Thursday, July 24, 2014

My SAHM Experiment

Guinevere’s daycare closes for a week around the 4th of July every year.  It’s a private, in-home daycare, everyone’s gotta take a break every now and then.  Fortunately, since I am still on maternity leave, we didn’t have to scramble for childcare.  I just took care of both kids.  All day. By myself.  For a week.  Part of me was super nervous, and another part of me was excited.  I got over my nerves by reminding myself that stay at home moms take care of all their kids all the time.  They don’t get a maternity leave where the oldest goes off to daycare.  If they can do it, so can I.  Right?

I think every working mom has fantasized at some point, however briefly, about being a stay at home mom.  My fantasies usually occur as I am writing that check to daycare (oh man, two daycare payments are right around the corner – ouch!).  It’s also nice to fantasize about being able to spend more quality time with my kids and have time to do laundry, cook and clean.  Wow, you know it’s a sign of getting old when you fantasize about having time to do chores around the house!

So, how did I do in my week pretending to be a SAHM? (“Stay at home mom,” for those not up on the lingo.)  Honestly, it went surprisingly well!  Both kids were remarkably well behaved for the most part.  We may have watched a little too much “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” the first couple days, but hey, no one’s a perfect parent from the very beginning, right?  Guinevere is obsessed with Mickey, and it was the best way I could think of to get her to stay put when I had to feed Malcolm.

Here are some highlights from our week together:
  • -       Coloring with Guinevere in her Mickey Mouse coloring books while Malcolm napped nearby.
  • -       Having a dance party and folding laundry to the soundtrack of Carole King and Billy Joel.
  • -       Taking the kids to the park by myself to meet up with a friend and her two kids.  We went for a walk around the lake and then played on the playground.  I am very grateful to my friend for following G around the playground while I fed Malcolm.
  • -       Taking the kids to a lunch date with another friend and her baby.  I am so proud of my babies – they were very well behaved in a non-kid oriented environment.  Malcolm slept through the entire lunch and Guinevere made it a good 45 minutes before she started getting bored.
  • -       The weather was amazing and I took the kids for a walk almost every day.

And some lessons I learned from my week as a SAHM:
1.              Being a stay at home mom requires a lot of planning!  Unless you want to not eat and sit in front of the TV all day, you need to have a meal plan and plan out whatever activities you want to do well in advance. 
2.             In order to get two small kids out the door at a certain time, you have to start the process about at least an hour before you actually want to leave.
3.              Don’t tell the toddler where you are going until you are ready to leave.  Otherwise, you end up with a two year old wandering around the house saying, “Park, park. Go.  Go?  Go! Go Park!” and then dragging you to the door while you are still trying to get everything together to actually go to the park.
4.              A double stroller is a very useful tool, however, carrying one kid in an Ergo or similar, while the other kid rides in the stroller is a viable alternative.
5.              It’s ok to let the baby cry for a couple minutes while you put the toddler to bed.
6.         It’s ok to wait to clean the house until after the babies are asleep; in fact, it is essential to maintaining one’s sanity.
7.              It is important to schedule some sort of physical activity in the morning; otherwise the toddler will NOT nap!  Instead, you will be treated to a chorus of the “A, B, C’s,” counting, “reading” various books, and random singing and dancing all within the confines of the crib.
8.         Even if the toddler does not actually nap, having “quiet time” in the house from 1-2pm is crucial to one’s sanity.
9.              You are never too old to color in coloring books.
10.          Toddler hugs are the best!

We really did have a great week.  I haven’t been able to spend that much quality time with Guinevere since I was on maternity leave after she was born!  I was sad to see her go back to daycare . . . ok, sad and relieved.  I took an amazing nap her first day back at daycare!  She came home so tired that she fell asleep in her high chair during dinner! 

PS If any of my co-workers are reading this, have no fear, I am coming back! I have no intentions to become a full-time stay at home mom.  While it’s nice to pretend every now and then, it’s not something that is feasible for me or my family.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Anti-Pinterest No-Theme Birthday Party

Photo by Michael Spencer

I can’t believe Guinevere is two already!  But then I think about how much has happened in our lives since her first birthday last year, and it feels like she should be three by now! Like many moms these days, I started a Pinterest board about six months in advance trying to plan Guinevere’s birthday party.  But the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to stress about themes, decorations and food - especially when I knew I would have an infant to deal with.  So I decided there would be no theme, and I would not have any coordinated decorations – nothing that would get pictures of this party pinned on Pinterest.  I kept it simple: a birthday party in the park.  I asked the guests to bring food for themselves or to share so that I wouldn’t have to stress about bringing more than cupcakes (though I did end up bringing some other snacks).  

Our no-theme food table.

One stroke of genius: I decided not to frost the cupcakes ahead of time, and instead set up a "frost your own" cupcake station. This way a) I did not have to worry about transporting frosted cupcakes and b) people got to put as much or as little frosting as they wanted.  This worked great for parents with little kids as they could give the two year olds an unfrosted cupcake and not worry about too much sugar-craziness.
Cupcake station. Photo by Michael Spencer

I have some amazing friends and family!  Everyone pitched in and we had a great party – who needs a theme?  Some good friends of ours headed over to the park early to stake out the one table that I knew would have shade at the time of the party. Another friend brought a shade structure and some decorations that she had lying around her house.  Here's a tip: even if you have a party with no decorations, bring some sort of distinguishing feature, whether it's some balloons or a shade structure that says, "Happy Birthday," particularly if your party is in a large park, like this one was.  That way, when people text from the parking lot asking where you are, you can say, “Look for the Disney Princess banners” (or whatever decorations you are using).  
The shade structure.
I think I’ve mentioned here before (or at least I know I’ve said this on facebook many times) that I’m not a big party favor person.  The last thing any parent needs is a bag of stuff that collects dust or gets thrown away.  I decided, instead of goodie bags, I would buy a bunch of bubbles and set them out for the kids to play with and take home.  I also wanted to share with all my parent friends just how much I love this brand of bubbles.  They are called fubbles, and the dispenser is made so that toddlers (and their parents) don’t spill bubble solution all over themselves.  Seriously, you can tip that thing upside down and nothing comes out . . . though if you leave it on its side for long enough, or dip it in the water on your water table (G loves doing that for some reason), it will spill, but still not as much as regular bubbles.

G and her Fubbles.  Photo by Michael Spencer

After this year’s birthday, I think we are going to have many more birthday parties in the park.  I didn’t have to clean my house.  I didn’t have to provide any activities for the kids.  They all went over to the playground and played to their little heart’s content, or they chased each other around the grass, or they went down and stared at the ducks.  The adults were able to socialize and catch up with other parents.  We all had a great time . . . such a great time that, even though we scheduled a morning party so that G could nap when she got home, she was too excited to sleep and spent the entire time singing to herself in her crib!