The Stay Home Mom Economic Trap

     I went to college over a decade ago, where I took entirely too many classes in Political Science and English.  I studied entirely too hard and graduated from the Honors Program with Honors.  Those classes and honors never directly secured me any sort of employment.  They did get me two of the most miserable years of my life in law school.  Luckily, I escaped in time to have to endure year three.  At least that is the way I choose to look at it.

     If you ever wonder what happens to people who go to law school but don’t get a J.D., some of them become paralegals at ridiculously low pay in absolute desperation.  That was a friend of mine.  Some of them go home and become waitstaff.  That happened to another friend of mine.  Some of them re-apply to a different law school, end up in a real estate law office, and hate every day of their life.  Yet another friend.  In my case, I went on the administrative assistant track, quite by chance.  I needed a job, and by chance, I got hired on the first try.  I was so sick of law school at that point that I didn’t want to step foot in anything that remotely resembled a law office.

    Fast-forward a few jobs and companies.  I established myself as a pretty capable assistant. On the side, I went and got a paralegal certificate just in case.  That was many years ago.  I haven’t been completely idle.  I volunteered at a hospice.  I volunteered on a suicide intervention hotline.  I’m apparently excellent in a crisis.  I’m finding that this quality doesn’t matter so much on a resume.  Job continuity is the only thing that matters on a resume, and by golly, it is the one thing that I just don’t have.  

     Over and over I hear the tale, oh but you haven’t worked in so long.  Yes, technically no one has handed over a paycheck to me in several years.  I haven’t been cramped up in a cubicle while trying to meet deadlines, but I have been working.  My brain didn’t just up and leave my body because I decided to stay home for a while to raise my daughter.  I have not lost my ability to speak on a phone, work on a computer, or interact with other human entities.  On most days, if I have at least two cups of coffee in the morning, I can even do math still.  I remember the quadratic equation by heart as well as how to calculate a derivative.  

     I have been doing this job search on and off for a few years now.  I’ve yet to get anywhere with it.  I’ve applied for and been rejected by all kinds of employers because of the end date of my last job.  My resume just goes into the big black hole of a server somewhere, or else in the garbage.  I’m so invisible that according to the government’s economic spin doctors, I’m not actually one of the unemployed.  

     My other dilemma is that should I actually get a job, I probably won’t earn enough money to cover the childcare costs to make the job worth it.  I don’t want to work just to pay a sitter.  It is absolutely insane that I have to be afraid of being unemployed and be afraid of being employed at the same time.  How am I going to pay for all the antacid I go through worrying about this ridiculous situation?  Have you noticed the effect of inflation on a giant bottle of TUMS?  






Trial and Error Motivation

Messy Kid Room

Messy Kid Room

The dreaded chore – the cleaning of the room.  This is just one example of something I knock heads with my daughter on.  Additional battlegrounds include, but are not limited to, brushing teeth, going to bed, putting on shoes, getting dressed, and eating food.  I never know what the trigger is going to be, and I never know if it will be a peaceful day or a continuous tantrum day.  In the above example, her room is not so bad, you can see the floor!  I tidied up a little bit in an attempt to at least get her started; and there is the problem – getting her started in first place.  I have to confess it rarely happens in the case of cleaning her room.  99.9% of the time, I end up doing it.  The few instances she has made any iota of effort to put things away were the result of extremely traumatic days when we all ended up in tears and total exhaustion at the end of an all-day standoff.  Maybe I should be made of tougher stuff, but I can’t realistically go through days like that on a regular basis.  If I did, life would come to a complete halt, and I would be a prisoner in my home.  Oddly enough, she will clean up her toys at school voluntarily.

I have to make her bed when she is occupied doing something else.  If I make her bed with her in her room, she will just jump on it, roll around,  sit there like a log, or worse, fight me.  I know that sounds completely ridiculous that I have to make my kid’s bed in stealth-mode. I have learned to pick and choose what behaviors to go after to correct.  This choice comes after spending thousands on pediatric neurologists and therapists bills.  Let’s not forget the hundreds of dollars on behavior books I was told to read.  Believe me, I read every word of every book I was told to read.  I also tried with all my being to implement their strategies consistently.  My daughter could care less.  Time-out, reward charts, poker chips, taking toys away, holding back privileges like t.v., having to earn fun activities, etc.  The maximum time these things worked for was about four days, then she got bored.  Her response,”So what?  I don’t care.” She genuinely could care less. I’ve also tried more old-fashioned methods, they only make the situation a thousand times worse and my daughter even more defiant.  No book, doctor, or therapist thus far has come up with a reasonable solution.  The only thing I kept being told repeatedly was that my child is extra bright, extremely defiant, and extraordinarily stubborn.  Yes, I know, I didn’t really need someone with a medical degree to discover this.  The extra bright part gets emphasized as a reason for the defiance and stubbornness.  My issue is that she still needs to behave right and get things done, bright spark or not.

