Tate Birthday

9-Years-Old

Dear Tate,

A few weeks ago, you turned 9-years-old. I hardly ever write on this blog anymore, but every year on your birthday, I want to make sure I get something written here. You are such an interesting, fun, wonderful kid, and that certainly hasn’t changed in the last year. But other things about you have changed, and I know if I don’t get them down in words, they will float away, just like all memories do.

Tate Birthday

The other day a friend of mine posted something to social media about how parenting is basically deciding where in the house you want to keep the giant pile of acorns that your children bring home and HAVE TO KEEP BECAUSE THEY ARE TREASURES. I was immediately taken back to your preschool days, when you’d come home with random items in your pocket…an acorn, yes, but also a lego guy, a feather, three pennies, a nickel and, of course, a couple of rocks. Those days feel so far away to me now, but I still keep a jar of your trinkets on a shelf in our kitchen. It reminds me of how much you’ve grown, and of how much I have loved being your mom.

Preschool Tate was cute, and honestly, so is 9-year-old Tate. You’re my own, real-life Peter Pan, a little imp who sometimes gets into trouble, but who easily skirts out of it with a wink and a smirk. In fact, the smirk is your go-to expression, including in all school photos and selfies. You pretty much always have a twinkle in your eye that suggests you might be up to no good. But mostly you just like to have fun, and you don’t often think about boundaries or limits.

This year has been difficult in ways I couldn’t have imagined when you blew out your candles last year. Since you were 2-years-old, I’ve worked from home and been able to be there for you whenever you needed me. If you were sick, I was there. If you had a school event, I was there. If you needed a snack or help with homework or someone to enter the password into the TV, I was always there. But this year I began working outside of the home again, and all of sudden, I wasn’t there. We are so fortunate, because you have a village of people around you (and me!) who have stepped up to fill the gaps since I went back to work. In fact, sometimes I think you like it better this way, as you get to spend time with neighbors, our super-fun babysitter, and at playdates with friends. Your relationship with your dad has strengthened in immeasurable ways, as he has been the parent volunteering at school and coaching your teams, instead of me taking on every role. We have gained much, much more than we lost.

This year we also moved to a new home, one that we chose, in part, because it kept us at your elementary school and near your friends. You love our new house, and it’s been so fun to see you here with friends and cousins, running around our new backyard and playing football on the front lawn. There has been so much change this year, and you have handled it all in stride. I’m so proud of you.

We also had an unfortunate experience where we, as parents, made a mistake and kept you in a situation that wasn’t healthy for you. Parents make mistakes, buddy. In fact, I make them every, single day. But this one ate away at me because I knew from the beginning it wasn’t a good fit for you, but I kept you in it because I didn’t want to seem overprotective or inflexible. I let my fear of making trouble direct how I parented, and I deeply regret it. But when we finally did make the decision to move on, you never blamed us. You kept a good attitude, even when it would’ve been understandable for you to lose your cool. You stuck it out and you held your head high, and I’m so grateful for how you navigated all of it. You are an incredible person, Tate.

My hope for you this year is that you find a way to give yourself a little grace, kiddo. You are a very competitive person, and sometimes that gets the best of you. It seems especially difficult because you are someone who tends to just be really good at almost everything you try. But then, when something doesn’t come as easily, you can get really down on yourself. As you get older, there are going to be so many things that you won’t be the best at, but I don’t want you to give up. I want you to enjoy the experience of trying something new, failing, and trying again. I want you to encourage yourself, instead of putting yourself down when you’re not perfect. You’ve already been working on this, and I can see a big difference. In fact, you just went snowboarding for the first time, and your dad said you fell constantly…but you always got back up. That’s the good stuff, kiddo.

I am so proud to be your mom, Tate. I cannot wait to see what this next year will bring!

Love,

Mama

The Return of the Working Mom

First of all, this blog title is an obvious misnomer. For all of my motherhood career, I have been a “working mom.” For the first seven years of parenting I worked full-time out of the home. But for the last five years, I have vacillated between working part-time for another company, freelancing, and building my own business. During those years, I also spent much of my time at home taking care of my kids. I was the primary parent, volunteering at school and with the PTA, serving as a kid-taxi to practices and events, and leading the charge for every doctor’s appointment, parent-teacher conference or kid-centered meeting. I loved it.

A few months ago, I started thinking about when I wanted to go back to work full-time. I always knew that I would go back eventually, I was just never sure what exactly that would look like for our family. I could take a full-time position with another company. I could invest in my own business and take it full-time. I could continue freelancing. I could cobble together a combo of several different options. While I loved the flexibility I had with my own business, I found myself exhausted by the grind of it all. I loved photography, working with clients and creating fun projects, but I wasn’t a huge fan of accounting, taxes, and the day-to-day of running a business. The part-time aspect was a struggle as well. I had enough work to take my business full-time, but not enough childcare to give myself the hours to get it all done. I was constantly working in bursts, having to take frequent breaks for my parenting duties, and I found that really difficult.

