The Working Mom
- Staff meetings are key– So in my home office, my staff consists of my Husband, son, and now my 2 daughters. They are pretty great at their jobs which while I’m home consist entirely of pretending like I’m not at home. Before I went back to work, I sat everyone down and explained the difference between “school-day” (as my Son calls Monday-Friday) Mommy and “weekend” Mommy. I used two Barbie dolls to illustrate my point with my middle Daughter shouting out, “Paradise Pool Barbie doesn’t go to work Mommy”. In any case, they seemed to get my point that while I’m working from home, everything is the same as it is when I’m working in my office….in other words, all questions go to Daddy until I get “home from work”. So far so good.
- Casual every days are over-rated– Now I can honestly say that I’ve longed for a “Casual Friday” now and then when my jeans and a sweater would be acceptable work attire, however, even with the opportunity to work in my pajamas (lovely visual I’m sure!), I’ve decided to get up each morning the same way I do when I’m commuting into the office….putting on my regular work clothing. Now you’re sitting there reading this and thinking “this third kid has really done her in…she’s lost her mind” but in fact, I feel more productive and able to tackle my workload when I’m dressed in work clothes, than I ever could dressed in sweats and a t-shirt. The clothes get me into the “work” frame of mind and out of the “housework” one.
- Warning….Lose the belt– Working at home is NOT good for the diet. So while I’m sitting at my desk zipping through my work, I’m able (quite easily) to tune out all of the other things that might need to be addressed in my house (ie the floors that need mopping, the clothes that need folding etc). The one thing I cannot tune-out however, is the giant pantry sitting in my kitchen that is filled to the brim with every snack imaginable. You know all of those things you buy for your kids that you swear you’re never going to eat yourself (think cookies, fruit snacks and tastykakes), well I’m eating them. It’s aweful! Their ready availability is my downfall. I am working on some resolutions to this situation but so far, none have worked, so for now, I’m writing this off to “baby weight”.
- Savor the commute- The absolute worst part of my job, is my commute. It’s easy…don’t get me wrong…I just jump on a train and walk a bit and I’m in my office. But when all is said and done, I spend a good two and a half hours out of my day, commuting. On the contrary, the BEST part of working from home…is the commute. Taking that short stroll down the hallway, I am able to get my workday started MUCH earlier than when I’m working in my office and I’m also able to work much longer. I enjoy the fact that when my workday is done, and I turn off my computer, I simply step out of my home office and immerse myself in whatever’s going on in the house…..typically a lot. I end up getting more quality time for my work, and more quality family time as well! It’s win-win!
- Traditional Summer Camps– Harkening back to the days of swinging vines over a lake, and arts and crafts in a wall-less “tent”, many Summer camps haven’t changed much since the days when you or I might have slapped on some sun block, hopped on the big yellow bus and headed for the Great Outdoors…and for good reason. There’s an appeal that is as strong today as ever, to children spending their Summer days outside involved in a variety of activities (the key part of that word being “active”)- from swimming to sports to theatre to arts and crafts, traditional Summer camps offer it all
- “Day Care Camps”– Very often, the day cares where you send your children during the year, switch gears and morph into a “camp” from June-August. While the hours that the camp is open are the same as the hours the day care is open, they swap out more organized or academic programs for a less stringent and more relaxed group of activities. Very often, they provide small pools for water-play and allow extra time for outdoor activities.
- Overnight/Travel Camps– For those of us who are daring enough to send our kids out of town for the Summer, overnight and travel camps offer a wide-range of programs and specialties making it easy to find a camp geared towards the interests of your particular child
The Working Mom
While I was in the car with my family the other night, my daughter could be heard saying (with her mouth turned in a frown and in her best, most pathetic sounding voice)
“Mom, I NEED a pair of purple gloves”.
My 5 year old son quickly chimed in “You WANT a pair of purple gloves, you don’t NEED them”.
Intrigued that he’d made the distinction, I asked him what the difference was between Need and Want. He said “A need is something you need to survive but something you want is just something that would be nice to have”.
