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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.

My Brief Blogging Break

So over the past two months, you may have noticed that I’ve been a little MIA from the blogosphere. I’m sure many of you were really concerned that I finally fell over the edge of the mommy mountain and decided to give up blogging AND parenting all together due to the out of control chaos involved in raising children. Or maybe you just assumed I’d finally checked myself into rehab due to the over-excessive, toddler-induced wine drinking that takes place around here on a regular basis. Don’t get your granny panties in a bunch. I appreciate your deep concern, but no need to worry. I haven’t thrown my child to the wolves. I’m not stuck in a permanent pinot grigio hangover. I’ve just been pretty damn busy, and I’m sure you can all relate in some way or another. So let me catch you up to date.

I know I’ve bored you to death with the topic of kids and careers in the past. I’ll try not to get to long and drawn out about it again at the moment. But, let me just say, kids + careers = chaos. I’m going to try to make this long story short. I’m a certified teacher by trade and I worked in the field of early childhood education prior to having my son. After he was born, I made the decision to stay at home for a year and then attempt to transition into a position in the school districts. In case you aren’t from New York State, I will fill you in on a little secret. Getting a teaching job in this area has pretty much the same odds as winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning, or getting pregnant with quintuplets naturally. It’s damn near impossible. So in September, I started working as a substitute teacher and then eventually took a full time teacher aide position in hopes to get my foot in the door.

Well, I got my foot in the door all right and then had the door slammed several times (leaving me with a figurative sore foot and a disheartened outlook). In the past two months, I’ve gone on six job interviews for various positions and haven’t yet secured a full time teaching position for September. As of right now, I’ll be returning as an aide in the fall. Which is totally fine, of course, but I was hoping for my own classroom.

Now besides the fact that I clearly believe that I am the most amazing, dedicated teacher on the planet, I also believe I deserve a position solely based on the amount of work that goes into trying to search for a job while raising a child (and working full-time). Just attempting to use my laptop to complete job applications with a child in the house is challenge. If you are a parent, you get what I’m saying here. My toddler actually believes that every electronic device in this house belongs to him and serves no other purpose than the play Thomas the Tank Engine videos on YouTube. So trying to convince him to give me a few minutes to write a cover letter hasn’t gone over very well. To be honest, I have no fucking idea what I’ve even applied for because I’m trying to move so quickly while working on the computer, attempting to finish an application before a computer coup d’é·tat organized by the toddler occurs.

Then, of course, there is the actual interview. Printing resumes, creating folders, coordinating a babysitter. It’s exhausting to think about. And trying to get out of the house on time in a freshly pressed suit without being attacked by greasy fingers and dog hair is pretty much like a mission straight out of the motherhood matrix.

Considering the amount of effort it takes to get an interview scheduled and actually get there in a presentable manner, I should be handed a position just based on the fact that I showed up.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way. And with all of the effort I’ve been putting into finding a teaching job, I was forced to take a little time away from my website. But here I am, back at it. I’ve decided not to let the job search get me down and to continue to work on the things I enjoy – like blogging and drinking wine. Oh, and parenting, of course.

So stay tuned. Lots of tales about the tireless toddler are on their way.

The Real Meaning of “Getting Mugged”

The first thing I can hear as I awake from a drowsy state is the steam spiraling out from the top of the machine. Oh, and my toddler screaming for me over the crackling of the baby monitor, of course. The water seeps through the grinds and I can hear the sweet sizzle of my first cup slowly dripping into the pot. The thick aroma of the caffeine spreads throughout the house as my husband and I begin our morning routine of madness.

Amidst packing lunches, popping Eggo’s, and picking outfits, we sneak a quick moment to take a sip from our favorite mugs. Coffee – every exhausted parent’s small savior.

I carefully prepare our travel mugs, filling each with the perfect proportion of cream and sugar, so that my husband and I can enjoy a second dose of the delightful drug during our separate commutes to work.

I make sure to pour my husband’s cup a little higher; a thank you gift for driving the toddler to daycare every morning. With that, our day begins.

I climb into my car and take a deep breath, enjoying the peacefulness of solitude. I turn on my iPod and revel in the fact that I can listen to something other than “The Wheels on the Bus” on repeat. I slowly pull out of the driveway, mentally checking off a list, ensuring that I’ve locked up, fed the dog, set the alarm, and so on. I am waiting at the end of my street for the traffic to clear when a shiny, metallic object on the side of the road catches my attention.

I recognize it in an instant. The silver of the mug. The St. John Fisher College logo. It’s my husband’s travel mug, laying right there in the gutter, pouring his precious caffeine into the street.

mugged

Here’s how it happened:

While attempting to strap the toddler into the twisted belts of the car seat, he carelessly set his coffee mug on the bumper of his truck to free up a second hand. Having successfully prevailed in the car seat-buckle-battle, he swiftly (and proudly) jumped into the driver’s seat, trying to make up for lost time.

