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

Archive for the ‘Time’ 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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(One of the Reasons) I Miss 80s TV

scarecrow_and_mrs_king

Recently, I’ve been re-watching an old favorite TV show of mine, Scarecrow and Mrs. King.  Anyone under age 40 probably doesn’t even remember it.  It was a spy-type of comedy that ran four seasons from 1983 to 1987 about an ordinary housewife, Amanda King, played by Kate Jackson (Sabrina of Charlie’s Angels for you 70s TV show fans) and Lee Stetson, aka Scarecrow, played by Bruce Boxleitner, a seasoned spy for “The Agency”.  Completely by accident, Amanda is recruited by Scarecrow to be a spy, albeit in a courier-type capacity at first.  Of course, eventually she becomes a key player in all types of Russian take-downs.  After all, who would believe an ordinary DC housewife would be a spy?

Can you begin to see what I miss?

The willing suspension of disbelief.

True confession:  I am not a big fan of Reality TV.  Sure, I watched American Idol (whatever happened to David Cook anyway?), love ghost hunting and true crime shows and all things HGTV, but the Writer’s Strike of 2007 ruined a lot of TV for us who didn’t mind believing premises that were, ahem, a little far-fetched.

In the 80s, shows that featured a good guys vs. bad guys storyline were everywhere.  In the 80s, it was easy to feature the Russians as the bad guy in every spy flick.  It was the Cold War!  We did not have a bunch of Russians protesting outside of a studio somewhere saying they are being misrepresented in American TV.  And it made life simpler.  We had pay phones instead of cell phones, typewriters instead of computers and crazy notions about impropriety.  It was the day of the cowboy in the white hat versus the villain in the black hat.  As I write that I realize that now even having colored hats is politically incorrect.  If I’ve offended, I apologize.

I hate the PC movement.  It’s probably because I am not a hateful person—either that, or I’m just an idiot.  If I had to be honest, I’d say that there were always certain characteristics that, growing up, I associated with the bad guy.  (No offense to the PC crowd who thinks it could be a bad “girl”, which could very well have its own innuendo.)  The person who was a liar, spiteful, a thief or was anti-American was not to be trusted.  So many stories today feature the person who is a liar, but for good reason; the meanie who was just misunderstood; the thief who just needed a break; or anti-American…because, gosh, we can’t think that we are better than anybody else—Americans are such an arrogant bunch.  But when I watched a show where the criminal happened to be a certain ethnicity or race, I didn’t relate the bad guy in the show to anybody who fell into the same demographic.  Maybe because I saw the show as…fiction.  Corn was a vegetable and thrown on dinner plates as such.  Who wants a show about real life? (Corn is a starch, only broccoli is a healthy vegetable. Throw out the green beans-they aren’t going to add years to your life. Mom vacuums on Tuesdays.  Stop perpetuating untruths!)

It’s not that I don’t appreciate nuances in storytelling where characters are deeper than what they seem.  I like watching movies and shows that stretch what I think I know.  I just miss the simple bad guy vs. good guy premise.  Throw in a little sexual tension (NOT rolling around in the bed after knowing each other a whole two hours), mystery and some comedy and I’m sold.  I’m simple like that.  So yeah, I miss 80s TV.  Magnum PI. Simon and Simon. Cagney and Lacey. Moonlighting. The A Team.  Somehow they had a way of having horrendous crimes, but didn’t seem so dark.  They were okay with throwing us couch potatoes a taste of the darkness of human nature—murder, rape, revenge—but making it seem like it was just another day at the office for our heroes.

There are a few shows out that are a great throwback to those times.  I love the show Castle, which just ended last year.  Who wouldn’t want to believe that a fiction crime writer would be part of a New York homicide detective team?  His theories on cases alone were entertaining.  Or Bones, where a Forensic Anthropologist would be on the front lines chasing down bad guys?  Now that I think about it, I think that show ended, too.  But when I watch shows like that, I can see myself thrown into the action.  Can’t you?  It’s fun.

And why I like TV.

Like Walter Mitty, I could be the hero.  Me, ordinary City employee and Mom, Amy.  I could save the day.  Be the unassuming hero in my ordinary town.  It’s fiction.  I’m okay with it.  In fact, I embrace it!  I am free to not associate any of the bad guys in the script because the story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in the production are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

I do miss my 80s TV.  Maybe it’s because I was just a kid, and things were simpler when I had that naiveté.    But it sure seemed like a lot more fun, and less of a statement.  So go check out shows from the 70s and 80s.  Relax, enjoy.  Don’t read into it too much.  You may find yourself slightly entertained.  And that, in today’s reality-heavy TV, is a gift within itself.  Enjoy.

