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Work Flexibility and the Sick Kiddo

Categories: Career, Parenting, The Juggle

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The morning started off like many others. Nate wandered into our bedroom in the grey light of morning and climbed into bed with me. We snuggled together for half an hour or so before we decided it was time to go downstairs and settle in on the couch for coffee and cartoons.

He felt a little bit warm to me, but we had just been in bed where I had found it to be a bit warm under the weight of the duvet with Nate’s little body snuggled up with mine. He didn’t seem hungry and because he wasn’t acting himself, I avoided giving him milk, opting for a bit of water, instead.

“Take little sips,” I told him.

I waited.

He seemed okay, in good spirits and talking.

Later on, I took him to the bathroom to use the potty and get dressed, and as I was taking his shirt off, he looked…off.

“What’s the matter, buddy?” I asked him.

Then he made that face…you know, the face kids make when they’re about to puke.

By some miracle, I managed to whirl him around to face the toilet and he was sick in the bowl. I was glad I hadn’t let him have any milk.

Poor guy…it had been a long time since he was sick to his stomach. The last time he had a stomach flu he was just 14 months old. We still refer to that illness in our household as “The Great Stomach Flu of 2011” and Graham and I had both had to miss work that week to care for our very sick boy and recover from the sleep deprivation that followed.

After he was sick, I sent a text to Nate’s daycare provider to tell her we’d be staying home that day and I got him settled back on the couch with a blanket, a bowl and a movie. I rolled up the area rug and put it away for the day, the result of a lesson learned during that awful flu two years ago.

I then checked my calendar to see what I had scheduled for the day. Fortunately I had no appointments, sales calls or important errands scheduled but I had been planning to continue a freelance editing job I’ve been working on. It was very easy to put that off for the day and instead focus on taking care of Nate.

That day is the day I really understood the biggest benefit to being a self-employed parent. There was no manager or supervisor to call, no office I had to phone to notify I’d be off, no lost wages and no guilt. I could simply put aside work activities until Nate’s nap, later that evening, or the next day, even.

The real reason I now run a home-based business.

At that moment I knew for sure that the decisions I’ve been making for my family and my work have been the right ones for us!

iPads and Pre-schoolers

Categories: Parenting

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Around Christmas time my step-brother introduced our three year old son to Angry Birds. For Nate, it was love at first sight. From that moment on, the iPad became a coveted item in our house, and we’ve gotten to the point where Nate asks to play with it every single day.

There’s something about how much he loves it, how excited he gets when we hand it to him and how engrossed in the screen he becomes that makes me uncomfortable, somehow. This must be the way our parents felt when my brother and I spent hours playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo when we were kids. They didn’t quite understand why it captivated us so much, and wondered if it was good for us to play with it so much. My brother and I lived a pretty balanced life, and we also had a lot of time to do other things like play outside and read books and interact with people in real life rather than just on a screen. This is what Graham and I want for Nate, too.

On several occasions I’ve thought about doing a little digging around online to see what the professionals think about pre-schoolers using devices like iPads, but thought twice because I was convinced I’d learn that they have no place in the lives of small children; the result of my research would surely do nothing but amplify my guilt over allowing him to play with it in the first place. Instead, what I discovered is that due to the relative newness of tablet technology, there are few conclusive studies available for parents like me to consult. I did find a useful article in the Wall Street Journal, called “What Happens When Toddlers Zone Out with an iPad” that captured very well just what concerns me about Nate’s use of the iPad:

Some parents readily share a table with their children, citing the many apps marketed as educational tools. Some do not. Still other families turn to it as a tool of last resort to entertain and appease children on plane and car trips.

In the list of parental worries about tablet use: that it will make kids more sedentary and less sociable. There’s also the mystery of just what is happening in a child’s brain while using the device.

While I’m not worried about Nate becoming sedentary (he plays outside year-round almost every day) or less sociable (a less shy kid you’ll never meet), I do wonder about how the iPad could affect his behaviour. Sometimes he cries for it. Giving it up is a challenge. We tell him that if he acts out he won’t be playing it at all. We use a timer to alert him that his time with it is up. He does play educational games like Super Why and his hand-eye co-ordination is incredible for a three year old. All things in moderation, I suppose.

Nate iPod

Do your kids use an iPad or tablet? What has your experience with it been like?

Potty Training a Daycare Kid

Categories: Parenting

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I have dreaded potty training for a long time, now. In fact, I avoid writing and tweeting about the experience because every time I express some sort of frustration about the process, I’m met with disheartening responses that commiserate at best and discourage at worst. Moms hate potty training, it seems. (I realize this is a sentence that feels a little bit like saying the sky is blue or that water is wet.)

