Sliding on the Mom Rainbow

I’ve been sliding on the Mom Rainbow for quite some time now, and I just didn’t know it.

rainYou see, in the beginning, at the very start of the rainbow, the colors catch your attention and you see the upward climb. Your babes are so – present. They are everything beautiful – colorful. They need your eye. They rely on your nourishment. They react to your every pulse. And you to them. Then you climb that rainbow. It seems like at every step you are craving the independence your little one might give so that you might see the growth, the development, the milestones. You can’t wait for them to achieve. To Be. You relish in every moment.

Ahh. That smile. It wasn’t gas. It was genuine. He loves my voice.

And then the realizations of the colors become truer. There is a reality in the climb.

Oh, please. Just keep your eyes closed for ten seconds. Ten seconds. That is all I ask. Don’t make eye contact. Do NOT, by any means, hear me breathe…

I admit I begged this of more than one infant-turned-semi-pro-toddler. I wanted sleep – no I craved sleep – like a drug.

And then they are toddlers, inching their way up the rainbow, sometimes sleeping, sometimes cooperating when you try to wash the sand from their hair, sometimes breathing one final deep sigh before drifting to dreams in your arms.

Shoot! I don’t think I got out all the sand. I’ll try to gently rub away the day’s play.

Shhh. Stay sleeping. Your body is tired, and so is my mommy brain.

Boom. They are reading, writing, and having opinions. They know what they want for lunch, how they want their dolly put to bed, just right, and how you have to sing that last song one more time. The colors of the Mom Rainbow are so bright – everything is alive and active and – well, purely exhausting.

Read this book, Mommy. Do the voice.

I want a bunny. I promise I’ll take care of the bunny. I am getting SO big.

Can we make muffins tomorrow?

How old are you?

I like stickers.

You are my best friend. Well, besides Eric.

Did you notice? Your voice is now their voice. They are participating in the rainbow climb. It is almost like listening to a record (remember those archaic devices?) on skip. The thoughts are chaotic and beautiful. The colors of the Mom Rainbow keep glistening. This is glorious. There are so many things happening. Soccer practice. Church choir. Volunteering together at the soup kitchen. Reading at the library. Days with friends at the park. Living the mommy dream.

And just at the top of the rainbow. The tip-top of the Mom Rainbow, you feel the lurch in your stomach. It is just like what you feel at the precipice of the roller coaster ride. You know the plunge is coming but you deny it. You don’t want it to be so. They are tweenagers, perhaps teenagers, and they are plunging. With or without you. Buckle up, Mom. This part of the rainbow can be a bit steep.

I thought she was my real friend.

Drop me off around the corner so they don’t see you, Mom.

Mom!!! Will you help me with this?!

Mom – relax. This is how all the kids wear it.

Mom…. Where are you?

You are on the mom-yo-yo at this point. They love you. They love you knot. Tied in deep knots of denial, need, fear, and strives for independence. You keep sliding down the rainbow and you have no brakes. You just pray for a smooth landing.

Mom, I have decided on a college! (survive on just breathing)

Oh, Mom. You don’t understand.

I can’t believe this is the last time we will spend Super Bowl Sunday together! Next year I’ll be in my dorm at this time! (insert fake smile to hide the pain)

Mom!?!? Where are you? I need you to fill out this form, wash my uniform, and make sure I’m up on time for class.

Mom?!?! Today was SOOOO long. Can we talk?

And suddenly, as those colors of the Mom Rainbow all start to merge, and you think – OH CRAP – MY KID IS GROWING UP! – you realize this is just the pot of gold. You did it. Way back when you wished for quiet nights. Now you will have them. You will also have a child who grew in your love and learned how to show his or her colors to the world. And what a glorious sight that is. To travel the Mom Rainbow, getting a few splinters along the way – and see your child plunge into his fortunate future.

Sign me up for the next ride, please. Just don’t spoil the ending. This part has been way too good.

 

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Busting My Pity Party – and Being Thankful for the Moments

pityAll my Pity Party was missing were balloons and streamers – and a great big attitude adjustment by yours truly. For a few weeks I’ve been looking to May 2nd with a knot in my mother-belly and a woe-is-me feeling of resentment. I’ve been resenting not being able to be everywhere at once, not being in charge of an Almighty Calendar, and not being able to do everything I want to do.

May 2nd will be an amazing day for my three boys – in completely different cities. And since I can only be in one place at one time, I will miss being by two of their sides, taking in the magic of their growing years, and sharing in the moments. So I’ve been perfecting the Pity Party and letting myself be swallowed by the idea that I can’t be everywhere for every child.

