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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Is it ever enough?

Alrightly then. So it seems that I've miraculously snagged the perfect part-time gig ever, spewing my lovely opinion on lots of enthralling parenting topics. It's perfect. I love it. I feel extremely fortunate.

That said, something is still missing from my desire to work. And the only thing I can guess is that I miss grown-up banter in the kitchen and near the water-cooler. I miss work friends. I miss lunches. I miss complaining about co-workers. I miss getting dressed up in little outfits and matching my lipstick to my outfit. I even miss my bus ride into the city, while scanning the latest headlines. Last time I actually commuted to work, I was living north of the Golden Gate Bridge. And every morning, when we descended towards the Bridge, I would stop reading the paper and look out at the city and the fog and the view. Breathtaking. Every. Single. Day. I don't think many people--or any people besides me--ever looked up to take it all in.

So the view, the banter, the child-free lunches. What else is there? Collaboration. Ah, working with a team of creative people to come up with great ideas and actually bring them to life. It was fun and felt important, even though much of it was not.

Then there were the extravagant holiday parties. Father in Chief works for a start-up this year, so we won't be seeing Earth, Wind & Fire with the rest of the Yahoos. Then again, last year when FIC was still employed by Yahoo, we skipped the holiday party and missed out on my all-time favorite 80s cover band Notorious.

Mostly, I just wonder why I'm still tormented by this nagging feeling that I'm not complete. I have work. I have child. I have fabulous husband. I have friends. I have no dogs. And yet, something is still missing. Even though I'm filling in the pieces that I thought needed filling.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

He's crafty, or he'd like to be

It's already been made clear that I'm feeling lacking when it comes to coming up with new things for Toddler in Chief and I to do together that don't involve matchbox cars or trains.

That said, I'm very excited to get the lowdown over the holidays from my mother-in-law who teaches Pre-K. She's going to load me up with kid-safe scissors and glitter and glue and pipe cleaners and hopefully give me a boatload of easy craft ideas to do with him that don't make huge messes.

As much as TIC loves painting, I can't stand having to watch all the paint buckets and brushes when we're done, which is usually about 15 minutes after we start. I need to get over my hate of cleaning and deal with my kid so that he can create art to his heart's content. If the weather were nicer, we'd be outside with a bucket of water painting the driveway. But seems like winter rain is going to be keeping us inside and stir-crazy for the foreseeable future.

Any ideas out there?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Oh! Baby: Where does God fit in?

Where did people come from? How do we explain tragedy--natural and otherwise--to kids? How often do you turn to God when it comes to explaining the unexplainable? It seems that when there is no answer, people turn to God and religion. But at what price? Does that just sugarcoat reality? Or do people need something to believe in to bring order to this tumultuous world?

Check out this week's debate over religion and its place in kids' lives on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Torn over two-and-a-half

I hear the voices: "I am just maxed out on what I can do for him/her at home." Father in Chief was even talking about it with some other dads at work. The need to send the kids off to school to get be exposed to new people and new activities and a more stimulating environment than what we have at home.

But now I'm starting to buy into it. Toddler in Chief does spend too much time playing with those matchbox cars. He doesn't have enough stuff to keep his mind growing and learning. And I'm maxed out on what I can do for him. He plays while I ignore him while I'm trying to work. I prop him in front of Blue's Clues while I'm on deadline. I set him up with some books/trains/markers/matchbox cars and then head off to take a shower, fold the laundry, start dinner. What is he really learning while he's trapped here in this house with me?

I don't know how I'm feeling right now other than totally confused. I'm sure part of it is the sense of loss that I feel because many of the kids we know are off in preschool or have moved away. But honestly, I don't know if all the jumbled thoughts in my head are my own or if they are just reflecting back the thoughts of so many of the women that I know.

Maybe it's a bit of guilt because I want to write more. And with him leaving little tornados around the house, perhaps my subconscious is starting to think that preschool is a good idea. If he's not in the house, he's not getting into stuff and leaving messes all over. If he's out at preschool, he's creating messes for someone else to clean up. If he's being cared for by someone else, then I get a break and do whatever I want for a while, guilt-free. Especially because it would be a learning environment.

Whatever it is I'm feeling, I'm very torn over not providing enough stuff for my kid to do or that I'm not attentive enough to help keep his mind occupied with new and exciting learning activities. All this in spite of the fact that I'm a strong believer in the notion that boredom is good for kids. Am I against preschool for two-and-a-half-year olds because I'm trying to defend my choices, as Anonymous accused me of?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Oh! Baby: Is attachment parenting all that?

Did you carry your baby around from the minute they were born, as if that umbilical cord had never been severed? Or were you happy to set them down and hand them off to family and friends, and bond in different ways? Dr. Sears' Attachment Parenting is in style, but I'm not a big fan of the theory's unending demands on parents. Seems to me that attachment parenting sets parents up to feel guilty for not giving enough of themselves.