One of the reasons I’ve dreaded potty training is that Nate is a daycare kid, which means that for the majority of his waking hours, the task of encouraging him to use the potty falls on someone else’s shoulders. I’ve felt a lot of self-applied pressure to get him trained using some sort of miracle three-day method that would eliminate the need for Nate’s daycare provider to bear any responsibility for helping him learn to use the toilet (or, heaven forbid, for cleaning up the result of any accidents he might have in her care).

Over the weekend we took a real stab at getting Nate to use the toilet and with some success. I learned to watch for the telltale expression on his face and twice managed to whisk him onto the potty in time to get the job done. Stickers and sessions of Angry Birds were the reward.

Monday morning when I took Nate to daycare with tales of potty success to share, the woman who looks after him was excited. She had been telling me that he was ready for potty training for a little while. “Between the two of us, we’ll get it done!” she told me, with enthusiasm. I realized that morning that I wasn’t butting up against her or piling onto her responsibilities with this business of potty training; instead, I had an ally. She cheers Nate on with the same eagerness that we do. There’s a whole team of us encouraging him, making the experience of potty training nothing for me to dread, after all.

My three tips for potty training a child who goes to daycare include:

1. Keep your reward system consistent. We decided that stickers would be rewarded for using the potty, so Nate’s daycare provider tells him the same thing.

2. Dress your child in comfortable pants that are easy for your child and for your daycare provider to take up and down, too, multiple times a day, when necessary during training.

3. Share the joys and successes of the training experience with one another, and in front of your child. He or she will be excited to share the good news!

What advice can you provide when potty training a child who goes to daycare?

In Defense of Daycare

Categories: Career, Parenting, The Juggle

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Most weekday mornings Nate and I have our regular routine…he eats his cereal bar or toast with honey and watches his cartoons while I inhale coffee and read my Twitter and Facebook streams. When he asks what I’m doing, I tell him I’m reading my news. Among the “headlines” I encountered earlier this week was a tweet written by a woman I follow on Twitter. She wrote there about how badly she is suffering now that all of her kids are in school full-time. She is a full-time stay-at-home-mom who is feeling lost at this point in her children’s lives and doesn’t know quite what to do with herself.

I could not relate to this at all.

Whenever I hear other mothers talk about how much they would love to quit their jobs and stay at home full-time, I become uneasy. It’s not that I don’t support their wishes and goals; it’s just that their wishes and goals are so vastly different from mine at times.

I’m a very happy work-at-home (and some days outside of the home) mom. I would not be a happy stay-at-home mom. This is a notion I feel responsible for justifying all the time. For example, I mentioned to an acquaintance at the end of the last school year that I would only be working at the college one day a week this year. Her response congratulated me on the fact that I’d be able to save a lot of money on daycare since I’d be home with Nate the other four days a week. I sheepishly informed her that we’d be keeping him in daycare full-time.

“He’ll be going to school next September anyway, so we want to keep his routine going,” I said.

“I’ll still be working from home some days with my school work and I still teach those online courses,” I went on.

“He loves going to daycare…he has so much more fun there with the other kids than he’d have at home with me,” I concluded.

Nate goes to daycare

Nate goes off to daycare with his buddies.

I felt the need to explain myself because mothers are supposed to want to be home all the time with their kids, aren’t they? Activities like creating homemade craft projects and healthy lunches together and peaceful, productive outings with our children are supposed to be the epitome of mothering small children, aren’t they? Well, Pinterest lies. Life with kids at home isn’t like that.

It doesn’t matter how I try to describe the reasons why I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom, they always come out wrong. At first, my defensive nature kicks in and my justifications for continuing to send Nate to daycare full-time while I work from home always rouse my own inferiority complex about the kind of mother I am.

Then I take a breath, tell myself to relax, and remind myself that it doesn’t matter what my reasons are…having Nate in a great daycare arrangement is what works best for all of the members of our family, even on the days when I’m at home by myself.

Who Needs Sleep?

Categories: Parenting, Uncategorized, Working? Living?

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It’s late. Our room is quite dark, and now that Graham and I both use our iPhones for alarm clocks, we no longer have the red or neon blue glare of the current time in our bedroom. Our son is down the hall in his bed, coughing. I can’t let it go on any longer.

I sigh, get out of bed and head down the hallway to his room, where I give him some cough medicine by the glow of his night light.

“Mommy, you snuggle me?” he asks. It’s what he always asks when I end up down the hall in his room in the middle of the night.

“In a minute, buddy, I’m going to get the humidifier for you,” I answer.

I bring the humidifier down to the kitchen to fill it up and discover it’s two o’clock. No wonder I feel so groggy…my own cold medicine is still working in full force, making me feel fuzzy as I stand by the sink and wait for the humidifier base to fill with tap water.

