16 Acceptable Snow Day Behaviors for the Working Parent

I may or may not have done – or be currently doing – all or some of the items below. Let’s get real:

  1. No bra, no makeup. Often no clothes. (But note: clothing is recommended when going outside to shovel)
  2. Lifted all restrictions on the kids’ screen and TV time
  3. Shaken your fist in rage at Mother Nature
  4. Threatened children with cookies/toys/violence should they utter a word during your conference calls or break their bones while jumping up and down on a creaky bed upstairs and directly over your work area
  5. Mandatory slippers
  6. Excessive Facebooking and Twittering
  7. Realized you’ve been sitting at your desk for 4 hours straight, jumped up (creakily) to do squats and a plank. Then sat back down for another 4 hours straight
  8. All day snacking (no meals)
  9. Worn headphones to drown out sounds of the children talking/fighting/playing/asking for lunch
  10. Banished kids outside in sub-freezing temperatures armed with shovels and snowballs
  11. Amateur homeschooling efforts
  12. Nervously and obsessively tracking weather.com to see when the snow will come to an end
  13. Pining for your colleagues’ faces
  14. Taking conference calls from your bathroom while hiding from children
  15. Jumping every time you get a text or a call for fear it’s the school announcing that tomorrow is another snow day (nooooooooooooo!)
  16. Lacing your hot cocoa while chanting repeatedly “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere”

Good luck fellow parents; may the force be with you.

Wanted: Distraction Management (For Kids and Parents)

This post had several working titles including “Mommy’s Sorry She Has To Go To Work,” and “Your Focus Needs More Focus.” Either way, there was some serious working Mom guilt combined with a heavy dose of standard parental frustration going on this week.

Weekday mornings require the usual routine for all parties, including basics like getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and getting assorted necessary items for the day in their designated places (lunch box, backpack, shoes, jackets…) My kids have been doing this all their lives, with varying degrees of support depending on their ages at the time. Currently, they are old enough to do it all for themselves. The drill has been practiced over and over and over.

And yet.

Pavlov’s dogs perform better than my kids.

Distractions are everywhere. And I’m not talking screens, as we don’t allow them in the morning. Physical distractions (oh look, it’s a Lego/book/cat/brother/sock — insert pretty much any given noun.) Mental distractions (staring into space). Emotional distractions (I’m so happy I’m going to skip around and around and around).

Because T eats her food molecule by molecule, a simple bagel can last a lifetime. (Pretty certain she would not survive in the wild.)

Because G cannot move three feet without finding a random Lego to build or a piece of paper from which to make his latest Origami creation.

Because T cannot brush her teeth without getting lost in the vacuum of her mind while staring at the mirror. If I don’t disrupt her, she could be rooted there for hours. (I’d love to know what she’s thinking, but even she doesn’t know.)

Because when I send G upstairs to turn off his bedroom light (for the third time), next thing you know, he has a nose in a book. (Not a bad thing, I know, but a distraction when the school bell will ring in less than five minutes. And school is more than five minutes away.)

You get the picture.

I suspect I am not alone in this quest to figure out how to handle the distraction management with grace and without completely losing my cool.

Which is what happened earlier this week, prompting lashings of working Mom guilt.

It wasn’t quite the standard morning. We actually needed to leave the house earlier than usual, as I had an appointment and, since my husband was away on business, my kids had to accompany me. We’d had the pep talk the night before. We agreed that we would cooperate, focus, get it done — even if it meant eschewing some playtime because our time was more compressed than on a “normal” morning. We even agreed that they could buy lunch at school instead of making their own lunches like they usually do — a rare “treat.”

And yet.

The morning was a complete clusterf**k. In retrospect, I should have seen this coming, prepared ahead logistically and steeled myself emotionally. But, reminder after reminder turned into nag after nag and eventually escalated into yell after yell. It culminated in us running anxiously to the car, all breathless and on the verge of tears. I promptly informed my kids that I was very disappointed in them. They had made me late.

Ugh.

The second the words were out of my mouth, I regretted them. There was shameful, sad silence from the backseat. My beautiful, creative, high-spirited son hoarsely whispered, “We’re sorry we made you late again.” His sister, the whimsical one, tearfully echoed, “Yes Mama, we’re very sorry.”

I hate myself.

I’m the one who should be building them up, showing them how to roll with life’s challenges, how to “shake it off” or “let it go” (depending on whether you’re a Taylor Swift or Frozen fan). Instead, here I was squashing their spirits, trampling over their egos. I’m not setting a worthy example. Instead, I’m mandating that their innate need for creativity, free play and imagination be set aside to accomodate my timelines, my needs. I disgust myself.

