Losing My Marbles?

I am not someone who loses things or leaves things behind. Over the years, I’ve known plenty of people who lose their car keys and such on a regular basis. At university, I lived with a girl who every day was in a panic about not being able to find something or other.

However, I am turning into one of these people, if the last two weeks are anything to go by. Let’s examine the evidence:

  • Wed of last week: Drove to a meeting in town. Returned to parking garage to the realization that I had left my wallet at home.
  • Fri of last week: Left my entire bag overnight at Dream Dinners.
  • Yesterday morning: Left for gym in the morning without my water bottle.
  • Yesterday afternoon: Left work without my laptop.
  • Yesterday evening: Left a restaurant without my credit card or signing for the check.

I worry about my sanity when these things happen as it’s so out of character for me. I’m well aware however that it’s a symptom of moving too fast and having too much in my head. And not enough sleep.

According to this new article “I Refuse to Be Busy” in the New York Times’ Motherlode blog, being busy is a choice. I’m not completely sure that’s true or achievable, especially when you are a working parent. But one way or another, I need to tackle my busy work, busy home, busy head thing or else I will never find my marbles. Maybe I should start by trying to slow down and breathe. Breathing is good, right?

 

The Facebook Post That Made Me a Terrible Mother

by Kristin Parran

I can’t keep it in any longer. I must be the worst mother ever. It doesn’t matter that my not-yet-3-year old son adores me. Or that he climbs in bed with my husband and I and tells us we make the best team (then asks for high-fives). Or tells me he loves me more than cars. CARS! None of that matters.

Two things I have read today make me believe that despite all of these things, I must be a terrible mother. First, I read a blog post about breastfeeding. Or, rather about not breastfeeding. The author shared her honest feelings around the disappointment – and subsequent judgment – around not being able to breastfeed. The point was that mothers should leave other mothers alone – breastfeeding or not. Funny, though, all of the comments from women who felt judged about not breastfeeding came from a place of not being able to breastfeed. I didn’t see one from a woman who CHOSE not to breastfeed, like I did. It’s hard as a new mother to not feel at least a little judgment with every decision you make – even if it’s self-inflicted judgment. But, I am increasingly finding that mothers like me – those who choose to bottle feed for one reason or another – don’t exist in public forums. They sit back, try to stay unnoticed and feed their babies the best way they know how. Some choose the expensive organic formula. Some pay for soy-based. Some do extensive research to understand which product is best for their babies. But the thing that connects all of these women is that they love their babies just as much as breastfeeding women do. I love my son no less than the next woman. I firmly believe – and would argue til I died – that in the way I know how, I have given my son the best chances for a life full of love, happiness and health. But it’s hard to find people like me out there. At least those who admit it.

The second thing I saw was on Facebook. This kind of thing usually doesn’t affect me the way it did today. Maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive, or because my stepdaughter is visiting and that always has my emotions doing somersaults. Either way, it hit me. An old acquaintance just went back to work and posted that she’s missing her babies more than ever. But that’s not it – it’s what she said next that hit me: “I know every working mom would rather be at home with their babies all the time.” I dropped everything and started this post. I couldn’t help it. My brain is screaming. You ARE a good mom. You ARE a good mom. But, am I? Really? My response to that post was not: “Sister…you are so right! I would so much rather be at home with a screaming toddler, playing with cars and arguing about naptime Every. SINGLE. DAY.” Rather, instead my response: “That’s BS! While I LOVE my baby, I also LOVE my job. And the people I work with. And the opportunity to be ME. And the socialization. And that I contribute something financially to my family. I love having both. I NEED to have both.”

I get the sense that a lot of mothers will read my response and gasp. GASP. HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT!?! How could you say you love your job AND your baby? How could you not want to spend every single waking moment with your child? The answer for me is simple. Being me – the me who loves my job and my husband and my son and my friends and my time alone – makes me the very best mother I can be. Whether or not that mother meets standards set by others is something I can no longer judge myself against. I wish I could say that feeling follows me everywhere, every day. But, it obviously doesn’t. Rather than reading that post and saying: “There are mothers of every color, and I happen to a bright pink” I took it as a jab. A knife turning in the heart that is still trying to heal from post-partum. So, I’m not perfect. I do let some things get to me. But after the initial crazy self-judgment and guilt wear off, I once again see that I’m not such a bad mom. My son is an incredible human being. And, at the end of each day, I have to believe that I have something to do with that.

