Spring Forward! Time to adjust the clocks…and yourself

When I woke up on March 11th, I was reminded that all of the clocks in the house needed to be moved forward one hour. Ugh! I lost an hour. Time is the most important thing I have and losing an hour due to something completely outside of my control is maddening.  My husband tried to remind me of the upside, “At least the kids slept until 7 today!”

There are things I love about daylight savings time: longer days, blooming flowers, and the knowledge that summer isn’t that far away.  But I’m not so fond of the sun–though I desperately miss it in the winter months–keeping my children up late. Before kids I loved the longer days, with kids? Not so much.

I read up on some ways to help children adjust to the change like keeping them up a little later or darkening their rooms by putting curtains over the blinds, but none of them worked.  However, our children seem to have figured out how to adjust on their own. They go to bed at their normal bedtime but instead of falling asleep right away, they stay up playing in their beds or talking to each other. Despite falling asleep a little later, they seem to be well rested when they wake in the morning so I’m not too worried about it.

I wish I could adapt to change so easily.

The biggest change I’ve had to adjust to in my life was becoming a parent.  I thought I knew what I was getting into—less sleep and more responsibility—but there was so much more to it than that. The obscene amount of caffeine I would ingest, the frantic feeling of all the things I needed to learn and do, the overwhelming sense of frailty that comes with taking care of this little life, the “no touch zone” I instituted from my armpits to my knees with my husband for a period following our son’s arrival and an identity crisis I never saw coming. I did adjust to each of these things over time. On our son’s first birthday my husband and I raised a glass of sparkling cider to celebrate. We felt like we were finally starting to adjust.

I’m better equipped for change now and I’m always working to learn and prepare for the next chapter in our child-rearing journey. Part of this adjustment has been the acceptance that not everything is under my control and things won’t always go as planned. There will always be some adjustment needed no matter how much I plan. Just like trying to prepare yourself for when the sun will come out during daylight savings. You know it’s coming and you can prepare all you want but ultimately you just figure out how to adjust to it once its here.

Is The Hunger Games a book for all ages?

It’s times like this that I think my parents had it so much easier. There was no Internet, no cellphones or texting when I was a child, and the most controversial book of the day was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret—which covers such scandalous ground as a girl getting her first bra and having her period for the first time—pretty innocent compared to what’s available to young people today, right?  I was prepared for the dangers of the Internet and texting, bracing myself for all the trappings of social media; do I have to worry about books now too?

The movie The Hunger Games, based on the book by Suzanne Collins will open this upcoming weekend.  Let me start by saying that I’m a huge fan of the book. Though it’s considered young adult in genre, its appeal goes far beyond that, much like that of Harry Potter and the Twilight series. As you may have heard, there has been great controversy surrounding the franchise as the books are centered on children killing each other to stay alive in a sadistic adult game. While the premise sounds like something no young person should read, the Hunger Games is ultimately a story of youth, finding yourself, staying true to who you are, being brave, resourceful, even compassionate and using smarts to win an unthinkable game. The book’s heroine Katniss Everdeen is arguably an excellent role model in many ways. The question many parents may be asking is: how old should our children be before we let them read books with such a dark subject matter?

A girlfriend recently called me and asked for my opinion on this very thing. She was concerned because a local elementary school teacher had recommended the books for one of the class’ book clubs. While my friend’s children were not in the class in question, they easily could have been. She was concerned after having heard what the books were about and knew I’d read them so was calling to get my take.

Her inquiry forced me to think about when I would let my own children read it. I shared my recollections of the novel with her and encouraged her to read the book so she could make the most informed decision when her kids showed interest in them.  I was struck by the fact that when I think back on my own childhood, I can’t recall wanting to read any books outside of what was required by my teachers.  Times have changed and the young adult book market is hot so many of us with young children should probably start catching up on our reading before our kids start asking us about Panem.

My personal preference is to read or watch things before I let my kids do so. This is great in theory but with parents’ busy lives, it’s difficult to vet everything our children want to read or see. I think books like The Hunger Games give us a great opportunity as parents to talk to one another and share our thoughts. It also allows you and your spouse or partner to discuss and prepare for how you’ll handle controversial material your child shows an interest in. Plus it might get you to read some great books you might have otherwise ignored (though ignoring this juggernaut seems pretty impossible just now). I secretly love that I now have an excuse to read a tween/young adult book without being judged.

I’m grateful that so many parents are cognizant about what they’re exposing their children to, and grateful for people willing to share their perspectives including other blogs that are tackling this same topic. It gives parents a variety of inputs and helps us make better decisions.

Being a parent to young children today isn’t any easier or harder than it was in the past, it’s just different. I really enjoyed The Hunger Games and look forward to the day my children can read the books—many years from now.

What’s Luck Got to Do with It? One Woman Trying to Have it All.

It’s an age-old question: can women have it all? How do you juggle all of your various roles—being a wife, mother, working woman—and take care of yourself? Is it even possible? I know I want it all and I know what that means for me. I want to have a fulfilling job that allows me to work hard, but not work 24/7 and I want to spend quality time with my children and my spouse on a daily basis while still finding time to take care of myself along the way. I think what I want is possible, but it takes a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck and a  willingness to set boundaries.

