The Case for Outsourcing Child Care

Today’s mommas always preach the value of a tribe – having friends, family, colleagues and neighbors who support and understand the struggle of motherhood and raising kids.

We have play dates with our tribe, wine nights with our tribe and inside jokes and memes with tribe members.

But for all the glory we heap upon our tribe, we always seem to stop short in allowing these great ladies (I’m making a generalized assumption here) to actually help in the care of our kids.

Mothers always have been and always will be the primary caretaker for most families. That looks different for each families but moms are often the ones running the show. However, as motherhood becomes more scientific, more specialized, more publicized, mothers have taken on an assumption that they are the only ones qualified to take care of their unique and special little munchkins.

More and more I see mothers debating the need to home school children to ensure they aren’t influenced by negative forces or questioning whether they should work or go so far as to leave the house for the weekend to enjoy some adult time. Mothers seem to be more and more concerned with outsourcing the duty of raising their children for fear that care by anyone but themselves will destroy their children and leave a lasting negative impression on their lives.

I believe this trend comes at a severe cost to our children. The more our kiddos are exposed to new people, places, rules and environments, the more they become adaptable, empathetic and understanding children who see past their own household and realize the diversity of our society and growing world.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in favor or allowing just anyone to raise our children or leaving kids in dangerous situations with unqualified supervisors. And the possibility of bad actors and unforeseen situations is always there – always has been and always will be. But by and large, our tribes, our teachers, our friends and our families are good people with big hearts that want to see our children grow and succeed.

My husband and I both work full-time outside the home. Our two boys have been attending an in-home daycare since each was about 2 months old. My oldest now attends full-day kindergarten and the youngest will start 3-year-old pre-school next fall. Our schedules are wacky, ridiculous and different nearly every day. My boys have both known no different. They have been raised to go with the flow, adjust and make do. And the number of people I have involved in their daily care has grown. Grandparents, daycare owner, teenage babysitters, aunts, uncles and teachers have all had a hand in keeping them happy, healthy and safe.

When people ask about how my husband and I manage all of this I joke and tell them we are raising adaptable, well-rounded little boys. And that’s the truth. I want them to see that a mom an work and raise kids and mothers are not the only ones willing and able to care for them. It worries me when mothers want to be everything for their kids and deprive them of the opportunity to learn how to adapt to new people and new situations. We cannot and should not bubble wrap our children and shield them from society. Kids will do better when they know how to adjust to new people and new places and understand that this world is full of wonderful people that are ready and willing to help make their lives better.

Public schools is good, daycare is life changing and teenage babysitters may not always do the dishes and get the kids to bed on time but they all grow our children’s worlds and tribes and allow us mothers and opportunity to enjoy our tribes and our calling.

 

Remembering the Greatest Generation – And Raising the Next

This week has been dedicated to the service and remembrance of President George H.W. Bush. And rightfully so, he was a great leader and great man.

I was in grade school when President Bush (#41)  was in the White House so my memory of him is faint. But when I think of President Bush I think of my grandpa, a fellow WWII veteran and passionate Republican, who discussed politics with my father frequently.

That passion for politics was passed on to me and I now get a front-row seat to Congress and the functions of D.C. – all from the comforts of my family farm.

But my thoughts while listening to President Bush’s funeral ceremony Wednesday were not on politics, but instead on the great service and impact President Bush and those of his generation had on our country and, more importantly, whether my generation and those that follow can match their heroism, strength and wisdom. As a millennial, I fear that we are failing to match the characteristics that made those generations before us great and parenting another generation even farther removed from those values and beliefs.

In his eulogy for his father, President George W. Bush included the following remarks:

“In his inaugural address, the 41st president of the United States said this, “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood and town better than he found it.

“What do we want the men and women who work with us to say when we are no longer there? That we were more driven to succeed than anyone around us, or that we stopped to ask if a sick child had gotten better, and stayed a moment, there, to trade a word of friendship.”

