With the trending tweet by the woman who took a Mental Health Day and how her CEO responded, I feel compelled to stand up on my tiny soap box rallying for a Mental Health Day for the young people in our lives. I haven’t written anything on here in the longest time and perhaps only 2 people will read it. But, if it can impact those 2 well then, heck yes, I am glad I wrote it.
Too many children walk around with pain, anger and hurt inside. I am not professing to have any particular answers on how to heal the hearts of children – but, I do have one suggestion for how we try to tune in to the health of our kids.
Since my oldest was in preschool, I instituted a family rule that still continues nearly 21 years later – everyone, no matter how old or how young, gets at least 1 Mental Health Day per school year.
Some Moms thoughts I was too lenient or crazy for wanting my kids home when they could be out of my hair safely in school. Others called me a Cool Mom, accusing me of trying too hard to ‘get my kids to like me’. But, truly what I was doing in my mind, was teaching my children the value in taking care of themselves.
Taking a day for yourself even as young as 4 or 5, with the caveat that they can select just one day per semester, got rid of the need to stay home from the feigned stomach ache or the crying fit over going to school (although I never totally got rid of this…). Instead, my children would save up until they really felt they needed that day to spend with me, spend doing something they wanted with alone time away from siblings, school pressures, social pressures, etc.
There have been moments in the middle school years or especially in high school, when my children have needed more than 1 mental health day and I’ve provided them with what they’ve needed. Bad days, sad days, days you just can’t face – don’t just happen to adults. If anything, the middle school or teenage years are hard. Damn hard. And, sometimes what you require is a freaking break.
What I did not do on Mental Health Days was allow my kids to wallow. No vegging in front of the tv all day. No sitting in pajamas or eating ice cream out of the container (usually). They could always sleep a little bit late, but then it was outside. Sometimes to a nice lunch. Shopping, a movie day, craft project together or trip downtown. I found that on these special days together they opened up, shared what was in their heart. Remembered to take a moment and enjoy life while knowing their friends were sitting in class. Once Snapchat rolled around, trying to make their friends jealous of Mental Health Day was immediately outlawed as well.
So often when my kids come home from school they plop down and plug in. Or, they go up to their rooms for some down time. These opportunities to talk just don’t present themselves in the daily hustle and bustle of life and sometimes, stress or anxiety can go missed or stay hidden inside.
During one of my daughter’s middle school years, I was driving to her Mental Health Day outing and she just randomly burst into tears. It was so bad we had to pull over to the side of the road. She was holding on to some serious social stuff at school and in that moment it just needed to come out. She literally sobbed her way through some stories. When it was over, she looked so relieved to let that pain go and I was so grateful for the opportunity to present itself.
We’ve had times I am not ashamed to say, my children have required more than just a Mental Health Day to deal. Some problems required professional or educational help, others just time and patience. But, these days have become valuable barometers for me to check in with my kids one-to-one.
Mental Health Days are not a joke. They’re above truancy or cutting school or Ditch Days (although my kids like to lovingly refer to them as that because they know it annoys me). Even healthy, well-adjusted kids need time to rebalance themselves, sleep, breathe, laugh, sometimes cry and most importantly, just be. It’s our jobs to give them the time and space to do so.
I have been in the same job now for nearly 19 years. Through recessions, upticks in the economy, rainy days and long summers – my job has endured.
Like any interesting job no 2 days are exactly the same. It is a job that I love and am ready to quit at the same time. I have wanted to ask my boss for a bonus, a mental health day, some time off – but, unfortunately I am employed by 4 little (and not-so-little) selves. Don’t dare ask me what I do all day, for you won’t want the diatribe of answers.
My job is a SAHM. (Stay-at-home-Mom for those not in the ‘know’).
I am sure by now, some other SAHM have read and shared the dad’s blog to end all blogs where he puts a price on a his wife’s value. I read it and applauded in my head, but this blog was no news to me. My husband and I have argued for some time over whether what I do is actually a job versus a ‘life choice’. He, afraid to insult me, always thought it was nicer to say ‘life choice’ to stay home with my kids. I, however, insist that this is a real job – one that is constantly changing and one that I am both proud of and ready to scream over, depending on the day.
