Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care


What I Learned When I Returned to Work

boys being sillyYears ago, after a failed attempt to negotiate a work from home deal with my job, our child care provider resigning to raise a family of her own, and many evenings spent discussing future plans and expenses with my husband, this second time mom-to-be made the decision to leave the professional world behind for awhile and take on a new title as stay-at-home mom.

The decision was both exciting and scary. It had always been a desire of mine to stay home with my children during their early years and to have the opportunity to make it a reality was a gift. The troublesome part wasn’t the overwhelming amount of physical and emotional energy that comes with being a constant caregiver for small children, that realization came later, the cons on my list were concerns of lost time building professional work experience.

I had only just begun building a career and wondered what it would be like re-entering that world after years of absence. Still, the pros of being there for all the moments of my children’s first years of life outweighed the cons and I happily accepted my new title as stay-at-home mom.

I enjoyed (and cursed, on the particularly tiresome days) that title for 6 years; I even expanded my team and went from managing two to three with the birth of our third child.  But the time had come for me to make my comeback into the workforce and face the many challenges that came along with that.

  1. Resume and References

I remember looking at my resume and wondering if I could add household CEO and list teacher, nurse, chef, housekeeper, event planner as titles to describe the work I had been most recently performing. I joked with my friends that I was going to add the children as references and attach their drawings and “world’s best mommy” notes as reference letters.  Seriously though when I left the working world Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were not popular yet so maintaining a connection to past co-workers wasn’t easy. Luckily I managed to reconnect with a few former colleagues to use as references and I refreshed my resume making sure to be straightforward about the reason for the gap in time.

  1. Interviews

I got a call for an interview very quickly after submitting my resume and enthusiastically agreed to meet the next day. It had been many years since I had been on an interview and made a classic mom mistake by being so concerned with the children’s needs that I left no time for myself to prepare. I hadn’t thought about my professional experiences in years and couldn’t for the life of me come up with any examples. At that moment my mind was filled with the crying 3-year-old I just left and whether or not I had told grandma what time to the get the 1st-grader off the bus. Needless to say the interview did go that well. I chalked it up as a learning experience and made sure to give myself some prep time for the next interview. My sister even helped me prepare by doing a mock interview with me.  The next couple of interviews went very well and it wasn’t long before I was back to work.

  1. Emotional Adjustment

For years I played a major role in my children’s daily lives.  Even when the oldest was in school, I was there to get her off the bus and hear about her day. Going back to work meant finding new ways to keep that connection strong and it took some getting used to.

  1. Feeling Left Behind

Once you get hired and start back down the career path it’s tough to resist the urge to compare yourself to others who have gained valuable professional experience while you were at home raising a family.  At times I’ve felt frustrated when others talk about opportunities they’ve had and I’ve felt a pang of regret thinking about how much fuller my resume could be if I had made a different choice.  But ultimately I know I made the right choice for me and I am thankful for the valuable experiences I had, even if they could never be explained on a resume.

“Back in MY day…”

woman and little daughter taking selfie photo with mobile phone

When it comes to technology, how do you help your children appreciate what they have?

Recently my kids received a letter from their cousin telling them how much she missed them. They were so excited to open it and find a letter and a picture inside the envelope. I told them they should write back to her and then address the envelope and put it in the mailbox so she could feel the same excitement. “You’re going to put a dress on an envelope mom?” Now that their confusion has been brought to my attention, I realize I need to start making a list of things to help them understand what my generation was like! My hope is to help them see how we have evolved but not to forget why each generation may struggle with technology. I think if they could understand how we, my parents and even my grandparents had to do things, they would be more considerate of the way things are today.

Here are some of the things I put on my list. What would you put on yours?

  • Records (trying to get the needle right to the place you thought the song started)
  • Cassette tapes (rewind, fast forward trying to find the beginning of your song)
  • Recording songs from the radio (trying to not get the DJ’s voice in there and hitting the play and record button at the same time)
  • CDs (they weren’t very forgiving of scratches, right in the middle of a song it would stop but you wouldn’t turn it off in hopes it would successfully get over that scratch and sing on!)
  • Boom boxes (our portable music that might last one half hour on 6DD battery power of you were lucky!)
  • Vehicles without TV or plugs (long car rides with no electronics!)
  • The first cell phones($3,995)
  • The first Gameboys, and atari!
  • Polaroid cameras

…the list goes on and on! I have written them down and giggled with my babies over and over again telling stories of how things were! Every time they want to complain about their phone service or WiFi not working, I bring my list out and remind them of the good ol’ days. The only reaction I seem to get is, “I feel so sorry for you guys!” but I’ll take it!

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What Tragedy Teaches Us

Cute girl resting her head on her mother's shoulder

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”  — Robert Kennedy

It is our nature to try to make sense out of tragic situations—especially when the tragedy harms those that are helpless. Certainly there is wisdom that can be gained in the aftermath of most tragedies. We can dissect the event, identify who was harmed and figure out new precautions that can be put in place. Yet we cannot go backwards. We cannot undo what was done—and it is this helpless that causes us such woe.

