First Day of School: Stepping Away

September 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Single Parents, Wendy Rhein

By Wendy Rhein

I’m not sure what happened, or really, when it happened. In June I had two little boys -7 and 2 -and now, I have one little boy and one Big Boy. It all started innocently enough. He wanted to make his own breakfast. He wanted to help me chop vegetables for dinner with the serious chef’s knife. And then it grew. He asked for his own music in the car instead of the ‘kid’ music his brother likes to sing; his own MP3 player would be the best option for everyone, he claimed. And then he asked to pick out his own school clothes since I may not get what he wanted. Including a sports coat because that’s what older boys wear if they need to be dressed up. He wanted to run into the drug store by himself to get a gallon of milk. He stopped wearing a shirt to bed.

All of this was fine with me – cute even. Until last week.

School started last week for us and we were all atwitter for the first day of second grade. I drove Nate to school because we had missed the orientation day and didn’t have a classroom number. He insisted that I needed to walk him all the way to class to be sure he was settled. My baby, my eldest, still needed me.

As we walked up the sidewalk teeming with happy parents and shiny-backpacked little ones, Nate suddenly stopped walking, turned and grabbed me around the waist, enveloping me in a tight hug that seemed to surprise us both. It brought an immediate and intimate smile to my face, thinking he needed the reassurance and the closeness that a hug from Mama can bring.

And then he let go.

I walked him into the melee of the entry hall of school with the vice principal loudly and unsuccessfully encouraging parents to drop off their little ones and let them make their own way to classes on the first day. I tried to hold Nate’s hand in the crowd so we could make our way through the now familiar halls. He wouldn’t hold mine. I resigned myself to putting a hand on his shoulder as we nudged our way passed crying mothers looking at the backs of their new kindergarteners for the first time. Out of the crowd, Nate walked in front of me, not next to me, pointing out the music room, the art room, stopping to say a fast hi to friends as they drifted off into different rooms. First day anxiety running high – will he have friends in this new class? Would he (we) like the teacher? Did she (me) pack a snack for the bus?

And finally we land in his classroom at the end of a long hallway. He walked in, one of a handful of kids in the room, and walked right up to the teacher and stuck out his hand. I swelled with pride. That’s my boy! Shaking his teacher’s hand and introducing himself! She welcomed him and told him he could find his desk and put his supplies away. And he was gone. Not a look, not a lean, not a glance back at me. He put his things away, said hi to a couple of kids, put his new pencil box and Star Wars composition book away, and started to work on the welcome form on his desk. I stood there, feeling like the awkward one, waiting for him to run over, give me a hug and ask if I’ll be at the bus stop that afternoon (a request he makes daily that I daily have to refuse) but he never did. After a couple of painful minutes, I walked over and leaned down and quietly said “Ok honey, I’m going to go now. Have a great day.” He would hug me now, I thought. He always hugs me when I take him to school.

“Bye Mom. See ya later.”

That’s it. That’s all I got. I’m not even sure he made eye contact. I walked out of the room with stinging eyes, feeling both proud and sad. My baby was gone. This big kid, who didn’t want to be seen hugging his mother, had surpassed the bear-clutching, sweet-faced boy who had so care-freely leaned into me with the full confidence that I’d be there to hold him up, because I always was. I knew this day was coming and once I could get beyond my own loss I cheered him for his independence and self confidence. He is growing up the way I wanted him to, the way I had worked so hard for him to, despite my own doubts of raising boys on my own. We really are doing fine, more than fine, we’re doing well. But time marches on. It is time for us both to let go a little more. Another inch here, another step away there.

At bedtime he was once again on my lap, telling me all about his day, snuggling his bristly-haired head under my chin, arms wrapped around my shoulders. I told him how proud I was of him for striding into second grade and he said he was a little scared because he didn’t know the kids in his class. We agreed to develop a secret handshake to say goodbye at school that will translate into I Love You, but just to us. I’d tell you about it but it is our secret, my big boy and me.

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The Similarities Between A Toddler And Grandmother

August 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Single Parents

By Wendy Rhein

I often feel like I’m living in a social experiment. I am witness to the circle of life every day with a 2 1/2 year old, a 7 year old, a 43 year old and a 72 year old sharing a relatively small space. I really should carry a notebook for my observations but I think my family would only grow more annoyed with me stating the obvious and then smugly writing it down.

