Search
Follow Kveller

You are browsing the archive for work-life balance.

Nov 17 2011

Mothers Make the Best Hires

By at 10:19 am

Working mother A headhunter recently contacted me about a fantastic speech writing job. It was the sort of job I would have killed for when I finished graduate school in 2009 and was still charging my way up the communications career ladder. At that time, of course, no one in Boston was hiring writers.

Now my skills are seemingly back in demand, which is great news. However, I’m no longer available.

Before Lila arrived, I decided to slow down and freelance while being a Stay-at-Home-Mother (SAHM). So, I traded the career ladder for what my sister-in-law calls a “career lattice.” The lattice encapsulates the notion that for personal reasons, people willingly put high-octane careers on hold – stepping sideways, rather than up – for periods of time. So far, this has worked well for me. But how many people know about the lattice or support it?

I intend to rejoin the outside-my-home workforce in the future; I just don’t know precisely when. And I certainly don’t want potential employers to think I’ve lost my discipline or my ability to write on deadline. After all, that’s what made me valuable.

My pickle is a variation of one many mothers face, especially SAHMs. So, in honor of all those currently doing the world’s hardest job, I offer a list of reasons why mothers make the best hires:

1. Ford Tough Times Ten. I can now do everything I used to do – and more – only on less sleep and while holding a small Thanksgiving turkey (aka, my baby). That’s hard core.

2. Multitasking Queen. Forget Six Sigma. Ask a mother to oversee any project, and she’ll find a way to streamline, avoiding any unnecessary steps. I can now type, talk, and feed my baby simultaneously. Or, do laundry, put away groceries, and respond to email while holding her. Imagine how productive I’d be in a quiet office! Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 19 2011

UN Day 1: Bathroom Pumping & Tony Blair

By at 2:42 pm

This week, Jordana will be covering the UN General Assembly for The Jerusalem Post. Here’s her dispatch from yesterday, Day 1.

For many reporters, the drama of this week at the UN is simply a front-page story. For those of us who are more directly involved – such as me, by virtue of being Jewish and writing for an Israeli paper –  it’s unbelievably tense. This week will see an important moment in the Middle East and the world with the possibility of the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state in the United Nations. While the US has said it will exercise its veto on such a move in the Security Council, the Palestinians may approach the General Assembly for approval instead. The gesture is largely symbolic but is a big one for Palestinians and Israelis alike. It is a region of the world where symbols hold tremendous import, where diplomacy is exceptionally difficult and where mistrust is high. And my job puts me on the front lines, my pen poised to transcribe history.

It’s Sunday and the meeting of the Palestinian Donor Conference at the United Nations is this evening. It’s closed to the media, but there will be a “stake out,” a terrific phrase meaning a press conference with question-and-answer opportunities, so I need to be there.  I preemptively sign permission slips, make tomorrow’s lunches for the kids and make sure that their backpacks are ready to go to school in the morning, knowing that by the time I get home, I will barely have the wherewithal to pour a glass of wine.

Having finished breastfeeding baby G, I get ready to saddle up and ride, driving into the city to the UN from our New Jersey home. I’m leaving Wonder Husband at home with a baby who is much crankier than usual, i.e. screaming her head off. My husband seems unfazed and wishes me good night and good luck. I, on the other hand, get in the car wondering if the little girl, who has a cold, has an ear infection, too.

Immediately, the first contingency surfaces. Foolishly, I was so engrossed in finding out the schedule of speakers for the UN that I neglected to check the schedule of the Jets, who play in the Meadowlands: their thousands of fans use the same road I’m using. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel and decide to call my boys at their dad’s house. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 8 2011

Staying at Home with the Kids? Get a Post-Nup

By at 2:51 pm

I remember meeting, on several occasions, with the rabbi who was going to perform our wedding ceremony.  My future husband and I were surprised when he told us we needed to sign a Jewish prenuptial agreement.  He asked us to determine an amount of money that my future husband would pay me, on a daily basis, in the event he refused to give me a get (a Jewish divorce).  Our rabbi suggested a large sum, and my husband and I laughed as I told him to triple it!  Divorce was the furthest thing from our minds, and I knew that my husband was not the type who would refuse to give me a get.  Since both of us knew this was never a document we would be using, my husband readily agreed to triple the amount and we signed it.

Looking back, our rabbi was really on to something. What better time to get a future spouse to agree to something then when he or she is happy and excited about the marriage, and divorce is far from anyone’s mind?  And while every other week the magazine covers in the supermarket checkout line talk about one celebrity or another signing or not signing a pre-nup, most people have not heard of, or considered, a post-nuptial agreement.

Let me be clear: I do not believe everyone needs a post-nuptial agreement, which is a contract between spouses outlining what will happen financially, or otherwise, in the event the marriage breaks down.  However, if you have given up your career (or taken a very long hiatus) to raise children and manage the household, I am suggesting that you at least use this article as food for thought. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 19 2011

Momma Needs a Job

By at 2:06 pm

I’ve made a decision.

I’m going to look for a part time job. One that will get me out of my yoga pants and out of the house.

