Category Archives: Family

My Best Decision Ever

I was going to write about my choice of college.  That experience truly shaped the person I am today. I can attribute many later decisions to those 4 years.  However, I could also imagine myself being happy if I had gone to my second choice college.

I was going to write about events that led me to meet my spouse.  Yet, while I can’t imagine anyone making me happier, if I had found someone else, I would never have known and could have been happy, too.  I didn’t even mention children but I’m glad I have them!

Then I thought about choices that led to my current job.  Despite minor complaints, I’m pretty happy with work and I could easily pinpoint good choices that resulted in finding my position and field.  However, my work isn’t  a “true calling” in the sense that I can’t imagine doing anything else.  Since I’ve had several good bosses and many great  co-workers, it’s also easy to believe that I could have landed another job with another company and be just as content.

Then the answer hit me…

It was so obvious….

My best decision ever was moving closer to my work (and parents).  With a shortened commute, I enjoy 2.5 extra hours with my family daily.  I’m more relaxed when I come home and have energy to play in the park, take walks, chitchat about our days, and even exercise on occasion!  In the mornings, I get up later but I now have time to eat breakfast and do light exercises (though it’s usually light stretching and trying to touch my toes!)

Since I don’t battle freeway traffic every morning, I’m more pleasant to be around at work, too.

And no matter where I work, who my spouse is, or where I went to college, I can safely say that a shorter commute is the BEST choice I ever made!

Topic choice courtesy of Ginger at Ramble Ramble.

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Lean In, Lean Out

I finally saw Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk about “leaning in” at work. I’m not sure if she was promoting the book or if that talk gave her the impetus to write a book.  Anyway, I didn’t think I was the target audience since  it’s a bit late in my career to lean in, but her talk was very inspiring.

First of all, she was surprisingly funny.  It’s not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed her talk if she was simply straight-forward but I just didn’t expect a laugh along the way.

Secondly, and most importantly, even if you’re not out to super-charge your career, I think she has valuable advice for all.

One thing I got out of that talk is the obstacles faced by female bosses.  In general, people prefer to work under males.  There’s an unfair perception that women are worse bosses.  I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that you have to be tougher and more aggressive as a woman to climb to the top.  Men have to be aggressive to climb up, too, but I do see a wider range of options for them and they can seem more relaxed at the top.

I have had my share of good/bad bosses.  While I really enjoy working for my male bosses, my female boss was the only one who mentored and promoted me.  I don’t think that’s too uncommon and that’s why I think more women at the top could eventually help all women.

On the same topic, I came across a Business week magazine article about a group of Dads at Deloitte who are trying to “lean out”.  It was an interesting take on a new generation of men who want more time with their kids and family.  It’s still not a widely-accepted notion but I do think and hope that the next generation will adopt more family-friendly and flexible policies that create a work/life balance for all.

Undercover Working Mom

Many years ago, a childless friend and I were discussing another friend’s kids.  As childless people are prone to delusions about the realities of parenthood, she said that this friend’s kids were unruly because they didn’t get enough attention from their working mom.  No mention of dad.   My response was a very lame “Really?”  My mom worked and she is great but I didn’t have a strong opinion on the subject at the time; parenthood seemed so far away.  I had no idea that the so-called “Mommy Wars” was a-brewing!

Another time, my husband’s colleague said that his wife had quit her job to stay home and that this was best for all kids.  We were still pre-kids but I’m proud to say that my husband responded by saying that you can’t generalize working mothers.  He had a working mom and also knew I planned to keep working  once we had kids.

Now that I’m a working mom, I think back to those two conversations and have a stronger reaction.  I still believe the “Mommy Wars” (working vs. stay-at-home moms) are more hype than reality.  People just have time or energy to judge others that often.   At the same time, I was curious to find out if working moms are really judged or pitied by those who stay home.

Recently, I took some vacation time to attend a Toddler/Parenting class with my younger one.  He’s shy and needs the social interaction.  It was a weekday morning so I only needed to take a partial work day off.  I enjoyed having that extra bonding time and shortened work week!

A part of me had this crazy idea: I could pretend to be a Stay-at-home mom and find out what other SAH-moms really think of working mothers.  Are you ready to find out…..?

Drumroll please….

Can you handle the truth?

Find out next Wednesday….

This isn't me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

This isn’t me, just a random picture of a working mom with baby!

No, seriously. I didn’t pretend to be a SAH-mom and I didn’t try to set up attacks by denigrating working moms first to get a reaction.   There were at least 2 other women who were planning to return to work after some years off.  All the other people I spoke with were either full-time stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  Note: I live in a middle-class neighborhood so there weren’t any nannies at the class.

Some observations:

A few of the moms were a bit incredulous that I, a working mom, had taken my vacation time to do this toddler play class.  This probably took me out of the line of fire IF any of them were prone to attacks on working moms.

I was sort of the stereotypical working mom when it came to scrapbooking. It’s not that I don’t cherish memories of my kid(s) but I am not crafty or creative.  I  shamelessly copied other’s mom’s scrapbooking ideas.

I did spend a little more time playing or watching my kid than some other moms. However,  I wanted him to play with other kids so I made sure not to hover too much.  I didn’t judge the other moms at all for using this time for adult conversation. After all they’re home with their kids all day so they didn’t really need this extra time.

I panicked when it was my turn to bring snacks…

My kid was a bit unruly and grabbed food off other kids’ plates.  I wonder if his behavior reflected badly on me.  If it did, I was oblivious to any mean stares.

The good news is that I had an easy time talking with these women.  Many were very nice, smart and interesting.  I didn’t really feel a division at all.

I plan to sign up for more classes in the fall!

