Mountain Chic

Reflections and observations on culture, food, style and travel

{Sorry for the delay this morning! 80-mph winds at our house in the hills left us without power, so I drove to a source to post this from my phone! Thanks for reading!}

On Monday, my 3-year-old son and I stayed close to home while we waited for a reportedly huge snow storm to hit our ‘hood.

Clouds

I didn’t plan a big activity to keep Finn entertained.  I didn’t want to travel far, because I didn’t want to deal with traffic or accidents if snow swept in quickly.  So we walked to the playground at the end of our street and played while we watched snow clouds build over the mountains.  When we were tired of the playground, we raced each other in the parking lot of our neighborhood clubhouse – Finn on his scooter and me on foot, running sprints.  After an hour of that, we walked home to make banana bread and read books.  The day was perfect.  And then, I began to wonder, for the millionth time, about my value as a stay-at-home mom.  Wondering if this day meant as much to Finn as it did to me, and if he’d even remember the day or if it made a difference that it was me with him instead of a nanny or teacher.

FinnLookingAtMeMouthOpen

I have a tendency sometimes – and it’s not one I admire about myself – to believe the grass is greener on the other side.  For instance, I enjoyed an amazing 11 years of teaching in fairly wealthy, suburban schools, until I enrolled in doctoral education courses to earn my school principal license and Ed.S. degree.  I attended an urban university for my program, and, unlike me, my classmates worked in inner-city schools.  Whenever I would contribute to a class conversation, I could detect a level of exasperation from my colleagues, as if I didn’t really know what I was talking about because I was working with “easy” students.  I let myself feel inadequate and questioned if my experience was respectable enough.  Soon after, I left my teaching job to become an administrator in an urban, turnaround high school in Denver.  And that job felt a lot like it must feel to be a toddler newbie on a scooter going way too fast without a brake!

FinnOnScooter

Was that a good decision?  At the time, I thought it was absolutely necessary in order to have a career that was well-rounded and looked exceptional on paper.  I didn’t think about my happiness so much as I did about what people thought about me.  And the job?  It was extraordinarily tough.  One of the hardest of my life.  I learned so much – for which I am so grateful – and met amazing mentors.  But I’m not sure I felt fulfilled, or that I’d hit my stride, the way I did when I was a classroom teacher in a different environment.

FinnMakingBread

Recently, I recognize those same feelings of inadequacy, of believing things might be better if I took a different road, when I think about being a stay-at-home mom.  Most of my friends work full-time, and I am so proud of them and amazed at their careers.  I still meet many of my former teaching colleagues for dinner on a frequent basis, and these women are now running departments at the district level or leading schools of their own.  My neighborhood friends are doctors and businesswomen.  All of these friends are doing these amazing jobs while being moms – so they’re doing what I’m doing plus holding down official employment elsewhere.  Sometimes I wonder: What do I do with my days (even though I barely sit down all day)?  Is it really that important I’m at home with my kid?  How can I tell what difference I’m making?

FinnSmilingInSnow

The thing is, I can’t be sure about the difference I’m making, because, similar to being a good classroom teacher, the impact you’re making every day can be extremely difficult to quantify, especially in the here and now.  As a teacher, it’s often years after I had students in class when they will contact me to tell me what a difference my class made to them.  Many of your successes are not quick-fix, evident on the day to day.  It requires a different level of patience, dedication and confidence in what you’re doing to stick with it.

When I get really quiet with myself, and quit clicking on Facebook links about why you should or should not be a working mother or why you should or should not lean in, I realize being home with Finn has made me happier than almost anything else I have ever done in my life.  Soon, he’ll be in school full-time, with a life of his own.  He will still need me, but in a different way.  In the grand scheme of things, I only have a few years where I get to spend so much time with Finn.  I’ll always wonder about the career opportunities I’m missing now, but when Finn is older and moved away, I know I won’t wish I’d been at work instead of racing him in the parking lot.  It takes a lot of discipline to embrace the everyday.  For me, it’s a battle to love where I am, even when I know it’s what’s best for me.

2 thoughts on “Embracing the Everyday

  1. Mj Rowe says:

    Well, this is a conversation I had with myself quite a few times when my kids were small. No easy answers here, but when kids are small, there is no denying that it’s nice to have mom around all day. It’s a sacrifice, but it’s also a gift for both him and for you. There is so much to gained by slowing down and enjoying life with kids. One day you will look back on it and smile deeply in your heart, knowing you gave him the very best you had in you. That said, I respect working moms so much, but I know I couldn’t have done two jobs because I don’t have that kind of drive. Plus, when you own a family business, it presents an additional twist on parenting because you end up assuming the traditional roles of breadwinner and housewife. Yuck! I have always hated that, but frankly there is just not much chance of dad taking the day off to stay home with a sick kid when he has patients or bankers to see.

    You were an amazing teacher at the high school level, one of my kids’ favorite, with lasting impact. They shared lessons they learned from you at our dinner table frequently. Now you are teaching at the preschool level! Still amazing, I am sure. I wonder if you would enjoy teaching a class at the community college level, where you could share your talents, but on a much more part time basis. You are a wonderful writer and you obviously have stories to tell. Maybe you have a novel inside that you want to tell us!

    i believe that what our kids need most is for us to be happy and excited about life, because they are and they love it when we join in the fun!

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    1. lissa says:

      Mj, this comment means so much to me. Thank you for your thoughts. You sent me two INCREDIBLE sons to work with, so you made my job easy, and for that I am so grateful! I remember well parents like you and the obvious sacrifices you made to create young people who were secure and confident enough to take risks in my classroom and beyond. I especially remember both M and A commenting about how much they appreciated you and knew how hard you worked for them and your family! A common denominator for many of my best students was that they had super involved parents, often with one parent who had made it their primary job to stay home as a support system for the kids. I think of this every single day. I love writing this blog because it gives me a creative outlet, and I’d love to add to my professional responsibilities as Finn grows up! As I said in my post, I’m finding that being happy where I am takes so much discipline and patience, and requires me to really reflect on what is important in my life. Of course I’ll get back to work, but Finn will never be small again. Thank you again for your comment and for reading, and for providing such a wonderful example for me as a mom by sending me such great kids and allowing me to observe awesome parenting at work!

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