My Pity Party thankfully was busted. You see – what I didn’t bother to remind myself is just how lucky and blessed I am to have three sons who each have such wonderful opportunities and plans that I will miss something (and a beautiful daughter who is helping in the chaos). It is a gift that each one, in his or her own way, is leading a life filled with energy, passion, a bit of mischief, and a lot of determination. Even when that takes them in different directions from yours truly.

The true bust of my Pity Party came when I read the post of another mother. For her – May 2nd will have what she hopes to be wonderful moments – but will also likely experience what I imagine to be moments of true grief (not this Pity Party kind of sadness). May 2nd for this mom is her son’s 20th birthday. And she won’t be able to be with her son, either, to celebrate in his moment, for he now celebrates his birthdays in Heaven.

She could – without any argument – have the biggest Pity Party imaginable. Instead, she is planning the kind of celebration that comes from recognizing the blessings, remembering moments, and celebrating with faith the gift of life. In remembrance of Matt, a young man I remember as a younger boy with a gentle older-brother guiding hand, his family wants to mark May 2nd with Random Acts of Kindness. To further bust up my Pity Party I plan to participate in this celebration and use the list inspired by Matt’s personality and favorite things to share some wonderful moments with others.

There are moments when we realize that we got it all wrong. For me – my attitude about May 2nd is one of them. Sure, I wish I could be there with each son during his moments, but I hold in my heart that at the end of the weekend I’ll get to see pictures, hear stories, and relish in their tales of adventures and moments.

My oldest will morph from teenage boy to young man as he wears his first tuxedo and attends prom. I won’t be there to take the pictures, try to straighten his hair one last time before he leaves, or let a tear slip as he escorts his lovely date out the door. But I’ve asked his date to make sure he cooperates for lots of pictures and I’ll hear from my husband how our son looked in his penguin suit.

My youngest will have a day filled with hour after hour of rehearsal for the following day’s ballet performance. Yes – I’ll see the performance – but it is the rehearsal day when I feel like it is my Mom-Duty to calm his nerves, run like a chicken to find his lost ballet slipper, and help apply the stage make-up he detests (big sister to the rescue). So I’ll let that go and look forward to seeing his exhausted smile at the end of the day – the one that says he is enjoying life and giving it his all.

My middle son I’ll have the pleasure of accompanying to the State History Day competition. He and his project partner have worked extraordinarily hard to make it here and I am thrilled to see them perform their project.

These are the gifts my family is experiencing May 2nd. We will also share in the gifts of Matt’s birthday celebration. If you’re like me and are ready for a diversion from your own Pity Party, I encourage you to step outside yourself and celebrate with these Random Acts of Kindness. For it is in all these moments that we find the beauty and peace of lives well-lived.

A is for Asperger’s

A is also for Achieving with Asperger’s.

autismawarenessmonthA is also for Autism, and April, and Awareness. And all of those words roll into one lump sum of a corner of my world. My world, like so many other worlds of so many other people, is touched by a child with Autism. Within that spectrum lies Asperger’s Syndrome, a neurological disorder that shares enough characteristics with Autism to share space under that umbrella. Under that umbrella you’ll also find Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). That umbrella has a name – Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Have you ever tried to hold on to an umbrella during a wicked storm? Rain batters your face as the thin tarp of protection whips and flips above your head. This is what it can be like for a child to live under the ASD umbrella. The umbrella is there, but it is only there in spirit, not as a shelter from the storm. And that is perhaps how it should be. We should not teach our children to hide under the guise of the diagnosis. Kids can have Asperger’s, but Asperger’s doesn’t need to have them.

A is for Achieving with Asperger’s because if you know a single child with the condition, you have had a glimpse into a magical world. You know those Genie-in-the-Bottle type questions… If you could have 3 wishes… My wish would be to see the world through the lens of a child with Asperger’s. It must be a magical, sometimes confusing, riveting way to experience the world.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Get to know more about what it really means to live under the ASD umbrella. I can’t say it any better than this awesome video – put together by none other than someone achieving with Asperger’s. 

AFYI: My personal writing needs a kick in the pants. I’ve just been spending SO much time writing for others – which is a wonderful thing when you’re a work-at-home-mom who gets paid to write for others. But at the end of the day, I’m sure much to my husband’s surprise, I run out of words. At least words that make sense. So I’m joining the A to Z blog challenge, and I’m hoping that something as simple as giving me the starting letter will eventuate into words. Today – you guessed it – is A.

I’ll Bring the Jelly Beans

easter eggs

Easter Lost

That first year Shari missed our Easter celebration was hard, but we knew that she needed to rest and keep fighting the monster of cancer. Her children still came– and together the cousins celebrated as they had since they were babes. They couldn’t remember an Easter apart.

