laid off and learning to love it… my journey from corporate sprinter to life marathoner

sahm: the spice of life 07/22/2009

Filed under: Laid Off,SAHM Choice,Saving Money — ccatet @ 9:35 pm

the business where i used to work had a fabulous brand new cafe with every possible food you can imagine: stir fry bar, pasta bar, daily pizza specials, a deli, grill, mexican food station, salad bar, soups, milkshake machine, the works. when i was pregnant with my daughter, i lived it up every single day. sometimes i miss working there JUST because of the cafe.

in general, i have always enjoyed eating out. however, since i was laid off and on our new and much reduced budget, it’s much more rare that we eat out. if you’re wondering, our budget is a total of $50 for the month to eat out and we average 2-3 times out a month with those funds plus a plethora of coupons. as a result, i have been known to fantasize about eating out and ordering something tasty that i didn’t have to prepare for DAYS in advance.

tonight, for example, i am having dinner with an old friend and we’re going to a great local burger joint. i have been dreaming about the amazing salad and the burger for three days. even more so, i am not indulging in a cookie right now in order to justify that scrumptious burger.

i cook with a fair amount of variety but there will always be something nice about someone else cooking for me. however, the frequency of someone else cooking for me has substantially dropped since i was laid off. i am the sole grocery shopper, meal planner, food preparer and usually, the clean up person. my husband offers, but i usually send him to play with the kids so i can have a few minutes alone to myself and he can visit with them after his day at work. sometimes those 5 minutes are the only minutes i get alone until bedtime.

when i do get out to eat now i make sure to enjoy every second, especially when there are no children hanging off of me. i am learning how to slow down when i eat since i usually have to rush with the kids. i order something that i don’t cook at home and make sure the meal is ordered exactly how i like it. when the food arrives, i dive in – YUM!

since we don’t eat out as much, i am also trying more new recipes than i have in years. if i am craving a meal, i try to reproduce it at home which has made cooking very experimental and a little bit exciting. i am proud to say that i am making variety in our lives in a place that it never existed before.

if you’re wondering, as of now i have no plans to return to my old employer’s cafe… even if i still do dream about the food from time to time.


sahm: mother’s intuition 07/21/2009

Filed under: Parenting,SAHM Choice — ccatet @ 10:14 pm

before i had kids, i always thought the idea of mother’s intuition was just a cliche. even more so, while i was working, i don’t think my mother’s intuition was every truly tuned into my kids… there were too many other distractions. being home with them full time means i now truly know what mother’s intuition is. it’s so loud that sometimes i can barely hear what anyone is saying.

i can feel a meltdown coming moments before it occurs. i know immediately when something is missing amongst our gear. i can sense vomit before it leaves my kids’ mouths. i never thought i would know my kids and their behaviors and trends so well but i do. and it’s AWESOME. i like some predictability, but frankly, kids are not predictable. however, being home means i get the chance to be more in tune with them which i am finding gives me an overall leg up in my life as a mom.

i am certainly not perfect though and i make my share of mistakes when not listening to my intuition. take a recent friday as an example… ugh, the thought of it pains me as i type. the kids and i had driven +4 hours on thursday to visit family and it had been a very long day. we have done this a few other times and i learned to allow the kids a reset day (i.e. no plans) immediately after a travel day. their sleep and play time suffers on travel days and as a result, i find that they need a day to sleep in, stretch their legs and generally reset their schedules.

for the most part, i give them this reset day but a few weeks ago – i don’t know – i think i forgot. instead, i jam-packed their schedule with a grocery store run first thing in the morning, then a playdate at a horribly busy outdoor public water park, all while hoping to see my cousins who planned to drop by the park for a visit at the same time. can i say huge mistake? HUGE.

it was hot. there were much bigger kids everywhere. the ground was wet. i couldn’t feed my kids fast enough and my son wanted desperately to go into the water park… so again, against my better judgement, i let him… only for him to bang heads with an older child within minutes. this was the absolute low point of my day, and perhaps, even the past 6 months.

i knew better. my gut told me to keep him out of the park. my gut actually told me that morning to cancel the playdate… but i trudged on. i want my kids to learn how to roll with the punches and sometimes i ask too much of them while other times they do extremely well. it’s truly the yin and yang of parenthood. but my kids are young (both under 3) and we have plenty of years for water parks and playdates… and i should have known better that day.

there was a bright spot though… we left immediately after the head banging and after long naps, the kids were like brand new. we had a great evening playing outside and everyone was happy. i was refreshed and grateful.

after events like the above, i am reminded to pay closer attention to my intuition. one thing i never ignore is that feeling that vomit is coming…. the fact that i can sometimes sense this before it happens and direct the contents into a bathtub or sink is truly priceless. i would get laid off again just to learn that.


