Monday, September 19, 2016

Working at Home Is Not an Adorable Hobby

Being a freelance writer is a funny thing. There are thousands of us out there, but I don't know a single one in my own hood or on my list of acquaintances. I've only met writer-friends through the good old interwebs.

So when I tell people I'm a writer, an unusual thing happens-- people often seem to take that to mean sitting on my butt watching The Today Show, or "lunching," or taking yoga classes whenever I want. That couldn't be further from the truth.

Despite the fact that I'm trying to squeeze in work whenever I possibly can, it's not uncommon for me to hear something patronizing like, "How cute" or "Fun!" or "Do you make money doing that?" I've even had people laugh IN MY FACE. How would a lawyer or engineer like it if I said their job was "fun" or if I chuckled at their cuteness and asked how much they get paid? Notsomuch. And sorry guys, but men are especially prone to thinking my job is an adorable hobby.

If you need a label, you can call me a "Work at Home Mom," as every day, I attempt to care for my kids without full-time childcare while cramming in research, writing, interviewing, editing, submitting, and promoting whenever I can. I have actual deadlines and actual assignments. Despite the fact that I work A LOT, it appears that many people take that to mean Nonworking. Huh?

Don't get me wrong, Stay at Home moms work HARD. I've been there. Work Outside the Home Moms work very hard too. We are all working hard!

Also, I should note: some people do get it. These are usually the people who like reading, so they tend to like and appreciate writers.

So, yes, I usually work on my couch, doing what I love (writing and editing), hunched over my trusty laptop whenever I can sneak it in-- during the lickety-split two hour overlap while my kids are at preschool and school, during that precious time when the kids are finally asleep at night, or occasionally during times when they are out with my husband running an errand on the weekends. I LOVE WRITING. I sometimes always wish I had more time to do it, though.

My cubicle is conveniently located on a big yellow couch adjacent to my refrigerator and without anyone slurping soup or coffee in the next cubicle. At times, I thoroughly enjoy working at home, and I'm grateful to be the one who greets my son when he gets off the bus after a long day at school and to be the one having lunch with my preschooler.

Other times, especially when I'm trying to reply to an important e-mail or partake in a conference call while Dora is playing in the background and/or someone is asking for another snack, a quiet office sounds positively dreamy.

Anyway, the rant is basically this: working at home does not equal doing nothing. We are working!

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Parenting Decisions & Second-Guessing Ourselves

As parents, every day-- every minute-- we make decisions. We decide to react this way or that way, and it has to happen immediately. Split second decisions are commonplace. Our first level of decision-making is to keep our children safe. It's in our biological make-up-- to protect our brood.

The rest fall into murkier territory. These are the decisions that can be made differently by a million different people. These are the choices that aren't life or death, but on some level reflect our goals and values.

I've been thinking about a non-life-or-death, murky decision I recently made.

A couple of weeks ago, I took my kids to a rare lunch outing at a McDonald's with a Play Place [bring on the Advil and hand sanitizer!]. My daughter (almost 4) had been begging to go, and sometimes I throw my hands up, surrender, and try to have some fun with the kids (that's part of the point, right?).

My two littles scarfed their Happy Meals, and then I watched them like a hawk as they winded their way around the primary-colored tunnels. Or, I watched as much as I could, as the tubes they crawl through are opaque. I heard mixtures of shouts, laughs, cries, and whatever other noises children make. Par for the course.

I was cleaning up our table, feeling pretty happy, when a little girl came over and communicated that my son (age 6) had hurt her on the nose and it still hurt.

Oh. Okay. Deep breath.

Well, of course, that's not good. I don't want my son to be physically aggressive. I hate violence. I quickly apologized for his behavior and assured her I would talk to him about it.

Case closed, right?

I had a split-second decision to make, and that's what I decided based on my son's personality, his intensity level (high), and my values (we don't hit people). I would talk with him. I would also get his take on what happened, as I hadn't seen it. Most of all, I would use it as an opportunity to help him improve his social skills.

I realize not every one would take this tactic. Some might immediately find their child and march them up to the girl to apologize. That might be the right choice for them, but I knew that wouldn't work for us. I knew deep down my son would throw a huge fit and learn nothing from the incident. If I tried to force him, the girl would not get the sincere apology she was hoping for.

I looked around to see if the girl was being supervised. Her mother or caregiver was looking right at the girl and me, smiling with what appeared to be support and approval of the little girl, and perhaps a wee bit suspicious of me. Truthfully, it felt uncomfortable on a lot of levels.

