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KIDS, PARENTING (permalink) 03.04.2010
still holding out
a few weeks ago marty was out with a group of mom's from the kids elementary school. at several points through the evening women would break away from the conversation to call home and check in on the dads and the state of bedtime.

when one woman called, one of her kids, a first grader, answered. the mom asked how things were going the kid answered by saying, "johnny's being a dickhead." the woman's head dipped, she massaged her temples, paused and said, "put your dad on please."

obviously marty would never get a report like that from her house. not because her kids are above such blue language but because marty still doesn't have a cellphone.

KIDS, PARENTING, HYGIENE (permalink) 03.03.2010
i know plenty of folks who could benefit from anthony-like candor.
bella was messing with anthony and he got upset. marty entered the scene and told anthony that if he didn't like what bella was doing he could tell her so. with this counsel, anthony turned to bella and said "bewah, you are breaking my spirit!"

if marty can do that with a three year old just imagine what she could achieve with someone who actually cared if they were sitting in their own feces.

KIDS, PARENTING, FAMILY (permalink) 03.02.2010
another one of those moments
in our home we have a bedtime hour. in this hour, every motion, action and thought is to be directed at the transition from being a foul, bristling, engaged, sporting, singing, learning, living, sassing young person to a sound asleep human. this is an all hands on deck affair and anything short of full participation has the home listing and fighting the currents.

last night, just seven minutes into the bedtime hour, i found myself locked up with bella on what began as a simple matter of semantics. i learned long ago that heated debate is not a conducive facet of the bedtime hour, but here on this night, i was fully engaged. this distraction left alex and anthony free to bury each other in the multitude of blankets and comforters piled on a bed. seeing this, i ordered them to the bathroom to go potty and brush their teeth. after studying my taut tone for the briefest of moments, they complied. bella and i proceeded down our path. just as i (and the beloved art of logic) was making headway, alex dashed into the room saying, "look at what anthony did." i studied him and saw nothing. i asked him what anthony did. alex turned to show a long smear of fluorescent tooth paste down the back of his shirt. ANTHONY! STOP PUTTING TOOTH PASTE ON YOUR BROTHER! i ignored his return plea of, "but, i like putting toothpaste on yallix." i returned my attention to bella. as we continued our slow trek to understanding marty called up the stairs, "i have to run some cookies across midland. i'll be back in a few." at this hour, with this start, i'm unable to count the number of bad things that could go down in "a few" minutes. but here we were.

digging out begins with a single shovelful of dirt. i looked at bella and said, "i hear your point but i hope you hear mine. i needed you to do something and i took the time to explain why i needed you to do it. in the future i need you work with me on that." with as much compliance and respect you could expect from a willful eight year old girl, bella turned to begin her bedtime ritual. i turned to alex, asked him to lift his arms up and pulled the soiled shirt over his head and told him to follow me. i walked to the bathroom and pulled the toothpaste out of anthony's hand, picked his protesting frame up under my arm, walked him to his room, threw him in his bed, and told him if he got out i was going to frazzle his biscuits and make him sleep on the garage roof. by some karmic credit i accrued in a previous life, everyone was asleep within the hour.

if there is a human (non-sleeping) restful state such as the peace a person meditating finds, the experience of wrangling unwilling, untamed children without the use of physical trauma is the opposite of that restful state. and were you to remove all life-threatening scenarios from the picture, this act of directing children stands as one of the most trying human endeavors an adult can navigate. that said, we've had our share of moments where a call to 911 was surely in the cards, placing these matters occasionally into the life-threatening category (although, that is not the exact spirit i am talking about here).

and, to be fair, while marty isn't one of the most diligent practitioners of the bedtime hour given she's essentially been in a form of the bedtime hour all day at this point, she also does not typically leave the home and the night i described above was an unusual exception. but she may have also seen the dark cloud forming in my study and chose to save herself from the next fateful (and unpredictable) eleven minutes that unfolded in the upstairs of our home during the bedtime hour.

PARENTING (permalink) 02.23.2010
tread lightly children, especially after nine.
marty told me about a house rule some friends of ours have. the rule loosely states that the mother is done being a parent come 9pm. the rule less loosely states that if you need anything reviewed, fixed, cleaned, spoken to, mended, treated, approved, addressed, or checked get it done before the nine o'clock hour.

this law came about after one of their kids asked the mother for help doing her due-tomorrow homework at 9:30 one night. the mom glanced at the page handed to her and then at the kid. the kid asked what the problem was. the mom replied that everything written on the page was in french. the kid asked if that was a problem. seconds after the last question was uttered the child was sent to bed (with her unfinished homework assignment in hand). and seconds after the child was sent to bed the off at nine law came into being.

