Stop! Bottle Time!

Last evening, Greg was running errands with the ‘lil girls in tow.

There was a point when both needed to eat right then and without another set of hands or our feeding pillow, he just parked the car and figured it out.

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Some may think, “oh wow, what an awesome dad for doing mom a favor and giving her a break” or “oh my gosh, a dad actually feeding his kids”. But I am here to tell you that this Dad finds all this normal and he’s actually just doing what he does best, being an awesome Daddy.

Even though Greg cares for the babies on the regular, I fell deeper in love with him when I saw this selfie. Right?

Never Easy to Leave

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As I sat in the car this morning, tears streamed down my cheeks. It didn’t matter that my day was off to a late start or that it was pouring rain–this working mom was not about to pull away until she captured this moment.

The kids have a routine to say goodbye to me from the porch, making sure I get safely on my way. Today, however, their usual routine was a ‘lil off, so I was extra emotional. 

Being a working mom isn’t the easiest thing on my (our) tender heart(s), so it makes sense that saying bye for now is not always rainbows. Sometimes it is rain.

A Working Mom: Staying Home

What you are about to read may just spark some Mommy Wars conversation. Don’t worry, I am armed with medicine, good coffee, and am ready to bring it on. Because I am in the midst of an internal Mommy Wars conversation with my angel and devil (not the kids! the conscious on my shoulders) about the right balance. And fair warning, I haven’t had my workout today, so the good mojo may not be within.

You’ve been warned. 

Take a glance into my current state. I am wearing a super comfy t-shirt, way too big yoga pants (that someone really should take away – they are plus size maternity – way overdue for being sent away), and my hair in a ponytail because it hasn’t been washed. Evan is beside me, covering his ears, yet not able to turn his eyes away from the tv (there’s something spooky on it). My laptop is on top of the blankets the cover us. Coffee (bought from the chain up the street from Arianna’s school to wash down the breakfast sandwich I bought) is by my side.

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The worst part of this working mom’s dream? It feels like a nightmare to me. I couldn’t imagine spending my every day like this (even if, I’ll admit, I imagine Greg spends a bit of his time doing this).

The thing is, I am a horrible stay at home mom, and I knew I would be. I am meant to be working, to get a “break” from having to be on 100% all.the.time. I learned this during my maternity leaves and days like today, even if only two hours in, make me realize that YES, I should be a working mom.

Major kudos to my husband. While I am sure he gets a fair share of snuggles, kisses, hugs, and giggles throughout the day, his bosses demand things NOW (whereas mine prefers to give me a deadline,  most of the time). Sure, he gets to browse the internet, but he doesn’t really have much time to wash the dishes that pile up from the 10 zillion snacks these kids want (maybe if the ‘lil one had ate his delicious dinner last night, hunger wouldn’t be an issue this morning?). He doesn’t have time because there’s always a ‘lil person demanding things be just.right.right.now. While some working folks feel tied to their desks, I am sure stay at home parents feel chained to their kids.

Even worse, he has to be sure Arianna gets to school on time. This morning was a struggle, so I am telling myself that snuggled up in bed with Evan (and my laptop) is justified. You see, normally she is pretty self-sufficient. Today, that was not the case. “Where’s my Daddy? He gets me to school. I am not going to brush my hair or get dressed by myself.” It went on and on and on. Precious minutes ticked away. We pulled out of the parking spot at 9:08. Her school door closes at 9:10. This was not going to happen. But somehow, thank you God, it happened. I got all green lights and the last three kids were walking in the door as I pulled Arianna out of the car.

I have no idea how Greg (and other stay at home parents) pull it off, being responsible for not only themselves but the ‘lil ones. And for them, I have major kudos. It’s just something I cannot do. I really think I was made to be a working mom, and truth be told, it’s probably better for all of us.

