My brother and sister-in-law visited last weekend, and my sister and I took them out to see the lights in midtown. I thought I'd share with ya'll some of the highlights. Enjoy!
My brother and sister-in-law visited last weekend, and my sister and I took them out to see the lights in midtown. I thought I'd share with ya'll some of the highlights. Enjoy!
Message #1: Dad should be the bread-winner, no matter how hard he has to work, to provide for stay-at-home mom and kids.
This message means well, insisting that kids need a stable parent (Mom) to raise them and care for them while the other (Dad) is working. What bothers me is the unintended consequences: Dad ends up taking a job he hates to pay the bills, or a job that has him working 50-60-70-80 hours a week, or even two jobs. This message insinuates that the only thing children really need Dad for is his money/provision and a little guidance on the weekends. I emphatically disagree with this. Children need their fathers and need them more than just bath-time some evenings and weekend afternoons.
Message #1A (Church-version of above): Men are created by God to provide, which means they must be the bread-winners, and women are created by God to nurture, which means they must stay at home to raise children.
Pretty darn similar to Message #1, except justified by God's differential design of men and women. Now, I'm totally on board with the idea that God created men and women differently for some specific plan, but I am just not convinced that He created men to work at a job away from home most of the time while women struggle by themselves to raise children. God created both men and women as parents. Plus, He must think pretty highly of the importance of fatherhood, since He calls Himself Father. If, as Christians, we're doing God's work by insisting that men bear the burden of full-time work while women raise the children, I don't think we're fully appreciating the importance of fathers. Also, I don't think this view really appreciates the fact that God may have given women gifts that are being ignored, even repressed, in this scenario.
Message #2: It's the new millenium, both parents should work, and children can be raised by daycares/schools. Independence is good for you!
This message also intends well, since it's the natural outgrowth of the feminist movement. Women should become exactly like men, as men currently exist. Since men currently work 50+ hours a week, if women want to be equal, then they too should work 50+ hours a week. This is clearly just stressing everyone out. And we are completely devaluing parenting in general. We're saying that daycares and schools do just as good a job as parents? We are paying $20,000 a year for someone else to teach our children? Now, I'm not totally qualified to speak to this, since my oldest is not quite 3, but it rubs me wrong that we expect others to care for and teach our children as well as we could. Reminds me of Plato's Republic, the disturbing part of the book.
Message #2A (Church counter-position to the above): Men are created by God to provide, so they can keep doing whatever they're doing, but women are created by God to nurture - AND secular schools are trying to destroy our children - so good mothers will stay home to raise their children, but the BEST mothers will homeschool their children. Bonus points for every child you homeschool. Extra bonus points for having them memorize Scripture.
Okay, I'm poking a little fun here. In all seriousness, I do think parents should be much more involved in their children's schooling than they generally are. Memorizing Scripture is also probably good for all of us. But, again, this insists that Dads should still spend the majority of their time and guilts Moms into homeschooling. Well, heck, what if it's Dads who should homeschool and Moms who should provide? Well, that just screws up the whole created by God for specific tasks argument.
Message #3: It's the new millenium, so Dads can stay home, if they want, and Moms can go to work, if they want.
This message has interesting intentions, freeing individuals up to work or parent as they see fit or feel called to do. A couple of issues, still. Again, we're saying one parent is more important than the other, one is disposable for 50+ hours a week. Also, we're beginning to say that "good" Dads want to stay home. Let's just put everyone on various guilt trips, right? If you're a good Dad, you'll stay home, if you're the typical, emotionally-distant, non-nurturing kind of Dad, it's okay for you to go to work.
Those are the main messages that I feel like I hear, and I feel uncomfortable with all of them. Hence, my frustrated post last time. What's the answer? Some might suggest retreating to a family farm or something, but, as a Christian, I think we need to learn to live in such a way as to impact culture, to be in but not of.
At this moment in time, I would love to see some crazy system, where Moms and Dads both work something like 25-ish hours a week, so we might call it the "Dual Part-Time Parent Plan," and it might work out something like this:
Monday - Mom works 6 hours, Dad stays home with kids.