sahm: i can do anything 07/16/2009

Filed under: Parenting — ccatet @ 10:46 am

this has been my mantra since i was laid off. it gets me through all of those tough moments.  usually i think to myself, “i can do anything – i gave birth, TWICE!” for all of you mothers out there, you know what i’m screaming.

this works in just about every moment where i feel like quitting. for example, the first mile (or last mile) of a run, those forever minutes during a long car drive where both kids are screaming and you think your head might explode, the seemingly endless piles of laundry that you’d rather lay down on than fold. you get my drift.

i am a believer that it’s all about your outlook and i tend to be pretty positive overall. i don’t hang well with negative nellies and i encourage my children to keep trying, try again, and regularly spew the “it’s all good” comment to shake off a tumble or scrape. this is life — nothing is fair. if you don’t make the most of it, you only have yourself to blame.

now, there are some things i CHOOSE not to do… things like cook elaborate meals (too much time, too many dishes), wear fancy clothes (too expensive, hate to iron), and run a marathon (bad knees, not enough hours in the day). but i have a feeling, if i decided suddenly that these were things i wanted to do, i would make it happen.


sahm: not again 07/15/2009

Filed under: SAHM Choice — ccatet @ 3:07 pm

when i was working, i loathed packing lunches to send with my son to school. it was hard enough to get to the grocery store each week, let alone provide tasty, nutritious, diverse meals every day. now i am home with him and his almost 1 year old sister, and really, things just might be worse.

it does not help that my son is a picky eater. at 2.5 years old, he still refuses macaroni & cheese and hot dogs (among many other things). i take full blame for his pickiness because during the window of time where babies will generally eat anything in front of them (approx 9-15 months), we were busy trying to sell our house, pack and move (and oh yeah, i was also in my first trimester with our second baby and had a boatload of energy). we kept feeding him pureed baby food to help with cleaning and also because the pre-packaged foods were convenient. little did we know how this would bite us down the road!

when i was still working, i often heard from teachers that the only time he ate his food was when someone coached him through the entire meal. at night, we wanted him to be pleasant so we let him get into a “cereal for dinner” habit.

when i was laid off, i thought for sure i could get him to eat more with less coaching as well as introduce many more foods. my husband and i vowed that as his baby sister worked her way into solids, that her brother needed to come along with her.

overall, the diversity i was hoping for in my son’s diet is coming, but it is V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W. experts say you need to introduce a food 10 times before a child will have interest in it. with my son, we’re easily over 20 times on some items… and that little pistol, he can be stubborn. we repeat meals over and over again… the more repetition, the more likely he is to try the new food. i find myself preparing the same meals over and over again. sometimes he tries something, sometimes he eats a lot, and sometimes i throw the whole plate away. his sister on the other hand, right at 11 months, will eat almost anything in front of her!

along with all of this repetition with food, i find that being home full time means many more dishes, crumbs and clean up. if you’re like me and prefer a clean house, you can almost make yourself a little crazy trying to keep up. and my husband wonders why i always want to eat dinner outside!

meal planning for kids is tough. those of you that work and don’t have to sit with your little ones through another 1-2 meals a day really have it easier than you think!

i long for the days when both kids eat the same meals as the adults. i am sure all parents say this, but i find that being home all day, this feeling is so much stronger. why? meals are much more frequent, you have less help, and the preparation and clean up are a lot more repetitive. some days i feel like all i do is prep a meal, clean it up, prep a meal, clean it up, prep a meal… you get the point.

i am trying to look at the bright side… we can eat outside, and what better way to clean up than a good, old-fashioned hose-down. anyone care to join us?


sahm: i really don’t like people… 07/12/2009

Filed under: SAHM Choice — ccatet @ 1:33 pm

i used to say this phrase a lot when i worked. back then, people slowed me down and i had no time to waste. especially new people. what i used to really hate was when my husband or a friend would tell me about so-and-so, who they thought i would really like and hit it off with. i always thought: yeah right, in my free time!

now i have a tiny bit of free time during the day with the kids and interestingly enough, i find myself longing for the company of normal, nice people. don’t get me wrong, i love my kids and my husband but some days it’s nice to talk to someone other than these 3 people. even better – lately, when my husband and i try to talk, my son screams “stop doing that!” man, i love toddlers (but don’t worry, we’re working on this!)

i have had several days in a row where the only non-family member i speak to is the grocery checkout person or the front desk woman at our rec center. as expected, the conversation is light. but here’s the thing: i crave depth. i don’t want to talk about work and the stupid people there. i want to talk about the world and changes brewing. i want to talk about ideas and things that inspire and move people to action. not all the time, but every once in a while would really be nice.

sometimes you can get a good conversation in during a playdate, but it’s not common. any discussion is challenging when you’re juggling an infant and using your spare eye to make sure your toddler doesn’t try his hand at the monkey bars. sometimes i leave playdates happy for the kids but sad for me. they had a great time and i had another surface level conversation – again.

