Navigating the Santascape

December 10, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Holiday, Parenting

Our decision to be a “no Santa” household was largely inspired by our religious beliefs.  Even though we have left those behind we are forging ahead with the plan to take all of the credit for the gifts our children receive each year. I feel very strongly that our children need to have a firm grasp of money, and how very finite that resource is. Treating Santa as fiction instead of fact is one of the first steps we are taking toward that.

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T1 is 3 1/2 years now, and this is the first Christmas that I have had to act on my plans, instead of just getting philosophical about them in conversation. His friends tell him about Santa at school, we walk past Santa at the mall, he sat on Santa’s lap at a church breakfast. I struggled to converse with him about this and wasn’t sure how to react, until I was able to come up with a litmus test  to quickly think through each Santa situation.

Mentally insert Mickey Mouse whenever we see Santa. Mickey isn’t real, and no parents go out of their way to convince their children he is. But when you see Mickey Mouse at Disneyland no one says to their child “That is a man dressed as a giant mouse pretending to be Mickey.” Instead you let your child be excited about the experience, and at some point in time they realize that the characters they encounter in the theme park are college kids dressing up in furry sweat-boxes.

This approach is working great right now – T1 gets to excitedly point to every Santa that we pass, and to sing the songs and listen to the stories. I don’t have the options to bribe or manipulate him using threats about Santa not coming unless he listens to me (he should listen to me because I’m his mom and that’s the way the world works), and we get all the hugs and kisses and thank you’s for the presents he finds under the tree.

Solo Parenting

November 20, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Parenting

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It is ironic that I use this picture for this post – as it was taken by my husband. We really enjoy the time we do get to spend with him. 

I’m not really sure what I should call this thing that I’m doing, existing with a husband who travels for work M-Th every week, and is often working away from home 6-7 days/week. I’ve read enough posts written by actual single mothers to understand why it is hurtful and inaccurate for me to co-opt the phrase single motherhood. My partner provides monetary resources that afford me the luxury to work from home as a photographer and blogger while deciding when and how much to outsource childcare. He might not be physically present, but at the end of a hard day I am able to talk through the highs and lows of my day with him. When our children present challenges I have someone to brainstorm solutions with. We debate together, vacation together, make goals together. It’s been hard for me, but nowhere near as difficult as it would be if I were an actual single mother.

Taking on so much of the parenting load has been really difficult for me though, especially since parenting isn’t really my forte. We have no family in the area, and that means no breaks from the kids unless we pay someone. On weeknights I’m trapped in my bedroom (literally, since my oldest thinks that if I am awake and moving about that gives him license to stay up and move about his room), while my girlfriends in the area meet-up for movie nights and book clubs as their spouses watch the kids. We’re slowly building up friendships in the area, but haven’t made it to that perfect point where you don’t even bother knocking as you walk in the front door.

In short, it’s been challenging for me, with lots and lots of tears.*

The point of this post is to say that I needed something to describe my situation. Adopting consistent verbiage would help me accept where I’m at and give me a way to talk about it with others. I didn’t know of anyone else who had blazed that trail already, so I went with solo parenting. Single is the word our culture uses to describe someone who is not in a relationship, but solo is a word we use to talk about people who are alone. My husband is frequently absent, and so I am alone, though I am not single. Most of the time, I am a solo parent.

It’s important for me to talk about this, because the more I do so the more I realize how common it is. It’s very helpful for me to hear the stories and coping strategies employed by women in similar situations. The idealized 9-to-5 working schedule just isn’t an option for everyone, and I don’t think it is productive to be reductive in our discussions about work-life balance and career strategies.

I am growing daily, getting better at it with time. And I love living here! There is no other location in the world where I would rather live than Silicon Valley. I love the opportunities I have, and the way I’m living my life right now. If I want to have all of those things, traveling husband and solo parenting are also part of the equation.

What do you think, is there a better phrase to describe what I’m doing?