Tuesday - Mom works 6 hours, Dad stays home with kids.
Wednesday - Mom and Dad each work 6 hours, babysitter or family or tutor with kids.
Thursday - Mom and Dad each work 6 hours, babysitter or family or tutor with kids.
Friday - Mom stays home with kids, Dad works 6 hours.
Saturday - Mom stays home with kids, Dad works 6 hours.
Sunday - Everyone's at home together.
This model would not be easily adopted because Americans love weekends. Honestly, though, we spend half of our weekends just trying to rest from the stressful week. Or we travel and exhaust ourselves more. This kind of model would work better if people lived close to family and friends and didn't travel as much. Now, I know, Chad and I are traveling fools, but we would probably prefer to see family more regularly for something like Saturday night dinner and just take a week off to travel somewhere cool. That's totally doable with my "Dual Part-Time Parent Plan."
Does anyone else feel these messages in our culture? Do you think the arguments I set up are too simplistic or don't adequately represent the true message? Are there any messages that I missed? I churn through these thoughts actually quite often, and my sister is probably sick of hearing them, so I need new insight from other people! Comment below! :)
I would like to note that I know parents who are amazing parents, in spite of difficult work circumstances. In some cases, just the father works, and both parents are extremely involved. Or both parents work and work hard, and they're very in tune with their kids' lives. I hear tell of fathers who stay at home and working mothers who are still present for the kids' lives. I don't want to sound like I'm saying that these situations make it impossible to parent and parent well, but I do think these messages are pervasive in our culture and make parenting, arguably a phenomenally important job, even more difficult than it already is. And, yet, think, when you hear a woman lamenting that working is difficult and then say that parenting is phenomenally important, what's your first thought? I'll bet it's, "Well, then, lady, stay home with your kids." And I just want you to think about that immediate mental jump.
Today, I woke up and really, really didn't want to get out of bed. Ewan's first bottle was at 4:00 am. Thank goodness Chad was rested enough that he didn't mind giving him that one! Usually that's my duty. Ewan was up again at 5:30am, so I got up then, and Cora was right after him. The morning rushed along, Laura came, and before I knew it, I was walking very quickly to catch my train and trying to piece together my Social Psych lecture in my head.
Commuting, class, another class, more commuting, and I get home just in time for Ewan to be asking for his second-to-last bottle while Cora's asking for dinner.
Oh no, what's for dinner. Gosh, don't all the moms out there hate that question. Sometimes, I am so on my game. I have this cute little printable that I made, and I order groceries days ahead of time and plan out all our little meals. Heck, sometimes I even have a meal in the crock pot.
But more times than I'd like to admit, I come home and my little orange printable is of no help at all. Kids crying, my head is in the fridge, and I'm wondering what I can piece together. For instance, tonight was: black beans from a can, heated up with leftover chicken in a pineapple salsa, poured over minute rice, served with a side of eat-the-spinach-before-it-goes-bad. Actually, I thought it was kind of tasty.
Well, Cora took one bite and said, "It's spicy!" It was mild pineapple salsa, so I really didn't think it was spicy, but who am I to force a toddler to eat mild peppers? Sooo, she ate PB&J. Happily, I suppose that's the important point. Then, it was clean up time. How does a mom handle cleaning up dinner with a toddler and a baby?
The toddler helps,
and the baby either takes his evening cat nap or cries.
Then, it's bath, books, and bed for Cora - don't forget to call Dada to say goodnight. Then, get Ewan for his last bottle, and let him play on the high pile rug while I edit a research proposal. He finally goes to bed and mama needs a beer and some major decompression time. But not too much decompression time because 4:30am comes early. (Short rhetorical vent of frustration: WHY the heck can't I break this 4:30am thing?! Cora never had these sleeping problems. We do a controlled cry it out, we make sure the evening catnap the night before is short, we give him a bottle as late as possible in the evening before. *sigh*)
Does anyone out there want to guess what one of my class discussions was on today?
