the park, take a walk, give me a hug, whenever they, or I, wanted to.  I am grateful to my husband for, although we struggled, he ultimately supported what we were doing.  I'm grateful for the time, the fleeting, fleeting time, even now as I feel I am always grasping, trying to hold on to them, touching only their coattails as they continue to move forward, grow up, grow away.  Thank God for the time.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deep Breaths

One day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time.  I find myself saying these words a lot these days.

Maybe it's because I'm feeling old and am seeking a means to slow down time.  Maybe it's because I'm feeling increasingly anxious lately over the ever-growing list of things I want to do and things I need to do, and things I fear I will never get done.  (Franklin Covey and its prioritized lists be damned!!! I don't feel an endorphin rush for having checked one item off a list of 100).

Many years ago, in BK time (Before Kids), I silently ridiculed acquaintances who lived overscheduled lives, their kids in three different activities every season, who never have time to attend parties because little Johnny has a soccer game.  I still ridicule them, but I realize now how difficult it is, realistically, not to be them.

I want my children to have the opportunity to try things.  I want them to be around other kids and develop strong social skills.  But damn, that takes a lot of friggin' time!

Last year was the first time the girls were really involved in structured activities.  At seven- and eight-years-old, I figured I'd put it off for as long as I could.  M did chorus, year-round swim team, and art classes.  G did gymnastics and Indian Princesses.  So we jumped in with both feet, arms, hands, legs, what have you...  I rationalized.  Chorus was before school one day a week so no big deal.  Gymnastics and art class were both on Tuesday evening, so two birds with one stone.  Year-round swimming was two nights a week and we could pick and choose and it was only for 45 minutes.  Indian Princesses was sporadic - maybe once every two weeks at best.


So .... I wasn't crying when M decided to drop swimming after her initial, required three-month commitment.  And I won't deny I did a little dance when G broke her arm at the Spring Outing and had to drop the last month of gymnastics (I filled out that cancellation form faster than a squirrel on crack).

In late May, art classes ended for the season and we had a breather.  In June, summer swim started up  which required practice three- to- four nights a week plus meets every Tuesday evening but it only lasted until mid-July.  And then, I reasoned, we were done and we wouldn't make the same (over)scheduling mistakes again.

Now, here it is, late July and I have found that I am wrong, wrong, wrong!

Here's where it all went awry - I signed up G for gymnastics on Saturday mornings. How smart!  No after-school homework conflicts.  M will be taking art on Thursdays at 4:30 pm (if the instructor ever calls me back but I digress - that's another story) which allows me to drop her off right after school, head to my part-time job, then have her dad pick her up an hour later on his way home from work.  No problem!

But wait.  M is also going to try Tae Kwan Do this year, which is on Tuesdays and Fridays at 7:00 pm.  Granted, it's right across the street from our neighborhood, but it's still taking up time on our schedule.  And ... we still haven't decided about chorus for M this year.  And ... we're now a "seasonal" family, meaning we have an activity going on every stinking season.

How... Did... This... Happen??????

And yet, I tell myself, I should do this for my girls.  I must.  Because even though my particular parents didn't participate in this nonsense, it doesn't mean that it wasn't still going on back then.  We didn't participate because my mom ran a home daycare and couldn't spend all of her time running us around.  And, because my rather old-school father wanted the family home in the evenings, with dinner waiting on the table.  Part of me can't blame him at all (see my rantings during the whole first part of this post).  But then part of me believes that maybe if I'd been allowed to do some activities myself, I wouldn't have been quite so shy, I might have been more motivated in school, I might have been better off.

What I want is to find a happy medium between no participation at all and the balls to the wall craziness that comprises travel softball, travel soccer, multiple activities starting from the age of two, or any other sort of all-consuming activities that cause parents to forget that they are, in addition to being parents, a family unit as well, and that family unit has lots of other aspects to it outside of the kids' enrichment needs.

We'll see if I can achieve that happy medium.  Until then, deep breaths, deep breaths, deep breaths.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I attended mass on Sunday, during which time a priest for whom I do not particularly care, utilized the homily to tell me how I should vote, and that I should, if my children expressed that they thought they were gay, try to turn them back toward heterosexuality.

I am disappointed, though not surprised, that the Catholic Church, or any church, feels they have the right to dictate how I vote, and more disappointed that they care more about admonishing homosexuality than teaching love and tolerance.  Through recent actions of priests in regard to homosexuality, such as a priest who denied a lesbian the right to receive communion at her mother's funeral mass, they are portraying themselves more as an institution of hate.  If they wish to view homosexuals as not living in a state of grace, and therefore choose to deny the sacraments to them, I suppose that is their choice, though an unfortunate one, and one that does not apparently apply to their own clergy.  But they have no business attempting to browbeat their parishioners in an attempt to dictate public policy.  There is a very good reason why our founding fathers encouraged the separation of church and state.

On another note, Father Buckler should pay more attention to the number of parishioners who routinely walk out on his homilies because of his dismal failure to communicate to them with respect, or in a way that relates the homily in any way to our daily lives.  He has angered and alienated more people than I care to admit.  Perhaps he should consider that the priesthood is not his true calling.