Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gaining Respect for Your Work as a Mother

When moms get together, especially stay-at-home-moms and moms with large families, they often talk about how little respect they receive from people in the community or the culture at large. While this is true to some extent, I think many people do respect and value the work mothers do. I think we mothers have the power to change opinions in our interactions with others.

Have you ever met an experienced professional who likes their job?  I bet you've noticed that they tend to dress well, speak about their job with passion, and are confident about their value and worth. Contrast that with the stereotypical image of a mom with many children or one who stays at home. The image of  a mother in yoga pants, hair in a loose ponytail, and chaos unfortunately comes to mind. It's hard to have respect for someone who doesn't appear as if she respects herself.

I think the most important any mother can do for herself is to actually value and respect herself. If you truly believe that what you are doing as a mother matters and is important, then that self-respect and sense of self-worth will come out. I was in the store a few weeks ago with my baby. We were having a great time talking back and forth and a few people noticed our interaction. One older man stopped and chatted with me briefly. During our conversation I told him that I have six children. He was totally surprised by this revelation. He gave me the standard response, "Wow, you must be so busy." To which I replied, "I am busy doing such important work. I am so happy and proud to be a mother to six wonderful kids. I know what I am doing is valuable and meaningful". The entire tone of the conversation changed. His attitude went from pitying to respectful. When I shared how important I considered my work, he could see the value of what I was doing and consequently walked away re-considering the worth of motherhood.

Dress as if you respect and value yourself. You don't have to go all diva on anyone, but if I have learned anything from "What Not to Wear", it's hard to take someone seriously in sweat pants-or even yoga pants. I don't have anything against yoga or sweat pants and I wear them, especially when it is really cold outside and heating the house is super expensive. Try to put something on a little nicer when you go out for errands. Invest a little money in buying a couple pairs of good jeans that fit you properly (please don't buy mom jeans because as Tina Fey says, "nothing says you've given on being a woman like mom jeans) and a few nice tops. Make sure you have some nice flats that are comfortable. Wear an accessory or two. Make sure you have a haircut that isn't too high maintenance but looks nice even on time-crunch. Invest in a few makeup basics that make you look more polished and put together. Get a free make-over at a makeup counter if you need help with makeup or check out youtube's extensive library of tutorials. If you don't know how to put together something, have a style-savvy friend help you shop. If your budget is tight take a friend to the thrift store. Several years ago as I was grappling with a major lupus flare, my hair fell out in big clumps and I lost 20 pounds. I have a small frame, so I looked really, really bad. I felt bad and I looked bad. I started wearing makeup and I got a good haircut. It didn't take away my physical pain but I felt better and more able to cope with everything I was experiencing. I know we live in a super-shallow world which does put great stock in appearances. I hate the pressure too, but I'm already fighting a battle for respect when I walk out the door with six children. I choose to alleviate some of that pressure with a more put-together appearance.

In social gatherings, like work parties or school events, it is easy to feel the pressure of talking to people about your work. Small talk is never easy and some people are just better at it than others. I admit that I have a strength for being able to talk to people in many different situations. It may help to practice with friends to work on how to positively present your work as a mother around others. Here are some things I do in these situations: I ask people questions about their lives and listen. I try to relate to their experiences through my own experiences or what I have read. I read and study a lot. I listen to educational podcasts all the time, so I always feel like I have I something to contribute about a variety of topics. (I listen to podcasts while cleaning and I use my library extensively.) When I talk about my work, I smile and speak positively about my experiences. I'm not ashamed to share that I have six children and have been married for 17 years. People who are proud of their work share it openly and discuss it in positive terms. I don't brag about my kids, but I do talk about the people they are becoming and how proud I am of them. If people ask about what it is like to parent six children, I try to relate my experiences to their own parenting experiences. When one friend asked me how I could clothe all my kids on a budget, I shared what I do and how that works for our family.

