Breaking Up with Breastfeeding

So, here’s a piece of trivia about yours truly: I’ve never gone through a breakup. I married the first boy I kissed, and so I’ve never known that rite of passage, the ache and growth that comes from parting ways.

I imagine weaning is a little bit like a breakup, though. Read More »

A Little Validation

On the last night of our trip to the U.K., my sweet sister-in-law, in London on her own study abroad trip, gave me this lovely little badge from the British Museum. I wore it at the pub that night with pride and gratitude, but also with mixed feelings.

You see, our time in the U.K. also marked, with Scout’s fourth birthday, the fourth anniversary of me forfeiting any pretense of a career. What had begun as a gentle evolution — from applying for just part-time work when I got pregnant with Pippin, to taking time off from applying after Scout’s birth and a move — has over time become sort of a foregone conclusion. I had intended to find myself another Tiny Job, but with every month I didn’t aggressively apply for jobs, and as I weathered another crummy pregnancy in which I was darn grateful not to have to drag myself around a workplace, it has seemed more certain: right now, and for the foreseeable future, I’m home full-time.

We are incredibly privileged that J’s career (and a healthy dose of frugality) allows a second income to be optional. I’ve mostly been happy with this half-conscious decision. I’ve had the opportunity to homeschool Pippin, to hone my homemaking skills, to spend an hour most afternoons reading (not, despite common beliefs, a perk of the normal librarian workday). It can be frustrating that my co-workers sometimes pee on the floor, that the hours are irregular, that I don’t have a commute to clear my mind, that I just don’t feel as good at this whole SAHM thing as I did at library work, or college. The lack of feedback is most crippling: how can you tell if you’re doing a good job without grades or performance reviews?

Several semesters ago, though, J got to work on a plan with the chair of his department. They’d lead a study abroad trip to the U.K. They’d set it up so our whole family could go. J, his chair and I had all studied abroad during our own time in college and his chair, herself the mother of two almost grown-up girls, worked hard to make sure the needs of a young family figured into the planning. In the end, they even ended up securing a position for me tracking expenditures for the program.

So suddenly, here I was, huddled over a laptop with J, surrounded by receipts in the stark but spacious flat we shared near Euston Station. I was, in addition to shepherding three little kids through tube stations and world-class museums, managing student allowances and handling travel logistics. I was working. Like, a job. WITH A PAYCHECK AND EVERYTHING.

But what I came away with after our six weeks abroad (and my two paychecks) was gratitude for the choices we’ve made in the past few years, even when they’ve just been non-choices or decisions of expediency. I can’t begin to say how much I loved the program, from our kids’ delight to the satisfaction of conversations with the students, from cream tea to the pleasant ache of a ten-mile walk. And none of it would have been possible if I hadn’t opted out, if I hadn’t shelved my librarian identity for however long this season will be.

If I had had a position that wouldn’t give me six weeks off, this trip would not have been possible for our family. If I hadn’t already put thought and planning into the idea of homeschooling so Pippin could leave weeks before public schools ended here, this trip wouldn’t have happened for us. Even if we had already grown reliant on some supplementary income — from freelancing or pyramid schemes or whatever — this trip would have been a lot hairier to pull off.

To my everlasting disappointment, full-time homemaking doesn’t come with a lot of external feedback. (Which is maybe just as well, because my floor hygiene is never going to get good marks.) But this trip, this magical little season in our family’s life, will stand as validation of many of our decisions. By continuing, for now, as a home educator and homemaker, I can contribute to the family work of modeling family life for college students. As my children use the undergrads as mobile jungle gyms, as I field frankly curious questions from students just beginning to think about family planning or mom life. As I embrace the flexibility that comes with ceding career, at least for now.

Commonplace Book

 

Gladiolus on the hearth
Trying to find places all over the house to accommodate the glads that keep tipping over outside

As my mother pointed out that I hadn’t posted in a month, here’s a quick check in while the toddler shakes seed jars on my lap. We are back in the States, attempting to tame the yard, rejuvenate my sourdough starter, and find me time to write as we settle back into our routine.

What is a commonplace book? For me, this is a space where I post interesting links, reflections on what I’m reading, and the newest recipes I’ve been trying out — a collection of miscellaneous micro-posts.Read More »

Pause

I remember the golden Friday afternoons in college, the afternoons when I’d soon be on my way. I’d throw clothes and a couple textbooks in a bag, and my roommate and I would set off, through the south Georgia countryside which, in my memory, always rustles with roadside cotton. There are songs that still instantly transport me: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Jayhawks, Nick Drake. I rolled the windows down low. I was headed home, headed back to the boy I loved.

Travel was uncomplicated then, my life at college easy to put on hold. By contrast, life now is a sprawling thing. Because as it turns out, for every root you put down in a place, leaving it becomes just a little bit trickier. Read More »

Family Work

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“Have you ever asked what work your family is supposed to do together?”

It’s a question I came across this winter in Jennifer Fulwiler’s One Beautiful Dream as I recovered from a particularly nasty stomach bug. And sometimes, as on that day, the answer can be summed up succinctly: SURVIVE.

It was a striking question, because while I vacillate a lot about what work I’m supposed to do — tiny library job? pouring more of myself into writing? fully embracing this time at home? — I think I do have a sense of what our family is supposed to do together.Read More »

Baking with Little Kids

I have always let my kids help me in baking. Part of this is the oft-cited belief that picky eaters are more likely to try what they’ve helped to create (demonstrably false in my household); part of it is just that I love to bake, and I love to please my children with unhealthy things.

Along the way, I’ve found that some projects lend themselves more easily to tiny helpers. Here are some easy starting points for even the smallest kid to take real ownership:Read More »