Kristin Parran is a mother of one (nearly 3-year old) boy and wife to a husband who anchors her in peace. Wise enough to know life can (and should) have balance, brave enough to listen to her gut – but not always smart or Zen enough to stop sweating the small stuff – she recently moved her family 1,100 miles to give everyone the best shot at equilibrium. She spends her days working from home for a tech PR firm and shedding tears of gratitude for newfound peace – which is soon interrupted by the impatience of reality. Each time she leaves her house, she secretly hopes to be discovered by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley or Dierks Bentley as a (silent, yet energetic) back-up singer. Or, to someday see her name on the cover of a book.

KP

The Grand Illusion: Mogul, Mom & Maid

A real conversation from early December:

Husband: “Honey, when will our Christmas cards arrive?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I haven’t even ordered them yet.”

Husband: “What? How come? We’re already receiving loads of cards and should be sending ours out now too.”

Me <insert snark> : “Oh, I didn’t realize. I’ve been lying here on the couch watching reruns of Desperate Housewife and filing my nails.”

Husband: “I know you are busy, I get it. But I’m surprised the cards aren’t done because you always seem like you have everything under control.”

BOOM. The moment of truth. It always seems like I have everything under control. Hahaha!

The reality is: I don’t. It’s all a thin veil or, rather, a grand illusion. Scratch the surface and there’s a hot mess of confused priorities, a healthy dose of anxiety, a fair amount of disorder, random spots of remarkable focus and OCD, a pinch here and there of laissez-faire and, more often than not, a wing and a prayer, a shrug and a nervous giggle.

Or, as a friend who is also trying to figure out this working Mom thing calls it: the sliding scale of incompetency.

Reality #2. Also back in early December, Liz O’Donnell, author of the new book Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman” asked me to contribute to a blog carnival with other working Moms, to share our tips and perspectives about our balancing acts. Irony: it was one of those weeks when all around me, life was exploding and there was no time to blog for me, let alone anyone else, let alone blogging about my balancing act! So, Liz, here’s my post, just a few weeks late …..

So, I ask myself, what of this grand illusion? Does it help or harm me? One the one hand, apparently I project this image of a confident working Mom, managing all that comes with it, with a smile on my face. This is good, surely? Heck, I even fool myself most of the time. I achieve this illusion, like so many other women, thanks to my ability to prioritize, multi-task and to turn on a dime when it’s really needed. It’s also thanks to several handy tools that help save some precious time and the wonderful invention that is Waterproof Post-it Notes which, quite literally, ensure the contents of my brain don’t disappear down the shower drain. (Buy them now …. hurry!)

On the flip-side, existing in this mode is a scary place. At any given point, there’s a terrifyingly strong chance that I will screw something up big time. The fragile card tower that I hold together all day and night is precarious. One missed deadline, one forgotten item at the grocery store, one overlooked play date invitation – not to mention the fun and games of hormones – and it can all come toppling down. The energy involved in keeping the cards propped up and balanced is exhausting.

So this is my balancing act. With the emphasis on the word ‘act’. But would I exchange it for not being a working Mom? Nope! This is my bed and I chose to lie in it.

Oh, and back to those Christmas cards. Yes I did get around to ordering them but so late that they ended up arriving on Christmas Eve. Have I had the chance to mail any out? No. Will I? The likelihood is probably not. Sorry folks. Because here’s reality #3 which, thanks to Dr. Seuss, I use day-in and day-out as a filter for the choices I make when prioritizing the 23697,2466,00000 things on this working Mom’s to-do list:

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind!

I Am The Working Mom Who …

Needs to leave work at 5pm in order to safely pick up kids by 6pm.

Thinks she can squeeze in one more email, call or conversation.

Ends up leaving the office somewhere between 5.15-5.30pm.

Realizes she doesn’t have time to pee as she’s already running late.

Can’t walk straight to her car because she is responding to email.

Spends the entire drive either on the phone or emailing when stopped at lights.

Screeches into the parking lot as the clock turns to 6pm.

Apologizes to staff.

Every. Single. Day.

Definitions

At least three or four times this past weekend, while meeting other guests at a wedding in the UK, I was asked: “What do you do back there in America?”

Each time, I struggled with my response, unsure in which order in to present the many roles I have.