Gender roles and women in the work place.
Now, I've got a beer in my hand, and I'm thinking I really want to read a leisure book for a few minutes and just conk out in bed, so this is going to be a to-be-continued post. But, being a modern mother is hard. I'm not saying it's not hard for the men. I mean, I know Chad doesn't want to work until all hours of the night. But it's not easy on the women either, that's for sure.
I will say that I am so, so glad that Ewan hit the six-month mark and we transitioned successfully onto formula. Because nursing is freaking hard.
A teaser thought, so you can anticipate the next post: Why do women tend to not get the high-power, high-pay, high-prestige jobs in the way that men do? Do women just lack aggression, leadership skills, and the get it done attitude or mental acuity? Do women choose lower-paying jobs so they can have part-time or flexible work hours? Are men and women so steeped in their gender roles of men should make the money and women should take care of the house that women go literally crazy when they attempt to work and take care of the house so one has to go?
Is it worth it? I would love for my kids to grow up with a father who doesn't have to work all.the.time and a mother who is successful and competent and contributing to society somehow. Is this rigamarole worth it, though?
Oh, I'm rambling. If you have thoughts, do share. I need to go let mine ferment.
So, we wait in line for a few hours, vote, get a sticker, and post on Facebook, "See? I voted!" And we think our civic duty has just been completed.
If our guy loses, we lean back in our chairs, smack our hands together, and say, "I wash my hands of this mess. The next four years isn't my fault or my problem." In fact, when our guy loses, we secretly want things to go badly so we can say, "See, I told you so" and get our guy in office next go-round.
If our guy wins, we lean back in our chairs, breathe a sigh of relief, and say, "Whew, my job here is done. I elected the right guy, and he'll take care of the rest for us."
But voting is not the most important thing we can do as Americans. Honestly, if we don't live in Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, or Florida, our vote probably was meaningless. But if we're searching for a way to truly impact lives around us, perhaps we should take a moment to actually look around us.
If we cared as much about local politics as we do about the general election, imagine the good we could do for our neighbors.
But I know local politics is difficult for us in our 20s and 30s to get excited about. Our generation is on the move. My husband and I have lived in Texas, Colorado, Tennessee, New Jersey, and New York. I'm not even sure I knew the mayors of more than half of the cities in which I've lived. (And I'm not even counting study abroad or working abroad experiences.)
In fact, let me fess up to how my moving lifestyle has affected my own political actions. I wasn't even registered to vote in NY. I still had my NJ license. I remembered checking the box when getting my NJ license to automatically register me to vote, but I guess it didn't go through because NJ didn't have me on the books as a registered voter. So, I didn't even vote this election. The pressure to vote in the general election is so great that I haven't even admitted this to most of my friends. But, the rational side of me knows that my vote wouldn't have even mattered in NJ or NY.
If I don't stay in one city or state long enough to ensure that I'm licensed to drive there and registered to vote there, how can I possibly say that I'm going to get involved with local politics?
And all I can think about is how badly I want to move back to Texas.
So, how can our generation, so open to moving, so transitory, how can we focus more on local politics, which is where we can make the most difference?
I don't know, and I'm trying to figure this out for myself. How do you get involved with your local politics or communities or churches? How do you plug in with your neighborhood? This migratory girl is looking for some feedback/suggestions and hoping to inspire you to plug in locally too.
P.S. Like the new color scheme? Hoping to make more changes soon.
Working moms and stay-at-home moms often seem to propose that working part-time is the end all, be all perfect solution to life. I'm not so sure, though. I often wonder about going to work full-time or quitting my part-time gigs to focus on the kids full-time. Right now, I'm in the part-time limbo. Honestly, I'm trying to decide if I'm happy, and maybe writing through things will help.
