Being A WOTHM With Older Kids

Today is the first day of my long vacation. The kids still had school so I got up to help. Sarah’s car currently is un-drivable as it needs a leaky water pump fixed, so I made sure I could drive her to school. When I got home, the other kids were in the midst of getting ready and I realized that I was — how do I say this? — I was in the way.

I’m not around when the kids get going off to school every morning. I don’t cook them breakfast and I don’t make their lunches. I don’t get them dressed or brush their teeth for them. Something happened over the last year or so and all five kids got self-sufficient on me. And now we’re at a point where I don’t know where to be if I happen to be home in the mornings.

Oh sure, it was good that I was home because Sarah hadn’t had time to make her lunch last night before bed (hey, we were busy watching our recording of “This is Us”!) Therefore, I did make her lunch for her before driving her to school. But when I got home, I asked Helen what she wanted for breakfast only to learn she had eaten while I drove Sarah to school. And she said, “Since we braided my hair last night and I made my lunch already last night, and had my bag packed last night, and then I’ve already brushed my teeth, I really don’t have anything to do.”

But then she did something amazing. She made sure Dani had made her lunch last night (it was in the refrigerator) then went upstairs and asked Dani what she wanted for breakfast and came down and got Dani’s breakfast on the table for her — complete with her cup of water to take her medicine she takes with breakfast. Whoa.

I did fix Vincent his breakfast, but when it was time to get lunches together, Craig did that because he “knows how to make Vincent’s lunch.” Both lunches were thrown together (Dominic made his own) in a matter of minutes. I also helped Vincent get dressed because he can be rather pokey and the boys are signed up for Fit Team on Wednesdays, so we needed to get out the door earlier than the days they take the bus.

When I walked back in from dropping the boys off, the girls were heading to the bus stop. And boom…the house was empty of children, so I went and took a walk.

My thoughts on this morning are twofold.

One, I’m glad I got to see how mornings go when I am already at work because I will no longer concern myself with whether they get all their stuff done and out the door to school on time. They seem to have taken our cues on how to prepare and how to care for each other. I think one of the things many work-outside-the-home-moms (WOTHMs) worry about is whether we’ve dropped the ball in preparing our kids for life by not being available to them at every critical time to ensure they succeed. This experience helps me to continue the realization that this preparation for our kids is happening — perhaps EVEN BETTER than it would have been otherwise — even though both of their parents work full-time jobs outside the home (and even on opposite schedules). Homework gets done in the afternoons/evenings, we’re still doing other activities (swim lessons, soccer, cub scouts, after-school activities for middle schoolers, volleyball, etc)

Secondly, wow…my children are growing up and I cannot put into words how much love I felt for all of them as I saw them caring for each other (i.e., Helen preparing breakfast for Dani without even being asked to do so.)

Another little side note I will mention is that I noticed that my kids do not eat breakfast together, but each of them, individually yet quietly, took time to say a blessing before eating without being directed to do so.

I know I haven’t written much lately in the way of support for work-outside-the-home motherhood. Most of that is because over time, the guilt has subsided and the questions have been answered. All those questions I had about whether it was damaging my kids to be somewhere other than their parents’ care for non-school time and whether they would be emotionally ready for life without having a parent attend all their class parties and stuff like that — those questions are not questions anymore.

Being a WOTHM requires different things from everyone in the family. It requires some sacrifice. Yes, even sacrifice from the kids. They sacrifice that extra 100% attention from a parent before and after school. But they gain so much, too. They learn early and often to be prepared on their own. They also learn how to help each other and not rely on mom or dad to help out the sibling. They learn how to keep going and get things done without having a parent picking up behind them and pushing them out the door.

This is not to say that kids of families with a stay-at-home parent don’t also learn these things. Of course they do. They just have different ways of presenting the information and moving forward.

What I’d really like to say to my 35-year-old self who was just coming to the realization that stay-at-home parenthood was never going to be the way for this family is:

“It’s all okay. You’re doing it right for your family and it’s been right all along.”

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Being the Mom of the kid on the bench

I am a fairly coordinated person and I was a competitive athlete when I was in high school. I made all the teams I went out for and started all the games my junior and senior years for both volleyball and basketball. I would have been really irked to have not started (remember, humility is not my strong suit). I rarely sat the bench. I mean, yeah, I wasn’t the best passer, so I played only the front row in volleyball. But in basketball, I came out when I was tired and told the coach when I was ready to go back in. So I played…unless I was screwing up, but I often played as much as I wanted. And I worked hard, so there wasn’t any question of earning the time.

