Rewarding Your Child

Rewarding Your Child

Getting a 100% on a test.

Unloading the dishwasher.

Playing your hardest in a game.

These are all reasons why a parent could reward their child. But is the reward necessary and does it help? Or are the above reasons what is expected of them?

When I was growing up, I never received an allowance for doing chores or was given money for getting good grades. But recently, my children told me about their friends getting rewarded for doing well on a report card. Silly me, I thought that was a kid’s “job” to do well in school. But that got me thinking, “How do you motivate kids?”

Motivating Your Kids

It may be one of the biggest struggles parents and teachers experience. As parents, we remind them to clean their rooms or do their schoolwork. They reply that it’s too hard or boring. We plead with them to do their chores and they whine, procrastinate and even ignore us. So how do we motivate them?

I’ve tried punishment with a timeout or withdrawal of privileges. However, rewards do seem much sweeter than punishments.

When I offer bribes (or threats), this usually leads to the desired behavior I am seeking. For example: as a parent, I want to encourage my kids to clean their rooms, but if I measure room cleaning behavior over a two-week period, I’ll discover that room cleaning is at zero, even with nagging. It just doesn’t happen. But when I implement a reward system to motivate better behavior, I find that room cleaning has increased enormously. It MUST be working!

Eventually, however, my reward system fails because I am tired of rewarding my children for what I think is expected of them.

And when the reward system is taken away, suddenly school achievements drop off and the room cleaning behavior stops. Then the reward system starts again and results improve. It’s a vicious cycle.

Addressing Their Challenges

However, I realized that rewards and punishments ignore what’s going on for my kids struggling with motivation. Instead, I now ask them what their challenges are. Why are they lacking intrinsic motivation? Is the task really boring? Or is there something else going on? When I genuinely understand their challenge, I typically find that it’s not going to be fixed by a goody.

They say things like, “it’s boring”… and a reward isn’t going to remedy that. Rewards don’t make things interesting. They simply shift the focus from the task to the reward. I needed to focus less on behaviors and more on obstacles to desired behaviors. Are they tired? Lonely? Stressed? Is it too hard? Does it seem to lack meaning?

Addressing the obstacles requires me to consider how I might be contributing to the problem and work creatively with my child to find ways around the obstacles. Is the work I’m asking them to do meaningful to them?

I found that giving them a choice leads to an automatic increase in motivation. Or giving them a challenge like, “I bet you can clean up your room is less than 5 minutes” helps with motivation.

Changing the Reward

Finally, I recognized that when my child feels competent, they are going to be more motivated than when they feel incapable. As a parent, my job is to build their sense of mastery so they feel like the things I invite them to do are achievable.

If I MUST offer a reward, I make it unexpected. And assure my child that this isn’t going to be a regular thing.

But I also changed the reward system. A reward is now an investment in our time together, not money. It’s now a trip to the zoo, museum or the movie theater. To me, this is a much better idea than simply getting them the latest game or gadget. I make this a special one-on-one trip with my child and give them the benefit of my attention. Experiential trips make for great rewards and inevitably teach my children that money is not everything, but spending some mindful time together is.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Losing a Family Pet

Losing a Family Pet

We lost our Maverick (Mavi) two days after Thanksgiving after almost 15 wonderful years with him. At this point, he was blind and deaf and didn’t have a lot of energy this past year, but he was loved and spent his last days sleeping and wandering around the house every now and then to find people.

Every time I questioned if it was time for him to go, he’d give me a good tail wagging while he rested, letting me know he was happy. His passing was unfortunately the right thing to do, and while the kids don’t know all the details, we’re all completely heartbroken and feeling his loss more than I thought I ever would.

I always knew it would be sad when we said goodbye, but I haven’t lost a pet since I was a kid. And while I’ve hugged friends with a good “there there, now” pat and tried to relate to their grief when they’ve lost dogs, I’ve never understood until now that losing your family dog is losing a part of your family. The pain of wanting them back to hug them one more time, to talk baby talk like we all do to our pets and tell them “You MAKE this family. You’re part of us, we love you so much” one more time is deep and recognizable.