“I work in public relations,” I explained to one guest. Oh, he said, somewhat dismissively. “And do you have a family?” was his next question. Would the answer have been better received if I’d said doctor or hair stylist? People rarely understand what I do. Yes, I could have emphasized my seniority, my expertise, the influence my function has in day-to-day business. But somehow it always ends up misconceived.

“I’m a Mom,” I tried, the next time. “That’s great,” responded another guest inquiring after the ages and genders of my kids. “And do you work too?” was the next question. “Yes I do,” I answered without offering further qualification or detail. “That’s nice.”

“I’m a blogger,” was my next response when asked. “Oh,” responded the guest. In her 60s, she was rather ill-equipped to process this information or understand where it fit into the picture in front of her of a forty-something woman. “I also have two kids,” I added, which seemed to soothe her.

“I’m a working Mom,” I declared to the next person asking. It struck me immediately that, while this is a badge I proudly display in the US, it seems to be less of a self-anointed label elsewhere. To me, the phrase neatly packages up my life, blending together the demands of career, housekeeper and parent, broadly encapsulating the daily dichotomies of these roles. But when uttering this description in the UK, admittedly not in the company of peers of my age and circumstances, it felt like it lacked the aplomb that I usually attach to it. Was I playing it down? Or perhaps I usually over-emphasize it? Maybe I’ve become over-attached to the label, finding cheap comfort in it?

So, what do I do and how to really describe it?

After some thought, here’s what I cam up with: what I do is create energy, I distribute energy, I receive energy.

Somedays, this energy gets everyone up and out the door, dressed, fed and happy, and me on my way to my work, eager to perform, write, manage and hopefully to mentor, affect change, produce results.

Other days, I feel like any energy I had generated is steadfastly sucked out of me, every which way, like an undercurrent eroding the sand.

And then, there’s the presence of my family and friends, simple conversations, random meetings and moments which restore, creating a new rush of new energy, filling up my reserves so that there’s plenty to fuel all of my roles and to be amply shared with those around me.

So that’s really what I do. But it doesn’t quite lend itself to the abbreviated chit-chat with the person seated next to you at table 9 at a wedding. Ah well.

When Sleeping & Working Get in the Way of Blogging

When I started this blog back in December 2011, I promised myself that to make it entertaining, shareable and fulfilling, I would write a new blog post at least once a week, if not more.

And for the most part, I’ve been able to do that. It’s never been a chore; at any given moment, I usually have a gazillion ideas for posts swimming in my head. I can usually find a quiet 15-20 mins over the weekend to write. Fortunately, I write fast, the words tumbling out of my head and onto the page.

But it’s been over a week since my last post and I started kicking myself about this. I have decent excuses – several nights of insomnia sucking the creativity out of me, house guests for the weekend, and work is crazy busy. But when I thought about it, I realized that there’s plenty of stuff I already do that sustains interest in and traffic to my blog, even when I’m not writing new posts. Namely:

  • I pre-schedule tweets about popular, already published posts 
  • I frequently comment on other blogs and articles, especially where the topic is complementary to one of my posts and I can link back to it.
  • I maintain a pipeline of potential guest bloggers who can provide good content that syncs well with my stuff
  • I retweet and share other bloggers’ posts – spreading the blog love around

Most of all, I’m not going to sweat it. I’m a working Mom and having it all is unrealistic. So if y’all have to wait another week or so for an awesomely witty or pithy or entertaining or educational or controversial post from me, then so be it!

My Avocado Dilemma

I woke up super early this morning. Actually I was awakened by my five-year who was evidently dreaming about something that didn’t work out for her and was crying out “I want it my way,” in her sleep. Well, don’t we all, sweetheart? After that, I couldn’t get back to sleep, my mind racing through the never-ending to-do list. So up I got and went downstairs.

As my coffee was brewing, my eye was drawn to an avocado sitting alone on the windowsill, where we had placed it about five days earlier to catch the sun and ripen. I gave it a squeeze.

Tell me, what is better than a perfectly ripe avocado?

But then dilemma set in. What to do with this solo avocado in the next 24 hours before its splendid green turns to mushy brown?

I figure I have two options – one involving my stomach and one involving my face.

First, the face. Winter is a bitch to my pathetic British skin. Put simply, my face is falling off, no matter how much water I drink, moisturizer I slather or how long the humidifier runs. I’m thinking this avocado could easily be mixed with some honey, oatmeal or yogurt to make an unctuous face mask that might salvage my skin. After all, it’s Friday and I’m working from home so there’s no-one to notice how strange I might look, sitting at my desk resembling a green monster. Fortunately, no Skype meetings today and hopefully no-one will FaceTime me!