By the way, I would love to read a real undercover piece from a journalist who pretends to be a SAH-mom (and vice versa).  Would socio-economic levels make a difference? Would they find out the “Mommy Wars” is merely hype. Or would they discover a big divide?

My Balance Now

Before I moved closer to work, I had an hour drive to and from work.  I re-read my 2012 post that went into depth about how I balanced work/life and thought I’d update it.  Sometimes I can’t believe I endured this commute for so long.

1.  What’s your work schedule?

Before: I got up at 5:15 to 5:45 to get to work on time.  I got home by 5:30-6 pm., usually exhausted with an aching back.

Now: I get up around 6:25 and get to work on time.  I often have time for breakfast and light stretching/exercise!  My drive is 30 minutes tops (usually faster in the mornings when fewer people are on the road).  I get home by 5pm. Sometimes I even hit the gym or go to the park with the kids.  According to co-workers, I’m also less grumpy in the morning!

2. How do you handle childcare?

Before: Part-time nanny, freelancing husband with flexible schedule and more time at home.

Now: Still part-time nanny on occasion who does light housecleaning, plus A LOT of help from my mom.  My husband’s schedule and travel has picked up, which leaves me taking more time off for doctor appointments, illness and such. Pre-school pick-up is a pain to manage.

3. What do you find best about your current set-up?

I love my shorter commute which has resulted in more energy and quality time with spouse, self and kids!  I love getting more help from my mom since she is amazingly good and flexible with her schedule.

4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?

It’s not really about working or not. It’s really about flexiblity. Even within the restraints of a traditional 9 to 5 job, I know I’m fortunate that my boss is understanding about childcare issues as long as I manage to meet deadlines.

I still stand by my love of online shopping: Order as much as you can online.

And I’ve converted to the dark side — smartphone with tons of apps. It’s the only way I can keep track of my emails and shopping lists. My husband and I communicate quickly via text, emails and shared shopping lists, too.

I’ve been taking some vacation days to do a mommy-and-me class with my kids on weekday mornings. It’s shorten my work hours which is nice on a mental level BUT also forces me to eat at my desk some days to get all my work done.  I love using that time to  learn and play with my kids alongside mostly stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  This alleviates a lot of mommy guilt because I have more hours with my kids overall and don’t have to cram all the fun stuff on weekends.

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than men?

Yes.  I’m actually guilt-free and good at ignoring snippy comments but I do spend more time cleaning the house and thinking/planning kid-friendly activities.

Feel free to chime in with details about how other women (and men) handle the work/life juggling act!

Can Someone Who Hasn’t Taken A Real Vacation In Years Not Have ANY Vacation Time?

I apologize for the long title for this post but I’m really puzzled how come I have zero vacation time left when I haven’t gone on a “real” out-of-town vacation in years? I’m not panicking since I will continue to accumulate hours and should accrue enough for some time off during the summer.

I know that I took a day off here and there last summer and around the holidays. Sad to say, except for one beach excursion, I don’t remember what I did on those vacation days.  I guess this is a reminder that rather than picking a random Friday and then see what’s happening around town, I should find a fun activity first and then schedule my vacation time around that event.  Otherwise, I’ll end up staying home and only taking the kids to the park if I’m extra motivated.  Apparently staycations don’t work that well for me, unless I plan in advance.

The good news is that I did plan my upcoming time off so at least I’ll remember what I did with those vacation days!

Are you planning your summer vacation already?  Anyone going on big trips?

I Had A Post About Working Mom Guilt

I’ve written about working mother guilt countless times.  And I like reading and commenting on posts and articles on that issue, too.  I feel it’s important for women to stop beating themselves over choosing or having to work, as their contributions to the family are just as invaluable as staying home in my not-so-humble opinion.  Finally if you have to work or want to work,  guilt is just a waste of time and people who try to make you feel bad about it are a waste of time.

So in my typical fashion, I felt the urge to dole out advice.  Since my concrete tips for not being bitter at work seems most useful to people, I thought it would be helpful to offer real suggestions for reducing motherhood guilt as well.

After re-reading my own post, I trashed it.  I realized it seemed a bit sanctimonious, as if my way for guilt-free motherhood was the best way.  I also realized that my concrete tips may not work for different personalities, nor should I dictate the best way to spend “quality time” with your kids (and kids all have different preferences and personalities anyway!).

So for now I am giving my best tip, which is not concrete nor necessarily easy to follow, it’s all really mental. If you create a mental image of perfect motherhood or set up some unattainable ideal, or compare yourself to a mom who seems to be doing it “right”, then you’ll feel guilt.  If you truly believe you’re doing your best and your kid is fed, sheltered, loved and happy, then you’ll stop wasting precious time on feeling unnecessary guilt.

Alone Time

The other day, a casual acquaintance asked me about alone time, and when I said exercise or my lunch break, she gave me this ‘look’ which clearly meant that those 2 activities didn’t count.

To me, getting some exercise is a great feat in and of itself.  Getting to read a book, even if it’s in the middle of a work day, is also a great stress relief.  After work, it’s family time and if I’m lucky, I get in some couple time and see old friends.  My goal is to focus more on career this year so any other extra time will probably be taken up with chores, cooking or career-related activities/reading. There’s just zero time for “me” time, as in hobbies or whatever “counts” as quality me time.  This brings me to the question. What does count as “me” time? Is it shopping by myself, rather than with friends? Reading on the weekends?  Taking a walk by myself? Going to a spa by myself?? I could take a class I suppose. I guess I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do and if I should schedule “me” time?  

I’m not saying that my acquaintance is 100% correct; after all, the early parenting years are extremely busy. However, I wonder if I’m shortchanging myself and asking for burn-out because I don’t take time for myself.