 

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.

Happy Anniversary!

Wedding pic

Twenty two years ago today, Darrell and I tied the knot. We’ve had wonderful times during those years, and I hope that we have at least twice as many more years together to have even more. After being with one person for that long, it’s so easy to take one another for granted and to let the little things, that in truth do not really matter, take up a lot of precious time and energy. Here are just the first twenty-two things I thought of when I thought about what a great husband I have (there are more!).

 Happy Anniversary!

  1. You kiss me in the morning even when I have morning breath.
  2. You know how to fix just about anything.
  3. You always answer my questions about politics or history—stuff that I should know, but don’t—patiently and don’t make me feel stupid.
  4. You love dogs.
  5. You know how to build awesome decks and remodel bathrooms.
  6. You show compassion towards people that other people ignore.
  7. You try to make me happy every day.
  8. You go with the kids to shop for presents when it’s my birthday or Christmas.
  9. You never complain about my housekeeping, even when you should.
  10. You help the kids with their math homework.
  11. You always drive the kids to school, even though it inconveniences you.
  12. You don’t complain when I watch my ghost shows, even though I know you don’t really like them.
  13. You never say no to Italian food.
  14. You always bring me a cup of coffee in the morning.
  15. You work hard to provide for us.
  16. You endure going to the doctor and having wires attached to you so that you can snore less and I can sleep much better.
  17. You help me be a more loving daughter.
  18. You are an excellent role model for our kids.
  19. You are always willing to share the last beer.
  20. You make me feel beautiful, even on days when I feel dumpy and gross.
  21. You love to reminisce with me about our good old days together. Bonus: You actually remember stuff.
  22. You are my voice of reason when I need one.

Life Car Re-Set

My life rarely keeps to a calendar for following any of the seasons. On January 1, it still feels a lot like December 31st. And the day I turned forty played out much like many of those when I was thirty-nine (except for the surprise party Darrell had for me). Of course, there are those beginnings, like the school year or a new routine, that creep into a sort of normalcy on the calendar. But an individual’s personal season of growth—that indistinct period when you can look back in hindsight and say without a doubt that it was during that time when a slow, gradual change took hold of you—seems to come in no set timeframe. Often when I view those instances they seem like a time when God picked my car off the Life game board and re-set it into a new path.

The reason I believe it’s a new direction from God is because I realize (normally well after the fact) that the occasions when I’ve grown the most personally are times when I was not burdened with self-doubt. It’s when I decide to roll the dice to see what happens and just trust that things are going to be okay. It is always okay, you know. Sometimes it’s a “new normal” or there are rough patches, but somehow I always muddle through. Please note that I’m not advocating not thinking through the consequences of your choices and pulling out all your savings to buy lottery tickets! What I am advocating is that sometimes to move forward you have to take a step out of your comfort zone. And sometimes you have to rely on your gut feelings.

How I once got a job is a great example. I quit my previous job before I’d actually gotten a new one—a huge deal for me. After all, I’m a stability freak and what if no one hired me right away? But I knew it was what I had to do, because if I’d stayed where I was, I was going to be stuck there like the story about putting a frog in hot water. If someone puts a frog into a pot of very hot water, the frog will jump out of the pot.  But, if one puts the frog into a pot of cool water, and then heats it up very, very slowly, the frog will not jump out – it will allow itself to be boiled. Because the temperature is increasing so slowly, there is no ‘trigger’ to signal the danger in the frog, so the frog takes no action to avoid it. I was gradually allowing my dissatisfaction to become an acceptable way of living. So I took a step out in faith, and finally turned in my resignation letter that I’d been carrying around in my purse for almost two months. Believe it or not, I received a phone call with a job offer as I was pulling out of the parking lot on my last day of work at my old job.

In my experience, it’s usually a convergence of events that trigger a period of growth, so I have a hard time pinpointing which domino fell first. And somehow I just know that a change is right around the corner. Life goes on in a similar way day after day, and all of a sudden it feels different somehow—I start expectantly waiting for something to happen. The other reason why I know it comes from God is because I’m not anxious about what’s in store, I’m excited and I draw closer to Him with a mindset of peace. The future looks a little brighter and it feels like I’m turning in the right direction. The Life car re-set.

And I do have a lot of exciting things going on in my life right now—finding a new church, taking a financial class with my husband, making more concrete writing plans, supporting Tyler in his college decisions, finishing training for the two fall half-marathons—all these things are in the forefront of my daily life at the moment. I’m choosing to savor this time; it’s not a time of unrestful upheaval, but one of contemplated contentedness. Yet, when it starts getting a little too warm for me, I’m ready to jump. Time to get out of the hot water and into my little Life car.

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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