Multi-tasking: A mom’s best friend and worst enemy

I’ve always been a multi-tasker. I remember working at a fast food restaurant during my high school years. I felt completely superior to the guys because I could simultaneously refill someone’s drink, take a new customer’s order, and restock the shelves while they all looked at the to-do list and tried to process it. Today, I can type this post one-handed while my son sleeps in my lap and I grab a blanket with my feet. My husband can’t even carry on a conversation while he looks for his keys.
I guess that’s not totally fair. I’m sure there are some men who can multi-task. But for the most part, men compartmentalize their lives and seem to focus on one thing at a time. This is a good trait when it comes to parenting. When you parent, your child should be the sole focus of your attention at that time. Unfortunately for me, it isn’t always that way.
I work full-time every day as a high school teacher. I am fortunate that I get off around 2:30 or 3:00 every afternoon and that I have the evenings to spend with my son and husband. However, it doesn’t leave much “me” time. I don’t mean “me” time like time to get my nails done or time to soak in a hot bubble bath—both of which would be nice from time to time, though. I simply mean time to check my email, time to watch the latest Cupcake Wars episode, time to grade a paper, time to pee in peace.
What’s the solution to the lack of “me” time? Multi-tasking. As working moms, we all do it. While we cook dinner, we give our children pots and pans and whisks and wooden spoons and let them bang away next to us. We’re making dinner while we play with our kids. Sort of. Multi-tasking. While we walk the baby in the stroller, we might return some important phone calls to people we rarely get to speak to anymore. Multi-tasking. Recently, my multi-tasking hit an all-time low.
Picture this: you’ve just received a Christmas gift in the mail that is way too small for your growing child. There’s no gift receipt, but it’s clearly from a particular store, so you hope they’ll cut you some slack. You get the diaper bag ready, you change the baby, you put the baby in the car seat and you’re ready to go. Wait, you forgot to put shoes on. You go into your bedroom and you come out to see your newly mobile eight-month-old climbing out of the carseat (which you set precariously high on a piece of furniture—shame on you) and you catch him just in time. “Oops,” you think to yourself. “I must have forgotten to strap him in.” You strap him in, put on your shoes, and you’re off to the store. You get to the store, you get out of the car, you get the stroller out of the trunk because this is one of those non-kid-friendly stores without suitable shopping carts, changing stations, etc. You put the baby in the stroller, hand him a toy to play with, make sure he is tied in tight, and take the box of clothes in to exchange.
Everything sounds okay, right? Taking care of a baby, returning something to a store. Not too bad. Stay-at-home-moms have to run errands with their kids all the time. Well, it gets better. Let’s say after you receive store credit, you decide, “Hey, I’m a working mom and I don’t usually have time to shop. I’m going to take advantage of this and spend the store credit now. I’ll just buy a pair of jeans.” Your child is being so good in the stroller that you grab multiple pairs of jeans and approach the fitting room. You try one on—eh, too tight. You try another one on—eh, too long. Then you try one pair on that seems to fit just right. “Okay, I’m done,” you decide. Just then, the baby starts fussing. He doesn’t normally fuss, so you hush him, give him a different toy, and try to speed up the process of putting clothes back on hangers. When he fusses some more and arches his back—your absolute favorite gesture—you decide to undo his straps. First, you unlatch the barrier keeping him from getting out of the stroller. Because you’re dumb, rushing and multi-tasking. With his arms free, he leans forward and grabs at a toy. You quickly take off the new jeans, grab your old ones, and in that split second, you hear it: a loud thud followed by a blood-curdling scream.
That’s right, folks. My son’s first “booboo” happened. In public, no less. Because I was multi-tasking, and I forgot to leave the tray down so he couldn’t wiggle or climb out. And because undoing his straps was more convenient at the moment then taking him in my arms to calm the fussing.
Panic set in. My son is not a crier but at this point, tears streamed down his face, the rug burn on his forehead grew redder and redder, his voice got louder, and strangers knocked on the door of the fitting room. God. Is he okay? Did he injure his neck? Does he have a concussion? What do I do? So worried. So embarrassed.
Lady #1: What happened? Lady #2: Should I call someone? Lady #3: I’m a nurse. Don’t let him sleep for at least an hour.
I’m proud of myself for one thing: I did not cry. I held my baby, soothed him, listened to all of my unwanted visitors and asked the employee of the store for a cold compress. When I got into the parking lot, I burst into tears, called my husband who is ever-so-forgiving, and made an immediate appointment with the doctor. “Babies are made to bounce,” the doctor said. My son laughed. Some Neosporin and a Toy Story bandage, and everything got a little better.
There is nothing like the first time your baby falls. Everyone always tells you it will happen, you see shows like Modern Family making fun of how the parents are more frantic than the children. But you never understand how it can affect you until it happens to you. Especially when it’s your own fault. My son cried for probably 10-15 minutes, which felt like an eternity. I cried for like an hour. I cried in the doctor’s office. Guilt. Worry. Stupid multi-tasking working mom.
It’s really difficult to stomach the realization that you cannot always protect your children. In this instance, I definitely could have and should have prevented my son from falling. But from getting sick? From bullies? From getting hurt while he stays with his abuela when I’m at work? I’m helpless. I can’t always be there.
But I came to one productive realization during this trauma. My days as a successful mult-tasker have come to an end. If I can’t give 100% to something at the moment because I’m with my son, then I suppose it’ll just have to wait.