The following year she was gone from this Earth. I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare the Easter celebration without her. For more than a decade she and I plotted, planned, and prepared as we brought our kids together for this special weekend. Our children, cousins by birth and close friends by gift, spent years of Easter weekends together coloring eggs and helping prepare special Easter treats. They readied their baskets cushioned with that cling-to-your-pants plastic grass.

Then it was our turn. Shari and I giggled as we collected those baskets and carried them away for our mission. Glasses of wine in hand we filled each with sugared treats, special trinkets, and memories. Then we devised hiding places – based on age and ability of each child – combined with just how mischievous we were feeling ourselves. Each Easter built upon the previous. No hiding spot was duplicated. No basket looked the same. Each tradition we shared with the kids solidified year after year.

Early in the morning the kids flung themselves out of bed and scrambled through the house to find their hidden baskets of treasures. After limiting the chocolate intake, we readied for church and the celebration of Easter service. My heart always lifted on these days, celebrating Easter together.

That first year with without her sagged my heart with the weight of grief. I was as empty as a plastic egg. I desperately still wanted to provide the kids – hers and mine – with their traditions. But I was without my traditions. There was no celebratory glass of wine. No stealing jelly beans for ourselves. No giggling. No laughing over devious hiding places. No wrangling kids with Shari the next morning to hurry to church and Grandma’s.

Easter Found

Here were these kids, though. They needed this tradition. I needed to do this for them – and for me. As Easter nears again, my 4th year without Shari here for Easter, I’ll be buying way too many jelly beans, watching cousins color eggs, and thinking of devious hiding spots for baskets. These cousins – some in college and all probably past the age of typical childhood holiday anticipation – will still celebrate together with one ginormous, loud, amazing sleepover. They will still search for baskets (and still eat chocolate for breakfast). In fact, last year I heard one cousin tell the other that when I no longer do this they will sneak into each other’s homes and hide Easter surprises. I looked up to the Heavens and smiled. It is our tradition. It is our Easter. Death does not take Easter from us. Easter reminds us that death does not remove our joys. Easter gives us the opportunity to see the light in the dark and feel the joy through the pain.

Shari is still here. Her life lives on. She is in the smiles of my niece and nephew, the beaded ornaments she made that hang year-round in my kitchen, and in the memories and traditions we shared. I count on the day that Shari and I will again rejoice together. I also count on my hope that she’ll have a glass of wine waiting for me. I’ll bring the jelly beans.

The View From Home

This post is part of the #YourTurnChallenge – learn more here.

Life as a WAHM with Teens

The adventure of a work-at-home-mom of teenagers is a curious, tiring, beautiful thing. From my office doorway I can see the traffic to the bathroom, hear their music cycling through Pandora, smell the teenage cologne applied by gallons, and feel the thunder of their oversized feet throughout the house. They don’tneed me to stay home to care for them – but oh, what a view this life gives.

They see business in action. Whether it is my frantic search for a file, a jubilant celebration for a fulfilling project, or a call for calm before I Skype with a client, my kids witness work in action. They know it isn’t always pretty or easy, but they see the dedication it takes to make work work.

They see me learn. Adulthood is not the end of learning. And if we’re doing it well, we keep learning in a way that moves us forward in our careers with a sense of enthusiasm. Too many youth think that high school leads to college which leads to a job which leads to a plateau of life and learning. Teens who are around adults on the job – especially adults who enjoy their careers – see that consistent learning makes it all a little bit better.

They see real life. They see me deal with clients who stretch my sanity. They witness the challenges of meeting professional commitments when one child has an ear infection, the puppy is destroying everything from my best bra to their library books, and the smoke detector is playing tricks on me. It can all be a real pain in the backside – but it is real all the same.

They see the joy of the job. Like most parents, I want my children to find paths that are fulfilling. I want them to get excited about their endeavors and make the efforts required to rise to the occasions. There is no better lesson than to see a parent truly enjoy what he or she is doing – and see it as an opportunity instead of a chore.

I see them.  I see them when I break for coffee and realize they just made a fresh pot for us to share as they grab their homework. I see them when they peek around the corner of the office doorway and wait for me to beckon them in with a tilt of my head so they can ask the persistent question of teens: What is there to eat?

I see them. When the trials and triumphs of teenage life spill forward I see teenagers at my door – my own and their friends who are my bonus kids – and I know I need to pause. These are sacred moments in life when teenagers seek you out to share a laugh, ask a favor, or bring you into their secret world.

