The Balancing Act

Checking out of the grocery store way back in 2012, I vividly remember a magazine cover. The image immediately drew my attention. A little child sat in a mom’s work briefcase looking up longingly with big, brown eyes. The bold black title that hung over head took my breathe away, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” My response was shock. Yes, the work-life balance routine is hard. But, I thought I had it all. In 2012, I felt alive in my feminism, my career, my marriage, my community, and balked at that article. I didn’t even read it, because it did not resonate with me and my life.

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But I never forgot that magazine cover. It weirdly haunted me.

Two years later, I became a mom. It continues to be the most amazing, rewarding, and enriching life experience that I have the privilege to share in with David. Our hearts grew when we added a second little boy 20 months later. But, then that article made total and utter sense! It haunted me all those years because I knew the message rang true. Raising a little human(s) is demanding. Not only because they have needs that their caregiver must provide, but also because ,as a parent, I had needs too. I wanted to be with these little creations. Sitting on the floor and cuddling them and playing with them was so important to David and me. They change so quickly that it is hard to leave them because my world shifted inward towards them. As they become more independent and interesting the desire to experience the world alongside of them continues to deepen. These three relationships are primary in my life because of biological and emotional connection. At the same the time, the house needs up-keep. Food needs to be bought, made, stored, cleaned-up as does the laundry, and so many other household “chores.” When do you do these? In front of them cutting down on your time together to enjoy each other? When they go to sleep cutting down your time to rest and restart? It is a balancing act to do all the necessary tasks while also giving your love and attention to them. The layering of these two demands is heavy. Then add full-time work. This layer removes you from your primary loves for 8+ hours every Monday through Friday. Now your time together as a family is cut significantly during the week and the house piece of life gets squeezed into these odd pockets of time. Late nights folding laundry at 11PM means waking up groggy trying to be engaged in morning play  at 5AM but also who is going to make breakfast? The weekends follow a similar balancing routine. With teaching, I bring home work nightly. This adds to the time crunch. Family, house, work compete incessantly in my mind for the limited hours of the day. Then friends and fun become even harder to shift forward in the long-wait line.

A friend shared this comic with me a little while back and it reminded me of that article in the Atlantic. It visualizes so beautifully and precisely the inner turmoil of trying to have it all, do it all, and be all things to all the relationships you want to engage in and feel obligated, at times, to maintain despite knowing that unless you stop time you will fail at some or all of this often. Motherhood is the most humbling experience of my life because it forces me everyday to be give of myself as completely as I can to my family, work, and other relationships, to be efficient, to fail, and to try again at the same balancing game every day.

So why am I writing about this now? None of this new or likely different from the stories of other working moms. Obviously, women and moms, in particular, face this dilemma. But, for me, the transition from life as a “stay at home mom” in the summers always brings back into focus the intense shift of the school year. From having the time to focus on family, friends, travel, and interests and enough time to get the basic maintenance of the house in order, to being back to the grind of the school year and the game of work-life balance is such a hard transition for me. The craziness of it all because normal and lived and by June my “trying to make it all work” muscles are pretty good at it. But then the 12 weeks off, reminds me of that article in the Atlantic and I just wish there was another way….

Summer Bucket List

The 12 weeks of summer vacation were so sweet. With both boys excited for little adventures and outings, we started the summer by making a bucket list of activities and places we wanted to seek out and embrace. Afraid of getting into a routine of just slow mornings and lounging, I tried to tackle one item a week so there would be a good balance between “get out and be busy days” and “sip coffee and settle in days.” With only 24 hours left of my summer being a “stay-at-home-mom” with my kiddos, I am feeling nostalgic for the warm, long summer days we shared. It hurts so much to return to the rigid school day schedule after savoring this time together as family, but this summer there are no regrets or “I wish we hads.” We carpe diemed the Sh*t out of our summer together and I am happy to look over the memories we captured as our trio explored together. If only I could get paid to just have time home with my family, that would be the life! I know that once school starts on Monday, it will feel fresh, and good, and exciting to be back on campus, but tonight I want to halt time and stay in this summer sunset longer.

What was on the bucket list?

Wingearshaek Beach

Beach Days… yes, multiple!

Lunch with David

Davis Farmland

Eat oysters

Get a pottery wheel

California

Newport, RI

Hopkinton State Park

Ashland state park

Kayaking

SUPing

Salem

Gloucester

Beach Picnic

Summer Concert

Aquarium

Running in a Fountain

Eating outside

Roger Williams Zoo

Strawberry Picking

Riding bikes (my only picture of them on wheels)

Lobster rolls

Visit to Long Island

Have a kickass birthday party for Henry

Duck boat ride

Savor our family

Which items didn’t get crossed off this year?

