Tag Archives: parenthood

My Perfect Weekend

A Chapter of Laura Vanderkam’s book “All The Money In The World” focuses on a reader’s perfect weekend.  For most people, the perfect weekend involves spending money, even if it doesn’t have to be high amounts.  Even if you focus on quality time with friends and family, there is usually some spending on food, entertainment or other expenditures.

This got me thinking about my perfect weekend.  While the book and most people would lay it out by time, I thought I would just list ideas and categorized by costs:

No-Cost

  • Sleep, Sleeping In, Napping.
  • Sex.
  • Play with kids. 
  • Go to the park with family. 
  • Go to a friend’s house and watch DVDs.
  • Read a library book or a favorite old book. 
  • Stay up late.
  • Take a long, leisurely walk in a park, preferably by a pond

Low-Cost

  • Exercising (can be a DVD or using the gym membership, which is a cost). 
  • Watch a marathon of a favorite show (netflix or already owned)
  • A nice meal at home (cooked by my husband)
  • Starbucks cappuccino or latte
  • Calling in sick (I’m counting this as a “cost” since this would deduct from my sick days.  For some reason, things that are a bit off the straight and narrow really appeal to me!)
  • Massage ( from husband)
  • Taco or Tamales night

High-Cost

  • Hire a personal assistant to tackle all the things I hate doing, like help clean out the garage, mopping, getting oil change, handwashing clothes, washing dogs, washing dog mats at the laundromat, etc..the list goes on! (Or I could just switch places with some A-List celebrity for a day?)
  • Massage and Facial (can be fairly inexpensive if you get a good deal on Groupon or LivingSocial; also see low-cost option above!)
  • Expensive dinner out – sushi?
  • Baby sitter for one night (can also barter this if you have a trustworthy friend/neighbor/family member)
  • Hotel stay near the beach
  • Drinks at a bar (something we rarely/never get to do!)

How would you plan out your perfect weekend? It starts Friday evening!

Did You Enjoy The Early Months Of Parenthood?

Years from now,  I’m going to think that I did not appreciate parenthood enough, especially during the first few months.  I was tired and short-tempered. I went back to work only 3 months  and spent more hours at the office than at home.  I gave up on breastfeeding.  I’m going to think all of this and have regrets.

That’s why I’m writing (and sharing) this to remind myself that despite working, I did enjoy motherhood.  I did take moments out of my busy schedule, ignoring to-do lists and my poor dogs and showering, to just cradle a sweet-smelling tiny baby for the hundredth time.  I did make sure that feeding time was fun and bonding, even if I wasn’t there for every mealtime.  I did have time to play, even if I was tired from lack of sleep.   

I’ll try to remember that even stay-at-home parents do not play with their kids every single second, even if they have more time at home.  I’ll try to remember that we all do our best for our families.

My Balance: Oil and Garlic

A Cup of Jo has a great series on working moms. She interviews work-from-home moms, mostly bloggers and those in design-related jobs. It’s a refreshing look at work/life balance and I really enjoy reading about how other moms “do it all.”  I also wished I read this before I had kids.

Since the women spotlighted are freelancers with relatively flexible schedules, I thought it would be helpful to add in my thoughts as a working mom with a long commute and non-flexible schedule! 

 Note: A few hours after posting this, I realized that my situation is still easier than having both parents working traditional 9 to 5 jobs.  For example, for the first 6 months, my husband handled the night shift so I could rest and go to work. If we both had to get to the office, we would have to split the shift, which would have been pretty hellish.  It does seem to get better once babies start sleeping through the night at around 7-8 months.

1. What’s your work schedule?

I get up at the insanely early hour of 5:15-5:45 a.m. depending on the day.  I get up earlier if I have to bring the kids to my parents.  On the days we have a nanny, I get up about half an hour later.   I have a 40 minute to an hour drive to work each morning. 

I start by 7:30 am and it’s often go, go, go.  I do some of my best work in the mornings.   My lunch hour is my “alone” time.  I do run errands sometimes but I also try to just relax and read at least 3 times a week.   If it’s really busy at work, I try to work through lunch rather than stay late.   I get home around 5:30 pm every night. I hop into the shower and try to spend as much time with the kids as possible.  My husband usually makes dinner.  The kids are in bed by 8:30 – 9 pm which is pretty late. I think they should sleep sooner but I admit that I like the extra time with them.  We try to give ourselves an hour or so to wind down but oftentimes I’m lucky to get a half hour of TV.

