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I Guess I Bought The Wrong Flavor

Today was day sixteen of summer vacation.

It was the first really rainy day since the kids have been out of school, and after two weeks of sun and outdoor swim practices and a few late nights and a nine-hour-long 4th of July party the other day, we were all in need of a lazy, indoor day out of the sun.

So I was grateful for the rain.

On an unrelated topic, I  stopped buying a lot of processed foods a couple years ago.

At first I pretty much cut out everything. No cereal. No crackers. No chips. No Goldfish.

I started making stuff from scratch. Like real macaroni and cheese. Not the fake, neon mac and cheese from a box.

It was delicious.

But my kids acted as if I had presented them with a bowl full of flesh eating bacteria. Or poop. Or both.

So the kids were having Kraft withdrawals.

In addition, all adults in this house were not completely on board with the no-processed-food-at-all decision.

Plus, to be honest, I’m not organized and efficient enough to do 100% whole foods and stuff from scratch yet.

But it is still a goal of mine. One day I’m gonna get there.

So anyway, I do buy some processed stuff now. But not near as much as I used to.

A couple weeks ago, in a moment of desperation, I bought a big ass package of Kraft mac and cheese at Costco. There are like eighteen boxes of that garbage in that big pack.

When I got home, the kids saw it and exclaimed, “YES!!! THE GOOD MAC AND CHEESE!!!”

They seriously call that shit the good mac and cheese.

On another note, having all the kids home all day during the summer, not being able to afford a babysitter, and having quite a bit of work to do from home, I have had to get creative with how I make time to get anything done.

I normally get up fairly early, usually by 5:45 on school days, but for the last sixteen days, I’ve been getting up between 3:45 and 4:30 every morning. That gives me at least two hours every day before the first kid wakes up and before I have to get ready to go to swim practice.

Now that I’m used to getting up that early, I actually really enjoy it. It’s quiet, and I can enjoy a cup (or three) of coffee without being harassed, and I can watch the sun rise right out of my office window.

But I am definitely tired.

Today with the rain and nothing on the calendar in the afternoon for anyone (minor miracle), I decided I’d give myself the gift of a nap.

I had swim practice this morning until 9:15. By the time I got home it was close to 10:00.

I was soaked and cold from coaching in the rain, so I changed back into dry and comfy pajamas.

I did some laundry, cleaned up the kitchen, and did a couple other things around the house.

I had decided on taking a nap right after lunch. That way the kids would be fed and I’d at least eliminate nap interruptions because someone was starving to death.

I didn’t want to deal with a huge lunch production either, so I baked some brownies, made two boxes of everyone’s favorite, fake, chemically loaded mac and cheese, nuked some hot dogs, and pulled some watermelon out of the fridge.

Even if nobody actually ate it, the inclusion of an actual fruit made me feel okay with what I’d given them to eat, and nobody would complain about brownies, hot dogs, and mac and cheese.

They’d all be happy, eat a bunch of junk and hopefully a little bit of watermelon, and not need anything to eat for at least a couple hours.

When their mostly processed lunch was ready, I called everyone into the kitchen.

Number 6 saw what I’d made and immediately responded with, “I HATE THAT MAC AND CHEESE.”

What. The Fuck.

Somewhere in the last sixteen days, Number 6 had decided the good mac and cheese is now the bad mac and cheese.

In addition, he also now hates hot dogs which were on his list of Top 10 Favorite Foods up until about 47 minutes ago.

I told him that was what I’d made for lunch and he didn’t have to eat any of it, but I wasn’t making anything else until dinner time.

He ate a few bites of mac and cheese. Then he asked for a brownie.

I was so tired and I was so close to my nap.

In an effort to ensure at least a solid hour of sleep, I gave him a ridiculously huge piece of brownie. I knew it was more than he’d be able to eat.

He didn’t finish the brownie because he was full. Mission accomplished.

I told everyone they’d need to occupy themselves for the next hour and a half and not to bother me because I was going to take a nap.

I lay down on the bed and was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow.

It was magnificent.

For about 40 minutes.

