Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Stay-at-Home Woman in her Thirties' Ten Commandments

I've had a lot of conversations recently about the good, the bad, and the ugly of stay-at-home parenthood. It's gotten me thinking a lot about my own career, the sacrifices I've made and the joys I've had since making the decision to stay home with my kids.  So for this post, I thought I'd share a few things I've learned in the last three and a half years of 'staying home'-- my ten commandments, woman in her thirties style.

1.  Thou shalt choose it.

We do not live in 'a woman's place is in the home'-ville anymore, thank goodness, and there are about a billion factors that come into play when a person decides to stay home with their kids.  Think about them carefully.  Money, time, family support, stress and sanity.... just to name a few.  You're choosing a path in life, and as with any path, choose carefully.

2.  Thou shalt value it.

If you or your partner see staying home with the kids as wasteful of either time or money, then it will not work.  Period. Being home with the kids is not an extended vacation (unless, of course, your money tree in your backyard pays for your au pair...).  If you-- especially you-- don't see your time at home as valuable, then welcome to Resentful Parenthood.

3.  Thou shalt shower every day.

For people reading this who see me every day, this might come as a shock-- I do shower every day.  (Notice I did not say put on makeup every day, or brush your hair every day.)  This, I think is where working parents must get annoyed with the stay-at-home ones-- 'Gee, showering is on your list of things to do?  I have to do that AND get to work every day.'  Yup, I hear that.  But I think when a parent stays home there is a temptation to just let certain things slide... particularly morning things, things for 'you'.  Not showering (i.e. not taking care of your basic needs) starts messing with your head quickly, and in a big way.

4.  Thou shalt take care of your health.

I'm a big fan of yoga, (as I've said a gajillion times), mentally, physically, and spiritually.  But as much as I believe that if everyone practiced yoga once a week that the world would be less full of a-holes, I know that yoga isn't for everyone.  That's fine.  All I'm saying is that if you don't make your own physical activity a routine, prepare yourself for a one-way ticket to Cooky-town.

5. Thou shalt not see your partner as your boss.

Umm, obviously, right?  But I'm not talking about in a bossing-you-around kind of way.  In a career, your boss 'owns' helping you along your career path.  They provide you with praise and compensation (COMPENSATION!)  They are paid to make you see and understand your worth.  That's a tall order to put on your partner.  Sure, they should make you feel appreciated.  But what I've found is that stay-at-home parenthood means you are essentially your own boss-- responsible for your own path and happiness along it.

6.  Thou shalt nix the negativity.

I've found there to be two types of stay-at-home parent-- the positive kind and the negative kind.  (Actually, this goes with all people, am I right?)  But when you stay home, make play dates and get to know other parents, you'll see that their energy is going to feed right into yours.  And your kids'.  Don't hang out with parents who are downers.

7.  Thou shalt take your personal development seriously.

This one I am the most passionate about. Maintain your certifications.  Read books and blogs about your career (the one you put on hold, or the one you hope to have one day).  Keep updated on the news and things happening outside the bubble of your home.  Obviously, this is good for you.  But it's also good for your kids to see you valuing your career and future, too.

8.  Thou shalt not gauge your success on Pinterest or mommyblogs.

Don't get me wrong-- I love Pinterest.  I use it often to find a rainy-day activity for quiet time.  But keep in mind that blogs are just snippets of people's lives, the snippets they want you to see.  Don't compare yourself to the happy mom and kid making their own play-doh in their kitchen (and PS, making your own play doh sucks, if you ask me.)

9.  Thou shalt ask for help.

I used to be terrible at this. I figured that since I was staying home, it was my job to keep the family running, 24x7, no matter what. Severe sleep deprivation, an ever-traveling husband, and a super-scary pregnancy made me realize that when I need help, I have to ask.  And guess what?  People will help. Accept help, and pay it forward.

