The Dog Days of Summer

by Lacey Appolito

Being a parent is a rollercoaster. Every day is different, though it can feel like ground hog day, and some days are better than others. This summer has been particularly challenging for me as a parent (and really as a functional adult, too).

For those of you who don’t know, I am a work from home mom. I own and operate an e-commerce business out of my home, but I also wear the hat of stay at home mom. My three kids, who are currently 5, 3, and 2 years old, attend a mother’s day out program for 20 hours per week during the school year, and I really do have a pretty sweet gig when school is in session.

BUT school ended May 18th, and summertime has been a little rocky to say the least. Caring for three children under the age of six is a full-time job. Every minute brings new demands for snacks, more milk, potty help, diaper changes, attention, redirecting, and SO. MUCH. REFEREEING.

On top of the daily grind, I am trying to run a business. When my kids are home for the summer, it is difficult to work on growing or improving Little World Organics. I do what I can to get by and then it is back to my kiddos, because they need me almost all of the time.

Now here is where things get really interesting… I am currently 34 weeks pregnant with my fourth child. I am tired. I am uncomfortable. And most days the temperature is over 100 degrees, making our much needed outside time pretty freaking miserable.

So what is a super pregnant, stay at home/work from home mama to do?

Do better. I have to do better.

Better for my kids. Better for my business. Better for myself.

My little tribe and I have exactly one month until school resumes for the fall semester 🙌, and six weeks until our family grows by one, which will inevitably change our family dynamic forever.

During the dog days of summer, when all I really want to do is curl up with some Netflix in a very cold, dark room, I vow to:

  • practice patience
  • find time to work on my business while the kids are sleeping
  • be present when they are awake
  • exude love
  • minimize exasperation
  • play more

We’ve had a rough couple of days around here, and it is time to turn it around. Despite the enormous amount of energy it takes to pack up three little ones and take them to the neighborhood pool alone, I am going to do it. They need it. I need it. It’s time to breathe some fresh air into our summer routine. I am ready for a change.

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Snack time at the pool!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One Mom’s Return to the Work Force

By: Aimee Tafreshi

ID-100338823Like many moms today, I worked a full-time job when I gave birth to my first child. I remember how hard it was to leave my baby after my 12 weeks of maternity leave were up—a generous policy compared to many work places, yet meager compared to other parts of the world. I blinked back tears as I commuted to my office and felt a huge part of me left behind at home.

I also remember the day I packed up my office for the last time, a few weeks before my little girl’s second birthday. I would miss looking out my wall of windows to behold the Capitol and downtown Austin—I doubted I would ever score such a view again—but I looked forward to my freedom and more time with my growing toddler.

Back then, I was a single mom, sharing custody with my child’s father. I saw my daughter for two hours each weeknight after work and every other weekend. She lived with me, but the practice of law is a jealous mistress. The rest of her time was spent with my devoted, Spanish-speaking nanny or my child’s father. It was probably these circumstances that led me to walk away from the work force at the time, but only after I was engaged to someone able to provide financial support. Single parents have the first and foremost priority of providing a roof over a child’s head, food and health insurance; everything else is secondary.

Fast forward six years later, and I’m a mom of three, happily married and enjoying life as a freelance writer and Zumba instructor. And then life dealt me a broken foot, so teaching the latest Latin moves was out of the question. As I clomped around in my boot, I pondered my next move. I loved my free time with my kids, but in the back of my head I always wondered if I would return to the work force. I knew the longer I stayed out, the harder it would be to return. The corporate world could understand some time off to raise children—women seem to be given this latitude more than men—but how long of an absence was acceptable? Five years? Ten years? Six years had elapsed since my time at a law firm, and I decided it was time to dabble my feet in the water again.

While sidelined, I reactivated my bar license and had fun watching continuing legal education videos about white-collar crime. This may sound fairly boring, but as far as the law is concerned, this is exciting and interesting stuff. I spent a week’s worth of time applying for a few prosecutor positions with the Department of Justice. They happened to be hiring in a nearby big city, and those opportunities don’t pop up everyday. I have no prosecutorial experience, but being in the courtroom going after bad guys has always been a dream of mine. Of course, it may not be the job most compatible with balancing motherhood, but I would worry about those details later.

