Why I don’t regret staying home with my children

Some years ago, there used to be a young woman. She lived in an isolated outpost with two, then three, then four small children. All day long, she took care of her kids and the household. She cooked and homeschooled, herded and milked goats, made cheese, fed chickens and gathered eggs. She took care of all the dishes, laundry, diapers, and other humdrum chores.

In between, she took her children for walks, played with them, read to them, baked with them, and sometimes even did creative things like making soap and candles.

And boy, did she fail to appreciate herself and the magnitude of work she did for her family.

As you have probably gathered, I was that woman. At the end of an exhausting day, I would sit down, wipe my brow, and tick off on my fingers: “Well, that’s two loads of laundry done, soup cooked, cheese made, baths done, floor washed, and little ones in bed. Whew! I guess I’m not completely useless.”

When I look back, I just want to give that frazzled young mom a hug and tell her, “You’re far more than adequate. You perform a staggering amount of work. You deserve a lot more recognition for all you do, as well as a long bath without anyone pounding on the door.”

Despite the financial struggles, logistic difficulties, and overwhelming loneliness of those years, I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They were precious, and children only get to be little once.

There was something magical in living in the middle of nowhere and having my children run around hills with goats, sheep, and horses. And while I hope I will never have to struggle financially and emotionally so much, I will always cherish these strolls down memory lane.

If someone out there is reading this and is in a similar situation – small children, lots of work, not much money, not much external appreciation – please value and love yourself. You deserve it and more.

The dictionary of an overworked freelancer mom, part 1

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

One of these days, I’m going to write a more serious post. Like what it’s like to live in a country that was so proud of being a vaccine pioneer and now appears to be in total shambles. Or how to save on electricity during a massive killer heat wave.

But today, it’s time for something just for laughs.

A: Advancing. Something you’re supposed to do on projects instead of browsing the biography of Elvis Presley.

B: Break. Something you should never feel guilty for taking. In fact, I guarantee that you need it.

C: Client. Someone who bombards you with emails while they need you and disappears for a month when it’s time to pay.

D: Deadline. Wait, how can it be tomorrow?! I thought I had a week.

E: Entertainment. Watching your kids chase chickens around the yard.

F: Food. Something you’re somehow supposed to come up with three times a day. You try to convince your kids leftover soup does too count.

G: Getaway. Something you daydream about nonstop.

H: Hunger. Something you feel around noon when your stomach rumbles and you recall you’ve gotten breakfast for everyone except yourself.

I: Internet. Something you rely on for your work, which tends to flop just when you’re having an important discussion over Skype.

J: Jig. Something you do when you finish a big project.

K: Kill. Something you want to do when your computer crashes.

L: Lucky. The way you feel when you open the refrigerator and see there’s still some milk left for your morning cuppa.

To be continued…

Is working from home really better for the family?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Some days, honestly, I doubt the answer.

As a mom to a bunch of young kids, working from home gives me the benefits of no commute, a flexible schedule, and the ability to work in my pyjamas at the kitchen table.

It also means, however, that I often find myself working a whacko schedule of late nights followed by early mornings and the occasional hour in the afternoon.

Whenever someone is awake, forget about productivity: distractions can propel me into making ridiculous mistakes like using info for Orange County, NC, instead of Orange County, California (true story!).

I’m always there, but I’m also not really “there”, because my eyes are glued to my laptop screen. And when the time comes to close the laptop for the day, I find it hard to disengage.

Here’s a dirty secret: when you work from home, many people consider it not working at all, even if you make pretty good money (Covid and the lockdowns changed this cultural assumption somewhat). As such, family members expect you to be always available for a phone call or a quick errand during the day and don’t understand what you mean by “busy”.

There are days when the lure of walking out of the door for a set number of hours, then coming back home to really BE at home, is almost overwhelming. Then a kid gets sick or I make a trip somewhere and see the traffic, and think that my choice of being a home-based freelance writer makes sense after all.

The ideal solution for me would probably be a designated home office (and a whole lot of help with little ones!). Until that is in the making, I’ll make do with what I have.

I’m still here

Rainy view from our balcony

Yes, I’m still here. Just bogged down with massive amounts of work – something I find hard to complain about, in the current economic climate.

I’m striving to find balance and have enough time for the kids, the house, and just to breathe.

Luckily, after weeks of enticing weather, we’re having some freezing cold, rain, hail, and a promise of snow. I’m a big fan of warm sunny weather, but hey, this is an opportunity to hole up in our cozy home and do relaxing things like reading and crafts.

Hope you’re all having a safe, warm February!

One valuable lesson I hope my children learn

Flower growing in a rock crevice: blooming in hard circumstances

I started my married life with a mortgage-free home, a husband who had a nice, stable job, and a great deal of optimism bordering on self-assurance. I mean… things were looking so great, so why would anything ever go wrong, right?