Check out this week's debate over attachment parenting on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The benefits(?) of working from home

Working from home has lot of benefits outside of not having to drive anywhere and being able to walk away for 20 minutes without anyone wondering where you went.

I used to love the occasional "work from day" when I was a card-carrying participant in corporate America. It was almost as good as a "personal day," a "sick day" or a Saturday. My perception is probably why most companies don't like employees working from home.

That said, now that all of my work is "work from home," it's become a little more challenging. There are countless distractions and yet, so many perks. It's nice to have my refrigerator and a vast selection of all of my favorite decaf teas just down the hallway from my office. It's great to be able to type away in the comforts of my mismatched socks and crumpled PJs. But I can also get other stuff done between grand thoughts and subsequent typing fits. I can throw in a load of laundry, start dinner, or assemble a grocery list by actually scanning the cupboards and refrigerator for missing essentials.

But there's a downside too. I can throw in a load of laundry, start dinner, or assemble a grocery list by actually scanning the cupboards and refrigerator for missing essentials. Working from home somehow doesn't seem complete without these diversions distracting me. Fortunately my two worlds are closely connected making that back and forth somewhat breezy.

Bethany has been struggling with her move back into the "real" world and how it's negatively impacted her writing. Probably the only reason this non-schedule works for me is because my work is very, very part-time. And if I sit at the computer and spend 30 minutes catching up on personal email and then decide to take a break, I'll find other time to do the stuff to meet my real-world deadlines.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One, two: Is Mom totally screwed?

If both parents have good jobs before they have kids and both want to go back to work after they have kids--not out of financial necessity, but because they both like their jobs and their careers--does that decision reflect more negatively on the mother than the father?

I don't know the answer to that one, but it just seems like the expectation is that mom will stay home. Or should stay home. Especially if the decision to go back isn't financial. Are women who become mothers entitled to career ambition? Or does society--as progressive as we think we are--put a negative tilt on moms who have a drive and desire beyond parenthood?

There certainly have been times when I have even been a little judgmental. But mostly, I'm of the school of thought that says women need to do whatever works for them. If they want to work, then work. If they want to be at home, then be at home. I don't see why it's really anyone else's concern as long as the children are getting the love and stimulation they need in a caring environment.

Since I've been at home since Toddler in Chief was born, I haven't been in a work situation to be able to access any kind of possible stigma. But I can't help but wonder if it is there or if it's my imagination?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Oh! Baby: When should parents get involved?

No one wants their kid to be on the receiving end of hurtful words or actions. And toddlers really only have their own interests at heart: I need that toy. I need to go down the slide now. I need. I need. I need. And without a little guidance, kids aren't going to be kind, considerate, or fair. That's what parents are help sort the sticky situations out and to help kids learn the rules.

Do you intervene if there's a scuffle at the park? Or do you take a more wait-and-see approach? Get involved in this week's debate over playground fights on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Am I a Genuine Faux Feminist?

I'm a feminist. I believe that women are equal to men, and that men are equal to women. I believe that equally qualified people should make the same money for the same job, regardless of gender. If a woman wants to stay home to raise the kids while her husband works, that's okay. If a man wants to stay home to raise the kids while his wife works, that's okay. I believe in a division of household tasks. I call it equal-opportunity chores.

That said, there's something very appealing about being taken care of. My husband works very hard and a fringe benefit of that, is that I don't have to work full-time anywhere. I could if I wanted to, but it's not a priority for us right now. I'd rather hang around the house with Toddler in Chief, work on my freelance writing, fantasize about graduate school, sip French Lemonade, and try to finish the photo album I started ten months ago.

But what I find most interesting is that when we go out, Father in Chief nearly always drives. If I must drive, I get (secretly) annoyed. And no matter where we are, if it involves money, I rarely go for my wallet. That is, unless FIC asked me if I have X denomination or some change to complete the transaction. It's not even like it's his money versus my money because we the share a bank account. It's just I don't want to be bothered.

Does that make me a faux feminist? I'm a full equal partner in our household, unless it's a man-job. He pays the bills. He takes out the garbage. I load and unload the dishwasher. I do most of the laundry. He drives. And I vivid memory of when we bought our first car together. It was a Volkswagen Cabrio. And the VW slogan was: "On the road of life there are passengers and there are drivers. Drivers Wanted." And I remember asking the sales person if passengers were wanted too? She gave me a half smile. So this passenger-thing goes way back. We eventually lost the Cabrio in a flood (story for another time). And the paying thing is just something we've always done too. Probably because when FIC and I were courting (the second time around), he had a real job complete with a real paycheck, and I was in college.

