Saturday, January 29, 2011

Working Mama Blues...and A Change in Perspective

When I started writing this post the title accurately described how I was feeling. I definitely had the working mama blues. Although those blues certainly aren't gone (and I'm sure they'll return again and again for the rest of my working days), I've had some serious changes in perspective in the past month or so....

As soon as I got pregnant, I found myself reaching out for resources that supported the parenting style I've always felt inclined towards. I was so excited to find an online community of natural mamas whose mothering really inspired me. I wanted to (and really still do) be just like these mamas who were able to sew and knit the entirety of their children's wardrobes, garden, make homemade toys and books, create magical fairy gardens in the backyard, take daily nature walks, bake all their family's bread, etc.... For some reason it took me a really long time to realize that this is possible for these women because THEY DON'T WORK FULLTIME OUTSIDE THE HOME!! Duh! Why this took me so long to realize is beyond me.

I'm also continually inspired by many of my closest girlfriends, who spend lots of time with their children embarking on educational, exciting, creative adventures throughout the week. And their homes are always immaculate and spotless (something I also strive for). But guess what! These mothers also DON'T WORK FULLTIME OUTSIDE THE HOME! Again duh.

I've been trying to live up to these ideals of the women I admire (in real life and on the internet) without taking into account what is actually possible for my own circumstances.

And then I started whining about "having" to work. I told myself and others that I need to just suck it up, because "it's not really a choice for us financially". And although I enjoy my career, I continued to talk about it in these terms to myself and to everyone else. I talked about how I'm not sure I would thrive as a fulltime stay-at-home mama, but internally, I wished I had the option to devote myself fully to raising my child.

Well, I finally decided that if I'm reaching out to stay-at-home mothering resources...why on earth am I not reaching out to working mother resources? Surely there are mothers out there who are so-called "attachment" parents, who breastfeed their babies past their maternity leave, who cook and bake and create and craft, who make informed consumer decisions for their families....and still have careers outside their homes.

And there are certainly some resources out there that have helped me as I try to realign my perspective. blue milk is a great blog written by a feminist, working mother. There's a vibrant student and working mamas forum on Mothering magazine's website which has been a great community for me to reach out to on my toughest days.

I'm also reminding myself to talk to the women in my own family...namely my own mother, my mother-in-law, and my aunts Cathy and Barbara about their experiences as working mothers. These women have all had very successful, fulfilling careers while raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted, successful children. I'm looking forward to talking to each of them more as time goes on. (Why am I taking so much inspiration from strangers on the internet and not using the resources in my life I trust the most?)

I recently read a great book called The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? by Leslie Bennetts. (well, actually, I listened to the audio book....a new working mama trick so I can use my commute to its full advantage!)

It might seem a bit extreme to say this, but I actually think this book changed my life. Bennetts talks a lot (and maybe was a bit repetitive on this point) about the financial vulnerability of stay-at-home mothers in the event of death, divorce or illness. When a woman leaves her career to raise her children full-time, she's putting her entire financial security in the hands of another person, which may end up being a bad decision for herself and her children if something unforseen or tragic happens to her spouse or if the marriage goes downhill. She also talks about the difficulty many women have getting back into the workforce when they have removed themselves from it for several years while they raised their young children (she gives the statistic that women lose 37 percent of their earning power when they spend three or more years out of the workplace.) These arguments were well laid out and resonated with me.

But the part of this book that was so important for me was when Bennetts discussed the benefits to women when they maintain a successful, thriving career even while raising children. Through impressive research and interviews with experts and with real women, she explains how working women tend to have more successful and happy marriages, and how these women are more fulfilled personally throughout their lives. After their children leave home, working women still have their work to focus on and satisfy them. Working mothers are empowered knowing that they are able to support themselves and their children if life doesn't go the way they planned.

She also is very realistic about the fact that it's not easy or pretty being a fulltime working mother. She reminds women that "...the absorbing, exhausting, exhilarating years of tending to small children actually make up a relatively small portion of your adult life" and encourages working mothers to look at it as a marathon.....the first 15 years of your children's life will be tough if you are working outside the home. It will be frantic and stressful and messy. But Bennetts reminds us that it will be worth it!

So, here are some thoughts for now which are inspiring me. As I take on more responsibility at the company I work for, these ideas are going to be so important for me to keep in mind......
  • This IS a choice I'm making, and I should be proud of it.
  • Ever since Sadie was born, my expectations for myself have been unrealistically high....I want to be 100% best mother, homemaker, wife, neighbor, friend, and employee at ALL times. I can't be the best at everything at all times. There will be times when one thing has to give in order for me to make the other a priority for the moment.
  • I'm so thankful that I had two years to be primary caregiver to my daughter and have had the luxury of waiting until she's nearly 2 years old before working 40 hours a week (without having to leave the workforce completely).
  • I am thankful to work for the company I do. I do not work 60+ hours a week. I am home to spend time with my daughter every day after work. That's more than a lot of working mothers have.
  • I want to continually remind myself to look at the long view
  • It would be infinitely more difficult to be a working mother without a supportive husband who is willing to share domestic duties equally. That's also more than a lot of working mothers have.
  • I'm learning to be o.k. with the fact that this is really hard for me. I recognize and am trying to embrace that there will be times when I am about to lose my mind and I turn into a complete and total crazy lady (not sure how o.k. with this my husband is, though.....) I need to just find the strength to weather the storm during those times.
  • Although I will always identify myself as a mother, my identity cannot be 100% defined by being a mother.
  • It takes a village to raise a child! And what a village we have. I'm so thankful that Sadie is surrounded by love every moment that she's away from me.
  • I WILL stop looking at work as an obligation and expressing it that way to others. My work is a choice with immense rewards and benefits to my family.
  • My work is exciting, challenging, and empowering. That makes me a better role model and friend to my daughter in the long run.
Oh. And I've hired a house cleaner.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tea Time

