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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Back-to-School Thoughts from a Working Mom

I’m not thrilled about the kids heading back to school. I would be fine if my girls could enjoy another month of summer vacation. And it’s not because we spend our mornings sleeping late, or our afternoons soaking up the sun by the pool. It’s about the evenings.

I work full-time outside of the home, so regardless of the month on the calendar I’m up at 6 a.m., out the door by 8 a.m., and don’t return until 6 p.m. During the school year, I head straight home to make dinner, inspect backpacks, check homework, give baths, get clothes ready for the next day, and put the kids to bed by 8:30 p.m.

But the summer is different. Aaaaahhhh...the summer.

***Sigh***

In the summer, we don’t rush through our evenings, checking items off a task list. If we don’t have dinner ‘til 8:00 it’s no big deal.

Backpacks? Homework? Bedtime? Fuhgettabout it.

(Smelly, dirty kids do require strictly enforced nightly baths...even in the summer.)

With a 40-hour work week I may not get to enjoy the lazy days of summer, but I do love my easy-going evenings in June, July and August.

Today when I dropped off my 8 year-old at her first day of third grade, I had to hold back the tears as I walked back to my car. I always get emotional on the first day of school. And it's not because I won’t spend the next several hours with her. Regretfully, being away from my kids all day long is nothing new for me. It’s the milestone in the moment.

But in all honesty, I think some of my emotion comes from the fact that it’s the-beginning-of-the-end of summer.

I have enough structure in my life during the work day. I need flexible evenings where we can focus on fun and relaxing family time. I need time to unwind from a hectic work day. Nothing puts office politics and projects into perspective than hanging out with my kids. They are the balancing force in my life.

And when I say "force", I mean that literally.

Just tonight my 5 year-old had an self-induced, accidental overdose of Triaminic for her little cough. There's nothing like a frantic call to poison control on behalf of your child to help you realize what's really important.


Fortunately all is well. Unfortunately, it will probably just get crazier from this point forward.

Good-bye lazy summer evenings. We had a great time together while it lasted.

Hello schoolwork and bedtime. Please don’t be offended that I’m not happy to see you.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Wonder Where She Gets It

The other day we received a letter from my 8 year-old daughter’s new school teacher. In the letter the teacher introduced herself and said that she was excited to meet our student, etc. I thought it was a nice gesture from her soon-to-be third grade teacher.

Without our knowledge, our daughter wrote a return letter to her new teacher. She put it in an envelope, sealed, addressed and stamped it before my husband and I even knew what was going on.

I found the sealed letter on the kitchen counter, so I asked her what it was about.

Me: Did you write a letter to your new teacher?

Lauren: Yes. She sent us a letter so I thought that I’d write her back.

Me: That’s nice of you. What did you write about in the letter?

Lauren: I just told her about me, what I like to do, and that I’m excited to meet her too.

I don’t know why I think that’s so funny, but I do. After all, what third grader just writes their new teacher a letter the week before school starts?

As my husband said, obviously our child is trying to "get in good" with the teacher from the get-go.

And I suppose it’s in her genes. After all, Public Relations is a BIG part of my career. But this wasn’t a calculated PR move. This wasn’t even the result of parental encouragement to charm a new teacher. It was a sincere letter from a young student to her new teacher.

I’ve been known to say that everything...every event...every statement...every action...is a PR move. All of our communication – verbal, electronic, body language, appearance – all of it reflects who we are and what we want others to believe about us. Rarely does someone say or do something publicly with absolutely no regard of how it will be perceived by others.

Unless you’re 8 years-old. If you’re 8, then you simply write your teacher a letter telling her that you’re excited to start school because you truly are excited to start school. Nothing complicated. That’s it. What you see is what you get.

How refreshing!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Politically Correct vs. Brutally Honest

Today I had to dress-up for work. Essentially, that means rather than business casual it was business professional. I wore a skirt, nylons and even a jacket...and it’s August!!!

I didn’t think it was a huge departure from how I normally dress for work until this comment from my 8 year-old this morning.

Lauren: Wow Mom, you look like an office lady today.

Me:
Well, that’s good because I work in an office. How do I usually look?

Lauren:
Not like that.

If you need an ego boost, don’t look to your kids. It’s not that they are trying to keep you grounded...they just haven’t developed that "politically correct" filter that keeps us out of trouble as adults.

And aren’t we glad. As working professionals, we need someone to be brutally honest and give it to us straight.

I had a CEO of a company tell me once that only her teenage kids truly tell her "how it is" when it comes to her presentation style. Of course, I agreed. (And not just because that was the politically correct thing to do.)

Giving feedback to co-workers can be such a tricky thing at the office. We want to appear smart, yet thoughtful; well-informed, yet open to ideas.

Is that how it is at home around the kitchen table with kids? Not at my house!

I can’t recall my kids ever saying: "Mom, I really appreciate the fact that you’re helping us eat healthier with this big bowl of steamed broccoli. And it’s obvious that you spent a lot of time preparing this amazing dinner. However, I need some time to consider the broccoli option. Can I think it over and get back to you tomorrow?"

A more likely scenario at our house: "Gross! I hate broccoli! Don’t get it near me or I’ll gag. Did you really think I'd want to eat that awful stuff?"

I love my kids. They keep me humble. My girls let me know how I can be a better person without any concern for political correctness. And if their brutal honesty hurts my feelings, then they are getting a big bowl of steamed broccoli for dinner!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mother-Daughter Bonding

I wouldn’t classify myself as an animal lover, but we do have a 10 year-old cat named Frasier that I’m quite fond of. And when we make it over to the Morgan County Fair each August, I like to check out the bunny rabbits. The lop-eared rabbits are my favorites. They’re just so darn cute!

The only problem with visiting the bunnies is that they’re usually busy...if you know what I mean. Honestly, I don’t think two rabbits can co-exist in a cage without some sort of assault taking place.

Such was the case Thursday night. After work, I picked up the girls from daycare and we drove over to the fair. We were having a great time looking at the adorable bunnies when a couple of rabbits started doing what they’re famous for.

There I am, having a fun, semi-educational moment with my children and "Thumper" starts going for it. I guess that we saw a bit more of an "exhibit" than we bargained for at the fair.

I think that I’ll recommend to the fair organizers that they post a disclaimer before entering the area.

WARNING: What you are about to see could be disturbing and not appropriate for children or their "city-girl" mothers.

Fortunately, I was able to distract my daughters with some chickens on the other side of the aisle. Unfortunately, that act became a distraction to everyone else in the building because my four year-old who is terrified of chickens started screaming.

We quickly moved on and went past the hogs located in the next shed. I am happy to report that "Wilbur" and his pals were not participating in any inappropriate activities. They looked quite content just laying around in the straw and mud, stinking up the joint.

Obscene rabbits. Scary chickens. Smelly pigs. What else could a mother and her daughters ask for on a girls’ night out?

In the end, the evening was a success with the help of some snow cones, temporary tattoos and a first place sticker on my eight year-old daughter’s artwork in the Junior Crafts division.

Next time we're looking for some mother-daughter bonding, I think we’ll just go shopping.