For a while, I sent her to play therapy.  I was made to believe that play therapy would get at the root of the problem somehow and make her more cooperative.  During play therapy with a reputable expert, she ran mental circles around him and nothing improved.  She did or said whatever she had to in order to play a game, and it all ended when she walked out the door.  Another behaviorist admitted that there wasn’t really anything that could be done but my own trial and error.  So I finally stopped draining the family bank account, and I’m still working on figuring it all out.

So far, keeping myself calm, keeping her busy with school and camp, taking her to ice skating and karate, trying desperately not to yell, and just waiting for her to mature are the best solutions.  When my mother often asks me ,”Why does she act like this?”, I’ve learned the best answer is, “That’s the way God made her.”  I’m the one who has to learn to get creative to motivate her in a positive way.  My silver lining is that my daughter generally behaves very well in public. I affectionately refer to it as her public persona.  I am truly thankful for it though I don’t know the reasons why it’s so different from behavior at home.   I haven’t come up with a solution for getting her to clean her room. I may never get her to clean her room.  My job is to keep trying anyway.




Looking for the Middle

Today, my daughter’s lesson to me was have a little more faith in her.  My 5 year-old has been ice skating since she was 2 1/2 years old.  She saw a cartoon of Minnie Mouse and Daisy ice skating and that was it, she was hooked.  She won 1st place in a recent competition although it surprised everyone, including her coach and myself.  When she has lessons, the focus level can be negligible.  Sometimes, I really wonder about what goes on in her head because it is literally like talking to a brick wall.  Her coach has to come up with extremely inventive ways to keep her going like making up completely silly stories or crazy adventures on ice.  

In the past, it was the violin. She absolutely begged to learn violin with a passion rare in a kid so young.  It was about a year before we agreed to let her take violin lessons.  When her teacher demanded that she actually get down and focus after several months of playing, she wanted no part of that.  She quit ballet as well.  The two things she has stuck with are ice skating and karate. Both of these are activities that require a high level of dedication.  She persistently refuses to practice karate outside of class even though she loves karate and talks about getting her black belt when she is older. She talks about how important it is to practice, but that is as far as it goes.  If I take her for extra ice time just to skate for fun, she sits on the ice and plays with the snow she makes with her skates as if it was a snowy sandbox, oblivious to anyone around her.

I want her to have fun with her activities.  All work and no play makes for absolute misery.  At the same time, I want her to learn how to practice a skill.  Today, after the lesson, her coach asked her to practice doing figure skating pumps around in a circle 5 times.  Then her coach went to go teach another student.  To our delight and complete shock, she just kept going.  She kept practicing for half an hour entirely on her own without any additional coaching, a complete first!  I’m just sorry I didn’t believe she would even stick with the 5 times around the circle.  But then, it wouldn’t have been such a great surprise.  

I have loads of confidence in my daughter, and my goal is that she can have confidence in herself.  But I find myself looking at her with a critical eye, just like my parents would look at me.  I am furious with myself for it.  I think my daughter is amazing, and I know I am blessed with a very special child.  I always swore if I had a kid, I wouldn’t be critical.  I’m learning the great extent to how a person is raised is totally imprinted onto the natural parenting style.  I never realized the critical voice would be so automatic and persistent.  I find myself biting my tongue quite a lot.  I try so hard to remember what it was like for me. I never felt like I would ever measure up to an invisible bar that reached way past the sky.  I don’t want my daughter to ever feel like that.  I want her to have self-confidence that I didn’t get the chance to foster when I was young.

I am concerned because she recently began having lengthy conversations with her My Little Pony toy.  In her make believe play, Princess Cadence is a bully.  The pony is quite insulting to my child.  For example, if my daughter is painting a picture, the pony says it’s a terrible picture.  My daughter then reports Princess Cadence’s insults and bullying to me.  I tell her Princess Cadence is a toy, and even if she wasn’t a toy, she shouldn’t let words get to her, or allow herself to be bullied.  Then my daughter runs off to yell at Princess Cadence for being a bad friend, then all is fine.

