I Hope He Thinks We’re Poor

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I’ve had many conversations with my dad over a wide variety of topics, but I can’t remember a time in which we ever discussed his salary. I have no idea how much money my dad made each year, but I put together plenty of clues. Based on the evidence, I put together that my dad didn’t make very much money. We were poor.

My parents had a very humble beginning to their marriage. Their wedding was simple, the took only a weekend honeymoon, and they moved in with my dad’s oldest brother. I can imagine my dad in his young 20s rubbing two nickels together in attempt to provide for him and his young bride.

They put themselves through college and started a family while my dad was working on his master’s and PhD. Times were tough and money was tight.

These were the details my dad did talk about. But from there he was silent on the issue of money and all I had was my experience as his daughter.

We took a vacation every summer, but we always drove and we always stayed with family.

My sisters and I each were given $100
at the beginning of the school year to get the necessary supplies and new clothes. It seems like a lot, but it doesn’t go far when you’re trying to buy new Nikes for gym class and enough clothes so you don’t have to repeat an outfit during the week.

Eating out was reserved for special occasions. When we did eat out, my dad would usually make my sisters and I split a meal. He said he was not going to waste money and food if we weren’t going to eat it all.

When my older sister turned 16, my parents bought a new car for my mom and handed down her old car (a Chevy Cavalier) to us kids. We had 1 car to
share along with 1 cellphone. The cellphone stayed with the car and was for emergencies only.

We also had to get a part time job when we turned 16. I really didn’t take issue with this; I babysat full time during the summer for 3 kids when I was 13. When I turned 14, I babysat during the summer and also worked at the Dairy Queen in town. I’ve always enjoyed working. But my dad was strict about our paychecks. We had to tithe and we had to put money into savings from every check we earned.

I was horrible at sharing the car, so when it came time for my younger sister to drive my dad told me to share or buy my own car. He co-signed my loan, but provided no money for it. He told me the first time I missed a payment and he had to cover for me, he would take my car and sell it.

When my older sister got engaged, my dad gave her a lump sum of money for her wedding. We were told we’d each receive this amount for our weddings. We got to keep any of it we didn’t spend, but if we went over we had to pay from our own pockets. Now it was a generous amount, I’ve never been given anywhere close to this amount of money before. But when it comes to a wedding these days, what my dad gave us wouldn’t go far. My sister and I both opted for low key weddings rather than investing our own money into the event.

All of these experiences painted a picture of poverty in my mind. I had friends who were always flying to this place and that with their families. Friends who would only wear the latest, trendiest (expensive) clothes. They had their own cars and cellphones. I made the assumption that that was the kind of life my dad wished I could have, but our lack of money wouldn’t allow it.

Yet this picture of poverty has some flaws. My parents paid for all our college tuition. During that time, they also paid for our housing and groceries. I graduated college without a cent of debt to my name.

Nick and I had only been dating for two months when we got engaged. I figured with how quickly it happened that my dad wouldn’t have the money readily available. Without hesitation my dad wrote me a check. He didn’t have to put the wedding expenses on a credit card or ask for time to get the money to me. He had the money and could give it to me without liquidating any assets first.

 

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In my house, I have a coffee table, 2 bedside tables, a bookcase, a queen sized bed frame, a full sized dresser and chest of drawers, a crib, and a changing table. All made by my dad. All solid oak. And I’ve never paid a dime for it. All I had to do was ask.

 

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When I was pregnant and had to make several trips to the ER, my parents gave us money to help with the medical bills.

My parents wrote us a rather large check to help pay off our car loans. More recently, the wrote us another check to help buy a new, larger vehicle. All without batting an eye.

Where did this money come from? How did my parents go from being so poor, to being so loaded?

I’ve embarrassed to say I never made the connection until this past weekend. I have finally matured enough to see the kind of man my father is and to realize that he always wanted more for me than a stupid pair of designer jeans. I thought we were poor because I was living in the moment; aware only of the possessions I wanted, but could never have.

