Devils Workshop

has been moved to new address

Sorry for inconvenience...

Mommy Truths: March 2009

Mommy Truths

The Hard Learned Lessons and Eye Opening Realities of Raising Young Kids

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mommies Need Play Dates, Too

Last week, Mommy Friend Brenda suggested we take our kids for a picnic at New Pond Farm after preschool. Our sons are out at 11:45 am on Wednesdays and Daughter was happy to tag along. The temperature was pushing 60 degrees and while the rolling hills of grass were a murky shade of brown rather than green, the sun was shining brightly and the sky a sapphire blue.

We visited the cows, sheep and chickens then ran down to the pond for a picnic on the bench. Brenda’s son skirted the geese poo dotting the ground, Daughter stretched herself across the little bridge and watched the river flow its spring rush, while Son gathered pine branches to bring home. As for Brenda and I, well, we hashed out the usual mommy list of madness: daily schedules, summer planning, sleep woes, and the other bits of minutia from our long days at home. Our commiseration of the day: The early evening hours make for a long period of isolation while Husband works late and we manage dinner and bedtime routines when kids and mom are at their crankiest.

The truth is, mommies need play dates as much as our kids. We need to commiserate, compare notes, and come up with ideas to help each other out. My network of mommies is my “office” for the mommy job. Playgroups are the water cooler.

New Book
This is the subject of the story I wrote for the new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Power Moms. When Editor Wendy Walker was looking for submissions, I thought back to those difficult days when I was first home with Son transitioning from career to mommyhood.

As I wrote in the book:

That January, a year after Charlie was born, I faced five days a week at home for the first time. Snow piled up in our yard as I did load after load of laundry. One morning I stood at the kitchen sink, weeping over the prospect of another daily routine of diaper changing, housecleaning, and quiet. Absent was the hustle and bustle of my office routine, the challenge of managing a team, and the rewards of launching a product. Charlie blessed me with his giggles and grins but he didn’t say,” Hey, Mom, thanks for the clean diaper. Thanks for giving me some tummy time!”

I go on to tell how I eventually met other moms and got as comfortable discussing nursing habits and sleep schedules as product strategy and marketing plans.

The book is officially published this week but I received my ten copies a few weeks ago. When I opened a copy, I was excited to read all the funny, challenging and inspirational stories by other power moms. Wendy Walker talks about writing her first novel in the back of her minivan, Liz Lange writes about raising her children while building a maternity clothing business, and Jodi Picoult talks about her struggle to write while raising three kids.

What’s a Power Mom?
I can’t say I would walk around introducing myself as a power mom to anyone. But the term is growing on me. There’s something in it that implies mastery, purposeful activity and accomplishment. When I was growing up, the term du jour was super mom. And that always seemed to imply awe or the destiny to fail at such an unrealistic label.

Power Mom, on the other hand, sums up the ferocity of our daily schedules – balancing multiple roles as parent, household executive, activity organizer, chef, diplomat, volunteer and friend - all in a hyper connected world (it’s amazing how many mommy friends I find on Facebook at 9 pm!). It says to me, the mommy job is a serious one and I’m (somehow) succeeding at it.

So, if you have a sec, check out the new book. Give it to a mommy friend to keep for a little light reading to remind her that she’s not alone. We’re all figuring out this mommy thing together. And we need each other’s stories to help validate our own.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Overscheduling Our Kids

I signed Daughter (3) and Son (5) up for soccer this Spring. Many of Son's friends have already played a Spring/Fall season or two so we're late to the game. But I've also heard that some of these same four year olds were in tears or unwilling to play last year. So balancing my fear that I've held Son back too long is my instinct that I waited until the right time when he was ready to join an organized sport. (And my memory of our attempt at a week long summer soccer camp when he was two. He refused to play, I hustled around the field with infant Daughter in Baby Bjorn, and we stopped going by the third day.)

Now, I'm also fretting about what summer camps to put them in. This has become the discussion of the month as we mommies feel the impending open ended days looming a few months from now.

What will I do with them all day?

I don't want them to be bored!

I'll go crazy!

Last summer, I opted for the "let's have lazy days of beach combing, playing on the backyard, swing set, picnic dinners and play dates with friends" approach. Lulling me into this fantasy was a hazy memory of my own idle summer days in childhood. Wasn't this the way it's supposed to be?

Well, there were two faults to my delusion. One: Few of Son's friends were around for play dates (and mommy company for me) because they were all in camp. Two: I did go just about crazy by mid-summer from our long idle days together.

So, this summer I'm opting for a combo approach that will hopefully engage their little energetic bodies and creative souls yet leave time for free play.

At Daughter's three year check up yesterday, I asked Doctor how much camp to put her in. "I don't want to over schedule her at such a young age," I proclaimed.

"You know, people complain there's not much to do in our town," she replied. "And while I agree this can be a problem for teens (her daughter is fourteen), I tell them to start something themselves. Come up with something to do. But, many kids don't know how to do this because their parents have always scheduled activities for them."