William’s Lullabies

When Will was very little, he liked movement. I would pace the house with him every evening to calm him and get him to fall asleep. During those precious moments, I would sing to him. I sang whatever songs came to mind, and those songs have become his soundtrack. He reacts when he hears them because he has heard them since birth. I thought I would include a list of Will’s lullabies, and my favorite portions of them, the lyrics that are dear to my heart.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland

This was one of the first songs I ever sang to William.

Favorite lyric: “If happy little bluebirds fly above the rainbow, then why, why can’t I?” It just reminds me that I want Will to know he can do anything he puts his mind to as he grows up. This lyric was so special to me that I started calling Will my little bluebird, and I even got a tattoo in honor of him and his attachment to the song.

“When You Say Nothing At All” by Alison Krauss

I feel like Alison Krauss was never as “big” as she deserved to be. She has such a soothing, beautiful voice, and this was one of my favorite songs as a child. For some reason, this popped into my head when Will was only a few weeks old. To refresh my memory, I put the youtube video on and danced with Will to it, singing along.

Favorite lyric: “Old Mr. Webster could never define what’s being said between your heart and mine.” That lyric makes me cry to this day. There’s absolutely no way to put into words how a mother feels about her son.

“I’ll Be Seeing You” by Billie Holiday

When my grandfather was alive, he loved to sing and dance. One of the songs of his “era” and a song he loved was “I’ll Be Seeing You.” When Bop died, I knew I wanted to get a tattoo in his honor. I wrote about him, thought about him, remembered times we shared together, and nothing fit. For the longest time, I toyed around with getting a shamrock because he was an O’Neill or getting an anchor because he served in the Navy. Still, it just didn’t fit. Then one day, I was talking to my mom, and the song came up. It just fit.

Favorite lyric: “And when the night is new, I’ll be looking at the moon, but I’ll be seeing you.” The lyrics are exactly what I feel about my grandfather, and it is a song he used to dance to. Now, I sing it to my son, to remind myself that no matter how far you are from the ones you hold most dear, you can see and feel them. And to remind my son that he comes from a long line of great men and someday, he’ll be just like them.

“My Love is Your Love” by Whitney Houston

When I used to sing to Will and began getting tired of repeating “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” I tried to think of songs mothers sang to their children. This song came to mind because the little child in the background says, “Sing Mommy” in the opening of the song. Hopefully, someday, William will utter those words to me.

Favorite lyric: “It’s okay as long as I got you, babe.” Self-explanatory.

“I Hope You Dance” by LeeAnn Womack

I don’t dance, but this song is such a precious wish from a mother to her child. Dance is a metaphor. She wants her daughter to literally dance when she has the opportunity. But it’s really about putting yourself out there. I want Will to have the fullness of life, to take chances, to know he is loved in every step he takes.

Favorite lyrics: “I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance, never settle for the path of least resistance. Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’ and lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’. Don’t let some hell-bent heart leave you bitter. When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider.”

I think these lyrics means a lot to me because, well, they mean a lot to me. I don’t often take chances. I’ve spent a good deal of my life living in anxiety and fear. I don’t ever want Will to live that way. I don’t ever want him to hold onto bitterness. And I don’t ever, ever want him to give up.

8 Months Already?

Full Name: William Thomas Rodriguez
Nicknames: “Prince” (he was born the week of the royal wedding) and “Will” (after Mommy and Daddy’s favorite movie, Good Will Hunting)
Born: April 23, 2011 at 2:34 p.m.

