Tag Archives: work/life balance

The Importance of Being a “Traditional” Mother

I attended a wake and funeral last week for a beloved mother of a friend.  She was in her early 70s when she passed away, and left behind 4 children and many grandchildren.   The readings and eulogy at the funeral Mass had such an impact on me, not just because I was grieving for my friend and their family, and for the loss of a wonderful woman, but because of the expressions of what a selfless mother she was.

 

I just cut way back on work and a big percentage of my day is the drudgery of being a mom: getting the kids off to school, making lunches, loading the dishwasher, changing diapers, picking up laundry off the floor, clipping fingernails, scheduling appointments, fixing snacks, thinking about what to make for dinner, loading the dishwasher again.  It’s a thankless job in so many ways and it is much more exciting to get my client quoted in the Wall Street Journal than to initial the recorder practice sheet for my third grader and make sure it gets into her backpack.  Frankly, it can be depressing and I’ve wondered if I should turn the dial up with work again.  Maybe I am not cut out to be a mostly stay at home mom.

 

Hearing about the gratitude and adoration these 40 something children had for their mother- for stocking the fridge, for attending their games, teaching them to enunciate, standing up for them and most of all- for selflessly giving her time and making her family a priority made me think.

 

It made me aspire to be like her, to be a proud and gracious mother. 

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Documentaries on Door Stops? How I Used to Spend My Free Time.

I’m on vacation. I imagined blogging at least 2 times a week, but the free pockets of time when the baby is sleeping and the kids are otherwise occupied have been spent reading or napping. I thought back to the scads of free time I had before kids. Today as the baby almost hit his head on a door stop when I was changing his diaper, I recalled that I saw a documentary short about doorstops at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in the mid 1990s. Granted, I was there to see a documentary short about library cats called Puss in Books and it happened to be a double feature. I didn’t seek out the doorstop documentary but I did go out of my way to see a movie about cats that live in libraries. This was a time in my life when I didn’t have a boyfriend (surprise!). I had time to prepare lots of salads. I had time to collect antique buttons. (This is sounding a lot like a senior citizen vs. a woman in her 20s, no wonder I was single for so long). Most of my free time now is spent folding laundry and trying to catch up on my Bravo shows, cleaning, paying bills or catching up on work. I have a small window when the kids go to bed and when I go to bed, but I like to spend it reading. I just finished Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan, which I loved and am now reading Elin Hilderbrand’s new book Silver Girl.

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When “You Can Do it All” as a Mom Isn’t a Compliment

Yesterday when I hurried to pick up my son at nursery school I commented to his teacher: “Now off to lead a Brownie meeting!” She said something that I wanted to hear: “Wow! You do it all!” She knows I have my own PR business, handle pick up and drop offs at nursery school at least a few times a week, volunteer at my older daughter’s school and have a 6 month old baby.

Today as I was unloading the dishwasher in between work projects I thought about how much the “doing it all” has given me a migraine going on 3 days now. The “pleasure” I got from the “you do it all” comment is like the secret pride a woman with an eating disorder or addicted to exercise habit has when someone says, “you are too skinny”. But that same secret pride also makes you a little ashamed of yourself, too.

It’s true that I like to have a lot of balls in the air- my many projects and friends and obligations feed off each other and help my creative process and energy level. For example, I am writing this blog post to get the my writing mojo on for another deadline that is perhaps more pressing than a blog no one really knows about.

“Doing it all” is okay sometimes, and sometimes you need to know when to say when. It may be time to give something up. Today I decided it had to be picking up from school on Thursdays in the month of May when my workload is heavy. My daughter and the neighbor boys will have to take the bus home instead or my neighbor will have to take on an extra day in the carpool. (I am so reckless and crazy!)

Now I just need to get rid of this migraine before my daughter’s First Communion on Saturday.

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What’s the Best Mantra for a Working Mom?

I’m kind of overwhelmed right now.   Here’s this week: caring for a  6-month-old baby who had surgery a few weeks ago, attending my 5 year old’s Kindergarten orientation activities, managing my 7-year-old’s First Communion and party next week.  Making and taking the kids to their doctor appointments, school activities, leading a Brownie meeting, volunteering in the school library.  That’s personal.  Forget about professional- that’s even more tedious to read about, but add in one of the busiest months of the year for my business coming up.  I’m a bag of cats.

As I was running around today, alternating between various chores (making soup, cleaning up the kitchen, making beds, finding a nursing bra in the laundry, wiping up the Pam residue footprints in the kitchen), a few mantras ran through my head:

From the book I am reading “This Is Not the Story You Think It Is”:

Stop wanting things out of your control.   Yeah, well it is out of my control that my husband is running a road race when we have a bazillion things to do around the house to prepare for a First Communion next week but I am still mad and harboring resentment.