I'm an adjunct faculty member at Molloy College, where I teach two classes. I'm teaching Intro Sociology again. This third time around, and I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it. Actually, I'm probably overly confident, since there have been several classes where I walk in with only a vague idea of what we're supposed to cover for the day and the notes I prepared last year. I'm also teaching an upper-level class, Social Psychology. I love the material that we're covering in that class - identity, group interaction, attraction and relationships, anger and prejudice - all super fascinating. But it is hard to keep up with the planning! Flying by the seat of my pants hardly even covers it. I'm scrambling, constantly. The only thing on my side is that I feel much more confident in the classroom, so even if I'm panicking on the inside ("How am I going to make this discussion stretch another 20 minutes?!"), I think I'm better about appearing calm. I get pretty good vibes from both my Intro and Social Psych class.
But I'm not just a teacher. I'm a teaching mom, and that's what makes life hard. On teaching days, I get myself and the kids ready, pack my lunch, and head out the door at the same time as Chad. (We have a really fantastic part-time nanny who stays with the kids all day.) I commute an hour and a half, via train, then shuttle, and the shuttle gets to the campus just in time for me to eat lunch while pumping. I then have 15 minutes to make copies and get to class. My classes are back-to-back, then I rush back to pump before I need to catch the shuttle to catch the train. Then, I go home, make dinner, give baths, read books, and tuck kiddos into bed - whew! Makes me tired to think about it.
A teacher's tasks are only half (or a third) classroom time, especially when teaching a class the first time around. Prepping for class, writing exams, and grading are done at home, during nap time or TV time.
My other part-time job is editing, also done at home, often after the kiddos go to sleep. This is the time of the year when I get the most freelance editing requests for academic journal articles, grant proposals, personal statements, all sorts of stuff. I like the editing, though, so I don't want to say no!
Oh, yeah, and because I'm a home-maker, I have to squeeze housework, finances, cooking, etc in there. One advantage of being a NYC mom is that we have a wash-and-fold laundromat downstairs, and I often order groceries to be delivered. So, really, I'm quite luckily in that regard.
But life has gotten a bit easier in the last couple of weeks because I decided to transition Ewan onto formula. It's always a wrestle with guilt no matter when you wean, but I decided that breastfeeding for 6 months was pretty good. I forget how much easier it is to bottle feed rather than breastfeed! I lay him on the couch, hand him his bottle, and he holds it himself while I work next to him or read a book to Cora.
So, such is the life of a part-time working mom. Is this the best combination? If I worked full-time, I'd have the nanny do things like clean the house and make dinner. If I stayed at home, I wouldn't have to do class prep or edit during nap time or after bed. Being part-time means I don't have the benefit of either, but I have the responsibilities of all the above. Is this the best way of life?
I'm not sure.
But I know that what I do want to work on is worrying less about all the tasks, getting done what I can, but making time to pause an enjoy little moments with my kids - playing legos and teaching letters to Cora, making silly "bababababa" noises with Ewan. Those moments are important, and I don't want to miss them. But I also love having a job of some sort. Oh, modern motherhood!
A few days later, one of my closet racks broke, leaving cardigans, pants, and skirts on the floor. I've moved them temporarily to another hanging location.
Later that day, I heard something that I was finally ready to hear.
Now, I commute an hour and a half twice a week to my teaching job out on Long Island, and since my commute involves walking, a train, changing to another train, waiting for a shuttle, and walking to my building, not much of that hour and a half is involves me sitting in one spot. So, I listen to podcasts, mostly about Catholic families and marriage. (Currently: The Catholics Next Door, Catholic in a Small Town, and The Stupendous Marriage Show, sometimes This American Life.)
One of the podcasts featured the idea of minimizing the amount of stuff you own. As I said, I was finally ready to hear. Joshua Becker was talking about his new book (Living with Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness) and his own experience minimizing his stuff. He's a family man, with two kids and a house in the suburbs. I thought, if he can do it, surely I can. Yes, we have two kids, but we live in New York, and, let's face it, I have way too much stuff for this little apartment.
He made several points that stuck with me (I'm paraphrasing):
-We know things can't give us happiness, so why do we invest so much time buying them, cleaning them, and organizing them?
-Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was actually serious when he said to sell your possessions and follow him. (You certainly don't need to be a Christian to be a minimalist, but this hit home for me.)
