Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Week 4: I need a vacation

I love getting the question: "How do you like staying at home?"  The truth is, this is one of my favorite seasons in life.  I have been able to make tremendous progress in setting up our home that we bought last Fall.  As a full-time working mom with an almost equally demanding nonprofit commitment, I had to do some major prioritizing for my family to function while hitting my professional and civic targets.

So after weeks of domestic bliss/craziness, I am ready to attack the next challenge of planning a family vacation.  Any parent with small children knows that a vacation with littles can be quite the task.  Considering the travel time, dietary needs, gear that makes it "easier" for parents and entertaining all ages, research can make all the difference.  Thankfully, the internet provides unlimited information so that you can be well-informed before making a purchase.  Unfortunately, that unlimited information also makes it more difficult to choose the best option because of the overwhelming amounts of marketing.  

We started our search with  Since we are no longer a two-income family, we have to be even more aware of our budget & stick to it.  A couple of years ago we had a wonderful vacation last-minute vacation for under $800 for a week with our family of 4--including a stay in a very nice condominium at Carillon Beach.  I was hoping to have the same luck, but I haven't found a deal that compares yet. 

We're looking for activities for the two older kids and easy meal options.  Someone suggested a cruise and that seems like a great option--however, from the time that I searched last night until today, prices have increased by $500.  There seems to be an art in which date you book (but I am fairly certain that internet cookies could have something to do with the pricing as well).  

I am determined to book something soon so that I can enjoy the anticipation without spending my precious days researching.  More to come. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

If You're Happy and You Know it

I just wrapped up week 3 of my new journey--whatever it may have morphed into.  For some time now, I have contemplated the way that my path has unraveled and sought advice on how to proceed.  I felt unhappy with where I was going, but unsure about the next steps.   With more uncertainty than surety, I was frustrated & felt like I was getting no where toward the big goals that I had worked so hard to take a stab at.

Fast forward almost a year, and here I am with my unperfected elevator speech about what I "do" and days filled with organizing and unpacking boxes from our move last August, cleaning up endless messes, stretching my shoestring budget and spending time refereeing.  But, I can honestly say, I have never been happier.

There's something so beautiful about this time.  So perfectly imperfect.  I am so very content.

But then, there are kind friends who are well intentioned who ask if I am glad that I am now a stay at home mom.  The answer is that I'm not sure.  This time "doing nothing" but investing in my kids is a wonderful and busy time, but financially, I need to pay off student loans and other debt that we have.  I also want to be smart about saving for retirement & investing so that my children aren't saddled with my expenses.  Others who have been excited to ask when I will launch a business.  Again, not sure.  I have thought about it often and researched and prayed.  But I don't want to jump into a 100 hour week to make it happen.  I can't.  My kids are too important.

I don't mind these questions, keep asking.  They keep me thinking.

But for now, I am happy and I know it, and it's a part of my journey that I am not eager to skip past.  I look forward to a Saturday of clapping my hands and loving on some stomping little feet.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Presence of a Father

Today is Father's Day. For most of my life, this holiday was very uncomfortable to me.  I was a bit sad that I didn't have a dad to celebrate.  However, as children, we celebrated my mother on Mother's Day & Father's Day. She definitely deserved an extra holiday. As a single mom, she raised three kids on her own. As a mother of 3 myself, I can only imagine how difficult it was without the presence of a father. Witnessing how hard she worked to be both a mother & a father made me even more grateful to my children's father for the man that he is.
Jax & Pop Spring 2008

When I met my husband, I was a single mom. Jax had just turned 4 years old. One of the few perks of being a single mom is that you get to see a glimpse of a father before choosing to spend your life with him. My husband, a modest & reserved man, was kind and loving with my son.  He was a natural. Bike rides, hikes, reading a story at bedtime--Jax didn't even have to ask.  I was able to get to know him better and witness his character in the way that he treated my child--now our child.  This is one of the many reasons I love him!

Fast forward five years and add two children.  This daddy is knee-deep in the craziness of parenting. Suiting up to take on sleepless nights, sick children, teething babies, toddler tantrums, hard questions and all of the difficult parts of parenting is where he shines. These are the battles that separate the men from the boys.

Daddy staying overnight with Eden hospitalized with flu

Like most men, he enjoys the challenge in his work. One of the tragedies that he sees in his profession is the absence of a father.  We both know how that feels & how difficult it is for a child to grow up without what Freud deemed childhood's strongest need--"the need for a father's protection." I value his awareness of this need and the way that he exemplifies it in our family & his commitment to serve and protect in his profession.

The need for good fathers in our society is evident.  In my life, the presence of a good father is one of life's sweetest blessing.  For a girl who grew up without a father, I treasure my husband's existence, I lift him up in his parenting--even if it's not like mine.  I praise him for the ordinary--because even if it's something regular fathers do, it is extraordinary to me.

Because my husband is a great father, I can be a good mother.  While we each have roles that we take on in our family, he shares the responsibility of parenting equally.  It's beautiful watching him teach and lead our children.  He gives wise instruction and models servanthood.  He doesn't take his responsibility as the leader of our family lightly.

