Tuesday, January 11, 2011

You're a stay-at-home mom? What do you do all day?

Being a stay-at-home mom sounds like a great idea to many. "You get to stay home all day and not work?! SWEET!" I often have people ask me about what it is I do all day. There are some that never give my job (yes, I said job) a second thought. Others assume I sit around with the kids watching TV on the couch while eating snacks all day. I don’t think being a stay-at-home mom is necessarily harder than all other jobs, but it is definitely no cake walk either. So, for those out there that are curious about what I do, let me take you on a journey through a typical day in my life… This is going to be REALLY long, but if you really want to know what my days are like, this should paint a pretty good picture! (And if you cannot handle the whole day, there is a conclusion at the end that you can skip to! :)

Wake up to the sound of your toddler crying in his crib.
Roll over to find your three-year-old standing next to the bed, staring at you.
Listen to your three-year-old jabber on about every random thought that comes through her head.
Take a moment to go to the bathroom (while your three-year-old follows you into the bathroom and continues talking).
Rejoice in the fact that your two-year-old is still sleeping.
Instruct your three-year-old to be quiet so her brother can sleep.
Carefully remove your wailing toddler from his crib and bring him downstairs without waking your two-year-old.
Make breakfast for your two awake children.
Let the dog out and fill her food/water bowls.
Toss some waffles into the toaster for yourself.
Begin emptying the dishwasher.
As the waffles pop up, realize that your two-year-old is now awake and calling for you from his room.
Take a moment to accept the fact that once again you will be eating cold waffles for breakfast.
Bring your two-year-old downstairs and make his breakfast, too.
Eat your cold waffles while simultaneously emptying the dishwasher.
Once emptied, begin filling it with the dishes from the sink from last night (Why didn't you do them last night, you ask? Wait until you get to the end of today and maybe then it will make sense.)
Immediately after finishing, take your screaming toddler (who finished eating a whole 2 minutes ago) out of his high chair.
Clean the high chair and the child.
At this point your three-year-old has finished eating.
Help her clean her hands, put her dirty dishes in the dishwasher, and wipe down her mess at the table.
Finish putting the dirty dishes in the dishwasher.
Give yourself a two-minute time-out to check your email and update your Facebook status.
Run upstairs to grab clothing for the kids to wear for the day.
While upstairs, throw on the easiest, clean clothing you can find for yourself within 30 seconds.
Take two minutes to brush your teeth, throw your hair in a pony, and wash your face.
Bring the kids clothing downstairs and begin wrestling them into their outfits.
While dressing them, continuously shoo the dog away, as she thinks you are trying to play a game of tug-of-war with her and the clothing items.
Immediately after dressing them, get bombarded by requests for more milk/juice.
Stop to refill all the kids’ cups.
Begin packing the bag for swim class.
Hunt for towels, swim suits, swim diapers, etc.
Be sure to pack snacks and drinks, as the older two will expect refreshments as soon as they are picked up from the YMCA daycare.
Next, start a big pile in the front hallway of all the kids’ winter gear: coats, hats, boots, etc.
Call the kids to the front entryway and begin dressing them in their winter gear.
Remain calm as they all have meltdowns and whine and cry about having to put on their winter gear.
Take two minutes to locate your keys.
Once locating your keys, realize that both boys have pooped their diapers during the two minutes you were looking for your keys… and a few minutes after you finished dressing them in their winter gear.
Remove both boys’ coats and change their poopy diapers.
Put their winter coats back on.
Pick up your toddler and the swim bag and herd the children into the van.
Spend 2-3 minutes on each car seat, making sure the buckles are secure and properly aligned.
Continue to remain calm as they all have additional meltdowns about God only knows what.
Get in the driver’s seat and take a deep breath.

Congratulations. You have made it to 8:45AM. Only 11 more hours until they go to bed.