I am seeing more and more similarities between my 2½ year old toddler and my 72-year-old mother. I was sick last week, incredibly put on ‘vocal rest’ by my doctor who gleefully told me I should stop speaking for 48 hours. I swear she was laughing when she left the exam room. While ill, I had the chance to study my toddler and septuagenarian mother from the vantage point of the couch and made the following comparisons:

1. Toddlers and the elderly both need a nap in the afternoon if you expect them to stay awake through dinner without a meltdown.
2. They talk on the phone the same way. There are lots of “hello, hello, hello?” at increased levels of volume until they just hang up.
3. One is growing taller and one grows smaller at the same speed.
4. Neither likes to be told they can’t do something.
5. Neither can get passed the Safari icon to find Pandora and both will yell for help when they can’t find their music.
6. When either has to go, they have to go. Get out of the way. Now.
7. The singular focus to achieve a new task like operating the Wii Fit or climbing stairs is inspiring.
8. Both would be happy with cookies and milk for dinner, especially if they missed a nap.
9. Both need shoes with Velcro and preferably with lights.

What I find most interesting is the bond they have. There is a connection, a tenderness, between my mother and my youngest son that is unparalleled. She adores my elder child but there is something about these two, whether they’re sharing a cookie, curling up on the couch hip to hip, or struggling to reach down and get their shoes on, they are co-conspirators in taking on the challenges life is throwing at them.

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A Love Story Between Third Graders

August 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families

By: Janet Borrus

Some people look to their parents as relationship role models.   I look to my daughter Maya and her man Axel.

They’ve been together since kindergarten. Everyone thought it would last a year, maybe two.  But they’re into their fourth and are tighter than ever.

Maya is eight. Axel nine.

In many ways, it’s a case of opposites attract. He’s guileless, affable, easily hurt. She’s fierce, shy, and stoic.  Named for a Nordic folk hero, Axel is tall and blonde. Maya was born in western China and has caramel skin and delicate features. She reads better; he has a firmer grip on socially appropriate behavior. Maya is the one who says “penis” too loudly at In ‘n Out Burger.  Axel takes her hand on the ride home and muses, “Isn’t this nice?”

They have pet names. He’s Apple. She’s Mango.  When Maya becomes “Kitty” Axel goes by “Wolfy.”

The last time I called my husband “Padrino” we were on our honeymoon.

Depending on how many dishes are in the sink, the two of us can go from sweet to snippy in a matter of seconds. Maya’s play dates with Axel, on the other hand, are free of petty squabbles. They disappear into make-believe games like Endangered Species, in which Maya is a rare mouse and Axel the wolf determined to make her extinct.  In Powerboosters, played on the swings, they become airborne to escape Motorcycle Man and his lethal super sucker. At other times, they build veterinary hospitals out of pillows and heal Maya’s myriad stuffed animals.

They do have different interests, but patiently indulge each other’s obsessions. Maya will spend hours operating Axel’s remote helicopters and hovercraft. Given a little popcorn, he’s happy to sit through the feature-length nature videos she loves.

They do not finish each other’s sentences. Or cut each other off.  Their third-grade expertise in taking turns is enviable.  Recently, Axel bought himself a motorized scooter. He eagerly let Maya try it, with no warnings about potential scratches and no panicked outburst when she nearly trashed it on a concrete retaining wall.

“Ya know Kitty, I think maybe you need to weigh a little more to work this thing,” was all he said.

If only my husband would stay that calm whenever I back our Honda into the gum tree.

I email him calendar items and to-do lists. Maya and Axel write each other love notes. This summer we went to visit my family in New Jersey.  I came upon the following trail of texts on my iPhone ten days into the trip:

Axel:  (next to photo of him with a tray of firecrackers) “Happy 4thof July, Maya!”

Maya: (next to photo of her stuffed camel wearing my glasses) “School is better on the Jersey shore!”

Axel:  “Ha, ha, Maya.  I hope you’re having fun. I miss you; when are you coming back?    XOXO Axel”

Maya:  “I am coming back on Wensday (sic). Secret, I love you! Your friend, Maya.”

Axel:  “I can’t wait to see you!  (photo of his latest batch of polished rocks)  Look at my beautiful rocks.  I polished them. I love you too. Axel.”

