Being a working mom – Is it good or bad for my kids?

Recently in the news, the Pew Research Center found that in 40% of American households, women were the primary breadwinners.  However, most of these women were single mothers.  After reading the article in the Washington Post, I went on to read the comments section to see what were people’s reactions.  The responses were divided mostly into those praising women for their accomplishments and others expressing their concern over the rise of the number of single mothers and how children should have at least one parent at home.

I struggle with those same conflicting feelings and it was really highlighted when I got the results of Katherine’s gifted and talented test results.  Fortunately, she qualified but when I looked at some of her achievement scores, 4 out of the 6 sections were in the 70th percentile.  I wasn’t too disappointed, just realized there are some areas that might need some work.  But when I told my mother (who happens to be very Chinese when it comes to education), she said, “Well, I don’t want to make you feel bad and it’s not really your fault, but when you guys were young, I spent a lot of time working with you kids at home.”  Which really meant that it was my fault because I was working a full time job and not teaching Katherine at home.

I think my mom saw the conflict as well because she wasn’t telling me to quit my job to be a stay at home mom.  She really didn’t have an answer as to what to do and most of the time she is full of answers.  She was a stay at home mom for 10 years and after getting a divorce she went back to working two part time jobs.  She didn’t make that much money and we never saw her much.  The lesson to be learned was “Never depend on a man.”  So here I am, not depending on a man, even supporting a man through the early stages of a business, and somehow I still haven’t gotten it right.

I don’t know that I could ever be a full time stay at home mom.  I love what I do.  I know I am helping people and it is incredibly satisfying.  I spent a lot of time and money getting here, and right now, I don’t have a choice.  But I love my children more than anything in the world and no one is going to be able to raise them better than me.  So on any given day, you could find me on either side of the opposing views in the comments section of the Washington Post.  It just depends on how much time I’ve spent with my kids the day before.

Will I ever find the right balance?  Does society allow for such a balance?  I guess for now, my internal conflict will just have to continue…

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What I have learned from being a single parent for 7 months

My husband moved to Houston in November of last year to open his own practice.  I decided to move down later because it would make finding childcare easier at the end of the school year and it gave me time to prepare the house for selling and moving.  It also allowed my husband to focus his time and energy on building his practice.

Now that I have sold our home, moved out of our house and am ready to drive down to Houston with my two girls to join my husband, I am taking a moment to pause and think about what this experience has made me realize.

1.  Being a single parent sucks.

It is just exhausting.  After working a full time job, having to come home and take care of your kids is tiring (and this is with the help of nanny!).   Also, on the weekends, it becomes a full day job.  I enjoy doing fun things with my kids on the weekends, but it’s trying to get the laundry done, go grocery shopping and cleaning the house on top of watching the kids that becomes challenge.  I have a whole new level of respect for those who are single parents.

2.  I appreciate my husband so much more now.

I used to complain that I always did more than my husband.  Sometimes when we argued, I would say, “You never do anything around here!”  That would get him very angry.  Now that he is actually doing nothing in the house because he is not here, I realized how much he really did help me.

3.  Help a single parent out whenever you can.

I sold our outdoor basketball hoop to a woman who wanted it for her son’s birthday.  I had to take it apart (with the help of my father) for her.  When she came to pick it up, I found out that she was divorced and had a 7 year old son.  I could tell she wasn’t all that handy and asked her if she had anyone that might be able to help her put the hoop back together.  She was from Australia and had no family in the area and mentioned that one of her girl friends might have a few tools.  I felt bad for her because she didn’t have the kind of support that I had.  It made me conscious that there are single mothers out there that don’t have someone to fix things around the house for them, help them with their cars, watch their kids, etc.

4. Do everything you can to not be a single parent.

For me, this means making my marriage work.  I’ll admit, it’s been hard work and sometimes the grass may seem greener on the other side.  But ultimately, it is the best thing for my kids and provides them with a healthy balance by having two parents’ time to occupy.  I know this doesn’t always work for everyone else, but I will be right there until the end, fighting to make my marriage work.  Divorce is not an option for me.

Though this is not the first time my husband has been away (two Army deployments), this has been the longest and hardest, with the challenges of selling a house and moving thrown in there.  It has given me a new perspective on parenting and marriage and I hope never to have to do it again.

Teaching Kids the Value of Money – A Failed Experiment

One day, my daughter Katherine told me she wanted a Barbie doll.  (By the way, she already has seven, more than I had in my entire childhood…)

Well, you need money to buy that.

“How do I get money?”

You need a job.

“What’s a job?”

A job is something you do for someone and then someone gives you money for doing it.

“Can I have a job?”

I paused for moment.  I had flutters in my stomach thinking about how I could use this opportunity to teach Katherine the value of money and claim it is as one of my great achievements in parenting.  I had to quickly think of something she could do.  What could a five year old do to earn money?

If you put your pajamas away in the morning, I will give you a quarter.

She gave me a look.  “A quarter?  How about a dollar?”

I was taken aback.  Apparently, this child knew more about money than I had thought.  I started to do the math… a dollar a day, 30 dollars a month, 360 dollars a year?!?  Do you know how many hours of babysitting I had to do as a teenager to make that kind of money?

Why don’t we start with a quarter.

“Okay,”  she said with a bit of disappointment.

The next day I reminded her of her “job”.  She put her pajamas away and I gave her a quarter.  She seemed excited.  This continued for a few days and then Katherine lost interest and didn’t seem to care about the quarters she earned from her “job”.  Instead, she found it easier and more satisfying to take the quarters off my dresser than having to do some work.

Now, as Katherine shakes her piggy bank filled with quarters from around the house and proudly proclaims, “Look how much money I have!”,  I think about when the next opportunity might present itself and how I might be successful next time at accomplishing what I want.  Will she ever understand how hard her mommy and daddy have worked to allow those quarters to so easily slip into her hands?  I guess only time will tell…

Being a Soccer Mom – Can I live up to it?

I am not sure if you are all aware, but it’s softball season.

Why is that important?  Well, all the mothers of those girls who are playing softball are going to have to add all the games to their schedules and that can get kind of hectic.  At least that is what my technologist and one of my patients were telling me.

So you have to go to all of their games?  I only remember my mother coming to one of my sporting events when I was in high school.

“Oh no.  It’s standard now.  You’d be considered a bad parent if you didn’t go,” my technologist tells me.

Really?  I suddenly got this sinking feeling.  Just recently, my daughter told me she wanted to play soccer.  This is in addition to piano lessons and dance class.  Not to mention I have another daughter who I also don’t want to deprive.  Right now, I feel like I can barely handle one activity!  As I tried to imagine myself juggling all of these activities after a full day of work, I envisioned being able to drop them off (maybe two of them at the same time) and maybe run some errands before I had to pick them up.  Or, I could have a babysitter drop them off.  Keep the kids occupied so I might have some time to do other things.  Well, that just went out the window.

So, as I checked out the schedules for soccer camps, I wondered if I was going to be able add soccer mom to the list of other titles I carry.  Can I live up to it?  I guess only time will tell…