Fast forward a few months, and the feds hadn’t called yet. As I mentally prepared for my foot surgery, I periodically checked out the online job listings to see if anything fit my requirements and vice versa. Most legal jobs here are out of the question because I am not licensed to practice law in Florida, and there’s no way in heck I’m sitting for another bar exam. One day I saw a listing for a part-time job where I actually understood most of the responsibilities and seemed to meet their hiring criteria. I quickly shot them my resume and a hastily written cover letter, as I didn’t want to waste multiple hours on an application only to hear crickets in response. My surgery was coming up soon, but I figured it would be months until I’d hear a response; after all, the job posting was brand new.

Lo and behold, I received an email requesting a telephone interview. I was floored and realized I hadn’t interviewed for a job since 2006. The timing was interesting. I was scheduled to have surgery the very next day. After much thought, I brilliantly (or stupidly) set up the interview for the following morning, hours before my surgery. I didn’t want to risk fielding questions while under the influence of post-surgery pain meds. I would go through an interview sans caffeine (or anything), as I was about to undergo general anesthesia. I’ve never experienced a job interview without adequate hydration or caffeine coursing through my veins. I told myself this was all mental and that I could do it. I was so nervous about the interview that the impending procedure became an afterthought.

The phone call seemed to go okay. I didn’t really think the interviewer was too impressed, and I figured I did not get the position. To my surprise, I received a job offer at the end of the week, as I floated around in my post-surgery stupor, non-weight-bearing for nearly one month. I was excited but also very scared. I was returning to the world of deadlines, responsibility beyond my family and the billable hour.

Two months into the job, and it is the perfect fit for my life. I work remotely and bill about 30 hours per week. The company is flexible and doesn’t micromanage my time. I can go to work in pajamas with greasy hair and don’t have a commute. The hardest part is the aspect I struggled with years ago—mommy guilt. When I got the gig, we scrambled and had to put all of the kids in full-time care, not an easy feat at times during the summer. Luckily, there were a few day camp options, and my youngest son’s school goes year round and caters to working parents.

A part of me felt guilty at first. As my foot healed and I regained my ability to walk, and could finally fit my deflating big foot in flip-flops, I wondered, shouldn’t I be hauling the kids every day to some cool summer location, like the beach, pool, or the museum? I know the days are long and the years are short, and I don’t take a day for granted with them. But then I thought back to my days as a single, working mother, and I remembered what I did back then to cope.

When I came home from work, I completely switched into “at home” mode. My attention was on my daughter for those two hours before her bedtime. My nanny tried to bathe her but I insisted on having that duty, as I needed every minute with her. I treasured reading to her each night as we rocked. I remember waking up most Saturday mornings to attend a parent and me music class, as we often rushed home afterwards so her father could pick her up for his time.

When you work, you don’t necessarily miss out. You just have to become more present when you are with your kids. Ask them about their day, look them in the eyes, engage them in conversation, put down your phone. For working parents, most of these things are no-brainers because you can’t wait to see your little ones at the end of each day. You are tired, but you find that extra reserve of energy and enthusiasm to share with your greatest work in life: your children.

You also become a weekend warrior. When you have a blank canvas of a week in front of you, Saturday and Sunday don’t seem as crucial to fill with meaningful time. As a family, I feel like we have really lived life lately. We’ve been to the beach, the pool, the zoo, church, brunch, the movies . . . we are exhausted come Sunday evening, and sometimes the solitude on Monday morning after the kids are dropped off is a welcome one.

Whether you work outside of the home, at home or stay at home with your little ones, I can say there is no easy path. You can only choose the best option for your family, and make the most of your precious time together.

Aimee Tafreshi is a freelance writer and attorney who also contributes to Nameberry.com and her own blog once in a blue moon, aimeetafreshi.com. She is also a mother and professional chauffeur to three spirited, young children.

Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Bitty Baby Box

I have finally made it to my last week of school… Ever.

teacher owl

I’m going to miss (most of) my kids and all of the ladies on the 4th grade team who I’ve been so fortunate to work with, but I can pretty much guarantee a happy dance as I walk out of my classroom for the last time on Friday. Gone will be the days of endless grading, the pressure of statewide testing, unnecessary meetings, high-maintenance parents, and bureaucratic crapola in general.

I can permanently delete my five o’clock alarm, say goodbye to eating breakfast in the car, and possibly even find the time to make dinner… Possibly. Jack will get me at my best now instead of twelve hours deep into my day when I am mentally spent. Checked out. Basically brain dead. Twenty-four 4th graders can do that to you. But then again so can a 10-month-old… Maybe things won’t be so different after all?

The past few days we’ve been hinting about our latest endeavor on the LWO Facebook page… The Bitty Baby Box. I am so excited about our monthly subscription box which will consist of organic products from home and abroad, such as food samples, articles of clothing, and other baby necessities that we can’t wait to share with you. We are starting small and offering only twelve subscriptions for our first shipment mid-July. Here is the age/gender availability breakdown:

girl

0-6 months- 3 boxes

6-12 months- 3 boxes

boy

0-6 months- 3 boxes

6-12 months- 3 boxes

A one-month subscription will cost $30/box including shipping. Checkout our Facebook page to peek into our July box! If you would like to reserve your spot for the month of July, fill out a registration form here.

 

The Epiphany

The baby is screaming.

The dogs are frenzied.

The house alarm is blaring.

I need a cocktail.

This is how my evening unfolds after picking Baby J up from his childcare each day. I park my car, unlock the back gate, and marvel as complete chaos unfolds before my eyes, as if I am watching it for the very first time.

I’ve been struggling to balance my life as a teacher and my life as a mother and wife since returning to school in November. When I get home from work, I feel an enormous amount of pressure to maximize my time with sweet Jack. We need to play and snuggle and sing and talk. After all, that is what he does at his in-home daycare every day. If I don’t interact with him as they do, will he favor them over me?

So we get home, and despite my urge to collapse on the couch and zone out to E! News, I somehow muster up the energy to engage with my baby. It’s not that I don’t want to; I absolutely do. But because I have been engaging with a classroom full of ten-year-olds all day, I’m running on fumes.

I had an epiphany this week… Why I am trying to force Jack to play when he is just as tired as I am? Whether it’s exercise, couch-time, or a few minutes of solitude, everyone needs a chance to decompress after a long day, babies included. Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?

Wednesday afternoon was one of the best days I have had with Jack since my maternity leave ended, as I made a few minor adjustments to our regular routine that turned out to be quite profound. First of all, I placed Jack in his Snug-a-Bunny bouncer where he was able to drink a bottle while relaxing to soothing vibrations and peaceful melodies. During this time, I loaded/unloaded the dishwasher. When J finished his bottle, I didn’t rush to move him elsewhere to prevent potential boredom. Instead, I allowed him to just be.

The result? A happy baby who proceeded to babble away for the next half hour or so.

After dishes, it was on to the laundry. J’s clothes had occupied the dryer for the better half of a week, and I was tired of digging through the load each morning to find a pair of matching socks or a clean onesie to lay out for my husband- And no, my husband does not wear onesies. He was relieved of all wardrobe duties after several failed attempts of dressing the baby on his own.

While I sorted Jack’s folded laundry and put it away in his dresser, he relaxed in the MamaROO, which he seems to enjoy more now than he did as a newborn. I plugged my iPhone into the swing and turned Pandora onto a lullaby station. By the time I put away Jack’s last pair of pants, we were both in a state of utter tranquility.

I paused briefly to revel in the moment. I managed to tune out the incessant chatter of my busy mind.

Warm sun rays slid through the sheer panel curtains, illuminating the nursery in afternoon light. Time seemed to stand still as Jack and I locked eyes from across the room. He smiled at me. I smiled at him. Such a simple expression conveyed so many feelings at once, some of which I still can’t quite put into words. We smiled out of love, we smiled out of joy, and we smiled because we knew that this was not the the beginning of our story.

It was the most connected I have ever felt to my son.

No singing.

No playing.

No talking.

Just us.