After they’ve been apart, they surprise each other with trinkets and news of their travels. And are never disappointed. When Maya gave Axel a bag of chocolate-covered nuts from Toronto, I overheard this from her bedroom:

Axel:  “Gee, thanks for the moose poop from Canada, Maya! Did you see some moose?”

Maya (slightly downcast):  “No just a reindeer and some lightning.”

Axel:   “Hey, that’s better than moose!”

Even sleepovers go smoothly. Last weekend they wanted to camp out in the living room. When I explained that this would mean sharing a double blow-up bed Axel looked at me with utter sincerity and said “You know, Janet, I’ve always dreamed of sleeping in the same bed as Maya.”  What mother gets such honesty from her daughter’s boyfriend?

They no longer share baths, but snuggle freely and greet the dawn with an interpretive pas de deux to the funk sample on our electric piano. Videotaping, I make a mental note to sign up for couples salsa at Arthur Murray.

In quieter moments, Axel and Maya reflect on their relationship and consider where they’re headed. When my husband jokingly referred to Axel as his future son-in-law, my daughter told him, “Me and Axel discussed this. We have a couple of options. We could get married or we could not get married and be friends. We crossed out live alone.”

At school their closeness has threatened some and confounded others.  They draw stares from both classmates and parents when — as Kitty and Wolfy — they hug (and sometimes paw) each other goodbye at the end of the day. But they refuse to be shamed.  When older boys tell them they should be playing with kids of their own gender, Maya says, “It’s none of your business.”  If they persist they get “It’s none of your beeswax.”

For a while I thought their bond could be broken by a force even stronger than public opinion: the competitive younger brother. Oskar, age six, seizes every opportunity to discredit Axel and up his own intimacy with Maya. He delights in showing off his superior burping skills, teases Axel about his occasional thumb sucking, and will lunge across his booster seat to cover Maya with sticky kisses. She occasionally finds his antics amusing, but her heart is true.  Maya knows the value of the unconditional love Axel gives her.  And so do I.  Because I get the same thing from her dad.

Watching her with Axel helps me remember that.

Janet Borrus is a writer, actor and arts educator living in Los Angeles. She has written several plays and screenplays, and portrayed a variety of evil moms on television and film.  At home, she is better behaved.

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Preserve Your Food

August 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Single Parents

By: Wendy Rhein

Something about late July sparks the urge to preserve. Preserve time with family and friends, the slower pace of our evenings without homework, even the warmth of a late day sun. But I can’t hold those things about summer, saving them for a mid winter’s day when I step barefooted into a pile of melting slush fallen off a boot or have to rummage through a book bag at midnight looking for tomorrow’s permission slip. I can’t preserve the ease and pace of summer but I can preserve the food.

You would think that all the fruit in the world was dying out, what with my urge to create jar upon jar of cherry, peach, nectarine, and plum goodness. We’re very lucky to live near some wonderful farmer’s markets and I take full advantage of them. A well stocked farmer’s market is my Disney. I lecture my boys each Sunday morning: if you behave, and promise not to ruin my market experience by running off with the whole plate of samples or whining about when we can leave, you can have ANYTHING you ask for. I have no qualms about bribing them with organic, fresh, local produce and baked goods. Beats a bag of Doritos any day.

This week’s bounty of multi-colored plums and sweet cherries became jam on Sunday afternoon. It started like this:

Hand pitting cherries is a sensual experience, but you may want to use gloves. The juice stains make you look like you’ve been changing oil on a Harley for a few years.

I lost count of how many pitted cherries made 2 cups. About this many:

I added 6 quartered and pitted plums. Some red, some purple, some yellow. All beautiful. And then a cup of sugar. No pectin, but a 1/4c water.

Over medium heat, let the fruit come to a soft boil and stir frequently to keep the fruit from sticking and the juices moving. After the fruit starts to break down, I add a teaspoon of allspice for an earthy, exotic tang that matches the gorgeous magenta color that is developing in the pot. Let the fruit cook down as it continues to have a soft, lava-esque, globby boil, maybe 20-25 minutes. Once it sticks to the spoon, you can turn it off and let it cool slightly. Pour the contents into prepared canning jars (this is a good canning primer if you need one) and boil them to seal.