 

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But my dad has always had the future in mind. The money I thought we didn’t have was actually in the bank the entire time. My dad knew that there would be tuition to be paid, weddings to fund, and family emergencies.

 

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I’m grateful for the furniture and the money; I can’t pretend as if those things aren’t valuable to me. But more importantly, I’m grateful that my dad taught me the value of working hard and living beneath your means. These are lessons I want Milo to learn. I want Milo to think we’re poor. I want him to assume that his mom makes the laundry detergent and toothpaste because we can’t afford the store bought stuff. I want him to assume that we almost never eat out and buy second hand couches because we have no money. And then someday I want to lavishly give him the gifts he needs because all the time we were living poor we were actually storing up.

 

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Me Time is Essential…And Not Just for Me

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Me time. I read a blog a while back stating that me time is not essential. It states we cannot separate ourselves from the rest of our lives (spouse and children). At the time I read it, it resonated with me. I even shared it on Facebook. I was a new mom and everything else was changing; I thought my desire for me time would change as well.

For the last several months, I’ve had very little me time. I would feel guilty for wanting me time. After all, Nick would be at work all day and needed some me time. I would use my me time to cook dinner. Or do the dishes. Mow the lawn. You get it. Me time was simply any time that Nick needed to care for Milo.

I quit taking baths. I quit reading. I quit making fun stuff like body scrubs and bath salts. I took care of my home and squeezed in my runs.

I became exhausted and unpleasant. I felt trapped. Not resentful. Nick didn’t force this situation on me. In fact, he was always encouraging me to take some space, enjoy a bath. But I couldn’t shake the guilt.

While this was going on, Milo was growing increasingly attached to me. Truth be told, I wanted him to want me. I worked hard making that child, the least he could do was love me most. Right? But the more attached he became, the more I would feel guilty at the thought of letting him go.

Fast forward to the present day. I’m getting into the deep part of my marathon training. Long runs are no longer just an hour or two. I’m out on the road for at least 3 hours. That’s 3 hours of Nick and Milo, toughing it out without me. This past long run, I got home to find Daddy and Milo doing just fine. When I came in, Milo made no attempts to flee Daddy and head for Mommy’s arms.

So I took advantage of the situation and took an ice bath. (Not the same as a relaxing bath, but it sure did feel good on my legs!) We had lunch together and, as Milo napped, Nick let me nap. He promised to care for Milo if he woke up early. It was amazing.

By the time the late afternoon rolled around, I felt like I had barely spent any time with Milo. I was worried that I had hijacked Nick’s entire day. Until we were sitting at dinner and Nick said the most amazing thing.

I feel closer to Milo now than I did at the beginning of the day.

He didn’t feel resentment towards me. His day hadn’t been ruined. He got to spend the day with his son, building their relationship.

So here’s what I’ve learned about me time. For one thing, I need it. It is essential to me, not just for its own sake, but because I’m highly introverted. I can’t be around people all of the time and continue to function. The same is true about my family; they don’t get to be exempt from my nature. I’m a better person when I get sometime alone and I’m a better wife and mom the same way.

Secondly, when I don’t take me time Nick doesn’t get quality time with his son. Sure, I want to be Milo’s favorite but I don’t want him to not want his Daddy. Father/son relationships are just as important as Mother/son relationships. But a smothering Mom can impede the fostering of the Father/son relationship.

I won’t be feeling guilty for me time any more. It’s not selfish, not when it’s used in moderation. The flip side is still protecting Nick’s me time. It’s difficult to balance it all, but we’re working on it.

Good Mom Bad Mom

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I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Sure it’s a good way to stay in touch with family and friends. Lord (and my FB friends) knows I love to share pictures of Milo. And it can be resourceful too; I’m part of a couple different mommy groups which makes it helpful to get advice from other experienced Momma’s. But I find that Facebook often brings out the worst in people and the ones that make the most sad are the very ones I often turn to for help, the Mommas.