Now I am the mom of the kid on the bench. It’s true, my kid gets her playing time for Junior Varsity and sits bench for Varsity. But that was not my experience, so I’m learning a whole new side to high school sports. It’s enlightening and thrilling honestly. I love to watch her play, no matter the level. And her experience helps her to lead the younger players on JV, so this is not a knock on my daughter at all. I am pretty sure she wishes she played Varsity only and that she were on the court most of the time, but she also sees the value in the extra court time she gets by playing JV.

I mean, what if she wasn’t getting that time on JV? I’ve thought a lot about that this season. I’m grateful she gets the time on the court for JV and am pleased she is at a school that provides that, because let’s be honest, it would stink to put in the work that she does and rarely get to play in a match.

This is about being the mom of that kid on the end of the bench.

I am the mother of the hard working kid on the bench.

I am the mother of the kid who made every summer workout, except one where she had to go to the doctor to get the required physical done.

I am the mother of the kid who did extra running in the summer: the kid who busted her butt and made sure she met the coach’s soft requirement that they run the mile under 8 minutes (I think she was around 7:39 or something?) and continue on the pacer past 8 minutes (I think she got to 8:30-ish)?

I am the mom of the girl who goes hoarse to make sure she does her share (and then some) of the talking required to keep communication going on the floor.

And I think I feel the same level of pride in my player as I would if she were playing every rotation on Varsity. I see how she conducts herself on the bench: focused on the game, ready should her number be called. She isn’t moping or disengaged like some teens might be in her situation. She cheers for her teammates.

As a matter of fact, this is really cute…last year on JV, when the team scored a point, often Sarah could be seen jumping up from her position on the court with arms extended in victory, excited for the success. She still does this currently when she is on the court and her team scores. Over and over, each and every time a point was scored, it seemed she jumped so high in the air with excitement. It was adorable and endeared her to many of the parents in the stands. We called it “The Sarah” and even this year, some of the new JV parents have noticed how high she jumps when a point has been scored and mentioned it. The really cute thing is…she also does it from the Varsity bench this year. She is so truly happy for her teammates success, that she shows her exhilaration in a high jump from her seat on the bench, arms extended in victory.

When I started having kids, I assumed they would all have my athletic ability and competitive spirit and desire to play sports. Of course, five kids later and some of these children that have grown enough to show me that they–at least–did not get my coordination and athletic desire/ability, I know that was a silly assumption. But hey, Mom’s got dreams, right? I thought that maybe Sarah would get tall like her aunts on Craig’s side and maybe get to be 5’8″ or so. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

But I started teaching Sarah fundamentals of volleyball in the 3rd grade. She worked hard and she is a passable defensive volleyball player. Heck, she has grown to be rather smart. This year playing on JV has helped her develop the ability to put the ball where the other team isn’t, even if it is a lob over the net. She’s learned that placement is key, that brains can, at times, trump brawn in the game of volleyball.

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Anyway, when Sarah was young, I dreamed of being proud of her because she was a fabulous hitter, and then because she was a fabulous defensive specialist (when it was apparent that the height thing wasn’t going to work out).

But now, as the mother of the kid on the bench, I am proud of her because her work ethic is second to no one’s. I am proud of her because her conduct on and off the court is unquestionably impeccable.

I am proud of her because she is coachable and wants to be better, even if being better doesn’t necessarily mean she gets to play all the time. I am proud of her because she understands that even those who aren’t the stars have a place on the team and that their place can, at times, prove to be just as important as those with the starring roles.

I am proud of her because she is growing into a stunning and stellar young woman with leadership and communication skills that will carry her far.

And honestly, I am proud of her because she doesn’t complain or gripe about things outside of her control. She focuses on that which she can control (the fact that she attends practices and workouts and works her butt off, for example). When she does whine or vent about anything, it’s usually to me and she and I work through it and she realizes that it’s not worth being upset over when she can’t control other people’s words or actions.

She’s learning a lot about life in volleyball. For example, she’s learning that there will always be those who absolve themselves of all responsibility, regardless of how obvious it is they had a hand in something. And she’s learning that there will always be those who blame everyone else, no matter what. And she’s also learning that there will be those who take responsibility for their actions and there will be others who rely on their parents to fight their battles for them. It’s given us lots of fodder for discussion about similarities between what she experiences now and what her dad and I experience in the workforce and what she may experience in college with classes and other people in life.

As the “has been” mom who had her opportunity to play extensively and avoid the bench relegated to watching others; as the mom of the kid who rides the end of the bench praying for a chance to play…I can say I have learned a lot watching her.

I’m humbled by her approach and her willingness to accept her role. I’m pleased with her performance when she is asked to play.

I’m honored to be the mom of the kid on the bench.