A Great Family Dog

Mavi was the dog that my husband and I got in college. Was it a smart decision to get a dog in college? No but we did and he was perfectly imperfect. He was our “first child.” He was with us when we graduated, got married, moved several times and had kids. He was better with the kids though—definitely more patient.

Like a good dog he humbly partook in childhood play, letting the kids dress him in bonnets and capes and baby clothes and, while obviously mortified, always took one for the team—like he was telling me, “Go ahead. Finish cleaning the kitchen. I got this.” He loved them all so fiercely. I have countless memories of going in to check on a baby only to find him already there, reporting for duty. “Look, how many times do I have to tell you? I got this.”

He was feisty, kind of naughty and playful in his younger years. Mavi would grab stuffed animals especially the ones that made noise, initiating a good tug-of-war. He loved a walk around the neighborhood, even though he had to “water” every tree and—my favorite—running around the living room in a mad dash after a bath. In his older years, he fell into a nice rhythm of rest and companionship. While he could not see or hear, he never failed in finding us and letting us know that even when it was hard, even when he was tired, he was still there for us—fighting age and physical challenges to loyally serve for as long as he could.

A Sad Goodbye

I stayed up until 1 a.m. the night he died, searching Facebook for old photos, looking for all the ones with Mavi. And I realized as he showed up in the background in photos of so many events, so many milestones and holidays and memories, what a constant presence he has been in our family. The grief of his passing also represents the grief of the passing of time, the end of The Maverick Era.

This was also the first real experience of grief for my kids. In a way, Maverick has given my children one of the most cherished gifts they’ll have for life. The delicate, beautiful, deeply important subject of loss and grief that will be part of their future began with him. His loss will be the foundation, the first lesson that paved the way for the rest, and because of how we loved him and how he loved us, that lesson is beautiful.

While we’ve talked a little bit about death with our kids especially after their great grandmother passed away; they were both so young that they hardly remembered. We have addressed some of the questions of what happens after, so what do I tell them? I thought saying the right things about death would be a stressful challenge, but it hasn’t been.

Experiencing Grief

I know people have a lot of different beliefs about the afterlife, whether pets go to heaven and how realistically we should approach these things with kids, but I’ve found the most important thing you can do is talk about it. I didn’t plan exactly what I was going to say, and what came out was sometimes messy, but I didn’t let the fear of saying the wrong thing keep me from talking about everything. It’s important to create a safe place where my kids can create their own ideas and beliefs.

It feels so good to talk about all these different ideas—to talk about what happens after death and about the fact that the spirit of love is greater than any proven law in science. We take what we know about death and add what we know about faith and love and that it lives forever and ever. All of these discussions, ideas and memories comforted us so much.

As my friends told me the other day, “This is your opportunity to model grief for them, to show them how we celebrate and love and remember through the pain.” It’s a great privilege to take this pain together as a family and learn from it.

The house feels like something’s missing, and truly, we’ve lost a part of us that can never be replaced. I miss his quiet presence as I work alone while the kids are at school. I would do anything to feel his paws push against me one more time as I sit here on the couch.

We’ll miss you, Maverick Mitchell Connelly. You will forever and always be loved by us.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Introducing Kids to Investing

Introducing Kids to Investing

Investing in your future is one of the best lessons you can instill in a child. Yes, I’m talking stock market, here. It’s never too early or too late, for that matter, to learn all about the stock market. It can be a fun process and you can even use play money.

Let me just start out by saying, I, myself just recently learned about investments. Me being in my 30’s, I never really understood the stock market, bonds, investments, or financial planning. I never had finances to finance. But now that I have two kids, I thought I should invest not only in my future but theirs.

So, where do you begin?

Be Sure to Ask Questions

I met with a financial advisor to explain the ins and outs of stocks and bonds. And then I realized that’s the answer, explain the nuts and bolts of investing to my children, and maybe even have them start looking into what things they like (e.g., toys, games, actual costs of things). Let’s face it, as kids we never learned the actual cost of certain things. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized how expensive it is just to have lights on in a house.

But why is investing a good idea? For me, it helps meet my financial goals. Even though I am years away from retiring, I still need to think about my future and my kids’ future, i.e. cars, college. So, I decided to introduce the concept of financial goals in ways that my kids could relate to. I introduced the concept of investing and growing their money so they have a better chance of reaching that big goal.