The only flexibility with my work hours is the start/end time.  Years ago I chose an early start time to avoid traffic.  It has worked out well since I didn’t have to switch my hours after having children.

2. How do you handle childcare?

We have a part-time nanny who also does some light housecleaning, which makes a huge difference!  My parents also help part-time.  My husband has a freelancer’s schedule so he is able to be with the kids the most.  I feel lucky that I have such a wide support system even though there are many days that I wish I was the one at home with them. 

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

I keep reading about people who work 50+ hours a week so I guess I’m glad that I work 40 hours (45 if you count the hour lunch) and that I’m not expected to work on weekends or be on call.   I really value my weekends and try to spend most of that time at home with the kids.   I definitely don’t make enough effort for “me” time or date nights with my husband and I should! 

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

There is so much to say about this!  I’ve written about working mother guilt and the work/life juggle before.  Guilt is so unnecessary and the work/life juggle is harder than you can imagine. 

I think that women in the U.S. don’t have a real choice when it comes to staying home because our maternity leave system is horrible.  You’re asked to make that major decision after 3 months (or less) when you’re sleep-deprived and your baby is so needy. Plus working makes breastfeeding very difficult and I think maternity leave should coincide with breastfeeding needs at the very least. 

My best advice is to NOT equate staying home with being a good mother. You can be a good mom if you work!  My second best advice is to really look at your husband as an equal partner, not the secondary caretaker.  It’s great for the husband to be there for the kids, too, and in many cases, it’s possible because you both work.

On a practical level, take advantage of online services like Amazon Mom. They have great prices on diapers and wipes plus free shipping.  Update: Amazon Mom sometimes changes its program and benefits so I can’t say it’s always the best for diapers and wipes anymore.  I miss it though for its convenience but don’t want to pay for a Prime membership and no longer qualify for the Amazon Mom membership. 

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than for men?
Yes.  Women are just judged more harshly for being away from their children.  I supposed we’re also wired differently in some respects.  Women are also expected to be the family event coordinator, and the one who buys all the gifts and writes thank you notes etc…  If you and your husband both forget a birthday, even if it’s his side of the family, the wife will probably get judged for the lapse while the man gets a free pass.

It’s not that men are off the hook in terms of guilt.  Society guilts men the other way. If they’re not “supporting the family”, they can feel bad. They don’t have the playgroups and support groups that SAHMs have.

An End To Working Mom Guilt

In honor of Mother’s Day and my hard-working mom, I thought I would share my “wisdom” for all working mothers out there in hopes of ending any guilt they may feel about not staying at home.

I am not writing this from the perspective of a working mother, which I am, but from the perspective of a daughter whose mother went back to work while I was very young.  She did not have the luxury of staying home and when our family needed more money, she simply went back to work.  I don’t think she wanted to work but she did so without complaint.   After several years out of the work force, she could not get a good-paying job; in fact, she toiled for many years with little financial reward.  After many years, she found a better paying job and got several promotions at that company before retirement.

Luckily my mom worked mostly during the pre-Internet era; otherwise she might have hopped on parenting forums and blogs where there are endless working moms vs. SAHMs discussions with a lot of guilt-inducing arguments against working moms.    For those women who do work, or are thinking of having kids and working, I hope my thoughts will obliterate any sense of guilt about working motherhood:

  1. I don’t want someone else raising my kids.  This statement makes zero sense.  If this were true, that would mean that most fathers don’t raise their kids because most of them work.   While my parents worked, my grandmother took care of me during the day.  I love my grandmother but I never doubted that my mother (and father) raised me.  Her influence in my life was not diminished because she wasn’t physically with me all day.
  2. Staying at home does not automatically make you a good mother.  Oftentimes there is an implication that the SAHM is a better mom. While I do agree that if you’re less frazzled and stressed, parenting is easier, I don’t agree that it makes you a better mother.  If you are normally impatient or critical, you will still be so whether you stay home or not.  If you’re naturally generous and giving, you will still be so if you work.  I know many people who have difficult relationships with their SAHM because their mother was overbearing, cold, critical or impatient.  I was fortunate that my mother is naturally loving, patient and kind and those are the qualities that make you a great parent. 
  3. Kids are more resilient than you think (and don’t need to be the center of the world).  Yes, infants are needy and should be held even if you have to keep them in a Bjorn 24/7 and you can’t shower or eat (oops…sorry for the sidetracking due to my recent experiences).  However, once kids are a little older, it’s fine to show them a larger world with other caretakers.  I think my grandmother generally followed the guidelines set by my parents; however, I’m sure she may have indulged us more or done things differently sometimes.  In the end, it just makes you see the world through different perspectives vs. the isolated world of  “Mommy and Me” times. 
  4. It’s OK to want retirement savings (and vacations).  Many women justify the cost of staying home by saying that they would make about the same as daycare costs.  However, I know many who quit because they would only make $5,000 more per year after taxes, gas, drycleaning etc.  While this amount may be true, $5,000 more per year can be critical upon retirement.  $5,000 more per year can mean a well-deserved vacation.  Most people also conveniently forget to factor in raises or promotions during those working years.  More importantly, many forget that if/when they return to work, they’ve missed out on their prime earning years and may not be able to find a job at all.  Sadly, I know several women in bad financial situations because they are afraid or unable to find work after years out of the workforce.   
  5. You’re A Role Model. I read once that women who have daughters are more likely to work and that men with daughters are more likely to promote women. It makes sense to me.  If you have a daughter, you want her to reach her full potential, and that may not only mean motherhood.
  6. Grandmothers are great!  If after reading reasons #1 through #5, you still feel guilty, think about how much you can help your grown child when you retire from work and offer to help with grandchildren.  That’s really all you have to do to alleviate any guilt from your absence during your child’s early years.  I am fortunate that my mom is a very willing babysitter.  While I think a child is fine at a good daycare center or with a good nanny, nothing is better than a loving grandparent!

I admit that I have mixed feelings about working, but I don’t want anyone to make me feel guilty or feel sorry for me because I work.  Everyone needs to do what is best for their families.  In this day and age, two incomes does not necessarily mean cable TV or fancy vacations, it can mean the difference between a stable financial environment and retirement.  And if it does mean allowing for extra indulgences, that’s fine, too.  Life is too short for guiltHappy Mother’s Day!

For a hilarious take on working mother guilt, or anything related to motherhood, check out Rants from Mommyland.

April 27: Lower The Bar

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

Someone once said to me that you can’t be a good employee and a good parent at the same time.  While I don’t think that is true, I do agree that having equally high expectations in all areas of your life can be an obstacle to simplifying life. 

If you had a really difficult day at work, you’ll probably not going to be the most attentive parent or spouse that night.  That’s okay. And if you’re really missing your kid(s) that day, you may be a little unfocused at work.  That’s okay, too.  We are not always performing at our best in every area of life.  If you set a high bar for yourself (and others) all the time, you’re going to run yourself ragged and be very stressed out.  

Of course there will be people who think that “lowering the bar” because I’m a mom means I must be a bad employee.  However, I want to be clear that I don’t advocate a complete surrender, especially if you’re not a favored or star employee to begin with. What I mean is that within work (and within parenthood, housekeeping, exercise, blogging and all areas of life), there’s wiggle room.  I’m not going to be an unmotivated employee every single day. I am not going to slack off and offload work to co-workers. I’m going to find more efficient ways to do my job, such as doing a weekly report on a monthly basis now that the data is no longer as vital.  I may not volunteer for difficult assignments that give me a headache; instead I’ll volunteer for equally difficult assignments that match my skills better.  Or conversely, you can take on high-profile assignment or projects that is important to your supervisor or company and delegate projects that take time but bring little rewards.

What I do suggest is that you examine your life and see if you can cut yourself some slack, or alternate priorities so that the bar is lower in one area or other.  Don’t expect a perfectly clean house, a full social calendar, attentive parenting and exceptional work all in the same week.  And if you find that one area is always demanding your energies, usually work, then step back and try to find ways to re-focus once in a while for the sake of balance.

Do you think lowering the bar can help you live a simpler life, or simply a slacker life?

More Tips For Simple Living While Working (And Parenting!)