Castle Island, SoWa, Provincetown, Mass MoCA, Portland Day Trip

Not bad! We almost did it all, but I am glad we stuck to picking from our list. The boys loved hearing about the different places we could visit and would fall in love with one location and then want to go back and visit over and over again. This might be a fun little tradition to embrace and to maximize our time together and our explorations of this beautiful region of the country we get to call home.

No more babies live here…almost

Owen’s summer has been full of major shifts. My sister-in-law came to visit on the last day of the school year marking the official beginning of our time home together as a family. A time when I get to pretend I stay home with my littles 24/7. And this summer included a long list of transitions. First, on the docket was potty training. As a second born, the idea of pottery training Owen was far less intimidating than the first rodeo with Henry. The main hurdle with training Henry wasn’t the training part at all. It was the mental space I had to get over when you do anything new with a little one. Getting into a routine that works, that feels relatively easy, and that lets you get out and about isn’t super simple to achieve and life always throws some curveball at you to undo your baby steps of progress, so the idea of intentionally disrupting  the “calm” was the hardest part for me. Once I got out of my own way, and we started the three day long process, it became apparent that this wasn’t as hard as it originally seemed. So doing it a second time with Owen was easier to get started. And the little guy was definitely ready. Having a model in his big brother, he simply followed Henry’s pace and he is always so eager to be like his brother that he waited in line behind H in the bathroom and we are officially out of diapers in this house. And just like that one of the biggest defining attributes of babyhood is extinct for us.

But if we are “advanced” in one area then we are “babyish” in another. We landed on a red-eye from California at the beginning of August and took away Owen’s baby crib rail determined to transition our big kid into a toddler bed. The first night went well. Exhausted from his travels, Owen only attempted an escape once before resting his head for the night. David and I patted each other on the back for shedding one more baby-layer in our dedicated summer to big kid transitions. Then…..reality hit. For the next week, Owen ramped up his efforts to intimidate us. David left for Florida with Henry and I was alone doing a 2+ hour bedtime drama. Owen would scream, kick, tantrum, and leave his bed at least 1,000,000 a night. When he finally gave up the ghost, he slept so poorly waking up multiple times at night crying out for me and was “up for the day” at 5AM. When you go from solid, good sleeping to crappy sleeping you start to wonder maybe, just maybe, you made a mistake. Everyone you talk to about these big kid transitions tells you to stay the course, be firm, and hold on to the change. And I totally subscribe to this ideology. But every night Owen’s refusal lasted longer and his commitment to waking up and having disturbed sleep grew. So while Owen might be pottery trained, he is back in a crib. Immediately after putting his crib rail back, he delightfully said, “my cribby.” At bedtime, he snuggled in with his stuffies and went immediately to sleep and stayed in his bed until 6:30AM and he even napped again for 2 hours. He clearly feels secure and comfortable in his crib and has no desire to escape his cozy baby bed….yet. So do I feel like we made the right decision? In reality yes.  We will just try again at some other time when he and we feel ready again.

But to end on a high note of transitional success, we tossed out all of our baby sippy cups. This was definitely a reactive step on my part. None of the boys were really even using them but after feeling like we “failed” on our second major transition of eradicating cribs, I cleaned out the entire kitchen cabinet of baby plastic cups, spoons, utensils, etc. Immediately, it gave us more kitchen space to think about what the boys could use now as big kids, and felt like another chapter ended: no more soaking plastic cups, sippies, and plates. Every night since Henry was born there was some plastic kitchen equipment that needed special tending and now that was not a part of our routine and it felt both liberating and sad. We almost don’t have babies anymore. And that leaves us with a lot of feels. I both want them to continue to be funny, spunky, creative, and playful “big kids” but I also want them to stay just like this and cuddle in their footie pajamas forever. Why can’t we ever just have our cake and eat it too?

Too much fun in the California sun

Sitting here on the red eye back is not fun. Owen screamed for twenty minutes while thrashing about like a tuna fish hauled out of the sea and slapped onto the deck. The whole scene was quite horrifying for us. Although, thankfully, Henry remained unalarmed while he watched some shows and snacked on chips during Owen’s epic airplane meltdown. Finally little man gave up the ghost and passed out on the floor between our row and the traumatized passengers in front of us. Henry graciously put himself to sleep and no joke slipped on his complimentary night mask and out he went. And I drank a mini bottle of champagne and stayed wide awake for our cross continental journey. Because at any moment the situation could turn and I needed to be ready to pounce on any screamer!