Learn the Basics Together

My kids have been doing chores/odd jobs for over a year now and they receive money each week. When we head to the store, I remind them to bring their money so they can buy a candy bar or random toy they think they need! This has the added benefit of teaching kids the value of a dollar; it tends to have greater meaning. It makes them think about if they really “need” that item.

Together, the kids and I learned this investment thing. Together we learned the importance of researching a stock so we better understand the associated risk. After a lot of consideration, together we picked and now follow stocks from our favorite companies and talk about how we can “invest” money by buying the company’s stock to own their very own piece. What kid wouldn’t love the idea of owning part of Disney? Together, we follow the stock price online each day and track its progress. I explained that if the company makes money, so do they. But if the company loses money, they do, too.

Don’t Forget to Set Goals

Giving my kids a reason to set a financial goal is important. This gives them an incentive and a concrete reason to save. My kids love the idea of doing something as grown-up as investing. We love doing it together. And if they see how much money can grow over time, they’re usually excited to save.

I enjoy teaching my children life skills that are necessary! It’s up to us as parents to teach our children money skills to build a healthy financial future. How and why it’s important to invest money should be right at the top. Getting my kids interested in investing early on by taking the time to explain concepts like stocks, savings, returns, risks and rewards will only help strengthen their financial skills for a lifetime. Thus, in return has helped me invest in our future.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Let’s Play an Instrument

Let’s Play an Instrument

I played sports growing up. I never showed any interest in learning to play an instrument, maybe it’s because my brother “played” the saxophone for less than a year. So, I wasn’t sure what to say when my fourth grader said, “I want to play the violin.”

I forced a smile on my face. You know. You’re supposed to support your kids when they want to try something new. I’m trying my best. I was surprised he wanted to play. Cohen doesn’t like to do much but play soccer, watch videos and play video games. But he insisted he wanted to learn to play, and all the child experts say it’s a good idea for kids to learn how to play an instrument. So I agreed.

The Beginnings of Violin Lessons

Free strings lessons are offered at our elementary school, beginning in fourth grade. So, we leased his first violin—a half-sized violin made for smaller hands. He had class once a week during school and practiced every day.

I’ll warn you now, as soon as you make the first payment on your child’s instrument, you will become insufferable. You will turn into an overbearing ogre who harbors some vague notion of propelling your young prodigy onto the stage of Carnegie Hall. You will make this happen through sheer willpower (i.e., screaming and threats); you will convince yourself this motivational tactic is not crazy behavior.

Learning to Play Songs

Every beginner violin player starts out by learning “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” You will get tired of listening to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” for 15 minutes every day.

You will say, “I bet this is how Lindsey Stirling started!” and “Good job! Your playing sounds a bit less like 30 cats in a fight today!”

“EEEEEEEEEE. EEEEE. EEEEE….RRRRRRR,” went his violin.

“Great job,” I said giving him a thumbs up.

So, even though he practiced at school, Cohen, being the video watcher that he is, of course YouTubed how to play the violin. So, instead of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” I heard “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

“EEEE. EEEEEEEE. RRRRRRR. EEEEE.”

“Great.” I put another smile on my face. I mean, he was learning. Down the line I imagine it’ll sound better.

Practice Makes Perfect

Cohen’s music teacher must be a saint. She gives kids a solid foundation. She works some crazy magic and makes 60 intermediate-beginner strings, woodwinds and brass musicians sound like the Boston Pops Orchestra….at least by the spring concert, I hope. You may need to strain your ears a bit to hear it during the early fall concert.

In the beginning, Cohen didn’t mind practicing. However, he would get tired of playing the same songs over and over, and I frankly got tired of listening. However, I paid for a violin, so he was going to play that violin. Even if he played while he was kicking and screaming!

Supporting Your Musician

Then one sunny day, without being asked Cohen picked up his violin and began playing on his own. Maybe it’s a sonata. Or maybe he’s noodling through a rough version of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” or the Sunday Night Football theme. I didn’t say a word. This is what I’ve been waiting for. I just kept doing the laundry and enjoyed the music.

