Staying Home

Staying Home

I recently updated my current job title on my Facebook page to “Mom/Project Manager at Home.” While this might sound like an overly official title for what most call stay-at-home-mom, I like it.  Why should what I’m doing now be made to sound any less official, important, validated or uppercase than when I was a Sales Manager at our family business, Writer/Producer at KOMO, or Maître d’ at Ray’s? Quite the contrary I say – this new life-long gig is already the most important work I’ve ever done.

As Anderson rounds the corner toward the three-month mark, a lot of people have been asking me when I’m “going back to work.”  They don’t mean to assume, it’s just what they’re used to in an urban, progressive, feminist-leaning place like Seattle.  A city with a high cost of living and typically two-income households, nonetheless.  After all, this is the time when many women’s maternity leave ends, and for most that means back to work either full- or part-time, and new care arrangements for baby. 

Some women go back to work because they want to.  It is an important part of their identity, precious time spent with humans who measure their age in years instead of days or weeks, a time to invest in the world around them and do something that makes them feel good and accomplished, an example of work ethic and importance placed on career that they want their children to witness and aspire to.  I get that.

Some women go back to work because they have to.  They may be the so-called “breadwinners” of the family, or their income is simply necessary to the family’s finances.  There are medical benefits provided through their work that they can’t be without.  They are working toward retirement or other benefits they don’t want to lose.  I get that. 

Some women don’t go back to work at all and instead make the home their full-time workplace.  In many parts of the world this option is incredibly common; in Seattle, not so much.  I get that, too. I don’t think any particular one of these options is the best or only way to do things and I respect women who choose any of these situations that happen to be best for their children and family. 

Personally, I feel fortunate, and so thankful, to have the opportunity to spend my days at home with my son.  I know a lot of women long to stay home and simply can’t.  It is not something that I take for granted.  For pretty much the entirety of our four-year marriage, Aaron and I have been planning for and working toward this season of our life.  I always knew that I deeply desired to at least have the option of staying home full-time once we started our family.  So for the last four years I worked alongside Aaron, traveling the country for work, putting in your typical 40+ hour weeks at the office, hiring staff, growing our business and saving for our future.  I wouldn’t trade those years for anything, or start our family any sooner than we did.  For us the timing was just right, and those first few years of childless marriage were important in laying our foundation as husband and wife, and future Mom and Dad. 

Now my days are filled with a very different kind of work.  Instead of business cards, I collect animal flash cards.  Instead of being the first person someone sees when they enter our booth at a trade show in San Francisco, I’m the first person my son sees when he wakes up from his nap down the hall.  Instead of reading work emails, reports and contracts, I read illustrated board books and baby blogs.  Instead of commuting by car to the office, we commute by stroller to the park.  I may sleep until 9, but I was often up feeding at 5.  I do more laundry in a week than I used to do in a month, and try my best to have dinner cooking when Aaron gets home.  He supports me and truly loves having me home in this role, and that means the world to me.  It’s all a new normal.   It’s my new life.  It may not be for everyone, and it’s not a life everyone wants.  But I am thankful for it. 

My mom recently told me she was surprised by my choice to stay home – that it’s not a lifestyle she would have pictured me choosing.  I can understand that coming from my mother.  After all I have always been her “on the go” girl, never in the same place for too long, always looking for the next club to join, trip to plan, job to land.  She likes to tell people that my first word was “go” and I haven’t stopped since.  How could I possibly be content with a job that leaves me in my pajamas and my car in the driveway sometimes for days at a time?  Where’s the busy-ness, where’s the adrenaline rush? 

I don’t know how else to explain this other than, I guess I’ve grown up.  I’ll be 30 this summer and I’m not the same person I was at 20 or 25.  Different things are important to me.  I’ve done the college thing.  I’ve done the high-pressure career that made me stressed out, sleep-deprived and unhappy but sounded really cool when making small talk with strangers.  I’ve waited tables and made twice as much money as I made at the high-profile “career.”  I’ve traveled to 25 states, most of them alongside my husband, as I’ve had the pleasure of building up the company he started that I am so, so proud to support him in. 