But the now few minutes of silence before we begin our initial descent has me reminiscing about our SoCal adventure. Every time we visit, I just want to pick up the fam and move out to this coast. It is just so darn beautiful, tropical feeling, and the amount of fun we have with our family slipping into their daily lives for a few days is always beautifully awesome. We were out in the sun everyday exploring SoCal and trying new things with the boys from a visit to Legoland to ocean kayaking and SUPing, we tired ourselves out but enjoyed every minute of the family time. The kids fell even more in love with their cousins and I know they will be missing them super hard until we see them again in November.

The double double

Grab your Rosé mama and join me at the campfire for a tale so mystical and mythical that it may forever become part of motherhood folklore! When the event occurred, my awareness for the unique situation was keyed up. I both wanted to share the events with friends and strangers but worried that no one would ever believe me. There are dozens and dozens of memes about children sleeping in the carseat and the spectrum of crazy a parent emotionally tackles during this circumstance: Child fell asleep while mom drives into garage for 2 seconds and wakes up “totally refreshed” from the long blink, child falls asleep in carseat and parent decides to hit up the drive-thru Starbucks for a 40 minute silent car nap and coffee BUT baby takes massive blow-out and is screaming all the way home instead, and, of course, a dad dressed in a bomb suit trying to transfer a baby from carseat to house while sleeping.

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If you are a parent, you know these feels and these situations all too well. You likely experience them EVERY day plus so many more. But I am here to tell you that when the moon is blue, when pigs fly, and when you think that all hope is lost there is such a thing as the double double transfer!

Double double transfer: verb. To move two sleeping children from their carseats into something else (i.e. crib, bed, stroller), and to successful return sleeping children into the carseat.

I know what you are thinking, NO WAY! Not is a million years could a parent successfully move TWO sleeping children out of their carseats into something and then back into the carseat. But on July 14, 2018 at approximately 1:05PM, in Wrentham, MA this happened. You might have felt the shift in the universe and thought it  was a minor earthquake tremor or perhaps a spirit moved through you, but no it was me experiencing the impossible.

After lunch on Saturday, we kissed David goodbye and packed the boys up in the car for a quick errand to the outlets. I barely backed the car out of the driveway when it became too quiet. Looking in the mirror, it was confirmed that the two little dudes had fallen asleep. Panic set in. The drive to the store was 15 minutes. That was not nearly long enough for a proper nap, but I also did not want to spend an hour + driving around for a car nap. I decided that I would just deal with them waking up after a 15 minute nod off and see what happened in the car ride home and just prepare myself for a moody evening with the boys because of that 15 minutes of shut eye. We parked in the lot, and I braced for them to wake up confused and angry!  Opening the trunk, I slide out and assembled the stroller and went for the first boy,Henry. There was NO way he was going to stay asleep. I would open the car door and his eyes would follow.  But then I opened the car door and his eyes remained closed. Thinking this was weird, I unbuckled him, lifted him, and settled him down in his stroller seat without a slight wakening. Then I started to hold my breath. Could I also do this with Owen? Feeling both cocky and terrified, I strolled over to his side of the car, opened the door, carried him out, and placed him in his seat. Taking my first breath in 5 minutes, I nearly fainted from the crazy transfer I just completed! WHERE WAS MY AUDIENCE? Where were the rounds of applause? Immediately, I called my mom and David because no one would believe this and it had to be documented. Then we headed into Jcrew and for the first time in maybe four years, I shopped “alone.”  I went into the store with the hope that I could quickly grab one thing, and here I was meandering through the store slowly taking my time with each clothing rack, thinking about items, evaluating selections, and just shopping peacefully and quietly. Slipping the cashier my money, I was in shock that still they remained sleeping. Heading back to the car, I knew my time was up and I thanked the gods and prepared for the kiddos to wake up confused and angry when I moved them back into the vehicle.

Taking probably a dozen preparatory breaths, I attempted my first transfer of Henry. He slipped right back into the seat eyes closed. I felt invincible! Then Owen followed suit. It was a miracle: a double double transfer. Could I also fly? Read minds? Cure diseases? Win the Lotto? Life felt invigorating. And before you think, “Wow this is the lamest thing ever,” I want to say that I have gone skydiving and the sensation of excellence, surprise, and thrill that I got from backing my car out of that parking spot was the equivalent of jumping out of that plane over Chatham and that is when I knew my identity as mom was cemented fully and I was totally cool with that.

More summer vibes

July is a month of celebrating! There is America’s birthday, Henry’s birthday, even Nathaniel Hawthorne has a birthday this month. David’s dad and step-mom come for a visit and the travels of friends and family bring so many of our loved one into our daily life with stops in Massachusetts and quick reconnections. With all this, we are summering hard but somehow it is already mid-month! Sitting next to the boys this morning, I just feel so lucky to be able to soak up this warm month with them and am plotting and planning how we continue this awesome trend of exploring, enjoying, and entertaining.