Finally, work with your children on appropriate public behavior. Practice appropriate behavior in restaurants and work diligently on manners. My family is frequently complimented on their behavior when we go out in public because my husband and I have worked very hard on manners and appropriate behavior. If we notice they are mis-behaving, we address the problem then and there--we don't ignore it. I have noticed that people notice and appreciate it. When you are at a restaurant, do your best to keep your area clean and give an extra tip to the server and the person bussing the table. While living in Sweden I learned that if I wanted to explore and enjoy myself, my kids were going to have to come along. So we made it work. My kids have been to museums and historical sites all over the world because I didn't want to miss out on those things.

While it may seem like an impossible job, we mothers can change the way others view us and our work as mothers by respecting ourselves, dressing in a more professional manner, talk to others in positive ways in social settings, and teach your kids how to behave in public. I'm sure there are others ways to positively promote yourself and the work you do. What have you found that works? I would love to read your stories and experiences.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Wacaser Wanderings: January 2015 Edition

I'm attempting to return to a more regular accounting of our lives. Life has amped up for our family and I'm hoping that this will give me a good way to keep track of the events that happen.

Winter Rose

We celebrated Winter Rose's first birthday at the end of January. She has been walking for three months now. I've never seen a child so adept and natural at walking in those first few days. She just took a couple of steps and it never seemed to dawn on her that it might be difficult to do. She walks with confidence and ease. Winter also climbs everything which scares me to death! She goes up the stairs and I'm working on teaching her to go down the stairs because the way our stairs our set up, a gate doesn't work very well. She has 8 little teeth, along with four molars coming in at the same time. The last few days have been hard as she cried and fussed a lot. Even though she is teething, she is still remarkably calm and patient, and while she does cry a bit, she never screams. We had a fun birthday for her. I think her siblings were more excited than she was about the big day. She was very dainty in eating her birthday cake.


Jonathan started kindergarten in the fall and has enjoyed every minute of it. Brent and I debated for months about sending him to kindergarten as he is very young--his birthday is at the end of October. We took a leap of faith, knowing that he is very socially adept and behaves very well. Our gamble has paid off so far as he loves kindergarten. His teachers inform me that he is keeping pace with his peers and that he is an outstanding citizen in his classroom. This month I have watched him really develop with his reading. As always, he is my cuddle bug. He is one of my most responsible children in getting ready in the morning for school without a lot of prompting from me.


Brooke is now in third grade and has a teacher that she loves. She is a member of the Kids of Character Club which meets every Friday after school and works on activities that incorporate character values and activities for the whole school. Brooke already has a lot of character and so this is a natural fit for her. She also auditioned for a part in Aladdin, the school musical, and was given a speaking/singing part--quite a feat for a little third-grader. She is definitely a natural performer. She also auditioned for a special recorder ensemble and got a perfect score. She has a lot of activities going on, which can be kind of overwhelming for her. At this point, I'm letting it play out to see if she wants to continue all her activities. She loves them all so it may be hard for her to give up one. She is bright and has really adapted quickly to the challenging Common Core Math Curriculum. I think the explanations and methods really appeal to her brain. Her teacher tells me she has a math brain--which totally came from her father and Wacaser grandparents! She also took a very challenging language arts test and scored 17/18, which was the best score in the class. When she isn't doing school or activities, she is usually making up songs, recording her songs, drawing, or reading.


Josef is one of my quieter kids--at least he is quiet around me. I know he has a mischievous side that gets his siblings in trouble. The problem is that I can't always catch him in the act. He is in fifth grade and has started middle school. So far, he seems to be doing well. I don't hear from the teachers, which is usually good news. He doesn't seem himself as a great student, even though he has great spatial intelligence and really grasps math concepts easily. He still loves sports more than anything and goes to an intermural sports club every Wednesday morning before school. He surprised me by joining the newspaper club. I have yet to see any of his work from the club, but he is happy and enjoys it. He plays the clarinet and has a beautiful tone--which is a feat coming from a young player. Josef expressed an interest in knitting, was given a short introductory lesson from a friend, and has taught himself much using youtube video tutorials. He finds knitting very relaxing and has really started to create at a much greater level. I have to say that it is refreshing to be asked to purchase yarn instead of video games!


