Sunday, December 28, 2008

Back to work - me AND my Husband

In one week I will be getting myself ready for work. Hard to believe, but my 4 months of leave have ended and it's time for me to dust of my work clothes and head back to the office.

Not surprisingly part of me is dreading this day. I have so enjoyed being at home with our second child, 4 year old, and my husband. We've travelled, played, relaxed, and enjoyed our time together. I think my 4 year old has especially enjoyed me being at home all day. I'm not sure who will have a harder time with me not being around, my husband or my 4 year old. My infant son will miss me the least. Dad will be there tending to his needs and I will gladly scoop him up each morning and at the end of each work day when I return home. His life will change little.

Dash, my 4 year old, heads back to school the same day. He will likely be more unhappy about not being able to spend the day in his new "Bumblebee Transformer" PJ's. The time I've been able to spend with him while on leave has been just as special as the time with my newborn. We've had many hours of imaginary play and fun excursions. Precious time at a precious age.

My husband, he will undoubtedly have the toughest time. He will be the first to admit that me being home full time means he is on "vacation" from his job as a SAHD. His days of sleeping in and the luxury of napping are ending. I'm not sure why this happens, but it reaffirms my belief that by me working, my husband has an environment where he is a much more involved and engaged father. I parent and care take naturally, and as much as I hate to stereotype myself as a Woman; instinctively. The needs and wants of my kids are first on my list and often I take care of them with out even thinking.

My husband has learned to parent out of necessity, and not having me around to step in or tell him how I would do it, has allowed him to figure out how to do things in a way that works for him. Now somethings will never get done unless I do them (fingernails clipped, cleaning in between the toes), but nothing that is terribly important.

Undoubtedly we will have some adjustments getting used to our back to work schedules and how to juggle our routines with 2 children. We'll be late for school, baths will be missed and I'm sure I will be stressing out next week and barking orders to everyone as I try to get out the door.

The other part of me is looking foward to heading back to work. My adrenaline is spiking just thinking about it! So many things to catch up on, people to meet with, issues to be addressed, decisions to be made. Now I just wish I hadn't eaten so many Christmas cookies as I think about dusting those work clothes off!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Boys and Superhero's

(I'm writing this while watching a Bionicle movie with Dash on a Sunday morning)

I can tell you the exact day my son Dash became obsessed with Superhero's. I took him shopping for a Halloween costume. He was barely 3 years old. I had the idea that I would dress him as curious George and my husband as "The man in the Yellow Hat". It was one of his favorite little boy movies. I had the sense that this would be my last halloween of cute costumes. What I didn't realize is that we had already past that phase.

That was until my son saw the Incredibles Costume in the store. "I want that one!!", was what came out of his mouth the minute he saw the Dash cosutme. It was cute, in a pint sized Superhero kind of way, but it wasn't a fuzzy little Monkey costume. I relented though, knowing that if my son had grown past being my baby in cute a cute costume, then I needed to let him be the Superhere that his imagination believed he was.

That was over a year ago. The Incredible costume has gotton more wear than any article of clothing I have bought for my son "Dash" (hence his blogname). At the time it was way too big for him and I had to roll the pants and sleeves for him to wear it. We have since added a Batman, Spiderman, and Ironman costume to his collection, but the Dash one remains my favorite. Now he is quickly growing out of it in size, and slowly in interest also, moving on to bigger boy toys like Bionicles and Transformers.

With mixed emotions I watch him grow. Wanting to hold on to each phase and not let go, but amazed at how he has grown. I'll do the same with his baby brother "Jack-Jack". I'll be more prepared for my second baby to grow up, but no less sad as he eventually shuns his baby things, but no less proud and excited either.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The SAHD Way

Having a SAHD provides our family with some unique approaches to day to day life. I will try to share some of them from time to time as I come across them.