Whether the lessons are initiated by me, his father, his music teacher or by Cohen himself, he is much more likely to be enthusiastic about them if those lessons are supported at home by my participation. I noticed that when music is a family value, kids learn to value it. Whether Cohen sits first chair in Carnegie Hall or he stops playing the violin after one year, music will stick with him throughout his life.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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My Child Has No Friends

My Child Has No Friends

We’d all like our kids to thrive in academics, the arts, sports and overall at being a good person. Here’s another item to add to our wish list for their success: friendship. I want to see my children happy, engaged and interacting with their peers.

Is My Child Missing Out?

Last year, my son had a best friend. However, he moved away this past summer. Even though Cohen is involved in sports, Boy Scouts and band, he still doesn’t seem to have friends. There are plenty of kids in the neighborhood, but when I ask him if he wants to play outside with them he says no. He never gets calls for play dates, and he attends only a few birthday parties a year.

So what’s a parent to do when they realize that their child, for whatever reason, is having a difficult time making friends? I feel that my child is missing out or being shunned for one reason or another. As his mother, iI find this very upsetting, to say the least. No parent wants to see their child hurt and left out of the fun. However, he doesn’t seem bothered by this at all.

Encouraging Your Child to Build Friendships

There are very few things more frustrating than watching your child struggle to make friends. We’ve tried following his interests and he is enjoying the activities he’s involved with, but doesn’t seem to have friends. I know it’s important to remember that it will take time for Cohen to develop good social skills.

I encourage Cohen to seek out the kids at school who are shy and tell him to ask them questions that can’t be answered with just a “yes” or “no”. I hope this helps him build relationships with others who might also be looking for a friend.

My husband, who is better at this than I am, taught Cohen about empathy. He told Cohen to focus on what others are saying and then discuss how that feels after the conversation is over, thus helping build relationships. I, myself, have a hard time showing empathy. But as a parent, I am very aware that my children learn from my behavior. I feel it’s important to be consciously aware of how I interact with others when my children are watching.

Realizing Everything Will Be Okay

Again, Cohen has not expressed that he has been bullied or that he has concerns about his friendships. I have reached out to his teachers, and they’ve shared that he gets along with mostly everyone in class and has a great group of friends that he plays with at recess.

Sometimes, I think what I perceive as no friendships or not enough friendships isn’t what Cohen is experiencing. I need to realize that I shouldn’t panic if things seem a little shaky. He has many opportunities to learn and gain new skills and friendships.

As long as I continue to pay attention and keep things in perspective, it will be okay. All I see, hear and experience as a parent in these early years is information I can act upon, but there is no need to panic and overreact!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Drinking In Front of My Kids

Drinking In Front of My Kids

With football season less than a month away (fingers crossed) and the potential for e-learning, there seems to be more alcohol in our household.

Let’s be honest, my children are the reason I drink; therefore, I can drink in front of my children. In fact, given the last several months, my glass of wine may be the reason we’re all still alive today.

Set Boundaries

I don’t judge people with kids who drink but the subject of alcohol when it comes to kids is still a touchy subject. For some, drinking in front of younger kids is an extreme no-no, whereas others might consider a glass or two to be fine when having dinner with family.

Some of my friends can’t imagine drinking an adult beverage in front of their kids. I’ve seen parents sneak a sip when their kids aren’t looking, or wait for when their kids go to sleep, and the coast is clear. However, recently in my mom’s group, this topic was brought up in discussion and I believe that hiding your drinking or waiting till your kids are in bed sends the message that drinking is wrong.

We all know that a glass of wine here and there is not bad for you. It can actually be good for your health. If you think that drinking in front of your children is considered “bad parenting,” I just want you to think about this question, “Is there a right and wrong way to do it?”

Kids Learn By Your Actions

If we, as parents, don’t teach them how to drink, then who will? Their friends? Their friends’ parents? Television? Or maybe behind the bleachers at a football game with a kid who stole his dad’s vodka bottle? When I was growing up there was very little alcohol in my household. I never knew what drinking responsibly really meant. Teaching kids how to drink responsibly is a valuable lesson.