Once I get Nate settled back into bed, I lay beside him, but I’m restless. I’m restless because he’s restless. He’s wide awake, and coughing almost constantly. There’s no way I’ll get to drift off here beside him.

I begin to count the seconds between coughs to keep my busy mind occupied and away from other thoughts that are invading my middle-of-the-night brain. I count to twelve between coughs and begin to feel there’s a little bit of hope that I might get some more sleep that night, after all.

Finally Nate seems calm and still enough that I sneak out of his room and back to my bed. I’m not there five minutes before I hear his small footsteps come down the hallway and settle on the floor beside me.

IMG_3249

“Come on, Nate, back to your bed,” I say quietly.

He protests.

“I’ll come with you. Come on to your room so Daddy can get some sleep.”

And there it is, the thing that creeps into my tired mind while I tend to our sick son. The need for Daddy to get his sleep always seems to trump Mommy’s in our house, especially on a week night. Graham works on a construction site all day long, so of course it is important that he is alert enough to stay safe. I know this logically but in the middle of the night it seems so unfair. I work from home most days lately, full days in front of a computer instead of on a construction site. So naturally I can get by a lot easier the day after a rough night with Nate than Graham can. It’s still hard, though, and in the middle of the night, lying down next to a coughing kid for an hour, I resent that I have obligations the next day beyond caring for our son at home.

Who gets up with your kids on a week night when they are sick? Do you and your spouse take turns?

Are you teaching your kids to cook?

Categories: Frugal Living, Hacking Life, Parenting, cooking

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With the focus on childhood obesity and the emphasis on healthy eating, it only makes sense to include your kids when it comes to planning out their meals. But, as all busy parents know, working through a recipe with a tiny helper can make the meal take twice as long (or longer) to prepare—that’s a difficult trade-off when you’re dealing with the witching hour.

A recent article in The New York Times suggested that bringing back home economics classes might be the key to controlling our nation’s obesity epidemic. And I think that’s a great idea.
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Coping with end-of-the-school-year clutter

Categories: Hacking Life, Parenting, Uncategorized, Working? Living?

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School is out in my town, and on her last day of Kindergarten my girl had a backpack full of precious papers. Not just her own drawings and worksheets and notebooks, but stuff her entire class had created together: Wall-size poems with six-inch-tall letters, spiral-bound storybooks illustrated by everyone. It’s a genius way to declutter the classroom at the end of the year, I grant you that. But as she proudly pulled paper after laminated paper out of her backpack, I began to wonder: What am I supposed to do with all this stuff?

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Do your kids think you work too much?

Categories: Hacking Life, Making Time, Parenting, The Juggle, Working? Living?

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My daughter was humming a tune that sounded a lot like “Bingo” while she was drawing the other day. When I scooted closer to her on the couch to get a peek at what she was doing, I heard that she had made up new words to go along with the song:

There was a girl who worked a lot
and Lylah was her name-o
L-Y-L-A-H, L-Y-L-A-H, L-Y-L-A-H
and Lylah was her name-o!

The drawing was actually an illustrated guide to the song’s new lyrics (spelled phonetically, of course—she’s only in kindergarten). I thought I was doing a pretty good job of getting out of work mode and morphing into Mama mode during the window between school pick-up and bedtime. But apparently not.
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On things lost and found

Categories: Hacking Life, Making Time, Parenting, The Juggle, Uncategorized

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When my now 6-year-old daughter was a baby, my mom gave her a fuzzy cream-colored toy Easter bunny that my daughter, for whatever reason, named Minno.

Minno quickly became a permanent fixture in our lives, traveling with us to and from that hectic early-evening childcare hand-off my husband and I had, snuggling with our daughter at bedtime, even occupying the high chair with her.  I quickly realized that all hell would probably break loose when (not if) the bunny got lost, and decided to get a couple of identical backups. Which is when I discovered that the bunny had been discontinued a couple of years earlier.
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Botox mom says it was all a lie. Why were we so willing to believe it?

Categories: Parenting, The Juggle, Uncategorized

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This week, people around the world were outraged by the story of a California mom who said that she injected her 8-year-old daughter with Botox to make her a contender on the child beauty pageant circuit.

In March 34-year-old Kerry Campbell,a  part-time aesthetician, was interviewed by U.K. tabloid newspaper The Sun about giving her 8-year-old daughter, Britney, body waxes and Botox.

“What I am doing for Britney now will help her become a star,” she told The Sun. ”I’m proud Britney is getting to have these beauty treatments at such a young age. I wish that I’d had the same advantages when I was younger.”
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