Tips for Taking Your Toddler to Work

Every great once in a while, it happens. You have an important client meeting, one that you’d rather not reschedule, and your childcare plans fall through. Now what? You could call and beg and plead with everyone you know to sit on your kid for awhile, but you did that last week, and you’re out of favors. Or, you don’t have any backup resources. So you’re faced with two options: reschedule or bring your offspring along for the ride. I chose the latter.

I strapped my sixteen-month-old into her car seat, and headed into town (her older sister had other arrangements). I was a little apprehensive about how my appointment would go, but I’m glad to report that there were no major glitches. I was productive, she was happy, the client was satisfied. Win-win-win! Now, I realize it doesn’t always go this way, and in fact, I have some horror stories of unsuccessful attempts to take my older daughter to work back when I had an office job. *shudder*

So, if you find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to panic (unless you’re an ER doctor or pilot or police officer or something and you can’t get away with this, then panic away).

1. Judge Your Child’s Temperament to See if They Can Manage This Scenario
I know my kids well. My youngest is your classic “easy child” and goes with the flow. My oldest creates her own flow and doesn’t easily adjust to new situations. I’m not sure I would have attempted this with my oldest, or it probably would have been a disaster (as it has been in the past).

This girl is always up for an adventure!

2. Inform the Client and Ask for Consent
The great majority of the time, your client will understand if you explain the situation. But don’t just show up and surprise them, and don’t be surprised or offended if they’d rather reschedule. It’s not personal.

Nobody seemed to mind my little helper.

3. Remain Calm. Remain Confident.
If you’re stressing out, your toddler will sense your mood. Keep your tone light, and act as if it’s just as exciting as a trip to the library or park. And once you’re in the meeting with your client, keep your chin up. Just because you have a child in tow doesn’t make you any less of a professional, and doesn’t diminish your intelligence. Work it momma!

4. Bring a “bag of tricks.”
It’s common sense, but absolutely crucial. You’ll need a goody bag stashed with books, toys, snacks, and any other diversion you can think of. Be prepared to cycle through them all.

Goldfish, dolls, books, we had it all!

5. Give them the Holy Grail. 
For some kids, this is your cell phone. For others, your keys. Whatever that object is that you rarely let them have, give it to them now (within reason. Don’t hand them your pocket knife of anything.) It’ll buy you some time. For my daughter, this was a lollipop (or two). We can’ t pass by a candy aisle in the grocery store without her yelling, “Pop, pop!” Baby wants. Baby gets.

Stain on the shelves matches the stains on her shirt. Oh well, the peace and quiet the lollipop provided was worth it!

6. As soon as possible, let them play.
After your meeting wraps up, find the nearest place your toddler can play, and let them go to town. I was lucky enough today that my client had a kid’s play area in the store. Genius. I released her from her stroller and set her free! It was only for 10 minutes or so, but long enough to satisfy her before strapping her in her car seat again.

She was happy to get out of her stroller and play with new toys.

While taking your toddler along as your mini-assistant might not always go smoothly, it’s worth trying. Will I do it again? Only if I absolutely have to. She was a doll, and while I enjoyed her companionship, momma needs her grown-up time once a week! :-)

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Let’s Carpe the Heck out of this Diem!

Soaking in some mommy-daughter time.

For every stay-at-home-mom who’s complaining on her blog about her lack of appreciation (ahem, like me), there’s another mom sitting in a cubicle, dreaming of spending time with her little ones. She glances over at their faces in the 5×7 frame, and counts the hours and minutes until she can ooze into her front door after a long day of work to a chorus of “Mommy! Mommy! We’re so glad you’re home!” She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. She’s the sole bread winner, or the insurance carrier, or the single parent.

For every hair I pull out of my head while my children are driving me crazy, there’s another mom thousands of miles away, with sand in her hair and her combat boots. It will be months, not hours or minutes, until she holds her child again. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her tour isn’t over until February, and she’s making the most of mommy time she can through Skype calls and frequent Facebook posts.

Sometimes, life really is a bowl full of cherries.