And when it is all said and done, I have this:

Time consuming, I know, but what an incredible result. There is something fulfilling about making my own food in this day and age. At a very base and basic level, knowing that I’ve captured something fresh and whole for my family to enjoy in the cold months ahead. The time in the kitchen feeds my soul, and soul-feeding time as a single mom is something that is hard to come by and often harder to justify.   I allow myself this time because I know we all benefit in the end.

Up next, peach butter!

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To Scout or Not to Scout

July 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Single Parents, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

As soon as he saw the little blue uniform on the boys not much older than he was selling popcorn outside the Safeway, Nate wanted to be a boy scout. The child has a thing for uniforms, and adventure, and probably most importantly a strong sense of civic duty. I take responsibility for that last one. The first two, not so much.

I was really torn about letting him join the Boy Scouts Association because of its homophobic reputation and regulations that the organization sadly reaffirmed this week.   I postponed the discussion.  I talked to him about the commitment, about what that would mean in relation to other activities.   I spent several weeks balancing his requests to join the local troop and my own sense of not endorsing or supporting such a place. We’re boycotters! We stand up for what we believe! We demonstrate our values with our time and money! Heck, it was this same kid who asked if we could stop going to Chik-Fil-A because a it was none of their business who loved whom!

It didn’t help that my mother told him that every president in the twentieth century was at one time a boy scout. His political aspirations already confirmed, this still-to-be-verified testimony only reinforced his pleas.

Over several months Nate would tell me about scouting. He wanted to earn badges, go camping, build a pinewood car (or have ME build the car), volunteer in his community, and sing Christmas carols at the senior center. And yes, all of those things sound great to me. I could see real value in him being a part of a group where adult men spent time with their children and offered supportive leadership to other boys. I could see the value in the organized community engagement and the skills and independence he could learn while building a rocket or making a campfire.  But I wanted that for ALL boys, not just the straight ones.

I walked into the local pack open house last fall with a real chip on my shoulder. I was, I admit, hoping he would hate it. I was hoping I might hate it. I sought out one of the leaders, introduced myself, pointed out that we were a family without a dad and would that be a problem? He laughed and started to point out all the single parents in the room. The gay couple and the family with not one but three moms. I calmed down a little.    As one would expect, Nate loved it.

So began the first of what I am sure will be years of soul searching about what to do when my beliefs and my children’s wants or desires collide.  I admit to being at a loss as to what to tell him about this group that he has come to love; the policies they hold that are ultimately counterintuitive to what I instill in my sons, and where that amorphous policy-making body fits with the more welcoming and open troop we see on weekends.    I am not inclined or interested in causing a seven year old the pain of choosing my (his?) beliefs over an activity he loves.  I am telling myself that if he was witnessing this in his own group, his own backyard, he would be able to tie to something real in his world and grasp it.

We are a scouting family. And I hate the national association policy to shun gay scouts and leaders. I hate it. I struggle with what action to take or not take, knowing that doing what would come naturally to me will really hurt my child and keep us away from some people we have come to call friends.   He isn’t alone in this either.  When I see my son standing straight and tall in his blue uniform, a little straighter and taller than normal, I am proud of him for finding something he loves and sticking with it.  Our troop is welcoming but I know not all of them are, much like not all schools, churches, temples, or families are. It was much simpler to answer when it was just me to consider, but who wants to hurt her own children?   Certainly not me and not those parents that have to tell their sons, the ones like mine who only want to camp, build cars from balsa wood, and sing Christmas carols at the senior center, that they are not welcome here.

 

Another Article on the Scouts

Scouts Choose to Bar Gays

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A Perfect “Match”….

July 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Amy Wise, Family, Interracial Families

By: Amy Wise

After over 20 years of being together I take it for granted that we are…well…just us. I tend to forget that society sees us with different eyes than we do. Lately I have been reminded of this on numerous occasions. The first time was at a car show a few months back. Jamie and I went to the show with his dear friend Yolanda. Jamie and Yolanda have known each other since middle school and he has been a “big brother” to her all of her life.

