I shared in my last post that our family goes to Santa Barbara for my husband’s work trips about once a year. We use the time to visit family and friends, but the main purpose is work, which means a lot of things are out of our control. We’ve had to troubleshoot quite a lot over the years, so let me share some of the unique challenges we’ve had and how I’ve reframe how I think about work travel generally.
Tag: stay at home mom
My family makes trips to Santa Barbara for work and to see friends and family once or twice a year. My husband still works remote for the university and when we first moved to Modesto we were optimistic that our visits would be well-timed, quick, and fun. But we are well into the third calendar year of the pandemic and none of the trips have been very well-timed or convenient, but there have been lots of moments for fun.
I’m excited to document what it’s like to travel and do an extended stay with a young family. This is a unique type of travel because it’s not a vacation! These trips are typically open-ended, meaning we don’t know when we can return home and have to extend the stay one day at a time to fit the needs of Nick’s work. Our last two trips were 8 and 11 days long, but were projected to be 5 and 7 days long, respectively.
My partner puts in much longer hours on these trips, around 10 hours, but it’s not out of the question for him to do a 12 hour day. When working from home he works a typical 8-5. His trips might loom on the horizon for months, but we never know the precise dates until a week or so before, which makes planning really hard. (He’s had to take emergency trips solo, too, as it’s just the nature of his job.) It’s also important to remember that usually I am not solo-parenting at home, but it feels that way on the trip. We live out of a hotel room, have one car, sometimes have to keep up with school, and have had very limited access to services during the pandemic (no housekeeping and no room service).
Tips for doing extended stays with a family:
1. Buy your food from the grocery store, and only eat out when you must or when it’s been planned.
It’s expensive and emotionally and physically taxing to eat every meal out, particularly with little kids who don’t want to wait or sit still, and those with food allergies. Generally, I don’t think eating out at restaurants with my kids is fun. There, I said it. Now you know I’m not a cool mom.
I shared previously that I’ve been listening to the podcast Happier with Gretchen Rubin. Usually I’m obsess over a blog or a book to get my inspiration or motivation fix, but I love the portability of a self-help podcast. It feels extra efficient! I also really like the sisterly banter between Gretchen and her sister, Hollywood writer/producer Elizabeth Craft. I think it can be very discouraging when you’re trying to work on yourself and the people you’re reading/listening to are preaching and make it seem like they have it all figured out, but Gretchen and Elizabeth don’t do that. In fact, they give themselves demerits and gold stars at the end of each episode, and I find that very relatable.
Here are my five favorite lessons I’ve learned from Happier with Gretchen Rubin:
I’ve been revisiting some of my Pins about parenting and motherhood, and one blog post really struck a nerve. Allison over at Our Small Hours wrote Tips for the Introverted Mom and I found it very useful to help me name the frustration I’ve been feeling lately.
I discovered in the last few years that I am an introvert. Even though I enjoy being social, I become very worn out when I have to interact with people for extended periods of time. In my former job I got to strike a good balance of working independently and working one on one with students and colleagues. It was always those independent blocks of time that I relied on to get me through the day. I don’t get many of those alone hours now that I’m a stay at home parent. Usually I’m able to power through, but sometimes it’s a real challenge. When I feel my patience wearing thin, I say things I don’t truly mean or I speak in an irritated tone.
We all have situations at home or work that can really try an introvert’s patience. If your’e an introvert, here are some tips for finding respite.
I developed this really awesome editorial calendar for myself and I managed to stick to it for two whole weeks. Then yesterday I had a post about DIY foaming hand soap almost ready to go and life just sort of got in the way, as it so often does with me. I forgave myself as my head hit the pillow at 11:24 PM and swore I’d get up in the morning and finish it up and hit publish.
But my mornings this week have been unusual, and I can only partially blame my toddler The electrician, county inspector, and HVAC people have been so prompt (I’m talking 7:30 when they say 8), but it’s definitely made the mornings feel less than normal. We’re still pretty much in the thick of the moving in process. Stuff isn’t where it’s supposed to be. It’s hard to develop routines or get back to business as usual when nothing my house doesn’t feel like my home yet.
The chocolate stash hasn’t made its way to the pantry, and that led Rory to discover a See’s Easter chocolate bunny and bring it to bed to share with us at 7 AM. Up until a few days ago I couldn’t find measuring cups or spoons, which is why I’ve avoided cooking and we’ve eaten mostly sandwiches and breakfast. The curtains that did get hung up are two inches too long so I can’t run the Roomba without them getting chewed up, hence my very dusty floor.
Gone are the days where I could plop Rory in the pack n play for a bit with toys. He’s officially learned how to climb out of the damn thing. So I’ve been relying on Sesame Street and the iPad to entertain him and keep him safely distracted. I always feel like I’m on a slippery slope with media though, because when he gets too much of it he’s crabby, distracted, and can’t seem to stay engaged with anything. And when Sesame Street is on a loop I can’t help but hear the words to all those catchy songs and internalize them. I find myself inwardly singing What Makes U Useful or Are you cool dot cool? And that’s when I realize I AM LOSING MY COOL DOT COOL.