And for every time minute of solitude I long for (just an empty house and a bathroom I can use alone for pete’s sake), there’s another woman out there who longs for a full house, for a full womb. Her arms are empty. She would give anything to be in my shoes, but she can’t. Her dreams of bringing a child into this world will never come true. Empty. Alone. These are things that she dreads, not that she embraces.

So in honor of my sisters out there, I’m carpeing the heck out of this diem. I’m picnicking on the front porch, picking wildflowers, giving wagon rides, spoiling with kisses, making each hug last a little longer. I not only smelled the roses, I cut them and put them in a vase. I not embraced that life is sometimes like a bowl of cherries, I cut them up and put them in muffins. The cleaning will wait. The stressing can wait. I will enjoy my children. I will caress their faces. I will dance in these shoes, for all those who can’t.

Smell here. Smell often.

She works hard for no money, so hard for no money…

Alright. Before I made the decision to stay home with my girls full time almost five months ago, my SAHM friends tried to warn me. They told me how hard it was to live on a frayed shoestring budget, never get a sick day, be with your kids from sunup to sundown and the kicker? Nobody really appreciates you for it. While I never thought for a second that this job would be easy, I had NO idea how hard it would be. No idea. I work so hard…for no money.

They appreciate me, right? Right?! I sure appreciate them.

But it’s not just about the money. I left a career I was good at. Really good at. But I was in the right place at the wrong time in my life. And time was slipping away at home. My babies are small, and seeing them for only a few hours (if that) every day just wasn’t enough for me. I craved their company. And while I don’t regret this decision to amputate half of our income in exchange for more face time with my children, there’s something I’ve come to realize. This isn’t my calling. I just don’t feel like I’m any good at what I do. I mean, I’m not the most terrible mother to have ever sleepwalked across this earth, but I’m no June Cleaver either.

Then again, I have no way of knowing whether or not I’m cut out to be an at-home mom. The usual metrics of the working world don’t apply. Paycheck? Nope. Bonus? Nope. Quarterly evaluation? Nope. Promotion? Nope. Verbal praise? Nope. Sure, my three year old has said, “You’re my best friend mommy. I want to be just like you when I grow up and stay home with my kids.” But that’s quickly negated with, “I hate you! I want you to go to work and never come home.” That sure made me feel like a pile of poo.

I never knew before how much I need Words of Affirmation (one of my love languages), until I stopped getting any. Sure, money is nice (and we could sure use some right now), but nothing quite fluffs my ego like an “atta girl.” (And if you’re a future employer, I don’t take payment in compliments. I’ll still negotiate for that higher salary.) At this current job, I have one daughter who’s unintelligible (but adorable), another daughter whose loves me one minute and hates me the next (also adorable) and a husband who wonders why the house looks like it’s been “ransacked” when he gets home every day. (Because we were robbed by a gang of diaper-wearing bandits, that’s why.)

I am not a lazy person. I work so hard to scrimp and save and educate and pacify and cook and clean and clean and cook and bathe and play and clean some more. And at the  end of the day, it’s so hard to determine if any impact has been made. It’s just me, faced with a dirty home after the family has gone to bed. Every night.

So, why not just polish up my resume, slip back into some heels and re-enter the workforce? It’s not that easy. First and foremost, I would miss my girls. I. Love. These. Girls. When we end our day on a sour note (bedtime battles are going to be the death of me), I know I have all day–all day–tomorrow to make it better. When the weather is glorious, we head to the park because we can. When we get the itch to check out some new books from the library, we head into town because we can. That quality time I was craving? I’m swimming in it now. And it’s awesome.

But I also don’t want us to be swimming in debt before the year is through. What if I have to go back into the workforce, and nobody will have me? What if quality childcare isn’t available? These are the questions that haunt me. Those, and “What’s that smell?” Something always smells around here…

No, I’m not ready to make any major life decisions. I’m just venting. Perhaps whining a little. But I’m giving myself permission to do so. After all, not everybody has a job they’re highly qualified for. That cashier who rang you up today? She was a little slow, but she got the job done. That fast-food worker who handed you your french fries? He could have been friendlier, but you got what you ordered. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. And that’s pretty much all any employer can hope for.

