Work and motherhood: A gift and a struggle

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Before I became a mom I envisioned days spent with my babies like the one I got yesterday. The weather was beautiful, my daughters and I picked wildflowers and delivered them to grandma down the road, Edie ran through the sprinkler, played in the sandbox, rode her pony and spent the evening playing with her cousins while I cooked supper in honor of my mom and sisters with the windows open listening to the sounds of laughter outside. Besides the two giant pukes on my just-washed bedding, the baby was a dream. She slept and snuggled and was happy to be alive and learning.

It was a good day.

It was Mother’s Day.

But let’s be real now, not all days with kids and work are created equal. Some days it’s looks less like a dream and more a circus performance that has yet to be properly rehearsed and someone opened the gates and all the animals got out in the ring. At least that’s what it looks like on my living room floor, which matches what’s happening in my mind.

Last week, in an attempt to keep that sanity and the bills paid, we started daycare up again after losing our provider when Rosie was born. And while it’s only few days a week, it got me thinking about motherhood and work and keeping that part of yourself  that makes you tick engaged among the booger wipes and snuggles…and why it’s so hard to admit that it’s hard…and why sometimes you feel like no matter what you do, it’s not right for anyone.

And in those moments it helps to take a breath and remind myself that to have so much to love and so much I want to do that it makes me sorta crazy isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it may drive me to make questionable decisions about M&M consumption…and maybe we need to work on things like that…

Coming Home: How to be a good mom, today and every day

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There are a million ways to be a good mom.

Handing your 2-year old one M&M after another in an attempt to keep her quiet while you’re on the phone conducting an interview for a magazine article that is overdue is probably not one of them.

It’s not one of the ways to become a great journalist either, but when it comes to motherhood and work, sometimes it’s about survival.

I’m thinking about this today as I sit in a coffee shop office after dropping my daughters off at their new part-time daycare perch for the first time. I’m thinking about motherhood and career and the proper amount of sacrifice and wondering if I should feel guilty about not feeling as guilty as I think I should about getting a break from my kids to get some work done … if that makes sense.

Does it make sense?

Since Rosalee was born five months ago, I have continued to work from my home office, struggling to keep my career afloat and my children entertained and happy three minutes at a time. And while it’s been wonderful to be home with them, it’s also been maddening and exhausting.

To have a career you love and babies you love at the same time is a gift and a struggle of distribution.

To have a husband with a full-time job and a ranch to run when he comes home at night makes our life look like “remember you have the babies tonight because I have a meeting” and texts about grocery lists and the triumph of finally finding the lost mermaid toy the toddler has been obsessing about. It’s about piling in the old pickup to “help” fix fence and Daddy getting in just in time to read story after story before falling asleep in his work clothes in a tiny bed next to his daughter and her pile of stuffed animals because he’s exhausted while I’m upstairs nursing the baby and finishing up the day’s emails on my cell phone.

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It’s a familiar narrative.

We’re not unique as a working family trying to make our dreams and our ends meet. But turns out there’s a lot of wondering if you’re doing anything right in between those lines of the happily-ever-after story.

Because once you put those dreams in motion, what comes next is the messy, wonderful, unpredictable, frustrating, fulfilling minutes piling up to create a life.

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But why is it so scary to admit that it can be exhausting?

I know from experience that I can be tired and grateful at the same time. Aggravated one minute and proud the next. Content in the moment while really looking forward to when the toddler can put her boots on all by herself and the baby pops those bottom two teeth already.

When I pictured myself as a mother I had expectations that I wouldn’t use M&M’s as bribery as often as I do. But that was back before I met the kids who created this new version of me who loves them fiercely and fully, but still has work she wants to do.

And you know now that I think of it, I can only wish the same dilemma on my daughters one day.

Happy Mother’s Day mommas!

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A day in the life of Chief Executive

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Life’s getting interesting around here. We’re all feeling a little cooped up and ready for spring. And by all, I mean probably in particular, me.

I can’t wait for the grass to show up from under the snow pile so that we can run off some steam and energy and blow the stink off this winter season.

But it looks like I’m going to have to wait a bit longer, seeing as we’re under  another winter storm warning.

Some days, even in the midst of being extremely grateful for it all, I think being a work-from-home mom might be the most impossible gig there is. I feel that way mostly when I’m staring a deadline in the face and staring up at me is a crying one-year-old in desperate need of a nose wipe and a banana and a cuddle and a nap.

And so that’s the deal with this week’s column. A little play by play, a day in the life if you will, on the struggle, and the joy, of sharing a house with the Chief Executive One Year Old.

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Coming Home: A day in the life of  a chief executive baby
by Jessie Veeder
3-6-17

“She’s not a baby anymore,” I said to my husband as we were driving home from the big town; Edie was strapped in her car seat behind me, singing her own original refrain on repeat at the top of her lungs.