Age: 8 months

Weight at birth: 7 lbs 15 oz
Weight now: 19 lbs 10 oz
Length at birth: 20.5 inches
Length now: 26.5 inches

Milestones: Started crawling a week ago; says Dada; thinks now that he can pull himself up and crawl, that he can climb and stand on EVERYTHING; his eczema patches have disappeared—woohoo! And I think he’s starting to learn how to wave and clap.

Clothing: He wears mostly 9-month clothing. Some 6-9 month onesies, rompers and shorts still fit and he wears 12 month pajamas.

Sleep: Takes a morning nap, an afternoon nap, and sleeps from about 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. on weekdays. On weekends or vacations, Will wakes up around 6:30 a.m., eats half-asleep, and naps with Mommy until 9.

Food: Will takes five bottles each day. He has one bottle in the morning of 5-7 ounces of formula, then takes another bottle like that every 4 hours. His nighttime bottle is usually 9-10 oz, so he consumes about 30 oz of formula a day! Three times a day, he eats a half or a whole jar of Stage 2 Earth’s Best foods. His favorite is definitely Sweet Potatoes!

Crying: Umm, he doesn’t. He’s just not a crier. He pretty much laughs at everything, and only cries if he’s overtired.

Likes: his grandparents, our dog, his soothie pacifier, walks in the stroller, climbing, sleeping on his tummy, running in his walker, pulling Mommy’s hair, knocking over towers of blocks, playing in the bath, books (more to eat than to read), “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and Mommy’s singing voice ❤

Dislikes: his swing, wearing shoes, the sun in his eyes, and anything that requires patience (I wonder where he gets that from)

Christmas Presence

Well, that’s it. Thanksgiving’s over. Not even 24 hours after eating that last bite of mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, Americans rifle through circulars, plot their Black Friday buys, and break out the Christmas trees and hand-painted ornaments. To some, Christmas means everything to do with faith, hope, and the birth of a savior. To some, Christmas means cookies, candles and flights back where you feel truly at home. To some, it means giving—gifts wrapped in ribbons and bows, service at homeless shelters, or maybe just time and energy to the children you miss so much when you’re overwhelmed with the busy-ness of daily life. To some, it means a feeling of loneliness and loss, a time to remember those who have gone before you, a time to wish they were here to celebrate with you. To some, it means scarves, mittens and that first peaceful blanket of snow.

But what does the Christmas season mean to a working mother? I have celebrated Christmas for 25 years and I don’t think it has ever had quite the same meaning as it has today.
My son is seven months old. Every day, he amazes me with his belly laugh, his sweet spirit, and his playfulness. Every day, I wake him up—or he stays asleep and if I were him, I’d stay asleep at 5:30 a.m., too—and I send him off to his grandma’s. Every day, I drive to a high school where I teach English to over 100 ninth graders. I pour into the lives of these students academically and sometimes emotionally, and hope that my efforts are not wasted. When I come home, I have to make sure I have enough wisdom, kindness, and creativity left to give to the one child who truly matters.
That’s what Christmas means to me this year. When I was a child, Christmas meant sneaking around the house looking for hidden presents. In high school, the Christmas season meant sleeping in, listening to the latest CD, watching Price is Right reruns and pretending I didn’t have homework to do. As a college student, Christmas meant singing in my church choir, choosing next semester’s classes and buying the most romantic gift I could find for my soon-to-be husband. As a new teacher, the Christmas season meant a breather from my students, a good book on the couch in my pajamas, Christmas carols playing while I surfed the web.
Today, as a first-time working mother, it means starting new traditions. It means tracing my son’s handprint 15 times on green paper, asking my husband to cut them out because he’s better with scissors, and gluing them just-so to make his first little Christmas tree craft.

It means Christmas pictures in red sweaters.

It means reading my son The Night Before Christmas and showing him how to dig treasures out of his stocking.

It means his first ornament—a little glass shoe with all of his birth statistics written on it—donning the tree for the first of many years.

It means singing “Silent Night” as I rock him to sleep. It means being thankful that although I work full-time and mommy full-time, I chose a career that gives me 18 precious days in the winter and even more days in the summer to relish every moment with my son. It means my presence—just being there. Him and me. And it means giving all my love because I’ll never need to get anything for Christmas ever again.

*This blog was featured as a guest post on Liberating Working Moms.

Many Months

I cannot understand how pregnancy seemed like the longest nine months of my life, yet these last (almost) eight months of William’s life have flown by before I could even catch my breath. When I look at the pictures that my friend Charlotte took of Will when he wasn’t yet four months, I am again taken back by how beautiful he is, and how often he is changing.

In October, we went to a pumpkin patch and Will donned his first Halloween costume for trick-or-treating at the mall. He is the cutest astronaut in the universe!