ETA: Lots of comments already about how we should get more help – babysitters, a nanny, maybe even an au pair. I would love that, specifically for one or two evenings each week, but our spending in other areas means we can’t afford it. Maybe you can tell all of your friends to hire me to photograph their weddings or lifestyle sessions, and then I’ll be able to pay to have some girl’s nights? :)


*I’m in weekly therapy now. No more breakdowns!

Phrases I Overuse

July 02, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Parenting

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He’s turning into a little mini-me in a lot of ways. For better or for worse.

Parenting forces you to come to terms with all sorts of flaws and quirks about yourself that you previously ignored. T1′s language explosion of the last 6 months has brought to light several words that I repeat frequently (overuse?) in my daily speech.

1. Really

T1 has to go potty “really so bad”. He is really hungry. Really mad. I really mean it. It’s really important.

2. Pretty

Pretty great. Pretty cool. Pretty quiet. Pretty bad. Give me an adjective, and I will put pretty in front of it.

3. ‘cuz

This shortened form of because has almost become grating for me to hear ‘cuz he uses it so often. At first I was a little bit embarrassed, and then I started listening closer to the adults around me and on television and I realized that everyone is doing it! Is this a socially acceptable slang term, akin to what “like” will be in 15-20 years?

What words/phrases do you overuse? And can we take some time to talk about about America and the future of “like”? Because I use it constantly, and everyone younger than me uses it even more. Do other English speaking countries use it as frequently as we do? 

His Last Name. Her Last Name.

June 27, 2013 By: Jenna Category: baby

Throughout my pregnancy we spent hours talking about first and middle names for our second child. We didn’t know if we were having a boy or a girl, so we discussed both male and female combinations that we liked. Our criteria for first names was the same as before (minus my thoughts about a theme) and I wanted a family name for the middle name (T1′s middle name is my FIL’s first name). About an hour after I gave birth to our baby girl the midwife asked if T2 was going to take my last name or That Husband’s. We both laughed because we had never considered anything other than the American standard, children take husband’s last name. And so on all the paperwork filled out post-birth the midwife used TH’s last name.

When giving birth in a hospital in the US, the birth certification process is streamlined and under normal circumstances it’s all taken care of by the time you are discharged. Having a home birth means that the parents have to go into the local municipal office with a stack of paperwork and apply for a birth certificate. After a few weeks of procrastination we were preparing for our appointment when I thought back on what the midwife had asked and realized “I want her to have my last name.” I have had a different name from my husband for almost 5 years now, and so far it hasn’t caused any problems. I’ve had a different last name than my son for 3 years, and that hasn’t been an issue either (even with multiple trips out of the country and back).  But most of the males I know would not even consider such a thing with their own children. Read more →

Kids Then Career

June 13, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Work

Generally, the women I know fall into three separate camps. The woman who never marries and builds up a career in her chose field. The woman who has children young and stays at home with her kids, filling her time later on with volunteer work or supplementing the efforts of her husband. And then there is the woman who starts working at a career first and has children later on. (I acknowledge that I am generalizing, of course there are plenty of women who don’t fit neatly into any of these boxes.)

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I’m definitely not one of those “work with your children” type of mom’s. I did a free shoot once with T1 tagging along and it was tough!

It was only after a friend sent me this article, Bottles Before Boardroom, that I realized there is another category I have tumbled into headfirst but had never though much about. Women who have children first, and then build up a career as they raise their family. The media spends a lot of time focusing on women who wait to have children and establish a career first, and there is lots of talk about women who stay home with their children, but what about the women who marry young and have children right away and then decide to launch a career with little foundation previously established? Who are the role models for that life path? How do they manage building a career with caring for children? How do they deal with the large gaps in their resume? Is the key to success grunt work or networking or giving up sleep? Maybe a combination of those three?

I’ve started making a list of women in my own life who faced this situation, and I’d love to hear about the women you know of who made kids-then-career work. I’d love to hear about both the women you know personally, and any suggestions you might have for famous and notable women I can research and  learn more about. I think learning about other women who have done this will help me get started on my own journey.

 

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
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