Any advice for mothers, staying home vs working outside the home?
I really have no advice or answers for the dilemma of whether to stay home or continue working when you start a family, except to do what's best for you. Emma is 8 and Ian is 6, and I have been at home full time since Emma was born, so 10 years (she'll soon turn 9). I didn't really think too much about whether or not I would stay home before we started our family, but it turned out that having me at home with them seemed to be a workable solution for us. I think there comes a point when that decision is made in each young family based on what is right for them, which is kind of the way it happened for us. I guess my advice would be to do what works for you.
I will say I've loved every minute of being home with them, even the days when I was too sick to move off the couch and had a toddler begging for attention and a baby nursing.
Will I ever go back to work?
Yes, I will.
How do I craft with my kids around?
Up until they just would not do it anymore, I insisted on afternoon naps (till around 4 years old, Ian would sleep for a couple of hours after lunch). I needed the solitude every bit as much as they needed the sleep. Now, especially during the summer months when we're home together, we do quiet time in the afternoon (they truly look at me like I'm possessed when I suggest sleeping during this time!). Quiet time takes on all different forms, but usually kids retreat to their own rooms for some reading, listening to an audio book, drawing or coloring, or even playing independently. I'm not even opposed to them grabbing pillows and heading up to the tree house, the point is downtime. I barely have to mention it these days, they just do it on their own.
We also believe in early bedtimes, lights are out for the kids at 8:00 (and really, if its been a long day, not much later than that for me- I am not a night owl at all anymore). During these times I am able to get a little time in the studio. But remember my kid's ages, its really not so hands-on. They can get their own glass of water, reach that puzzle, read their own books if they want. Emma and Ian play well together and independently, which also makes it easy for me. I would say in the past two years or so, its become much easier to get in a little time here and there to craft for all these reasons and more.
What's our day like, how do I find craft time?
Our summer days have been pretty free form, and I think we have all benefited from not having to literally run from one thing to the next. I take the kids out on some sort of excursion in the morning, if we have no pre-arranged plans for the day...to the library or a park, swimming, etc. They get much more of my attention when we're out of the house, I am free to totally focus on them. I head into the studio to sew at some point later in the day, when everyone is happily playing and fed, saying "ok, I'll give myself x amount of time in here, then when times up, I'm out of here, regardless of how close I am to finishing". Then we will all do something together, or we may head out again (we've been packing a lot of picnic dinners and heading to the local beaches). Blog writing usually comes at night, or early in the morning (but rarely do I get to sit down and really answer as many comments, or look at as many blogs as I'd like).
At the end of the day, either before or after dinner, we do a quick pick up of the house, together. Call it a 10 minute tidy, call it a blitz through the house, whatever...Emma puts music on, and we're all off trying to put things back in their place. I should say here that I am not a meticulous housekeeper and not a fanatic about cleaning up every single crumb. I have learned to let the kids do things like pick up and make their beds the best they can and not go back and redo it.
Our days will change when school starts, as they always do. We will continue to try to include free time for the kids whenever possible. We limit their extra activities for many reasons, but mainly because we just enjoy being together. I realize that it may not always be that important (or cool) to hang out with your parents, so I'm grabbing it while I can.
Biggest challenge as a mother?
My first thought? Right now? That I can't be responsible for my children's unhappiness. Someone once said "Where would we be without our unhappy childhoods...", that quote is meaningful to me. Although I don't think my children are unhappy, when unhappy things happen to them, I find it hard to let them just experience being unhappy because it distresses me too. I tell myself its important to not always jump in and make it better, let them find a way on their own. That's hard for me.
Am I the kind of mother I thought I'd be?
I think I am. I'm far from perfect, but I do think I give mothering the best I've got. They seem to like me.
What kinds of kids crafts to recommend?
Again, I'm no expert here either, but Renee asked about crafts and activities for young kids, and I have a heavily dog eared copy this book that I used a ton when the kids were small. I'm sure many good books have been put out since then, I just noticed that a new book, DIY Kids is coming out this month, not sure what age kids this is for, but it looks good.