Outsourced: Paying For Childcare When You’re An At-Home Parent

Our budding WNBA star.

At 4 a.m., I saw my husband off to work. I made him a cup of coffee to go, and watched him drive away on a 1.5 hour commute to his job site. A job site where he would be outdoors nearly all day in 100 plus degree heat, only to take short breaks in the air conditioned job trailer before heading back out into the blistering sun. He’s a hard worker, as hard as they come. I’m sure he would have loved to outsource part of his job today…like I did.

That’s right. I took my toddler to her old daycare, and kept the baby home with me. So technically, I outsourced half of my job. Why? Because I felt it was the best thing for my family, to give her much-needed social time, give me a little breathing room to work on a few projects, and give the baby some one-on-one time with momma.

When my former (amazing) childcare provider notified me of a temporary part-time opening, I jumped on it. It’s probably only going to be one day a week, and that’s just about right. She misses her friends there, and thrives on interaction with other kids her age. Besides, when you’re seven miles from any community, opportunities for regular play dates don’t always work out.

Even though our provider is very affordable, and I’m doing what I can to make up the difference, I still feel a bit guilty. My husband tells me he’s okay with this arrangement, but my wifey senses tell me he struggles with it, too. We’re on a tight budget, and can we really afford to pay for supplemental childcare?

I feel like I need to justify this decision to anyone and everyone who’ll listen. But why? If the girls are happy, I’m happy, and the bills are paid, what does it matter? If it all works out, I think I’ll be quite happy with this arrangement.

One-on-one time with a good book. Well worth it.

Why I’m okay with outsourcing my job once in awhile:

1. I loved the one-on-one time with Erica. She thoroughly enjoyed playing with any toy she wanted without fear of repercussion from big sister. I was able to watch and observe her without any distractions. Anna doesn’t really nap anymore, so I really can’t remember the last time I spent quality time with Erica like this. Bonus, I found out she loves playing basketball (and she’s quite good).

2. I actually got some things done. Now, instead of piles of paper and other oddities spilling out when you open the computer desk, things are neat and arranged. And there were five loads of laundry done, some freelance projects completed, dinner was cooked, and I even got to watch some daytime TV! (Watched while sorting paperwork. I’m not missing much.)

3. I miss my daughter. Now, I look forward to spending the entire day together tomorrow, and going about our “normal ” routine. She’s a hoot, and I have a blast with her (despite her toddler mood swings).

4. Anna is no doubt having an awesome day with friends. She’s reunited with her beloved Micah and Ian, and it’s like old times again. I’ve explained to her it won’t be every day like before, and she’s okay with that. I only had to ask her once to put on her shoes and brush her hair and teeth this morning. Once I told her we were going to Nelle’s, she was up and at ’em!

A Stinky Turn of Events:

I wrote most of this post (up to this point) before I went to pick up Anna today (dare I say while it was “quiet”). She was happy to see me, and had all sorts of stories to tell about her adventures. Once we got home, things got, well, interesting. Wrestle Mania started five minutes after we got in the door, and I was soon in my “nagging mom” routine, warning the girls to “Be careful or someone will get hurt!” And soon, it wasn’t the sound of the wrestling that was bothering me, but the smell. That’s right, wrestling has a smell…when the baby has a blowout. Poop. Everywhere. Covering the kitchen floor, Erica, and miraculously, not Anna. It was epic. Towels were sacrificed.

And then I had a brilliant idea. What if we could outsource this part of parenting? The poo part. Genius.

So, what is the arrangement in your household? Is it all parents, all the time? Or do you spring for an in-home babysitter or daycare provider? Do friends and family pitch in? I’d love to know! Also, if you’d like to come clean up the poo-tastrophes around here for a nominal fee, let me know.

Workout Barbies, Masking Tape Babies and the Mom in Between

She’s real. And she lives in West Wichita.