Yes, I know, in the grand scheme of decisions, this one seems about as exciting as my extended morning conversations with my toddler regarding her underwear choice. Those of you who know me are probably wondering what I’ve got my decidedly-not-Hello-Kitty-panties in a twist about this time.

The thing is, it’s a big deal for me, even though my girls have been in day-care part time since they were 3 months old. I’ve used the time to work on my doctorate and part-time jobs that I could do almost entirely from home. It’s generally worked out well, as I’ve had the flexibility to take the girls to the pediatrician for their endless ear infections. (I’m still waiting for them to offer me a frequent shopper card.)

But now they’ve got tubes in their ears, and I’ve got cabin fever. I miss going into an office and seeing colleagues and having projects and goals. I miss talking to grown-ups on a regular basis. Although my nightly conversations with my husband are lovely, I need more stimulation than our check-ins about Frieda’s potty progress and Rosie’s adorable but generally ineffective attempts at walking.

I know what you’re asking yourselves. If the kids are already in daycare, what does it matter whether I’m working at home or in an office? To the girls, not so much. To me, it’s a major mind shift.

Read the rest of this entry →

Do “Stay-At-Home” Moms Work More?

By at 12:04 pm

I took a night off from doing the dishes once before, a few months ago. When I told my mom about my joy over not putting sponge to ceramic, she said, “But didn’t Scott work all day?” She was referring to my hard-working engineer of a husband who handles bath and bedtime.

Her response surprised me, especially because she was a stay-at-home mom. It seemed to me she should realize that I probably did more work that day than Scott even thought about. He for sure worked, but very differently. So, I did what any daughter proving her worth to her Jewish mother would do. I recapped my day. In great detail.

8 a.m.: Attended to a screaming Ellie who was mad at having to wake up.

8:45 a.m.: Made breakfast for and fed Ellie.

10 a.m.: Took Ellie to a class at the play gym and ran an errand afterward.

1 p.m.: Prepared and gave Ellie lunch.

2:30 p.m.: Put Ellie down for a nap after taking care of a poopie diaper and changing her outfit, which was covered in lunch.

2:30-4:30 p.m.: Conducted three phone interviews, worked on two articles, cleaned the mess from lunch, checked the mail, did two loads of laundry and dusted the house.

4:30 p.m. Got a screaming Ellie out of the crib and commenced the afternoon snack fight, defined as me trying to get her to have one and her refusing everything in favor of going outside.

4:35 p.m.: Took Ellie outside, where she proceeded to dig her nails into the soil and get it embedded so deeply they had to be filed to get clean.

6:30 p.m.: Scott came home and played with Ellie for an hour while I did more freelance work.

7:30 p.m.: Dinner.

8:15 p.m. Post-dinner family play time.

8:45 p.m.: Bath.

9 p.m.: Bed.

Usually while she’s in the bath, I vacuum the floor and start the dishes, pausing to kiss her goodnight and continuing while Scott puts her down. Once everything is shoved into the drying rack, I go back to my freelance work until midnight or later.

At some point in that particular day I also wiped the kitchen floor twice (after breakfast and lunch), responded to as many “Mommy, up” requests as I couldn’t tune out and begged Ellie not to flush the toilet while I was still on it at least four times.

My mom was unconvinced. “He was busy, too,” she said.

Lucky for me, Scott is much easier to sway. It’s about teamwork and not trying to one-up each other in the effort race. We understand that we both work our asses off in our own ways, and with that work comes the need to give each other a break. Even if that break also involves a bowl he shattered while putting it away. I’ll go back to doing the dishes tomorrow, before we need a new set.

How do you deal with sharing housework?

“The Law Does Not Mandate Work-Life Balance”

By at 11:03 am

A group of women working for Bloomberg LP (the company founded by Mayor Bloomberg) sued their employer a number of years back claiming that the company routinely discriminated against mothers and mothers-to-be by reducing their pay, demoting them, or excluding them from important meetings.

That lawsuit was shot down yesterday by a female judge who also provided a nice slap in the face explaining that the law does not mandate work-life balance.

“A female employee is free to choose to dedicate herself to the company at any cost, and, so far as this record suggests, she will rise in this organization accordingly,” she wrote. “The law does not require companies to ignore or stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”

Ouch.

There’s something wrong in this country and we can’t figure out how to right it. Our maternity leave policies are atrocious and little to no accommodations are made for working parents. Basically, being a working parent in this country kind of sucks.

I recently attend the annual BlogHer conference in San Diego where nearly 4,000 ladies convened. Many of the women there were moms who had left their jobs and turned to blogging with the dream of making it big one day like the goddess of mommy bloggers  Heather Armstrong or the Pioneer Woman.

Many women at the conference were there with hands out, trying to figure out how to turn their pet project into a profitable business. And for most of them, they can’t. (Though we did all go home with nice nice face creams, toothpaste, and Tupperware.)

My point being, we need a new model where women can choose to leave the workforce (though many of us can’t) as opposed to feeling pushed out.

So, on this lead up to the day of rest, I’m dedicating today to work. (I mean, what y’all think about work, not to me actually doing any.)

Stay tuned.

