11:44 AM EDT, May 1, 2013
One of the best things about becoming a mother is getting to talk parenthood with other mothers. At the playground, at the zoo, over wine. I've always felt incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such a wonderful (and fun) group of mothers. My own mother and mother-in-law, other family members and a multitude of longtime friends, as well new ones I've made since having my first child.
Since I always enjoy talking to other parents and discussing various viewpoints, I thought it would be interesting to gather a small roundtable of moms, ask them all the same questions, and compare answers. I chose four friends I met through my husband when I was introduced to his tight-knit crew of college friends; they're moms I don't get to hang out with as often as I like, but when I do, I'm guaranteed a fantastic time.
A quick apology for conducting this survey months ago and just posting it now, meaning some of the information and ages listed in certain questions could be a bit dated. I'm not going to put "super-efficient" on my resume's skill list anytime soon.
First, a brief introduction that each participant wrote themselves. Then, onto the discussion.
Becky is the mother of a five-year-old kindergartner boy, Teddy, and two-year-old girl, Alison, who lives in Northern Virginia and works full time for the local school system as a traveling educational audiologist.
Megan is a part-time teacher and most-of-the-time stay-at-home mom to two boys, Drew and Evan, ages six-and-a-half and five, and their 15-month-old sister, Julia. She lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and dreams of living somewhere where it is always warm.
Karla is the mother of four-year-old triplets and is a full-time mom and part-time fitness professional. She lives in Park City, Utah.
Tara Cahak is mother to two-year-old Nicholas, wife to Mike, and a full time Special Education teacher in Virginia. She loves being a mom, but now requires two full travel mugs full of coffee to function in the morning.
What is your favorite activity with your children?
Becky: Snuggle time. Or anything that keeps them happily occupied...which is usually dodge ball in the moon bounce.
Karla: The kids are just about the right age to start hiking for one or two miles at a time. We have lots of great trails in Park City our whole family can enjoy.
Megan: Going out for ice cream.
Tara: Reading- Nicholas loves to read stories every night at bedtime. His favorite series is the "How Do Dinosaurs..." which I have turned into a teaching tool. We look for the things the naughty dinosaurs are doing (that often coincide with behaviors that Nicholas currently prefers) and comment on them such as "Oh, Look at that dinosaur. He is NOT sitting on his hieney. Oh, his mommy does NOT look happy". Then Nicholas gleefully tells them "No, No Dinosaur!" and wags his finger at them.
What's the one kid behavior that stresses you out most?
Becky: When Teddy was two, biting. Now, we're concerned about lying/telling the truth. The daughter has yet to challenge the behavior rules other than screaming when we're out at dinner.
Tara: Whining. It's getting better now that his vocabulary is expanding, but man, having a kid follow you around whining/crying is grating.
Are the members of your household currently sleeping well? Are you?
Becky: No. The two-year-old has just cut three molars with the fourth one a quarter of the way in. The five-year-old is doing pretty well. The parents continue to deal with sinus ick/colds. I can't remember the last time I slept the entire night...
Karla: Yes...finally. The kids all sleep on a different floor than us and most nights are extremely peaceful minus an occasional bed wetting accident or lost stuffed animal.
Megan: On the whole, yes. Last night? Four-year-old was awakened at 3:08am by the alarm on his watch that he inadvertently set, shortly followed by eleven-month-old who was hungry. Or wanted to play. Or something.
Tara: Yep. We have been blessed with a pretty awesome sleeper. That said, we have recently had a few incidents where Nicholas wakes up in the middle of the night with what we have come to refer to as "Demonic Possession Tantrums". These consist of my boy screaming at the top of his lungs, and refusing any type of soothing that would normally appeal to him (pacifier, drink of water, blankie, being held). I once took him out of his crib during one of these incidents. He writhed and screamed to get down. I did put him down, and he ran to his changing table, grabbed his shoe off of it, and proceeded to alternately bite it and throw it around the room. As someone terrified by the movie, "The Exorcist", I am not a fan of these nights.
Do you and your spouse go on dates or away together without the kids? How important is this?
Becky: My husband and I try to do lunch once/week. Very important. Wish we had more evening dates, but with us both working and kids in daycare, it doesn't seem fair to leave them with a babysitter yet again over the weekend. When we can, we'll ship them off to the grandparents' house for a little R and R.