The other day I was amused to walk into our kitchen and find Dash peeling an orange with my husband's shop safety glasses on. Dash had complained that it stung when he got squirted in the eye with juice as he was peeling an orange. My husband came up with the creative idea of using his safety glasses to keep those juicy oranges from stinging Dash's eyes. If it were me I probably would have peeled the orange for him, but my husband hates to peel fruit. (If it has to be peeled, he wont eat it.) His solution worked out great. Dash now thinks it is really cool to peel oranges with his safety glasses on and my son eagerly seeks out oranges to peel and eat. He even told me today that I needed to buy more.
The safety glasses have now found their place in my kitchen utensil drawer.

If it makes peeling and eating oranges more fun for my son then I am all for it. As long as my husband doesn't arm Dash with the cordless drill to core an Apple!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Maternity Leave - Goals and Surprises

As with my last Maternity leave I had all of these great plans for what I would accomplish during my 4 months off from work. Since I'm a little more than half way through my leave I though I would do a progress check before my time of slips away and I find myself back at my paying job.
During my first leave with our son Dash I spent the first 2 months in awe over having a new baby and really didn't have much desire to do anything else other than take in every cry, coo, and smile of our newborn. I managed to make curtains for my kitchen, but that was about it.
This leave I vowed to get myself moving quicker, and although I still cherish every little sound and move that my baby makes I have also realized I can do that along with many other things too. My original goals for this leave were as follows:

  1. Improve my French - Since I am living in the French part of Switzerland I thought I could spend more time studying and practicing my French about town.
  2. Spend weekends getting to see more of Switzerland.
  3. Read a long list of books I've been meaning to get to.
  4. Lose my baby weight!!

So what have I actually accomplished so far? I am just getting back into studying my French and the list of books just aren't getting read. The book reading is probably better saved for plane rides when I go back to work. We have done a good little bit of exploring over the past couple of months. Some of it has just been around town getting to know the local area a little better. We have done some hiking with the baby in his Bjorn carrier and gone to see some sites around the country.

Most surprising though are the things I have done and learned that I had not planned on.
  • I Started my own Blog! Here I am. It's a fun experience. I'm not sure how many people read this other that friends, but I am enjoying it.
  • I have learned all about Webkinz thanks to presents for my 4 year old from his Grandma and a friend's children. This is a marketing phenomena I knew nothing about, but man is it a great enterprise! They have me hooked!
  • I learned how to ride a scooter. I even went out and bought one for myself. There is nothing like sharing outdoor time with your kids and what a better way to do it than riding side by side with them on a scooter - that is along as I keep upright!
  • Learned the names of Batman's arch-enemies. More fun time with my 4 year old!
So, although my experiences to date may not be very scholarly I feel like they have enriched me greatly. I'll try to focus more on my French over the next 2 months and vow to read at least one book, but I wont feel guilty if I don't. I'm having fun with my kids and my Husband. That is something I would never trade!
Oh, and the weight. I'm not doing too bad, better than last time, but I still have work to do. More time on the scooter will help.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Maternity Leave - Taking time

Until you have a baby I think it is almost impossible to imagine the importance of taking time off from work after having a child. At least for me that is the case. Even with this being my second child, I had so quickly forgotton the amount of time a baby takes and the level of sleep deprivation that can come along with feeding, diapering, and caring for a newborn. I am fortunate to have what would be called and "Easy Baby" and a SAHD to help out with our son Dash, but even an easy baby is demanding!

Jack-Jack, my "Easy Baby" is now 8 weeks old. He basically only cries when he is hungry or he is in the process of pooping (Yes, this is what the current focus of my world is. As my 4 year old so eloquently observed - Mom, food goes in here, goes down, and comes out poop!) I rarely have to deal with a crying baby for any longer than it takes to stick a bottle in his mouth. Yet there are still days where I am so tired I feel like it is an effort to walk a straight line. For me I feel like I get "intoxicated" by sleep deprivation. My ability to think clearly is impaired. Even with my husband at home, it still falls upon me, the Mom, to initially do most of the caring for our newborn.

Fortunately I have the benefit of being able to take 4 months of leave to care for Jack-Jack. This is the right amount of time for me. Hopefully, by then Jack-Jack will be sleeping through the night and we will have figured out a routine that works for us as a family.

