Relax and Rest, Repeat

How are you relaxing this summer? Have you been able to get away on vacation, or find some ways to rest at home?

The school year always feels like a busy time. There is always something to plan for, something to remember to have your child bring, or not bring. It seems like you always have to be somewhere (and you have to remember where, because it changes). And there are always lots of activities: after school activities, homework, etc. It’s enough to make anyone long for the summer break. But summers don’t seem as relaxing as I remember them.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the summer and the time off. Summer meant swim team practice, riding bikes with my friends in the neighbor and playing at each other’s house. Summer took on a different meeting when I entered the workforce. The long stretches of time off went away and were replaced with 8+ hours/day of work with an occasional vacation day sprinkled in.

As a parent, there never seems to be enough time off. There are the demands of the job, and getting your child to where they need to be (camps, friends, etc.). Taking time off to spend it together as a family is something we do each summer: taking a trip to visit family and seeing different parts of the country. There never seem to be enough vacation days or time to do all the things we’d like to do. And there never seems like there is enough time to rest.

I was reminded by the directions on a shampoo bottle, that I might need to re-tweak my formula for how to spend my time during the summer. The shampoo direction said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” I thought, they are onto something here…it’s simple to follow and yields results. My new phrase for how I spend my summer time is: Rest. Relax. Repeat. It will take some effort on my part, but the summer is a great time to enjoy the good things going on in your life: the warm weather, your family’s health and all the great adventures we can have at home and wherever we spend our time off.

How will you spend your summer? How do you rest and relax during this time of the year?

Speaking of resting…I’ll be taking a break from writing for the next few weeks and will return following the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Let’s Have an Adventure

What family vacations come to mind from your childhood?  Road trips? Camping? Visiting friends or family?

As a child, my family was a ‘road trip’ kind of family. We drove everywhere, regardless of the distance. Our trips were educational. We saw a lot, learned a lot, and after a while, got on each other’s nerves a lot. But we enjoyed the experience together and have many great memories as a result. As a young adult, I often felt like many of our family vacations were FFF – Forced Family Fun, but in reality, they were an adventure.

An adventure is defined as an exciting or remarkable experience. I can remember getting ready for our trips, packing our suitcases, and thinking about the games we’d play in the car. It was exciting, we were going to see and do something new. Even if we were going to see our relatives or go to a new place, our road trips were never quite the same.

This summer, we have planned many adventures for our family. There will be camping, long drives, and lots of time together. My husband and I can’t wait. The kids seem excited too. I wonder if they’ll think back and have fond memories of our time together, or if they’ll think of these trips as Forced Family Fun.

We are building memories, and I’m treasuring each one. To see my sons faces once we get to our destination, to see them enjoying finding bugs in the outdoors, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, watching waterfalls in awe, or seeing their joy as they jump into a pool, I’m not sure being a parent gets much better than these moments.

What adventures do you have planned for this year?

Let the Sun Shine In

Sun and warmer weather has finally reached the Pacific Northwest. I can see the change in myself, I’m smiling more, I’m happier. I can see the change in others as well. People also seem to be happier, smiling more, are friendlier, and most are making comments along the same lines. Isn’t it beautiful outside? Aren’t you so happy about the sun?

I grew up in the southeast, where sun, warm weather, thunderstorms in the summer and bugs year-round was pretty much guaranteed. I took it for granted when I relocated to the northwest. I wanted to experience all four seasons, meet new people, see new places and do new things. I’ve fallen in love with the northwest, but miss the southeast during long stretches of gray skies, rain, and cooler weather.

I think about my children growing up here and wonder where they will want to live when they are older. Will they want to stay in the northwest or go to a place with a similar climate? Or will they want a change and go somewhere where sun is plentiful?

I’m grateful my boys are several years away from leaving home, and want to make the most of the weather we are experiencing by sharing it with them. Blooming flowers, beautiful colors all around, clear skies, majestic mountains and people, lots of people, with smiles on their faces.  I’m often caught off guard by all the beauty going on around me at once. I continue to think I’ll never get used to this. It feels a little like seeing what’s possible for humankind—beauty for all of us to share in and enjoy together.

The reality is this stretch of beautiful weather will likely be short lived. It will last a week or so if we are lucky. Temperatures will cool and the gray skies will return. Our beautiful weather doesn’t seem to start and stay until around July 4th each year. I’m okay with that though. Stretches like this give me energy and remind me of what’s important, and life’s possibilities.

Let the sun shine in!

Which Way are you Leaning?

What’s a mother to do? We give birth, we take our child home, we start to care for it, and then we are faced with the decision—to go back to work or not.  Of course, some of us will have decided prior to having our child that we won’t return to the workforce because we don’t want to, or financially it doesn’t make sense.  Some of us know we will return to work and it becomes an issue of how soon, and then there are the rest who are on the fence.

