Midday on Feb 28th I realized it was my annual "I went into labour x years ago today" anniversary. Often I reminisce lots and pull out photo albums and stuff. This year, though, I was at a very mentally engaging course on airway management so all I had time for was a quick note-to-self. But Amarys' birth memories are very special to me so it was nice to remember.
The following day was her day! She has been vocal about her birthday anticipation for months! She loved being celebrated and had a ton of fun. We had her friend party on Friday--princess themed, of course. There were thirteen kids here, half of them dressed as princesses. We decorated cupcakes, played ponies, had a scavenger hunt, and opened gifts.
Sunday was her actual birthday. We forgot the annual time-of-birth photo but we went out for sushi and had some very special princessy moments.
Amarys is bellybutton tall on me (fourth kid=I have no idea what her actual height is), weighs 36 pounds, and is starting to write her letters. She is particularly good at A, E, M, and O, and is working on C. The other day she was spelling 'Ocean' and learned that some letters are jerks and stick themselves in words without making any sound. She knows all her colours and is fastidious about correcting any and all errors in logic or truth. She is very inquisitive, always asking "How many more minutes until xyz?" and calculating what that means to her. She wants to know why for everything.
She loves princesses, outer space, The Pigeon (character on the above game and in a book series she loves), glow in the dark, pink, purple, soccer (eagerly anticipating her first soccer season, which starts at the end of March), dance, gymnastics, the ocean, her dog, riding her bike (LOVES riding her bike), long hair, ribbons, fancy clothes, coloring, moon sand, beans, textured or kinetic toys, polly pockets, La La Loopsie, TALKING, directing others, helping in the kitchen, and lego.
She dislikes having her hair brushed and being told what to do. She's sensitive to discomfort. She's very sensitive in general, although you might not know it since she's not all that sensitive to others. She's sensitive to herself. Which is just fine.
Heaven broke the mould when they made her, let me tell you. The world can't contain her. Nothing can hold her back. She's bright and brilliant, and we love her to pieces.
One of the wisest paramedics I've met once told me that if I ever get to the end of my initial assessment and don't have a really good idea of what is going on medically? Transport fast. Your patient needs a doctor, not a medic.
Recently, we had just that. I don't like to put people in boxes, but I do like to put their medical problems in them. You fit category (A), cardiac problem. Subcategory hyperhydration, congestive heart failure. Or (B) near drowning. Subcategory acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). (C) blunt force trauma. Subcategory MVA with bilateral leg injuries.
Yesterday I had (A) what the fuck. Subcategory never seen this before in my life.
We were sent for a stroke. Flew out across the straight to a tiny village high up an isolated inlet on the mainland.
We landed on their gravel helipad and loaded all our gear into a van (often medivacs require ground transport when we arrive. Which in villages too tiny for an ambulance often means a local driving a gator, golf cart, pickup truck, or van).
So. We drive about ten minutes to a house with one of those neon "open" signs in a front window, about ten rusted vehicle shells in the front yard, along with a boat, clearly decommissioned fishing nets and floats, toddler ride on cars, three dogs, and a twenty by fifteen foot puddle.
Inside is tidy. Warm. Cozy. And the sweetest person is waiting for us. Decidedly unwell, but definitely not having a stroke.
There are very effective life saving drugs a doctor can give stroke victims if the stroke is from a clot, and the medication is given within the first four hours of the onset of symptoms. But those drugs will kill patients who are having a bleeding stroke (burst blood vessel rather than a clot) so each patient with certain symptoms needs very rapid transport to a CT to determine the type of stroke so the drugs can be given if it is a clot.
Our nearest CT is two plus hours by land from our hospital, plus assessment time, so sometimes we bypass our local hospital and fly directly to the nearest CT. We frequently *just* squeak in under the four hour mark because of the distances we cover. Our geographical coverage area is massive.
Unfortunately for privacy reasons I can't share the exact nature of this person's symptoms but suffice it to say we were all stumped. Subcategory: WTF.
It was a cool day.
This is me and my favourite pilot, Kathryn. She lives in town and has two little girls around Amarys and Riley's ages. She rocks. She's been a pilot for 20+ years and used to be ski patrol. She's tough as nails and still breastfeeding her three year old, which obviously kicks ass. She knows helicopters and radios and geography like nobody else. Whenever I fly with her I suspect I possibly missed my calling. Because she's so damn cool.
She's landed us in some very sketchy weather and even sketchier landing zones and I trust her implicitly with my life. She has a pink flight helmet. :)
This is Doug. He's a wealth of knowledge. If you win him over, he's a marshmallow. If you don't, he's a bully. He fits in my pocket. He loves me.
I'm kidding about the pocket. He's over 6'5".
And this is my town from the air.
Flying makes me giddy. I LOVE IT!!! The only bad part is not being able to bring all my favourite people with me.