I see them. I see these teenagers balancing school, friends, work, sports, and everything in between. I am present in between these cracks of time – when they transition from one activity to the next. And I am privileged to catch these glimpses from my under-decorated, book and file cabinet laden office.

There is no office with a better view than that of this tired (exhausted), challenged, grateful work-at-home-mom

The Vote that Scares Me Most

Vote
Vote

If there is a place on the ballot for parents – a vote for whether or not we are preparing our children well for the world where by each of our names we would mark Pass or Fail, would I be able to vote for myself with a passing grade? It is a frightening thought, and I am not certain of the answer. We teach our kids so how to do so many things – how to talk, tie laces, read, be a good friend, and drive. So many lessons and firsts that our heads spin! Today marks another “first” in our household – one that I worry and hope that I have prepared my daughter to maneuver. She is voting for the first time. As I watched her take her ballot I was overcome with a tidal wave of parental anxiety – wondering if I have given her the tools she needs as a legally responsible, voting adult. While we’ve had immeasurable discussions about politics in our home over the years, knowledge of the nuances and leaps between political parties is not enough of a tool. I want my kids to possess more in their election toolboxes.

Discernment – Suddenly all of those moments we discussed and debated ideas, topics, and ideals in our home flood through my mind. I don’t think I truly realized all along how much these moments might prepare her to discern for herself which path she finds most relevant and right. While I might not always want to admit it, I am thrilled she is stubborn when it comes to her beliefs. It will hopefully keep her steadfast as she marks her ballots in years to come – implementing discernment with each selection and standing up for what she believes is just.

Gratitude – I ache inside with hope that my daughter felt a deep sense of gratitude as she marked her ballot, and I hope that I have demonstrated over the years that I am grateful for my privilege as a citizen – as a woman – to vote. I am thankful for the civic contributions to our country that politicians have made, even though I may roll my eyes at some of these “contributions” along the way. I am grateful for and humbled by those who came before us in the suffrage movement of decades past and by the military for lives endangered and lost to secure our national freedoms. As I watch on news reports of girls and women robbed of essentials such as food, safety, and life, I imagine that they can’t even envision the right to vote. I hope my daughter and I never take for granted the voices we have, and that we find ways to use those voices to speak for those who cannot.

Faith –This thought both bolsters my confidence and terrifies me that I haven’t done enough. I remember many Sunday mornings spent in the “crying room” at church with four very young children – and the only thing I really prayed for was that the homily would move along so I could escape before my children destroyed the furniture or each other. As my children have grown, helping them learn to fold their hands in prayer, to lift themselves and others up to a higher power, I don’t think I ever did it with the direct thought that it would serve them as they vote. But now I can’t imagine a more powerful component of the voting process. I hope that faith guided my daughter’s hands more than anything else as she cast her first ballot. Faith in a country that may not be perfect, but that is a perfect example of possibilities. Faith in candidates to fulfill duties promised during campaigns. Faith in herself that she is choosing candidates who represent the values, ethics, and morals she holds dear to her own soul. Faith in a purpose and path that leads to amazing wonders.

And I hope that if there ever is a ballot that collects votes regarding the capabilities of parents, that there is an option to mark besides “Pass” or “Fail” – perhaps “Work in Progress” – for that is all we really are.

Calm Down, Women Everywhere

War Between Women
War Between Women

Time to Stop the War Between Women – There is Room for Us All

Last night I found myself telling my daughter – who is a senior in college and planning on attending veterinary medical school – that being a woman with choices isn’t always all it is cracked up to be. In fact, it is hard. And what makes it even harder isn’t this glass ceiling. It is other women. We place expectations on each other and at times are the last ones to offer support. We make it harder for ourselves and other women.

Women have bountiful education and career choices, for which I am so thankful. However, those choices come with frustrations and judgments, and most often from other women. Just as women 50 years ago were criticized if they purposefully decided to work outside the home full time, women today are shunned by many for choosing to put their careers on hold while they stay home to raise their children. At a party not long ago I kept overhearing conversations floating between a group of women – all commiserating with each other about how “boring” it would be to “just be” a stay-at-home mom. These women all work full-time outside of the home and all were agreeing that stay-at-home moms have too much time on their hands, not enough challenges, and just can’t be fulfilled.

Stay-at-Home Moms Under Attack

This attitude that women who choose to stay home are inferior has been reflected again and again, in the media, politics, and among women across the United States. Deborah Jacobs, in an article published at Forbes.com, attempts in a backwards way to defend moms who work at home by extolling the virtue of not judging by appearance. As a mom who works outside of the home, Jacobs repeatedly remarks in her article about how she fantasizes about the lives of stay-at-home moms who wear elegant yoga attire – but then goes on to say that,

“A lot of those moms may wish they were employed outside the home but can’t find a job, or can’t find one that would pay more than the childcare they would inevitably have to compensate someone else to perform. Or maybe they are in an abusive marriage with someone who controls them, won’t let them work, and belittles them if their body fat gets higher than that of a supermodel.”

