"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Archive for the ‘teenagers’ Category

Why Former Stay-At-Home Moms Can Be Rock Star Employees

IMAG0656After “staying home” about twelve years with my three kids when they were younger, I decided to gingerly test the job market about seven years ago.  At that point, my kids were all in school and could manage to look after themselves for a few hours without burning down the house.  My logic was that I could earn a little money for the extras, while getting out of the house and re-developing skill sets that could enhance my resume.  The Mommy Track became very real to me as I looked for something to get myself back into the workplace.

I didn’t expect to jump from “Stay At Home Mom” to CEO or anything, especially with my big girl career background being mostly in a niche industry (I had worked in the very heavily-regulated secondary federal student loan market).  When the kids were little I had done odds and ends paid jobs—Assistant Pre-School Teacher, home-based business cosmetics and skin care, some contract work doing computer work—but nothing that made me a stand-out job candidate.   I had also done a lot of non-paid jobs, mostly kid-oriented—coaching, volunteering at church and knee-deep involvement with two Girl Scout troops.  I loved my volunteer work with the kids’ activities, but I was seeking to spend time with people that I would not have to remind to use their indoor voices or sit “crisscross applesauce”.

I ended up working for a little over a year at a Retirement Home as an Activities Assistant.  It was a very fun job for someone like me who loves talking with people and learning about their lives.  I led exercise classes and discussion groups, helped with our facility’s numerous and magnificent parties, bar tended at Happy Hour and learned how to play Euchre with some wonderful people.  I learned a lot about people at that job—mainly that BINGO could be considered a contact sport at times—but the pay wasn’t that great, and the hours were split up in such a way over the week that I felt like I was working much more than 20 hours a week.  So I went back to what I was comfortable with, and ended up working part-time as an Administrative Assistant, focusing on placing past organization and computer “hard” skills on my resume.  It’s a nice gig, Monday through Friday six hours a day, a flexible boss and a very short commute.

Occasionally I’ll take a look at a job website to get a feel for what’s out there.  I’m amazed at how much job searching and applying has changed, not just since my fresh-out-of-college days, but in the last seven years.  Almost all job applications are online and involve uploading documents.  It drives me crazy to painstakingly fill out detailed employment history on an online application when you’re giving them your resume’ anyway.  I understand how it can make a hiring director’s job much easier to have a computer program pre-screen applications searching for specific keywords, but it certainly takes the human out of Human Resources.  When one hasn’t taken the traditional career path, trying to tie a non-job related life experience skill set to a specific career keyword can be frustrating.

There are a lot of women (and men, too) that have taken similar career paths to mine, and I’ve noticed that most of us overlook some notable character traits that come with the Mommy Track territory.  Sure, career websites and other experts tell us to highlight our past career and volunteer knowledge and not to diminish the roles we’ve played in being our own Household Executive.  My personal experience has been that it is easier said than done.  Calling myself my family’s Chief Operating Officer?  I can’t picture that on a resume that gets taken seriously—especially if the person reading it has juggled full-time employment while being Family COO.  It’s not that the strengths of many stay-at-home Moms are exclusive to just those individuals by any means; they are just often not acknowledged as being experience to easily taut while re-entering the workplace.

Often, potential qualities and strengths I’ve seen in others on the Mommy Track aren’t tied to the hot buzzword of the moment, but that’s not to say they are not resume-worthy, timeless assets.  As time distances me from those days in my own life, it’s easier for me now to identify in others some typical skills honed during those years with the kids.  My goal is that perhaps this short list will help others who need to see themselves with new eyes come up with some translatable terminology. I’ll use the title “Former Stay-At-Home Moms” for simplicity’s sake with apologies to all the Dads and others who may be offended because I find writing she/he/his/her on every point cumbersome; feel free to insert the appropriate title and adapt.

#1.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms possess great leadership skills.  “Because I’m the Mom” aren’t just words to be said when avoiding the “Why?” question.  The parent who is organizing schedules, making sure that some sort of nourishment is given throughout the day and deciding who gets to ride shot gun on the way to the grocery store can’t be a follower.  She has to be able to make a decision, execute it and be willing to re-visit later if necessary.  That’s not to say her authority won’t be questioned, so a strong backbone is required.  Kids like to push limits, especially when they are tired, hungry or miss their favorite Spongebob episode.  The ability to identify every-changing needs in varying situations, as well as coming up with an action plan and following through are all vital skills.

