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I am a working mother

21 Jun

I am a working mother. I provide quality care for other people’s children between 4-10 hours every week–plus 2hrs of prep & cleanup as well as snack/meal planning. I tutor and counsel other people’s second graders for 5 hours every week. I also spend 1-2/hrs each week researching, collecting, and/or printing materials for the classroom. I engage my relationships and skills as a professional fundraiser and advocate to procure donations, collect information, communicate with families and students, and connect students & families with staff and district resources. Let’s average that over the school year to about an hour/week and we’ve got a minimum average of…12 hours every week of skilled labor that directly benefits a wide variety of kids and their families. Many weeks are a lot more, some involve a few less.

It’s not a full-time gig, but it’s important work and even people who actively dislike me have to admit that I’m pretty damn good at it.  No one can deny I’m extremely qualified for this job.

I have extensive experience and relationships working in women’s health, public health & humans services, education, and public policy. I’m an effective advocate and activist with a proven track record for bringing people together. I’m confident, experienced, and extremely skilled in a variety of specialized areas (volunteer coordination, fund development, communications, education) that have been focused on kids 0-12 and their families for over 20 years.

My educational background is complicated (reflecting the diversity of my experiences and interests), but can be summed up as a BA, a 3 year certificate in midwifery (not officially a Masters, but should be), and–most recently–a certificate as an English as a Second Language instructor.

I am a working mother. I don’t get a salary, retirement, or benefits directly attached to my work in my name. As far as the mothers who work in offices are concerned, I’m a “stay at home mom” who can & probably should be replaced by low-paid staff and long email chains. My role in the backup childcare ecosystem is necessary but painful for them to recognize, as is the reality of our school system lacking the basic budget to provide the services I am able to contribute every single day. I’m able to offer my professional services to other families for free because my family’s financial needs are met by my partner. I’m able to take responsibility for 85% of the work involved in caring for our home and our child because my partner is paid enough to pay our bills, buy snacks & materials for the classroom, and feed every child who walks through our door.

I have chosen to take advantage of this privilege because I believe that my skills and labor bring value to our community, as well as my family. I accept the trade-offs of my choices (for now) because I have the privilege and hubris to believe that I will be financially secure in my “retirement” age, despite not earning Social Security credits for my unpaid labor.

I usually don’t engage the women who refer to themselves as “working mothers” (I’ve never met a man who defines himself as a “working father”, by the way). I usually ignore the open judgement of my choices and contributions, because…there really isn’t a point.  I’m no longer shocked or even particularly offended by the disdain that women who “work outside the home” have for what I do because…I’m just as tired as they are. I’m just as focused on the well-being of our kids, just as motivated to work for change, equally as outraged by the incredible gender inequity in everything involving children and family care. I’m also outraged by the racism and classism of outsourcing childcare, meal preparation, and house cleaning to poorly paid workers who have to make complicated and difficult arrangements for their own lives. I can’t express my sense of overwhelming hopelessness at how poorly funded our public education system is, or my fear for the future as we continue to fail to invest in youth and families. I do what I can to advocate for the changes we need…but I fear it’s not enough.

I’m a feminist, an optimist, and a pragmatic cynic. I’m a mother, a daughter, a neighbor, a partner, and a friend. I fill in the blanks, pick up the slack, wipe the noses and always pack a ton of snacks. A lot of kids benefit from what I do (including my own) and I’m cool with that. I am a working mother and I like my job.

 

 

 

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Hora feliz con ninos

14 Apr

My baby has survived infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool. She started Kindergarten in 2015, which put a serious cramp in our happy hour action because she was EXHAUSTED after school. Six hours is too long for 5 year olds. I can (and will–oh, yes I will) opine about school another time. Right now, I want to write about being happy.

I probably had postpartum depression. I most certainly struggled with a major depression between my daughter’s 2nd-5th year, and I’m still figuring out mood stuff and self care. I’d love to have a series of “Really Good Days” like Ayelet Waldman but unless one of you sends me a little blue bottle that’s going to take some effort. Even if you do, which would be creepy (but cool!) I still need to work on building a happy life.

We just returned from 7 weeks in Costa Rica. I’m not going to say every minute of every day was pure bliss, but I was happy a lot of the time. I need to break down why I love travel so much (for myself, though I might subject y’all to some of the navel-gazing) but right now I really want to share my brilliant travel hacks.

Pack light

This isn’t exactly original advice, but there’s a reason so many people recommend traveling carry-on: it’s awesome. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it takes some planning and trial-and error. The goal is to pack only what you and your child(ren) can carry by yourselves, from plane to bus–upstairs, downstairs, in the rain, on the sand. You’ll save time and money, and you’re going to learn what you really value and need.

Plan

  • How will you ditch extra stuff?
    • ship it home (this is a great way to unload cold-weather gear when you’re moving on to warmer regions)
      • NOTE: shipping is expensive and can be time-consuming.
      • You almost always need your passport at the post office–plan ahead.
    • give it away (ask around–does anyone need or want your hoodie?)
    • throw it out (you do not need to bring that half-full tube of sunscreen home)

I try to avoid carrying any toiletries if I’m going somewhere that I can buy them–especially if my first stop will be a hostel or hotel that provides the basics. It’s cheaper and much easier to buy a bottle of shampoo or sunscreen than to check a bag. If you’re going somewhere really remote and/or have extremely special needs and 3oz of product won’t last your entire trip, consider shipping yourself your special products in advance.

Souvenirs & gifts

Your friends and family back home would rather get a postcard in the mail than anything you’re going to haul home. If you’re committed to supporting the local economy & really really really want to purchase a gift or momento, ship it back. Don’t carry it around in your luggage. Yes, it can be expensive to ship things. It’s also expensive to check bags.