10.  Thou shalt be you first.

I had a conversation awhile back when a friend told me that she had lost her identity since becoming a stay at home mom.  She said it with a laugh, like it was funny.  IT WAS NOT FUNNY.  Being a parent doesn't mean sacrificing your identity or your dreams.  But more than that, a woman in her thirties leads by example-- your kids need to see you prioritizing yourself and doing the things that matter to you.  So they will, too.

(Ah, the glamorous life I lead.)

I won't lie-- I miss my career all the time.  I miss having people come to me for help, I miss having adults to talk to about curriculum, and I definitely miss the security 'my own' paycheck provided.  That said, I will never regret staying home with my kids.  That's life, isn't it?  A woman in her thirties chooses her place in it, and chooses happy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Woman in her Thirties On Thirty Six

Oh... hey there.

About the blog lately...

In five and a half years blogging at this site, this is the longest I've gone between posts.  I've got two good excuses:

But the truth is life has gotten the better of me lately.  And then I woke up Monday morning and thought to myself, 'Gee, I wonder what day it is...'

Which is when I realized it is my birthday this week, and time keeps on slippin, slippin...

Ten years ago today I was turning twenty-six, and was in a new relationship with this guy:

(My first trip to Fenway Park... who are these babies?)

Life was just about to get all kinds of crazy.  So since it's my birthday, and Mother's Day, and this is the time of year when a woman in her thirties waxes nostalgic, here are a few things I've learned in the last ten years between twenty-six and thirty-six:

1.  What's the worst thing that could happen?

It is insane to think that the girl in the picture above had never lived outside of California.  In two years, I would have a one-way ticket to Beijing and one Chinese phrase in my repertoire ('My Chinese is not good.') I would be laying in my new bed in a new city, surrounded by this:

(Ignore the shattered glass-- that was when our window cracked for no apparent reason...)

And thinking to myself, 'Oh my god.  What have I done?  I'm not strong enough for this.'  And L responded by saying, 'What's the worst thing that could happen? You hate it here and we move home. But you have to give it a chance.'

So simple. I look back on that time and know how much it changed me, for the braver.

2.  Money comes. Money goes.  It matters less than I realized.

The girl in the picture up there was about to quit her high-paying hi-tech job for a non-paying teaching gig while she amassed soul-crushing debt to get her teaching license.  Many people thought I was crazy, including myself.

But I look on it now and know that teaching is the career I was meant for.  I have never once regretted my decision to go into education.

My 10th graders and me in Chendu.

3.  Health is not just physical.

The girl in the picture colors her hair. Right before I moved to China I said to my hairdresser, 'Just color it as close to my natural color as you can.'  For $80, she did.  I left there realizing that I'd just completely wasted my money, and vowed not to color my hair again until I went gray.  So far, so good.

That said, I love a good pedicure.  I spend more on a gym membership than most people. These things make me feel good about myself, so I do them and I don't apologize for it.

Because... and here's the yoga hippie in me coming out... it's all connected.  Physical, mental, spiritual health.  It took a miscarriage, a normal pregnancy, and a super scary pregnancy for me to figure that out, but I'm so glad I have.

4.  Being a mom is the greatest gift in the world.  The greatest.

In the last ten years, I've traveled a lot.  I've been to some great places, gotten some great massages, and eaten some fancy meals.  There was a time, particularly while living overseas, that I would sleep in until 10:00 every Saturday morning, because I could.

These were good times.

(L and me in Indonesia.  Amazing country, amazing trip.  And look how well-rested I am!)

And then there was my wedding, the 'happiest day of a girl's life'.  I'm not going to lie-- it was a pretty awesome day:

But nothing-- NOTHING-- could have prepared me for what was in store.




There has been no greater joy in my life than becoming a parent, and seeing the world through my children's eyes.  There's no way I could have known it, that life was just going to keep getting better.

So enjoy that beer and nachos, twenty-six year old me.  You're going to change, so is L, but that's  okay.  When you wake up in 2014, when someone asks you how old you are and you say, 'Gulp... thirty-six', you are going to be the happiest you've ever been.  You are one lucky girl.