PARENTING (permalink) 05.16.2008
the pay, recognition and wardrobe suck but certain perks make up for it
a former colleague and his wife emailed me asking for guidance/direction/opinions about his wife quitting her job and becoming a stay at home mom. within five seconds of getting the message i fired it marty's way because i obviously don't know the first thing about it and she is, well, a bit of an expert on the topic. she cc'd me on her response and i found it meaty, insightful and honest enough to share for any others who may be thinking about or struggling with the choice ...
C and K,
I'm impressed that you are reaching out to people and asking questions about potentially switching careers. I didn't have that much foresight when I made my decision to stay at home.

I taught full time for 7 years before I had Bella. Then I worked part time for 2 years before I had Alexander. I decided to stay at home because I couldn't imagine managing 2 kids, 1 husband, and 40 students. And once I paid for care for both kids out of my pay I would have made $300 minus taxes. Troy explained that he could create one website in 2 months and make up what I would end up actually bringing home for the year. And I was worn out from the stress of finding alternative care if Bella was sick, scheduling the kids' doctor appointments, and finding time to do my school work--correcting papers, researching info, preparing new labs...

So after leaving the hospital with Alexander I instantly became a full time stay at home mom. And below is what I have learned...

My stress level decreased instantly. It was amazing not to have a rigid schedule to follow. When I was working I felt that spent my days rushing to get where I needed to go. Rush to get to the sitter on time, rush to get to school and prepare for my classes, rush out of school to get back to the sitters, rush home to start dinner. Having to wear one less "hat" relieved some stress.

The day is organized by your child's schedule. Staying at home isn't about doing what you want, it's about your child's needs. It's about getting home to lay down for morning and/or afternoon naps, it's about eating when hunger strikes, it's about holding them when they are sick, it's about stopping and watching each ant/roly poly/snail/slug/bird that crosses their path.

I had to treat staying at home like a job the first two years. Like any job the first year is the most difficult and has the most extreme learning curve. I tried to schedule one event a day but was always flexible and realistic that it might not happen. I became involved in my district's Parent as Teachers program, attended weekly storytimes at the public library and area bookstores, went to play at neighborhood parks, joined the local swim pool, discovered that Missouri Botanical Garden, Butterfly House, Magic House all have times in the week or month that admission is free. I chose not to pay for programs until my kids were between 4-5 years old, but I know many parents who did gymboree play groups, gymnastics, and music groups like Kindermusik.

I encourage you to use every means possible to build a group of friends who are at home with children that are approximately the same age(s) as yours. I found a great network of moms through my Parents as Teachers playgroups and the storytimes at my library. The women that I met when Alexander was a baby are still my support group 5 years later. We still get together every Tuesday for playgroup at the park in the summer and at different people's houses in the winter.

Many women find that their self-esteem and self-identity are tied partially or wholy to their career. I think that this is what causes women to want to return to work. I think that the best response to this that I heard was, "I am more than a stay at home mom", followed by "I am more than my minivan".

Your children will not be thankful or grateful that you stay at home. Your spouse might be more thankful that you are at home, but not enough to affirm your choice on a daily or hourly basis. Research does NOT show that your children will be smarter, more responsible, more successful, or more self-confident if you stay at home.

It is important that your spouse is solely responsible for the children, house, and routines for a minimum of 4 days every 1-3 years. There are things that can not be explained but must be experienced. This helps him realize that your job is challenging! Troy feels that the 4-day duration is important, because "any man can sit on 2 kids for a weekend, but on day 3 you start to lose hope."

Don't take on all the house responsibilities/chores just because you are at home. This advice came from my older sister. I strongly feel that the reason you are at home is to be with your child/ren, not to do an extra load of laundry, or clean the bathroom, or pay the bills. You are there to be present to your children.

I have been at home for 5 years and I am thankful that Troy and I had the resources and the desire that I could stay at home. A few days seem to drag on endlessly, but the years have passed too quickly. I realize now that I will never get another opportunity to be so intimately involved in my children's lives as I do right now. I enjoy being there to see what excites them, to answer their questions, and to teach them to slide down the fireman's pole. Most importantly I am thankful that their lives are unhurried and peaceful.

I hope this helps. Good luck with this decision.
Marty Walter

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