“No, she’s not,” he replied. “She’s the CEO of a household now.”

Well isn’t that the truth, I thought as I laughed, her little song turning into mimicking giggles behind me.

And she takes her role seriously as boss. I didn’t know a person could find her calling so early in life, but as I watch her read the house cat its rights, standing with legs spread wide, leaned forward, brow furrowed, finger pointing, it’s pretty clear she’s aware of the injustices in this world — like a cat taking her chair — and she’s bent on correcting them.

I’d say I don’t know where she gets it, but yesterday my husband informed me that the little Executive Director heard the dogs barking outside and promptly reacted from her highchair throne with a throaty “Nnnnoooo!”

“Wonder where she learned that?” he smirked.

Apparently we’ve entered the phase where no one can get away with anything, not even mom.

Ah, toddlerhood at the ranch, the phase where you get smothered in kisses complete with sound effects one minute and the next you’re being screamed at because you won’t let her sit inside the refrigerator or dip her toothbrush in the toilet.

But most of the time it’s more entertaining than it is frustrating.

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The other day we were digging through a box of her dad’s old toys, and she began a sorting game where she examined each action figure, loudly declaring every muscle-clad superhero — Marshal Bravestar, He-Man and even Lego Superman — “DaDa.”

How does she know all this stuff? Seriously? I didn’t teach her that.

And while I’d really like to take credit, I also didn’t teach her to bust a move at even the slightest hint of music coming from the speakers in our house. Hear a commercial jingle? She’s shakin’ it. The intro to “Wheel of Fortune?” Perfect for twirling and clapping. The ding of the microwave? Might as well use it as an opportunity to bounce.

Liked Lady Gaga’s halftime show? I doubt she was as committed to her Super Bowl performance as my one-year-old was that night.

I have to admit, I admire her spirit, even though it comes in a variety of packages and mood swings hell bent on keeping me from ever fixing my hair again, unless I’m OK with allowing her to completely unravel the entire roll of toilet paper before tearing each square up into a thousand pieces bit by bit so she can roll around in it.

I’m not gonna lie, some days, when I’m running late and Edie’s desperate need to apply eyeliner is making it look like the only way I’m leaving the house again is if she comes with me looking like Gene Simmons, spending a half-hour picking toilet paper confetti off the bathroom floor doesn’t seem like such a bad compromise.

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And anyway, it only took two months into motherhood to figure out that 98 percent of the job is just bending over and picking things up anyway. The other 2 percent is practicing animal noises.

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But I have to tell you, hearing my daughter holler “MOOO” and “COME BOSS” out the pickup window while we’re feeding cows is on the top five list of the best things in the world ever, so it’s all worth it.

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And it’s also the reason that this is it, this is all the news from the ranch. I woke up this morning thinking I would write something a little more enlightening, but then my husband got sick and couldn’t fulfill his marital vow of driving our child to daycare on Tuesday mornings so I can get this column in on time, and here I am doing my best to find anything other than her to write about while trying my best to keep her tiny fingers from pressing my keyjklj’jkldejlncn…

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While I rock the baby: Confessions of a new mom

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These days I don’t know where the weeks go. They fly by me as I sit rocking this teething baby who just started to notice when I enter and exit the room, making sure to voice her distaste at the whole exiting part.

I’m trying to work from home and take care of her at the same time, so I spend a lot of time thinking I should be doing another thing while I’m doing what I’m doing.

Like, I’m rocking this baby, but I have a pile of emails I need to respond to.

Or, I’m working on this column, but I should be rocking the baby.

Or, maybe when the emails are answered and the baby’s fed and napped we can take the dogs for a walk.

But I should really do the dishes.

Or return that phone call…oh, look, she just pooped up her back. Guess I’ll change her outfit for the third time today. Oh, is it 4:00 already? I should probably think about supper…

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I knew it was going to look a lot like this as I tried my hand mixing what I was doing before I was a mom into my life as a mom. I knew my days would look a lot like a juggling act and that I would have to bust out my best multi-tasking skills. I knew it was going to be a challenge, so I’m trying to cut myself a little slack as I work on figuring it out.

And by cutting myself some slack I mean letting some things slip. Like my own personal hygiene for one, which was pretty predictable considering the amount of days I sometimes went without a shower before an infant arrived. I mean, if I didn’t have to go to town and see people, what was the point?

Anyway, turns out Edie’s morning nap is a good time to squeeze some work in, so I’ve learned I can sacrifice the shower…my husband can see me with my hair fixed when I get home from a meeting or something.

I haven’t shaved my legs for days.