Per the usual, while we were at the show we ran into various people we knew. Yolanda ran into some old friends as well. What we didn’t know was that one of those old friends ran back to Yolanda’s soon-to-be-ex-husband and told him she was with another man. Now at this point in time Yolanda and her husband had been split up and had filed for divorce months before, so regardless of the true facts, it didn’t really matter who she was with. What did matter was, this friend told her soon-to-be ex that Yolanda was at the car show with some “big dude.” Mind you, he saw the three of us together and all three of us talked, but he still assumed that Yolanda and Jamie were together because they matched. I’m still giggling today as I write this.

I’m not done. After the friend told the ex, the ex went to their pastor and told him! Yep. Amazing! THEN the pastor had a conversation with Yolanda and asked her if she was at a car show with another man. Yolanda replied, “Yes I was, AND I was also with his WIFE! Here, would you like to see a picture of them? That’s his WIFE and they are a MARRIED COUPLE! He is like my brother.” She said the pastor just stood there quietly shaking his head.

Isn’t it hilarious that this old friend automatically assumed because Yolanda and Jamie match on the outside that they must have been together? When will people remember the definition of ass-u-me?

A few weeks later, Yolanda, Jamie and I went out to dinner. A week after that, my daughter and I went out to the same restaurant. Jamie was out of town visiting his sister who was ill. We happened to have the same waitress from the week before. She said, “I remember you. You were here with your friend and her husband but you were sitting next to him.” I smiled nicely and said, “Um, he is MY husband and this is OUR daughter,” pointing at Tatiana who was across the table from me. Her eyes got wide and she said, “Oh sorry.” We all laughed and I said, “It’s okay, but that’s why I was sitting next to him.” As she walked off I looked at Tatiana and said, “REALLY?! Why is it so hard for everyone to believe that he is MY husband. I don’t get it.”

I take it all in stride at this point because it doesn’t change our love for each other, but sometimes it does get old having to constantly explain us.

We have been together for over two decades and one thing is for sure…we don’t have to match on the outside because our hearts are a perfect match on the inside!

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Does My Son Want to Contact His Biological Father?

July 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

A reader recently asked me for an update on Nate’s desire to write a letter to his biological father. First of all I was thrilled that anyone was paying attention, let alone remembered the entry! Second of all I wish I had more news.

I contacted Nate’s father via email, the only way I can contact him, and asked him if a letter was something he would be open to. In an attempt to manage expectations, I had to know if he would even provide us an address to which Nate could mail his letter and drawings of Lego buildings. I had to know if he would ignore it, so I could help Nate navigate that disappointment. It was not, nor is it now, my intention to shield my elder son from disappointment, and maybe it should be. I have never created an image of his father that was full of fantasy or anger, but rather tried to dispense information that I thought was age-appropriate: he doesn’t live with us; he lives in another state; he has chosen to not be part of Nate’s life at this time but we leave that door open for them to have a relationship someday.

After two weeks I heard back from his father who enthusiastically said yes to the letter, provided an address, and said he would welcome anything to establish the relationship. (Of course he’s the adult here and could have established a relationship any time in the last seven years if he got off his ass and acted like an adult! He didn’t add that, the editorial is all mine.)

But since that first time, Nate hasn’t mentioned the letter again and I have not brought it up. I wonder if this another musing of a seven-year-old mind, much like wanting to go camping at Mount Vernon and do I think he could swim to Canada via an intricate map of rivers and streams. If he brings it up again, I will sit with him and help him prepare the letter, affix the stamp and drop it at the mailbox. And I will wait with him, hoping the connection is genuine and that his father begins to grasp how incredible this little person is.

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My All is Not Your All: Comments on “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”

June 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

Like many people, I’ve been caught up in the polarizing dialogue around the recent Atlantic Monthly article by Anne-Marie Slaughter called “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Yep. You’re bristling already aren’t you.

The Women’s Studies feminist activist of my youth was prepared to tear apart her every argument, but the working mom of two was saying “wait a minute, let’s hear her out. She’s got a point.”

And she does.

I do not agree with all her arguments about why women are not able to simultaneously achieve what she considers high level professional success while maintaining a functional family life. Many of the arguments have merit but in fact, I disagree with her very definition of “all.”  The premise itself is the most flawed part of the whole article for me.

