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The Parenting Pendulum

A pendulum is a weight that is suspended from a pivot so that it can swing freely back and forth. When resting, it sits quietly in its equilibrium position. Now let me just say that this info came straight from Wikipedia, solely because I failed physics in high school and barely passed it in college. It looks like a simple object to me, but is definitely characterized by some complicated physics shit that I will never seem to fully grasp (gravity, force, acceleration, blah blah blah….).

My life as a parent feels very similar to what I can observe and understand about the pendulum. Parenting may seem simple, but is often more complicated than can ever be described. As a mother of two who works full time, I am constantly swung in separate directions, feeling myself pulled by the forces of both career and raising kids.

When I had my first child, I struggled with finding the balance between being my best as a mother and an employee – as I’m sure almost every parent does. I felt the mom guilt sweeping over my skin well before my sparse eight weeks of maternity leave came to an end. I was unhappy in my position at work in general, and in the end, I decided it wasn’t worth losing the time with my son. I quit, stayed home a few days a week, and spent a few days watching another mother’s children to make some extra cash so that I could afford to be away from “work.”

Luckily, I fell into my dream job two years ago. With this brought the financial ability to welcome another child – which ironically has also created my current dilemma. Between caring for two children and upholding my responsibilities as a full time employee, I am constantly swinging in opposite directions. As I care for my kids, a small part of my brain is still carrying the energy from work – the stress, the demands. When I’m at work, a large part of my heart is hurting to be with my children who need me, especially when they are sick, tired, or sad to see me go.

It’s a constant struggle – passing my attention back and forth between the two things that I care so much about. I’ve worked my ass off to earn a Master’s degree in Education and I’ve finally landed the position I’ve dreamed about – the position that has allowed me to afford to have a second child in the first place. But sadly, the ludicrous cost of childcare in this country combined with the lack of reliable options makes things even more challenging. I refuse to give up my career, because it keeps me sane many days, but I still find it hard to give 100% of my time, attention, and energy to my kids and my career at any given time.

As mentioned before, when the pendulum is not moving, it sits in its resting, equilibrium position. One thing that I know for sure is that in motherhood, there is often no resting position. Whether we work full time, work from home, work as a full time mother, or some crazy combination of these things, maybe the answer to this never ending struggle is to find our equilibrium. As my parenting pendulum swings forcefully from side to side between home and work, I am going to make it my goal to slow down every once in a while and find my resting place.

The Biggest Challenge After Becoming a Mother

Finding a balance between career and kids has been a long time battle for many mothers. The decision to continue to pursue a career or to spend those precious years at home when your kids are young is complicated to say the least. In my short two years as a parent, I’ve somehow managed to spend time as a full-time working mother, a part-time working mother, and a stay at home mother. Just to be sure the grass wasn’t greener, I apparently felt the need to test out every option before deciding what was going to be best for my family. Most recently, I’ve returned to work full time once again. But through it all, I’ve learned an important lesson. No matter what decision you make – to work or not to work – parenting is hard. It isn’t easy to be at home all day with crazed kiddos who’ve been cooped up with a bad case of cabin fever all winter. Similarly, it isn’t easy to work full time and to spend hours on end packing lunches and setting clothes out and fighting rush hour traffic on the way to drop the baby off at day care. Simply put, either way, it’s all hard as hell.

During the time when I was staying at home with my son, I wrote a post called “Things No One Told Me About Being a Stay at Home Mom.” It was a weird time for me. I was adjusting to motherhood in general and getting used to the fact that I had given up my career to be at home with my son (and two other children that I was nannying for, for a little extra cash). I found myself becoming jealous of my husband’s quiet commute to work, the fact that he could actually take a lunch break, and maybe even pee in peace once in a while. That post was probably the most honest thing I’ve ever shared and I was terrified of the negative feedback I was sure I’d receive. I figured I’d get people telling me to be grateful for the opportunity to choose to stay at home and to treasure the years when my son was little. I was shocked to read the comments that I received from so many other mothers who felt like they were also becoming maniacs from spending all day long taking care of kids. I realized that full-time, long term, stay-at-home-mothers are practically saints and I didn’t make the cut. I gave in and returned to work part in September.