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And so this is my Friday night confession. It’s 10 o’clock and the baby’s in her crib at the foot of our bed. The lights are off and I’m tired as hell. Last night was one of the first times I left Edie with Husband to go out and do something that wasn’t work. I went to a movie with Little Sister and ate too much popcorn and worried the whole time that I didn’t leave enough milk for her.

They were fine.

When I got home she was sleeping and Husband shushed me when I started asking questions in a whisper.

I fell asleep just in time for the baby to wake up at midnight and then again at 4 and then again at 6 and I’m sorta holding my breath right now wondering if she’s really down for the night or if she’s just playing me like usual.

And so this is what it’s like now to be me. It’s me + 1. Me + the worry. Me + that little thread that ties me to that tiny person that is learning something new every day.

Me, half wishing time to slow down because she’s growing so fast while the other half is so excited to see what she’s going to become.

Me, a little lonesome for the great outdoors, cursing the cool spring wind that keeps me from taking this baby on a walk.

Me, a little lonesome for a husband I haven’t really been alone with in months.

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Me, who used to have a lot more time for the slow pace of nature. Me who can’t remember what I used to do all day before her.

Me, who, even after 5 months, can’t believe this baby is mine forever, God willing.

Me, so grateful and humbled by what it actually means to be a mother while wondering at the same time if I’m really cut out for this.

Me, who meant to write something here on Wednesday about the cows or the budding trees or how thankful I am for the rain, but those thoughts were thoughts I thought I should be thinking while I was rocking the baby.

So thankful to be rocking the baby.

Jessie and Edie 2

Taxes, Netflix and what I learned this week…

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Every day with a baby in the house comes with a little life lesson.

That, for example, is one of those lessons. That there’s always a lesson.

And just when you think you have it figured out, you are reminded at 1 am when that baby is lying wide awake in her crib practicing her new pterodactyl noises, that you don’t.

And you will never have a full night’s sleep again.

Right now though, I’m holding out hope that just like her recent waking up every two hours in the night has thrown me for a loop, so soon will her sleeping through the night.

“Soon” being the word that I’m hanging on to by a thread.

 

Anyway, it’s Friday. As if that means anything to a mom who stays at home with the baby, except that, besides the gig I have on Saturday night, during the weekend I don’t have to try to work too.

Or do taxes.

Yup . This week was the week of the taxes. And lest I have mislead you to believe I am organized (which I’m pretty positive I haven’t) taxes, when you own a small business that sends you working in different venues across the state all year, mean you have to keep track of things like hotels, meals, miles, contract help and dozens of 1099s, and I suck at it.

I wish I lived in a world where I didn’t need to know what a 1099 is. But I don’t.

If only I had the self-discipline to stay on top of what I need to stay on top of to make taxes easier on myself. My system looks less like Quick Books and more like “put all the receipts and contracts and paperwork in a folder and sort through them the week before your tax appointment.”

I mean, I don’t even have my shit together enough to buy Quick Books. I need to get my shit together enough to buy Quick Books.

That was one realization I had this week.

Another? I eat way too many burgers while I’m on the road.

Like lots and lots of burgers.

Anyway, aside from the lessons my taxes tried to teach me this week, I also learned that baby Edie is one wiggle away from taking off out the door to college.

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She can’t be trusted alone on any surface, so we all prefer the floor.

And so I’ve learned I need to sweep more.

And mop once in a while.

And maybe use my burger money to hire a housekeeper…or maybe just tape a Swiffer pad to the baby and get her started early on chores.

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Anyway, aside from taxes, this week also found me in town at my Little Sister’s waiting on the shop to get done fixing my car, which also had a flat tire and three inches of prairie mud stuck to its finish, not that that’s anything new.

Little Sister has high speed Internet and Netflix, a luxury we apparently aren’t afforded if we choose to live in the boonies. And so I irresponsibly decided to use that Internet, not to get work done, but to watch whatever the hell I wanted. Because when you have access to high speed Internet, you can watch whatever the hell you want.

But it turns out I can’t handle that kind of power. I just hold the baby and flip through the choices and never make a decision. I become a channel flipping, time sucking zombie.

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I can’t handle the pressure.

And so maybe our lack of basic Netflix/Amazon Prime/Internet good enough that I could at least watch a YouTube clip, is a blessing in disguise.

I mean, how would I ever get my taxes done knowing that every season of the 1980s hit television show “The Wonder Years” is just waiting for me in that black box?

So there was another realization.

And the wind and the snow outside this week reminded us all that it’s not spring yet.

And this morning, as Edie’s eyes are about to pop wide open after her typical 10-minutes-or-less nap, I am reminded that I should use those ten minutes to fry and egg or something because I’m starving and might have missed my breakfast window.

Which reminds me that I need to get eggs.

At the grocery store.

Shit. I need to go to the grocery store.

And the post office.

Because, well, taxes…

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