Drive carefully through the snow to the YMCA.
Find that once again there is no parking in the YMCA parking lot, which contains maybe 10 parking spaces.
Due to the snow, pull up the van to the entrance, turn on your flashers and get out of the car.
Remove the three kids from their car seats and the car.
Carry your toddler while holding your two-year-old’s hand while helping him (dragging him) up the snowy steps.
Remove all the children’s winter gear and hang it up in the coat room.
Bring them into the childcare area and sign them in.
Inform the workers that you will be back for your toddler after parking your car.
Go back to your car and park it a block away from the YMCA in a nearby lot.
Trudge through the unplowed/unshoveled walkway back to the YMCA.
Pick up your toddler from the daycare while assuring your whining two-year-old he will be OK while you are gone.
Carry your toddler and your swim bag to the locker room.
Realize that class starts in 1 minute.
Rush to strip off your clothing (while praising yourself for at least having the sense to put on your suit back at home).
Strip your toddler as quickly as possible and wrestle him into a swim diaper and swim suit.
Grab your towels and rush to the pool.
After all that rushing, arrive at the pool only to find that class has not started yet and does not start for another few minutes.
In your head, complain to yourself about the fact that you rushed and rushed only to sit around and wait for your class to start late.
Get in the pool and spend 30 minutes doing toddler songs and swim activities with your 1-year-old.
Take pride in the fact that he went underwater twice today and did not cry either time.
Get out of the bathwater-warm pool into the freezing cold air and wrap up your toddler in a towel as quickly as possible while trying to forget that you yourself are freezing, too.
Return to the locker room and begin the song and dance of getting your toddler and yourself dressed and your bag repacked.
Use your child’s milk sippy cup as a way to distract him so you can put your clothes on without him crawling himself right out of the locker room.
Realize you really need to go to the bathroom, but your toddler is with you.
Bring him into the stall with you, stand him up on the floor.
Hold his hand with one of your hands, while removing your pants with the other.
Go to the bathroom.
Put your pants back on one-handed while continuing to hold your toddler’s hand so he will not sit down.
Hold back vomit as you consider your response to the idea of your child’s hands (or any part of him) touching the dirty, public bathroom floor.
Pick up your toddler, head to the sink, wash your hands.
Carry your gear and your toddler back up the stairs to pick up your 2-year-old and 3-year-old from the daycare.
After signing them out and greeting them, remember that your car is a block away from the building.
Put on their winter gear and start the sign out process.
Tell them you will return in a couple minutes after picking up the car.
Try to block out the sounds of their crying as they watch you leave the daycare area without them.
Walk a block through the still unplowed/unshoveled walkways back to the van.
Drive around the block and pull up in front of the YMCA entrance again.
Head back upstairs to pick up the kids.
Again carry your toddler down the stairs while holding the hand of your clumsy two-year-old who would likely fall down the 10 stairs without your assistance.
Herd the children into the van once again.
Repeat the drama of buckling the kids into their car seats.
Realize that while you prepared snacks and drinks for the kids, you did not actually place said snacks and drinks into the swim bag.
Listen to the kids scream, cry, and complain about their lack of food and drinks for the entire 20-minute ride home through the snow.
Pull up to the house to find that the driveway is covered in about 3 inches of snow.
Remove all the kids from their car seats.
Help all of them remove their winter gear upon entering the house.
While removing their gear, continue to be bombarded by requests for juice and snacks.
Hang up all the coats and put the boots in the closet.
Bring your toddler upstairs for a nap that you are not sure he will take since he fell asleep in the car for 10 minutes.
Lay him down in his crib and continue downstairs.
Let the dog outside.
Pull together snack for your two-year-old and three-year-old and serve the snack.
Let the dog back inside.
Put on your winter gear and open the front door so the kids can see outside from the storm door.
Tell them they can go to the door if they need you.
Head outside to shovel the driveway.
Realize that you forgot to take out the trash.
Become excited when you realized the garbage truck (which usually comes at the butt-crack of dawn) has not come yet.
Take out all the garbage.
Now shovel the driveway.
Every 5-10 minutes, stop and poke your head in the front door to make sure your children are not killing each other.
Finish the driveway and return inside only to have your three-year-old crying about the fact that your two-year-old hit her with a toy car… and that the dog is in the process of chewing up your three-year-old’s winter hat.
Console your three-year-old.
Yell at the dog.
Pick up the hat.
Put the dog in the crate.
Put on a movie for the kids.
Take 2 minutes to check your email and Facebook account.
Head upstairs to take a shower.
Jump in the shower for no more than 5 minutes since you hear your toddler awaken just before you are getting in.
Get yourself dressed and then go pick up your now wailing toddler.
Put your toddler immediately into his high chair.
Give him some raisins to tide him over until lunch is ready.
Prepare lunch for all three children and serve said meal.
Find some pasta leftover from your kids’ dinner last night.
Reheat it and scarf it down for your lunch while also cleaning up your cooking mess as you eat.