 

Though I’m only 30, I feel like I’ve had my fill of all those things for now, and I recognize that they’ve each helped shape who I am today.  But I don’t need any of them to define me.  I really believe that when I look back at the end of my life, “wife,” and “mother” will be the titles that mattered by far the most to me.  I want who I am in my home, in my family’s life, to be my legacy.

I will do things outside of the four walls of my house, rest assured.  I look forward to volunteering in my community.  I’m not sure what all this will look like, but I want to give back to others because I feel I have been given so much.  Maybe I will go back to work, or start a new career path someday.  And if our company needs me, I will be there, even though I know Aaron would rather have me home with our kids.  We will always do what we have to do to give them the safe, secure, loving home they deserve.  Right now, for me, I am doing that by spending my days here, though I know there are millions of incredible mothers whose days look nothing like mine.  What do they say?  It takes a village.  And it takes all kinds.  There is no one right way to mother.  I’m simply grateful for the opportunity to mother in the way that feels right to me.

Mommy Must- Haves

Mommy Must- Haves

My Mommy Must-Haves…

I have a handful of pregnant friends right now, and as a new mom with a fresh memory for this stuff, some have asked my advice on favorite products, brands, and ways of doing baby-related tasks.  I know how much some of these recommendations from others have helped me while trying to ‘figure it all out,’ so I am happy to pass along my two cents on some of my favorite things for baby if it can help even one mom with one dilemma.  Look, I’m only 2 months into this whole parenting thing, and am certainly no expert.  But I AM a hard-to-please shopper, researcher and consumer of all things baby.  I am scrupulous and skeptical when it comes to the quality, effectiveness and safety of products I rely on to help me raise my baby.  My top picks come from a variety of retailers and price-points, and many were either hand-made or handed down to me, or can easily be found used through Craigslist, baby consignment stores, etc…  Without further ado, here are the top ten things that have won me over, made my life easier, my baby happier, and I simply cringe at the thought of having to parent without:

 

1. A WATERPROOF changing table pad! 

Use it by itself or on top of a fabric (read: NOT waterproof) changing pad, on-the-go or at home – just USE IT!!  J   Here’s a link to the pad I use, on top of my fabric pad (the best of both worlds: comfort plus function).

Messes are easily wiped clean from the slick pad without reaching the fabric one underneath, I have only had to wash/change out the fabric one ONCE.  It was a fluke that I came up with this arrangement, but I would NEVER DO IT ANY OTHER WAY!!  Especially if you are having a boy, they WILL pee all over, and you WILL save yourself so much time and money by changing the baby on a waterproof pad.  Here is a picture of my set-up:

 Image

The changing table and fabric cover underneath are from Land of Nod.

 

2.  BOB Stroller

Of course there are exceptions, but Aaron and I tend to find that you get what you pay for.  The BOB is one of the more expensive strollers out there, but I believe it’s because it is one of the most durable, versatile, highest quality and longest lasting options ever to grace the stroller market.  I haven’t sampled anything else quite like it and most of my friends and family members with babies swear by it (they make a great double stroller, too!).  That being said, because they are so popular, they are also widely available used, through friends and family, consignment stores, Craigslist, etc….  I have also often seen them on sale at stores like REI and Babies-R-Us.  Big rubber wheels and awesome shock-absorbency makes anything from gravel trails to sidewalk curbs a smooth ride.  With the BOB exploring Bainbridge Island:

Image

3.  Medela Pump in Style

I was super confused about the whole pumping thing for the longest time.   As a stay-at-home mom, I didn’t understand WHY I would have to pump, and certainly didn’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a system I may not use. Basically if you exclusively breastfeed and ever want or need to be away from your baby for more than 2-3 hours (date night, business meeting, a job!), and need someone other than you to feed your baby, pumping is a necessity and this is a great, user-friendly system to get the job done.