-We should use our money for more valuable causes than things, like charity. (Maybe law school loans first...)
-We should free ourselves from addictive consumerism and the never-ending comparisons.
-Plus, a host of side benefits: easier to clean, you know where stuff is, less time spent organizing.
There was one more thing that I'm not sure if Becker actually said but became clear to me after reading the book: I keep so many things for the just-in-case, maybe-someday future. Do I think I can preserve myself or my family from suffering by keeping stuff? That's probably a false sense of security that I foster with the keeping of all the stuff.
So, we are beginning Project Minimalism, with the goal of reducing the amount of stuff we own by at least 30%. My husband is on board, although I think it's implied that most of the actual cleaning out will be my task. I'm okay with that. I've started with the kitchen, since I can clean while cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It means the kitchen has been a bit of a mess for a few days, but I've just about finished!
In addition to all of the stuff that I knew I would give away because I truly don't want it anymore, there were also some things I wrestled with but ended up giving away: waffle iron, fondue pot, vaccuum sealer and accessories, cast iron pan, some vases and candlesticks. I want to challenge myself to part with things that I kind of still want but realistically don't actually need. Things I ended up keeping but thought about giving away: my spare large pot, some decorative plates from my grandmother, some decorative copperware that I don't actually use, the Nespresso machine.
I probably won't give you the play-by-play on Project Minimalism, but if there are any interesting points or personal breakthroughs, I'll let you know.
What do you think? Can I challenge you to part with at least 30% of your possessions? Have you started minimizing in your own home and found it helpful?
In an effort to focus on the positive aspects of raising a family here, let's talk about one of awesome parks that we visited over the summer!
First, Pier 6, part of Brooklyn Bridge Park. 30 minutes away, but it's beautiful and has a fantastic view of the city skyline.
Someone spent a good deal of effort in landscaping. You walk through along a path lined with bushes, and on either side, you see little bush-lined pockets of open space that have swings in them. Each pocket has only a few swings, so you can find a covert little area of your own to enjoy the swings. Most of them are the typical infant swings or big kid swings, but in a larger bush-lined pocket, they have these rope swings.
In another area is the "Water Lab," which is a sprinkler miniature water park, great for toddler and pre-school-aged kiddos.
Sadly, we did not have Cora's swimsuit with us, and she was fairly tuckered out from all the swinging anyway. Next summer, though, we will certainly make time for the Water Lab. Heck, even I want to play at the Water Lab.
(Note: The Water Lab closed for the season after Labor Day.)
Truly, this was very sweet of her because Trinity does have an amazing preschool, and it's incredibly tough to get in. And, as with all networking, if your kid went to the prestigious Trinity preschool, they have a leg up on their kindergarten applications to other elite private schools.
But this hyper-pressure to put kids into school as early as possible seems to be pervasive here. Some parents want, like the above scenario, their kids to get their foot in the door of a top-notch private school. Some want to socialize their children into spending more time with friends, away from home, in a structured learning environment. Some parents want their kids to be in a foreign language preschool, so they begin learning a second language. Some parents just want a daycare option that is more "learning-oriented" (although I doubt preschool and daycare are really that different).
We did decide to put Cora into a Spanish immersion preschool. She is two-and-a-half. This still blows my mind a bit. The simple Texas girl from the 1980s in me says this is ridiculous. Back in my day, kids started kindergarten at age five. Now we're starting kids in pre-pre-k at two?! But, you know, my kid loves it, and from 9am to 12pm, I only have to deal with the baby and getting a little class prep done. I do justify the expense because toddlers are capable of picking up a foreign language. Also, we don't really have many friends here yet, so maybe we'll make friends.
But is this a NYC thing, or is it happening in other parts of the country? Are there other cities and states where two-and-three-year-old "preschools" are becoming more and more normal? Is it because of working moms or wealthier families? If I have any readers out there who can provide me some insight, I'd appreciate a comment. For the moment, I'd better go order my two-year-old's school supplies from amazon.com (because that's how we roll in Brooklyn, order everything online).