Congratulations, you have made it to lunch time! Unfortunately, it is only 11:45AM, so your day is not half over yet.

Head to the car to grab the swim bag and empty all the wet clothing/towels.
Rotate the laundry in the basement, starting a new load of dirty clothing.
Since you are downstairs, take a two-minute break to check your email and to see what is going on in everyone else’s lives on FB (or at least, those who have updated their status in the past hour).
Bring a basket of clean clothes upstairs, but realize you do not have time to fold it right now.
Head upstairs to grab your daughter’s dance clothing and necessary hair accessories.
When returning downstairs, get bombarded by requests for ice-cream (no), My Little Pony fruit snacks (no), and more juice (OK).
Fill your kids’ juice cups.
Instruct your three-year-old to use the bathroom before getting her dance clothes on.
Finish cleaning up the table from lunch.
Run a brush through your wet hair (remember that shower you took?) that you do not have time to dry, and put it into a ponytail.
Take the dog food out of your toddler’s hands and mouth and put the food bowl away.
Call your three-year-old over so you can dress her for dance.
After the circus that is getting on tights and a leotard and snow boots, remember to remain calm when your three-year-old tells you that she needs to go to the bathroom… again.
Help her out of her dance clothing so she can use the bathroom.
Begin getting the boys dressed in their winter gear so you can head out to dance class.
Grab a few toy cars and trains so the boys have something to play with in the waiting area at your daughter’s dance class.
Toss the toys in your diaper bag along with some drinks and snack. Don’t forget them this time.
Herd the children into the car once again and go through the whole charade of car seats and buckles and whining.
When arriving at dance class, try your best to keep your cool as your two-year-old (who refused to wear snow boots) goes tromping through the deepest snow patches in the parking lot (note: he also hates wet socks).
While holding your toddler, the diaper bag and your three-year-old’s dance bag, pick up your two-year-old by the arm of his coat and get him out of the deep snow.
Take a deep breath as you enter into the most difficult hour of the day.
After undressing all three kids from their winter gear, get your daughter’s tap shoes on while trying to prevent your toddler from crawling underneath the chairs in the busy waiting room.
Once you’ve sent your daughter into dance class, spend the next hour chasing your crabby toddler (who never really took a nap after falling asleep in the car after swim) and your overtired two-year-old (who normally takes a nap at 12:30 each day, except on Tuesdays when he does not nap until 2:30) around the waiting room at the dance school.
Stop them from eating food off the floor.
Correct them when they try to take toys from others.
Continuously bring them back to the seating area each time they try to get into areas that are not intended for them.
Count down the minutes until your daughter is done so you can get everyone back home.
When you see her teacher ending class, begin the song and dance of getting the boys all packed up and in their winter gear.
Try to keep your extremely crabby toddler controlled while removing your daughter’s dance shoes and putting on her snow boots.
Trek through the snow with the kids and re-buckle everyone into their car seats (and yes, they are still whining about it, yet again).
Drive back home.
Sigh with relief when you notice the empty garbage cans that you almost did not get out in time.
Rejoice in the fact that your garage will not smell like week-old poopy diapers for the next week.
Pull the van into the garage and remove all the kids from the car.
Take off their winter gear again and put it all away.

Are you still with me? Congratulations, you have not only passed the halfway point in your day, you have also made it to NAP TIME!