#2.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms must be resourceful and think creatively.  Anybody who has ever tried to keep the younger set occupied day after day in an environment that’s safe and allows for learning opportunities has to be able to be flexible and work with what’s available.  Sometimes that means the Halloween costume might be a simple green shirt with brown pants and drawn on beard-scruff so “Shaggy” can go trick-or-treating at the last minute.  It can also mean making sure Mom’s “It” during Hide and Seek so she can throw a load of laundry in while actively “seeking” the kids in their hiding spots.

#3.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms develop insightful diplomatic and people-skills.  What job can’t use the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of a saint?  The ability to read and understand people’s motives while remaining neutral and calm is part of all parenting.  Some are better at it than others…sometimes I was better at the insight part than the being calm part.  A person who can learn to referee squabbling siblings diplomatically can transfer that ability to clients and fellow employees.

#4.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms know how to research and learn.  Why do dogs circle around their bed before they lie down?  Why is the sky blue?  Who was Genghis Kahn?  Shh…don’t tell the kids, but parents don’t always know EVERYTHING.  Sometimes we need to research an answer (thanks, Wikipedia, YouTube and Google).  What is most fulfilling about this kind of learning is that sometimes it leads to producing lifelong interests for our children, or even ourselves.  The ability to find accurate answers quickly is a job skill that crosses every industry.

#5.  Former Stay-At-Home Moms understand being realistic and “The Big Picture”.  It can be hard for all of us to visualize how the small steps we take today towards our goals really do produce results when those results seem so far in the future.  Anyone who has ever been a Girl Scout Troop Cookie Manager knows that rounding up everything needed to get the troop’s cookie-selling is not for the faint of heart.  It requires patience, the ability to chase down parents for required signatures on documents and orders, and oftentimes a large vehicle for cookie hauling.  In the moment it is hard to see how this does anything but add a mere quarter per box to troop funds.  Big Picture thinking is required to see the true impact of that thankless job—girls who learn how to set financial goals and follow through with them by marketing and selling a product.  Being able to see beyond the here and now towards a goal that’s not guaranteed is certainly an asset in today’s immediate gratification world.

I’m positive that not all of these in my list apply to everyone who has left paid employment to raise a family; however, it’s a good start for those who may have forgotten that what they do can translate into tangible job skills at some point.  While I’m not sure how to best encapsulate these observations into a blanket-statement, bulleted list on an individual’s resume so they make it past the pre-screen, they are definitely points to be made in cover letters and interviews and can be tailored.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent that doesn’t happen to be looking for employment outside the home right now, may it encourage you to know that these years do matter.  Involve yourself with the community and your family—and don’t forget to work in time for your personal pursuits.  The Mommy Track doesn’t have to be a separate path from career building—consider it the scenic route.

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Choosing Your Battles

cracked egg

The young mother cast a weary glance my way over the top of the squirmy toddler’s head.  She moved the bag of chips towards the back of the cart, just out of reach from those stretched-out fingers.  The little boy’s lip stuck out, but he didn’t shriek or cry.  I gave her a sympathetic smile as we passed and we went our separate ways in the grocery store.  I’d been there once.  Another Mom vs. Child battle won!

When the kids were little and I found myself exasperated with them, my husband would remind me to pick my battles.  It was hard.  I wanted them – expected them – to just behave how I wanted them to all the time simply because I was “The Mom”.  When they didn’t listen to my logic (good, sound, Mom-logic!) I felt like minor situations escalated from disagreement to battles to war in the space of a few short minutes.  The problem wasn’t a matter of me picking a battle.  The problem was that I thought three-year-olds would listen to reason.  Ha!

One of the things that I had to learn was that I didn’t have to win every battle to win the war.  Again, it was tough lesson.  I wanted to be right.  I wanted the kids to know I was right.  I wanted the kids to be little grown-ups in those tiny little bodies and see how I only had their best interest at heart.  The most selfish part of that equation was that I also didn’t want others to judge me as being a bad parent.  After all, if my kid had on a horrible, mis-matched outfit at pre-school it was obviously because I was the worst Mom ever, right?

There was a time in my life when I thought I’d just never be able to go in public again—especially restaurants and stores.  I suppose if that were true, I’d have a few more dollars in the bank account right now.  When I found out Erin was on the way, one of the first thoughts I had was, How in the world will I be able to keep track of three kids in the grocery store?  Someone’s gonna lose a finger…or an eye! 

When I look back now, especially when I see people in the store with their kids, I have a completely different take on toddlers and parents. I am quick to NOT judge, because I’ve been in their shoes.  I’ve had my exhausted kid scream about how much he hated me in the parking lot because we had to leave the dance party at the elementary school when it was getting late and his sisters were tired.  I’ve been the mom whispering through clenched teeth about how they were going to really “get it” when we got home if I got any more sass.  I have had to go to the store manager and alert them to the egg on the floor and apologize because my kid grabbed one out of the container and chucked it in two seconds when I opened it to check for cracked eggs.  Been there, done that.