Why is it so important for me that this gig is a ‘real job’? Well, I do have another gig. I am a writer. I write blogs, content for websites and pieces for a local magazine. That gig pays. Not tremendously, but it does. This work is more of a hobby, a passion, a brain challenge that I enjoy. But, my life’s work – my proudest work – is in helping my family grow and sustain itself.
No, groceries and laundry are not glorious. No, chauffeuring my kids from school to art class isn’t exciting or even life-changing. However, this SAHM job also affords me the opportunity to both impact and be impacted by 4 of the most fabulous people I’ve ever met. This job allows me the opportunity to speak to my partner about rich topics that affect lives, the economy, the future, the real estate market, and our community. No other job on the planet gives you all of that and more.
Being a SAHM is a blessing. It’s not something that every mother gets the opportunity to do or even to enjoy. I have friends who insist they couldn’t find value in doing it all day. I have other friends who insist that staying on their career path is their goal in addition to mothering. I do not judge. I do not begrudge anyone from following their life’s work or their passions. I just know that for me – just me – this is what I was put on Earth to do and do well.
I see that my job description is once again changing. Next fall, my youngest will be in school until nearly 4 pm. “What will you do all day!” I hear from others in my boat. A common freak attack we SAHMs have right about every August. (who’s with me?!)
Well, what will I do? I will grow my writing business focusing on the parts of it I love best and continue to make money while doing something I enjoy. I will nurture my passions and follow up on some lost threads I left dangling when I was too busy climbing up the ladder of SAHM with babies. And, in my new role my hours will change, not disappear. I will continue to do projects that motivate me. I will get together with friends and reconnect after all the time we’ve spent hibernating in our houses with children. I will experience what days are like filled with empty possibilities and be ready to take a 1 am phone call from a teen abroad or answer a 3 am moan and groan from an ill middle schooler. My new hours will begin at 4 pm. I will continue to be available for school trips, sick days, phone calls from school and vacations. I will be present with my children when they talk (or text), instead of preoccupied with lists or wound up toddlers running amuck in my house. I will have time to provide nice, nutritious meals – those ones that I always look at and say I’ll make later in life. Now, is later in life.
Yes, my job is changing. I will be delivering my oldest to a dorm room this fall, instead of the steps of the first day of school. I will kiss his cheek and remind him about healthy food choices, watch him roll his eyes at me and beam with excitement. I will set my soon-t0-be-junior in high school on a path for college choices and dreaming big as she learns to drive a car, instead of waving to her on the school bus. I will watch my middle schooler braid her own hair, devise her own style and make her own sandwiches instead of me doing those things for her. And I will watch my baby sit at her first desk, get her first prayer book and continue to watch her learn and grow all over again.
These parts of my job – developing free-thinkers, do-it-yourselfers, chefs, drivers, motivators and contributors are the absolute best parts of my life. These are moments no other job can provide. These are my bonuses. My mental health days. My time-off. I have earned these hours to reflect, to write, to think and to be. As CEO/SAHM of this family – It’s time to reap the rewards of all the hard work.
As we’re all scrubbing, listing, shopping and for some, packing, I remind myself that Passover is actually one of my favorite holidays. For those who cannot see the rainbow in the cloud of chaos and money spending – here’s a gentle reminder of 5 reasons Passover is my favorite holiday.
Rejiggering Inevitably it happens. I begin a simple cleaning of a space and next thing I know, I am moving a desk here, a rug there, pushing a bed across a room. Passover cleaning turns into a rejiggering of all my spaces. It’s sort of a literal and figurative refocusing. I toss old clothing, go through that shelf of old books and begin attacking that pile of papers I’ve been holding off touching. Yes, I am aware this is not the point of Passover cleaning. I don’t even recommend it to my friends. But, for me it’s cathartic and leads right to #2 below.
