Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kids and Babysitters: Work-At-Home Mommy Fail, or the One Best Thing?

Today I did something that I’ve managed to avoid doing for the past few years: I asked a friend to watch my kids for the day so I could work. Here’s my question to all of you out there. Is this a work-at-home mom fail, or a better solution for everyone?
On One Hand…
When I started working from home, it was because I wanted a way to slip a little more flexibility into my schedule and spend time with my kids. And yes, to keep the little monsters out of daycare. Until that point we’d had some great sitters, but we’d also had some pretty awful ones. So the idea of being able to work at home while the kids ran around the house was a good one. And for the last five years, we’ve made it work.
Oh sure, there have been plenty of weekends when I’ve had a full plate and I’ve “asked” my husband to keep an eye on them for the day so I could sneak out and write an article in peace. But he’s their dad. That’s what he’s there for. And since we both work from home, I consider that fair trade for all the days I’ve sat in the children’s museum or in a booth at Chuck E. Cheese (or, on one memorable occasion, under a tree at the wading pool) with my laptop on my lap trying to write so he’d have a quiet house in the middle of the afternoon.
Because really, when you’ve got three kids, when does quiet really happen anyway?
Looking back, there may have even been a couple of times the kids were sent to grandma’s or my sister-in-law’s to play for the afternoon so I could have a couple of hours of peace to wrap up a project. But for the most part, I’ve managed to run herd on the herd while still getting it done. Until today.
Today, my to-do list was so overwhelmingly long, with the promise of having to prep for days off in the not-too-distant future lurking overhead, that I cracked. I needed eight uninterrupted hours, so I asked a friend if she’d keep an eye on them while I got some things done. No, it’s not quite the same as hiring a babysitter. And I’m taking her kids tomorrow as fair trade. But a small part of me can’t help but point out that by sending them to a “sitter”, I’ve caved on one of the most important caveats of being a work-at-home mom: Staying home so the kids can too.
On the Other Hand…
There’s always an on the other hand, isn’t there? On the other hand, being a work-at-home parent isn’t the same as being a stay-at-home parent, and anyone who tries to convince you that it is either doesn’t work full time and can squeeze their work hours around their kids’ nap and bedtimes or is still fairly new to the game.
The simple truth is, when I’m working, no matter where I’m working, my full attention isn’t on my kids. Sure, I keep an ear out for blood. If we’re out and about I make sure to pop my head up every once in a while to make sure they’re doing all right. But the real focus of my attention is on the screen in front of me, and I sometimes feel like they’re missing out because of that.
When I’m working, even if I’m sitting right there, I’m not really engaging with my kids. I’m not reading with them, even if they’re curled up on the couch reading right next to me. I’m not coloring with them, even if they’re sitting at the table with their coloring books and crayons only a foot away from the USB connector on my headset. I’m not playing ball with them, even though I’m sitting in the grass keeping a half an eye on the proceedings while I type up this week’s blogs.
While that’s okay some of the time, I don’t want that to become the norm. Which is why I try so hard to keep them out and about and actively engaged in something while I’m trying to put a dent in the day’s to-do list, why I try to make sure I do as much work as possible when the kids are in bed, why I’m totally cool with it if they want to have company over to play during the day so they’re not solely entertaining themselves…
…and yes, why I think it’s a good thing for parents who work from home to get a sitter every once in a while so that someone’s out there giving their kids their undivided attention when they can’t.
Parents, what do you think? Would you hire a sitter for your kids if you were working from home?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Asthma, Inhalers and Allergies, Oh My!

The calendar might say we're well past the beginning of summer, but the wad of pollen in my back yard says that spring is still sticking its nose in here and there.
For most people, that means fun filled months of swimming, camping and kicking the kids out the door every chance they get. At our house, that means it’s time to take out stock in Benadryl, because I’m going to spend the next three months doling out more sneeze-blockers-in-a-cup than the average pharmacy. And getting used to having an inhaler-shaped lump in each pocket. And turning down party invitations because the kids are sprawled across the living room with the nebulizer mask in one hand and a box of tissues in the other.
Okay, that’s a little overdramatic. Ish. But when you have three kids with seasonal allergies, two with mild asthma and one with a deep, personal attachment to the bright orange plastic on his inhaler that leads to it needing to be sprung every time things just start getting good, spring takes on a whole new meaning.
Living with Asthma
If you’re one of those parents who has had a kid with severe asthma since the day they were born, please stop by the comments section and tell me how you do it. Mr. A, my oldest, is the king of respiratory infections, but post-surgical pneumonia last year kicked the mild asthma he’s had since he was a baby into full gear and it’s driving me insane.
If you’re new to the asthma game, however, I’m happy to share the teeny, tiny handful of information I’ve got in my hands (and am using to keep my sanity afloat).
Rule Number One: Never will I ever leave the inhaler at home.
I don’t care if they’ve been perfectly fine for months, you’re only going to be gone for an hour and there isn’t a trigger in sight. The next attack is sitting there. Lurking. Waiting for the minute you drop your guard.
Yes, I speak from personal experience. Last year, our local Broadway League put on “Wicked”. I packed up Princess C, her godmother, her godmother’s husband and her favorite auntie and we braved the elements to check it out. She’d been healthy for months. Her asthma never kicks up when she’s not sick. Want to guess what happened in the car on the way home thanks to a quick jog down a cold street?
Rule Number Two: Using an inhaler and/or nebulizer without decongestants, antihistamines and whatever else you’re using to control the triggers is a waste of your time.
Don’t just accept that your kid has asthma, no matter how simple that diagnosis might seem. Understand what causes it, then take action to prevent while you treat. Otherwise, you can mainline steroids and albuterol until the cows come home. It doesn’t matter. You’re still going to be doing it again two hours later.    
Rule Number Three: Don’t assume that the doctor knows what they’re talking about. I adore my pediatrician. As a matter of fact, with a few notable exceptions, I’ve adored all my pediatricians. But nobody knows your child better than you. If something doesn’t feel just right, don’t be afraid to push. Pick up the phone. Ask annoying questions. A good doctor won’t mind, and a doctor that minds won’t matter.
Rule Number Four: Be willing to change your plans. Asthma attacks happen. Usually at the worst possible moment. Almost always when you have someplace else you need to be. Be willing to change your plans so your child can get the rest they need when their asthma’s acting up. That way you have one asthma attack a day instead of four or five.
Rule Number Five: LEARN. You are your child’s best chance of managing to have asthma and a life at the same time. Learn. Understand their condition, what triggers it, how you can tell they’re having an attack and what brings it back under control. Then plan accordingly. An ounce of prevention can go a long way toward helping them learn to live with asthma instead of watching their childhood pass them by.