All in all, my kids were actually pretty well-behaved youngsters in public.  It’s just that my memory doesn’t recall the times we peacefully strolled the aisles or sat at a restaurant.  I can even laugh a little bit at those battles won and lost.  Ultimately, we all won a little bit, because with one in college and two now in high school no one is throwing eggs at the grocery store and their clothes match quite well.  They even give me fashion advice.  I sometimes bribe my kids with promises of gum purchases to get them to go to the store with me now.

I can’t say I saw this mother with the chip-loving toddler and eyed her with envy.  Those years were not always easy, but I cherish them now.  We look back on those once-exasperating moments and laugh a little when the kids actually remember certain incidents and tell me what was going through their minds at the time.  Those years were a rite of passage in the journey of Motherhood, and now it’s definitely in a different stage, where our trips to Costco involve me trying to get out of the store without indulging in the frozen yogurt sundaes with the kids at the end of the trip—a battle rarely won.  And that’s a whole new war.

A Poem 50 Years in the Making

My brother turned 50 in April, and I decided to write him a poem for part of his present.  Don’t worry—I got him some tacky 50th Birthday gifts, too, to go along with this cheesy little ditty.

 

EPSON MFP image

Kevin and I many moons ago. Judging by our faces, I’m guessing they might have startled us with a squeaky duck or something else equally ominous.

 

I know an old, old geezer

His birthdays more than mine by far

His foolish youth I still remember

And how he built me my first car

 

Now I can’t get sentimental

That just wouldn’t fly

Cuz my older brother’s

Just not that kind of guy (in public, anyway)

 

The Three Stooges still can make him laugh

As can Smoky and the Bandit

Buford T. Justice chasing that black Trans Am all around

The point?  I’ll just never understand it

 

But there are many things about him

No one really knows but me

Like when we were kids at Grandma’s

We each had claimed a maple tree

 

His grew up a little taller

Its branches higher up the trunk

While mine housed the homemade swing

Played on ‘til the sun had sunk

 

Like most older brothers

He liked to aggravate

From pulling off my Barbie’s heads

To stealing goodies off my plate

 

I never will forget the time

He wiped boogers on my wall

His made up lyrics of victory

Ensuring I would squall

 

But there were times aplenty

Partners in crime were we

Sneaking peeks at our Christmas gifts

Before they appeared under the tree

EPSON MFP image

Easter around 1974

 

Growing up I idolized this goof

Wanting to be just like him

I even tried standing up to pee

Much to my mom’s chagrin

 

The music in his teenage years

Influenced me as well

.38 Special, ELO and Billy Squier

And of course, “Highway to Hell”

 

He still likes his fancy cars

And watching Cardinals on TV

He likes drinking nasty Natural Light

And plates with roast turkey

 

I’m glad I have a brother

Who taught me to be tough

A guy who likes to share his beer

And on the outside seems quite gruff

 

But you see I know another side

As sentimental as can be

And I hope that turning 50

Is an awesome memory

Happy Birthday, Kevin!

 

EPSON MFP image

Kevin and his kids around 2001. I like this picture of him because it shows him smiling.

Running the Race: Erin’s First Half Marathon

Erin at me at Finish 4-2016

Erin and I after finishing the GO! Half Marathon in St. Louis

When you tell people who don’t enjoy running that you are training for and running a race, you usually get one of two reactions:  A response of total disdain for running, or someone who thinks it’s great that you do it, even if it’s not their cup of tea.   I did not start running until I was in my late thirties, so to see my daughter, Erin tackling training for a half marathon at her age brings out my Momma Pride.  Before I started running, I couldn’t imagine how people managed to trudge through that first mile, let alone three miles for a 5K.  Erin completed her first half marathon last week at the tender age of 14 at the GO! Half Marathon/Marathon in St. Louis.  She runs faster than I do, so other than being at the starting corral together, I did not get to run the 13.1 miles with her, but as I lagged behind, running those same streets in St. Louis, I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking about during those miles.  Personally, besides realizing Left Knee was not happy this run, I was worried we were going to get caught in a nasty thunderstorm.

Running those long training runs, there is a special magic that happens to your body and your mind.  Scientifically, we know there are endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones, released that give us a “runner’s high” and help us cope with stress.  When I run with a friend or running group, the magic factor is boosted even more.  My running partner, who is also one of my best friends, has said we solve all the world’s problems on our long runs.  We also say that we could probably increase our speed if we’d shut up a bit, but then it wouldn’t be as much for us—such a trade-off.  Our training with Erin allowed her to always get a few more miles in than we did, as she’d run ahead at a faster pace and needed to circle back to meet up with us.  Thankfully, she has some friends to run with who challenge her to up her pace on the shorter runs.