Bring your overly-exhausted toddler and two-year-old directly to their rooms for nap time.
Immediately serve your hungry dancer with yet another snack and pop on a TV show for her.
Head downstairs to rotate the laundry again.
Take 10 minutes for a “Mommy Time Out” and dink around on your email and Facebook while taking a breather.
Consider the options: laundry folding, sitting on the couch to watch a show off the DVR, or working out?
Begin with the laundry folding.
Fold and put away 3 loads of clean laundry.
Realize you will only get more tired as the day continues, so take the time to do your 30-minute workout video.
As you are doing the cool-down stretching, you hear your toddler wailing through the baby monitor.
Head upstairs to get both your wailing toddler and his two-year-old brother he successfully awakened with his crying.
Grieve over the loss of couch time, as you are totally exhausted by this point.
Knowing your toddler is most likely super hungry, fill up his high chair tray with a variety of foods that he can feed himself.
Give your two-year-old his snack.
And give your three-year-old yet another snack, since she has to eat while the others are eating.
While they are eating, take a few minutes to eat a snack yourself.
Check the clock and find that it is now 4:30PM.
Your older children will be awake for another 3 hours.
Your toddler will go to bed in an hour.
It is a bath night for all three of them.
Needing something to fill the time, take all three upstairs for a group bath.
Stop in each of their rooms to collect pajamas and diapers.
Remove the towels from the closet and begin filling the tub.
Stick all three children in the tub with some cups to play with.
Fight to wash each one’s hair and body as they play in the water.
Attempt to keep all water IN the tub and off yourself.
One-by-one, remove your clean children from them tub, towel them off, and fight to get their pajamas on over their barely dry bodies. (This is harder than you’d think.)
Send your two-year-old and three-year-old downstairs.
Bring your toddler directly to his room and lay him in his crib.
Sigh a big sigh of relief, as your youngest is now down for the night… only two to go!

Are you tired yet? Congratulations, you have made it to dinnertime (5:30PM). Although, this can be the toughest two hours of the day as your kids are very tired and moody by this point.

Head downstairs to find your two-year-old and three-year-old wrestling on the couch.
Break up the rough play before someone slams their head on the frame of the couch (again).
Realize it would not make sense to make a full dinner since your husband is out of town and you are the only adult eating tonight.
Instead, decide on a simple dinner of lunchmeat sandwiches, bananas, raisins, and milk for the kids.
Begin assembling their dinner while breaking up the arguments that occur between the two kids (approximately every two minutes).
Listen to your daughter whine about how it is HER turn to talk, and try not to laugh at her when she has nothing to say once given the floor to speak.
Serve the kids their dinner.
Begin searching the house of their sippy cups.
While checking under the couches, find a sippy cup that got stuck under the couch (apparently days ago).
Determine that the cup cannot be salvaged (and hold back your vomit as you find the chunky milk inside).
Immediately throw the cup into the trash in the garage to get the smell as far from you as possible.
Kick yourself for not finding the cup BEFORE the garbage truck came earlier today.
Refill the dog’s food bowl.
Spend a few minutes working on her command training.
Let the dog outside.
Begin heating up a dinner-for-one frozen meal for yourself.
Put all the dishes from the afternoon snacks into the dishwasher.
Let the dog back inside.
As your food is ready, your two-year-old and three-year-old decide they are done eating.
Put your food aside to help them clean up their hands and to remove their plates from the table (which the dog will surely try to get to if you leave it there).
Take your food to the table to eat.
Get interrupted by a phone call.
Sit back down to eat.
Get interrupted by your two-year-old who insists that his diaper mustbe changed now.
Change his diaper.
Sit back down to eat.
Get interrupted by your extremely tired (non-napping) three-year-old who insists that you put her show on immediately.
Knowing the battle that will occur if you do not put the show on, you get up and find something for her to watch.
Sit back down to eat.
Take 3 bites before your two-year-old insists that you fill his cup for the 10th time today.
Fill his cup again.
Sit back down and begin eating as quickly as possible before another interruption comes your way.
Clear your own plate and clean up the kitchen table.
Look at the clock and realize you still have another hour to go until bedtime.
Brainstorm ideas for keeping them occupied.
Remember that they have not had much time in the playroom today since they’ve been out and about.
Bring them into the basement playroom (where the computer is located) so they can play and you can FINALLY have 30 minutes to sit down and write a blog to de-stress from the day’s activities.
You sit back and relax and type while stopping every few minutes or so to answer their questions or to play for a little bit.
At this point, you remember why you love your job so much.
Seconds later they begin fighting again, and that special moment – in which your reflected on your love of your job – becomes a fleeting feeling and you are back on duty.
Promptly at 7PM, you begin the bedtime process.
The kids unwillingly head upstairs as your two-year-old informs you “I –on’t wan it!” when you tell him it is time for bed.
You send your three year old into her room to play while you read books to your two-year-old.
You make him smile with your funny voices at storytime.
Then you make him laugh while you tickle his feet.
You practice colors while reading some books.
Then you give him a kiss and a hug good night.
You head off to your three year old’s room to start the process all over again.
You read her her three books (because she is three years old) and answer her millions of questions as you do so… (“But Mommy, why does the mouse put the lock on the strawberry?” “So the bear won’t eat it.” “But Mommy, how come the mouse put glasses on the strawberry?” “Because he is trying to disguise it. That means he wants to trick the bear into thinking it is not a strawberry.” “Why he do that?” “Because he doesn’t want the bear to eat it.”)
Then you tell your three-year-old about all the amazing things she has ahead of her for tomorrow before giving her a hug and a kiss goodnight.
And you melt when she says, “Wait, Mommy! I love you!” before you walk out of the room.