Payoff There is something about Passover that always makes me feel the true meaning of ‘job well done’. When it comes to cleaning and cooking, I am often lazy. I’ll happily grab a shortcut. If I’m going to have to do hard manual labor well, there has to be a payoff – and it better be a good one. When I sit down at the Seder and look around my table I always end up so grateful for the gifts we have. I am surrounded by family, good food and a lengthy (sometimes too lengthy!) amount of tradition that allows me the chance to feel fulfillment in all those weeks of organizing hard work. I have prepped weeks for this and there is something in that moment at the first seder that I feel full – emotionally and spiritually. The key for me not to feel angry or overwhelmed is really in a learned mind trick. I typically aim to be ready the day prior to the actual holiday. If I accomplish this goal that means the day of, I can just focus on a little jaunt out with my daughters to do our nails, setting up the table and sort of relaxing. There have been some years I did not accomplish the day before, and that has led me to a much more stressful and unhappy beginning to my favorite holiday.
Tradition Judaism is chock-full of every day traditions. But, Passover is the ultimate in hands-on. A tangible holiday that revolves around the children when so many revolve around shooing or hushing the children. I love to find ways to incorporate the fun in my fun-ctional Passover. As it is all about the children, I find myself being excited again as well. Maybe its the former teacher in me, perhaps its the Mommy in me or it could also be the dormant laziness I sometimes participate in other holidays – but, Passover revives me as a Jewish person. It’s out loud conversation about where we came from and how we got here. A time where talking about our history and connection to one another is discussed, analyzed and even sang about. A holiday where we are focused on enjoyment and freedom rather than the ‘do not dos’ and the ‘must not touch’.
Food No good holiday comes without a massive amount of food consumption. Like I said, I’m lazy when it comes to food and I love shortcuts. What shorter cut is there than deleting half of the ingredients I normally use! Creating simpler meals, a stronger focus on the green vegetables and the proteins, I find I actually eat healthier and happier on Pesach (minus my must-do matzo brie). I minimize my matzo intake (hello, stomach aches we not-so-lovingly call “Matzo babies”). It’s the one holiday throughout the year I tend to lose weight, rather than gain.
Family Although this will be our first Passover without our oldest, as he’s staying abroad, I am reminded of many years of all of us together as a family when I dig into our Passover boxes. There is something emotional about that moment I uncover those bins and find memories literally falling all over me. Projects each of my children made, the dozens of Matzo covers and cups of Elijah that come pouring out of their spots. Pages and pages of coloring, half-glued matzos hanging on by a thread from their construction paper. Each one a treasure only visited for a few days a year. The amassed Passover dishes and knick knacks I have collected and added to each year, remembering the fear of that first Passover I made myself. Even those memories of Passover as a child fighting over a treasured fork and knife. This is the reason, the true reason I love it. My family memories that are growing each year. Even if all of us cannot be together, there will still be remnants of them at our table and in my heart, forever.
So while Purim or Succot (and if you ask my kids, I’m sure it’s Chanukah) might be your #1, Passover for me is the ultimate. Bring on the Matzo brie!
For years, I fought the sports circuit in my home as I slowly accepted becoming a football widow. After nearly 20 year of marriage I finally figured out that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Anything fun deserves good food and good people – so I have worked on some ideas that can keep all of us munching and engaged (sort of) all game long. Check out the end of this post for a free printable!
Here are some yummy snacks and ideas you can prep with your kids to make Super Bowl Sunday almost as exciting as Daddy makes it out to be… If you’re on a diet, don’t ‘do’ calories or just like’ fork and knife’ food, you can stop reading right now. Otherwise, carry on and wait 3 days before stepping on a scale.
Table ambience sets the tone for any party. A football field tablecloth is a great idea and makes clean up a breeze. The kids could have a lot of fun with this project.
Chips & Dip No party, football or otherwise, is complete without a good chip and dip. Here we have an easy to do, yet impressive, 7-layer dip. You can easily sub Tofutti Sour Cream for the dairy here. Cheese can be subbed with non-dairy or skipped altogether.
Here’s 1 more way to serve your chips. This one would be a great project for the kids earlier in the day. All you need are lunch bags and duct tape (leftover from your tablecloth project!). They could even personalize the bags for their guests.
Wings are a must-have at any football occasion (see sweetie, I learned well!) and these will not disappoint. Pop em under the broiler for a last second to give them an authentic browning on top. You can adjust the heat to do half a batch for the kids and then pop in more hot sauce after for the real men at your party.