Running this half was bittersweet.  My running partner, the one who solves all the world’s problems with me while we run together, had a family tragedy happen the week before the race that shook us all to our very core.  The event is too raw and too personal to share here on a blog, but she was not able to run with us.  We chose to run in honor of her loved one, which made this run very personal for Erin and the other runners in our group, and she was on our mind and in our hearts the entire way.

Erin and I both agreed that when you first start a long race, the excitement and the crowd gets us in the mindset that could keep up the running for hours.  Conversation flows easily, in spite of all that heavy breathing, as you check off the miles.  At The GO! Half Marathon in St. Louis, runners get to run over the bridge into Illinois, and the view of the Arch as you come back into Missouri is stunning.  Many people stop to take selfies with the Arch in the background.  I chose to just lift up my camera and shoot a picture, minus my sweaty face.  I thought it turned out great, considering I didn’t come to a stop to take it.

Scene from bridge at GO 4-2016

Normally it’s around Mile 8 that I start to ask myself, “How much longer?”  This race, it was closer to halfway through Mile 9, which is the part of the race that goes through the Anheuser-Busch brewery area.  We trudged on through past Soulard Market and onto Mile 11, where they were handing out little chocolate candies from Crown Candy Restaurant (another longstanding St. Louis landmark).  As my friend, Tina, and I approached Mile 12, I kept thinking about how the end of the race was so close, and the hills seemed especially steep.  The crowds cheering along the side of the course gave us words of encouragement about the end being “just around the corner”.  It was more like around a corner, and another and another.  Then a really long straight stretch.  In other words, the last mile kind of felt like five miles.  But the finish felt fantastic and miraculously the rain held off until we had walked back to our hotel.

Erin ice cream at Go! 4-2016

There are times when I feel like a snail running these longer races—if a snail had creaky knees—and wonder what keeps me motivated to do another one.  One look at my daughter and I am reminded of our talks during our training runs over toenails, running shoes and how good it feels after you’ve accomplished a goal you’ve set your mind to.  I see her excited about meeting up with her running pals, and her determination to improve and finish what she starts.  So I’m pretty sure I won’t be giving it up any time soon, even if I am riding in her tailwind.

Wanted: Antacids and Patience Please

Last Monday, the first day of Spring Break, I took Emily to take the written part of her driving test to get her learner’s permit.  Somehow this snuck up on me.  Even though she turned fifteen a few weeks ago, has had the book to study and has talked quite often about getting her driving permit, the reality of what this actually means hadn’t hit me.  Until that afternoon.

Driving from the testing location to the license office, it occurred to me all that comes with teaching a child to drive:  trying to keep gasps quietly to myself, death grips on the handrest, and questioning my judgment on where and when to not let her drive.  Target’s parking lot is not for the faint of heart!  Then there’s all that comes with when they have their full license and are driving when you’re NOT in the car.  And here I thought I was done giving up sleep when they started sleeping through the night!

I like to think of myself as a laid back person—but I’ll be the first to admit that does not hold true when it comes to riding as a passenger in the car with the kids.  That is where I become the Control Freak from Hell.  Tyler’s been driving on his own for nearly two years now, and I still grab the handrest, even though he drives just fine.  Maybe it’s the memories of how they drove playing Mario Cart when they were little.  Or the times they ran into mailboxes, parked cars and sometimes each other on their bikes.  I know, I shouldn’t hold that against them, but those visions must lie dormant somewhere in my sub-conscious.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Tyler was behind the wheel for the first time.  He had two vehicles to choose from to learn on—a 6-speed manual transmission or a full-sized Ford Expedition.  Neither one were very easy to start with, but he began driving with my huge truck.  I can’t remember exactly how I learned to drive, but at least I had a small car.  It seemed like I knew the basics before I actually had a permit.  When we were kids my dad would let us sit on his lap and “drive” on the gravel roads surrounding the sand plant.  I don’t remember having to ask how to put the car in drive, or how the gas pedal worked.