And yet.

I have to get to work. So does my husband. As we move through our weekday frenzied mornings, our minds too are elsewhere — on deadlines, to-dos, on our smartphones and laptops. We, too, are distracted. Emails, texts, news feeds, tweets, calls. For me, as a working Mom, my actual work day starts the second I awake. This is my self-imposed tradeoff for the luxury of not physically getting into the office till 9.40 a.m. (since school drop-off is at 9 a.m..)

It’s all rush rush and we are all distracted. No surprise then that it’s a formula for stress and disappointment. Often, by the time I make it to my desk, I’m already exhausted.

And yet.

It’s not just the mornings; the evenings are similarly compressed and distracted. Shoes and jackets and backpacks are kicked off and discarded. Toys find their way to the dinner table. Unfinished homework needs finishing. Emails need answering (since I left the office at 5.20 p.m. to pick up the kids from their after-school program.) Dishes. Bath time, teeth brushing (cue shenanigans, bickering). Finally, bed and reading before they descend into the peace of slumber. More emails, unfinished work, deadlines to get a head start on. Fishing into their backpacks to discover a form that needs a signature, a party invitation. Who knows how long they might have been there.

My whole day — outside of time at the workplace — is spent trying to conquer all of these endless distractions and competing forces. How long can we continue this pace? I wonder. Is there an art to the distraction management that will make it all work better?

Because we could ALL use a little more zen.

(This article originally appeared on Huffington Post and on Medium)

 

Dear Apple & Facebook: Your Egg Freezing Perk is a Disgrace

Have you read that Apple and Facebook are now offering female employees a $20,ooo perk to freeze their eggs, so they can delay baby-making and make the most of their career paths without the distraction of raising children?

I find this abhorrent, for many reasons, which I’m trying to sort through. Here’s where my head is at:

I forge my own path. I decide when I have a family. I am responsible for my own career success. I may bitch about the challenges of being a working Mom but it’s my decision, my choice.

Motherhood is not a “perk.” It’s not a reward for going above and beyond at the office. It’s not an incentive. Egg freezing has no place as part of the “package.” Eggs are not a tool for negotiation.

Making the choice to have kids is an intensely personal decision. And getting pregnant isn’t always as easy as they say. And it gets riskier and more expensive the longer you put it off.

Dear Apple and Facebook, why not take that budget and use it to create more supporting work environments and schedules for working parents? How about a daycare facility at the workplace? Here’s an idea: how about subsidizing childcare, after-school programs or camp costs?

Now that is what I’d consider a perk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Get Around

…. to quote the Beach Boys.

Over the past 2-3 months, I’ve not just been blogging here but have also popped up in a couple of other spots that you might have missed. So I thought I’d do you all a favor and plop them all in one place.

At the end of July, Dr Portia Jackson of the Working Motherhood community was kind enough to invite me onto her show. Working Motherhood features podcast interviews several times a week encouraging us working Moms to share our challenges, points of view and successes. You can listen to my interview here. (Heads-up: it’s about 30 mins long and let me tell you, working Moms, if you have 30 mins to spare, my advice is to grab a nap or get your nails done rather than listen to my drivel.) My main advice? Don’t sweat the small stuff, take it one day at a time and don’t take yourself too seriously.

As some of you might know, I attended BlogHer ’14 also at the end of July which was an incredible experience. I was surrounded by so many amazing bloggers and it inspired me to up my game. Consequently, two of my posts were selected in August as feature blogs posts on BlogHer (which reaches 100 million women each month) which delighted me no end – Taking Off The Training Wheels and Before You Judge: Here’s What You Don’t See.

From time to time, I contribute to my local newspaper the Framingham Patch. In August, Patch asked for readers’ thoughts following an incident when a mom’s son was ousted from his school for something she posted on Facebook. Social Expression and Responsibility tackles the obligation to consider your words before you post. Most recently, I tackled the pressing question of current society: Have We Reached Peak Pumpkin?

Meanwhile, the BreadwinningMom blog invited me to answer some questions about how I “juggle”. Not the beanbag kind, the working-mom kind – you can find it here.

And, as this little blog approaches 35,000 visits, I want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to every single of you who takes a minute or so out of your busy lives to reach my words. Thank you!

The Agony and Ecstasy of Summer Camp

School’s out, summer’s here. Parents everywhere are cheering. Or are they?