So even now, when my kids ask about what mommy’s drinking, I know my kids are watching and learning from my behavior and I serve as their primary role model. Alcohol is not the problem but rather the abuse of alcohol is. So, when my kids see me drinking alcohol, they know that I am an adult and I am drinking responsibly.

Some days, the day stretches out so long that without the effervescent light at the end of the tunnel, we may not make it through the day. I am in no way advocating getting truly drunk in front of your little ones, but having a drink isn’t shameful or it doesn’t need to be done behind closed doors.

Show Them What Responsibility Looks Like

When my kids leave to go to a friend’s house or one day out on their own, I want them to be prepared. My child’s success depends a great deal on what they learn and see at home.

My husband and I teach them these things by drinking responsibly, by finding a designated driver when we’ve had one too many, and by not reliving our college days with old school friends. Drinking in front of your kids is not “bad parenting,” its “responsible parenting.”

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Back to School…I Hope

Back to School…I Hope

In the next few weeks before school starts, people will decide what’s best for their family – whether that’s home schooling, distance learning or going back to in-person learning. This is a hot topic that hits every parent hard, and there are lots of opinions and emotions involved.

Before you talk to your friend, your neighbor, your sibling or your coworker who has made a different choice, I suggest you check your tone. And if you don’t have anything nice to say during this uncertain time, just don’t say anything.

Concerns About the 2020-2021 School Year

I didn’t like any of the options in the survey for Lincoln Public Schools regarding the upcoming 2020-2021 school session. My husband and I have full-time jobs, normally in an office, and can’t stay home some mornings, afternoons and every other week to help with distance learning. Nor do I feel that my children benefited from virtual learning. I know LPS will have a solid plan in place that will address everyone’s issues. Most of my concerns were addressed when I watched the public forums and after I read the notes from the board meetings.

I reached out to my son’s previous teacher, and she is excited to get back. Yes, there are more requirements to stay safe, but she is willing to do whatever it takes to give my children the best “normal” routine through all of this.

But if I’m being completely honest, none of the changes from the schools make me feel completely confident that my child will be safe from contracting COVID-19. I’m well aware of my kids’ hygiene habits and other kids’ hygiene habits in general, so even with the extra precautions in place, I’m not sure how effective the changes will be.

Why I Want the Kids Back at School

However, the longer we remain in quarantine, the longer my husband and I realize that this is a pretty indefinite situation until some medical solutions are found. And our child’s mental well-being could not wait the one, two or three years it would take to find those solutions.

We had some conversations and agreed it’s in everyone’s best interest to hopefully send the kids back to school full time, if available. This was decided based on what we know about the status and future of the virus and what we know about our children, plus the fact that I was drowning trying to keep up with professional work, housework, teaching and mommying.

All summer long, we crossed our fingers and toes that school would be open without varying times or days. My son, who will be in 4th grade, is very excited to return to school. Hopefully, it will be full time. Otherwise, I am not sure what we will do for daycare or how we will get virtual classes scheduled. If they go back to school full time, I’ll be able to concentrate on my job and give it my full attention during the day, and then focus on the kids in the evenings.

Making the Best Decision for Your Family

I know that this decision doesn’t have to be permanent. Just like with all of our parenting decisions, we’re constantly evaluating how they are working for our family and ready to make the necessary changes if this plan stops working for us. So if I feel like it’s no longer safe for them to go to school because of COVID-19, I will keep them home, but for now, sending them back is our plan.

I know our decision will have some negative responses from family or friends, which seem to be driven by worries about the infection risk. Many people are highly doubtful that children can prevent sharing bugs and carrying them out into the community, and lots of people have picked up on teachers’ concerns about whether schools have had enough time to prepare a safe environment.

It seems likely that people’s responses are driven by understandable fear and uncertainty, but if you’re a parent run ragged by nine weeks of homeschooling while attempting to hold down a job, other people’s judgement is likely to be the last thing you need. So check your tone before you comment on other people’s situations.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Celebrating During a Pandemic

Celebrating During a Pandemic

Here’s a confession: I realize now that when this pandemic started, I was trying to be as optimistic as possible.

Working in the news business, I just thought it was the news story of the day, and we’d all move on the next day. But then events started to get canceled and businesses started to close.