As he pulled onto the highway, he reached for his mug, looking for a sip of that strong serum that was sure to soothe him after a fast-paced start to the day. It is at this very moment that he realized his error. It’s a devastating blow to any overtired parent. A coffee mug casualty, right there in the road.

It’s certainly a depressing way to kick off your commute. Maybe you’ve even witnessed a similar tragic event: A mother’s travel mug flies off the rooftop of a minivan packed full of kids on the way to school. A cup of Starbucks sits sadly on the bumper of a sedan (with three cars seats lined up side-by-side in the back) before slowly sliding to the pavement as the father in the driver’s seat steps on the gas. Here’s my advice: Don’t let it happen to you. Find a cozy cup holder for your coffee and avoid the dreadful consequences of getting “mugged.”

 

The Full Circle

Before my son was born, I planned to take an eight week maternity leave from my job before returning back to working full time. Maybe even less, if I felt so inclined. I loved my job and I was very career oriented. I couldn’t imagine spending so much time away from what I had worked so hard for over the past several years. At that time, I worked as the Center Director of a local children’s center that offered preschool and child care services. I was responsible for all daily operations of the center, ensuring that we followed each and every detailed state regulation, and managing a staff of thirty employees. It was a challenge, but I loved it. I was very proud of my center and my staff. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the kind of position that allowed me to take too many days off at one time, much less a lengthy maternity leave. I was afraid that in my absence, things would fall through the cracks. Not to mention, I’ve never stayed at home for eight weeks with a newborn baby and I figured that I’d be itching to get out of the house.

It’s amazing how motherhood can change a person. In the hours before my son was born, I sat in my hospital bed, talking to my Assistant Director on the phone in between contractions to make sure she was ready to take over for me. I was worried about work and wanted to make sure we had tied up any loose ends. After what seemed like a very long weekend, my 9 lb. 2 oz. son finally made his grand entrance and surprisingly, I didn’t think about work again for the next eight weeks.

It’s not that I didn’t care about my job and how things were going, but I had a lot of other shit going on. In the beginning, I was focusing mostly on how to walk up and down the stairs without an excruciating amount of pain and blood loss and trying not to pee every time I coughed, laughed, or sneezed. Over the next month, I spent the remainder of my time trying to figure out how to breastfeed in public without flashing my breasts to the entire world and what to do when my newborn shits all over the car seat while out running errands (in some cases, even an extensive amount of wipes are not effective).

The day that I returned to work was one of the weirdest, saddest days of my life. I’m not an overly emotional person and thus I blame the hormones, of course. I dropped him off that morning and entered my office for the first time in eight weeks. I didn’t know what to do with myself. My Assistant Director had done an amazing job covering for me. She made sure my first day back wasn’t completely overwhelming in regards to the work load. There weren’t huge piles of shit for me to take care of. There weren’t any major issues I needed to address. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I thought that bringing my baby to the day care where I worked would be the perfect situation for me. However, without a lot to do to keep me busy that first day, I sat in my office, listening to my eight week old baby crying down the hall and spent the majority of my energy (which I had very little of at the time) resisting the urge to run to him. After about four hours into my day, I pretty much decided that this wasn’t going to work out.

It wasn’t even just the emotional side of things. The UPS campaign, “We Love Logistics” made me want to punch someone in the face. I fucking hated the logistics of being a working mother. I hated trying to get myself ready and the baby packed while my husband traveled for work. I hated trying to find someone to watch the baby after work for me so that I could stay late for staff meetings. I hated pumping in my office and storing little baggies of breast milk in the staff lounge refrigerator. I know that there are a lot of women that are able to make the transition to becoming a working mother easily and smoothly, but I was not one of them. And so, four months in, I put my career on hold to get my shit together.

Over the 16 months following my resignation, I held all kinds of titles such as stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, mommy/nanny, part-time working mom, etc.  I did a complete full circle when it comes to roles as a mother. I have to say, they all have their challenges. Being at home with children all day was not always easier than going to work full time. It’s been two years since I became a parent and I am JUST finally starting to feel like I’m adjusting. I’m happy to announce that tomorrow is my first day back in the saddle as a full time working mother. It’s taken me two years to trust someone else to take good care of my son and to not feel guilty for pursuing a career. And you know what?? I think I’m even going to make UPS proud. It’s only 2:00pm and I’ve already got our bags and lunches packed and clothes laid out for the morning. Who loves logistics now?

ups

I’d love to hear about your experience as a working mother, stay at home mother, or some crazy combination in between! Leave me a comment below about how you adjusted and any advice you have for my return to work!