This arrangement just feels comfortable, even if it's not totally equal. He probably feels like a provider and I feel taken care of. I guess it's not so bad as long as everyone knows where they stand. Or at least they know where they'd like to stand. Or at least they know that the other person knows that they are standing next to them, or in the general proximity, thereof. Or something like that.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Flexibility boosts productivity, cuts costs, but stigma remains

A pilot program at some of the country's largest corporations is injecting a dose of flexibility into work schedules, making employees happier, boosting productivity, and cutting costs for the companies. But sadly, parents still fear the stigma associated with taking advantage of flexible work hours.

Maggie Jackson published a column in the Sunday Boston Globe called, "Team-based flexible work programs are pushing into the mainstream." As part of the pilot program, employees at 10 corporate giants were given the option of starting earlier in the day or working later in the evening. They also had the option of working 80 hours over nine business days, instead of 10, giving participants an extra day off every two weeks. If this program--or others like it--becomes more widespread, it could be a small boon for parents who want to be home when their kids get home from school, or just want extra days off.

The 10 companies participating in the BOLD program include Chubb, Frito-Lay, Gannett, Johnson & Johnson, Macy's Northwest, Pitney Bowes, Puget Sound Energy, Prudential Financial, Weyerhaeuser, and Nextel Communications. But executive at these corporate giants aren't participating out of the kindness of their hearts. The bottom line? The bottom line.

And a separate study released Tuesday, by Corporate Voices for Working Families, found that not only do flexible work options make employees happier (equaling lower job turnover), but they also boost profits. Some of the examples, reported by the Christian Science Monitor, included:

  • Deloitte: Saved $41.5 million in employee turnover costs in 2003, based on the number of professionals who said they would have left if they didn't have flexible work hours.
  • AstraZeneca: Employee attitudes were 28 percent higher for employees who said they had the flexibility they needed than for those who said they did not.
  • PNC Financial: Staggered schedules allowed customers to be served for an extra hour and a half each day. Absenteeism and turnover declined.

But sadly, fewer than half of all companies in the United States offer flextime plans and two-thirds of working mothers say there's a stigma attached to using flexible work options, Working Mother Media CEO Carol Evans told the Monitor. "Changing a whole corporate culture is like turning a giant ship in the ocean," she said.

The good thing about that--if the analogy is accurate--is that you can turn a giant ship. It just takes time and patience.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Blog Book Tour: It's a Boy!

When I was pregnant I really wanted a girl. But deep down, I knew I was having a boy. And after my 21-hour labor produced a BOY, my heart sank a teeny bit. But now that I know HIM, I wouldn't trade him for anything.

Andi Buchanan, author of "Mother Shock: Loving Every (Other) Minute of It" and "Literary Mama: Reading for the Maternally Inclined," has edited a new book, called "It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons."

As I read these essays, I can't help but feel as sense of comradery with these women--these mothers of boys. Some wanted girls and ended up with boys, while others had hoped for boys all along. I'm sure if I'd had a daughter, I would have been a bit smug about it. I know that there are women out there who pity the boy-bearing women--I even might have been one of them.

But I'm grateful for my son. Having him has pushed me outside my comfort zone, only to realize that it's very comforting to be here after all. One of the parts of Andi's essay in the book touched a nerve with me. Perhaps deep down, I'm a teeny bit relieved to have a boy because girls become women and many become moms. And, in turn, struggle. She wrote:
We want our daughters to do everything our sons do, yet as mothers ourselves, we know the difficulties and the hard choices that they will have to make when they grow up and choose to mother--the career options that dwindle; the daily balancing act that exhausts; the kind of things our sons will never face, even as they become parents themselves. Perhaps it's easier to love our sons because there is no big secret, no truth we're withholding about the divided life of women. Perhaps we feel less conflicted about boys--love them more, believe they love us differently than our daughters do--because they will have such unconflicted, uncomplicated autonomy as men.

If Father in Chief and I have another baby, perhaps I'll secretly hope for another boy. Brothers. How cool would that be? Read the book introduction here.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Oh! Baby: Is a spank just a spank?

There are definitely times when Toddler in Chief really pisses me off--they don't call it "Terrible Twos" for nothing. And there have definitely been times when I've wanted to smack him. And one time I smacked his hand in an effort to get him to stop doing something dangerous. But instead of getting him to stop, he thought my reaction was worth replicating.

How do you discipline your kids? Does spanking or other physical punishment do the trick? Check out this week's debate over discipline choices on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Dance Goddess or Pathetic Groupie?