That’s when Number 6 came barreling into my room.

“MOM!!! I’M STARVING!!!”

I repeated what I had said before. I wasn’t making anything else to eat until dinner time.

“WELL ALL YOU GAVE ME FOR LUNCH WAS MAC AND CHEESE THAT TASTES LIKE VAGINAS!” he yelled.

Having just been awoken from a peaceful sleep, I was a little slow on the uptake.

All I managed to do was sigh heavily and roll over.

“FINE! I’ll go make something for myself!” he yelled.

And he stormed away.

So we have reached that glorious stage of vacation where meal times have turned to snack time, snack times have turned to mealtimes, hot dogs are inedible and mac and cheese tastes like vaginas.

Only 54 days until the first day of school.

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Your job as a stay at home mom is NOT to cater to your damn kids.

Yesterday I wrote this post about one of the things I’ve done that has really helped my children to be more responsible.

And I received this comment:

I so struggle with this. With only 2 kids and a very part time baking business out of my home, I waffle between getting my kids to do more and feeling like it’s all my responsibility since I don’t have a job. If I get them to do it, what’s the point of me being home? That’s what I struggle with! Any helpful advice here?

Okay.

Um.

WHOAH!!!

First of all, in addition to being a stay-at-home mom, you are also a business owner.

You are, in your own words, very part time. But don’t discredit yourself.

Next, let’s get past this apparent stay-at-home mom guilt you appear to have going on.

I know in this day and age, the single income family is becoming more and more a thing of the past.

But one thing we all know is that it’s not healthy or helpful to compare yourself to your neighbor. To feel the need to keep up with the Joneses.

If you can’t afford a certain lifestyle, then you have to live within your means.

Screw what your friends/neighbors/relatives think.

Just as it’s not good to feel the need to keep up with the Joneses, it’s no good to keep down with the Joneses either!

You don’t have to compare how hard you work or how busy your day is or how many jobs you have to your friend/relative/neighbor with less money!

If you are able to live on one income and one parent wants to and is able to stay home full time, well, GOOD FOR HER (OR HIM)!

If you have a little bit of down time during your day, GOOD FOR YOU!

If you have time to take a shower and exercise and take care of yourself and not run around like a fucking maniac every waking hour of your day, well, YES!!! DO IT!

If people have a problem with that?

Fuck ’em.

You don’t have to wear yourself down, burn yourself out, and do every single thing for every single person in the family 24/7/365 just because you are at home and your best friend or your sister isn’t able to do the same thing!

Now back to your struggle.

Ummm….. there is nothing to struggle with.

A stay at home mom’s job is not to cater to her children’s every want and need.

There is no shortage of jobs to be done in a home.

And there are things that your kids really can’t be responsible for.

They’re not going to do the driving and the scheduling. That’s almost a full-time job right there.

Your children aren’t going to go grocery shopping. They aren’t going to make dentist and doctor’s appointments and make sure all the kids get to them.

They aren’t going to be able to stay at home with a sick kid so no one has to call in sick to work.

They aren’t going to be planning meals and cooking dinner and figuring out a budget and going to conferences and volunteering at school and doing the Christmas shopping and buying the birthday presents.

The point of you being home is to facilitate a smooth running home and to take care of the stuff that the person working outside the home may not have time for.

The stay at home mom’s (or dad’s) job is not to make her kids’ lives easy and without conflict, struggle, hard work, sacrifice or a little elbow grease.

It is to make their lives better!

Not their lives in the immediate moment, but their lives in the long run.

This is the job of any parent, not just the mom.

It is to help them build a solid foundation so that when they are on their own, they don’t crash and burn and so that they aren’t total assholes.

Your job as a parent, wherever you work — and staying at home is definitely WORK — is to teach your children to develop self-discipline and problem solving skills, to be kind and responsible, to cooperate, and to communicate effectively and respectfully.

And you do not do all that by doing every damn thing for your kids!!!

