Friday, July 22, 2011

The Coker Family {FINAL Working Mommy Post}

The Coker Family and their Working Mom:
Making it Work for Them
I am super excited to be guest blogging today! I do not usually do things like this, so it has been super fun.
Because this working mom has written most of this post at a conference without her computer with her pictures on it, please check out our blog for more about us:
Learning to balance work with being the kind of mother I want to be is perhaps my greatest struggle. Not to mention being the child of Christ, wife, daughter and friend I also hope that I am…
A little about myself and my family…I am the mother of soon-to-be 5. I have 3 sons – ages 12, 10 and 6. My two oldest sons are my step-sons. I then have 2 daughters – One just turned 4 and the other will make her debut in the Coker clan this September.
I am a middle school administrator, and I am currently also going to graduate school full-time with intent to finish this dissertation and graduate with this stinkin’ doctorate degree this spring.
My husband is a coach. In the past he has coached at the collegiate and varsity level; however, because of the time coaching, specifically Texas football, takes away from family, we have made the decision that while our children are young it is best for him to remain at the middle school level. Thus, he is a middle school athletic coordinator, coach and teacher…at MY SCHOOL! (It does NOT get any better than working together!)
My husband and I also met at the school where we both worked. Our love story is somewhat humorous, but it is important to know that I despised him for quite some time before we actually started dating. I gave him a chance because of the way he talked about his time with his sons (then 1 and 3)…He is an amazing daddy! And, less than 6 months after we started dating, we were married.
That was in 2003. Next week we will celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary.
So, it is summer now in the Coker house (all two weeks of it that I have this year), so these weeks have been filled with visiting relatives, heading to the beach, soakin’ up time at the lake…These weeks are VERY, VERY different from our days that will come in mid-August when we ALL head back to school and fall back into our typical routines.

