Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

Reflections on the first year

Well it has officially been one year since we embarked on this journey. I would like to tell you that it has been a wonderful decision. I want to say that it has been everything I hoped for, but honestly it has been hard. Emotionally I feel like I have been extremely stressed and depressed. The first six months were probably the hardest six months of my life. Even the experience of being a new mother with Post-Partum Depression did not prepare me for the feelings of isolation and frustration I felt adjusting to the new life here.

I remember being in the temporary housing and crying every day. I tried not to tell my husband how bad it was because he was working and had struggles and adjustments of his own. I didn’t want to burden him with my issues which only made me feel more lonely. We had the dream life. We lived less than 2 miles from the Pacific Ocean and watched vacationers and surfers from all over the world come to our town to get a taste of the good life. I walked on the boardwalk everyday with the sun on my face and the ocean breeze in my hair. Why oh why would I voluntarily give that up?

It was not an easy decision. We went back and forth for a very long time, weighing all the Pros and Cons. As I laid in bed crying myself to sleep overnight for the first month, mourning the loss of my dream life, it was hard to remember the reasons why we actually pulled the trigger on the plan. Living without our household furniture and other items for almost 4 months was another snag in the plan that seemed to be a never ending cause of stress. The weather sucked. It was cold and rainy and I could not communicate the way I wanted to. It felt like everyone I saw was perfect and was judging me and my parenting skills.

When our container finally arrived, I felt a sense of normalcy for the first time. We had clothing and shoes other than the few items we packed into our suitcases. We were reunited with our kitchen tools and cookware! Yay! Our oldest stated Kindergarten and things were looking up. I felt a bit better. Summer came and we enjoyed long warm days. We met some neighbors and spent our summer vacation in Bavaria and Italy. I was starting to feel more comfortable speaking German again. After 6 months, we were finally settled in our home and I was finished building the Ikea catalogue!

The holidays away from home were hard. I missed our regular family traditions and trying to get the ingredients needed to put on a Thanksgiving Feast was nearly impossible. I started to get home sick. I thought of all the things I miss about America. I miss customer service, people smiling when they see you on the street, common courtesy, stores being open past 7pm, the variety, the endless options of mundane items like kitchen handtowels. I miss ethnic food. I miss black beans and Adobo.

But what I don’t miss is hearing about mass shootings. Or parents being reported to CPS every time they allow their children to roam more than 10 feet from them. I don’t miss all the vigilantly justice, people breaking out car windows because someone left their dog in the car for 5 minutes or calling the police because they saw a kid sitting in a parked car.  I don’t miss the hypocrisy of the USA at all.

After feeling the way I did for too long, I realized that I needed to do something to improve my state of mind. I enrolled in a sewing class with a friend and spent Tuesday evenings being ME. I enrolled our youngest in child care a few times a week, so she could play with other kids and I could have some time to do things for myself. It has been wonderful. My husband even remarked about how he has noticed a difference. I think it is important to remember that we are the creators of our own happiness. It is not always easy to recognize the signs when we are faltering and it is not easy to pull ourselves out of the hole of depression. But we must. We must take control of our lives and create the light when all we see is darkness.

I am feeling more positive about our decision as we move into “Year 2” of this adventure. I know there will be bumps in the road but I am ready.

 

 

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Picking a preschool

  • When I was five months pregnant with my first daughter, I started researching daycares. I knew that I needed to get an early jump on because I was looking for the perfect place. I was planning to return to my full-time, four-day a week job when my baby was just five months old. I know, I know, some of you are thinking, “Wow, five whole months?” I only got six weeks, 12 weeks…” Luckily for me, I moved to California just before starting my family so I got to take advantage of their very generous (for this country anyways) maternity leave. I work for a large organization which has a childcare center with a preschool that gives priority to employees of my company. I had always heard that the waiting list can be pretty lengthy, so when I was nine weeks pregnant, I called and placed my name on the waiting list. The gal who answered the phone when I called to schedule my tour told me to be sure and make other plans in case they didn’t have a spot available when I was ready to return to work. When I toured this center, I saw a few things that didn’t sit well with me. In fact, when I got back to my car, I called my husband and cried.  I called the Director to clarify a few things and after hearing her snarky responses, I decided that this was not the place for me or my daughter, at least not until she would no longer be an infant.

At first I wasn’t sure if I wanted a center or a home daycare provider so I researched both. I toured 3 more centers before I knew that home daycare was more my style. After calling umpteen licensed home daycares and touring four or five, I found Dora. Dora is a sixty-something Argentinian woman who told me that she has three grown children and has been providing childcare in her home for the past 30 years. She was like a grandma to my daughter and I always knew that my most treasured gem would be well taken care of.

Fast forward to today. My daughter has now outgrown the loving grandma daycare. She is a very bright and active child who needs stimulation. She soaks up every word she hears and has a thirst for knowledge so we have decided that even though I am home on maternity leave with my second daughter for the next three months, she needs to go to a preschool setting. So, the search begins once again.

I returned to one of the centers I previously toured now that I was looking for a school rather than infant care. The young man who gave me the tour, the son of the owner, explained all the different areas to me and let me ask all my questions but it still didn’t seem “right”. He told me how the children did, X, Y and Z but I couldn’t find evidence of any of the things he mentioned. The prices were also a little steep for me but I figured that you get what you pay for and I was willing to pay more if a place met my expectations. I also toured a new place near my home which just opened up. The Director seemed a little fake but I really liked the different classrooms for art and science. She also told us about the curriculum they use to teach the older children how to read and write. My husband went on this tour also and he thought it sounded good and the price was right so I scheduled a 2 hour classroom visit the week before my toddler was scheduled to enroll. I had really high hopes that this would be the place but unfortunately I was not impressed. The lead teacher did not have control of the classroom and kids were running all around doing whatever they wanted. Kids were pushing each other, climbing on things and she spent the majority of her time attempting to redirect the children by saying “No thank you”. I mean, what is that? If kids are being dangerous, saying “no thank you” isn’t going to teach them to stop being reckless. This is something a burned out teacher does. They try to get through the day. In fact, I felt the need to intervene numerous times when I saw things that were unsafe. I left this school thinking that I should call and offer to do some training on classroom behavior management for the school or some counseling for the teacher who is clearly no longer enjoys her job. Maybe she was having a hard day because the kids were hyper, maybe this isn’t a typical day. Whatever the reason, I felt like I don’t want my kid to either A. get hurt as a result of the lack of control, or B. learn these behaviors. I looked for the Director on my way out but she was not in her office.  I expected her to call me that afternoon to see how the visit went but she didn’t call. She didn’t call the next day either. On the next Monday, the day before my child was to start, I left her a message stating that we would not be attending the school. No phone call to find out why, which I find odd. You would think that the Director of a school, especially a school that has only been open 4 months would want to know what changed my mind.

Now, please know that I am not delusional. I know that no place is ever going to be perfect but I do have some expectations that are nonnegotiable, mostly revolving around safety and well-being. Today we did a visit at the preschool my neighbor’s children go to. It definitely felt like a better fit. We are planning to enroll in March so stay tuned…

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