In all honesty and fairness, I should mention that I am very appreciative that Greg is a SAHD. He didn’t have to be, but he does it. And it (for the most part) works for us. And beyond that? He really deserves the Mancation he’s on while I’m spending vacation days with the kids. For reals. He should take one more a year…I think…

Juice Comes From…

Today, Greg is feeling the winter blahs. It’s that not quite sick but not quite well crap that hits in this winter season. After picking Arianna up from school, all he wanted to do was get some rest (but the life of a SAHD doesn’t allow for much of that, contrary to beliefs).

He kindly asked the kids to keep it quiet, let him rest, and only ask questions if it was urgent.

Immediately after, Arianna asks, “Where does juice come from?“.

How he does it…I have no clue.

Stay at Home Family: The Pets

I really don’t know how traditional families with dogs do it. The past two days, I’ve felt so guilty leaving our dogs home alone while off to work I went. Coming home to them was a treat, they jumped and ran much more than I’ve ever seen them do.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t do pets. Don’t get me wrong, I like animals enough to have had a pet pretty much as long as I’ve lived (ah, fodder for another post!). As an adult, however, I get why my mom and dad really thought the pet thing through. Traveling is a pain, tack on a good $300 when you do because the kennels are not cheap (any good dog sitters out there?!?). Working full-time means leaving them home alone to get into trouble (like eating plastic toys…). It’s not easy.

And beyond the stress of leaving the dogs, there’s the whole they need fed and let out. I get it, it’s just so much easier to remember to do those things with a kid than a dog.

Lucky me, I have a great husband who loves animals and is quite attentive to them when he’s home. Being a stay at home dad, he has plenty of opportunity to love on them and be at their beck and call. I just can’t do it, and am so glad he can.

No wonder they’ve been circling at night looking for him!

Stay at Home Family: The Joys

Being a stay at home family usually has a lot more positives than negatives. Sometimes it is hard to remember that. Here are the things that we love about being a stay at home family.

Savings

I have no idea what the going rate for daycare is these days, but when Arianna was a baby, it was $600 per month. On a teacher’s salary, that plus rent and a car pretty much did my budget in. Two kids at $600 and then balancing schedules? It’s worth every penny saved.

Education

Daycares can be great places to learn and grow, but with Greg staying home we have a handle on the things the kids are learning. No worries about the influence (or germs) of other kids!

Lunch

Occasionally we get together for a family lunch. It’s a good break in the day to see Greg and the kids and motivates me to make to 5:00.

Experiences

If it’s a nice day, they can pick up and head to the zoo or aviary. (This makes me jealous!)

Jammie Days

So many days I’ve come home after work and slipped into PJ pants, might as well join the rest of ‘em!

Preschool

Arianna is able to go to a half day, three day a week preschool because we can pick her up. One of us can usually swing joining parties and events. This really means the world to a preschooler.

Package Delivery

People probably question what is going on at our house because the UPS and FedEx trucks are dropping off packages pretty much daily. Welcome to the life of a blogger. We had a bad incident last year when a box of Thirty-One items was stolen from us, so being home to intercept packages is pretty important to us.

Memories

First steps, first words, first fights…Greg’s been witness to all of it. I can’t speak for him, but that has to be an awesome feeling. I remember the first time I saw Arianna drink from a straw, and I was elated. Imagine that times 1000. Pretty cool job, I think!

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These are just a few of the pros of being a stay at home family. Sure, they are brief and may verge on cheesy, but they sure are cool to us. If you’ve been a stay at home parent, what pros do you have to share?

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(My hero of a SAHD!)

On Being a “Stay at Home Family”: The “This Sucks” Edition

This post is a continuation of our “Stay at Home Family” weekly series. You can find more posts from the series here

Being a “Stay at Home Family” might have perks, but there sure are moments when it flat out is no fun. Here are the times when we start second guessing our situation and consider putting the kids in daycare.