But then again, there’s my tummy. All the different, glorious ways I could eat this delightful avocado! Maybe I could just slice it in half and drizzle it with the heavenly dark chocolate balsamic vinegar I recently bought? Or maybe I could squirt some lime on it and  grill it, loaded with cheese (recipe here.) Or, or …

Choices, choices.

Happy Friday folks, hope there’s a perfectly ripe avocado in your future.

Advice to My 16-Year Old Self

This morning, a tweet from MumClub asking “what would you tell your 16-year old self?” got me thinking. Often I can tweet a quick, snappy response but this I needed to mull over. So I stepped into the shower, and ideas kept popping into my head. Thanks to my waterproof Post-It notes, I wrote down the following advice to Samantha Stern:

  • Keep working on your writing and languages—they will be the foundation of your success
  • There is so much more than Duran Duran
  • You are not fat
  • Dating/kissing boys that are not Jewish will not be the end of the world
  • Friendships trump religious differences
  • Invest in your friends—you’re going to need them
  • Gary Morris may break your heart but there are lots of fish in the see—explore ;)
  • Red heads have more fun
  • Keep dancing
  • Go on blind dates (the last one will be the best one)
  • You are in charge of your future
  • Mum and Dad were right about many things (but not about only kissing/dating Jewish boys)
  • Find your own style
  • Keep traveling
  • Bacon is not evil
  • In two years, Mum and Dad will take you to see Les Miserables. It will change everything.
  • Try sushi: you’ll like it!

Confessions of a Working Mom

Not every working Mom wipes the snot off her shoulder, slaps on some lipstick, ruffles her Mommy hair and heads off to an office every day (but if she does, here are 20 ways to spot her.) Many Moms are lucky enough to work from home. Flexible hours. No commute. Serenity. Productivity. Right? A lot of the time, yes. But not always.

Whether you are working around your kids’ school, snack or nap schedule, or stuck at home on a snow day or with a sick kid, the truth is that kids and conference calls just don’t mix well – much like oil and water.

Try delivering a presentation over the phone, actively participating in a meeting, taking notes, or answering an important phone call from a client with a kid—or worse, kids—in the same room. Because the second you turn your back, speak up to make your point or try to focus, chaos, hilarity or whining inevitably ensues. It’s that sixth sense that kids have, knowing precisely when and how to exact the most torment.

I remember a few years back, stuck at home on our fifth snow day, participating in back-to-back conference calls and meetings with two kids suffering from cabin fever and excessive TV exposure. By this point, I had tried every possible form of entertainment, distraction, bribery and threat. I was literally in tears, weeping and begging them to leave me alone with promises of chocolate, new toys, trips to Disney—anything to get them to go the eff away so I could get some work done. It wasn’t pretty and I wasn’t proud but such is the reality of working Mommihood sometimes.

Looking on the bright side, as I like to do, I polled some of my working Mom friends, to unearth their stories and remind myself that I am not alone. Here are some of their confessions:

How about giving my son my iPad to play games while I worked on his sick day…until he downloaded $250 worth of upgrades to his games. To be fair, he didn’t know – it kept asking him if he wanted to purchase and he couldn’t read but he knew the word yes and he could see he got more coins to get better cars.

I remember one time being on a conference call and having the phone on mute and literally chasing my daughter down the street …

You mean like when my toddler cut his own hair? Not in the back or side but directly in the front? I didn’t even know it was possible to cut a whiffle…until he basically scalped himself (with safety scissors of course..I’m not THAT bad.)

I once was interviewing someone via the phone when my daughter yelled “Mom you need to clean the bed and the floor again, I couldn’t get to the bathroom quick enough and I threw up again.”

I remember my husband got held up in a meeting at the end of the day and I had to lead a hastily scheduled, late day, project kickoff with a client. I gave them coloring books and put on a show and a load of other things to keep them busy – all of which did not hold their interest. I vividly remember having to lock my door while they were banging on it and yelling my name to come help with something. It wasn’t long – maybe half hour tops – but I came out to my then 18 month old painting on the wall and my almost 5-year-old climbing on the kitchen counter to get a snack with crackers all over the floor.

I’ve been on the phone with patients with 3 kids screaming in the background … to the point where I had to put the baby in her playpen and lock myself in my room.

