How to Get An A+ in Parenting

Remember what success looked like in high school?  In order to obtain that coveted 4.0 GPA, you had to do it all.  Complete all the homework, do all of the extracurricular activities, get all the right answers and write all the papers to the exact specifications outlined in the syllabus.

But now, as a married, working mom, when people ask “How do you do it all?” my answer is not “I pull all-nighters.” In fact, I do not reply to every email or attend every event or have every answer. And so most often, my out-loud answer is, “I can’t and I don’t.”  This is a statement that I know to be true and have most often ACCEPTED as truth.

But then there are times I resist it.

Listen, I want to get straight A’s in all of life’s subjects: Wife, Mother, Full-time Employee, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Christian.  I want it bad.  And there are moments I try pretty darn hard to do it all… until a ball drops, a deadline is missed, texts go unanswered.  And then I’m faced with a choice.  Do I allow myself to dive head first into the shame spiral or do I let the small things slide, have a good chuckle to myself and move on?  What if I forgot to send those thank you notes… everyone will get over it.  Maybe I left some wet clothes in the dryer (twice)… whoops. Better luck tomorrow.  What if I had to say “no” to that friend’s invitation (again!) because the week was already just too jammed… catch you later and you’re still dear to me. Perhaps on a Monday morning, I realize that we are completely out of coffee beans and also out of the back-up instant coffee packets (WAIT, THIS IS ACTUALLY UNFORGIVABLE.)

It would be so very easy for me to list out the ways I got an F this year.  We are four (4!!!!) months into a full-on kitchen-turned-home renovation and I’m losing my innovative edge with my toaster oven. My husband broke his arm and just found out he needs surgery (THIS WEEK!!!!) and I am patient and compassionate but only to a point.  Addie started at a new school full time a few weeks before I began a new job at the foundation while offloading the job I’ve had for the last five years.  As a dear friend of mine says, “It’s a bit of gong show around here.”

But I know I need to redefine what success looks like now.  It’s NOT doing it all, getting it all right, being perfect in every which way.  It’s getting the right stuff right.  It’s picking the important ones and sloughing off the rest.  It’s reading my toddler one more book before bedtime (even at the expense of my expanding inbox).  It’s giving my parents and my sister a five minute phone call to say hi and I love you and letting the dishes wait.  It’s putting on my rain boots, walking outside in the dark up the stairs to the sunroom to get my husband some more ice for his arm (because that’s where our refrigerator is right now, DUH.)

I was exactly the student you think I was in high school… I aimed high.  And maybe it’s okay to keep working toward that 4.0… but it’s due time to reinvent our grading rubric.

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Best Gifts for Teachers Under $20

Let’s be real.  Teachers are heroes.  Shower your teachers with love and thoughtfulness this year and here’s one way you can do it without breaking your back-to-school budget.

Addie’s first day of school is tomorrow!  And by school, I mean daycare.  But explaining the concept of “school” is much easier when conversing with a two-year-old, so it’s off to school she goes!  My sister has been a teacher for many years and I’ve come to deeply appreciate the dedication to education and the individual care and thought she gives to each and every student.  So, I wanted to do our very “first” first day of school up right for Addie’s teacher!

T.J. Maxx is my first stop for many-a-things.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for Target but sometimes I can find just what I’m looking for at T.J. Maxx for half the price and with about half the distraction.  Plus, I know I am not the only one who gets a cheap thrill out of the “Regular Price” vs “Our Price” mind game. (See what I did there… “cheap thrill…” Oh, bless it.)

Best Gifts for Teachers under $20

Trail Mix: The way to a teacher’s heart is through their stomach.  That’s how the saying goes, right?  Grab a small bag of nuts, trail mix or dried fruit that they can stash in their desk drawer and sneak out during recess. $3.99 (originally $6.00)

Stationary: Cards are one of those things you always hope to have on hand but rarely think to buy, amiright?  Help your teacher stock up on thank-you notes and blank note-cards and let her focus on educating young minds.  Bonus points for fun and colorful designs! $1.99 for 10 cards (originally $8.00)

Nail Polish: Forget the Wet & Wild polish of your youth. Grab the good stuff for the person who is going to do you the favor of caring for your kid for eight hours a day. Some stellar brands include OPI and Essie. $3.99 (originally $10.00).