This passage hit home for me and embodied what I believe is our greatest challenge as parents raising children in a new, different and often complex world.

 

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Owen, age 2, and Evan, age 5, before venturing out in the cold to help their data move cattle.

I work so my sons can have new shoes, hot meals and John Deere tractor toys. I want them to enjoy their childhood and say they lived full and interesting lives. But as we inch closer to Christmas, the urge to buy them “stuff” often overshadows the push to have them volunteer and do good. We’ve been taught that we “deserve” everything and that shouldn’t have to do what is hard or uncomfortable.

Granted my boys are young, currently 5 and 2 years old, but I hope that my early and often attention to volunteering, service, sacrifice and helping others will pay off. I want my boys to understand the love of Christ, the power of prayer, the feeling of empathy for those that have endured hardship and struggle and the willingness to give of their time and talents to help others. I need them to understand that their lives are filled with blessing but they can and should do what is hard and uncomfortable.

Some days I question if all of that can rise above the commercialism, me-first, this-is-too-much culture we’ve created. I like to think that growing up on a farm, with family close at hand, weekly church sermons and a little tough love, will allow my boys to grasp what this life is really all about.

My father tells the story of my grandfather reminding him that going to college at age 18 (the idea of which seemed overwhelming to my father) is nothing compared to boarding a ship and heading east into war – unsure if you will ever see your family again, a theme often referenced in President Bush’s services. My grandfather and those that served this country were giving their lives at the same age those of today’s generation are considering a gap year because they just can’t muster the mental endurance to tackle college after 13 years in school.

My grandpa served his country, worked to provide for his family and give his children every opportunity to better themselves. My father did the same and as I listened to the remarks of those speaking during President Bush’s funeral I realized that my single biggest challenge – and opportunity – is to raise the next generation to be as great as those my sons barely knew but owe everything too. They were the Greatest Generation and I work everyday in hopes that I raise two young men who follow President Bush’s advice and become become loyal friends, respectable neighbors and concerned citizens who take time to care and contribute. Men President George H.W. Bush would be proud of.

It’s Been A While . . . We’re Still Here

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It’s been an embarrassing long time since I’ve updated my blog. It’s not that we haven’t been farming or working or living our best (and most hectic) farm life, it’s just that whenever I sit down to write an update or talk about an issue something comes up and I close the computer promising to get back to it soon (I’m sure every mother out there knows exactly what I’m talking about).

But today’s the day and the boys are still asleep (up late watching the local high school football team secure a win) and the farmer hubs is attempting to get out the door to work cattle so the house and the internet is all mine! Here’s the summary of my last 6 months.

The Boys

Being a boy mom is wonderful and hectic and hard and wonderful all at the same time. My boys, Evan, age 5, and Owen, age 2, have officially learned to roughhouse and wrestle. Evan is the sweetest, smartest, happiest kid. He’s in all-day kindergarten and loves it. Evan is reading, making friends and a little nerd, just like me. But he’s also a bit bossy (also like me) and that gets him into a bit of trouble at home when he tries to make all the rules for his brother.

Owen, on the other hand, is loud and chatty and aggressive and demanding (like his father). He plays hard but he loves hard and when you need a chuckle, go find Owen. He’s sure to put a smile on your face. He loves his big brother but will not – I repeat will not – be bossed around. The bossy boy and stubborn boy have more than once come to blows and I’m just not ready for that stage of life yet. But alas, here we are.

Both boys adore life on the farm and take any opportunity possible to ride along with Dad or Grandpa. And their off-the-farm adventures haven’t been too shabby either. In a single year they have: rolled Easter eggs on the White House lawn, experienced a K-State football victory from the President’s suite, experienced the mountains of Idaho, meet too many elected officials to count, experienced a NASCAR race first-hand and flown on multiple airplanes.

The Farm

It’s Oct. 26 and we’ve already experienced our first snow. This year started out dry but has ended with above-average rainfall. We needed the rain but when it all comes at once it’s a bit less helpful. We had a decent wheat harvest and a good corn harvest. We’re half-way done cutting beans and have wheat in the ground and are growing alfalfa again for the first time in a very long time.