Pretty astute I thought, and it got me thinking about needing and wanting, in terms of my own professional/personal life.
I remember, very clearly, as an early 20-something just starting out on my own and in the workforce, how every so often I’d think to myself “Wow…I NEED a vacation” or “I need a new handbag or a skirt or a stereo” etc. etc. etc. My needs (or so I thought) were many, but my funds were few.
As I’ve gotten older, and life has changed with the addition of more challenging positions at work combined with a Husband and now 2 children, it’s funny how my needs and wants have changed dramatically. What I thought I needed in my 20s, I really just wanted…the vacation, the handbag etc.
As life situations get more complicated, those same things really do become needs. A vacation, just for the sake of getting out of town, is something I aspire to take however these days, my vacation is typically spent catching up on any outstanding errands/appointments/chores that I haven’t gotten to since my last “vacation”. You certainly won’t find a picture of the kids and me waiting on line at the DMV for my registration renewal, to appear on any of the destination brochures you see at the travel agency…and if you do, let me know- they owe me royalties!
You know how “staycations” have become all the rage in this latest economic downturn? Well I’ve been doing staycations for the last 6+ years! Who knew I was a trend-setter?
But at the same time as it seems nearly impossible to take a vacation in the traditional sense of the word, I probably need one now more than ever. I, as I’m certain is the case with most adults, could really use a few days to disconnect from all of the daily goings on, and just sit somewhere…on a beach perhaps, with no responsibilities other than relaxation.
As for handbags….who needs a new one of those (even when you’re schlepping around with a broken strap and missing clasp) when there are Playstations and Pillow Pets, Barbies and bicycles…let alone school tuition, daycare, food and the list goes on and on and on?
For a while, I tried to deny the shift in my reality. In my own mind, I insisted that my wants (the new shoes, highlights for my hair etc) were equally as addressed as those of every other member of my family- clearly that’s not the case yet surprisingly, I’m perfectly ok with that.
It’s the needs…..taking a break just to do nothing, that I’m working on addressing. I think those things or better yet NOT doing those things, will in the long-run sabotage my best-efforts at personal and professional success.
I think that we, as dynamic professionals with dynamic personal lives, can do it all and make it all work…but making it work takes work and that’s a concept that I struggle with each and every day.
How about you?
I love a good escalator.
It’s a well-established fact about me….. If there’s a stairwell and an escalator right there next it, I can guarantee you that 100% of the time…I’m taking the escalator.
I thought about this, this morning as I was making my usual commute into my office via the NJ-PA train line I take every day. As I approached the part of the station where there is an escalator next to a stairwell, I watched a few of my fellow commuters running up the steps and I thought to myself (as I boarded my moving staircase to the sky) “No way….I’m taking this escalator because it’s the littlest bit of help I’m going to get during my rush into the office this morning. Exercise be damned!”
Once I was seated on my train, I thought about it again (in writing this…I’m beginning to think that I think about escalators WAY too much) …”Take the escalator…take the help”. Like a weird chant heard at a political convention…. “Take the escalator….take the help”.
In this day in age, everyone is in a hurry…overwhelmed with responsibility….worried about the finances (personal and global)….concerned about our communities and the list goes on, and on, and on and then on some more.
Sometimes I think that when I spend so much of my time focusing on the “big problems”, most of which I have no control over, I forget that I do have some control over the smaller issues I face on a day to day basis.
I think that very often, in an effort to keep myself running on the treadmill that is my life, I’m afraid to accept an offer of help (someone offering to pick up one of my kids for a playdate or someone offering to help with one of my Room-Mother projects, or someone offering to help me with a situation at work etc.) for fear that it will somehow catapult me off the treadmill only to take me that much longer to get back on and get balanced again.
Sidebar….I once did get “catapulted” off of an actual treadmill when I set the speed too high in an effort to keep up with the MUCH more in-shape people running next to me at the gym. It wasn’t pretty. I haven’t shown my face in that gym ever since.
I have no problem offering my help to someone in need, and yet I think twice before accepting the help myself. This is RIDICULOUS….and I need to realize that right now.