And here our quandary begins. Perhaps we’ve invested time in our careers and are making our way up the corporate ladder and want to continue our climb. Perhaps we have a profession we’re passionate about. Or perhaps we need the money, want continued contact with adults, or know that work gives a sense of purpose you haven’t found anywhere else.  You weigh the pros and cons of staying home with your child and not working (maybe temporarily, maybe permanently), and you weigh it and you weigh it and you weigh it. And while ultimately you go with the decision you feel is best you can’t quite shake that nagging voice in the back of your head. Am I taking something away from myself if I stay home? Am I taking something away from my child if I work?

And now the dialogue is no longer being kept to ourselves, or amongst our working mother friends. It’s being discussed out in the open. Oh goodness! Why Women Still Can’t Have it All by Anne-Marie Slaughter was published in the July/August 2012 edition of The Atlantic. Her article encouraged a dialogue between working women, to understand the obstacles women still face to reach the highest professional levels while raising children, and encouraged men, who are expressing a desire to be more involved in the raising of their children, to join in the situation.

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, encourages women to be “at the table” professionally, take risks, and pursue your desired career. She also mentions men playing more of a role in the rearing of the child and household responsibilities.

I can understand why reactions to both the article and the book have been strong.  Each gave me pause. What do you mean women can’t have it all? And Lean In—I didn’t realize I was leaning out.  Do I really have to do more than what I’m already doing?

What really bothered me wasn’t the article, book or their content. It was the emotions they were triggering in me—guilt, anger, relief and hope.  Quite a range of emotions, don’t you think?  I still have guilt about putting both boys in daycare when they were young. I know I am a better mom than I would have been a stay home mom (I think stay-at-home moms are amazing), but it didn’t take the guilt away. I was angry because I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at in my career while fighting hard to maintain boundaries specific to the hours that I work and the time I spend away from the family because of it.  I felt relief because someone was finally talking about this—I’ve often felt alone in my daily struggle to do what’s best for my children, spouse and myself. Lastly, I felt hope. Hope that we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg and more conversations will take place between spouses, partners, companies and communities. That we will reach equality in the home and in the workforce, and as a country we’ll figure out how to better support families so that we not only can survive but also thrive together.

The question, “can women have it all?” makes me think should we want to have it all? and what does having it all mean? I think our kids should have it all—involved parents working for supportive companies and communities that value our future generation more than sustaining a culture of workaholics.

We’ve got some work to do, and I’m leaning towards whatever will get us there.

Which way are you leaning?

Getting over Business Trip Guilt

Do you have a job that requires you to travel? I do.

I used to love business travel. Seeing new cities, experiencing new places and sights. It seemed so glamorous, so exciting, so adventurous, and so important. Once I had my children, business travel became less attractive, mainly because of the guilt I’ve felt every time I leave them.

It took me several years, but I finally realized the guilt I felt over being away on business wasn’t as much about the kids as it was about the responsibilities I was passing on to my husband while I was away. When I’m away, he becomes a single parent. He has to get everyone up in the morning, and put them to bed at night, he’ has to get them fed and dressed, he had to drop them off and pick them up from school, and then get himself to work. The guilt was all consuming prior to and during each trip. My priorities of family and work clashed, and I couldn’t get them to equalize. The reality is my family is my number one priority and always will be. My job helps provide for my family and gives me an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way. It also requires me to travel from time to time.  I thought by preparing as much as I could prior to going away, and fretting over the extra burden I was putting on him, I was somehow making up for my upcoming absence. The reality is, in a relationship, or more importantly a partnership, one person doesn’t bear more of the burden than the other, they share in the responsibility. Occasionally they will need to pick up the slack when the other is absent. What I didn’t realize was the stress I was feeling over my upcoming travel was affecting more than just me. It was impacting my husband too. Thankfully a third party helped enlighten me to think of the situation in a different way.

My husband is a very capable father, and when I’m away, he has an opportunity to have our sons all to himself. While I’m away, they could do different things, like going to a new restaurant or playing a fun activity, outside our normal routine. I need to take advantage of travel too. I get some needed alone time and have an opportunity to learn and connect with others, things that are very energizing for me.

I know we appreciate each other a little more upon my return. When I recently shared with my sons that I would be leaving for a trip I was surprised to hear how excited they were by the prospect of me leaving. “Oh, Mom, can you bring us back something?” my oldest son asked. “Yes,” chimed in my youngest, “will you bring us back something, please?” I had to smile. It reminded me of my own childhood when I anxiously awaiting my father returning from his business travels bringing something small, like a Hostess Fruit Pie or a pencil he picked up along the way.  It was more symbolic than anything, it reminded my sisters and I that he’d been thinking about us while he was away and we’d been thinking about him too.

I now understand guilt doesn’t help my husband or I when I travel. Travel creates an opportunity for us to appreciate what we have when we are together and apart. Its our chance to do something different and enjoy each other more when we reunite. Thankfully my travel is infrequent, or my guilt might be tested again. But even if that work requires more travel in the future, my husband and I will make decisions together on how to make it easier for each other to get through the situation. After all, it isn’t just one of our burdens to bear.