Insert my eye rolling here. Her reasoning for why we should not judge stay-at-home moms is because they might not be able to get any other type of job that pays enough for a babysitter or because their husbands are abusive and controlling. That’s the kind of defense stay-at-home moms can do without.

Why Moms Choose to Stay Home

I know I don’t live in a bubble. I’m just too claustrophobic for that. Of the many friends I have who stay home with their kids, I don’t know any who do so because they can’t get a better job or because their husbands won’t let them leave the cocoon of the home. Stay-at-home moms choose their job because:

  • They want to raise their children without outside help.
  • They are fulfilled staying home with their children and thoroughly enjoy actively planning and participating in every day.
  • They consider the care of the home and family to be of significant value.
  • They can’t imagine missing out on moments they can’t get back – 1st steps, words, etc.
  • They plan to pursue an outside career when their children are older and more independent.
  • They want to homeschool their kids.
  • It is their dream job.

This is my dream job. Staying at home, making the choice to raise my four children by being present every day in their lives, homeschooling them, making the choice to put my career on hold and meet whatever those consequences may be, these are all a part of my choice. These are all a part of my dream job. There are challenges and there are worries and there are downright agonizing moments. But I am guessing that is true for women all over the world, no matter how they spend their days.

In yet another article that devalues the choice a woman makes to be a stay-at-home mom, Judith Warner claims that when women choose to stay at home,

“Their position of equality with their husbands is by necessity somewhat eroded. They lose the sense of strength that comes from knowing that, come what may, they can keep themselves and their children afloat economically. They lose intellectual stimulation (assuming that they were lucky enough to have it in their jobs anyway), the easy companionship and structure of the workplace, and recognition from the outside world. And if they don’t have the money to outsource domestic jobs, their freedom from paid work comes at the cost of repetitive thankless tasks — laundry, cleaning and the like — that test their patience and can chip away at their self-worth. The pleasure in this life of course is time with the children, but school-age kids leave a void that many find hard to meaningfully fill.”

When women reflect like this on other women who make different choices, it creates an atmosphere of judgment, resentment, and worse. Let’s calm down a bit and ask ourselves two questions:

1. Am *I* happy with my choice for me, regardless of how the group of sneering women at the party feels?

2. Am *I* thankful for the women around me who have made their own choices, no matter if they are different from mine?

I am not just happy with my choice. I am a woman with no regrets who gets her dream job. 

I am thankful for women who choose not to stay home.

Yes. You read that right. I am thankful for women who are working outside of the home. She is the doctor who cares for my children and who I trust with their health. She is the Autism resource provider who gives me support and resources for my child. She is the health aide who lovingly cared for my grandmother during her final days. She is the dance instructor who gives her enthusiasm to my child in the studio. She is the woman who works at church, developing community resources for those in need. She is the boss where my daughter works and who provides leadership and mentoring as my daughter pursues her own dreams. She is my sister who volunteers every weekend after working full-time during the week. She is my mother who was a teacher and who helped to influence the lives of her students. I am thankful for all of these women, and so many more, who give their time, talents, and dedication to entities beyond themselves in their unique ways.

And I hope out there exists a group of women who are thankful for the stay-at-home moms. These are the women who step into the classrooms as teacher-helpers. These are the women who volunteer during the day for community services, teaching the next generation how to do the same. These are the women who keep extra eyes on the kids in the neighborhood and have open arms for them when needed. These are the women you call when you need a babysitter at the last minute, a ride for Billy, or a place for Suzie on a snow day from school. These are the women who provide foster care. These are the women who stop for coffee with the elderly neighbor after time at the park – the only visit this neighbor will receive each week. These are the women who nurture, educate, and provide hands on learning experiences for the children who will eventually inherit the world.

Women – for all of their love, compassion, and strength – are also the harshest judges, the coldest critics, and the cruelest when it comes to other women. I’ve tried on many hats as a woman. Stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, and working mom. I know where I am happiest and where I believe I contribute most to the world. I won’t tell you what is best for your family if you don’t proceed to assume I’m bored, unfulfilled, lazy, or unhappy with mine as a work-at-home homeschool mom. It’s time to calm down, women everywhere. There is room for us all. There is need for us all. Let’s calm down, women everywhere, and take a moment to thank the women in our world, no matter what paths they choose.