Your day is officially done. You have survived. But before you head off to the couch to finally sit down, don’t forget about the laundry that is still not done, the last of the dishes and the fact that none of the other major household chores have been touched yet today. Just sayin’.

Not every day plays out this way. Some of these things occur on a daily basis. Others happen, but with different variations. It all depends. While this blog walks through all my motions (and some of my thoughts) from the day, it does not include all the dialogue. It doesn’t show all the interactions with my children, aside from the cooking and dressing and holding and helping. Had I included that, the blog would have been ridiculously longer. It is also not to say that EVERY stay-at-home mom has days exactly like mine. I am just giving a sample from my life. I cannot speak for every stay-at-home parent. Some are busier than me. Some are less busy. It totally depends.

My day is not impossible (though sometimes it feels like it is). It can feel never-ending. It can feel overwhelming. It is definitely both physically and mentally draining. But, it is also very rewarding. My point here is not to suggest that parents that work have it easy or something (in fact, I think they have it harder in many ways – and this is NOT at stay-at-home vs. working-mom debate). My point is just that my day is not a walk in the park. I do not sit around on the couch watching soap operas while my children run amuck. While my day might not be as academically stimulating as other professional jobs, it keeps me on my toes in a different way. Stay-at-home mom is a unique profession with extra-long hours, no built in lunch breaks (or any official breaks for that matter!), constant demands, and endless chores. This does not make it sound appealing. However, you have to consider that the day also includes baby giggles, hugs and kisses from your kids, watching their faces as they learn new things, celebrating with them as they reach new milestones, and being there to comfort them during moments of distress or frustration. It can weigh you down and make you feel so blessed, all at the same time.

So, the next time someone tells you they are a stay-at-home mom (or dad!), now maybe you’ll have better idea of just what they go through on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's not my party, but I will cry if I want to.

Today is my youngest's first birthday. It is amazing that a whole year has passed! I honestly feel like the time has flown by. I know it is very cliche to say that, but I mean it. I cannot believe the time has gone by so fast, and it's really a bittersweet feeling.

The first year is a rollercoaster experience. I am not the biggest fan of the newborn stage, to be honest. I love the newness of the baby, and I love how they are so teeny tiny and make the most adorable cooing sounds. But, I get over the sleepless nights after about the second day home. Ok fine, after the first. In addition to the constant feeling of exhaustion, there is also the consistently full sink which is stacked with bottles and bottle parts. Due to the round-the-clock eating, there is just no way to catch up. I have to say, though, that I do enjoy the part where the newborn sleeps for a majority of the day and can be carted around everywhere in the car seat -- asleep or awake! Life was so easy back when I could just take the infant car seat in and out of the car and go about our business as if Charlie were not even a person! ;) He was more like an accessory at that point! Just kidding! ;) (No, but really, though...)

Then they start to get a little older, and things start to get complicated again. Sure, I was getting more sleep since they started pulling the overnight stretch by week 7, but then life got difficult during the day. They'd be awake for longer stretches during the daytime, which you would think would be a good thing... except that their limited mobility meant they were bored easily. All my kids went through this when they were not crawling or sitting yet. They wanted to see new things and play with things, but their bodies could not coordinate with their wants, thus they'd get really cranky and annoyed all the time. This meant, I had to fill in where there muscles were lacking. Chores became harder to keep up with and the older children started to get more annoyed... "It's my turn, Mommy! Come play with me now!" But at the same time, it is so fun to watch them hit all those milestones. The rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing, cruising... there's always something new!