I don’t know if these conversations stem from genuine worry my daughter has, or if they are just because projecting confidence is a subject that is frequently spoken of in her karate class as way to avoid being a victim of bullying.

I am constantly trying to find the balance point between teaching my child about fun and working on something diligently.  The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but the more one works on a skill, the more fun can be had with that skill.  I know she desperately wants to learn spins and jumps like she sees the bigger girls doing. In karate, she loves doing kicks and working with nunchucks.  All of which require practice.  

I’m learning that the maturing process is one step forward and ten steps back.  So is learning how to parent.  Where does encouragement become criticism? How much do you push?  I don’t believe constant praise does a kid any good either.  Kids have to learn to accept some form of criticism, otherwise they aren’t living in reality.  However, the constant criticism I was raised with didn’t help me at all.  Where is the middle?  




9th Wedding Anniversary

I’ve been doing this marriage thing for 9 years now.  My husband and I have this joke between us that our life together so far is akin to bailing out the Titanic with a teaspoon.  Lately, it has been more like bailing with a shrimp fork, but today we are happy and enjoying our little family.  

This morning was Parents’ Day at school.  Our daughter was in two acts of singing and dancing.  She said goodbye to all her friends for the summer.  Some of them will be there at camp, so not goodbye for long.  My husband and I had a great time.  The experience was simple, yet great for us as a couple.  We worked together as a team getting all the video and photos done, not having to say much, just intuitively working together.

At 9 years on the marriage timeline, we’ve finally hit a point of equilibrium.  It is not those carefree days at the beginning, and its not the days when we thought all was lost.  Somehow, we got past all of that, to somewhere in the middle.  We don’t expect so much from each other anymore, and that is a good thing.  

We have a wedding to attend at the end of the month.  The invitation evokes a fairytale romance.  We both had a good long laugh at it.  That’s how we used to be, it was all about us, and we were THE couple.  Now, we know better.  That day is just a day.  Marriage requires letting go of the fairytales and making your own story.  Sometimes it gets very bleak and the story almost ends.  Eventually, we learned to swallow our pride and forgive each other for the factual reality that we are not those fantasy characters.  We are not the people we were when we said our vows.  We don’t have rose colored glasses anymore.  I’ve had to learn the very hard way, that marriage that lasts accepts every little truth of the other person, good, bad, and ugly.  When you live with someone for so long, you see more grit than diamonds, but the sparkle is still there hidden in quiet moments if you don’t think it away too hard.  If I had stopped thinking about it so hard, what it “should” be, the bad times might not have been so bad.  But that was a long period of adjustment I had to go through to be at the place I am now.  There are no relationship lessons in school, on how to be married, what it really is.   

I hope when my daughter grows up, she doesn’t go hunting for some version of prince charming who doesn’t exist.  This world is getting tougher to live in.  I hope she finds a man to share enough love with to be a family for life to get through all the times ahead.  I hope we provide a good example.  


Summer For The Girls

I’m really excited for preschool to be out for my daughter at the end of the week, in fact, I’m more excited than she is.  The end of a school term brings back memories of all the freedom of being out of the classroom.  In my family, it meant travel, everywhere.  For us, it is a lot more local.  Nevertheless,  we will have fun and hopefully create great memories.  I can’t remember very much about the summer my daughter was born, or even the year after that.  It is a fog in my mind I can’t access.  I started to really enjoy being a mom as she got older, and those memories are there.  Every so often in the daily grind, little by little, I learn so much from my little girl.  Now she is five, I’m enjoying her company more than ever.

This summer will involve a lot of driving to and from my daughter’s activities.  Two days of summer camp, karate class twice a week, and ice skating at least once a week.  My child is an active little tornado.  It is not much different from our daily list of things to do, the only thing new is summer camp instead of preschool.  Somehow, just because it is summer, it feels a lot more like freedom.  Kindergarten will start in September, so I feel like we have our last frolic before real school sets in.

We need to spend some time at the beach this summer.  Part of summer camp has swimming lessons.  I’m ardently hoping this helps my daughter allay her fears of having water on her face.  She has quite an intense fear of getting her face wet.  Bath time involves many dry washcloths to keep her face as dry as possible before panic sets in.  Last summer, the swimming lessons seemed to help a little, so hopefully another round will help her find freedom from this fear. The irony is that she absolutely loves the ocean and learning all about it.

I have a goal over the summer to document all the things we do in words, photos, and videos.  One day when my daughter is all grown up, I want to show her what we did the summer before she started her journey into the big world.