I told myself that it was OK to spend a couple weeks at home because after this, we’d be able to go back to our normal lives. But a couple weeks turned into much longer.

At first it was, “Well, I guess we’ll postpone my daughter’s 6th birthday party. But we’ll still celebrate!”

Then, “Well, at least my son’s birthday in May will still happen.”

And, “Well, our 10-year wedding anniversary is in June; we’ll still get to go on our planned vacation for sure.”

And finally, “Jeez. At least we’ll have the family vacation that’s planned in August.”

It’s safe to say we’re experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

Every Day Brings New Emotions

Some days are bad, while other days are meh. But once in a blue moon, there’s an elusive good day that sneaks up and shakes up our pandemic routines…and it can feel weird to experience.

When a lot is uncertain and the world is struggling, having a good day or a celebration felt wrong, or even caused some guilt. But I realized it’s important to give yourself permission to savor those moments of joy, even in the face of a pandemic. In fact, it’s important to find joy during times like these.

We’re dealing with canceled birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations, and we continue to stay inside and practice social distancing. That doesn’t mean we still can’t celebrate; we just need to be a little more creative.

Celebrating Our Way

On the day of my daughter’s birthday party, my husband and I hung up streamers and draped a banner with a glittery “six” across the living room window. I woke up early to get her favorite donuts and then we decorated her cake and wrapped presents.

Everything was going according to the plan I had drawn up months earlier, except at 1 p.m., the doorbell wouldn’t ring and guests wouldn’t pour into our house for a birthday party.

Instead, I made sure to set the laptop on the dining room table and email a Zoom link to friends and family, so they could sing “happy birthday” virtually.

Despite the fact that there’s a pandemic, I’m a firm believer that celebrations—birthdays, holidays, anniversaries— still matter even if we have to celebrate a little differently!

Make the Most of Each Day

It’s okay to smile, laugh and celebrate during these times. In the midst of quarantine, love is stronger than ever and we need to continue to feel that kind of love and laughter.

Whether your good day is determined by crossing that one thing off your to-do list or just by being kind to yourself, it’s important to remember that what a “good day” looks like for you might be different than how it looks for someone else, and that’s OK.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Living Through COVID-19 Together

Living Through COVID-19 Together

Yesterday was hard. Actually, the last few weeks have been hard. I, like most women, feel like I am failing—as a wife, employee, teacher and most importantly, as a mother. My stress levels and anxiety are through the roof, and I just feel sad. Sad for my kids who don’t get to finish the school year with their friends and teachers. Sad for my son who doesn’t get to play soccer this spring. And sad for both of my kids whose birthdays will be spent in quarantine.

Recognizing Our Situation

I know that I have it better than so many others and shouldn’t feel this way. This gives me an overwhelming sense of guilt. So many tears have been shed.

That said, while this situation is certainly unprecedented and stressful for all, I recognize that in my case, my family comes at it from a point of privilege. Right now, our jobs are secure. We have health insurance and the internet and a fridge full of food. We are currently healthy and crossing our fingers we all stay that way. So while adjusting to working from home while simultaneously becoming teachers for our kids has been incredibly tricky, we know there are many, many people out there dealing with much worse. So I definitely don’t have all the answers. But here is what we’ve learned so far…

Managing Schedules Is Different

First, we are taking all of this one day at a time. My husband and I check in each night, lay out our work schedules for the following day, and come up with a plan of attack. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn’t. But we have simply agreed to do our best and adjust as we can. However, I am a planner. I like structure, and none of this has been on my calendar. So, as much as my calendar is empty, I am now entering work zoom meetings, school zoom meetings, zoom workouts and scheduling zoom playdates.

As far as the kids’ education, as soon as schools started to close, social media blew up with advice from parents and teachers everywhere about structure and schedules and how to keep your kids on track. It was, in a word, overwhelming. I am a lot of things, but cut out to be a grade-school teacher? Nope. Going from kindergarten math to third grade math was mind-numbing. Also, how do you create structure at home while both parents are attempting to work full-time just a few feet away? With some serious flexibility, that’s how.