I hate summer camp

I hate that we have to be out of the house a whole hour earlier than during the school year, in time to catch the bus to camp. Our already-challenging mornings become even more compressed and panicky because, no matter how well prepared we are, kids just want to play – not pack their lunches, find their towel, apply sunscreen, brush teeth, etc etc. It’s the fear of missing the bus and having to consequently drive 40 minutes in the opposite direction from my workplace that fuels these mornings.

I hate that, no matter how well I’ve organized the camp clothing procurement process with the goal of having a sufficient supply chain of shorts, T-shirts, socks, swimsuits and towels, I still end up having to do laundry every single night. Because camp clothes aren’t just a little dirty – they are sweaty, sandy, muddy, dank, stained with arts and crafts and bug spray. They require boiling. I hate that stuff always gets lost, no matter how well labelled. Towels, water bottles, sun screen, swimsuits, lunch boxes, goggles, underwear.

I hate camp songs. Sure, they are cute at first. But when your kids sing them over and over, morning and evening and all weekend – especially those “repeat after me” songs – it’s enough to drive me loony.

I dislike “dress up” or theme days. Nine times out of ten we just don’t have the right costume, color or accessory just hanging around the house. Or, most likely, we forget. Then as we arrive at the bus stop and see other kids in whichever theme of the week attire it is, my kids are inevitably disappointed. (Side note: if they cared enough about it, they’d make an effort to remember. Right?)

I dislike family night. Not because I don’t want to experience my kids’ camp, meet their counsellors and friends, hang out and have fun – but because of the damn mosquitoes that see me and think “mmm, dinner.”

I hate the cost of 8-9 weeks of summer camp because, as a working parent, what else are you going to do? I also hate that I have to start reserving my kids’ spot at summer camp in January, for fear that it’ll book up really quickly and then we’ll be royally screwed.

I hate that many of the fun, smaller or specialist camps are not only crazy expensive but they also finish at 3 or 4pm? What’s a working parent to do?

But …. I love summer camp.

I love that my kids spend their days outside at camp running, playing, swimming, fishing, boating, archery, learning outdoor skills and much much more. It’s how kids were meant to spend their summers: carefree, making new friends, trying new challenges. Happy as pigs in …. well, you know. I love how my kids’ camp – the YMCA – provides sufficient structure for a camp of 800 kids but at the same time encourages discovery, expression and free-play.

I love how my kids’ bodies become firm and lithe during summer camp, their little arms and chests becoming toned and muscular thanks to twice daily swimming. I love how, every summer, their swimming skills get stronger. I love their stories of new friends and adventures. I love the relationships they build with their counsellors. I love their farmers’ tans, the healthy glow that bursts from their happy faces. I love how they grow every summer, not just in height but in strength (inner and outer.)

I love that they come home tired, filthy, and hungry. They eat their body weight in food for dinner and then sleep soundly for ten hours. I love that they are spending less time in front of screens. I feel like our money has been well-spent and my kids are making memories every year, building layer upon layer of character and confidence.

So yes, mention summer camp and I’ll both smile and grimace.  And yes, soon enough, the time will come that they go to sleep away camps for several weeks at a time. Then, I’m sure, I’ll be singing a different tune.

Third Graders Ask “What If?’

As a working Mom I don’t manage to spend much time in my kids’ classrooms, something I try not to guilt myself about too much. But I aim to be there for the things that really matter to my kids – like when they are making a presentation to the class and other parents. The excitement and pride fairly sparkles in their eyes when a parent is there to watch them. And I admit it, I always get misty-eyed too.

Last week, following several weeks of prep and some last-minute panic over a suitable costume, my son and fellow third graders presented the fruits of their biography project. I was beyond proud to watch my son, dressed as Paul Revere, deliver his essay about this freedom fighter to the assembled kids and parents.  One by one, his fellow classmates each stood up and educated me about the character they had selected. Not just facts but their interpretation of why each person mattered, how he or she contributed to society and changed the world forever. In less than five short minutes, the kids explored the character traits and motivations of their selected biographical character, and how they felt inspired by their achievements. From Susan B. Anthony and Marco Polo to Nelly Bly, Steve Jobs and Louis Braille and more — I was truly impressed.

But the icing on the cake came at the very end when all the kids gathered together to present a poem they had jointly written. “What If?” explores how gravely the world would be different, were it not for the contributions of each of these individuals they had studied. I’m posting an abbreviated version of the poem below because I really think the entire school project (which lasted roughly six weeks) culminated in these kids not only learning some solid history but also realizing that they too have the potential to do great things. For this, I laud their teachers.