Time off to care for a newborn is allowed for me by company policy as it is for many people. Taking this time off however is sometimes easier said than done. It is one thing to have a policy that says you can take time off. It is another thing to feel comfortable that you can leave your job for months at a time.

Fortunately I have many factors working in my favor;

1. Boss Support - I can't say enough about this. My boss is unwaivering in her support of me taking time off. It helps that she has demonstrated her commitment to this by taking leave when she had her children. It's one thing to have a company policy, but it means nothing if leadership doesn't demonstrate their support of it. It also helps immensly to see women continue to be successful when they have taken time off.

2. Peer Support - My peers can't step in and do my job since they are plenty busy doing their own jobs, but I know that they are reaching out and providing support when needed.

3. A Great Team - My staff that works for me is really picking up the bulk of my responsibilities while I am gone. Having the right people that you can count on makes all the difference in the world.

Even with all these factors I still second guess myself about going back to work earlier, but I am committed to taking my leave. I owe this to my baby and to myself. I also owe this to other Mom's at work. We all need to know it is okay to take time off, especially for something as important as the birth of a child. My work will be there when I return. My career will continue to move on. And hopefully, more Mom's will find a work place that is friendlier to them finding a way to balance their work and family needs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Multi-tasking Mishaps

I've had my share of mishaps while trying to do 2, sometimes 3 things at the same time. Lately it's just been little things. Like yesterday, while making up a bottle for Jack-Jack and trying to clean the house (before the cleaning lady comes ) I forgot to screw the nipple onto the bottle and dumped a whole bottle of formula into Jack-Jack's face! He took it quite well, but I sure felt terrilbe. It brought me back to my "Reality Check" post a few weeks back and reminded me to just slowwww down.

My worst mishap though was with my work laptop. Several months back I decided to make use of Dash's prolonged bath time, which I always supervise. Usually I bring in a crossword puzzle to work on while he plays in the water. This time though I was especially busy at work so I happily sat myself on the bathroom floor and started catching up on work emails while my son bathed. I was making great progress, until my son surprised me by throwing a cup of water onto my laptop!! Okay, LOTS of screaming followed. My laptop was trashed and just as bad, I was working offline so all of the email work I did was lost too.

The next day I had to sheepishly go into work and explain how laptops and bathtime do not mix very well. Lesson learned.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Grocery shopping

Little did I know that moving to Switzerland would have the hidden benefit of my husband learning to grocery shop!

I initially tried to "teach" my husband how to grocery shop when we lived in the US. He was very good at going to the store for chips and soda, but nothing else. I even created a inventory check list that he could use prior to going to the store. I thought it would appeal to his sense of organization, but it was to no avail. I can't tell you how many times we have had this conversation:

Elastomom- Can you go to the grocery store today?

Mr.I - I don't know what we need.

Elastomom - Food (sarcasm) Really, look in fridge, what are we short of?

Mr.I - I don't know.

Elastomom - Milk?

Mr.I - Uh, yes.

Elastomom - What else?

Mr. I - I don't know.......

You get the picture. It took me less time to just do it myself.

In Switzerland however, with stores closing at 5 pm and not open at all on Sunday, it became a matter of neccesity for my husband to shop for groceries. Shopping here is not at all like in America. Here you really have to hunt for what you need. Bread at one store, Milk at another, meat and produce somewhere else. I think this challenge appealed to my husband, either that or he realized that it was a better alternative to starving to death. He has searched high and low and found what we need at the different shops in the area. Succesfully finding things like Ritz crackers, sourcream, spaghetti sauce, hot dogs, and wheat sandwhich bread that doesn't taste like cardboard!

So now he is my grocery shopping expert. I don't know if this will last when we return to the US. He'll be back to working in the yard and comfortable in knowing that the grocery store is open 24/7.

Friday, October 17, 2008

What a Beautiful Family

I've been a Mom for 4 years now and I just received my first "What a beautiful Family" comment. My two sons (4 years & 5 weeks) and I had just traveled from Zurich to Kansas City which took about 18 hours door to door. Travelling with kids is challenging no matter where you are going and I wasn't quite sure how we would handle an overseas flight with just me to handle both kids, but they were incredibly good. Probably the biggest incident was Dash walking out of the airplane bathroom with his Spiderman underware and jeans around his ankles. The flight crew and passengers got a great laugh! My hands were full with Jack-Jack so one of the attendants was kind enough to assist.