So while we do have a school schedule for the kids and tag-team supervision, we are also letting them sleep in, stay in their pajamas, and stay up later than usual. We are also relying heavily on technology. Yes, we have Chromebooks, but sometimes, science class is a video. And some days, we just throw up our hands and let them play Nintendo all day.

Managing Our Lives is Just as Important

We also recognized quickly that before our kids’ education and our busy jobs, we needed to take care of not just our physical health but our mental health. So we’ve been paying extra attention to our sleep and nutrition, practicing self-care and carving out time to exercise. We’ve also allowed each other “me” time, even if it’s just going for a drive alone.

Finally, we are doing our best to look at the positive and take the opportunity for family time. So while it is stressful, we are trying to incorporate as much fun as we can to create family memories. We are taking daily walks, playing Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land in the driveway with chalk, coloring together, having dance parties and introducing the kids to old Disney movies.

Along with the rest of the world, we just have to wait and see what happens. But we are remembering to breathe, to give ourselves some grace and to remember that our family is alright.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What Do I Want to be When I Grow Up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It’s one of those questions you’ve probably thought about countless times since you were little. And as you got older, the question started to feel more real, especially when teachers, parents, and even friends started asking.

Young graduates might imagine that discovering your passion happens the way it does in a movie: with a flash of insight and a trumpet blast. But before that flash or any other insight, I was struggling to find myself. I was waiting for the next moment when you know exactly who you are meant to be.

Planning Your Future Is Tough

Like many 18 year olds, I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I also knew that I needed a degree. After four years, I graduated with a degree in journalism, I had a full-time job, and Mitch and I were engaged to be married that next summer, which led to me becoming a mommy, my true passion.

I can say the reality of following your passion isn’t very romantic. It takes time to develop a direction that feels so in-the-bones right that you never want to veer from it. I never really had that moment or feeling.

Now that I am a working mom and have two wonderful children, I find myself in my mid-thirties, growing and changing into an entirely new version of me, long after the world has stopped expecting me to develop further. I’ve experienced a significant growth spurt in the past couple of years (not in height, sadly), which has led me to wonder: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Figuring Out the Next Phase in Life

I’ve been at the same company since graduating from college. I’ve moved around within the company, but now I feel stuck and don’t think I can move up anymore. But this is all I’ve known. Is this my passion? Can I really see myself doing this for the rest of my life? Should I settle?

This job is just a job. I never saw myself in this role. I never wanted this. It’s a good job that pays okay, the people are great, and it allows me the time I need to be a mother. But is it a job or my passion? I consider myself a “boss mom,” but I want more.

I’m playing a waiting game. My husband is currently getting his master’s degree and trying to figure out what career path he wants to follow. He has a vision, he has a passion, he has an understanding of what he wants to do. He is taking the steps he needs to obtain his passion. From the moment he started college, he knew he wanted to help children in difficult situations. He has a purpose. He has a passion.

The Present Is as Bright as the Future

But I sit here struggling to find a passion that will make me money. I know money doesn’t buy happiness, but it does pay the bills. I’ve already obtained my true passion which is, of course, being a mom, but now what? I wait for my husband to finish school and see where his degree takes us, but for me, the world has misrepresented life as to cause people to resist adulthood and then have a crisis thinking their best years are behind them before they’ve reached their thirties?! Is this all there is? By no means!

Life is good right now. I can sit back and enjoy it, but I know that there’s more (far more) to life than this. Further up and further in!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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When is it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

When is it Okay to Leave Your Kids Home Alone?

School holidays, after school times and summer present challenges for families when parents work. Finding suitable care for children is tricky, particularly when usual arrangements fall through or kids tell you they are too old to be looked after.

When Is the Right Age to Let Kids Stay Home Alone?

It’s no wonder that many parents look forward to the day when you don’t have to pay for child care. But how do you know when the time is right to let your child stay home alone? My son, who is 9-years-old, goes to an after-school program and then goes to full-time daycare during the summer. However, my husband and I are debating putting him in summer camps and forgoing daycare. But then we’ll lose his spot for next year for after-school care. After this summer, is he old enough to walk home by himself and be home alone until we arrive?