Having It All has not been culturally redefined since it was coined as a quippy goal of the feminist movement of the 1970s when women fought for the rights of respect, equal access, credibility, and the ability to make the same life choices as men. I’m eternally grateful. However, when “having it all” means women need to have a successful, high powered and financially lucrative career, coupled with a hot love life to a committed partner, well behaved children, and a clean house, I think we’ve done ourselves a disservice.

First of all, I think that a lot of these issues women are facing also apply to men. More and more often men are experiencing similar internal battles of high pressured work and wanting to be there for soccer games and the first day of school.

We set women up for feeling like failures when society instills – and we accept – the Martha Stewart effect. That everyone, every woman, should be able to make her own laundry detergent using organic lavender she grows in the palatial backyard while simultaneously running a multi-billion dollar media conglomerate. Martha almost seemed to have a disdain for those of us who didn’t follow her 29 ‘simple’ steps for a five-layer Flag Day cake replete with marzipan soldiers re-enacting a battle from the War of 1812. Setting that as the standard of “having it all” is a cultural punishment of women that does little to support people who want and/or need to work while simultaneously having a family life.

I never liked Martha, not until she went to jail and mellowed out a bit.

The social and cultural issue that we need to tackle I believe is to more broadly define what it means to have it all. It isn’t about ambition. It is not, as Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, said in her 2011 commencement speech at Barnard, a matter of women not dreaming big enough. (SERIOUSLY?!) Not all of us will be a COO of a massive company, or head a university or even a country. But more importantly, we may not want to! We can want more than nosebleed-high professional success and still be worthy, contributing women.

I know many women who have been lucky enough, talented enough, to take side steps off the professional path they were on and find fulfillment and compensation to support their families in a more present way, but it is not easy. We all started in a similar way – fresh from college or grad school, putting in long hours, living in tiny apartments, willing to say yes to any project or advancement opportunity and only thinking about its life impact later. Or when something happened that forced us to stop – a father’s heart attack, a lay off, a divorce, a pregnancy, or a sick child. I myself have made very different professional choices since my kids came along and have been questioned about it time and again. I resent the questions and having to justify my decisions to bosses and even human resource managers who think that ‘spending time with my children’ is a less reasonable reason to take a lateral job than ‘taking time off to travel Africa.’

When my first son was 18 months old, I chose to leave an executive job  and became a consultant for a few years. I was minutes from his day care, and he no longer was in someone else’s care 10 hours a day, five days a week. Life was more flexible, and I was more accessible mentally and physically. It was precarious, as many of my single parent and self employed friends know, but the freedom to control my own schedule was paramount to being able to dedicate time to my family instead of punching a clock and being beholden to someone else’s schedule. I should not have to apologize for that choice but I have been asked to justify that decision in job interviews since then.

There are times when I do feel twinges of envy for the high flying life of champagne receptions and international travel. And then I go home to my messy apartment, greeted before I can even get my heels off and my heavy laptop bag down, by jumping children who scream and crave my attention and love. It is not about commitment, because to make a decision to step out of the professional rat race, or turn down a higher paying job because it will require more travel, is the definition of commitment to one’s family. My “all” includes family first and work second, not the other way around.

We have gotten so far from our politically pithy commitment to “family values” that we are routinely telling young women (and young men) ‘you can have it all, just not at the same time’ when really we should be saying ‘fight for a life balance, demand it of yourself and your colleagues and employers.’ We should be realistic that being a working parent who achieves as a parent and as an employee is tremendously hard, and for those with professional choices and the ability to have help at home and affordable child care it is much easier than it is for the vast majority of working women. We should applaud, not penalize, parents whose career path looks like a staircase and not a rocket launch.

My “all” is not the same as yours, and certainly not the same as Dr. Slaughter’s, but it is one I’m proud of and happy with. That alone should be the definition of achievement.

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Missing the Hours in the Day

June 21, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

There are never enough hours in the day. We all feel that way at different times, I know. Not enough hours to finish the laundry and actually put it away instead of dressing for the week out of the plastic basket in which you tossed the hastily folded clothes. Not enough time to cook seven healthy, seasonal, variety-and nutrient-rich dinners for your family while maintaining a full time job. Never enough time to work out, date, or bathing suit shop, or do whatever it is that you are truthfully just putting off because your heart isn’t in it.

I’m just saying.

As a single mom of two my “there aren’t enough hours” is literally about time. I don’t have enough time to make the time that I need. In other words, I am skimping on alone time with my kids.