Then, for almost a full decade, I had done my best to ride out one financial crisis until another, facing the loss of the income and the house that had seemed so secure. Having chosen a remote lifestyle, I had very limited employment opportunities, a bunch of kids, no reliable transportation, and no steady internet connection. So my only available strategy was, tighten that belt… and tighten it more… until it nearly suffocated me.

I believe my great epiphany came at the moment when I was scouring the corners of my freezer for the last bit of flour to make one last loaf of bread. I was feeling utterly helpless, vulnerable, and desperate.

And I realized I don’t ever want to feel this way again. Never. Never.

Today, I am lucky enough to live in improved circumstances and enjoy wider opportunities. I’m in a safe, settled place and am successfully employed in writing and editing. But often, it still feels as though I first shot myself in the foot and then spent years trying to repair the damage.

In a few years, my older children will be starting on the road to adulthood. It’s a sobering thought; they’ll get to make their own choices – and their own mistakes. And if there’s one message I hope to convey to my kids while they are growing, it’s this:

“Don’t be afraid to envision a bright future in which all your dreams come true, but also make a Plan B in case the you-know-what hits the fan. Believe me, you don’t want to burn all your boats and then discover you’re stuck on an island.”

Though nobody like to think of unpleasant things, it’s wise to think of how you’d handle sickness, prolonged unemployment, or the breakup of your marriage. This does happen, and it’s important to have an emergency fund and employment opportunities on the back burner.

I love attachment parenting and will never regret the years when I was “just” Mom, not a freelancer juggling an intense work-from-home situation. But I’ll never forget the panicky feeling of “I need to make an income and I freakin’ don’t know how, and I’m afraid this ship is going to sink if something doesn’t change soon.”

A few years ago, a building contractor in our community, a young and healthy man, fell down from a ladder to his sudden and tragic death, leaving behind a widow and six children. The widow was devastated, but at least her established high-tech job enabled her to keep providing for her kids. Things were horrible for that family, but they could have been so, so much worse if the mom had had no education or employment opportunities.

Be safe. Protect yourself. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” had never gone wrong yet.

Our favorite rainy-day pastimes

Today, we spent the whole days indoors to the sounds of pelting rain and hail, only to climb up to the balcony in the afternoon and be rewarded by all this brilliancy – trees and rooftops freshly washed, clouds dispersing, and a glimmer of afternoon sunshine showing through.

I thought I’d share some of our favorite ways to cozy up on a too-cold, too-wet, too-windy, indoors-y day.

  1. Curl up with a book. If you know me even a little, you have probably guessed that would be a top favorite. Whether it’s a new treasure from the library or an old friend from the bookshelf, a book is always a win on a rainy day.
  2. Brew a cup of tea. Cold, rainy weather is perfect for warming teas. My favorite combos are cinnamon-cloves-nutmeg or ginger-lemon-aniseed.
  3. Pull out a board game or puzzle. We used to do that a lot by candlelight in our old home, where electricity during thunderstorms was more a pleasant surprise than something you can count on. Which brings me to…
  4. Light candles. There’s nothing like candles to brighten up a gloomy, dark day.
  5. Watch a movie or a favorite YouTube channel. I’m not a fan of too much screen time, but I do love to make dinner early and then free up an hour or two for a movie and snacks.
  6. Do crafts: my go-to is crochet, but anything goes – drawing or painting, gluing or making playdough, or going all out with modeling clay.
  7. Bake: can you think of a more perfect combo than a tray of cookies or homemade rolls, hot from the oven, and a rainstorm raging outside?
  8. Take a hot shower: now blessed to be living in an area where we can actually turn up the water heater without fearing a power outage, I love to hop into a hot shower, then into a pair of cozy pajamas, and then straight to bed.

I hope you are all enjoying the colder season – unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, of course, in which case you might be shopping for flip-flops and sunscreen while the rest of us huddle under quilts and hunt through the drawer for warm socks.

First rainy day

Rain has been a bit late to come this year, but today it fully made up for its tardiness. It poured and poured, and I was overjoyed we had taken the time to enjoy the lovely cooling weather the day before – because today, there was no poking one’s nose out of doors.

Being shut up at home made everyone get crafty. Shira whipped up this little red back warmer for one of our kittens.

Meanwhile, I improvised these cinnamon twists, sorted clothes, pulled coats, boots and umbrellas out of storage, and got the closet shelves ready for the season.

I know that some of my overseas friends are already shoveling snow, but my kids had been running around barefoot up until yesterday.

At some point, I will probably get tired of muddy boots, damp and the indoors, but for now I’m enjoying the change of seasons.