It does “take a village”…and sometimes, the village finds you before you find it, often in the form of someone extending an offer of assistance. I’m not suggesting that everyone should rely on the help of others to accomplish their daily routine (job, role etc.). I’m simply suggesting that accepting a little bit of help when it’s offered, or asking for a little bit of help when it’s needed, isn’t going to somehow impair our success at being a parent, employee, spouse etc. In fact, it’s much more likely to make us better.
The Working Mom
If you’re anything like me, you’re always searching for ways to shave minutes off of your morning routine in an attempt to NOT have to set the alarm any earlier than it’s already set. I treasure every second of every minute that I am able to sleep…allbeit with a stray elbow or knee shoved into my back on the nights when we get a visitor (or 2) in the middle of the night.
In my ongoing quest to be more efficient and less crazed in the morning, I borrowed a tip from one of my Daughter’s teachers. In her class, everyone has a “job”. There’s the “line leader” and there’s also the “end of the line leader”. There’s the child who gets to supervise cleanup after lunch and the child in charge of pushing in the chairs at the tables. Rumor has it that the cleanup kid is mighty quick to dispose of your uneatens, so if you want those Cheez-Its than you’d better get to it.
My Daughter’s favorite job is the “end of the line leader” and when I asked her why, she told me…because the end of the line leader gets to turn off the lights before the class leaves the room. To a 3 year-old, flipping that light switch is a VERY big deal.
So back to thinking about being less crazed in the morning…….”Ahaa” I thought. Jobs….right.
There are so many little things that make leaving the house in the morning something akin to scaling
Mt. Everest. In an attempt to apply my “jobs” idea to the morning hustle, I decided to itemize all of the little time-wasters and distribute them to my children as “jobs”.
We have the “leash getter” i.e. the one who gets the leash for our dog’s morning trip outside (That person is coincidentally, the “leash putter awayer” as well) There’s also the “Bookbag filler” i.e. the one who puts the lunch boxes in each bookbag and zips them up. NOTE: I always make sure to check the Bookbag Filler’s work because we did have an instance where a lunch was mistakenly NOT put into the bookbag, and I came home to a VERY pouty kid because they were subjected to the school lunch.
In total, we have about 6 jobs distributed amongst the two children. So far, they’re pretty good about taking care of their responsibilites. As a bonus, every once in a while a day will pass when they don’t pester me for a “prize” for doing their jobs.
So far we’ve seen two benefits….I’m getting out a few minutes earlier (aka on-time) and they’re feeling more a part of the routine.
Now…if only I could get them to walk the dog, do the grocery shopping, wash and fold laundry, pay the bills, etc. etc. etc.
– The WM
Welcome to “The Desk of the Working Mom”…..My desk, as is my life, is messy but in the end and after some digging, I can usually get things pretty well straightened out.
These recurring blog posts are going to be related to the trials and tribulations often experienced by working parents (not just the Moms). I hope to offer tips and tales and create an overall “experience share”. I encourage your feedback, questions and by all means….SOLUTIONS, if you can offer any suggestions to the dilemmas we’ll tackle.
Today’s subject….random non-school/daycare days. By random, I’m referring to those days not designated and/or noted on the calendar as holidays. While they are often scheduled and I am alerted to these at the beginning of the school year, they still seem to sneak up on me.
In NJ, there is a week in November that’s cut short due to the annual Teachers Conference that’s held in Atlantic City. As a kid, I remember this being a very cool, pre-Thanksgiving vacation. As a Parent, it really throws a wrench into the schedule considering I’m forced to juggle the work schedule while trying to find “fill in” daycare.
One smart solution I’ve found and I wanted to share are daycare centers that offer “drop-in daycare”. Very often these centers require very little notice for a reservation for your child and they will charge you a per hour or per diem rate for the care. Until recently, these centers were tough to find however in the past couple of years, I’ve seen more and more of them springing up around the area.
Please let me know what suggestions you may be able to offer regarding “random non-school/daycare days”….I’m happy to pass them along.
–The WM (aka Heidi)