During the few weeks we have of summer, either my husband or myself is able to be at home with the kids. Our summer days are glimpses of how it would be if one of us did not work – library visits, trips to the pick vegetables, art projects, etc. Now, every summer one (or BOTH) of us has also been in graduate school, so we always have papers to write, data to be evaluated and research to be conducted, but we have gotten good at whipping out a couple of pages of writing while the kids are manipulating playdough or running through the sprinkler in the yard.
But our typical day for 10ish months of the year…
Hubby and I are up by 5. Football practice starts at 6:15 a.m. (it is still HOT in the fall in Texas)! We have breakfasts to make, dinner to set out, lunch situations to sort, matching socks to locate, backpacks to review one last time…We work as a team until hubby leaves around 5:45.
Then I am on my own to ensure we are all out the door and to school on time.
As he leaves, we are also waking up the crew. We must have the boys at the bus-stop by 6:45, so in the hour we make beds, eat breakfast, get dressed, and attend to our morning chores (taking out the trash, feeding the dogs and cat, loading the breakfast dishes in the washer, etc.).
6:45 - I am pushing them out the door. The bus stops two houses from our house, so while they wait for the bus, I load the car and buckle the girl. Sometimes I am finished before the bus arrives, so I sit in the car and wait at the end of the street until the boys are safely on the bus while I put on my make-up.
Then it is a mad rush to drop of the little one at her school and to be at my school (across town) before 7:30 (when I am to be on duty to greet the over 1000 students in at my school). I usually pull into the parking lot of work in the nick of time!
The work of a middle school administrator is crazy in an of itself, but it is worthwhile work... Specifically, I am the Dean of Instruction on our campus, so I spend a great amount of my day in teachers classrooms, coaching teachers on improving instruction, evaluating student data to provide student interventions and improve instruction, meeting with teachers, meeting with parents, conducting staff development…My days at school look completely different from one day to the next. There is rarely downtime. I often do not have time to even eat lunch! However, I LOVE my job.
Our school dismissed about 3:40, but I am not “off duty” until the last bus pulls away around 4:15. Then, most days (with the exception of Fridays), I am in meetings until 5:15ish.
Then it is a mad rush to pick-up all of the kids to begin our evening activities…
Now, lest we forget that we have 4 children (soon 5), and they ALL play sports and/or participate in fine arts - soccer, football, gymnastics, dance, choir, church youth group, and baseball will make-up or fall.
Oh, and did you forget that I have a coach for a husband? To say our evenings are CRAZY would be a tragic understatement of the situation! They are literally a scheduling NIGHTMARE!
This past spring our Thursdays were our crazy days of the week. Hubby had basketball games, so he was out of the mix…It was all me. I would bust out of work…pick up the girl 1st and then run to pick up the boys. We would ensure that we had everything packed – uniforms, gear, snacks - for the evening in the car when we left in the morning because 2 of them had soccer practice in 2 different places, one of the boys had baseball and our daughter had dance! Wild nights! They would ALL change in the car. I would drop one at soccer. Drive to dance. Drop her at dance (I had a friend who would watch her until I got back). Drop off the other soccer player at practice. Go back to pick-up the dancer. Head to the baseball game. Drop off the baseball player at his game. Pick up both boys from their soccer practices and then head back to the baseball fields to finish out the evening activities. We would literally step foot in the house until WELL after 8 sometimes and we still had dinner, homework, baths and nighttime routines….Crazy right?
Evenings like these are ridiculous. While many of ours are pretty darn crazy, they are usually not THAT crazy. Typically my husband and I can manage to divide and conquer our evening schedules. For example, one of us might be at gymnastics while the other one is at soccer, etc.
Being a mom of 5 hard. Being a working mom of 5 is really hard.
Below are 10 things we do in our house to make it just a little easier:
1. Daycare and after-school care that you love
We love our daycare and afterschool care. We HAVE been in situations before when we did not feel comfortable with where we were leaving our children for the day, and there is NO worse situation. I love and hate that I often negotiate with my children about picking them up LATER from their daycare/afterschool programs. It kind-of hurts my heart/my pride when they tell me to please let them stay longer so they can do ___ (fill in the blank with almost any cool activity), but I am also filled with great comfort each time as well. We do not go with the most expensive places in town. We do not care if they learning more or less than other kids in other programs. We simply delight in the fact that the workers in these places love and care about my children and that my children want to be there…
2. Help from family and friends (and carpools)
We are fortunate to live close to lots of family (grandparents, aunts, uncles), and we are blessed to have absolutely amazing friends. These people love, care and support our kids probably as much as we do, and while I would never want to take advantage of them, I also never feel guilty for turning to them when my husband and I cannot do it on our own. I feel blessed that my children have amazing relationships with these people…they need those relationships, and I cherish the time that they spend with them when I cannot be there.
3. Morning/evening routines and chores
There are certain things that we do EVERY morning and EVERY evening. To maintain some sort of order in our house we must have some very set routines. Fro example, each child has a chore every morning…They make up their bed (to the best of their ability) and do one other thing (like take out the trash, feed the dog or feed the cat). Likewise, there are routines we do every night: start/fold a load of laundry, pack lunches, go through backpacks from school, etc. The kids also have set getting ready for bed routines: We have a timer for the shower, a place to hang each kids’ towel, reading and prayer rituals, etc. While we sometimes fluctuate on the time (between 8:30 and 9:30), we are set on the routines and never stray from them.