The cows have begun returning home for the winter and we’ll start seeing new baby calves in about 10 weeks. (Eeek, I’m so not ready for calving season).

Things in farm world haven’t been the best. Prices are still way down from just a few years ago and there is so much we want to do with the farm but just can’t find the extra dollars to make it happen. We’re fortunate that our diversification of cows and crops has allowed us to continue doing what we love but it’s been a struggle every step of the way.

My husband doesn’t like to talk finances and his whole life is in the farm so I know he’s making the best decisions possible but sometimes this farm life is just plain hard!

The Job

I’m still hard at work for U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall. It’s been a whirlwind 2 years (almost) but it’s been so much fun along the way. I have met some of the best people in the world, experienced things I never thought possible and helped represent my state and my industry in Washington D.C. It’s stressful trying to balance a 40-hour-a-week-plus job with kids and a farm but it’s worth it and I tell anyone who asks that I’m raising flexible, adjustable young men who understand that it takes hard work, sacrifice and a little chaos to put food on the table and toys on the shelf.

The Rest

Sadly, there isn’t much else outside of work, farming and the boys. That eats my time, my energy and my paycheck! I’ve long since given up watching T.V. on a regular basis and haven’t seen many of my friends in months. But I know I’m not alone, I’m blessed to have a tribe of fellow farm wives who all endure the same long days, work-filled weekends and single-parenting stints that are required when married to a farmer.

My farmer has to be one of the worst communicators in the world and has a memory for all things cows but never what I need him to remember (I say all that in love because when I’m gone he steps up to the plate big time). Thank goodness for parents and in-laws who fill in the gaps and play parent when neither of us are around. Of course the boys love spending time with their grandparents so it’s hardly a sacrifice on their part. It’s a blessing to raise our boys so close to both grandparents and all four sets of aunts, uncles and cousins. They don’t realize it now but they are so, so lucky.

I’m still running in the mornings and try to race when I have a weekend free. It’s football season so we’re catching a K-State game whenever possible and cheering on the Inman Teutons as they move through the play-offs.

The Politics

You know me, I have to get in a word our two about something in the headlines. I have a lot of feelings about a lot of issues but I’ll keep it short and sweet, all women – better yet all white women – do not think, believe, feel or react the same. I am a conservative mother of young boys. I do not tolerate sexual harassment of any kind, but do not believe in ruining a life because of a 30-year-old fuzzy memory.  Women are not a monolithic voting block and should not be treated as such. I am not beholden to my husband nor any political candidate and party. I don’t vote or support candidates to ruin someone else’s life. I vote to protect my way of life, my values and my beliefs.

All that being said, no matter your party affiliation, beliefs, values or lifestyle please use the opportunities afforded to us as Americans and exercise your right to the ballot box on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Cast your vote and make your voice count.

**I’ll get off my soap box now and return to my farm talk**

That’s all for now. Evan is out of school today so we’re going to attempt to carve pumpkins (eeeek!). You can follow along with all of my trials, trips, trying moments and truly beautiful sunrises at @sawyerfarm on Instagram and Twitter.

A Year With Owen Douglas

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Owen plays with his Little Blue Truck and farm animals after bath

Today we celebrated the first birthday of our youngest son, Owen Douglas Sawyer. The past year has flown by – although there were days time seemed to grind to a halt. We had our good days and our bad. We survived a whole lot and spent many a late nights cuddling and rocking. Owen may share his brother’s blue eyes and blondish-red hair but he and Evan John are nothing alike. I never realized how two very different little boys could come from the same parents and upbringing.

Owen has proven to be a spirited, spunky and noisy little guy. He’s assertive, opinionated and spirited. His patience are few but his kisses are many. He has a smile that will melt your heart and scream that could break eardrums. He is everything I was as a baby and a constant reminder of my impatience, stubbornness and hard-headed ways.