I was a part of a particular breastfeeding group that I recently had to make the decision to leave. Don’t get me wrong, breastfeeding is tough and it’s good have such groups. And I’m sure that most of these women are actually quite nice. But heaven forbid you ever utter the “F” word: formula. This sect of moms seem to believe that formula is poison and any mom willing to give their child it should have their kids taken from them. It wasn’t just that they had made the choice to breastfeed; it was that any mom who didn’t make the same choice was a lesser mom. I found their criticism to be so harsh that I left the group. As much as I wanted the resource, I couldn’t take the judgment posts blowing up my newsfeed.

And it’s not just about breastfeeding. I have friends, whom I love dearly, that post very argumentative articles for and against vaccinations. Now I’m all for research and educational articles, but again I’m not sure why we have to attack other moms who haven’t made the same decision as you.

It’s how or if we sleep train our children. Do you feed your child baby food or follow baby led weaning? If you use baby food, is it organic or did you make it? Are you a stay-at-home-mom or do you work outside the home? Are you a helicopter parent? Do you give your children too much independence? The list goes on and on.

Judging my what I see on Facebook and the conversations happening around parenting, there is a Good Mom and there is a Bad Mom. There is no Ok Mom, it’s only either good or bad. But the difference is in the eye of the beholder.

Can I offer what I consider to be the reasonable definition of a good mom and bad mom?

A good mom feeds her child. Period. If that baby is eating and growing, momma is a good mom.

Good moms help their child get sleep. Does it take extra cuddles? Fine. Is it nursing that helps your baby sleep? Great. Good moms know their child needs sleep and helps them achieve it in whatever way necessary.

Good moms make sure their family is being provided for. Does a good mom need to work to provide extra income? Sometimes. Does a good mom know when she’s a better mom by having a job outside the home? Yes. Does a good mom decide her most fulfilling job is the home? If that’s true for her, yes.

Good moms make sure their child is clothed, wards off sickness, seeks treatment when illness doe occur, love their child unconditionally, and always has the child’s best interest at heart.

Bad moms neglect their child. They routinely skip meals. They offer no comfort. They are self-centered. Bad moms do exist, but I don’t think they’re as common as Facebook seems to assert.

Motherhood is tough. Children are never easy and we’ll never fully understand them. But could we make the battle a little bit easier by not battling against each other? Could we recognize the differences in parenting styles as just that, differences? I’m not a better mom because I breastfeed and stay-at-home just like you are not a better mom for having a natural birth and not vaccinating your child. We’re both great moms because at the end of the day we love our kiddos and would do anything for them.

Making Memories

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My mom has a go-to story about me when she talks about how routine I am. I was only 3 or 4 when we drove from Galva, IL to Randalstown, MD to visit our extended family. It was a 14ish hour journey. The house we lived in had a manual garage door, so when we got home my dad was too exhausted to bother with getting out of the van, lifting the garage door, getting back in the van, and pulling it into the garage. So instead he decided to just park the van in the driveway and would take care of unloading it the next day.

This is the point in the story when I had a major breakdown. Apparently I just started crying for (what seemed like) no reason. My parents tried everything to console me, but nothing was working. I’m not sure which parent came up with it, but one of them wondered if I was upset because we didn’t pull the car into the garage. Already exhausted from the drive and then my crying, my dad took me back out to the van, buckled me into my car seat, and pulled the van into the garage. I stopped crying. All was right in my world again.

My mom will laugh when she tells the story. In its own crazy way, it’s hilarious how much I depend on routines. But this passed week was the first time I realized, that must have been torture on my parents when it was happening. Sure my mom will laugh about it now, but I bet they were both at their wits ends in the moment.

On Sunday evening we headed out on our first family vacation: a 16 hour drive to New York City. Our first leg of the trip was the 2 hour drive to my parents’ house to drop off the dog. Milo slept the entire way, so it seemed like we were getting off to a really good start. We dropped the dog off with my parents and had a quick dinner with them.

We got back on the road and, within a half hour, Milo was crying. It started off as a whine, just a little whimper. Slowly he started to escalate until he was screaming and an hour had passed. I was driving and Nick was in back trying to soothe him. I focused on my part, driving, but all I could think was “he needs to fall asleep. What if he screams the entire way to New York?!” He fell asleep for a half hour and then woke again. It took another 30-60 minutes to calm him down.

