BENITA SCHECKEL My life, so far. (Part One of Four)

* Editor’s Note * We began this project one year ago in July 2011, in order to show the strength and diversity of today’s families, mothers and fathers. Through the stories contributed here we have learned a powerful and universal truth: parenthood will bring out the best — and the worst — in you.

This week we present, in four parts, the story of California mother and teacher, Benita Scheckel. We found Benita’s frank assessment of herself and her relationship truly compelling. In her story we witness the highs and lows of a vulnerable young mother and wife. We watch breathlessly as she moves from her Worst parenting moment to her Best. In her story, we live the unexpected days and heartbreaking nights that is parenthood and marriage. In her story, we see ourselves.

Stay tuned through Thursday and cheer along with us for Benita’s very happy ending.

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AGE   46

HOMETOWN   Pasadena, CA

NUMBER OF CHILDREN   Two

DAY JOB   Teacher/Actress

RELATIONSHIP STATUS   Married 22 years this summer!

FAVORITE CHILDREN’S BOOK What children’s book is a favorite in your house and why? What book has made a great impact on you or your kids? Was there/ is there a story that was passed down from generation to generation? Well in our family, there are three books that have been so impactful in our lives that we now give them as gifts to expectant families: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss and Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw. I think all three of these books encapsulate big themes in our home. The Giving Tree of course, teaches the art of altruism, as well as the allure of the next great thing we think we need to make us happy when in the end, our happiness lies in the simple contentment of just having a comfortable place to sit and rest. Oh, the Places You’ll Go teaches about the journey of life and the commonality of the experience no matter who you are. And Love You Forever is a perfect, “here’s what it feels like to love a child”, “Circle of Life”, “You’ll understand when you have your own children”, novella.

* PART ONE *

HOW DO YOU COMBINE WORK AND FAMILY? How have you, or you and your partner, arranged your life/schedule to provide the daily care for your kid(s)?

Combining work and family is much more challenging today than when I was growing up. Especially in California, the one income household is nearly extinct. For us, the balance has changed over the years. When our daughters were little, I went to college to finish my B.A. and my husband worked. We bought a house and subsidized the mortgage by hosting foreign students in our upstairs bedrooms. It was tough.

I went to school during the day, with my oldest daughter in tow. I remember we couldn’t afford to buy the college parking permit so I parked at the bottom of what was called “cardiac hill” and fed the meters with loose change. Then I carried my daughter and her stroller up the never ending staircase and attended my classes.

Among my favorite memories of those days is the time I wheeled her in to Concert Choir rehearsal and she slept soundly during 60+ voices singing Carmina Burana at full throttle. Maybe that is why she is now a music major at USC.

Once the girls got older and I finished my degree, I took a full time teaching job and they went to pre-school and elementary school. They are four years apart in age, which by the way, I highly recommend. It was wonderful to be able to focus on each one of them. By the time our second was born, our first was potty trained and off to pre-school so I could really enjoy the second child. Now that our girls are older, I have been able to focus more and more on my own career and projects as they are almost launched.

I think there are many permutations to combine work and family however, I think a daily family meal is crucial. Do not allow your children to roam the house with a bowl of Cheerios and a juice box and then set them in front of the t.v. during dinner. Pull the high chair up to the table, offer them tidbits of what you’re eating and talk and laugh and make this a treasured part of the day. And guess what, you won’t have picky eaters and meal time power struggles either.

Tune in to Parts Two and Three of Benita’s story, including her very scary Worst Moment in parenting.

Lisa Duggan

Lisa Duggan is the Founder and CEO of The Modern Village, and publisher of TheParentduJour.com and TheMotherHoodBlog.com.

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