SAHM

By January, I took on a full-time teaching position. I was thrilled to be able to regain my career (and to be able to have eight hours a day without succumbing to the constant demands of a toddler). I absolutely love my job and it’s been amazing, but that doesn’t mean that being a mother has become easier. There are times that I dread making lunches and ironing outfits before going to bed, which is probably what I should be doing right now… I hate having to wake my son up on the rare occasion that he actually sleeps past 6:00 just to rush him to get ready for daycare. And on the weeks that my husband is traveling for his job, I feel like I’m drowning in a pool of solo-parenting , counting the hours until he returns home to help me with the demands of our daily grind. It’s definitely tough, but the rewards out-weigh the challenges. I am a happier person and a more patient mother after having returned to my career.

wokring mom

Now that I’ve gotten a taste of both sides, I have the upmost respect for mothers who have taken on either role. Unfortunately, there is often a line drawn in the sand at the playground separating the working moms from the SAHMs. I’ve heard mothers who work full-time make negative comments about those who “just” stay-at-home. Additionally, I’ve listened to stay-at-home-moms judge others for leaving their children in the hands of daycare center for 8-9 hours a day.  The fact of the matter is that every mother is just trying to find a balance that works for her and her family – to figure out how to pay the bills, how to manage their kids, and how to maintain their sanity.

When a woman becomes a mother, there are a multitude of things to learn about raising an infant. But the breast feeding, the sleeping-training, and the bottle-weaning – all of that can be learned. Books, websites, and support groups can assist you in the basics of care-taking. For me, it’s finding the perfect balance between career and kids that has been the biggest challenge in becoming a mother. What I have learned is this – the grass is not any greener. Both working and being at home are equally amazing and challenging options. Both have pros and cons. Both are wonderful, difficult, and exhausting. I think it’s time that as a whole, we ban to together and support our fellow mothers no matter what decision we choose in regards to our families and our careers.

Maybe you spend your day battling a small brood of children who are capable of capsizing an entire household before 10:00am. Maybe you are that mother who pumps breast milk in your office with the shades closed while shooting off a few e-mails to your boss. Either way, kudos to you. In my book, you’re a kick ass mom who deserves a quiet bubble bath, an evening of relaxation, and a good night’s sleep (not that any of those things are actually attainable, but a mom can dream).

25 Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy When You’re Stuck Inside

If you live anywhere within the Midwest or the Northeast, then I’m sure you’re aware of Winter Storm Vulcan passing through this very moment. The only positive side to enduring a major blizzard in the middle of March is an unexpected day off from work to spend at home with my son. Between the 10-24 inches of forecasted snow accumulation and the 50 mph winds, I think it’s safe to say that we are going to be stuck inside today.

I’ve been back to work full time for a few months now, so I’m savoring any extra time with my son. That being said, we still get cabin fever after eight hours trapped inside the house. And if you are one of the millions of mothers dealing with this awful winter weather (and lots of snow days off from school), then I’m sure you and your kids often feel the same way.

So today, I want to share with you some creative ways to keep your kids busy when you’re stuck inside. As a teacher, I love coming up with exciting activities for my son and I to enjoy at home. However, we are on a budget around here and I like to try to use what we have around the house rather than spending tons of time and money on buying supplies for extravagant crafts. Here you can find twenty five quick and easy activities to keep your kids busy on those blustery, winter indoor days. Enjoy!

1.) Pop Bottle Bowling – Remove the labels from six pop bottles. Then, fill the bottles with a cup or two of colored water. Have your kids take turns knocking them down by rolling a ball and keep score. At the end, have your children add up their scores to determine a winner!

2.) Mystery Sensory Box – Invite your children to make a Mystery Box by decorating an empty tissue box. Then, hide something inside the tissue box. Have your children reach inside, feel the mystery item, and then take turns guessing what it might be.

3.) Road Work – Use wide masking tape or painter’s tape to make “roads” on the floor for your children to drive their cars on. When they are finished, invite them to help peel the tape off the floor (a great fine motor exercise!).

Beep! Beep! Coming through!

Beep! Beep! Coming through!

4.) Kid-Friendly Yoga – Get your kids exercising with a kid friendly yoga session! I’ve seen this website used in a kindergarten classroom that I was working in and the students loved it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cNjAj_o0SI

5.) Shoe Sort – Set ten pairs of shoes on the floor in a pile. Have your little one match the correct shoes together. Then, give them index cards with names on them to label who each pair of shoes belongs to.

6.) Oatmeal Sensory Play – Pour a container of dry oatmeal into a baking tray. Let your kids scoop and pour the oatmeal with measuring spoons or offer them small trucks to dig and push around the oatmeal.

7.) Shaving Cream Play – Shaving cream is such a great sensory activity and it’s pretty easy to clean up, too! Set your kids up at the table with a baking sheet to keep the shaving cream contained (hopefully…). Today, we used shaving cream to “paint” in the tub. Either way is lots of fun!

