the prohibitive cost of working

Just read this post via a fellow mama on Facebook. It sure brought back memories…

When Being A Stay-At-Home Mom Isnt A Choice.

My situation was not quite so dire, but I remember doing the math. Full-time daycare in Greater Boston costs around $1500 per month. Childcare for an infant or toddler will run close to $15,000 a year, and that’s if you go with a home-based, family daycare provider.

Preschool jumps up to close to $2000 per month, because you have to drop them off before 9am, and pick them up at 6pm. You can’t work “mother’s hours” and still get benefits, right? Preschool costs roughly average $20,000 a year, for full-time, outside-the-home, quality preschool with a curriculum and all that early-learning stuff.

And when your kids are finally school-age, you’re not out of the woods completely, because you’re still paying for before- and after-sch0ol, and you have to factor in summer camp. This is assuming you live in a city with good public schools, but, then again, even if the schools are not good, can you afford to shell out $20,000 a year for private school?

But don’t forget to save another $5000 for summer camp or a sitter or something, because when school ends, those kids can’t sit at home alone for 3 months.

Start with your annual salary. Take out 30% for taxes, and another 8% for health insurance. Then subtract the basics: food, clothing, and shelter. If you have even $10,000 per child left over, consider yourself lucky.

When I stopped working, I looked for babysitting work. I had 2 families whose kids I picked up from school a few days a week. Yes, they paid me, just enough to cover my gas and car payment, but it felt good to be helping out a few fellow moms.

NB: All numbers are based on my own experience, so don’t go fact-checking me. :)

iPad is not a 4-letter word

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, with my 7-year son using an iPad at school, and doing Google searches, reading books, and listening to music at home. Even my preschooler practices writing, plays memory games, and looks at family pictures on my iPad.

They also love taking selfies.
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I don’t want my kids to fear technology when it is the most amazing educational resource since the invention of writing. The problem is not screen-time itself. The problem is how to teach kids to responsibly use technology as a tool for good rather than evil. Like learning to cut food with a knife, the knife itself has no inherent moral quality, the morality comes from how the user perceives and uses the tool.

“The computer is, without question, the single most important tool of modern society. Our limiting kids’ computer time would be like hunter-gatherer adults limiting their kids’ bow-and-arrow time.” Peter Gray, author Free To Learn

Read this perspective on it: Technology and Natural Learning from City Kids Homeschooling blogger Kerry McDonald. She has a knack for putting into words what my gut is trying to tell me.

summer slide

For the first time in my parenting career, I was faced with the task of avoiding the dreaded “summer slide” for my rising second grader. A month into the summer, after a vacation in Los Angeles, his own 7th birthday party, July 4th, trips to the beach, and more birthday parties, I decided it was time.

I made him a reading clipboard, with his school reading log on it, and about 5 pages of suggested book titles. He dutifully highlighted books he thought he’d like. We went to the library every week, and I talked him into picking out 1 or 2 books at a time. I nagged. A lot. And I hated it. The nagging and the not reading and the crankiness.

Then I read this post from my favorite homeschooling blog, City Kids Homeschooling: Unschooling and the 3 Rs. And I realized… the more I asked, the more I nagged, the more I hounded and begged him to read, the chances of him ENJOYING reading would decrease exponentially.

Children are natural learners. Even 7-year-olds who act like tough guys. They have a curiosity about the world that we’ve left behind in favor of checking things off the list, getting the better grade, filling out the reading log. Parents can be overly focused on achievement, and so can our schools.

Why do we push our young children to complete activities for the sake of being finished with them, like Type A control freaks? Instead, we should be surrounding them with natural opportunities to learn. My son doesn’t care if he reads 40 books this summer or zero. He just wants to do fun things.

So I stopped talking about it. I brought home books from the library by the bagful, and I left them on his desk or in his room. Books about sharks, baseball, and dinosaurs. Books from his beloved Magic Tree House series, a graphic novel version of The Wizard of Oz, and picture books he could read to his little brother. I never mentioned them, I never demanded he read them. And HE FREAKIN’ READ EVERY ONE.

Not only that, but he was excited about what he read. He LEARNED things that he didn’t know before. Reading made him THINK.

And isn’t that the whole point of reading?

goat rodeo days

Any blog post that compares a day with kids to “a huge goat rodeo” is gem. My house has felt like a goat rodeo all summer.

Goat Rodeo days. These involve multiple kids, all mobile and past the napping years, seemingly bent on devising complex plots to undermine your attempts to even start any item on the day’s to-do list.

baby goats are cute

On days like this, I can’t wait to hit the Sweet Spot. When the kids are old enough to entertain themselves. When no one needs me to give them a snack or a juice, or a band-aid, or even a hug.

We’re not there yet. I yell a lot. I have butts to wipe. I hear mamamamamamamamama ALL. DAY. LONG. And sleeping through the night means I fell asleep putting the boys to bed and decided not to bother getting into my own bed.

But all these things that drive me bananas mean that they need me. And someday they won’t.

RANTS FROM MOMMYLAND: The Sweet Spot.