Karla: Absolutely. We started taking nights away when the kids were thre-months-old. I think spending uninterrupted time catching up with your spouse is crucial for a healthy marriage.
Megan: No. We need to do this, but rarely figure out how to make it happen.
Tara: Occasionally, but this is really on my goal list to do more. We try to do movie-dates on weekend nights now that we have a "grown-up house" with a nice big TV. Unfortunately, I often pass out about 20 minutes into a movie. I also still make it a priority to see my favorite 80's coverband once a month, though sometimes that is solo. A girl needs her vices.
Dinner is over. The kids are asleep. What's next on your evening agenda?
Becky: Recently, watching baseball. Otherwise: laundry, cleaning up the kitchen, vegging in front of the television (most often).
Karla: Desert and "Breaking Bad."
Megan: Cleaning the kitchen. Next I turn to the computer to do something important, which I immediately can't remember, then waste time on Facebook instead.
Tara: Shower, lay out my clothes for the next day (in order to maximize sleeping time), set the automatic coffee pot, feel guilty that I am not sitting down to read something professionally enhancing/of literary note/about good parenting techniques, and then instead attempt to stay awake to watch a TV show that has been languishing away on my DVR. Making it to the end of a show is unlikely.
Kids' television: Do you watch it? What is the best (or at least most tolderable) show? What's the worst?
Becky: We love the Fresh Beats! Went to their concert. Back stage passes. It was awesome. The kindergartner has started watching Disney XD which is a whole new world of teeny-bopper-ness...not sure how long we'll be able to handle Zak and Cody... poor two-year-old is missing out on "Wonder Pets" and "Backyardagains."
Karla: Ugh, no way. But my kids do! I can stand "The Cat and the Hat" and "Phineas and Ferb." I can't stand "Max and Ruby".
Megan: My poor children rarely watch TV, but when they do, it's PBS. They currently like "Wild Kratts." I don't watch it, so I have no opinion.
Tara: Nicholas usually only sees "Thomas the Train," "Doc McStuffins," "Seasame Street" and anything on PBS Kids. The best and most tolerable for me are "Sesame Street" and "Dinosaur Train." Nicholas's fave is Thomas, but it is by far my least favorite. Just hearing that theme music makes me want to plug my ears sometimes. Also, Nicholas has never seen an episode of "Barney" by choice.
Let's say you get to hang out with one celebrity mom for the day. Name who, and why (Snooki, guys? Come on. Say Snooki).
Becky: Michelle Obama...how does she do it all? I know she has a lot of help, but wow she's got her stuff together!
Karla: Gwen Stefani. She seems grounded. She's edgy and I'm guessing her conversations wouldn't just revolve around kids.
Megan: Snooki's a mom?
Tara: Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman. I have been cooking her recipes for a while (let's be honest, the one or two times a month I actually get it together to try a new recipe) and I love her TV show on Food Network. She seems very laid back, but still gets a lot of stuff done. I would like that balance. She also really appreciates hanging with her girlfriends.
Let's say the guys (ahem? guys?) offered to take all the kids for the weekend and us moms got to hang out. What would we do?
Becky: We would go to the beach with several bottles of wine and a personal chef to make us whatever we might want. We'd lay on the beach for hours on end just enjoying the quiet of the waves crashing and no one asking for anything.
Karla: Vegas or the Caribbean. As long as we can drink rum and Diet Coke.
Megan: YES!! When are we doing this??
Tara: Eat great food, drink something fun, laugh a lot! Maybe dance on a table.
Does your spouse spend solo time with your child or children? Do you wish he spent more?
Becky: Dad and the kindergartner are doing some serious T-ball together these days. It's great for them to spend some 'man' time together. I wish Dad spent more time with the daughter. She always seems so much more attached to him after even just an evening of 100% daddy time.
Karla: You bet! I work several Saturdays a month and a few mornings and weekends. Max has to step up. When the kids were younger he didn't watch them nearly as much as I would have liked but four-year-olds are much more fun to hang out with than babies.
Megan: Yes, he spends as much time as he can with them.
Tara: Mike is such a great dad! We both work full time, so time with Nicholas is limited to mornings, evenings, and weekends. He does morning duty since I am already gone before Nicholas wakes up, I do pick up, and we tend to trade off on tubby time or cleaning the kitchen after dinner each night. Mike also takes him running when the weather is nice. When he is with Nicholas, he is so natural and patient and kind. I certainly feel that we have an equal parenting partnership.
