Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I recently saw this headline in the Washington Post: Exhaustion is not a Status Symbol.  I saw the headline, but before I could open the link I dropped my iPad because I realized I had not finished packing the lunchboxes and I did not have the time to sit and read the newspaper that morning. 

Of course, the author is wrong.  Exhaustion is a status symbol in America - especially in northern Virginia.  Stress is highly correlated with success - you can't relax and succeed!  And multiplying the necessary stress for the success of five people places a lot on the calendar of a family of 5.

True - plenty of people are bragging when they share how busy they are.  (Also true - the author talks about Blackberries and getting ahead in business, and not about families and after-school activities. I did skim the article, later.)  Counterpoint - many people are just busy, and normalizing their condition by talking about it.  I am only sharing my experience when I tell you that I am tired this morning.

We had to let our housekeeper go on Monday morning.  This made both Dave and I very sad, and kept us up late on Sunday night discussing our plan.  We woke up at 4:30 on Monday morning to speak with her as soon as she arrived at our house, with our teeth brushed.  And I have not sat down since.  After nearly ten years of mothering, it still surprises me how much work it takes to manage a household of five people.  I speak with authority that our family creates over 2 hours of dirty dishes every day that we eat at home.  Within two days I began wondering, how do I manage the household without help when we live in the US?  One answer is not very well;  another answer is with the help of an automatic dishwasher and the occasional boxed dinner kit.

But the true answer is simply that my life, after 8 months in this country, is planned around leaving the housework for someone else.  And what a joy to have the flexibility to deign my time more worth walking Annika to and from school every day, the long way;  sitting at the table at snacktime and helping Sophia with her homework;  joining Lilly for soccer practice, and for the hour before soccer practice where she reads or snacks or tells me about her day; more worth these activities than folding the laundry and vacuuming under the table again.

We will replace her, but likely not on a full-time basis until this summer.  My parents will arrive as our houseguests in a few days, and they may have to make their own bed every morning.  The household will undergo a sea change as we grow to 7 people, see the culmination of yearlong projects such as the school musical and final soccer tournaments, and sometimes scrub our own toilets.

In a fun addition, I've been spending a lot of time marketing my music classes to grow to two weekly sessions next month.  And I received an email last night informing me that the embassy was beginning my security clearance.  I edited this in my head to read: Congratulations!  We are excited to welcome you to the world of working moms!  Assuming, of course, that we don't discover any nasty and traitorous secrets about you.

I think I need a nap.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Working Mom

We arrived in Jakarta in August.  I ran some free classes in September, but as it turns out, opening a business within a few weeks of arrival in a large city is not so simple.  I made a big marketing push in November, and opened one class in January.  My first session has almost finished, and it has been loads of fun.  I'm in the midst of my next big marketing push, with the goal of running two classes next session.

Jakarta has proven a tough nut to crack.  Spreading the word has not been as simple as telling a few moms about class and watching my rosters fill up.  So this marketing push has me focused on building my networks, and bringing my classes to as many moms as possible.  It has been a fun month, and I've enjoyed stretching myself as a small business owner, too.

Life has been busier with teaching and directing my music classes every week, but also more manageable with Annika in school part-time.   As an exciting addition, I interviewed for a part-time job earlier this week.  I expect to learn whether or not I got the job by the middle of next week.  And if I get the job, the time continuum would fall into a very different balance in our household.

I've spent the past 10 years working independently and maintaining full flexibility for our family.  Carving out thirty hours every week for my own projects would make a big change in how our household runs.  But it has been exciting to grow my business, and it was encouraging to put together an impressive resume.  I've known that this transition was coming - I've always planned to go back to work when the girls are all in school.  The coming year could prove a very smooth transition back into the full-time work force.