In an average 24-hour period, they spend about five waking hours with me a day on a week day. That doesn’t sound horrible but bear in mind that it includes the 2 ½ hours before they go to daycare/school in the morning when I am less than fully awake because they get up at an ungodly hour. I need at least the first hour to inhale my coffee and grasp the reality that we’re starting a new day. Again. Our real quality time of that day is found in the 45 minutes that I drive Sam to daycare and then Nate to school. I cherish that time. We talk, Nathan reads out loud to us, Sam points out everything he can see from his perched car seat and practices new words with an excited shout. BUS! BIRD! MAN! BACKPACK! CRASH!

On the flip side of the day everyone is exhausted (Nate), irritably hungry (Sam) or running around to get dinner on the table before a major meltdown occurs (me.) Bedtimes can be good, yes, with stories and snuggling and clean smelling kids. Or they can be a living hell. It’s a toss up.

But what about real quality time? Time one on one, doing an activity the child will not only enjoy but find mentally, physically, and spiritually fulfilling? What about those long chats that they will remember when I’m long gone, the kind memorialized in life insurance commercials?

Not happening.

There are times when I find myself thinking about life before Child Two. When one-on-one time was more manageable because we were one-on -one for 48 hours straight on weekends. I don’t believe that life was rosier or easier Before Sam (appropriately abbreviated B.S.) but that kind of solitary bonding was a given. Now it takes work, and planning, and usually a sitter to make it happen. I think I am setting the bar too high, honestly. I need to be better about giving myself some credit for the small things like our morning commute time. Or our Saturday mornings in the farmers market where they get atrociously expensive organic bison jerky simply because they both do a bison jerky happy dance that melts my heart. If you ever need a lift, watch a two-year-old scarfing down jerky and dancing like the Wizard of Oz’s Scarecrow.

Like most of us, I have this mental ideal of who I need to be as a parent that is basically unattainable. She’s not real. She isn’t me and she’s not the mother that they clearly adore. So what that our one-on-one time may happen at 4AM when Sam wanders into my room and wants to play peek a boo beneath his blankie; or at 7PM when Nathan needs a high five for completing a fractions worksheet that he cried over. The mom I am with them is real. She’s busy, she’s committed, she is fiercely focused on them when we are together and examines her parenting decisions every day. Regardless of the lack of sunrise fishing trips at the end of long piers or mommy and me yoga classes, my kids seem to be doing fine with the time they have with me. Time will tell.

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The Perks of Home

June 13, 2012 by  
Filed under Family, Interracial Families, Wendy Rhein

By: Wendy Rhein

As hard as it is to leave home and travel for work, I find myself relishing the small pleasures of a few days in a hotel. I’ve written before about being a single parent and traveling sans children – the meals, the laundry, the permission slips and play dates. Half the work of a work trip occurs before I step foot into an airport.

But once I arrive at my destination, and check into a hotel, I exhale and take stock of the small joys of work travel.

A crisp, and more importantly, empty bed. No hidden pacifiers between the sheets, no dirty socks left under the pillow. (Don’t ask me why but Nathan leaves his dirty socks under the pillow.) This bed holds the promise of a full night’s sleep. Alone.

A clean bathroom, a toy-free tub, and matching towels.

A door to the bathroom that will actually stay closed when I close it instead of bursting open with a small hands shove when I’m taking a shower, followed by an insistent voice that I better come quick because the top of the lizard cage has ‘mysteriously’ come off.

No lizards, not in this hotel room.

A full-sized ironing board that I can leave up without fear that it will land on someone’s toddling head or used as a surfboard, or both. I actually travel with clothes that need to be ironed just for this satisfaction.

HBO, not the Cartoon Network.

The happy sheen of independent travel wears off in about 36 hours. I miss the noise. I miss the early morning snuggles. I miss seeing their securely loved faces when I walk in the door at the end of the day. I miss milestones like the last day of school and a field trip to the zoo. As much as I can temporarily enjoy the freedom of eating a meal in a restaurant without a kids’ menu and being able to complete a whole conversation with another adult without interruption, I am always relieved to get back home to my grungy and cluttered tub and the dirty socks left under my pillow. The sterile hotel room can be fun for a bit but my real life has all the perks I need.

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