Your kids need to learn how to pack their backpacks and their lunches, fold clothes, and work the washing machine and dryer. They need to learn how to unload, load and run the dishwasher. They need to learn what stuff can go in the dishwasher and what stuff needs to be washed by hand.

And yes. They need to learn to wash dishes by hand, too.

They need to learn how to make a bed, and organize their shit.

They need to learn how to clean up after themselves.

The need to learn how to clean a bathroom and plunge a toilet and use a toilet scrubber and squirt that blue crap around the underside of the toilet.

They need to learn how to not only use a vacuum cleaner, but to change the bag. Or the canister. Whatever place all the crap goes into.

They need to learn how to use a broom and a rake and a shovel.

They need to learn how to put gas in the car and also in the lawn mower.

And yes. They need to learn how to use the damn lawn mower, too.

They need to learn how to thread a needle, sew on a button, and hem their pants.

The need to learn how to use the microwave, the stove and the oven, how to handle a hot pan and a boiling pot of water, and at the very least, how to make mac and cheese, a grilled cheese sandwich, and Ramen noodles, the three major college food groups.

Your kids need to learn how to be a contributing member of a household so they can be a contributing member of society!

While you are working on that, take advantage of the things stay-at-home moms are also able to do.

If you are crafty and into that stuff, look some shit up on Pinterest and do that with your kids.

If you are into cooking, teach them how to make something a little more complicated (and nutritious) than mac and cheese.

If you are into gardening, teach them how to plant seeds and start a garden.

Do the stuff that working moms don’t have the time to do.

And don’t feel guilty about having the ability to be able to do it!

So, in my opinion, that’s what you should be doing if you are a stay-at-home mom.

You should be making some memories with your kids.

And most importantly, you should be teaching.

Teaching your kids how to do all the crap they will need to do when they venture out on their own.

Because if think you are struggling now, it will be nothing compared to the struggle you’ll have trying to kick your 35-year-old entitled man or woman-child out of the house after a lifetime of servitude and enabling.

Now step away from the computer, put the phone down and go get your kids.

You’ve got some teaching to do.

Save the enabling for when your kids have kids.

Because that’s totally one of the job requirements (and perks) of being a grandparent.

 

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The Truth About Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

Back in August of  2013 I wrote a post entitled  The Stay-At-Home Mom Challenge.

At the time Numbers 1 through 4 were in school full time, and Number 5 was four years old, Number 6 was three years old, and Number 7 was not quite two.

So I was home with 5, 6, and 7 all day long. We were beginning the very steep descent into serious financial trouble, and since child care for the younger three would have cost more than any job I   would have found, I was about a year-and-a-half into the blog, and trying to establish that as a business. I had also started a very small business refinishing furniture and was making a little bit of money doing that. And then in the afternoons I was working (very) part time as a swim coach.

While I considered myself a SAHM, I guess technically I was also a work-at-home mom.

That post ended up being published by Scary Mommy, and holy shit did the moms who work outside the home get pissed off when they read what I had to say.

Like really pissed.

That was when I learned to NEVER read comments on the posts I had published on Scary Mommy!

I also learned that some posts that get published on Scary Mommy, especially controversial ones, get republished. Over and over. And the SAHM Challenge post was recently republished, and I pissed of a whole new fresh crop of working moms.

Now if you knew me then and if you know me now, you’d know I was not trying to get into a who-has-it-harder war.

That was never my intent.

Perhaps that’s how it came across, but that wasn’t the point I was trying to make.

The point I was trying to get across was that being a stay-at-home mom is no joke.

And neither is being a work-at-home mom.

In fact, I’d say that when you are a full-time SAHM with children who are not yet in school, children under the age of five, especially when you do not have the means to pay for help, when you cannot really enroll your children in many (or any) programs to give yourself any kind of break during the day, when you have little contact with other adults, when you feel like you can never let your guard down, when you are struggling with balancing getting stuff done at home with spending time with your kids and doing all sorts of Pinteresty crafty shit (because that’s what so many SAHMs tell themselves they are supposed to do),  when you are sure your husband is judging you when he gets home every day because you haven’t managed to maintain order in the house but you swear to God you’ve been going non-stop all day long, well…

I’d say that there is no job more tiring, more draining, more stressful and more anger inducing than being a stay-at-home mom.