When my son came down from the Play Place, I asked him if he had hit someone; he admitted he had. He also said she was pointing at him over and over and saying "hey you!" I could tell he was frustrated by the whole situation.

Oh geez. Hitting is never okay, but pointing and yelling at my son is definitely not the way to talk to him. Nothing good will come of it. I quickly told him that hitting is never okay, and that even if someone is bothering him, he needs to walk away rather than retaliate. He felt bad. He looked remorseful. I knew I would address it again with him in private later as a follow-up.

I also had a higher purpose in my head: I had gone to lunch with my kids to let them have some fun together and to enjoy them before school started up again, after a rather challenging summer. I didn't want to end it on an awful note.

I was now ready to go, salvaging what was left of our decent mood.

We walked out of the Play Place and, whew!, I've never felt eyes burn into my back as much as they did that day. I could feel the woman's (and girl's) eyes on me, and I'm pretty certain it was in shock and disdain that I didn't march my son right over and force him to apologize. Or maybe I was imagining it.

Was I wrong? Maybe. Something in me also says perhaps my quick decision was okay, even if it wasn't perfect. Would the apology have been sincere? Would he have even done it? I can't make him do something, though I suppose I could threaten or bribe him to do it-- but doesn't that take away the purpose of an apology? Is that the spirit of being sorry I want my son to learn?

I have run through the scenario several times in my head (per usual), and I'm not convinced I did the right thing. I'm not convinced I did the total wrong thing either.

How about you? What murky decisions do you question after the fact? How do we know if we are making the "right" choices, and how do we define "right?"

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Frantic Mama's Five Friday Faves: Fall 2016 Edition

Helloooooo everyone!

There's an ever-so-slight crispness in the morning air and a few leaves are beginning to transform into reds and golds. Fall is coming...and although I love summer, fall can be pretty great too.

On that note, school has also started so I am writing a real, actual blog post! Wooo hoooo!!!

I have some new favorites up my sleeve to share with you-- here and on my new YouTube channel.

1. Tin Whiskers Wheat Stone Bridge Ale (tied with New Belgium's Pumpkick):

YUM! Tin Whiskers is a local St. Paul, Minnesota, brewery, so I tried this wheat ale (spiked with honey and chamomile!) out of loyalty, and I love it.

If you are a pumpkin fan, you need to try Pumpkick beer by New Belgium-- it's delicious!

2. Animal field guides:

I grew up poring these little pocket guides growing up, and I recently found a stash for my kids. It's tons of fun to look at these together. We also have Birds of Minnesota and Trees of Minnesota. Obviously, not all of you live in Minnesota, but if you have a nature lover in your house, I recommend seeing if there's one out there for your state or country!

3. Amy Schumer's new book: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

I love a funny book. This one makes me laugh out loud. Prudes beware: it might be a little too much for you. Sometimes I find myself looking over my shoulder to see if a parent has caught me with this collection of scandalous stories, but then I realize I'm the parent, so it's all good.

4. Toy Cash Register by Learning Resources:

This is a great toy that grows with your kids. Both of mine enjoy playing with it, and I love an educational toy that also encourages pretend play.

5.  TAZO Chai Tea. 

Spicy and warm...perfect served hot with a splash of milk on a fall afternoon!

Want to see me chat about these faves on YouTube? Check it out here!

What are your favorite things this fall?

~Julia @ Frantic Mama

Friday, September 2, 2016

I'm on Scary Mommy!

Hi everyone!

I'm excited to tell you that one of my essays is up on uber-site Scary Mommy starting today. I'm especially thrilled (and a little nervous) because it's not just any post-- it's one that's deeply personal to me.

If you are a regular reader, you may remember the one about my son and the challenges and joys of having an emotionally intense child. That's the one they're sharing.

The comments on big sites like Scary Mommy can be both supportive and horrendous, so I'm trying to resist reading any on the site or on Facebook. It's hard to resist, though...

If you would like to read the essay, you can check it out here.

**If my kid sounds like yours, please know you are not alone! Thousands of people have read, commented, and/or liked the post on Facebook. Follow Frantic Mama on there to hear updates on emotionally intense children, high sensitivity, and the challenges and joys of it all!

I also created a YouTube video to help parents like me. Check it out, here.

~Julia @ Frantic Mama