Hmmmmm. Her comment reminded me of an article I read in an old Redbook Magazine at the nail salon. Titled "How to Let Kids be Kids" it discussed the pros and cons of over scheduling. The author, Judith Newman, was fighting the same fears we all consider: Don't our kids need more stimulation and challenge? "What, I wonder, will they be missing if they come home from first grade and do what I did as a little kid: nothing?" She asks.

The article goes on to quote several experts on the subject. "Children learn through playing, through active exploration that feeds their imagination, not by always having others organize the world for them." Said Susan Linn, a psychologist at the Judge Baker Children's Center at Harvard Medical School and the author of The Case For Make-Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World

That makes sense to me and has been my predominant philosophy with my kids so far. But am I being too old-fashioned? Am I kidding myself that my summer experience from the 1970s is the right one for my kids in 2009? Do idle summer days prepare them for a Facebook, Twittering, only-a-Google-search-away, who-knows-what-else-will-be-invented-by-the-time-they're-ten world?

The truth is, free play is a perfectly valid skill for a hyper-connected world. I can give my kids some organized activities that weren't available to me when I was a kid and make sure they also have free time for creative play. As Linn goes on to say later in the article, "Play is about discovering what the world is for yourself." Not what programmers, producers, teachers and coaches make it for you. "...To develop into a creative being in this noisy, fast-paced, electronics-filled world, children need 'time, space, and silence."

So, I'll take them to camp in the morning for a few weeks. We'll go to the beach some afternoons. Run through the sprinkler on others. And, I'll probably hire a mother's helper to help ensure my sanity and "encourage" their free play.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Real Mommy: Sitting When She Can

Jen, from Westport, CT, has three kids: A daughter (5), son (4) and son(3).

What time do your kids get up in the morning?
6:30 - that's when they usually show up in my bed, staggered.

Did any sleep with you last night?
Probably. I don't always notice until the second one comes in and wakes me up enough to notice how many people are in my bed.

What do you feed your kids when you can’t come up with anything else?

What do they love most in their lunchbox?
Chicken roll-up with lettuce and mayo

If you have a short break, what’s the first thing you do for the house?

For yourself?

When was the last time you went out with your husband? Where?
Valentine's Day - to a restaurant

When was the last time you went out with the girls? Where?
Last night - with some other Moms from Kindergarten class

What’s your latest charitable act?
Does a donation to a theatre company count? If not, donations to a friend with breast cancer so she can afford hats, wigs.

How much TV do your kids really watch?
~90 min at night.

Do you care?
I do, but can't keep my sanity without it.

What’s your favorite TV show?
American Idol right now

What do you like most about working full-time outside the home?
Independence, the paycheck, and ok, I'll admit it - Control

What item can’t you live without?

What do you covet?
Guilt-free time alone

What do you want your kids to remember most about their childhood?
They laughed a lot, were loved unconditionally, had the freedom to express themselves and were set up for success.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Mommy on the Verge

Husband's been out town for a week now and the kids and I are starting to fray at the edges.

Son wakes up and starts whining immediately, I whine back, and Daughter's constipated on her sixth day of potty training (serious whining). My morning routine's deteriorating within the first fifteen minutes vs the usual breakdown as we try to leave the house.

Son: It's over! (That would be the second Blues Clues they're on at 7 am)

Mommy: Okay, let's all go upstairs and get dressed.

Daughter discovers a relic ride-on car in the back of Son's extremely off limits pack rack closet.

Stop! It's my car!

No it's mine.

Scream, hit, scratch.

Mom: (screaming)

Stop it! The car is having a time out. Now go get dressed and brush your teeth. (Inaction) You can put a sticker on your chart...

Fifteen more minutes of bartering, begging, screaming, a few scratches and hits, serious tears and trauma.

I attempt to blow dry my hair (what am I thinking???).

I have to go potty! Put hairdryer down, take Daughter to princess potty.

Mommy! Help me with my clothes! Put hairdryer down. Help Son get dressed.

Put kids in front of another show to finish blow dry.

Scream to myself: I quit! That's it. This is too hard. I don't want to do it anymore.

Once again, no one is around to accept my resignation or cover for me.

Maybe I can get a full-time job again and work from 7 am to 7 pm like Husband. They'll still like me when I come home, won't they? Oh, but they both had a major breakdown yesterday when I picked them up at 5 after "long day" at school to do my part-time job. Nope, that's not it.

Maybe I can get more help. Like a live in au pair who will be here at the crack of dawn and late in the day to help put them to bed. I'd give up my home office for that. We can swap my desk for a bed in there.

Finish blowdrying hair and run downstairs to break up another brawl.

Coats on now! We have to go. We're already late for school!

Wait, let's go potty first.

Down to the mudroom, coats on, boots on, mittens, gloves. Snow pants in backpack. Extra shoes in backpack.

Buckle Daughter in car seat. Fasten seat belt for Son in booster.

I'll be right back!

Run inside. Run upstairs to pee myself. Run downstairs. Put on coat and boots. Get into car.

Son says, You look pretty, Mom.

Huh? Where did that come from? Who cares! I'll take it. And I'll stay.