Monday, August 8, 2011

Learning Curve: Part 1

So the hot topic in the Blogospshpere lately has been working mom vs stay at home mom (SAHM) and what they call each other and themselves.

Meh.

I never had anything to say because  as long as I felt as though it was acknowledged that I was working? It was all good. And  this has always been acknowledged since Sarah was born. When I 'just' had one kid and was a SAHM? Yeah, I received many questions about, "What do you DO all day?" I won't list the answers. As I've gained more children the questions have stopped because I guess it's obvious to even the busiest of working mom what I do all day.

When I came home from my girls weekend I was slightly annoyed with my husband because although he'd managed to pull his shirts out of the dryer while still damp (a must unless you want a hot wrinkled mess on your hands), he'd hung them on baby hangers. And the adult hangers were literally right behind him. So now they were all full of wrinkles. The man has an extensive law degree. He can settle million dollar cases, but not get his clothing onto hangers. I shook my head and said nothing, thinking to myself, "How hard is it to use the right hanger? Really?"

Then I met up with a dear friend of mine, who just recently started the SAHM gig. Only she didn't ease into it gently with a newborn. She jumped into it with her 20 month old and 3 1/2 year old when they moved out of state. So when we sat down and she said, "Tell me how you do it. How do you have the kids at swim at 8:00, doing all these activities, and we're not even up yet?" I realized something.

There's a learning curve.

Because if anyone should be able to totally go, "This SAHM thing is a breeze!" And rock it out on day one? It would be Denise. She is incredibly intelligent, organized. She's a planner, your go to girl for problems and help. So for me to hear her say this  . . . and then remember how my husband can never do what I do . . . I finally understood.

I've had on the job training for 8 years.  I have an B.S in multitasking. A Master's in brain stimulating activities that will keep children entertained long enough for me to empty the dishwasher, change a load of laundry and clean up that activity. A PH.D in showering under 60 seconds (and only sometimes finding the children playing in your make up), getting the kids loaded into the van in less than a hour and making it out of driveway in only two stops. All the while cooking dinner, arranging playdates, mommy dates, changing sheets, cleaning bathrooms, vaccuming, mopping, playing, painting, talking on the phone, making appointments, organizing children's schedules, blogging, knitting, being a friend, daughter, wife, sister, volunteering, checking for boo boos and oh yeah, keeping three kids alive, breathing and happy.

OMG That's huge.

But I didn't go to school for it. I've been gradually learning it since June 3, 2003. I didn't jump in. It wasn't baptism by fire. If it had been? I can't even think.

So, for the moms who have just left the work force to join the kids who are actively trying to drive me insane force/SAHM (and we're not going to talk about labels, mmkay?), here are some tips on running errands and household chores/organization that I've put into our home to keep me sane (ha!). I've stolen most of them from other people and adjusted them to fit our needs.

Errands:

~Only run two or three a day, first thing in the morning. I try to start easy and finish hard. And don't be afraid to abandon ship mid errand. I've left stores mid transaction because I feel a meltdown coming on and I know I've pushed them too far. You have to walk a fine line between giving in to them because they simply don't want to be in the store, but you're the mom. You know them.

~Bribery. I'm for it. The first aisle I hit when the kids were little was the cereal or cracker one and I'd pop open a box of Cheerio's or Goldfish. Go ahead and side eye me for opening food before I paid for it, but my kids were (at that time) so well behaved that people complimented us on a regular basis. And I shopped with two carts, an infant, a toddler and a 4 year old who had to walk.

~Rock out in the van between errands. Seriously. Crank the radio and have a full on car concert. Nothing relaxes you all and pulls you back into that team mentality like a good ole' rockin' sing along. For me it has to be a real song. So pick your songs well.

~Toys. My van is a hot mess of lost toys. They keep the kids entertained while I'm driving and while we wait during different errands. We don't often take them inside with us -- but sometimes we have to. If one kid has a doctor appointment and I've had to bring the other two with me? Bring in a toy, please. If one of them has been melting down all morning and we still have to grocery shop? Bring in that suddenly favorite toy. Please. But I won't go back for any toy once we are back in the van. And they've lost them, and I never have. So pick the toys that go into the van wisely.

~Snacks. Glorious snacks. Don't let the kids eat in the van? Oh, you need to relax that rule. Because nothing quiets a screaming van like a cool sippy cup/bottle of water and a chewy granola bar. Chewy because it's hard to chew. See? Sticks their little teeth together. Make them yourself if you're worried about ingredients. I can give you a link to a great recipe for some. But chewy.

~Like I said, bribery. I'm totally fine with rewarding them for good behavior. If they are great at Target I will buzz the toy department and grab a new box of chalk or bottle of bubbles. Always something small and always something the three of them can use. They're not enjoying the errands, I know. And they're kids. So while they should be good because that's what I've taught them, and they should internalize it -- they haven't yet. So I give them external motivation until then.

Tomorrow: Household chores I have my kids do -- even John and how it helps me keep (some) organization in the house.