I gotta be honest with you. I'm sick and tired of scrolling past links to articles on how to manage being a stay at home mom. "How You Can Afford to Stay Home With Your Kids." "Stay At Home Moms Tips From the Trenches." As if that's not a statement of privelege so blind to it's own privilege. As if that should be every woman's goal. As if society doesn't suffer when half it's adult population sequesters itself at home. Jessica Valenti from feministing.com was the one who opened my eyes to what a classist, priveleged entity the work at home vs work outside the home debate is. As adults it is our primary responsibility to provide basic life necessities for our offspring and ourselves, and how each family unit establishes how that plays out is their business. If a woman with narrower life choices than I who must work to feed her kids can work outside the home without guilt or fanfare, so can I. So can you. So can any one of these girl and boy children we are raising, most of whom will go on and have their own families. Yes? Anyways. Rather than get frustrated I decided to write a guide to surviving being a working parent. Male or female.
#1: Childcare. You must trust your childcare situation implicitly. You will only succeed in balancing work and parenting if you feel peace that your children are well cared for while you are at work. I have found that when I trust my childcare implicitly, I am better able to focus my entire mind on my job while I am working. This improves the quality of my work, and the job satisfaction that I feel, which makes me happier at the end of the day when I come home. If I'm happier, I can focus my entire mind on my family when I'm at home, increasing the quality of my home life and the life satisfaction that I feel. Win win.
Childcare looks different for everyone. Some spouses switch off, passing the baton so that one works while the other is off, and vice versa. Some hire gramma. Some use a daycare centre or a friend who stays home with his or her children. Whatever scenario you work out, has to be one you feel at peace about.
#2. Organization. Being organized is key to balance when meshing work and parenting. We have reusable lunch kits for each kid, with snack taxis and sandwich keepers and cutlery. I wash them every night so they're ready to go in the morning. We grocery shop with lunch kits in mind. Portable food. Sandwich ingredients. Nut free snacks. Making lunches for four kids before work takes only a few minutes if all we need to do is make four sandwiches and pull out yogurt, fruit, veggies, and granola bars and line them up on the counter (in descending order by age).
Each kid in our house has a mail folder. Permission slips, agendas, homework, library books; they all go in their folder. Unpack each backpack in the evening and fill it each morning. Boom.
Brent and I also have a shared google calendar on our iPhones so kids' appointments and activities (as well as our work schedules, which are all over the map) are easy to remember and easy to share.
#3. Routines. See above for related key elements in surviving work and parenting. Every weekend the kids clean their pet cages, the playroom, and their bedrooms while I vacuum, replace all the towels, and grocery shop. This doesn't take all weekend, so there's still plenty of time to play or go to soccer games or whatever, but ensuring certain tasks get done on weekends makes life easier.
We also have daily routines; after school is snack and homework time, then screen time. Daycare pickup is followed by a quick snack and a tv show before dinner. Bedtime is the same every night.
#4. Teamwork. Spouse support is probably the number one determiner of success when it comes to balancing work and life as a parent. Brent is a hundred percent supportive of me working as much as I want. That frees me to decide what works for me. Part time? Full time? From home? Outside the home? Whatever makes me happiest and helps us feed our family, he's supportive of.
A big part of teamwork is theoretical support but another huge part is boots in the dirt support. Brent does bedtimes. He makes meals. He does laundry and garbages and discipline and daycare pickup/drop off. He will get kids dressed or help with homework--whatever needs to be done. I don't mean he does it all, all the time. I mean we do it together; he's up for whatever it takes to make it work.
If a woman has babies and returns to work, yet still does all the housework and all the organizing and managing when it comes to getting the kids out the door, she will burn out. Any human doing it all will burn out. It's why we parent in partners, generally speaking (props to the single parents out there, pulling all the shifts and doing all the things!!!).
You can have roles. Brent is really in charge of garbages, for instance. If he wants my help, he asks. I'm kind of in charge of meals. If I want his help, I ask. But the point is that neither of us expects the other to do all the things. There is no I in team, baby!!!
#5. Flexibility. If a kid gets sick, you need the flexibility to stay home from work and care for him or her. If working part time no longer pays the bills, you need the flexibility to increase your hours. If you start feeling like you're doing all the things maybe you need to switch up some roles so you feel less burnt out. If you want to stay at home for a few years and return to the work force later when your kids are a bit older, bravo. If you want to shorten your maternity leave to split it with your husband, or because it suits you better, bravo to that, too. You're allowed to change the score, is what I'm saying.
I believe strongly that parents who work are more focused, efficient, and productive in the work force. They appreciate the value of their actions and know deeply how precious time is. So they rarely waste it. At work or otherwise. Women in the work force? Excellent idea. Imperative, actually, to the success of a community and a nation and a world. Those are just a few tips from a fellow mom in the trenches.