Some of our favorite souvenirs: free maps of the small towns we visit, coasters, stickers…flat, light stuff. I’ve started collecting bottle caps from my favorite beers. Every member of our family is allowed to buy one thing during a trip. Coming home from Costa Rica,we brought a stuffed bat & the kid got a stuffed sloth. We also grabbed some coffee and chocolate at the airport store for teacher gifts.

We do not bring home nature items: shells, rocks, etc are part of the ecosystem. They need to stay on the beach. The kid likes to collect her favorites during a trip, then make a big ceremonial fairy castle the night before we leave.

We take a ton of pictures of the cool stuff we see and do, and keep notes and journals. We’re not going to forget just because we didn’t buy that shirt, or the hammock chair.

Laundry

Most of us don’t go on vacation because we want to do laundry in exotic places. However, even if you pack your entire wardrobe (not recommended), you’re going to need to wash clothes. I buy the smallest possible amount of laundry detergent (dry) and a package of clothespins, then wash laundry in the sink wherever we’re staying. Many places have laundry service, which can be a life-saver if the climate (or your time) doesn’t allow for line-drying.

Happy Hour travel essentials

In the purse/pockets/diaper bag–carry with you always

  • multi-function tool with a minimum of scissors & bottle opener
  • plastic utensils & cloth napkins, small snacks
  • hygiene supplies: roll of medical tape, mini-pads, alcohol wipes, large bandage, small bandage, ziplock bags
  • entertainment: ballpoint pen, paper, playing cards, tiny toys
  • ID, a little cash & your bank card

In the swim bag/at the beach (use a tote, backpack, plastic bag, large purse…)

  • sunscreen stick
  • towel
  • water bottle (your fancy insulated bottle or reuse a plastic bottle)
  • extra plastic bag for storing wet clothes/sandy shoes
  • dry shirt or dress for the kid/s (who WILL complain of “freezing” the very moment the sun comes down, before or just as your drink arrives)

Random notes

I dislike wearing wristbands, so I cut them off while I’m out wandering and then reattach using the medical tape. The medical tape is also useful for small cuts. Use the mini-pad as a sterile gauze pad for larger injuries, using medical tape to keep it in place. Large bandages are very useful; small bandaids only exist to help someone feel better about an owie.

Entertainment

On the beach, in the forest, etc we do what we’re there to do: hike, swim, build castles, look at animals, play with rocks & sticks, talk to people, play with animals, daydream…there’s really no reason to pull out an electronic device unless you’re taking photos. (In my extremely biased opinion.)

I’m not a complete Luddite (obviously) but I don’t want my kid (or myself) plugged into a phone all the time. We don’t give her (and we don’t use) devices in public places, with the exception of transit (bus or plane) and even then limit the time. Screen time during this last trip was pretty much reserved for siesta–the hottest part of the day. We hung out in the hammock with a book, game, TV show, or homework activity.

Since we also don’t carry a lot of paper books, it can be challenging to keep ourselves occupied during the many situations where we had to wait. Since we only have one kid, we needed activities that everyone would enjoy (or at least not hate).

Some games we played with the almost-8 year old during long restaurant waits/layovers/hotel stays, etc:

  • gin rummy
  • UNO (oh, how I LOATHE the UNO box)
  • dots
  • tic tac toe (sparingly)
  • chess or checkers (we actually bought a mini chess set this trip)
    • draw a board on a piece of paper if you don’t want to carry a board–which you don’t

 

 

 

Summer blog reading

12 Aug

Love this post from PhD in Parenting. “Cocktail of Judgement” describes the latest “Mommy War” between two groups that I didn’t realize were rivals: Pot Smoking Moms vs Wine Moms

I’d rather hang out with either than Sober Moms. 

Maggie at Mighty Girl has added a new feature: Mighty Thirst. Incredible drink recipes. Check ’em out. 

The Other Happy Hour

22 Jun
The Other Happy Hour by melissajonas
The Other Happy Hour, a photo by melissajonas on Flickr.

BOKA baby

19 Jun
BOKA baby by melissajonas
BOKA baby, a photo by melissajonas on Flickr.

I enjoyed a champagne cocktail with a late lunch today at BOKA. Sylvia enjoyed a well-deserved nap.

Not officially happy hour by the clock, but definitely a happy hour.

BOKA happy hour runs from 2:30-6pm and includes $4 small plates that are delicious. Servers are incredibly friendly and the food is good. When Sylvia’s awake, we take advantage of the lobby for exploring/admiring art while we wait for our food. The decor includes walls that change colors–always a hit with the toddler set.

BOKA is located at 1010 First Ave Seattle, WA 98104 on 1st between Madison & Spring in the Hotel 1000 building.

14 Jun

It shouldn’t be national news when a kid stays in the bathroom a little too long. I’m surprised the security detail wasn’t more responsible–it is their job to keep track of these folks.

FreeRangeKids

Hey Folks — Here’s a little anecdote to start your day. Apparently the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, left his 8-year-old daughter in a pub. It was (almost) the usual kind of mix up: He left with his bodyguards and assumed she was with his wife and the other kids. Mom (or, I guess, “Mum”) assumed the girl was with daddy. In fact, she was in the bathroom and emerged to find her family gone.

While the Associated Press reports the parents were “distraught” when they realized she wasn’t with either, they called the pub and learned she was fine. She’d been separated from the fam for about 15 minutes. So why is any of this worthy of anything more than an amused smile that we’re all in this together?

SEE THE POST BELOW THIS ONE! That’s why!

In Tennessee, a woman who couldn’t find her kids for a short while was…

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24 May

When you can’t go out, what do you eat at home? Here are some great ideas for easy dinners to help get your happy on at home.