So back to the comment. My first reaction was one of Pride. My kids were great on the trip. It's a lot to expect, especially of a 4 year old to behave for so long in a confined space, but he's a pretty seasoned traveller for a kid his age. The baby was easy, I kept a bottle handy and he basically ate and slept all the way from start to finish. There were also 2 eager grandmas next to me who kindly asked to hold him for a good part of the overseas flight.

As I thought more about the comment though, I wondered why I had never heard this before. Dash has always been a good little traveler with my husband and I. We travel a lot. He's logged more miles at 4 than I had by 30. So I got to wondering, did I get this comment now because I have 2 kids? Does a family of 2 kids appear more beautiful than a 1?

Either way, the comment still made me smile, but the next time I see a Mom and/or Dad with one child I may just let them know that they have a beautiful family too. Afterall, they come in all shapes and sizes.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Reality Check

I got a good reality check on Multi Tasking in today's busy world while watching Oprah the other day! I am not an avid watcher, but the episode that day featured a woman from the Cincinnati area who had accidently left her 2 yr old in her car and tragically she died of heat stroke. It's hard to believe for most of us that any Mom could possibly do this, but it happens time and time again across the US. I don't hear about it at all in Europe and maybe that has something to do with the lifestyle and culture we lead in the US. We tend to do everything fast, rushing through our day to accomplish as much as we can, and as Women, often taking on more than we can humanly accomplish. Too many of us aspire to be SuperMoms! So yes, this started to hit close to home.

As the show progressed many Moms in the audience shared their own stories of accidents, near tragedies, or mis-haps that they've experienced from being overwhelmed by trying to do too much. Quickly you could see how the audience grasped that these common mishaps were all one step away from a such a terrible tragedy caused by leaving a child in a hot car.

My take Aways from the show

"Just Good Enough" is Absolutely fine: It's not reasonable for us to try to be perfect at all things all of the time. Perfect Kids, spotless house, demanding job, not to mention making sure you are investing time in your marriage. I recently broke down in tears because I did not manage to make the "perfect" Spider Man cake for my 4 year olds birthday. (very silly in hind-sight) I was so upset because I had made really creative birthday cakes and thrown a nice party for our neighborhood friends for his first 3 birthdays. I tried to maintain the same standard this time even though I had just had a baby 2 weeks prior. I ended up making a so-so Spiderman cake that we had after lunch without a party and my 4 year old loved it just the same.

Being There vs. Multi-Tasking: There is no such thing as Multi-Tasking! We just jump from one task to another and don't give our full attention to the moment we are in. I will struggle with this one because I am always trying to maximize my time, but the point is well taken. We often miss very special moments, or even worse, make mistakes, because we are distracted with what we need to do next (or are checking emails on our blackberry). This made me check my priorities to make sure I am giving undivided attention to my family and things I am doing with them when it matters most.

Women supporting Women: Fortunately I have had great experiences with this one. I would say 99% of the women I know both through work and outside have been great sources of support. This includes Moms and co-workers of all sorts: with/w-out kids, WMs/SAHMs, single/married etc. The Ophra show, like a lot of other conversations I have read or heard recently focused on how women tend to tear eacher apart and don't support one another. I'm glad I haven't seen that and will continue to try to dispell that perception by helping out the women I know.

Dad's Role: they get left out of the conversation: I am continuously amazed how conversations around parenting still focus so much on Moms. Dads are (or sould be) 50% of the equation. I think that sometimes we discredit how much they do just because they do it differently than us or set different priorities. I know in my case my husband is a lot less stressed about being perfect and maybe that makes him a better parent than me in some cases. Maybe they are the role models we should be looking at as parents?

Food for thought......

Friday, September 26, 2008

3 weeks of leave

So I am 3 weeks into my leave and yesterday I told my husband that I am ready to go back to work so I can get some rest! I know, I shouldn't expect to get rest with a 3 week old, but sometimes being at home is not as restful as people think.