I love the baby stage once the kids could sit unsupported. I felt like I got back some of my independence when they mastered the ability to sit. Dishes need to get done? No problem. "Here baby, sit here with these toys while Mommy does the dishes." Done. This stage is great for that purpose. They can interact with the world have a good view on what is going on around them, yet they cannot go anywhere yet. :) This means they cannot get into much trouble, which is great for Mom! The only problem for us is that around this point is when we let go of the infant car seat. (We could have used it longer, but it starts to get very heavy lugging that big seat around with an older infant in it!) Getting out and about is more difficult since the baby needs to be held a majority of the time. Park visits are difficult (babies like to put sand in their mouths and they cannot really do anything but sit in the swing). But the down sides to this stage are masked by those adorable chubby cheeks and baby faces! By this point, the newborn alien look is gone, and they are full-blown adorable little babies. (Sorry, I think newborns look kind of weird. LOL! Even mine!)

Then life gets even more interesting when you start with the introductions of solids. In addition to feeding them bottles all day long, you are now having to sit them down for a few meals each day, too. I swear, for a while there, I felt like all I did all day long was change diapers and feed them. The food would go in and the out and then in and then out and then in and then out... and then it was bedtime. Crawling starts up and then the baby-proofing gets kicked up a couple notches, as they start to get into everything. Crawling up stairs is soon to follow, along with pulling up and then standing unsupported. It seems like they don't do any major moving for months, and then in a very short period of time, they are doing it all! Every day I would turn around to find them accomplishing a new skill. Life is so busy at this stage, because they are constantly on the go. Sure, they still nap twice a day at this point, but those naps only allow you enough time to catch up with all the chores and such that you did not get handled while they were awake (keeping you on your toes while they constantly get into trouble!).

And somewhere in between all those ups and downs, they grow from teeny little newborns to one-year-old toddlers. Just as quickly as they move through all those clothing sizes, you find yourself retiring all the baby items... first the swing, then the Exersaucer, then the Jumperoo... it all gets put away one by one as your little baby starts to fully explore the world. I was of course very excited to get all that big stuff out of my house. It does take up an incredible amount of space, let's be real. But, I think I had the hardest time with letting go of the bottles.

Why the bottles? I don't know. I guess I just looked around one day and realized that the bottles were the last of the "baby things" that had not been packed away or sold. They were the last thing sitting in the cabinet, tying us to Charlie's babyhood. We switched him off the bottle a few weeks ago, but I could not bring myself to actually remove them from the cabinet. I think it just made it all too real, that the baby stage is officially over. I had three children very close together, so while one would grow out of the baby stage, there was always another baby there to step into the role. For the first time ever, there is no one to step in, and I am having a hard time accepting this. Yesterday, I finally got enough courage to pull out a bag and remove the bottles from the cabinet. I did not throw them away, as I had always thought I would. I put them upstairs in his room for now. But I did cry for a minute or two when I took them down. I know, I am ridiculous.

So, today has finally arrived... Charlie's first birthday, and while I should be happy and celebrating his birth, I am actually feeling really depressed about it. I mean, don't get me wrong... I am looking forward to growing as a family and moving on to other exciting adventures that lie ahead. But at the same time, I feel like I am grieving the loss of a stage of life that we will never get back now that our youngest has moved past it. It's a very real, harsh reality that I thought I would be more prepared for, when in fact, I am not. If money were endless and growing on trees, I'd have more kids in a heartbeat! But unfortunately, that is not the way things work. I am trying my hardest to remind myself that there are many reasons why we decided to stop after 3 kids... but right now, none of those reasons are coming to mind. Either that, or I am forcing them to the back of my mind while I focus on how much I will miss having a baby around. In reality, we have to stop having children some time, so I will have to go through this at some point, right?

Today is a rough day for me, and although it is not my party, I will definitely cry if I want to. :-(

Monday, January 3, 2011

Where do you draw the line?

One of the parenting issues that I cannot really wrap my head around is figuring out when it is or is not OK to take your recently sick (or becoming sick) child out into the world to interact with others. It seems like it should be black and white. If they are sick, keep them home. If they are well, take them out. But any parent will tell you that it is not that simple. Kids get sick all the time, as I can tell you from firsthand experience this holiday season! Our three were sick from December 19th until now! They have not all been sick with the same things or even at the same time, but it has been an interesting few weeks to say the least.

I am just not sure at what point it is OK to throw them back into the world of playdates, school, extracurricular activities, parties, etc. The schools lay out the rules for you, but even those rules are not completely objective. Sure, there is the rule about no vomiting or fever for 24 hours (some schools even state 48 hours!). But then there are the subjective parts regarding nasal congestion levels and coughing and such. But how do you really tell when it is OK?