First: the hard work.  I don’t know that I appreciated how hard it is to be a woman until I got married. As a woman working outside the home, the difficulty only increased once I had children.  Working full-time, keeping up the house, cooking, taking care of the children, maintaining a loving relationship with my husband, making time for friends and squeezing in time for me adds up to a pretty full plate. It became clear to me early on that the biggest question I would need to answer was what am I willing to sacrifice? There certainly wasn’t an easy answer.  After I took my first job in management many years ago, I worked insane hours; my blood pressure shot through the roof and my adrenaline was always going because I felt like my hair was on fire—not very healthy. I knew even at the time that it was a bad situation but I didn’t know how to change it. My husband and I were only dating then and there were no children in the picture yet, so this was as good a time as any to learn from this experience.  After a year of that hectic lifestyle, I was able to move into a less stressful position, which gave me time to reflect and I decided that I needed to get some clarity on what I was willing to sacrifice for work. I determined that I would work my hardest (as I’ve always done) when I was at work, and do my best not to bring it home. This wasn’t an easy task, but with practice I find I’ve gotten the hang of compartmentalizing . Does that mean I don’t want to do a good job or that I don’t get nervous on occasion, say before an important presentation to a high level executive? No, but I’ve worked to make the necessary adjustments to my work life. In my twenties I really enjoyed traveling for work—it was an adventure and made me feel important. The luster of travel has long since worn off, which happens for most of us once we’ve been doing it for a while. I don’t mind traveling when I believe my presence is really necessary, but make it a point not to travel for travel’s sake. I’d rather spend time with my husband and kids.

Second: a little bit of luck.

Luck is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

1. noun:

a : a force that brings good fortune or adversity

b : the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual

2. verb: favoring chance; also : success

 

Lucky is defined as: happening by chance

I’ve never understood why luck and success are seen by some as synonymous. I know a lot of successful people who have gotten where they are because of hard work, and their willingness to learn from others, take advantage of opportunities, and take risks. This doesn’t seem very happenstance to me but certainly a little luck goes a long way in making it all come together. For instance, if you’re lucky enough to want to work in a profession that allows you to have a lot flexibility, that will likely make balancing work and family life a lot easier than if you are say, an emergency room doctor. Of course, most of our work lives are somewhere on the spectrum.

Which leads us to my final point about boundaries. A girlfriend and I were talking about work recently and I was sharing with her how hard I’ve been trying to maintain my boundaries by not working after normal business hours unless it’s necessary, making sure I’m taking time to be fully present with my husband and children, and trying to make time to take care of myself. She was very encouraging and mentioned a book she had recently read called Weird by Craig Groeschel. The book tells the reader to break from the norm of being overworked, stressed and exhausted and create boundaries to live a more fulfilling life. After briefly telling me about the book she said, “What you’re doing is weird, and that’s a good thing.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever been wanted to be called weird before, but I’ll take it, because I do want it all and don’t care how I get it—luck, hard work or both.  My family is worth it and so am I.

Raising Baby / Bebe / Baobei – One American Parent’s Perspective

America loves its reality TV. This phenomenon is something I’ve never quite understood though I’ve lived in the States my entire life. Since becoming a parent my TV watching has dropped dramatically, so the fact that I’ve even heard of the popular singing show The Voice is something of an anomaly, but I think its premise makes an interesting case for parents to consider.

For those who haven’t tuned in,  The Voice is a television show that has contestants come up on stage and sing a song in front of four judges. The catch is that all of the judges have their backs turned to the singer and can only be influenced by what they hear, not what they see. If a judge believes the singer is talented enough to want to take them on as a protégé, they hit a button that turns their chair around. If multiple judges pick the same person, the judges try to convince the contestant why they should take them on as a coach in order to improve their singing and possibly win the contest.

When you become a parent for the first time you are struck by three things:

  1. How much you don’t know and need to learn quickly
  2. The art of second-guessing oneself
  3. How afraid you are of making mistakes

The practical measures that you need to figure out become apparent quickly: how to diaper and dress the baby, feed the baby, how to soothe the baby, and possibly the most important, how to get him or her to sleep.

You then start to figure out that you’ll have to try and take care of yourself as well and have to figure out when you’ll find time to shower, sleep, not to mention keep yourself sane.

You become a quick study in the art of second-guessing.

Should I swaddle or not? Does that comfort the baby or will they resent me for it later?

Should I breastfeed, bottle-feed or both? If I’m unable or don’t want to breastfeed will I be negatively judged by others?

Do I put my baby in an activity class? Am I limiting their capacity to learn later if I don’t?

The list of questions we ask ourselves is almost limitless.

Then, just as we start to get comfortable and think hey, maybe I can do this we get hit by a line of questioning from well-meaning friends and family members that goes something like:

“Are you going to do that?”

“That’s not how I did it” or “That’s not how I would do it”

They almost can’t help themselves.  They don’t want to see you make the same mistakes they did. They want to share their insights, or should I say strong suggestions, so that you won’t struggle the way they did.

But what message do these questions send?  They reinforce our temptation to second-guess our every move. If the ones who love us most are second-guessing our decisions , then they must be onto something, right?

There are many books that provide culturally specific ways for people to parent that have generated quite a bit of controversy, including the recent tomes Tiger Mom and Bringing Up Bebe Undoubtedly both books have some helpful ideas that one might want to incorporate into their own parenting journey but I suspect they also feed  that nagging internal voice that says are you going to parent like that? The French/ Chinese/ Whomever are really doing a much better job.

We always fear that despite our best efforts, we still aren’t going to get things right. We fear we won’t be good enough for our friends, for our spouse or partner, for our children, but most importantly for ourselves. We set an unattainable measuring stick in an attempt to get parenting ‘right’.

I’d argue that the fear and doubt associated with parenting aren’t specifically American experiences but human experiences that know no cultural boundaries.

What all parents need is to be supported, not judged or made to feel like they are under constant scrutiny.

What if we took a cue from The Voice and instead of getting distracted by all the surface qualities of what our parenting journey looks like, we just listened for that one clear note of truth to guide us?