i often wonder how long i can really do this SAHM thing. some days i feel like my brain is turning to mush and others i can’t handle the sense of isolation. but, i signed up for this and i am hanging in there right now. the kids get bigger every day and i look at them and surge with love. i feel so fortunate to see them grow.

it’s a balancing act for sure, what they need and what i need… and their needs rule right now. if they want a quiet day at home, they get it. if they want to stay in the basement all day, no problem. if i need to get out, i dig down deep and focus hard on them and it usually pulls me through. i have only had one day where i practically went screaming out of the house when my husband got home – and that was mainly because i dumped a tray of lasagna onto the floor of the oven (which was the icing on the cake that day). one out of 130+ days is not so bad.

since i have been home, i have met some awesome people, reconnected with old friends and can honestly say that my world is so much bigger than it was before. people aren’t so bad anymore. i need them and my kids need them for variety, social interaction and to learn about the world. our lives are full, i admit… but we have room for more.


sahm: garden therapy, part 2 07/09/2009

Filed under: Activities,Garden — ccatet @ 7:24 am

the garden is doing better than originally expected! however, the current theme song is probably something along the lines of Against All Odds (Phil Collins)… so no celebrating yet. the basil is coming in nicely and i am planning to try my hand at pesto next week. also, there is hope for the zucchini plant but no actual fruit as of press time. i suppose we can just mooch off of my brother if we want more zucchini… his garden is ridiculous.

here are some photos i took yesterday… first, the basil:



second, the zucchini plant with the basil:

basil, zucchini & pinwheels

basil, zucchini & pinwheels

third, a picture of the amount of space we have to expand the garden next year… hmmmm. not sure i am that ambitious (nor do i think my son will willingly give up his dirt pit real estate)!

full garden

full garden

i can’t help but think about my numbers for this venture. for myself and the other analysts out there, i am batting .500 right now. i started with 8 basil plants and 2 zucchini plants, however only 4 basil and one zucchini plant remains. i still haven’t thrown any fertilizer or additional dollars at the garden. i am really not sure i like it that much to invest in it – yet.

i am remaining open-minded though. the garden is nice to look at and it’s peaceful to take a few minutes every morning or evening to water the plants (as long as my son is not around because when he is, i end up soaked!)

honestly, i want to pick the basil and see what happens next. i am hoping we’ll all have the experience of picking our own fruit from the garden and eating it.

talk to me next week when we try to make homemade pesto. perhaps when we can actually eat and taste something we grew, i will sing a happy tune… a little I Can See Clearly Now (Jimmy Cliff) would be really nice.


sahm: i can be flexible… if i know about it ahead of time 07/08/2009

Filed under: Activities,SAHM Choice — ccatet @ 8:08 am

i am not what you would call spontaneous. a few childless years ago, my husband and i were chicago bound for a long weekend. prior to departure, i spent HOURS putting together our agenda for the inbound travel day, including schedules and maps for all public transportation required to get us safely to a friend’s house in the burbs. needless to say, it did not quite go as planned.

we landed at midway and based on our destination, needed to find a certain bus. we could not find the certain bus. we hunted, we walked, we inquired… but nothing from my *plan* seemed accurate. i was getting frazzled fast and we had just landed!

my ultra-flexible husband (then boyfriend) kindly suggested we grab a taxi so we didn’t waste too much time. i didn’t want to do it. i wanted to stick with my perfect plan… but after several minutes, i conceded. later that day, my husband informed me that in my frustration between the airport and the cab, i very clearly told him that “i can be flexible if i know about it ahead of time.”

he still loves to tell this story to relay just how planful i am. he knows it is hard for me to NOT have structure. this reason was one of the main deterrants from being a SAHM. especially with young children, i knew it would be hard for me to remain structured and also keep them happy.

i have spent the past 4 months learning how to be spontaneous. it’s not easy! i can’t help but have a mental list of things to do on warms days, cool days, rainy days and the ultra hot days.

i am the polar opposite of some SAHM friends who play every single day by ear. we can’t do it… or rather, i can’t do it. it makes me crazy which in turn makes the kids crazy. it may just be my kids (who are around me too much) but i have found that in the absence of a rough plan for the day, we don’t really have that much fun. i wake my son up by telling him something we will do that day which usually excites him enough to get dressed and down for breakfast. overall, we do reasonably similar things every week with a few new activities or playdates to keep life exciting.

last minute activities are more possible being home with the kids and we’ve been able to change our plans more easily than we could when i was working full time. it’s not always quick – i work through so many details in my head before accepting, but i do try… and it is getting easier to be more agile.

at the end of the day, you can definitely say i am not spontaneous and probably never will be. i am okay with that… i am who i am. right now, the semi-structured life i lead satisfies me pretty well. however, these days when the spontaneous moments do happen, i make sure to enjoy the ride – by taxi, bus, minivan, jogging stroller, carousel or zoo train.