And if you are a work-at-home mom, it’s even a little bit worse.

Because if you are a work-at-home mom with young children at home, it can be next to impossible to get anything done, let alone actual work.

Yes, there are many, many positive aspects to being a SAHM.

MANY.

There are many things that moms who work outside the home miss out on. And what they have to juggle in order to make things work, the sacrifices they have to make, the events at school they miss, well, that totally sucks.

I look back to my teaching days before I had kids and I think to myself, I have no idea how teachers who are parents do it.

I don’t think I could do it.

But I also know many moms who have said they can’t do the stay-at-home mom thing.

Because like I said, it’s no walk in the park. It’s no picnic.

I’ve been through a lot. My three-year-old brother died when I was sixteen. I’ve had multiple miscarriages. I’ve been through a divorce. I’ve given birth five times, once without any drugs. I’ve been in a physically abusive relationship, gotten three tattoos and a bunch of piercings, I’ve trained for and run five marathons, filed for bankruptcy, overdosed on drugs and been hospitalized for depression multiple times.

I’ve experienced plenty of physical and emotional pain.

And I can still say that while it’s definitely the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, being a full-time stay-at-home mom to kids who are little, who aren’t in school yet, who are with you constantly, is also the hardest fucking thing I’ve ever done.

This past summer when I was home with all them all summer?

It almost broke me.

Fast forward three years and one month from when I first wrote that post.

It’s September 2016, and our financial situation is much better. Not-Your-Average-Mom.com is growing. I am now the head developmental coach of the swim team, and I’m working about 20 hours a week coaching.

So I am busy working.

And now I’d describe myself as a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom, entrepreneur and coach.

But now, all the kids are now in school all day long.

I have from about 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. free every weekday (except for Mondays when Number 7 has a short day at kindergarten and gets home at 1:00).

So pretty much every day I have six kid-free hours.

And being a stay-at-home mom when your kids are in school?

It’s not hard.

It’s not hard at all.

In fact, it’s really, really, REALLY awesome.

Like REALLY AWESOME.

I’m not sitting around all day watching TV. I’m not shopping or getting my nails done or drinking mimosas with all of my other stay-at-home mom friends.

But I have time to breathe.

I have quiet time.

I have time to think.

I can eat a meal without being interrupted.

I can  clean up the kitchen and three hours later it’s still clean.

I can go grocery shopping without any kids trying to grab shit off the shelves and without having to buckle and unbuckle one or two or three kids into and out of their car seats multiple times.

I can easily work out every day.

I can listen to whatever station I want  to on the radio without protesting from anyone.

I can run a pretty decent house now that all the kids are out of the house.

Yes, there is still plenty of stress. Being a parent is still a challenge.

The kids still push my buttons and push each other’s buttons and test the limits and do shit that really pisses me off.

But it’s not constant anymore.

And now if a mom who has to work outside the house full-time said that she had it harder than a stay-at-home mom whose kids are all in school all day long?

Well, yes. I’d totally agree. 100%.

There is no contest.  Work-at-home moms (who work because they have to and not because they want to) get the short end of the stick.

Big time.

The same goes for my husband. He is definitely taking one for the team right now.

His days are harder than mine. He doesn’t have the freedom and flexibility that I have. He misses out on things the kids are doing. He has to leave the house before 6 a.m. every morning.

Now that I have some free time I’m trying to do things for him that I just couldn’t manage to do when all the kids were home all day.

I try to pack him a nice lunch in the morning before he leaves. I try to make sure dinner is ready for the kids so when I’m coaching and he picks them up after practice he doesn’t have to worry about making anything and he can just give them whatever I’ve prepared for that night. I’m able to finish whatever work I need to do during the day so I am more available to him at night. When he comes home, there is some semblance of order when he walks in the door rather than the house being a complete and total shit hole.

So I think I’ve been able to create a calmer environment for everyone to come home to at the end of the day.