What doesn’t change over time is Will’s personality. When he was seven months old, another dear friend of mine, Taylor, offered to take Will’s portraits in a studio and to shoot family Christmas pictures as well. As if I didn’t take enough pictures already… But Will loves the camera!

In these last few months, I have made an effort to follow blogs, take advice from friends, and really make the best of every moment I have with my son. My son. Those words still sound so strange. I want Will to have fun and to learn every day during his childhood, and I want him to know that when I’m with him, I’m with him. He has my full attention. Despite living with what I used to think was a mild case of OCD, I have enjoyed allowing Will to take part in various sensory experiences. We have played with finger paint (on the high chair, I might add, which would have caused the pre-mother in me some serious anxiety). Yes, I stayed with him every moment to make sure none of the paint went into his mouth or eyes. We started with “What do red and blue make?” Then, we ended up mixing all the colors together.

I have taken a couple of “sick” days this year when I was really yearning for some extra time with Will. On one of those days, I posted a sick day blog but I didn’t post any pictures of all the fun! We played with pots and pans, stacked rings and blocks, went to the store, read books, and played in a makeshift ball pit. I bought a ball pit set and poured them into the playpen. Will rolled around in the balls, held one of every color, tried to put them in his mouth, and of course, laughed.

One of my favorite times was our spontaneous trip to Green Key Beach. My mother, my husband and I took some beautiful shots of Will’s first experience with sand. You can see the amazement on his face. We also pushed him in the swing–which he loved. Even though the weather was a little chilly, it was an absolutely glorious sunset.

Another day after work, I decided to repeat the beach trip. This time, it was just Will and me.

The other night, we put food coloring into ice cubes and let them melt in water in a container on his playmat. Will loves playing with bath toys any time of day–he is definitely a water baby! It was fun to watch him try to catch the ice cubes!

Everything about my son amazes me. He is happy all.the.time. Literally. Everything and everyone can make him laugh. My favorite aspects of his dynamic personality is his sweet spirit when he first wakes up and his belly laugh. He is also a huge fan of sticking his tongue out.

He started crawling–small movement at first–a couple of weeks ago. This last weekend, he decided to take off. He also cut his first tooth. I am grateful that even though I had to go back to work when he was four months old, he has saved each and every milestone for my husband and me. At our home, he is turning into quite the little rambunctious climber.

It’s hard to believe we are about to celebrate our first Christmas as a family.

It’s hard to believe that I, Shannon, the one who said she’d never be a baby person, the one who cringed every time she heard a baby cry, the one who struggled her whole pregnancy, the one who never changed a diaper, the one who feels like she doesn’t have a crafty gene in her body… has become a mother. And most days, I hope, a good mother.

I have realized many things over these last many months. But one of my major realizations is that I finally understand the phrase “You’re gonna miss this.” Because I know I definitely am going to miss this. Every little bit of it.

Where I’m From

My students and I read “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyons this week, analyzed it for sensory language, and then created our own. I am laminating my students’ poems and creating a book of them because they turned out FANTASTIC. My students asked me to write one that would be the first page of the book. So here it is:

Where I’m From
I am from piles of orange, red, and yellow fall leaves
From sneezing underneath and my Bopaw’s laughter behind the camera
I am from puffy snowsuits
And sleds my mom pulled in the street
Her long dark hair flying behind her
I am from Flintstone vitamins on the bus stop
Seeing and hearing the ice cream man from the upstairs window
Saving my brother’s life
Again and again
And the tall pine tree in the backyard
I am from the steep staircase
That smelled like home
From the basement and the hidden passageway
Filled with my grandparents’ treasures
I am from the above-ground pool and orange swimmies
The birthday parties on the lawn with Batman and Little Mermaid
From DJ, Stephanie, Michelle, and Comet
And unwrapped Christmas presents under the tree
I am from stacks of boxes
A move to beaches and Disney World
Pen-pals and a new school
A cul-de-sac with no cars or sidewalks
That called us to play kickball all day
I am from my brother’s little league games and his basketball hoop
And the cement where my father drew our family name
I am from the boat
Roaring to life and defeating the waves
With “Life is Good” painted in blue on the side
I am from mood swings and fights
From dogs and cats and iguanas and hamsters
Buried now in the backyard
I am from straight A’s and the church choir
From “You’re going to college no matter what”
And “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”
From mission trips to foreign lands
My father’s house to my husband’s house
From writing papers to grading papers
And meeting a little boy who is like my very own piece of Heaven on earth