Travel-size Lotion: Pamper your teacher with some fresh, lightly fragranced lotion.  Pick a scent that’s agreeable like lavender or coconut.  Travel-sized bottles are perfect for stashing in their bag or school desk drawer for the drier, winter months. $1.99 (originally $5.00)

Small Candle: Our teachers are responsible for so much during the day.  Let them wind down in the evenings with a yummy, scented candle in a pretty jar.  “I hate candles.” – said no one ever. $2.99 (originally $8.00)

Gift Bag: Stash all the small gifts in a bright, fun bag, add some tissue paper and voila! Just remember the cardinal gift bag rule: refrain from writing on the bag tag so your thrifty teacher can re-use as they please.  It’s the gift (bag) that keeps on giving. $1.99 (originally $5.00)

Parents + Teachers: What’s your favorite back-to-school gifts to give or receive?

 

Working Moms: How to Avoid the Shame Spiral

Around Addie’s 2nd birthday, I posted some observations about her as a real and unique little person as well as some of my reflections on motherhood, specifically what it’s like to be a mom who is also working outside of the home.  It garnered responses like “Wow, someone else is right there with me in this” and “Thank you for sharing, can you do it more often so I feel slightly less crazy?” So friends, back to the blog I go…

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The makers of the Audible are my heroes.  They make my 15-30 minute commute purposeful, might I even say, enjoyable.  It’s a monthly subscription for $14.95 per month and worth every bit of my sanity.  Plus when you’re at dinner parties and people begin to share what fancy books they’ve read recently, you can have something better to contribute that your deep musings on the latest edition of, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” (Why does the teacher look so mad? That is such a diverse classroom of children… way to be ahead of your time, Eric Carle!)

My most recent audiobook: Of Mess and Moxie written by Jen Hatmaker.  I’m only three chapters in (AKA one round trip commute to and from the office) and my mommy worldview has already been blown to pieces.  I’ve also laughed out loud a noteworthy amount of times because Hatmaker’s commentary is both moving and hysterical.

My favorite part so far — Jen’s youngest daughter, Remy, asked her to come have lunch at her elementary school sometime that week.  Jen consulted her calendar and found that she had her workdays already booked up.  She told her daughter that she couldn’t come.  After breaking the news to Remy, she sulked around the house for a while and then came up to Jen and said, “It’s alright, Mom.  I forgive you.”

And Jen’s reaction is priceless:

No. Nope. No ma’am. Forgiveness is offered for someone who has wronged you.  Not a mother who has a job during your 11:10am lunch slot…  My work is not a sin against you, child of sorrow. Most moms on the entire earth work, in fact.  I refused to sink into a shame spiral because I didn’t grant my snowflake’s particular wish, especially because we spend most of every day in the same house together.  A few years ago, that would have sent me to the prayer closet, wringing my hands, yet again, at how often I wound my children.  I might have let that seep into my thoughts, poisoning my hope for their healthy childhoods and our future relationship.  I may have immediately compiled a list of all the moms who would have dropped everything, rearranged an entire day to make it happen.  The ones who already eat at their kid’s school twice a week…  Instead I said, ‘Sorry kid.  Have a great day.  See you at 2:45.’ And shocker… she was fine.  You guys, the kids are fine.  We are fine.

Oh, this is gold.  I think the line that was especially sobering to me was “most moms on the entire earth work.” When did not working outside the home become the goal in my mind?? Before I had Addie, I remember pleading with my stay at home mom friends… “I just don’t want to work… I want to be home… How can I make this happen?” But what I was really thinking was, “I SHOULD be home.  To be a good mom, I NEED to be home.”  But how does that apply to all of the women who actually don’t even have the choice?  Does this mean that there are only good moms in countries, family units, cities that have the financial security or family support to even have that choice?  Nay.

But I had a choice – and I chose to work.  And there are moments, I feel that “shame spiral” creep in… What if I can’t always be there to put her to bed because I have a work dinner? What if her hair is a bit “cutting edge” sometimes because I’m not always the one getting her ready in the morning? If she still sometimes cries as I walk out the door to head to work, does she know I still love her like crazy? Am I totally screwing her up by working – moreover, am I willingly CHOOSING to screw her up?  In these moments, I’ll look to Hatmaker’s sage wisdom:

“No. Nope. No ma’am…  My work is not a sin against you…  You guys, the kids are fine. We are fine. ”

See you at 4:30pm, Addie girl.

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