One last holiday activity post to wrap up, and one of my favorite special occasions of the season. My mom, my brother's fiancee Mari, and I headed downtown a few days before Christmas to the Brown Palace Hotel for afternoon tea.

The Brown Palace is definitely a Denver institution. Here are some fascinating facts found on their website.
  • On Aug. 12, 1892 the Brown Palace Hotel opened its doors in the heart of downtown Denver. The hotel has remained open and welcomed guests every minute of every day, since opening.

  • Every U.S. president has visited The Brown Palace since Teddy Roosevelt (1905), with the exception of Calvin Coolidge.

  • The Brown Palace contains 12,400 surface feet of onyx, a semiprecious variety of quartz, which was the most ever used in a single building at the time the hotel was constructed.

  • The hotel's original artesian well is located 720 feet deep beneath the lobby floor and still provides water to every faucet in the hotel.

  • Four of the hotel's suites are named for their famous residents: The Beatles Suite, Eisenhower Suite, Reagan Suite, and Teddy Roosevelt Suite.

  • Before the Beatles' visit in 1964, the hotel saw a great surge in applications for housekeepers by young girls. After the Beatles' stay, monetary offers were made for the dishes from which they ate and the sheets on which they slept.

  • In 1937, the hotel opened the Skyline Apartments which housed permanent residents in suites with kitchens on the top two floors of the hotel. The last of these residents moved out in the mid-1980s.

  • The Brown Palace Club, located on the second floor, served as campaign headquarters for Dwight D. Eisenhower prior to his election as president.

  • Two of the cast iron grillwork panels on the railing surrounding the hotel's eight-story atrium are upside down.

  • Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division tried rappelling from the balconies during a visit to the hotel during World War II.

  • Except for crackers and sandwich bread, the hotel prepares all of its own baked goods in a unique, carousel oven - catalogued at more than 50 years old. The oven is one of only three in the world known to be in existence and is still used every day.

  • President Eisenhower hit a wayward golf ball while practicing in the room and made a dent in the fireplace mantel in the Eisenhower Suite. It remains today as a souvenir.
The hotel is decorated so beautifully and ornately for the holidays each year, and was such a beautiful spot to spend the afternoon with two of my favorite ladies.

The tea service was truly luxurious. After starting off with a kir royale, we each chose our own type of tea from a very extensive menu.

The tea is served in individual silver tea pots, and drunk from beautiful china.

Despite the loveliness of the beverages, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that my very favorite part was the food. Fresh scones served with Devonshire cream and preserves, savory tea sandwiches, a decadent selection of classic and chocolate tea pastries, and a signature Brown Palace truffle. YUM!

It was so fun to see all the little girls who were dressed up in their finest for the occasion and joining their mothers or grandmothers for a special afternoon. We can't wait to bring Sadie along for what we hope to make an annual holiday tradition!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Intentions 2011

bake bread
breathe deeply
smile more
let go
lose weight in order to feel good and have more energy
find some more balance
get outdoors more often with my family
continue to work on my snake phobia (in order to accomplish the item directly above)
practice my mandolin and my fiddle and my harmonica
don't make a big fuss over small things
quit trying to be like everyone else, do what makes sense for me and for my life
slow the hell down
take the love languages quiz (and ask my husband to do the same)
start being more consistent with my strong-willed toddler
sit back quietly and observe more often
tell my friends how much I love them
do something with my compost pile (worms?)
do not, under any circumstances, take on any more time consuming hobbies
fly a kite
think of my daughter as an equal
be more effective, efficient, focused, and patient at work
love myself and all my faults

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Handmade Holiday

Way back in October, I made a pact with myself that I would make as many of our holiday gifts as possible. I wanted to save some money, but mostly, as a crafter, I feel that something I put thought, time, and energy into is so much more meaningful that something I can pick up at the mall. Sometimes an effort like this can be really stressful, but because I started planning for it several months in advance, this didn't add to any holiday stress for me. If anything, it was calming to spend more hours during the season behind the sewing machine or knitting needles.

First up...Sadie needed a new winter hat. So I finally finished the Duchess Cabled Hat. Ravelry details here.
For a holiday party hostess gift, I made this fun "Question Jar".

For my out-of-town girlfriends, wall organizers!

And for my sisters-in-law, Mari and Suzie, aprons...

And my crowning glory (that means it was the most difficult...) for the season was a table runner that I made for my mom.

Thank you to all the crafters out there for the inspiration, patterns, and tutorials. For a beginning sewer, it was certainly a comedy of errors. I'm sure anyone who knows anything about sewing would be utterly horrified watching me over the past couple months. I'm truly figuring this out as I go. But I'm having so much fun, and I'm so proud of the results!