Also, as I learned soon after I left my last full-time job, a lot of my self-worth and confidence were tied to being a “working mom.” I found it challenging to be home more, especially as my kids got older and the duties shifted to a more “housewife” type role instead of a caretaking role. For me, it wasn’t fulfilling, and I found myself bored, tired and unmotivated. I have a strong pull to be financially independent, and knowing if something happened to my husband’s income, I couldn’t support the family, really stressed me out.

So a few months ago I started tentatively putting my name out into the universe when I’d see jobs that might be a good fit. Very soon after, the perfect job sort of just….appeared. I know that sounds incredibly annoying, especially if you’ve been in search of the perfect job for a long time. But keep in mind, I’ve been on a journey to find a job that fits with my life for years. It’s part of why I left my last full-time position and why I’ve spent the last few years happy, but still feeling like something was missing. In the words of a wise friend, “Isn’t it wonderful that you found a job that’s the best fit for your life RIGHT NOW?”

There have been some surprises since I began my new career adventure (I’m coordinating social media and website content for the cancer center that saved my dad’s life when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer), and oddly, most of them have been positive. I was prepared to be overwhelmed, anxious, and constantly searching for the elusive “working mom balance” that highlighted the years in my former career. However, so far, I’ve been incredibly fulfilled and I’m so happy going into work every day. I thought I would really miss not being able to be as flexible with the kids and not getting to hang at the pool during the summer. Instead, it’s been such a gift to be supported by other people in my life who have stepped up to help out. The kids are really happy too, and I think they are enjoying their newfound independence and time with their super-fun babysitter and family. I thought the commute would be a bummer, but I actually like having that buffer time between work and home, something that was sorely missed when I was working for myself. I would work right up to the minute the kids got into the car at school pickup, and I struggled a lot to turn off my work stress in front of them. Now, by the time I get home, I’ve usually had enough time to decompress and jump into parenting with a good attitude. I also have been really focusing on having as much quality time with my kids as possible, where as before I certainly felt like I was never fully in one place or another.

Granted, I am only six weeks into this new adventure, and I may TOTALLY eat my words once school starts for the kids and my busy season begins at work in the fall, but for now, I’m enjoying the change. It’s so important that we all give ourselves permission to change as our lives change. While a few years ago I never could have imagined wanting to work for anyone other than myself, I am finding it was the best choice for me right now. I’m sure things will continue to evolve, but for today, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

13-Years-Old

Dear Lucy,

Today you turned 13-years-old. Yes. THIRTEEN. As in teenager! What in the holy heck is happening? How can I have a teenage daughter? I don’t understand this at all, but it is apparently real life, so I suppose I’d better get used to it.

I have high hopes your teenage years, especially your younger teenage years, will be a bit easier than mine. Because, sweet girl, being a female teenager is hard. Thirteen is the first time I remember really having the realization that as a girl, I not only had very different experiences than my boy counterparts, but that I had to be constantly vigilant against threats. I think it’s something we all go through as women, but that doesn’t mean I wish I could remove it for you. When I was thirteen, I first noticed older men creepily staring at me in public spaces or at the pool, experienced boys snapping my bra, and other girls turning against me in cruel ways. I had prayed we would be a more evolved species by the time you got to this point, and I suppose we are, but I also know you will have to combat some of these same things. And it sucks. It really does. I’m so sorry we haven’t been able to fix this crap yet, but we will keep working on it, I promise.

Luckily, so far, you seem much stronger than I was at thirteen. You have absolutely no time for sexism, and you rage against other injustices, such as homophobia, xenophobia and racism. You are extremely outspoken and I couldn’t be prouder of you. You are definitely not Little Red Riding Hood…you are the Wolf! I have zero doubt you will change the world in magnificent ways, and I’m grateful to have a front-row seat to the show.

When you entered middle school this past fall, I worried so much about how it would all shake out for you, but so far, it has been mostly positive. While you’ve stayed close with a few friends from elementary school, especially through your participation in the middle school musical (where many of them had a role), you’ve also started to form a new tribe. Your new friends are eclectic, artistic, and creative. It can be so difficult as a parent to know your child now has friends and a life that have absolutely nothing to do with you, and that has certainly been true for me. Middle school was our first foray into independence, and I had to let go and trust that we’d done enough in those formative years to send you out into the world (and on to the school bus) with love.

Your story has officially transitioned. It is very little of mine, and 100% yours. You will continue to grow and learn and have experiences that don’t include me at all. This sort of breaks my heart. But it also excites me. Because you surprise me every day with your empathy, care, joy for life, openness to learn and stubbornness, and I know many of these characteristics are growing in you when I’m not there. I can’t even imagine how amazing you will be in a year, two years, five years…

I’m grateful to have been your mother and caretaker for the past thirteen years. I’m will always be a soft spot where you can land when things get to be too much. I love you more every day. My Lucinda Light…

Love,

Mama

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