I was taking another shift driving at 3am through the hills of Pennsylvania when I started thinking about it. Was this one of those moments we’ll tell stories about 20 years from now? This is how it happens, isn’t it? It’s not always the glorious moments, it’s the moments you wonder how you will survive that turn into the stories you’ll tell over and over again. I think stories about me from childhood are hilarious, but I wasn’t on the receiving end of them. Now that I’m a parent I realize how the process of making these memories can be quite painful at times.

Needless to say, we all survived. We had a wonderful week with family and wouldn’t change a moment of it for the world. The trip home even went slightly smoother than the ride out. But yes, someday I will tell Milo’s spouse about that first vacation. And I will warn her that someday she will have her own stories to tell.

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

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From day one, I’ve been the mom who knows every symptom for every common, and not so common, ailment in infants. Every little tick had me rushing to Web MD and Baby Center. Every day presented me with some reason to be worried. It was so bad, at Milo’s one month appointment, the doctor asked me if I had a good support network of people and if I was getting enough sleep. No joke.

Over the last several weeks, Milo has been acting “off.” He’s waking at night, screams bloody murder when you try to lay him down to change his diaper, and will only nap in my arms. Naturally I started reading on developmental milestones, night weaning, and sleep training. My husband and I put a plan in place that he would be the one to get up with Milo at night because if I did the only thing that would soothe him was to nurse him.

Of course I tried to find a way these were all related, but my browsing was coming up empty. This week things got even worse and left me with even more questions than answers.

Milo developed a fever on Wednesday. He was incredibly snuggly and slept all afternoon in my arms. I wasn’t too worried; I chalked it up to teething. Yes, I consulted the internet and read up on how to know whether a fever is teething related.

To be safe, we called Prompt Care and spoke with a nurse. The only symptom he had was a fever. We went through dozens of other symptoms: did he have a runny nose, cough, was he tugging on his ear, etc. No, no, no. The nurse said it would be worth getting him in the next day to be checked out and to give him Tylenol through the night.

It was a long night, but we survived. The next morning, Milo’s fever was gone. He was playing and eating as usual, so we assumed we were out of the woods. Then around 3:30 that afternoon, he started feeling warm again and acting lethargic.

When Nick got home from work, we talked it over and decided to take Milo in to get checked out. We arrived at Prompt Care only to be told it would be a 2-3 hour wait. Milo didn’t seem to be in pain, it was just a high temperature, so we decided to go home and wait it out until the morning.

This night was even worse than the first. He woke every two hours and would only be consoled by nursing. By the time this morning rolled around, his temperature was back to normal. Again. It was so frustrating. His only symptom was a fever, but he didn’t even have that. I couldn’t find any answers online, so we went back to Prompt Care.

We went through all of the standard questions again. No, no, no. He doesn’t have any of this. The doctor came in, took a quick look in both ears, and confirmed he had a double ear infection. Now I know the symptoms for an ear infection; I had considered that several times. But until the fever, he didn’t show any issues other than being uncomfortable lying down. He never once tugged on either ear, which is the most common sign of infection.

The doctor warned us we’ll need to keep an eye on Milo. She said he’s the type of kid that will hit his head and we won’t know until we see the blood trickling down. Apparently Milo has a high threshold for pain, so without being able to verbally communicate that was a problem it just went undetected.

It was a good lesson for me. For one thing, I spend so much time researching symptoms. I can tell you what RSV commonly looks like, how to prevent thrush, and what the criteria for colic is. But this doesn’t make me an expert. Doctors are still experts, that’s why they spend so much time and money on schooling.

Secondly, sometimes you just have to make a judgement call. I asked several moms for advice and got several different opinions. Some said get him in right away, others said not to worry. It can be frustrating trying to make a decision, but it really comes down to what you are comfortable with. To be honest, I probably would have waited even longer to take him in except we’re going on vacation next week.