There she was, in real life, tall, bottle blonde, tan and wearing spandex as it was meant to be worn. She had pep in her step, pearls for teeth and a perkiness that indicated silicone (if you catch my drift). She emerged from the church carefree and unburdened as I was walking in with a baby slung up on one hip, and a toddler gripping my free hand. I was schlepping, she was practically bouncing. She had style, she had grace, I probably had graham cracker on my face. (No, seriously, Erica had been munching on them on the way in.)

So what was she doing here, at this mega-lo-church, where I was dropping off my kiddos for four hours of social interaction? I was already a bit harried, as we were running 15 minutes late the first day of the summer program (Anna had a meltdown over my insistence that she wear bloomers under her favorite sundress). I was also intimidated, as I’ve never taken my children to a large daycare facility, only to an in-home care provider who’s known them since they were born. Harried, intimidated, a bit insecure, and there she was.And to make matters worse, she wasn’t merely an au pair or summer babysitter, she was an actual mother, dropping off her own children. (At least they called her mommy when she picked them up later.) I am completely supportive of moms taking care of themselves, but why did she have to look that good? And she wasn’t alone. The entire collection of Workout Barbies made an appearance, all wearing coordinating high-end fitness gear. Where did these moms come from?

Image

I might just leave this on her full-time, as I often call the girls by the wrong name.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sporting my frumpiform today (old shorts and faded tank top). I was actually dressed up for a business luncheon later that afternoon. I had on a dress, heels, makeup, jewelry and yet I felt horribly out of place in this honeycomb of a facility. We’re really just country bumpkins at heart. Oh, and I forgot their lunches. I swore the paperwork said “meals provided,” but it didn’t. Fail.

As I stood in the doorway of Room 206 (Erica’s), the teacher scrunched up her face and asked, “Is she walking?” Not, “Hi, how are you? Who’s your darling child?”

“No, she’s running,” I flatly replied. This caused a bit of a panic as teachers hollered from one room to the next, “We’ve got a walker! Where can we put her?” (Voice inside my head: She’s not a  walker, she’s Erica. My baby. And if I hadn’t already paid good money to be here and had good recommendations from friends, I might leave about now.)

We got her settled into her room, and the strangest thing happened. They put masking tape…on her back. It had a practical purpose, as it labeled her as “Erica” and not “The Walker.” To many parents, this is completely normal, but to me, it was so odd. After all, when your child attends a facility with six kids total, this is not an issue. (Not judging large facilities, just not what I’m used to.)

Then, we began the wild goose chase up and down stairs, through long hallways, and in and out of rooms to find Anna’s class. She made a momma proud, holding tightly to my hand, and patiently waiting while we searched for her new friends. We finally found her class, and I stayed with her while she did her business in the little bitty toilet that was just her size (she was thrilled about that). This was after I’d wiped it down from the previous little pee-er, a little boy who urinated around, rather than in the toilet (grateful to have girls right about now).

And now for the moment of truth. “Anna, mommy has to leave now, but I’ll be back real soon. Remember? Like we talked about?” The look of calm left her face, quickly replaced with a panicked “there’s no way in hell you’re leaving me now” look. Oh yeah, this is what working mom guilt felt like. I remember now.

I briskly walked away while she stood whimpering outside the playground, and knew that she would be fine shortly after I left. I peeked in on both girls when I returned with their lunches (organic, no Lunchables for fear of being judged by Workout Barbie, or my dietitian friend).

I went on to my business lunch, enjoying the sound of click-clack-click-clack heels on the sidewalk instead of flip-flop-flip-flops. I saw old friends, shook hands, and learned a few new things. It was nice. Very nice. Then, I left early as I had to go pick up my girls. As much as I enjoyed being among adults, I didn’t feel like I really belonged there, either. I’m caught in the middle. Not a Workout Barbie mom, and not a full-time working mom.

As I heard my baby squeal with delight when she saw me in the doorway, and saw my toddler’s eyes light up at my arrival, I felt at home. The time apart did us all good, but I found where I belong, with my girls.