4. Eating dinner together
Yes, our evenings are wild. Yes, we are strapped for time most nights. Yes, this is sometimes a source of stress for me; however, we believe it is CRITICALLY important for us to sit down each and every night we can (there have been times when it is physically impossible) to eat together. There are evenings this means that I have to make sure something is in the crockpot before we leave so that it will be ready to eat at 5:15 before or evening events…Other times it means that we will be stopping at a local taco place…Sometimes it means that we will “fend for ourselves,” but we ALWAYS sit at the table together. We ALWAYS turn off electronic devices (phones, television, etc.). And, we ALWAYS give thanks to the Lord for our food before we eat.
5. Good communication
I am really lucky to work in the same school building with my husband. We have been told 1000 times that I am nutty for liking it, but we REALLY do! We see each other occasionally during our work days, but honestly, I could go a week in a school as big as ours and never see him if I never made a point to do such! Thus, we have had to establish systems to make sure that we communicate effectively. Now, the eating dinner together each night is probably our #1 communication time…with us and our children, but we also text and email regularly. We copy each other on all emails and texts concerning the kids, and we maintain an online calendar that the both of has (and our families) have access.
6. Utilize work time
I work in a profession where it is not easy not to bring things home. I do not know that I will ever forget about my “school kids” when I am at home, but work hard when I am at work to ensure that I am not doing many/any “work” things when I am at home. A big thing in my world is my graduate school…This is not something I can do when I am at work, but it is not something I want my kids to sacrifice for either. So, my compromise – make sure I work on it when I can sneak it in! This means I will drop one off at soccer practice and instead of sitting in chairs on the sidelines with the other moms that I sit near my car on my computer. When I am watching the little ones in the bathtub – I have my computer. When I am waiting for a PTO meeting to start – I have my computer. I know this is probably not the most awesome thing I do, but it is what I have tot do to make all things fit.
7. Find joy in the small things
Many moons ago my beloved grandmother told me that I needed to start appreciating the small things in my life. She then told me that each day she forces herself to write down 5 things for which she is thankful in a journal. I will admit, I do not have time for a journal and would be horrible at keeping up with it; however, as a part of our prayers with our children (that both my husband and I do together), we brainstorm 5 things for which we are thankful each day with each of them. This forces us to find joy in the small things. The five things for which my daughter was thankful tonight: that we found a shoe that she thought was missing, that her middle brother played mommy and daddy with her, that daddy let her have cheese in her spaghetti at dinner, that there was a frog in the front flowerbed and that she watched Angelina Ballerina two times! How could this list not bring a smile to your face, and how could the sharing of this list not force me to be thankful as well. My top of my list tonight: the happy hour Route 44 Sonic iced tea! It is the simple things!
8. Cannot do it all
It is simple as that…you CANNOT do it all. Yes, I am in the PTO at school. No, I cannot make all of the meetings or be the committee leader. Yes, I serve on committees at church. No I do not make every meeting. Yes, I wish that we could make every single soccer practice or dance rehearsal. No, we cannot…and I have come to accept that this is okay. I will do my best to do these things, but when push comes to shove, I have to make decisions and accept the fact that I cannot do it all. It used to bother me when we would miss a meeting or a practice, but I have come to accept it now. I do what I can. I give my best, and that is all I have.
9. Priorities
Along the same lines as the statements above, we have also learned to have priorities. We make decisions all of the time about what is more important to us, and then once we make the decision, we stick with it. Example: Being sure that one of the boys is at baseball practice or the family being at the other son’s baseball game. Well, the entire family will be supporting the one at the baseball game. The game is more important to us. Example #2: Out of town soccer game vs. church…Our family chooses church. These are our priorities, and we stick to them. Do we always make the right decisions? No. However, we make them for reasons we believe to be right and in the best interest of our children…
10. Sundays
Again, this goes along with our priorities. They are sacred to us. There are 2 big things we do EVERY Sunday – to the Grocery store after church/lunch and sit down to review our weekly plan/calendar. Sundays are our sacred time – DON’T TOUCH our Sundays. They are not to be touched for any reason other than our family. They are OUR time to worship, and they are OUR time to be a family. Period. I do not care if there is a special soccer tournament. I do not care if you need me to meet with you one last time before that project is due. I do not care if there is a giant party…Unless we believe that these things will focused on the betterment of our family, we will not be participating.

All in all, being a working mom is hard, but it is worth it…And with that, this working mom is off to bed. Tomorrow is sure to be a big day!

Thanks Taylor for sharing a piece of your life with us!  I was exhausted after reading about your life!  You are SUPER mommy! 
Best of luck with the new bundle of joy to arrive in September!  If you have any questions for Taylor please leave her a comment on her blog by clicking here!
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