The times in my life when I have experienced loss or tragedy, I have anxiously sought answers. Why did this happen or what could I have done? I begin creating the long list of everything I should’ve or could’ve done differently. Because obviously in replaying the past I can come up with everything that would’ve been different. But at some point I have to ask—to what end? How does blaming myself or others alleviate the helplessness or sadness I feel? It doesn’t.

I wonder what the outcome would be if, when tragedy strikes, we let our hearts take the lead? If instead of thinking and blaming we allow our sadness and compassion to come forth. And if we did that, what would the tragedy teach us and teach our children?

I think the answer to this question is simple. If we express our sadness and compassion then the lesson of the tragedy becomes one of unity. By honoring what was lost and responding with genuine kindness, then the tragedy teaches that we can comfort each other, that we are not helpless and that each of us can make a difference. And if we can show compassion and sadness following a tragedy, then our children also learn how powerful compassion can be.

I think of compassion as engaging with another, acknowledging their feelings and reacting from a place of genuine kindness. When being compassionate I am present in the moment. I am listening to the needs of the other person and putting aside my own desires. Children learn to act compassionately by observing the actions of adults—especially their parents. Teach compassion by tending to the needs of others. When you encounter a person who needs help, stop what you are doing and show that they come first. When frustrated, use words that show respect and empathy.  As a family seek opportunities to make a difference and give back to those that are there for you.

It is certain that we will all experience loss. Though a tragic event may teach us about what went wrong—I believe the deeper wisdom comes from the power of our compassion. Compassion that our children learn from us.

Give Your Kids a Piece of Yourself

dad son time

In this guest post, 4C Parent Services Specialist Dan Scheiman shares a reflection on fatherhood.

“Noble fathers have noble children.” -Euripides

When it comes to fatherhood, the above quote seems to say it all.

Be noble. Be honest. Be kind. And, maybe most of all, be present in your child’s life.

The first few on the list are actually easy. Treat your kids the way you want to be treated and in the way you want your kids to be treated by everyone they encounter. Be the measure that your children hold everyone they know up to and then be the one they feel safe enough to come to when things get tough and their heads fill with questions.

Being present is the tricky one. Things like work can get in the way. Life in general can get in the way and, something I can relate to, divorce can get in the way. So, at some point, every dad and every parent for that matter, has looked at their watch or even a calendar and wondered if they’ve made enough time for their kids.

But, here’s where that whole being noble, kind and honest thing comes in. For those times when despite your best efforts, you can’t physically be there, give your kids a big piece of yourself to carry with them and the confidence in you to know that you’re never too far away.

My dad passed away a few weeks ago so he is no longer physically present in my life and, while I could look to the things he didn’t do, the things he missed or left to my mom, I’d rather celebrate how he taught me to be honest, to be kind, and how to treat others, which by the way, had a lot to do with how he treated my mom. Those lessons became a guide for me through my life and through my divorce. 

I can’t count the number of times I have tormented my now nineteen-year-old son with “You’re…umm…ok after the stuff with your mom and I…yeah…umm…I mean the divorce?” The first few times were, to say the least, awkward, but we talked a lot and, after talking a lot, his responses have become, “Dad, geez, I’m fine. I talked to mom the other day; she’s good and says hi. Can we grab some Chipotle?”

My son has been home but will be heading back to college soon and, while I’ll miss him and worry from time to time, I know he has that piece of me with him. So, even with him hundreds of miles away, he knows I’m there which, regardless of the distance, always makes me present in his life.

All of this can be downright scary, believe me, I know, so here’s another quote to inspire you.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parenting is a mighty high staircase to climb. Do it one step at a time. Have faith in yourself and your kids to do what’s right.

Apples Don’t Fall Far From Trees

parent-child-playingI recently traveled to Hilton Head, South Carolina to enjoy spring break with my sister and her family. Throughout this journey I encountered many families—some with older children and others with younger ones. But regardless of their shape or size it was clear when observing their behavior that the old saying “apples don’t fall far from trees” still holds true today. Here are three examples:

I’ve often heard it said that our personalities are part natural and part learned—meaning some of our personality traits we are born with and others we acquire along the way. As I watched two twin boys in the airport I was mesmerized by their symmetry. Not only did they look alike (from the same hat on their heads to the same shoes on their feet) but their actions and mannerisms were identical. As I watched them play on their ipads I noted that they almost seemed to be involved in a synchronized dance. From the smirks on their faces, to the movement of their eyes, arms and feet—they seemed to be in perfect harmony. I can’t be sure which traits were genetic or learned, but one thing was for sure: these 10-year-old twins had come from the same family tree!

