Hi, I’m Alicia, SAHM, Tattooed Mommy, and self-proclaimed Queen of Free. Pleased to meet you. I’ve lived in Fairfield County my entire life, Stratford to be precise, and although the winters have gotten a little harder to handle as I get older, I really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else (except maybe Hawaii. I’ve gotta be honest here.).
My husband, Harry, is also a lifetime Stratford resident. We even went to high school together, though we never actually met while there. That happened about 5 years later through a mutual friend. And then it took another year before we finally started dating. Fast forward 12 years, and here we are, living in a home we purchased together with a 6 (and a half!) year old little girl, a dog, two cats, a fish, and a partridge in a pear tree. Life is good. We were also lucky enough to have gotten married on the island of Maui. Note: if you haven’t been, you need to go.
(Just Mauied February 2004)
The little girl? Meet Ellie, the love of my life. My sun. My heartbeat.
(This picture captures the very essence of El. Did I mention we’re Italian? My little girl talks with her hands and has quite the knack for conveying emotion with her facial expressions.)
El is a mini-me, both in looks and demeanor. She walks to the beat of her own drum, and she’s extremely strong-willed, has been since the day she was born. There were many-a-days over the last 6 years that I have repeated to myself, “It will be a valuable asset to her when she’s older.” Ain’t nobody gonna push Miss Ellie around.
Even though she’s helped to make me prematurely gray, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Nobody makes me laugh harder or love stronger than this girl. My heart physically hurts sometimes when I’m away from her. Even now, typing this, I’m getting all choked up.
It wasn’t like that from the very beginning. People, myself included, have this preconceived notion that the moment your kid is born, you are a mother and that mother/child bond is instant and binding. It didn’t happen like that for me (though I think it really does for some). It took about 10 weeks after, with a trip to the hospital, where I became A MOTHER. That’s a story for another time. I’m only mentioning it now because I know so many mothers that have questioned why they don’t feel that insanely strong link to their baby the moment he or she is born. They feel like a failure. They feel let down. It hurts to hear someone is feeling that way. There is no one-size-fits-all to motherhood.
Back to my Ellie-Monster. She was a daycare/pre-school chickie since both my husband and I had to work full-time to support our family. Being an only child, that route ended up serving her very well. She loved the interaction with the other kids. She learned from them. She thrived in that environment. Her daycare provider, Teri, became a part of our family, like a grandmother to El. I’m still friends with all of her pre-school teachers, and El still goes to summer arts and crafts camp there. Ellie’s closest friends are from her pre-school gang. We all get together from time to time, and the kids act like it’s only been a few days instead of months since they’ve seen each other last.
The whole out-of-the-home-childcare/working mom thing worked for us for years. Our schedule was like a well-oiled machine. Our life was not hectic at all. People often wondered aloud how we managed it all, and they were surprised when I’d say it was honestly pretty simple and stress-free.
That was until we started public school.
Ellie attends an excellent public elementary school here in our town (in fact, it’s the same one I attended). The staff is incredible, and the school itself just gives off good vibes. We purposely bought into our neighborhood so we’d be in this specific school district.
School has changed since I went though. There is a lot of pressure on both the kids and the teachers. There is an insanely large amount of parental involvement on a day-to-day basis. As a working mom, there just wasn’t enough hours in the day. I noticed that Ellie needed me more and more as kindergarten and then 1st grade went on. By the end of kindergarten, my husband and I decided we had to figure out a way for me to either cut down my hours or possibly leave all together. During 1st grade, I was given the opportunity to work from home in order to pick Ellie up from school. Eventually, I started working from home full time. You’d think that would solve the problem, right? It ended up making things even harder simply because I was home as she was doing homework or reading or what have you, but I was still chained to my desk until 5pm. So I was there, but I couldn’t help. Try explaining that to a six year old.
We finally decided it just wasn’t working anymore. And so, I quit. I quit my job as a historical researcher and quality control specialist at an environmental data company, a job I loved and had held for over 11 years. I quit for my kid. I quit for my family. I quit for me. Life is too short.
They say the grass is always greener on the other side. I’ve lived on both sides of the grass (though I’ve only been a SAHM for about 2 months so far). Which is easier? I honestly have no idea. Being a SAHM to a baby or toddler is way different than being a SAHM to a school-aged child. Being a working mom but having a working dad around is way different than being a single working mother. There is no better. There is no easier. There’s only what works for you and your family.
Before I wrap this up, you might be wondering about the whole Tattooed Mommy / Queen of Free thing I mentioned in my greeting since I haven’t addressed either in this entire blurb. First Tattooed Mommy:
(I’m an ink enthusiast)
Second, The Queen of Free. For years now, since we’ve always been on a budget, I’m constantly scouring the internet for free activities for our family. We attend lots of fairs, festivals, story times, and the like in our area. I follow lots of different things on Facebook to find out when stuff is going on, and I’ve always been one to share the wealth. In addition to writing about being a Fairfield County mom, I’d love to share info about all the fun, free (or reduced price) activities out there. There’s so much available! You’d be surprised. Some excellent resources for anyone is to check their local library and community center on a weekly basis. Both the Stratford Library and Sterling House Community Center in my town offer tons of stuff for families to do year round. Right now, Ellie is signed up for the summer reading program at the library, and we occasionally attend Pajamarama reading time there Wednesday evenings (story time in pajamas!). At Sterling House, Ellie’s taking swim lessons (8 of them over the course of 4 weeks) for a mere $45. She also dropped into a karate class there last month for $5. Can’t beat that!
I’ll leave you with 2 free events coming up the last half of July. The first is Blues on the Beach, a music festival held at Stratford’s Short Beach 4 years running now. This year, it’s being held on Saturday, July 20th from 2-9pm. This is a great event, one we look forward to every year. Admission to the beach is completely free to anyone for the festival that day, not just Stratford residents, and you can bring your own picnic lunch, beverages, tents, chairs, etc. The concession stand will also be open if you’d rather not lug food and drink along. The beach is gorgeous (they’ve really cleaned it up this year), and the music is fantastic. The second free event will be taking place at our own American Shakespeare Festival Theatre on Elm St in Stratford. From Wednesday, July 31st-Saturday, August 4th, Connecticut Free Shakespeare will be performing A Midsummer Night’s Dream under the stars on the theatre grounds. Admission is completely free. Bring a blanket, some snacks, and some bug spray, and introduce the kids to Will Shakespeare. Midsummer is a great play for the whole family, and I think the kids will enjoy it (I’m a little biased since I performed in Midsummer about 15 years ago).