Pulled Chicken Sammies are delicious and so easy to make. I have used a lazy rotisserie chicken and some BBQ sauce in a pan. Plop it on yummy buns and you’re good to go. Wanna a fancier version? This one is also super yummy and crockpot friendly.
Facon – Let’s talk Kosher Bacon. Some think it’s gross, others think you will die from the fat content. I, however, think anything wrapped in facon just tastes Mmmmmm. So here is a yummy little recipe for Chicken wrapped in Facon. Use either mayo or Tofutti cream cheese in place of the dairy here. You will not be disappointed.
Corn Dogs are one of our all-time favorites. But, they are super fattening and a pain to make. That’s where these little guys come in a win the vote for best little corn dog muffin, ever. Did I say, ever? Seriously – these are always a hit with the kids and adults alike. I use soy milk in place of dairy here.
Drinks like beer and kid’s root beer are always on the menu. But, if you’re in the mood for a kid-friendly project here’s a great one. You can easily use Mountain Dew, green Gatorade or any green drink you’d like.
Anything covered in chocolate is my friend. Add in a football and you’re superbowl ready to go. Here’s 2 yummy looking football desserts to throw on your table.
If you are insane, like some of my ‘fancier’ friends you can give one of these Buzzfeed ridiculous stadium snacks a try. They are really for the artsy fartsy football wives and I refuse to ever give in that much. But, if you make one please do send it to me J Here are directions for an easy way to make this if you’re really needing the ooohs and aaahs of your guests!
Printable Bingo Keeps things fun and interactive for bored little kiddies that could whine during the game. Print this out prior, get some football stickers at the party store and let them have fun! Click here for the printable.
In sending off my son to his year abroad and with his 18th birthday coming this week, my mind has been swirling with many thoughts and memories. In all this nostalgia I have come to a realization – our children teach us nearly as much, if not more than we teach them.
I have had many conversations over the years with one of my best friends about our two oldest. As I’m 2 years ahead of her in parenting, I have discovered that much of parenting children is figuring out their ‘story’. They don’t come with a chapter list or a prologue or any much direction at all. It is often up to us to wait and see how they act, how they interact, how they grow. You have an image in your mind how you’d love them to turn out and then, surprise! They make different choices, don’t like what you expect them to and of course, they reserve the right to even change those things you thought you’d figured out.
My confident oldest has taught me tremendous patience and understanding. Living life with a non-conforming attitude he has always been his own person. So wickedly smart, he often has proven my wrong on more than one occasion. A practical, minimalist personality – my oldest has tenacity and dedication to living life to its fullest without hesitation or anxiety.
My next in line, beautiful and sweet has taught me that you should never underestimate your child. She had always been a shyer, quieter little girl. She barely said a word until 3. She did not speak much at school to the point where I had her teachers log when she did actually speak. I have a notebook filled with one-word answers and short questions to prove to myself there was nothing wrong. I had expected that when it came time to speak at her Bat Mitzvah she would shy away from the opportunity. Surprisingly, she stepped up to the plate. She prepared a beautiful speech delivered with such poise and confidence both my husband and I were blown away.
Our middle daughter, the one with the dimples that could make any heart melt, has taught me empathy. In the third grade her teacher called me with a lump in her throat as she read a beautiful letter my daughter had written in class. The assignment was to share what one would do with a million dollars. My daughter wrote that she would give it to a little boy in the first grade that she barely knew. She wanted to give it to him because he has autism and she wanted him to buy new toys and things that would make him happy. She notices when others are sad and feels deeply.
Our baby. Our precious icing on the cake, has taught me that no matter what the ‘norms’ are you can and should buck them. A raven haired and green eyed beauty that has a passion for Tonka trucks, race cars and Ken dolls seems to be the life of the party with the boys in Kindergarten. While I spent much of preschool a nervous wreck that she wasn’t wearing sparkles and pink like the other little girls, I have come to love her will to do what she loves – regardless of what a ‘pink toy aisle’ represents for the girls.
These are just the very tip of the iceberg, of course. Parenting is a constant teaching tool that doesn’t end when they leave the nest. I am now learning how to let go, give space, step in as needed and love from afar. I am excited to see how parenting will continue to grow and change and affect our lives. In the meantime, I’m just sitting back and enjoying the textbook lesson by lesson.