During the flight to Hilton Head, I sat close to a mother and her young precocious child. He—being about five years old—had a lot of questions about the flight and what would happen on the trip. At one point the child stated that he wanted to move to another seat. His mother responded with a, “No,” and he responded by echoing his request to “move.” The two bantered back and forth for quite a while until the exhausted mother finally responded, “Go ahead and move; I don’t want to sit by you and probably nobody else does either.” To which the child retorted, “You’re mean.” I have no idea if what I observed was typical for this parent-child relationship. However, children do imitate their parents and this child appeared to be learning to use hurtful words—an example of an apple not falling far from its tree.

My nephew is a major sports fan. He loves to watch most professional sporting events and retains a ton of knowledge regarding teams and their players. He also enjoys playing sports, especially golf, which he has gotten quite good at. His father is equally a fan and the two of them debate and discuss sports until long after the sun has set. In playing a round of golf with the two of them I noted quite a few similarities. They both hit the ground with their golf club when not pleased with their shot, they both took numerous practice swings before actually hitting the ball, and they both “strutted” off the green when scoring a par or birdie. Again watching the two of them I couldn’t help but see how their mannerisms were identical—another apple not falling far from the tree.

It is certainly hard to know what personality or temperament traits are inherited or learned, but what is known is that children mimic us—the significant adults in their lives. The environment we create and the example we provide influences the young apples on our family tree.

Excuse My Mess, Memories Are Being Made

messybooksOne day I think it will all look swell
A clean house, clean car, and shoes that don’t smell
I’ll wake up and have coffee and plan what to do
No one else will be wearing my shoes
I’ll sit back and admire my clean house
Everything in its place, spend time with my spouse
Someone will pop in to say, “Hello!”
And I won’t be embarrassed my house will glow
But when this time comes I’m afraid you see
Cause everyday this is what happens to me;
My day begins with my baby snuggles
“Mommy can you get your coffee and cuddle?”
As we sit, each one wakes and says good morning to me
I smile and ask so cheerfully
“How was your night? Did you sleep okay?”
This is when they share their dreams and say,
“It was so weird mom, you’ll never believe…”
And our day begins, love is achieved
It bothers me a lot I will just say
I want to be proud, succeed in every way
But I want to promise myself to remember this
If I focus on pride, bad memories I risk
For this is their life as much as mine
If I spend all day yelling I soon will find
Only bad memories will stick with them
If I’m constantly yelling to clean again
My time with my babies is too valuable I now see
As each day passes they get too far away from me
So I challenge myself to put down my trials
And begin each day with those beautiful smiles.

Sharing Parenting Woes and Joys Online

sharing-onlineAt a staff meeting the other day the conversation came up about how we often share personal stories of our own children when educating parents on child development. We laughed as we talked about a recent blog post from a co-worker who shared a funny potty training experience with her son.

We wondered aloud what our children would think if they knew we often use them as examples when teaching. I said this generation of children will have a digital diary to look back on when they are older.

Later that day I thought about that statement and realized just how true and interesting it   is. I was born in 1979; I spent my childhood in the 80’s and my adolescent years in the 90’s. Cameras used film with a set number of pictures needing snapped before you could drop it off at a store to be developed. When you did finally use an entire roll of film you would drop it off to be developed and then wait about a week until your pictures were ready. This meant that my mom, like most parents during that time, used the camera sparingly. She captured some of the big moments from my childhood and even made a scrapbook or two with descriptions of the event. When I want to reminisce I sort through a scrapbook, an album or a box of photos of me dressed as fairy for Halloween, twirling at a dance recital, on the beach during summer vacation.

When our children want to reminisce they will type their parent’s name into a search engine and find pictures, posts, and comments about their daily lives. I understand the importance of respecting our children’s private lives but I don’t view sharing parent frustrations and joys as trespassing on their privacy. I see it as way to connect with other parents and to learn from our shared experiences. Sharing our personal experiences with other parents is valuable. Connecting as parents and helping each other find solutions and support is beneficial for the adults as well as the children.

With that said, now that my oldest child is reaching adolescence I understand even more clearly that there needs to be a balance between sharing my stories and respecting her comfort and developing sense of self. As parents I think setting a few guidelines for sharing is important.  

Ask your child
When your child is older ask them if it’s OK to share a picture of them making a grumpy face or a post about something funny they said to you.

Take advantage of the privacy settings.
Facebook and other social media sites give you the option to decrease the number of people who see certain posts and pictures.  So you can share that picture of your child throwing a tantrum at the grocery store with your mom friends but maybe not the other people on your friend list that you are not as comfortable with.

Consider what and where you are sharing
An article from the New York Times explains it best stating, “A frustrated tweet about a child who won’t eat her cereal because it’s not in a red bowl is a lot less likely to resurface than a YouTube video of the resulting tantrum. Looking for advice or sympathy about a behavioral problem? Skip both the image, and your child’s name, in a post to limit later searches.”