I do remember taking my driver’s test.  I had the lady with the shocking red-orange hair and matching bright orange lipstick.  The one the older kids at school warned us younger ones you didn’t want to give you your test.  I had my mom’s ’86 Mercury.  The steering column had the turn signal, horn and high beams all on the same “blinker stick”.  Up and down for the blinkers, push in for the horn, and pull forward for the brights.  Before we started, I was asked to demonstrate various functions of the car.  The instructor asked me to put on the high beams.  I’d never used them before, but I saw “PULL” on the stick, so I did.  I pulled the turn signal right out of the steering wheel!  Flustered, I tried to put it back on, resulting in my honking the horn long and loud several times.  I’m surprised I didn’t fail right then, but she allowed me to drive off the lot into traffic.  About the third or fourth turn, the blinker stick fell off onto the floorboard, leaving me with a little nub about two inches long to use for the turn signal.  To this day, I think I passed only due to this woman’s pity.  I’m sure that my test made her top ten of hilarious idiot driving test stories to tell.

So now you know I really have no business judging my kids’ lack of driving knowledge.  I had some humble beginnings.  Learning to drive a manual transmission threw me a curveball.  And any passengers almost through the windshield.  My dad probably has more gray hair having taught me to drive a stick, but we survived.

So yes, I’m a hypocrite.  I still can’t help but be a little nervous giving up control of the wheel to someone who describes putting the car in drive as “putting the line on the ‘D’”.  Luckily I’m married to someone who has nerves of steel and a lot more patience as the parent Driver Instructor than I do.  I remind myself to keep a sense of humor about it all, because in the end, having another driver to run errands does come in handy.  I just hope that by the time she’s driving solo, it will be for milk, bread and eggs, not antacids.

Guest Post: Tyler’s Class Project

So Tyler and his buddies had to make a video for his speech class.  What makes me laugh–more than the actual video content–is that Tyler has my warped sense of humor.  If you’re watching this, and you don’t know our family, you will most likely be unimpressed.  After all, I’m a blogger Mom basically posting my kid’s artwork on the fridge.  But listening to his friends while they were videoing it, and hearing their “logic” behind it, I just saw a sliver of my goofiness in him.  The ability to be a bit ridiculous and actually bask in the silliness of it all. Tyler’s the Richard Simmons-like guy in the short shorts and Bro shirt.

When I told him I wanted to put his video on the blog, I figured he’d be appalled, but he was actually pleased.  So here’s Tyler in his acting debut.  A non-politically correct way of dealing with bullies.  By the way, I posted his senior pic below so you can see him as the savvy business-looking dude he’ll be someday.  I am Mom, after all.

Boss Man T

Boss Man T

In a Room Where It’s Always 4:57

So it's hard to find a clock image with 4:57 on it.  I found this cool one courtesy of momastry.com

So it’s hard to find a clock image with 4:57 on it. I found this cool one courtesy of momastry.com

In the music room where Erin takes viola lessons the clock is broken; the second hand bounces without ever moving forward. Even though I know it’s broken—it hasn’t worked since she moved over to that room—I catch myself glancing over at it to check the time. But it’s always 4:57.

Sitting there, listening to her lesson, I think about what it would be like if time could just stop like it does in TV shows and movies. You know the scene where the main character is moving in slowmo, and everyone else just freezes. Some days, I wish I could do exactly that. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and just want to take a breather. In the morning right before the alarm goes off. Or when I’m enjoying a moment, and I want to savor it before it slips into the past. It would just be nice to say, “Hang on Universe, I’ll re-join you in a minute or two”.

The flip side of wanting to have time stop for a moment, is wishing it would already be a certain time. Like when you’re a little kid and you can’t wait for Friday so you can go to your friend’s birthday party. Later on, it becomes wanting to hurry up with high school or college so you can start your “real” life. I remember in college counting down the days to get finished with that last semester so I could get a grown up job. Now, in my grown up life so full of responsibility, I wish I would have savored a bit more of those college days instead of pressing forward so hard to the future.

As a parent, I’ll admit there have been times in my children’s lives that I have had to buckle down and just get through. In the beginning it was cranky babies crying and trying to get them to go to finally go to sleep. New parents stumble through those days, feeling like those nights without enough sleep will never end. People told me those days would go by so fast, but I never really believed them. The elementary school years, filled with those awful required science fair projects and being the homework police—they told me those days would go by fast, too. I started believing they might be right, but still…

And now we’re getting towards the end of summer with one seventh grader, a freshmen and a senior in high school all picking up their schedules and gearing up for another school year. And I wish I had a time machine. Or at least a video that I can rewind of what the heck happened over the past two months because I can’t imagine how it went by so fast. I want to throw us all in a room with a broken clock where it’s going to be Summer 2014 a little while longer.

Yet, there’s a tiny part of me, filled with hope and enthusiasm for the future, that wants to see what happens next—for the kids, for my husband and me. What excitement is just around the corner that if I stopped time right now I’d delay getting to enjoy? So I’m glad I don’t really have a choice in the matter. And we forge ahead.

If I can’t have the broken clock, can I at least have a better memory?

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