Stay at home parenting is a lonely pursuit. You don’t have coworkers you can bitch to about the (little) people you’re serving. The pay is shit. Literally. It’s not always easy to find or build community. Often, you don’t know if you’re talking to someone who can (or wants to) relate about being in the trenches until you’ve already spilled your guts and they look at you like you’re ungrateful for the privilege of being a stay at home parent or they step up with support and match your war story with one of their own.
I don’t regret the choice I made to move 350 miles, or my choice to leave my job, or my choice to have a family in my thirties. But I do regret that I haven’t found my niche yet, my squad (ugh),
my tribe (feels like appropriation, sorry), my friend circle that I can call or text whenever I need a moment to blow off steam. Sometimes I just need to vent. The DIY soap piece can wait.
I’ve listened to many podcasts and read blog posts recently that have really struck a chord with me. Though their messages were a little different, they essentially boil down to the same thing: As busy adults we have the right to claim time for ourselves, to be unproductive and unplugged, to pursue creative talents, to dabble in a hobby, to unburden ourselves from side-hustling, and stop worrying about the state of our homes. But how do we square this with the messages about “adulting”? Whether you use the word ironically or detest it, adulting still aptly describes the way adults spend most of their waking hours—working and performing other essential responsibilities. I say most, because there are those little stolen minutes or hours that we may use doing something shameful according to society/your parents/journalists/the media/politicians/you fill in the blank. The shameful stuff I’m talking about are the unproductive hours consuming media, engaging in hobbies or skills we can’t or don’t want to monetize, performing self-care, or just generally not engaging with culture the same way previous generations did (gambling in Las Vegas, eating at chain restaurants, golf, the list goes on).
I’m not making the argument that using the term adulting means I’m looking for affirmation for being a grown up, and I don’t want to rule out my dream of being a mermaid either, but I do want to address the guilt people feel, particularly women, when they spend any amount of time not attending to their careers, family obligations, and homes—all in the domain of adulting.
Last week we took a family trip to Santa Barbara. Nick had to do some work at his office, and we wanted a getaway and a chance to catch up with family and friends. We ate well, laughed a lot, and spent quality time with loved ones. In short, it was awesome. I want to bottle up the feeling of vacation and bring it home with me, which is why I’ve been mulling over the idea of creating a bucket list of summer activities.
Part of me hates the idea of committing to yet another list. I’ve been listening to the Happier podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft for a bit, and Gretchen’s idea of designing your summer really spoke to me. You can listen to her talk about it here and here. Rather than create a list of things I have to do, I’m making a plan to do some things I can’t wait to do.
Recently I wrote about my dress dilemma, and it really helped me clarify some of my insecurities about myself and my wardrobe. I can happily report that I did wear my boho shirt dress to Rory’s party, and for the most part I did feel confident about the look. The weather was all over the place that day—it started out hot and humid and then later was very overcast and cool—it was the perfect outfit. I did get compliments, and it made me acknowledge that it’s okay to have insecurities about my legs and still wear things that show them off anyway.
I’ve been living with my spring capsule since the beginning of the month, and it hasn’t really changed too much in structure, but it has grown a bit. I started off with less and realized that I was pulling quite a few items from storage because of weather issues, activities, and for practicality. I think we are experiencing a true spring in northern California, and to be honest, I find it a little jarring after so many years of drought.
I really like using the Unfancy capsule wardrobe planning worksheet because it reminds me to plan my wardrobe with specific events in mind. So far I’ve celebrated Rory’s birthday, Easter, had a girls only wine tasting trip to Healdsburg, and gone on a day trip to Yosemite. In May we have Mother’s Day, my husband’s birthday, and mine. I really need my wardrobe to do a lot.
Life has been moving quickly. We’ve been doing the house hunt for over two months, and we finally have an accepted contract!
The whole process has been nothing but a series of ups and downs. There is nothing like the high of finding a house that could be your home if only you can get it. There’s also nothing like the low of making a solid offer and finding out yours hasn’t been selected. It’s easy to get discouraged, but along the way there were also little blips of excitement. We were back-up offers on two houses, and both houses were slated to fall out of escrow. We crossed our fingers and prayed. The first time it didn’t pan out, but the second time it did.
I was reveling this morning about how far we’ve come, and I got so overwhelmed. My heart started pounding and my vision started to narrow. I thought, did I drink to much coffee? And maybe I had, but I knew that what I was feeling was anxiety. When I’m anxious I can’t think straight. I might have a list of ten things to do, but I can’t figure out how to prioritize them and I lack the motivation to start. When I’m anxious I want to escape, but I don’t have anywhere to go for privacy in this (currently three generational) house. When I’m anxious I feel lost, and I start to question all of my life decisions.
It’s already February, but I didn’t want to let that stop me from posting about my winter capsule wardrobe. Back in December I started working on my capsule by filling out Unfancy’s worksheets, and decided that this should last me through the month of March. I moved in late January to a colder and rainier region and had to revamp my capsule a bit, and this is the result.