In the manner of more dedicated bloggers, I resolve to make every Wednesday my simple living tip day.  Before I do that, I thought I would update a list of  tips I wrote a year ago about simplifying life for those working full-time.  I felt that post was a necessary addition to the myriad of discussions about the simple living because while the idea of quitting the rat race to raise chickens or make cheese on a farm can be quite inspiring, many people want to start a simpler life now, while still holding down a job.  

Since that post is generating more hits lately, I thought I would update those tips and list what I am doing right now, as a working parent. 

1 ) Buck tradition.  I’ve heard that this is much harder with kids.  At one point your weekends can get consumed by playdates, birthday parties etc.. I long for the old days when parents were not guilted out if they didn’t attend every sports game or ballet recital.   For now, my husband and I are determined not to make too big a deal over birthday parties, Halloween and other holidays. 

2 ) Use Technology Wisely.  I limit my exposure to tech toys and social media like Facebook or Twitter but I have found that some tech tools are a busy parents’ best friend, like www.snapfish.com or www.shutterfly.com.  You can easily upload pictures and then create albums, send photo cards/announcements and share photos. You can even go old-fashioned and get prints, which my parents really appreciate.  At the same time, I stand by my belief that too much technology adds stress to your life.  Sometimes you need to disconnect and just slow down!

3 ) Run Errands at off-peak hours.  As I said before, learning how to maximize time is important if you want to simplify daily life.  Nowadays I sometimes drop off my kids at my parents before work, so I don’t have much time to do errands in the early morning. However, I still try to run errands or eat lunch before the noon lunchtime crowds, which saves time and lessens headaches due to less traffic and shorter lines.

4 ) Find Some “Go-To” Friends & Acquaintences. I define a “go-to” person as someone who knows a lot about something I don’t — from computers to couponing to parenthood.  While I will never be a social butterfuly, I’ve realized that it’s often much simpler to just ask people who are already parents instead of reading and browsing online for answers.  I’ve discovered a community of working moms at my company, re-connected with mom-friends, and am beginning to make use of mom groups both off-line and online. After a while, you can always identify someone whose ideas/philosophies are similar to your own and provide the “best” tips.  This applies to all areas of life, too.

5 ) Pick 1 Hobby (or none at all).    Right now my “hobby” is playing with my kids.  Their playtime is my playtime.  Luckily they seem to think it’s hilarious if I dance around or do strange yoga poses. 

6 ) Don’t Read About Spring Cleaning. Why don’t men’s magazines devote entire issues to spring cleaning? Because they know women will do it after being brainwashed into a frenzy by Martha Stewart, Real Simple, Redbook, Shine.com etc..  While I would love to be more relaxed about a messy house, and fully expect it once kids are running around, I don’t think I’ll ever be my sloppy teenage self again.  I do plan to hire some cleaning help!

7 ) Work 40 hours a week.  While I do have a major project at work and still have a long commute, I try to focus on the fact that I don’t have to work 50 or 60 hours a week! 

8 ) Write It Down. I have so much more going on now that the only way to remember anything is to write it down immediately.  If you don’t use an organizer, jot whatever task/chore on a post-it note or enter it into your online calendar as soon as you think of it.

I’m interesting in hearing other perspectives.  Is simple living just not possible if you work 9 to 5 or live in a major metropolitan area?

I Lied…Work/Life Juggle Is Hard

A week after writing a post about managing the work/life juggle, I had a mini-meltdown, one of those days when that one extra thing on your to-do list is somehow overwhelming.  I realized that my perfectly balanced life was just one oil change or one sinkful of dirty dishes away from imbalance. While on most days, I can work and enjoy parenthood, I could not find time for anything else including husband, friends or myself.

I’m not throwing in the towel yet.  I’m fine-tuning my own time management skills and following my own advice on simplifying life.  I’m also still trying to be good at my job and be a good parent.  However, I realized that it is infinitely harder than I ever imagined!  With the prospect of my husband picking up more freelance work, I also have to adjust to the realities of a true two-income household. I can’t ask him to always take on more household chores if he’s busy as well.

I know that my viewpoint right now is extremely limited.  Kids get easier (in some ways) when they are less needy or when they start school.  I just can’t see too far ahead right now as we’re still in the night feeding stage, (although that is already is getting better with less frequent feedings).