Trent had a remarkable turn around in the past few months. For years, I've been battling homework with him on a daily basis. After intense conferences with his teachers in September, something changed and he started to take ownership in his work. He joined wrestling and practices until 5:30 every school night. Then he comes home and without complaint gets to work on his homework. He made the High Honor Roll last term and I expect that he will at least make the Honor Roll this term. He was allowed to join the advanced math class and is doing quite well. He loves wrestling, even though he is the smallest, skinniest wrestler on the team--and in the area. There aren't always many kids to wrestle in his weight class, but he doesn't seem to mind. He just does his best. I am so proud of how hard he is working at school and at home.


If you haven't seen Walter in a while, you might not recognize him. He is now a lanky 15-year old who is a freshman in high school. He is taking four honors classes: Biology, Global History, English, and Math. He had to take choir as one of his electives because he refuses to play an instrument. He has steadily complained about choir for the last few months and I have teased him about his excellent lip synching skills. Brent and I got a huge surprise at his choir concert this month. He begged us not to attend, but we ignored his request. Imagine our surprise when he sang a great solo. He and his friend basically carried the tenor section. I guess Walter really didn't want us to know how well he sings. Now that his secret is out, he is stubbornly determined to deny his talent, despite requests from teachers at school that he try out for the musical. He joined the school newspaper as well and likes talking to me about things he is writing. When he isn't working on homework, helping me, or playing on the computer, he likes to write code. In the spring, he plans to join the track team--a perfect fit for him as he can't handle team sports. It just makes him mad for days when his teammates don't do what he thinks they should.

No one told me how much fun teenagers can be. Walter and I spend a lot of time laughing when we aren't busy. He has a really great sense of humor and we both like to find funny things on the internet to share with one another.


This month really threw a bombshell at me. I was asked to be the Ward Relief Society President at church. For those of you who don't know what this is, it is a church responsibility that is a LOT of work. I am in charge of overseeing the spiritual and physical welfare of 100 women and their families. I assess needs and provide food for families in need. I oversee the Sunday instruction for women, and administer a visiting teaching program where women in our congregation go over to one another's homes monthly to ensure contact, friendship, and well-being. Since I was put in, I have put together a funeral and dinner, counseled with some young women who have been in limbo trying to find their direction in life, put together food orders for two struggling families, arranged babysitting for a single mom who is trying to get her college education, and put together an action plan to help a single mom who just had rotator cuff surgery. It's hard work! But I'm finding that as I do it, I feel grateful for what I have--a great family, skills and talents that are being utilized to help people, and happiness to be able to give back. I work with some great people who work hard to help me and are teaching me about delegation.


Brent has been busy chopping wood for our wood stove we installed this summer. He finds it relaxing and nice to do some physical labor after all the brain work he does at IBM. He is still working on solar cells at IBM. For awhile, since his return to New York after being in Saudi Arabia he was more in the background with his team. But now he is trying to be more "in view" by presenting more and showing his contributions. He filed another patent disclosure this month, which brings his total to about 12. He has already had seven patents filed since working at IBM six years ago. It is kind of fun to Google his name because all kinds of cool things crop up when you do. When he isn't chopping wood, filing patents, or working at IBM, he is usually playing board games with the kids, or relaxing with me.

Brent and I joined a chorale group and we are singing an original oratorio, "Daniel", composed by a friend of ours. We will perform it in May and practice twice a week. At first, I was concerned about the time commitment, but singing brings me so much joy that it is worth the time and effort. My voice has started to come back which makes me so happy.

Random January Events

We have had a few snow storms, which always makes our schools close. They are kind of wimps about it. This past week we were supposed to get a doozy of a storm that promised at least two feet of snow. School was canceled for two days straight. The reality was that we got about five inches of light snow.
Brent and I enjoyed a fun evening of dancing at a dance school in our area. Of course, we were bombarded with requests to join the school--which we would love to do but we are spending our time and money on other things right now. It was so fun though to be together and dance.

Well, I have probably bored you all to tears, so I will let you go now. I love you all!