My "mommy" gene (or whatever) kicks in when I am home and I can not let myself just sit and rest. I know this to be inherited from my Mom, who after 43 years I have never seen sit through an entire dinner without getting up in the middle of a meal to do something for someone else. There seems to be an endless need for laundry, cooking, cleaning, and playing with our 4 year old. Never mind meeting the needs of a new baby!

When I am at work somehow these things take care of themselves without me. Or actually I think my husband does them. Or maybe they just don't all really matter as much as I think they do. At least the laundy, cooking, and cleaning.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adjusting to a Dad at home

My husband left his job right before the birth of our 1st son to be at home full time. Prior to that he was travelling M-F, every week. This change certainly required some adjustments on our part!

1st, Seeing each other M-F! Now that I look back on it we were darn lucky to even get pregnant. It seemed both of us spent more time in the air than we did at home together. We had to adjust to our weekday routines - what TV programs did we like, eating habits, exercise routines, even bed time routines! This caused a few bumps. My husband is a night owl and I am a morning person. On the weekends this wasn't so big of a deal, but during the work week I like to be in bed and asleep by 10 pm. He is happy with 1am!

2nd - Money, Money, Money. Wow, I didn't see this one coming, but then I was the one continuing to earn an income. He all of a sudden felt he had no money and was very frustrated. We hadn't fully made the shift to 1 checking and savings accounts so he was used to having his own pool of money for discretionary spending. I had been paying all our bills out of my income and I was still doing that when he first started to stay at home. Solution - 1 account, husband pays all bills. This was a great burden off of my shoulders and something my husband is very good at! He is now happy and now I am the one who has no money!!

3rd - a SAHD is not a SAHM. Different skill sets. We have a great looking yard and a very organized garage! Honestly, my husband is MUCH neater and more organized than I. I am good at clean versus neat, so we actually end up being a good balance to each others weaknesses.

I just had to adjust my expectations of what I would come home to at the end of the day or returning from a business trip. We do have one of the best looking yards in the neighborhood though!

Why I work and Dad Stays at home

This was really quite easy to decide. My husband and I even talked about this when we were dating. Simply put, I love my job AND it pays well. Part of it is the company I work for and the products we make. I am proud of what my company does and truly believe that what we do every day helps change people's lives. I take that to heart in the decisions I make and the priorities I set a work. Sounds corny I know, but I believe it and I sleep well at night.

My job is not glamorous. I work in Operations. I've run manufacturing plants, engineering teams, etc. and now I am running a small company for our organization that has given me broader General Management responsibility. Hopefully we continue to be blessed with a career that I love and a company I enjoy working for.

My husband's job was just a job, and he was happy to walk away from it and start a new chapter in his life as a Stay at home Dad (SAHD) - more in another posting!!

Taking Leave

So I've just had my second child and I am on leave until January. I took a similary length leave with my 1st child and managed to completely step away from the job the 1st time. That probably wont be posible this time around, but I will do my best to focus this time on my family.

It is interesting to see different peoples reactions to what length of leave you plan to take for the birth of a child.
  • My Boss: I am VERY fortunate here. She has two children of her own and took leave for both. She constantly reinforces that I should take what I need and that part of my leadership is having developed a good team that can handle things while I am gone.
  • My Husband: Can't believe that the company lets someone in my position take as much leave as I plan to!!
  • Co-Worker: "Surely you don't plan on taking any more than 6 weeks ......." Oh boy. This guy has a lot of women working for him too. Definately not what I expected to hear out of his mouth. Comments like this make me even more determined to take my leave and come back when I am ready and be as effective as ever!

As I stated in my profile I work for a company that is reputed to be very women friendly. Although our paid leave policy isn't the best, the culture at least supports me being able to take the leave. It's up to me as the money earner to make sure we saved appropriately to let me take the leave I would like too, although more paid time would be great!

I think this is also something that the US sadly falls short on compared to many other nations. I wont quote any stats here, but many other contries have federally mandated paid leave for Moms, some for up to a year! The federal requirement in the US is ZERO!