Sunday, May 23, 2010

On the importance of babysitters

Yesterday, my friend Anne and I were talking about the importance of having time away from our kids. This is a conversation that comes up from time to time amongst moms. There are some who seem to think wanting to be away from your kids is a terrible thing and means you aren't dedicated to being a parent. But I, and almost every parent I know, disagrees. And here are a few of the reasons why.

As a parent, my job is to foster self-reliance and eventual independence in my children. These are lessons they need to learn or they will never be able to go out on their own. If they have no idea how to survive in the world without me there, how will they be able to attend college? And get a job? And maybe get married, have their own kids?

Big life skill lessons are something that are good to start early. As toddlers and preschoolers, a few hours without mom and dad starts teaching them that they are independent beings and they are capable of playing and doing other things without me. Oh what a help that is at home! Once they begin to learn that lesson, they can play by themselves for a bit while I cook dinner or clean house. And I don't have multiple interruptions! If you just wait until they go to school, it will be much harder. The whole point is to establish 'normal' as 'mom and dad can go to a movie and they will still come home.'

It is also very important for mom to get away and develop her own interests. This isn't mean or selfish. To really truly teach your children to find their passions, you need to show them that you have some. Seeing mom and dad as people may not sink in when they are young, but they will be learning that lesson despite themselves. They will see what you are passionate about and maybe be interested in the same thing. Or not, but at least they see that having a hobby, something that interests you, is a good thing.

And here's a biggie: parents need to go out on dates, have time to develop their relationship as spouses. Yes, the kids go to bed and we have a couple of hours before we join the land of slumber. But that isn't the same. We're still parents, catching up on housework or just decompressing while the little ones fall asleep. A frightening number of marriages end in divorce after the kids leave the house because the parents realize they don't really know each other any more, they have nothing in common except the kids. Why does this happen? I think it's because they forget that the most important relationship they have is with each other. Yes, I am a mom. But the caretaking phase of that will only last another dozen or so years and in 16 more they will leave the nest. But I am and will still be a wife. And that's a good thing. That's what I signed on for 7 years ago.

In college, I did an experiment in a biology class that kind of relates. I had two plants. One had its basic needs met (sunlight, water). The other plant was pampered with extra nutrients, etc. Plant 1 did ok while plant 2 thrived under all that extra care..... until the experiment was over and they both got basic care. Plant 1 showed its mettle then. It had learned to help itself. While it wasn't as big as the other, it was slow and steady and reliable. Plant 2 withered under the lack of pampering. It hadn't developed the systems needed to take care of itself and support all the extra growth on its own.

While the analogy isn't perfect, think of all the young adults you know who have had everything handed to them, with mom and dad always coming to the rescue. Then they go to college and can't cope. They still need mom and dad to call the professor and explain why they didn't finish their homework. Or they fail because mom and dad finally cut those apron strings and don't help. Then think of all the other young adults who learned self-reliance. Those are the leaders who get stuff done and thrive on their own. They have the groundwork to support themselves.

So, here's the bottom line: take time out from your kids. It is healthier for you, for them, and for your marriage. It's ok to send them to preschool so you have a few hours on your own. It's wonderful for them to spend a weekend at grandma and grandpa's house (and what a way to develop that relationship!). Find a babysitter or a neighbor or a friend or join a babysitting co-op and have a mom's night out and a date night. Those are important and don't mean you don't love your kids. They mean you do love them and are doing your best for them.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Garden pictures

I took some pictures of the vegetables and herbs we are growing.

Here is the box Chris made last year. This year it has parsley, rosemary, basil, thyme, cucumbers, oregano and beans (seeds, on the end):

Next is a pot of spinach plants:

My tomatoes (roma and grape):

Fennel that re-seeds itself every year:

Chives that we've grown by the front steps for several years:

Thyme that we've been encouraging as a ground cover near the front steps:

And..... our first apples on the tree we planted last year! There are only 2, but I didn't expect to get any this soon.

I'm really encouraged by the apples. I hope the plants I planted today do well and we get a nice harvest.

A garden grows... again

I finally bought plants and started our garden today. I like to wait until May to avoid the last frost. This year we've had so much rain and other commitments it took me a while to get things planted.

I planted beans, cucumbers, basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and oregano in the planter box plus grape tomatoes, roma tomatoes, and spinach in pots. I don't have any pictures, but there isn't much to see at the moment. I haven't tried spinach before and it's been years since I've planted beans and cucumbers, so we will see how things fair. I also have fennel, chives and more thyme growing in various parts of the yard, but those come back every year.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Tonight is Wil's preschool end of year program. His class is singing one song. The play will be done by the pre-K class, which will also be 'graduating'.

Both grandmas and one grandpa will be coming to see the program (and have dinner) tonight. Unfortunately, Grandpa Tom has to work tonight. To some people, my mom driving 3 hours and my in-laws driving down from Indy to hear a grandson sing one song might be peculiar. But it will mean something to Wil that his grandparents were there. He doesn't really get that it's a long way for them to come. But he's excited they'll be there.

These are the moments that build the memories that last a lifetime. I remember my grandparents coming to concerts and shows. Granted, it was easy for my grandparents, living 20 minutes away.

I'm glad our kids have grandparents who are a big part of their lives. They love going to grandma and grandpa's house for the weekend (doesn't matter which, they love going to both sets.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I just want to be me

I love my kids. But sometimes I feel stuck because of them.

When there are outside things I want to do, I have to find someone to watch them. It's great if Chris will be home, but with his crazy schedule that doesn't always work. And sometimes we want to get out together. It's wonderful that the grandparents are always willing and eager to take them for a weekend and give us a break, but that doesn't help during the week or when they just can't. So there are babysitters. And babysitters are expensive and have lives of their own.

When all those options pan out, guess who gets to stay home? Yep, Mommy.

Most of the time, we can work something out. But there are times when I can't do something I enjoy. Is it any wonder moms can sometimes feel trapped? I'm much more than just a mom and need to do things for myself.

When does Mommy end and Meagan start? In those moments when I can be a bit of who I was before I had kids - the person I still am when I'm not focused on that other person (Mommy).

I don't think I'm alone in feeling that need to connect with the non-mommy person inside. I need to read, and go out occasionally, and talk to grown ups, and learn new things for the heck of it or my brain and spirit atrophy. And spirit is important for a parent to have. I can't inspire my boys if I can't be inspired myself. It's rather like the instructions on an airplane: put on your own oxygen mask before helping others - because you can't help anyone until you can help yourself.

There are a few things I really try to do: I try to attend book club each month. I read like crazy, in whatever spare moments I can. I do the crossword and Sudoku puzzles every day. I like to go to Moms Night Out when I can. I enjoy planning with Starrynight Productions (and am bummed that I will likely miss the script reading in a few weeks.) I wish I could have joined the Bike and Pedestrian Safety Commission, but Chris's class has been on Monday nights, the night the commission meets, for the last couple of semesters.

I know it will get better as the boys get older. Next fall, both boys will be in preschool 2 days a week, so I will have 5 hours, twice a week, to do something for myself. In a few years they will both be in school every day (and it will be my turn to get a Master's degree.) It has already helped that we have found a couple of reliable babysitters. It'll be wonderful in the fall after Chris's mom retires since she will be more available for weekends (we will really try not to take advantage!).