4.  Halo SleepSack Swaddle

Anderson sleeps in this nightly.  More leg room and harder for him to wiggle out of than other brands we’ve tried.  Keeps him nice and snug for nighttime and naptime.Image

5. Motorola video monitor

I love this system.  You buy the monitor unit and it comes with one camera, but you can buy up to three additional cameras to monitor several areas of your house.  We have three cameras set up:  one in the nursery over baby’s big crib (where he currently naps), one in our bedroom over his co-sleeper/mini crib (where he currently sleeps at night) and one in our basement over his pack-and-play (so if he is there and we go upstairs, we can monitor).  I love this monitor system, for it’s multi-camera capabilities, large color screen, night vision (can clearly see child even if room is pitch dark), and temperature reading (it tells you the temp of each camera location, so you can be aware of overheating concerns and check on child accordingly – this has been such a helpful feature during Seattle’s recent heat streak!!)

6. Burp cloths, burp clothes, and more burp cloths.  As for my favorites, it’s a tie between these from Aden and Anais (the curved shape sits nicely over the shoulder and the material gets even softer with washing and wear), and these homemade ones from my mother-in-law and friend Brooke:Image

Another great and inexpensive option is to buy a pack of basic white cloth diapers, they make a good (if somewhat thin) burp cloth.  We have a pack of 12 of these, plus about a dozen ‘cuter’ burp cloths.  We can easily go through have a dozen in a day (our boy has no shortage of spit up!), so having plenty of back stock during laundry is a must.

7.  A bouncy seat:

Image

If you ever want to eat dinner while baby’s awake, the bouncy seat is your best friend.  This one from Fisher Price does the trick.  Hand on the fork, foot bouncing the baby.

8. Motorized swing:  Every baby is different, but this was often the ONLY thing our little guy would sleep in for the first 2-3 weeks of life:Image

 

We used it so often, and were constantly lugging it from room to room and floor to floor, that we eventually bought a second one.  Seriously.  When it makes the difference between sleep and no sleep for your entire family, you WILL buy not one but TWO huge obtrusive baby contraptions for your formerly neat, adult home.  That’s how much of a life-saver it was those first few weeks.  We used it everywhere, all the time. Our baby loved the stimulation of the snug fit and swaying motion. 

9. Turtlemeter bath thermometer.  It’s cute, completely waterproof, and takes the guesswork out of making sure baby’s bath water is neither too hot nor too cold.  Need I say more? 

10.  Join a PEPS group!  Okay, so this one’s a service, not a product, but I had to squeeze it into my must-have list. This is a Seattle-based organization that links new parents with others in their neighborhood to meet once a week for 12 weeks to discuss, celebrate and commiserate about the highs and lows of learning the parenting ropes.  It’s a great way to meet new parent and baby friends, trade ideas, and feel less alone as you navigate this new world.

A few honorable mentions:

*I also adore my Storksak diaper bag.  It has tons of inner and outer compartments to keep me organized, easily attaches to the BOB stroller with clips, expands to hold way more than you’d think, and looks cute when doubling as a purse (doesn’t scream “diaper bag!”):

Image

*These cute little laundry bags:Image

  I got mine at Village Maternity in Seattle.  Beautiful fabric on the outside, waterproof on the inside – I keep this in my diaper bag and toss in soiled clothing when on-the-go wardrobe changes become necessary!  Sold in two sizes, this is the small. 

*Weather-resistant stroller blankets from Rain or Shine Kids:Image

RoSK blankets are awesome – made to keep baby warm, dry, and protected from too much rain, wind or sun.  They tie onto any stroller or carrier with stylish little ribbons, come in lots of great color combos and graphic prints, and are designed by a Seattle mom (who happens to be a former co-worker of mine!) 

 

There you have it.  My picks for the products that have made my parenting experience thus far more fun and functional.  I’d love to hear yours!