I was on a conference call once and my #2 came up to me and said, “Mom, I just went poop.” I tried to ignore her. Eventually she was screaming, “Mom, I just went poop!”

So much for “having it all”, eh? What stories do you have to tell? Please share and let’s get all confession-y together.

Four Time-Savers for the Busy Mom

I am a Mom. I am a working Mom. And I’m exhausted. There is never enough time to do the things I’d really love to do. Like, you know, nap, exercise, do nothing, laze on the couch watching re-runs of Friends. Being a parent means existing in a permanent state of fast-forward in which every scene is a perpetual blur of chores, to-do lists, to and froms, shopping, errands, laundry, cleaning, organizing and so on. In fact, while I’m writing this, there’s a pile of clean clothes screaming to be folded. Can’t you hear them?

So it’s entirely natural to fall madly in love with whatever products or services save me some precious time and simplify my life. Four of these delightful things have become regular fixtures in my life and hallelujah—not that this means I’m now swanning around at the spa and meeting girlfriends for frappuccinos every day or taking pottery lessons. But they have taken the edge off the nuttiness of it all, especially since I returned to work full-time:

  • Dream Dinners: Every month I head on over to my local Dream Dinners and assemble a month’s worth of meals for my family. Knowing my freezer is stocked with a variety of interesting meals means I don’t have to fret about meal planning or recipes and ingredients. In fact, since I started with Dream Dinners over a year ago, chicken nuggets and fish sticks are a thing of the past. I am exposing my kids to a variety of new foods and tastes. Some have been winners, some have bombed. But I’m happy they are trying new dishes, new flavors and textures along the way. Plus, thanks to Dream Dinners, we are eating together as a family most nights whereas, before, there’d be one meal for the kids and my husband and I would eat later after they were in bed. So I’m grateful for less heartburn from eating late, less stress figuring out what’s for dinner every night, and more quality time together spent around the dinner table. And leftovers for lunch.
  • iRobot Roomba: Pure genius! This clever device waltzes around the rooms, sucking up dust and crumbs and legos and pet fur and then takes itself back to its dock when it’s done! Bye bye to sweeping and vacuuming (not that I really did that much of it before!) The Roomba seems to enjoy itself most under the couch, for some strange reason ….. And while I can’t say that my dog loves this bizarre creature whizzing around, she is now accustomed to it and no longer barks or tries to round it up like a sheepdog. (The cat just keeps her distance.) Given that the Roomba is so small and sleek, it does need emptying quite often but I’ll forgive it that. Now, if I could only teach it to bring me coffee in bed …..
  • TalkTo: In full transparency, TalkTo is a client of mine. But I would not write about it here, if I didn’t really find value in it. And I do, I do! This nifty, free app lets you send a text message to any business in the USA from your computer or your phone—and get a text message back. Meaning you don’t need to find a phone number and make a call, get stuck on hold, or speaking to someone snotty or who doesn’t understand my British accent. For me, it helps most when I remember that I need to get something done and if I wait, I know it’ll disappear from my brain in a nanosecond. I’ve used the app in recent weeks to make (and then change the time of) a hair appointment, book my kids into an activity, find out what time AAA is open to, book a table for lunch, ask several stores if they had Ben & Jerry’s pumpkin cheesecake ice cream in-stock, find out what’s on sale and so much more. Give it a go.
  • Peapod: Now that I’m working full-time, weekends are precious and I do not want to waste time at the grocery store, especially if I have the kids in tow. Yes, they claim to want to be helpful, to want to push the cart (trolley) and all that, but after a while they are running down old women and secretly stashing chocolate. So thank heavens for Peapod, Stop & Shop’s online grocery ordering and delivery service. I was skeptical at first but it’s working out great as long as I manage to get my order in before 3pm on a Friday to ensure Saturday delivery. If I don’t, then we are inevitably down to the last drop of milk, fighting over the last egg and rationing Cheerios. I call it “just in time” grocery shopping! The cool benefit, other than, you know, having someone else do my shopping for me and delivering it to my front door, is that I’m actually spending less money on groceries as I’m not tempted to throw the extra this or that in. Plus I reclaim an extra 90 mins for the laundry, which I love. No really, I do.

What time-savers do you rely on to save time, effort, your marbles? Please share.

P.S. Fellow PR and marketing people please note: the fact that I have “reviewed” some products does not mean I am now open to be pitched. I wrote these voluntarily and genuinely.

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