Yes, the dining room desperately needs a large picture/mirror, but I have a mild phobia of hanging things.
The bookshelf to the left of the keyboard holds Chad's monitor and work supplies, for when he works from home.
The library/office/guest room is connected to the living room and is my sanctuary. I can work on my laptop or read while Cora watches a movie. Yes, I'll admit it, my kid watches movies on a regular basis.
The middle bedrooms (Ewan's and Cora's) have no real windows, just small slits of windows that open into a "light shaft," which is like a really big column of space between buildings, just to allow light and a bit of air. Ewan's room was my craft room/the guest room - and will be again when he can move into Cora's room - that's why the changing table has markers and colored pencils dangling above it and bins piled up on a cart beside it.
Cora's room is the biggest in the apartment because she will share it with Ewan and because the grandparents dote on her through donations of toys and books. I think I'll do a separate post about how I fit all of the kid/baby gear in our small apartment.
The back rooms (kitchen and master) overlook a beautiful backyard and are actually very peaceful. The white-painted tin ceiling, offset by the green ivy on the windows, is my favorite thing to see in the morning.
Let's be honest, the sink and counter are usually piled high with dirty dishes.
Oh, yes, and our teeny bathroom! Two bathroom apartments are pretty rare in this area, so most people squeeze into one small bathroom.
Now, if you know me, you should be very impressed that this tomato plant is not only alive, but thriving. I generally kill plants quite quickly, but New York has been getting a decent amount of rain, so Mother Nature's helping me out.
I can't in good conscience sit here, bragging about Fred and George, though, because, well, I have to show you the rest of the fire escape garden...
As you can see, tomatoes doing great, basil growing fine, and then there are the carcasses of oregano and parsley... You can also see the empty pot that was going to hold cilantro, but I've never gotten around to it. What you can't see is to the right of the window, begonias and an azalea that died a horribly slow death. Even more annoying than getting plants upstairs and potted outside is getting dead plants into trash bags and downstairs. The neighbors below surely don't appreciate little clods of dirt splatting on their nice, metal deck. Ah, well, at least there's Fred and George, until my salad feast, anyway.
Blog updating note: As you probably noticed, I updated the sidebar to show my professional-ish websites and my profiles for various social media things. I like having all of my "digital selves" in one spot - makes my digital self feel more unified. I have a couple more goals for updating the blog: 1) new design/color scheme, 2) new name - I'm just not diggin' Morgan's Cozy Chair anymore, and 3) maybe a new font too, I like fonts.
Some highlights from the last year?
Summer of 2011, we found we were expecting our second baby!
I started teaching Sociology at Molloy College in the Fall of 2011.
Chad and I went to Taiwan just before the Christmas holidays. Yet again I traveled internationally while 6 months pregnant. Yes, the food was an issue, but I loved seeing my friend from graduate school, who now lives in Taipei.
Cora turned two in January of 2012. She talks non-stop now.
Ewan John was born in April of 2012. He is now a chubby, happy baby boy.
Currently, I am getting back up to speed on life. We are fully settled into our Brooklyn neighborhood. I am working on getting my pre-pregnancy body back and have lost 20+ pounds, using AdvoCare nutritional supplements and diet plans, which have been totally amazing for me. Also, lifting a double stroller up and down stairs has really helped tone my biceps. I am prepping for my Sociology classes in the fall, hoping to be ahead of the game before classes start.
I'll be using this summer lull to re-think the purpose of this blog (which is probably an indication that I'm re-thinking the purpose of my life, although that's almost too heavy to say out loud). Thanks for sticking with me!
Weighing on my mind: How does one blog encapsulate all of one's life, when one has so many roles? Mom, wife, cook, entertainer, teacher of Sociology, freelance editor, distributor of AdvoCare nutritional products, interested in graphics and design, reader of many books, subscriber to many blogs, seeker of adventure, seeker of peace, seeker of God. So many aspects of life and only one blog? This seems to be a common concern for other bloggers - how do you do it?