Appointments

We’ve been trying to schedule our dentist appointments about an hour apart. You see, one parent has to sit in the lobby with the kids while the other parent goes to the chair for dental work. This means Becky has to flex at least two hours of work for the process (too bad they don’t have evening hours, huh?) because really, there’s no other way to manage the kids unless we found a sitter. For a while, my parents scheduled their appointments at the same time, so they’d alternate watching the kids while Greg got his work; however, we somehow got off schedule and are now back to alternating between the two of us. Parents who have their kids in daycare don’t have to worry, they can both go in at once OR they can each schedule an appointment that fits their work schedule. We don’t really have that option.

My money, your money, our money.

One parent working means one paycheck. It’s hard enough to balance a house on one salary, but add in the stress of “you spent our money x ways” and it’s a mess. We haven’t got to the point where we have separate accounts to manage the budget yet, but it’s a possibility. The first priority is meeting budget (paying bills, buying groceries). It’s a pain when Greg has to ask “how much can I spend on gas this week” (and honestly, not at all glorious!) because I am the one that budgets. I am sure he sometimes feels like it’s not his money, but he’s working just as hard as I am to make this work. Balancing wants and needs is always tricky, too. I’ve been guilty of accusing Greg of spending household money on “couponing goodies” yet I ignore the fact I went and bought a new pair of running shoes which cost a lot more. It’s not “my money” or “your money”, but it’s “our money”. Not always easy to see it like that, and there has to be a way to make it work without feeling like we are burdening each other (or dare I say “paying an allowance”). It’s really a no-win situation in any household when it comes to money because unless you are bringing home the same paycheck, someone always “has the upper hand” and that’s just no fun.

Vacations

Recently when we went on vacation, Greg still “had to” do his duties like changing diapers. There really is no vacation for a stay at home parent because they are always “on the job”. To make this fair, Greg goes on an annual “mancation”, but he sure doesn’t get out often enough.

Friendships

Adult friendships are always hard to come by. Being a working woman, Becky has the advantage here because when you work with people, you have adult interaction and can build friendships. Most of our friends are people met at work or knew before moving to SC. Greg is with the kids all day and he’s built relationships with neighbors, but by no means friendships. We aren’t part of any play groups or classes for him to reach out to other SAHF, especially SAHDs, so opportunities are further limited.

Responsibilities (Housework vs Kids, priority?)

It’s not easy to keep a house clean, but I’d say parents whose families spend the majority of their day outside the home have it a bit easier. With two ‘lil ones roaming all over the house 24 hours a day, things just get messy. Greg often has to set housework (laundry, dishes, updates, pool) aside because the kids simply need the attention. Balancing things like mowing the lawn and dealing with making sure the kids are occupied are not always fun (or easy).

Also, I feel like a lot of the “responsibility” falls to Greg. If dishes aren’t done and I come home needing to pack my lunch, I easily get frustrated (“what were you doing all day?” mentality), but find it hard to pick up and do the work myself (it’s “his” to do?!?). Honestly, between being sick while pregnant with Arianna, living with my parents, and having Greg to clean the house, I can’t tell you the last time I’ve vaccummed my own home (shocking, huh?).

Schedules

With no one to “check in with” (minus the days Arianna is at school), Greg’s schedule doesn’t really exist. There are days when sleeping in is just fine, but then there’s the nights of staying up that go along with that. When we try to get things in order, it’s not always easy.

Our Time (vs. Time Alone)

Going along with schedules, it’s tough for Greg and I to get time together. Usually, we’ll stay awake together until the 11:00 news, then I crash in bed. He kisses me goodnight, then he goes down stairs to watch “adult tv” (Have you ever watched endless episodes of Dora? Then you understand the need to catch up with “The Office” after hours.) This isn’t the  easiest thing to deal with in a marriage, but we seem to make it work, with me compromising by staying up super late on weekends.

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What do you think about the disadvantages of being a family like ours? Next week we’ll talk about the pros of being a “Stay at Home Family”. In the meantime, enjoy this picture (an outtake) from our recent session with our parents.