Lastly, our children are so unique. I should have already known this. Milo has never been phased by shots except the immediate pain, he hasn’t had any swelling with teething, and he can fall over and recover with remarkable speed. Yet I still hold him to the expectations and standards of the many. Milo isn’t one of the many; he’s Milo.

Lesson learned. I’m also aware of my own humanity, so I entirely expect to make this same mistake at least once more in Milo’s life. And probably the lives of my future children. In the meantime, I need to figure out how to block Web MD on my phone.

The Perfect Day

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I’m dreaming about fall. The crispness in the air, pumpkin everything, hoodie weather, apple cider, and the list goes on and on.

I’m looking forward to fall even more this year. You know those days, those dreary days, where the sun barely peaks out of the grey clouds? All you want to do is pull your hoodie on and curl up on the couch with a warm blanket and hot beverage. Forget work, no one should be expected to leave their house on such a sleepy day.

And I won’t have to.

I have no job to force me out of the comfort of my home. It will be great: I’ll put on my favorite hoodie and sweatpants, sit down with a cup of coffee, and stare dreamily out the bay window in my living room. I will think about how gross it is outside and how lucky I am to be inside with no place to go.

It will be the perfectly quiet morning. Wait. Too quiet. Where’s my child? Oh, over in the corner. What’s in his mouth? Is that something in his mouth? Yes, it definitely just shifted. How did his diaper come off?

Get back here! Leave the dog’s food alone. No. Leave it.

Ok, it will be the almost perfect day. I mean, I should have a perfect hour while he naps. Of course on that day, he probably won’t nap.

60 Day Review

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It’s crazy to believe, but I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for two months now. In some ways, it feels like the time has just flown by. In a lot of other ways, I can’t believe it has only been two months. Most jobs will have a review within the first 90 days to make sure the employee and employer are a good fit for each other, so I thought it might be appropriate to have my own review.

I got off to a little bit of a rough start. I think the problem was that I was a little unclear about the job description. What does a stay-at-home-mom do? I found myself torn between varying priorities. Since Nick started work the day after we moved, I felt like it was my responsibility to get the house unpacked. I also felt overwhelmed by all of the boxes, so it felt urgent to get things organized. At the same time, Milo was cutting his first teeth. He was extremely snuggly during this process, which made “getting things done” very difficult. And frustrating. At the end of the day, I felt like I had accomplished nothing. All I did was hold Milo all day. But that was the “mom” part of the job, it just felt so foreign.

Once I got a handle on what I should be doing (taking care of my son first, house second) things started to run a little smoother. Milo and I would take time for a walk every morning, we’d play together in the living room, and then as he napped I would do my house work. The next challenge was the voice inside my head: the one telling me to earn my keep.

It was a phrase I would use with some of my Starbucks employees. If a person felt too entitled to their job and didn’t do much while at work, I would tell them to earn their keep. I didn’t need to keep them around, so if they didn’t want to participate in the work they wouldn’t have a job. I began to fear that I wasn’t earning my keep. I was focusing so much on Milo, but that’s a job that doesn’t really have tangible results. Nick wouldn’t come home from work and see how I was helping Milo cope with teething or develop new skills. I began fearing that Nick wouldn’t see the value in my job; that he wouldn’t think I was earning my keep.

I had to come to terms with the fact that the job of stay-at-home-mom is unlike any other job. The boss, my child, can be very demanding and his expectations can vary day to day. Which means my expectations have to vary day to day. Flexibility is the key to being a stay-at-home-mom and it’s something I will always have to keep practicing.

But l love getting to spend the days with Milo. Watching him learn and explore is the most fun and fascinating experience. We have our routines, like our morning walks, but we also have a lot of diversity in the day. One day I’m baking all day, another I’m cleaning, or we’re out shopping. No two days are ever the same, which I really enjoy.

So while this job has its challenges and at times I feel like I’m not cut out for the work, I believe what I’m doing is valuable and like any other job there is a learning curve. We’ll see what the next 60 days brings.