Painting with Shaving Cream!

Painting with Shaving Cream!

8.) Shoe Box Building – Bring down as many shoe boxes (or any cardboard boxes) you can find and let your kids use them to build a tower! One time, I covered them in white paper to look like ice blocks and had the kids build an “igloo.”

9.) Use masking tape or painter’s tape to make indoor hop scotch.

10.) All About Me Book – Use a file folder to help your child make an “All About Me” book. See the photo below!

File Folder "All About Me" Book

File Folder “All About Me” Book

11.) I Spy – I almost always have empty paper towel tubes in my recycling bin. Invite each child to decorate a tube as their “telescope” and then enjoy a game of “I Spy” using your homemade telescopes.

12.) Make Play Dough – Play dough is always a big hit around here. But it’s even more exciting (and time consuming, too) if you let your children make their own playdough. Mix one cup flour, one cup salt, and a half of a cup of water in a bowl. Add food coloring if you like. You can even have your children make a sculpture with this dough, bake it, then paint it when it dries!

13.) Shape Block Sort – We had a bin full of colored blocks that come in various shapes. I used construction paper to make a spot for each block shape. Then, the kids sorted the blocks by shape.

Blocks are not JUST for building!

Blocks are not JUST for building!

14.) Indoors/Outdoors– Bring outdoor toys inside!! My son loves his big basketball hoop that we usually keep outside in the summer. However, on days when we are stuck indoors, we bring the hoop inside! We even let him ride his tricycle inside, too….. although if I ever get around to refinishing the floors, we will probably banish bikes from being inside.

15.) Treasure Hunt – Before I went back to work, every Friday was designated “Treasure Hunt Friday.” I’d make little clues that led the kids from one place to another around the house and leave a little treasure for them at the end. The treasure was usually something silly like a pack of fruit snacks or a cookie, but they we’re always excited no matter what they found! If you have big kids at home, they can be in charge of writing the clues!

16.) Obstacle Course – Make an obstacle course indoors! Here are some ideas for obstacles: crab walk through the kitchen, crawl underneath the dining room table, crawl through a tunnel in the family room, hop over painter’s tape on the floor in the playroom, somersault on the rug in the living room, and finish with 10 jumping jacks at the front door.

17.) Fashion Show Snow Day – Have your kids plan a fashion show from start to finish. Encourage them to pick out outfits, make posters, create a program, and pick music to play. Have them model the clothes down the “runway” while you video tape.

18.) Water Play – Plug the sink and fill it with water, bubbles, and bath toys. Let your child pull up a stool and play!

19.) Table Cloth Toss – I used a table cloth leftover from a birthday party to make into a bean bag toss game. Draw large shapes on the table cloth and put a number inside each shape. Kids take turns tossing a bean bag (we used beanie babies since we didn’t have bean bags handy) and invite them to keep score by adding up their points.

Table Cloth Toss!

Table Cloth Toss!

20.) Cloud Sand – I haven’t tried this one yet, but it sounds awesome! Mix two cups flour and ¼ cup of baby oil to make cloud sand. Check it out here!  http://www.kiwicrate.com/projects/Flour-plus-Baby-Oil-equals-Cloud-Dough/384

21.) Homemade Puzzles – Help your child choose an image of their favorite character online. Enlarge it and print it. Then, glue it onto a piece of cardboard. Once the glue has dried, cut the image into pieces to make a homemade puzzle!

22.) Make a Fort – Use pillows, blankets, and chairs to make a huge fort. My son loves to play with flashlights while he hangs out inside his fort.

23.) Felt Activities – I had some felt leftover from another craft. There are TONS of cool things you can do with felt pieces! Make shapes for your children to match. Cut felt into the shape of a face. Then, cut several mouths, eyes, and noses. Let your children use the pieces to assemble silly faces. During the holidays, I cut felt into pumpkins and Christmas tree shapes so that the kids could make jack-o-lanterns and decorate the trees. One time, I even cut felt pieces into an Angry Bird for the kids to put together. Check out the photo below!

Angry Bird Felt Characters

Angry Bird Felt Characters

24.) Balloon Play – My son is totally obsessed with balloons! Anytime we are really struggling for something fun to  do, we blow up a few balloons left over from his birthday and try to keep them in the air.

25.) Paper Airplane Contest – Have your kids design a paper airplane. Have each child throw their airplane. Use a measuring tape to measure and record how far each air plane flew. The airplane that flew the farthest is the winner!

For photos of other activities plus lots of arts and crafts for kids, visit my Camera Roll page at http://thehonestmommy.com/camera-roll/