His work ethic is admirable--never complaining when he is called in early or his schedule changes with little notice.  He steps up to the plate.  At home, he often survives on little sleep so that he doesn't miss out on precious time with his family & can help out when I need him.  While he's a terrific father--he's not perfect...

He likes to talk politics with our son and watch silly parodies and other ridiculous videos on youtube, when he knows that it drives me crazy. He encourages the kids to tease me and act silly and...

I sometimes find him laying down on the job & he is easily convinced to giving in and letting daddy's little girl get what she wants...

And sometimes he struggles with sharing our son (every other weekend) because he misses Jax being away.  (I can relate.)  He understands that having a blended family is hard--and not ideal--but that doesn't stop him from loving all of our children equally and fully.

He is the best father for our family & we love him, faults and all.  

Happy Father's Day to my husband and all of the fathers out there who are present, imperfect parents.  Father's make an impact on their children (and can change the world).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Career by Design: Thoughts on A Woman's Paradox

This infographic resonated with me on several different points.  I also noticed some statistics that were surprising as well.

35% of Men are more likely to take a break.  I can attest that with my own situation, this was very true.  I was often seen walking swiftly around the office trying to cram in as much work as possible.  Lunch was at my desk or with potential clients or committees 4 out of 5 days.  I didn't take a maternity leave until my 3rd child was born.

Also, the graphic of the corporate ladder is staggering.  Not, just for women, but for business.  Just think about the value that corporations could receive with more women in the mix at the top.

What surprised me most were the statistics on the SAHM side.

  • Just 13% of SAHMs regret giving up their career
  • 15% of SAHMs resent their partner for being the one to go back to work after the birth of a child
  • 19% of SAHMs said that they would be happier if they worked outside of the home. 
These are surprisingly low as well--and I think that is a good thing.  It appears that being a SAHM may be more fulfilling than what is projected in today's culture.  

In my Career by Design journey, I am hoping to discover ways to help the reasons behind why
  • 47% of working moms would be happier if they didn't work
  • Almost half of Working Moms want to stay at home; and
  • Almost half of Stay at Home Moms want to work.
And, to offer a solution to these moms.  

A Woman's Paradox
Source: Great Business Schools

Monday, June 10, 2013

Anything Worth Doing is Hard

[originally posted March 1, 2013 on another blog platform]

Today I had a good hard cry in the lactation room while pumping and scarfing down a microwave enchilada that I dug out of my floorboard. The cry was brought on not by sadness, but rather the sheer emotional exhaustion I feel lately from juggling a return to my career, children, marriage, running a nonprofit organization, and maintaining a semblance of a social life.

Each part of my life just takes work. I'm not "nailing it" in any area-which proves to be a bit draining in itself. However, after my release I feel a sense of clarity and peace brought on by the assertion that I'm getting through all if it.

I feel like one of the most apparent lessons in my life right now is learning how to embrace the middle/muddle.  Middle meaning the journey in between the start and the outcome. Muddle because that's how I'm getting through. Often it's not graceful in a world of change and uncertainty. You just have to keep taking one step at a time. Sometimes you move forward and sometime you go backwards. Frankly, sometimes it's just good to pause and think for a minute.

In a world where powering through is rewarded (on the other side of the challenge), muddling is awkward. It takes humility. It teaches us to rely on others for guidance. It helps us to be okay with not knowing all of the answers and allows us to recognize and value those who do know some of them.

I know several friend who are muddling right now. Whether its parenting, trying to get caught up financially, transitioning between one community to another, salvaging a troubled relationship, suffering with health issues, grieving a loved one, working through career challenges, we all must muddle through. It's not going to be graceful everyday, but every day is another day of progress. Don't rush through. Don't be fearful.

I am grateful that I can cling to the Promise that God is here through the mess and through the glory. He will get me through the hard stuff--on His strength.

As I wrap up my lunch break I find it ironic that I forgot to turn my nursing cover around. I'm tempted to walk out with my cape on and take on the world.  But instead, I think I'll avoid awkward this time & just rely on my Savior to carry me through the day.

New Season, New Blog

Over the coming weeks, I am going to work to transfer over some of the posts from my private blog to this site.   I have enjoyed writing through certain seasons in my life & my private blog has allowed me to look back and remember how blessed we are--even in challenging times.  I am making some of the postings public so that I can share the blessings and challenges in our lives.

Today marks the beginning of the second week in my new season of investing in my home life & continuing the process of exploring a new direction for my career.   At the end of May, I left my job.  For the next 4 weeks, I will be wrapping up my role as president of a young professionals group here in Chattanooga & catching up on my "home" work.  The past week was good, but tough with all three kids being sick at some point.  Much of my time was spent in the house just cleaning up germy issues.  This week, everyone seems to be on the mend--except for Baron, who I'm almost certain is teething hardcore.

I am creating some plans & goals in order to be intentional and not let the days go by in a blur.  I'm also aware that living in the moment and enjoying the flexibility during this time is a beautiful gift as well.

I look forward to this season of fun & family.