It's already been announced that my super fabulous solid dance friend is relocating to Atlanta--she actually left today. And last Friday was our final chance to go out and shake our groove thangs to our favorite 80s cover band Notorious. At the last minute Attorney Friend couldn't make it. But I decided to go on my own in her honor. But sadly there were so many thing wrong with the scene:
  • Blending with the Older Crowd
I ended up going with Mathematician Mom from my son's other playgroup. She cheerfully pointed out that there it was an older crowd, in a good way--just a bunch of older people which is much better than a bunch of 23-year-olds, like I usually see in The City. As soon as those words left her mouth, it was like I was up on the wall looking down on the scene. There I was, blending in with that older crowd, with my companion thinking that this is a good thing. Did I really blend in? All of those people in their 30s, 40s, 50s. Okay, so I'm in my early 30s, but I don't actually think of myself as older. I'm a super hip chic, who happens to be a mom, who happens to be in my 30s. Does this qualify me as older. I think I'm going to have to start falling back on that every-so-popular mantra: You're as old as you feel. And I do not feel 30-something. Even though I rarely ever get carded when I go out. Although I did at this event. Did that simply mean I seemed to be on the young end of this older-crowd spectrum? Or did everyone get carded?
  • Can't determine: Is this Good or Bad?
Because Notorious wasn't playing in SF--rather playing in the SF burbs--there weren't many familiar groupies there to encourage with shout-outs and acknowledgements. That left me--in my official Notorious T-shirt--looking like a total loser. At least that's how I felt when they hollered out "Suzanne" at least three different times. Instead of feeling fabulous because I'm on a first-name basis with the band, it actually made me contemplate my coolness. I wasn't sure if I had crossed the line from dancing goddess to pathetic groupie. After one of my front-row, solo dance-a-thons, an older guy boogied his way to my side. And when the song ended, Notorious called out that they really loved my T-shirt. And this guy then asked me which band member I was married to. Did it seem that I was that connected to the band that I was actually related to them? Yikes. This was very interesting because when I saw Notorious in Berkeley a couple of weeks ago, Jay (one of the singers) made a point to mention something about his wife while we were chatting between sets (yes, I like to chat with the band... how else do you think they know my name? Besides the fact that I post comments on their Web site's message board?).
  • The Grand Exit
Any other night, Attorney Friend and I are still dancing when the lights go up and the band is already on their bus heading home. But I just couldn't do that this time. To not seem like a total loser, I had to drag myself away from the scene before the last song ended. I just couldn't stand to be there when it officially came to an end and the lights came on. It would be like putting an exclamation point on the fact that 1) I am indeed a groupie, 2) The band really does know me by name, 3) I really was there by myself--Math Mom left during intermission and I couldn't drag myself away that early into the show. So, as much as I desperately wanted the band to autograph the playlist for a keepsake/going-away gift for Attorney Friend, I had to leave to prove to myself that I'm not really that pathetic.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The S.T.R.U.C.T.U.R.E. rush

Toddler in Chief and I keep a very leisurely schedule. Outside of our weekly playgroup, we have no other obligations. I'm all for lots of down time, which encourages TIC to get creative with his toys. It also gives me some flexibility to write and read and rest with my feet up on the sofa.

My Mother-in-law has been an early childhood educator for nearly 20 years. She gave me some feedback regarding the whole push to get kids on schedules and in structured learning environments. I wanted to share it here:
...we are a nation of rushing our children. We rush them through the first year hoping they will be the first on the street to be weaned, then the first to be potty trained, then the first to speak, the first to do just about anything. Then it is the best preschool, the best dance class, the best of everything and it is high time to stop and examine what we are doing to our children. We are wearing them out and doing it much too early. Children in 1st grade have already done what most of had not accomplished till 5th grade. Who said earlier was better? Children need time to stop and smell the flowers and have time to be bored. I see so many children who do not know what to do if there is an afternoon of free time. They never have free time. Children need to have that opportunity to use their creative minds to invent things to do not always have someone telling them what to do or how to do it...

I guess the question is "for what are we rushing our children?" To make us look better as parents? To get our kid into the best college? It is bull---- to think that it will make that much of a difference. And at what price? I am always telling parents, it is not important if your child can recite the alphabet standing on his/her head, count to 6 zillion, what is important is raising children who are healthy emotionally and socially. The rest will follow if they feel good enough about themselves. The parents who listen are greatly relieved. Now if we can just convince the local kindergartens to do the same and educate parents as to what is most important. I fear we are raising children who are emotional basket cases and thus are constantly looking for extrinsic sources for accomplishment.
In the meantime, TIC and I do little stuff--like watering the flowers and watching the sky for birds and airplanes. And I believe those are the things that he'll remember most. I know they'll be what I remember most.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Oh! Baby: Give me an impersonal hospital birth

I doubt anyone likes the idea of a hospital birth, but I'll take preparedness at the hospital over a hunch that everything will be okay with a homebirth. As much as I would have preferred the comforts of home, a hospital birth--and all those trained medical professionals--saved Toddler in Chief's life.

Where is the best and safest place to have a baby? Check out this week's debate over childbirth choices on Oxygen Media's Oh! Baby Opinionated Parenting blog.