I have really been battling with this issue recently, and my husband and I do not always see eye-to-eye. He is definitely more liberal than I am. He thinks that as long as they are not vomiting now, it should be fine. Ok, maybe not that liberal, but you get the idea. He just doesn't think it is a big deal to take the kids out soon after they have been sick. I always get a quick, "They're fine!" from him. But, their health is not always what worries me. It's also the health of all the other kids (and adults) that will interact with ours once we leave the house.

My fear is becoming "that mom". You know, the mom who takes her super boogery child to the children's museum where she proceeds to sit back and watch as her child's green nasal discharge gets smeared all over the toys that everyone else's kids are handling... the one who does not realize that just because her child stopped vomiting a couple hours ago, it does not mean the virus has fully cleared from the child's system... And then when you mention to her a few days later that your kids are now sick with the same illness, she says something like, "Oh, well that's unfortunate, that must be around right now..." (Sidenote: I do not think any of my friends are "that mom"! I am just giving general examples! :) I don't want people to think that their kids are going to become sick from being with my kids, just because I am typically careless and rush them back into social interaction too soon. I am afraid that if we don't take the time to really evaluate the kids' health and the appropriateness for them to be around others, people will start to avoid us like the plague! Sometimes I think my husband is "that dad". :) I have to really fight him sometimes, as I think he can be too quick to rush the kids out when they are still too contagious in my eyes.

At the same time, I don't want to be know as the mom who cancels playdates and plans when her children so much as sniffle. I have seen this, too. I understand that you don't want to spread your sick child's germs all over town, but when it comes to colds, it can take a few weeks for a child to fully recover. You cannot expect everyone to keep their kids locked up in their homes until a cold clears up completely. Sure, you can choose to do that for your kids, but you cannot expect everyone else to do that. Honestly, I think that is a bit drastic. The problem with being "this mom" is that people don't want to make plans with you. Sure, you are doing your part to not get others sick, but then you become so unreliable that people don't want to deal with constant cancellations.

Sure, kids will get sick. Sometimes you can do everything in your power to keep them from getting sick and they will still get sick anyway. This is where the gray area comes in for me. I am torn between two philosophies. The first being the idea that you cannot keep your kids locked up in the house for the entire cold and flu season... the second being that you cannot take your kids out too early or you will compromise the health of everyone else.

Yesterday was my nephew's baptism and although the kids have been fighting off a cold for a couple weeks, Lucy had a bit of a cough yesterday that started that morning and Charlie had a runny nose (clear discharge, though!). I was totally not sure what to do. My husband is the Godfather, so he of course had to go, but I had to make the decision about whether or not I would take the kids. Lucy and Charlie attended all the Christmas events, but Henry missed them all due to his illness. He has since been on antibiotics and doing much, much better. Seeing that a couple weeks had gone by since the start of all this, we decided to take the kids to the baptism. For whatever reason, though, Lucy's cough became something she could not control. It was constant the whole time.

With 3-year-olds, you do not always get an appropriate, covered-mouth cough. We kept reminding her. We kept moving her away from babies or food, so she would not cough on everyone/everything! But, I still felt like "that mom", despite the fact that I knew that she is at the tail end of this cold and that her cough was a dry cough. She was getting looks from not-so-pleased guests as she coughed, and I was not sure what to do. I of course wanted to be there for this important family event, but I also did not everyone at the party to hate us if they or their children ended up sick a day or two later! I know I would end up feeling so awful especially if our nephew or his 1-year-old cousin ended up sick! Ryan of course did not think it was a big deal, but I don't know that he was really seeing all the reactions. Maybe because I am sensitive about the issue, I was more concerned about it that he was... thus, I noticed those reactions that he did not see? I am not sure.

But, it never gets any easier to make the call. We did stay for the party yesterday, and we had a great time (despite having to correct Lucy's coughing etiquette). Now we just have to cross our fingers and hope that all the other guests stay healthy. We got through the decision for this particular event, but we will most likely have to make the call at least a dozen more times before this cold and flu season is through. I just hope that others will realize that we are trying to make the best decisions we can to try to keep our germs to ourselves without locking ourselves into a bubble until March!