What If?

What if Marco Polo

Never explored

Or Walt Disney

Never built more?

What if Paul Revere

Never sent the call

Or Charles Lindbergh

Never flew at all?

What if Louis Braille

Never become blind

Or Dr Seuss

Didn’t have a creative mind?

What if Nelly Bly

Never travelled to write

Or Martin Luther King Jr

Never had a dream in sight?

What if Steve Jobs

Wasn’t so smart

Or Princess Diana

Never used her heart?

What if Susan B. Anthony

Never marched for  a woman’s right

Or Wilma Rudolph

Didn’t run with all her might?

What if you had a dream

And held it inside?

What if you had a dream

And never tried?

Paul Revere: TIME' Person of the Year

TIME Person of the Year: Paul Revere
by Gabriel McGarry

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?

 

Wanted: Me Time

Like most busy Moms, the tradeoff for all the joy of motherhood and family life is the loss of “me time.” And we all know and read about the need for self-care: if we don’t look after ourselves, then how can maintain our multi-tasking superMom status for everyone else?

I don’t blame my kids, my husband or my full-time job. In fact, my husband, knowing me as well as he does, often asks me what am I going to do for myself each weekend. I’ve tried my hardest to make “me time” a priority at the weekends; sometimes it works, more often than not, it’s 30 mins grabbed here or there that, in truth, doesn’t amount to much of anything in the way of soul-soothing.

Truth is, there’s just not enough weekend in the weekend for “me time.”

So this morning, I decided it was time to take some action. I am demanding one whole Saturday per quarter for me and me alone. Because I need a whole 12 hours to unwind my mind and body. To do things for me. At my pace and to my agenda.

I am claiming my “me time” because I need to know that it’s there, carved out on the family schedule. It’s something to look forward to, to plan for. To decompress the depleting stress that creeps up on my brain and rattles my sleep. To recharge my silly.

I know that everyone will benefit from my “me time.” Not just me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working Mom Poll: Makeup Dilemmas

Most mid-week mornings, I pull into the parking lot at work, already running late and harried. And it’s there, in my car, that I hastily throw on my makeup. The goal of which is to mostly make me feel more put together/awake but also I feel it’s my duty to protect my co-workers from having to see their reflections in my shiny nose and forehead.

Like most working Moms, mid-week mornings are manic: trying to herd the kids while at the same time making ourselves presentable for the outside, professional world. Success (a sliding scale) largely depends on the age of your kids and how much of the morning routine they can do for themselves – but ultimately, kids are easily distracted and before you’ve had a chance to take a bite of toast, pack their lunches, iron anything (ha!) or hunt for library books, it’s time to hustle them – and you – out of the door and to school/preschool/daycare/work.

So I wondered, am I alone in my inability to apply makeup before leaving the house or do you, fellow working Moms, also find yourself slapping on the mascara and lipstick sitting in your car outside your office? You tell me.

Wardrobe Meltdown & a Stranger’s Words of Wisdom

While Spring may technically be here, in reality, it’s still winter in New England and has been since November.

Which means I’ve been wearing the same set of clothes for work for roughly 21 weeks.

Which means I am sick to death of every item of clothing I own.

Which means that, this morning, as I needed to look respectable for client meetings for the third consecutive day (while battling a head cold), I had a total wardrobe meltdown.

Let’s call it a Working Mom Style Crisis.

In that, I have no style. And most of my clothes are either old, boring, and unhip.

My random assortment of clothes are usually selected according to the following principles: price, fit/comfort, flatteringness, color, available time to shop.

Most often, the clothes I buy are pulled from a rack in Target – without being tried on – while doing the weekly shop with kids in tow. (It helps that the women’s clothes section is strategically just across from the area where all the Pokemon cards can be found …)

Given that my style left the building a long long time ago (around about the time I became a working Mom,) I have somehow managed to feign some masquerade of style through an assortment of flashy earrings and necklaces and my kick-ass boots.

But this morning, as I lamented how much I hated all my clothes to Twitter, someone (another working Mom) tweeted to me that: “Nothing looks better on you than confidence.”

And I realized that, tatty clothes aside, I have ship-loads of confidence. And I can fake it really good too.

So, until the day comes when I have enough time and money and patience to shop for new clothes, I’ll be trying my best to wear my confidence – with style.


 

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