Photo courtesy of April Skipper Photography

On Being a “Stay at Home Family”: The Introduction

Today, Greg and I will begin a weekly blog series about being a “Stay at Home Family”. Greg is a Stay at Home Dad (SAHD) to our two children and two dogs. Becky’s dad had a stint as a SAHD when she was a baby (before he became a pastor) and then her mom was a SAHM until she was a senior in High School. Greg’s family also had some time with stay at home parenting, so this “way of life” is pretty much our norm. We hope you enjoy this special insight into our daily lives.

In October 2008, I became a single mother. My parents stayed with my roommate, Arianna, and I for the first two weeks and oh, were they a blessing! I had four weeks left in maternity leave to find daycare that would accommodate my 10 plus hour days and be somewhere along my car pool route. Two weeks before I was to go back to work, I toured the one and only daycare center that Arianna would ever call hers. Feeling like it was an “ok” place, I enrolled her and set Mallory and Greg up as emergency contacts.

Dropping Arianna off at daycare wasn’t near as bad as I expected. I was a single mom, after all, so it was in a way a welcome “break”. The pain was knowing we would be there before they opened and I was being charged extra to pick her up just before they closed (unless Mallory got a lucky break and beat me home, surprising me with a text that the ‘lil one was safe and sound at home. Essentially, I was working to pay for the house, the car, the daycare, soy formula, and a little bit of food for myself. Times were not easy.

The routine worked for about three weeks, and then I got the call. “Your child is sick and we need you to come get her so that she doesn’t spread her illness to other kids”, I was told. There I was, 53 miles away from daycare and teaching my students at Green Sea. I texted Mallory, and she was able to get Arianna after securing my car from the carpool drop off spot. I fretted, but knew she was in good hands. At recess, I got a text from Mallory saying she was on her way, we needed to get her to a doctor right away and that they were able to see her. I didn’t understand how my kid who was so healthy that morning could be so sick just hours later. When I saw her, I understood. She looked dreadful and kept vomiting all over her car seat. I was in tears, but so glad I had Mallory with me to calm my crazy.

Turns out, she contracted RSV from another baby whose mother refused to come to daycare to pick up her sick son. I kid you not. This is what I was told when I called daycare to say I couldn’t take her back until she was better, I didn’t know what to do, so we took turns at a few unpaid days from work then I sent her back with plans to un-enroll her days later when we flew back to Pittsburgh. My parents would be keeping her for 6 weeks until I could finish up the semester and move my things to PA.

During the time she spent with my parents, it was obvious I wouldn’t be using daycare again. Arianna, my dad, and I quickly fell into a routine as I started my job and he took her to church meetings and office hours. We were officially an at home care family.

When Greg and I decided that he’d move up with us and we’d get married, he took an evening job and stayed home with her. The two had a crazy bond from the beginning, but this strengthened it even more. Nine months later, we bought our first house about 30 minutes away and so he quit his job. The money I was saving on travel made up for his pay, so we decided to officially become a stay at home family. Instead of me being a SAHM, Greg would be a SAHD. When I got pregnant with ‘lil Man, I asked Greg if he wanted to handle two or if we should explore daycare. We remembered the crazy times of dealing with daycare before, and agreed he’d keep his job as SAHD.

Almost three years into this deal, I have to say, he rocks at what he does. The kids love spending time with him, and it’s comforting to know exactly how our kids are being raised. When the youngest goes to kindergarten, this arrangement is over and Greg will be back in the work force. We try not to think about that but know it’s a reality not far down the road.

For now, this is what works for us. Daycare is costly, and there’s no sense in one of us working just to fund daycare. People probably wonder how we do it, but you don’t know how many times we sit back and wonder how families DON’T do this! We’ll be bringing you some of the ups and downs of being a “stay at home family” throughout this weekly series. Hopefully we’ll be able to connect with other families like us and get your thoughts on the society of stay at home parents.

Photo Courtesy of Michelle Hammons