What's the hardest thing about being a working mom? If you don't work, what do you imagine it is?
Becky: Fitting it all in. Not feeling guilty while doing the other. Trying to make them know that they (including the husband) are loved even though you're not always with them. Making the most of our time together...quality beats quantity, but then making sure your kid isn't a spoiled brat (see back stage passes response above, those are some high expectations we've set...)
Karla: I only work part time but missing family time is tough. I often work while my husband is home and I often get a little jealous of missing out on some of the fun.
Megan: Finding time for everything. And I only work part time!
Tara: The hardest thing is feeling that I am only being able to do a half-way decent job in every role in my life. I never feel like I am being the Mom/Teacher/Wife/Family Member/Friend/Community Member that I want to be. I am not used to half-assing things, and I feel like that is literally all I am able to do now. Also, I feel like I never have time to work out. I know that the health conscious would say that I could get up at 5:00 am and work out in my basement, or work out after we put Nicholas down for the night, but that is just not realistic. I really love to take group fitness classes, and it just does not gel with my schedule right now.
What's the hardest thing about being a stay-at-home-mom? And if you don't stay home, what do you imagine it is?
Becky: I would think it would be the lack of adult conversation...I always feel like stay at home moms are lucky not to go "postal". It seems like it would be so monotonous...laundry, feed them, clean up after them, feed them, nap them, laundry...oh and then you have to entertain them in the mean time...I at least get some "me" time in the car when driving between schools or picking up the kid(s).
Karla: I took a few years off work. The hardest part of staying home was missing my job. I am a fitness professional and I desperately missed working with clients and teaching classes. I am very lucky that I I am able to work part time now.
Megan: Finding the motivation to keep the house in order.
Tara: If I stayed at home I think the hardest thing would be getting a routine down. I feel like I would stay in my pajamas a lot which is what I did on maternity leave. My cousin is a stay-at-home mom of 6 who home schools, and she is my idol! Her children are kind, polite, smart, and articulate. She is super organized and does these amazingly creative activities with them. I don't think I could ever have it down the way she does.
Disney World: have you made the trip? Will you?
Becky: We're trying to figure out how to financially make it happen...but really? $5000 for a week at Disney (travel/air fair, hotel, mouse ears, food, etc)? I'm sure we can do it cheaper, but well, there are those high expectations again.
Karla: Yes. Our extended family went when the kids were two. It was fun but definitely an ordeal.
Megan: Yes! We went this past summer when our kids were six, four, and seven months. I was initially dreading the trip, but we loved (almost) every minute of it and now I can't wait to go back!
Tara: Not yet, but absolutely will! I can imagine what a crazy-show it will be, but I know how much I loved it as a kid, and I can't wait to do that with Nicholas.
Kid-related or not, what is your favorite part of the day?
Becky: The hugs at the end of the day. Laying in bed with the kindergartner just the two of us listening about his day (when he'll give me details). Honestly, middle of the night snuggles with the two-year-old. I know they won't last for long and yes, I'm sleep deprived, but to have that unconditional love and need for a snuggle makes it all worth it! Oh yeah, seeing my husband when he comes home from work...yeah, that too...
Karla: It's a tie between story-time and bedtime. I have always loved reading to my kids but sitting on the couch with nothing to do at the end of the day feels pretty great too.
Tara: Kid-related: having Nicholas yell "Mama!" and run to me when I get to day care. It never gets old. Non-Kid Related: My nightly shower. I try to conserve where I can. I turn lights off when we aren't in the room, keep the thermostat low, coupon when grocery shopping, only get Starbucks when students give me gift cards, and only every buy things when they are on sale. But I relish my super hot evening shower at the end of the day. It is sometimes the only me-time I get so I don't worry about how much water I am wasting or how much it costs.
Fill in the blank, becoming a parent has made me much more...
Becky: Aware (also: fat, tired, loving, irritated, creative, silly).
Karla: Laid back. With triplets, you have to be.
Tara: Patient as a teacher. Now I see all my students not just as students, but as someone's "Nicholas". It certainly makes me pause and I often find myself thinking "How would I want Nicholas's teacher to handle this with him." AND Appreciative of my husband. Seeing Mike with Nicholas made me love him in this totally new way that I wasn't actually expecting.
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