There are a lot of factors that need to be ironed out before deciding if he is ready to be left home alone. However, registration is open for summer camps and our daycare provider would like to know if he’s coming back. First the logistics—we needed to get the house ready. We had to install a new keypad garage door opener, so he’s not fumbling with keys. Then, we installed a ring doorbell and a camera inside the house. Lastly, we enabled his iPad to make phone calls only to the people we programmed in. Now that I feel comfortable with the house, I needed to see if Cohen was ready.

Train Your Kids on Being Home Alone

Leaving kids on their own for short periods is good training for independence and problem solving. I would take a five-minute trip to visit to a neighbor, a twenty-minute walk around the block or a quick trip to the supermarket—these were great opportunities to leave Cohen unattended for short periods. He and his younger sister were never home alone together. I know he’s not ready to take on the responsibility of him and his little sister.

As I have said before, Cohen is my good kid. He’s capable of managing problems or unforeseen circumstances, such as a stranger knocking on the door. He isn’t easily flustered by unknown circumstances. We have discussed different scenarios like what he should do in a power failure or what to do if there was a fire. We also discussed what neighboring houses he can go to in case of an emergency. If school is let out early or he has a random day off, he will have someone there to watch him. A couple hours after school is long enough—not the entire day.

Trust Your Kids to Do the Right Things

Leaving children at home on their own involves an element of trust. I feel comfortable that Cohen will behave well and can keep himself safe. We laid out our expectations about his behavior, his activities, his use of digital devices, the food he can eat and who is able to visit—no one! We will be clear with our expectations and let him know that we trust him to do the right thing.

We as parents need to think carefully about many things before leaving our children alone. Putting children in situations they can handle can help teach them independence and responsibility. But asking too much too soon can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation. I’m sure when the summer is over and the school year is starting I may feel a little more anxious. But for now, we will practice until we all feel comfortable.

So at what age do you feel comfortable leaving your children home alone?

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

New Year’s Resolutions with Kids

Eat healthy, lose weight, exercise—these are some of the things I think about when it comes to New Year Resolutions. But this year, I not only wanted to do these resolutions for me, but I wanted to include my family in some as well.

Resolutions for the Family

When it comes to individual resolutions, for me, they’re easy to give up on because they’re all about me in a world where I’m focused on taking care of everyone else. This year, I wanted to try making resolutions as a group. They can be fun, painless and are sure to benefit my entire household.
While making a family resolution may seem as sensible as herding cats, it’s worth the effort. But setting family resolutions will only work if each member of the family feels invested. And for everyone to feel invested, shared goals need to be recognized and treated equally within the family.

If everyone feels they have a stake, then you have created the foundation for achieving your shared goals. Making goals public to your family and working together to achieve them provides the outside encouragement we all need to keep resolutions.

Focus On Your Health

But if you are the only one in your family that is actively working towards a goal, constantly removing yourself from your other family members’ habits —like eating a salad during family pizza night—will eventually erode your desire to keep your resolutions.

You might stick with eating salads for a while, but that pepperoni pizza will be more tempting when everyone else is enjoying it. We limited our pizza night to once a month. Instead of just eating salads for dinner, we are including a side salad with dinner.

We also decided to go on more family walks—the dog needs exercise too! The children have been joining me at the gym and hopefully we can get outside on the “nicer” winter days. Not only watching their mom get fit, but joining in when they can as well.

Before, I would weekly meal prep for myself, but now we are also planning our meals instead of driving through the fast food lane. We also included the children in the meal planning and prep. We are trying to find healthy ways to eat chicken strips and mac n’ cheese. The kids are excited and willing to try what they made!

Remember to Be Thankful

Lastly, we started a thankful jar. Each week we place a slip of paper in a jar saying what we were thankful for. At the end of each month, we will read these aloud. As part of the thankful jar, we also started sharing more. I feel that it is important to listen to each other.

We were stuck in a rut as soon as we got home—it was homework, dinner, electronics/tv, bath and bed. We rarely talked to each other. It was, “how was your day…fine…” and we’d move on. Now we are really trying to listen and ask questions.

I didn’t want to force my family to do New Year Resolutions, but it didn’t hurt to ask. Everyone was really excited to try, and it was easy to find ways for us to work together and achieve some common goals. Plus, it allows us more time together.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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