From some author of a cheesy business book from the early 90s that I heard at a conference:

Swallow your biggest frog first.  I can’t tell which frog is bigger, work or family or which work project or family need, so I will just run around ADD-like.

From my neighbor who has four kids and knows how hard it is to take care of your own needs when you have a baby:

Personal hygiene first.   I took a shower, which is a plus, but I still consider hair brushing and makeup part of personal hygiene.   When it came down to my sister in law seeing my messy house (she was coming over to babysit while I went to First Communion rehearsal), it was load the dishwasher vs. concealer and eye makeup. (note to self:  reread Dr. Alice Domar’s book “How to be Happy Without Being Perfect”).

I left a message for my friend about my struggles today and she had the following advice:

Brush your teeth, then swallow the frog.  

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Why Work from Home? How about a Snow Day for Us?

There was a major blizzard in the Boston area today which was much anticipated and therefore many schools were closed the night before. Judging from activity on Twitter and Facebook today, it looks like many people were instructed to “work from home”. Even in the Northeast, we don’t have very many storms per winter that make regular commuting dangerous. I understand deadlines, I understand the stock market hours or working with people in different time zones that were not hit by the storm. But what’s wrong with giving employees a day off? Our laptops and smartphones tether us to the job constantly. How about taking a day to stay in our pajamas and cook pancakes or play in the snow with our children? A little respite from work can be just what overworked, constantly plugged in employees need to recharge their creativity. Face it, it’s not easy to work from home when the kids are home from school, giddy with excitement from a snow day. Weekends are used for errands and activities. Snow days are a gift. Employers, give this gift to your employees if you can. And employees- accept this gift without guilt. The work will get done.

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How to Get Your Kids to Clean Up When You are a Slob

I am kind of a slob when it comes to housekeeping. I throw my clothes on the floor when I am done wearing them. I don’t do my dishes right away. I’d rather leave some clutter on the counter so I can tackle a work project or read a book or cook a big pot of soup. Being a slob was bad enough when I lived by myself, but I married a slob and we are raising 3 kids. Multiple the mess by 4. Or is it 5? I have never been great at math, either.

I came to the realization that I am spending too much time picking up after everyone in my household and it is time for the kids to learn to pick up after themselves. They are 7 and almost 5 (the baby is too young to clean up after himself but his baby gear is everywhere, so he’s a big offender). I hate feeling like I am nagging and am trying to balance the teaching of responsibility and self-care with the level of mothering small children require.

Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project” suggests that people who make their bed start the day on the right foot. Gretchen is right, but I have the mojo to make my bed in the morning vs. night about once every 30 days if I am lucky.

Making beds. That’s one thing I am encouraging the kids to do, starting on the weekends, given that the weekday school routine can be hectic.

Putting dirty clothes in the hamper. I’m asking the kids to move the piles of clothes from the floor to the laundry basket. Even better, trying to save on washloads by pushing the practice of wearing pajamas more than once, especially if they don’t have maple syrup on them.

Hanging up coats and putting away shoes. Our daycare provider and nursery school teachers teach self-care. Little kids as young as two should be able to hang their coats on a hook, and mine used to. I did it for them because it was faster and now I am paying for it.

Picking up toys. Here’s where having a “home” for every toy comes in. I love labeling boxes and organizing the playroom, but toys need to be picked up on a more regular basis in my house. It’s hard when they are playing a game with the Batman figures, the Fisher Price Little People AND cardboard blocks.

Messiness and creativity go hand in hand sometimes. I just need to rein ours in.

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How DO you get off the treadmill of making money to sustain a lifestyle?

The recent New York Times article about a couple who gave up their cars, moved and changed their lifestyle so they could get off the treadmill of making money to spend money made me think about how my family lives and how some of my friends live.

I have a few girlfriends who work crazy hours and make very good money but hate their jobs.  Some of them long to be with their children when they are young, but feel trapped in their current situation.  Some feel that absolutely have make money to save for private school and college right now.  Most of my friends, like me, live in semi-affluent metro suburban areas.  But let’s face it, we are also working to sustain our lifestyles: our fairly nice cars, pricey kid gear, dinners out, lawn services or cleaning lady (or both).   Ironically, some of these line items are needed because we are too busy working to handle them ourselves.

Suze Orman would tell us to sell our homes and move somewhere cheaper, to skip Starbucks, to send our kids to public school.   She’s right, but who wants to uproot your family and leave a neighborhood and a community that you are established in (especially one with good public schools)?

I work part time, from home, with a flexible schedule and love what I do. It’s not all easy- it can be stressful to work for myself, especially when I don’t have anyone paying for my upcoming maternity leave.   Our house carries a hefty mortgage and I do need to work to help support our family.   With the much- wanted new baby coming, I want to spend as much time with him/her as I can.

Which brings me back to the idea of the treadmill.  Spending time with our children when they are little is so important.  I admire families who make a heck of a lot less money than I do and manage just fine.   I often wonder if they are happier.

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