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The result of my attempted 1 year photo session

I have learned a lot from Owen this past year – mainly that I can survive on a whole lot less sleep than previously thought and that despite what the parenting books will say, you cannot train all children. Some children will sleep, others simply will not. Owen sleeps, but on his own schedule and under his own terms.

He celebrates his first birthday with only four teeth, a head full of hair and the ability to walk – just not the desire. He is a crawling machine and climbs anything he’s tall enough to reach. He is a one-man tornado capable of destroying nearly anything left in his path.

Owen wakes up before the sun every morning but could not be happier about starting the day. He loves playing with his big brother and dad and still finds a moment or two to cuddle with me each day. He enjoys his time on the farm – seeing the cattle and riding in the tractor and combine. I hope he develops the same passion and love for the land as his father and grandfather. And if farming is not his dream, I hope he carries a passion for serving people and carrying for animals with him where ever he goes.

Our little man will do big things one day. I joke to many that I pray he uses his powers and personality for good, as it will be mighty. This child will be the source of my first grey hair but will also accomplish so much. We love you Owen Douglas now please just sleep!

 

Having It All . . .

Monday marked the end of a chapter of my life. I left my job in marketing and communications at King Enterprise Group in McPherson for a position as a field marketing manager for Rabo AgriFinance in Wichita. The new position allows me to marry my carer in marketing and public relations with my love of agriculture, provides me with new challenges and move me up another rung on the corporate ladder. It also adds a larger workload, an hour commute and a promise of out-of-state travel to my plate.

I wasn’t looking to take on such a large role only weeks before giving birth to my first child but the opportunity was too great to pass up. The interview process started in December 2012 and I was offered the job in February 2013. When I initially applied for the job, I didn’t expect to get an interview and when I scheduled my first, in-person interview, I honestly expected them to find some reason, any reason to not hire the pregnant girl. But they saw beyond my growing front-side and offered me the position, knowing I would throw some major kinks in the plan. This is my first week on the job and today marks the 30th week of my pregnancy – leaving me, at most, 10 weeks to get myself situated before my maternity leave.

I have always been an ambitious, career-minded woman aspiring to work hard, climb the ladder and make my mark on the world. My husband, by contrast, believed he would marry someone that would stay at home with the kids and prepare three meals a day. Now I have nothing but praise for stay-at-home moms, I have friends that have chosen that path and I commend them because that work is just as hard as an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, but I know that with my husband’s work schedule and my desire to continue my career, I was not fit to remove myself from the work force.

Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that my desire to climb the ladder sharply conflicts with my maternal instinct to provide a loving and nurturing environment and relationship for my son. This maybe the 21st century but it still remains difficult to find a good work-life balance and juggle everything – including community commitments and a social life. Knowing the challenges, I have already negotiated one day of work from home per week and have the flexibility to work remotely when needed for other reasons. But with my commute and an 8-hour work day, I’m still gone from my child 40 hours a week and that is all I care to be away.

I am blessed with a supportive husband who has promised to help out when needed and a set of parents and in-laws that likewise have promised their time and attention for my son. I am still looking for child care but trust that will all fall into place by the time our little one arrives. I know that they will all take great care of my child but I also know that I am his mother – his only mother – and I want to be there for all of small but notable childhood accomplishments.

I know my new venture will not be without a few tears, a few regrets and a few struggles but in the end, I am confident we (myself and my support circle) will make this all work and I will have a happy, healthy and outgoing son that knows who is mother is and is happy to see me walk through the door each night. I have received conflicting response from other women on my decision to take on a new career with a new baby. But I chose to believe my decisions are the right ones for me and that a happy mother creates a happy son and a happy home.

When I thought about the struggles of my future, I never envisioned this as one of them but predicting the future is a futile game and you never know what you can accomplish until you try.

So here’s to a career, motherhood and having it all! I hope to become one of the success stories but I’m not afraid to admit that I may be biting off more than I can chew.