Is my life a total cake walk?

Hell no.

I’m still working my ass off.

But it’s much different than it was just a couple months ago.

It’s much less stressful.

So anyone with young kids at home who tells you that being stay at home mom is the hardest thing they’ve ever done?

I’d wholeheartedly concur.

But those of us whose kids are now school age?

Well, if we are fortunate enough to be home when the kids are in school,I’m going to be the first to admit that there’s no comparison.

We are are very lucky.

And when I think about what life was like in August compared to what it’s like now?

Well, I’ve really got nothing to complain about.

Because being a stay-at-home mom when your kids are in school totally doesn’t suck.

At all.

 

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Mom, are you alright?

Welcome back to the official start of afternoon mayhem, Everyone! The Logistical Olympics have begun!

Are you all ready?

Yesterday afternoon we had one kid start a new job, four kids at three different swim practices, one kid at a baseball practice, and a kindergarten open house.

I am out of after school shape.

Now that swim season has started again, I coach every afternoon/evening. That means as soon as the last kid gets home from school I load everyone in the car and head to the pool, and we don’t get home until around 8 pm.

Needless to say, Monday through Friday, the afternoons are crazy.  I know it’s no different for everyone else. We are all in the same boat, driving and coordinating and just trying to keep our heads above water and keep shit straight.

But last year I had created a routine for myself where even after all the kids were in bed I still had work to do.

And dammit, I am determined to change that this year.

Knowing my work wasn’t done once all the kids were tucked in made me a bitch.

Or more of one, anyway.

And I often rushed through the bedtime routine and was short tempered and snippy and just going through the motions in fast forward speed so I could get them the hell to sleep so I could get to the work that was left undone.

It wasn’t fun.

For any of us.

So this year, with all the kids in school, with school hours opened up for me, I am determined to change that.

I’m still not anywhere near organized. The house is still a mess. I don’t have meals planned out, and I don’t have stuff for the kids lunches prepped the way I’d like so they can quickly pack their lunches.

I am making baby steps, though.

And yesterday I did have one major victory.

I gave myself a work cutoff time. It had to be done by 2 p.m.  And if it wasn’t done by then, well, that was too bad.

It would have to wait.

I really don’t want the kids coming home every day to a freaked out mom who is barking orders at them and telling them to hurry the fuck up.

And when we finally do get home every night after all the practices and whatever else is on that day’s agenda, I don’t want to be doing the same thing to them before they go to bed.

That’s no way to end your day! It’s not fun for any of us.

And they deserve better than that.

Yesterday I was able to do it. Not only did I successfully cut myself off at 2:00, but I got everything done that absolutely needed to get done by then.

There was stuff I wanted to get done that I didn’t get to. But sticking to the cutoff time and also learning to distinguish between what is and isn’t imperative is a big step for me.

So last night when I got back from open house, I put on my pjs and I sat down in the living room for a few minutes.

Number 5 had just finished up an “all about me” paper and she was showing it to me. When we were done looking at it, I told her to go put it in her backpack, and while she was doing that, I just sat in the chair and just kind of zoned out for a minute.

Number 4 came into the room, and she said to me, “Mom, are you alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I told her. “Why?”

“Well, you’re just usually on your phone or working,” she said to me.

Ugh.

Ouch.

I had gotten myself so deeply into the habit of working and doing crap on my phone that me being available to the kids in the evenings — really available and present and not just checking the pre-bedtime items off the checklist as quickly as possible — was so foreign to Number 4 that she thought something was wrong with me.

How did I let this happen. I did I become that mom?

I don’t want to be that mom!

That mom that pays more attention to her phone than she does to her kids. That mom who always says not now and maybe later and let me finish this and I have too much work to do.

Nope. No more.

I only have one day under my belt, but I’m determined to make this one stick.

The to do lists, the work, the phone — those things can wait.

But the kids? They’ve been waiting long enough.

They’ve been waiting for the mom who says sure! and what do you need? and I think that’s a great idea!

Because that’s the mom I want to be.

And that’s the mom they all deserve.

 

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