Aug 18 2011

Taking My Kids To Work

By at 3:08 pm

baby in briefcaseI know that many of us are struggling with how to be very present moms, and to do meaningful work outside of our homes at the same time. This delicate balance is thrown totally off kilter (for me at least) in the summertime.

After sending my son to camp for a few weeks (who can afford that kind of cash outlay for the whole summer?) I decided that we would have camp at home in the mornings with activities and fun outings, and in the afternoons, I would sit down to do some work. But I’m finding that meetings can’t always happen in the discreet 5 hour block I have each afternoon.

So, when a meeting creeps up in the morning, and I have to tote my two kids along, it is not pretty.

This morning, I thought I had it all worked out. Snacks, check. Array of DVDs, check. Art supplies, check. After 20 minutes of sitting quietly, my 3-year-old got bored (while DVDs are a fun treat when he wants them, they can turn into a punishment when I want him to want them.) While my colleagues were very generous, I figured they could only endure my children’s “cuteness” for so long. The morning reached its disruptive peak when my son decided to go to the bathroom on his own (“I want my privacy imma”) and then proceeded to run out of the bathroom half naked, sit on the newly upholstered chairs, and then go out the front door to test if the grease on a bike chain would leave a mark on his hands (it did). He then came back in and scampered about the room with the threat of his greasy hands taunting white walls and tan summer clothes.

After a few sharp barks (not my finest moment as a mom), the meeting was over (at least my part in it) and we headed home, my 3-year-old in one arm and 9-month-old (who was happily entertained by all the commotion) in the other. When we got home, I realized that this wasn’t working. I need to set up things so that my children (and I) can succeed. Bringing them to my meetings is not the way. When noon rolled around and my babysitter arrived, I was eager to get to work. Funny enough, she brought her 8-year old son to work with her.

Jun 14 2011

Stop Using Parenthood as an Excuse

By at 2:30 pm

Just because you're a dad doesn't mean that you can't write a book.

Sometimes, when I want to take a break from blogging, I read other people’s blogs. And sometimes I just sit back and gaze at my own navel, but let’s talk about the other-people’s-blogs thing. The New York Times has a cleverly-titled parenting blog entitled “Motherlode,” which focuses on the juncture between parenting and life generally. Recently, I was intrigued by a post in which a father wrote in (anonymously) to talk about how much he regrets having become a parent.

“A Father in Florida” writes that he and his wife didn’t get married until they were in their 30s, living la vida loca (or as he describes it, a “jet-set lifestyle”). They now have two kids, 4 and 1.

“No matter how well prepared I thought I was, I was not prepared for the sheer magnitude of changes to my life,” Father writes. He bemoans no longer being the go-to guy at work, no more playing golf or basketball, no more bohemian loft apartment, no more evening classes for his master’s, no more book-writing or marathon training. All gone.

So if I knew then what I know now, I might have only had one child, or zero. I really, really lament the fact that I can’t have any of those (admittedly selfish) things anymore. Instead, my life’s focus is now providing for my kids. I have committed myself to being the best darn father I can be, and I have slowly accepted the fact that all those personal dreams are basically pushed to the side because of that.

Father notes that “a lot of people get very judgmental on this topic,” but says he has “a hard time believing the parents who claim to have absolutely zero regrets, and who love being a parent 100 percent of the time.” For the record, I don’t even know any of those people, so I find it hard to relate to the last part.

The complaints continue. He hasn’t slept more than 4 hours. He hasn’t gone on a vacation with just his wife in 5 years. He’s only gone on three or four dates with his wife this year.  “This is quite a change from going out to a fancy dinner with cocktails, etc., every night of the week.”

Father concludes his gloom-and-doom by writing that being a parent means being willing to sacrifice all personal dreams. (I’m guessing his as-yet unwritten book wouldn’t go in the “humor” section.)

Now, the Times blogger writes back to him, saying basically “It gets better.”

“I can tell you that the way you feel about being a parent will change, sometimes several times in a day; and the fact that you feel like this right now doesn’t mean that there won’t be days when you wonder how you ever wanted anything else.”

I don’t really completely agree with either of them. Surely, this is in part because I’ve been hopelessly spoiled by divorce. You say “alternate weekends with their dad,” I say “free babysitting.” You say “too bad you miss out on Father’s Day,” I say “romantic weekend away.” I’m a silver-lining kind of gal. But I think there is a value to adult life as well as to parent life, and have had the luxury of not really having to forego either entirely.

But it’s more my optimism than my divorce that makes me think this Father in Florida is a sad-sack pessimist – and my acknowledgment of reality which makes me know that without the adult element of my life, the parent part of my life would suffer.

Having children is great. There are also crappy days and nights with kids. I know this both as someone who has provided my own parents with ample crappy days, and as a mother who has been trapped in the house with Purell and two little boys with pinkeye. There was the late night when I delivered a monologue about the soul-sucking nature of breastfeeding and motherhood to a gray potholder in my Upper West Side kitchen (now, of course, people can blog about such things). There was the day when I sent the kid to school vaguely pissed that they got mud all over the seats of the car – and then got a call from the nurse that the kid might have a concussion. I raced to the school, heart in throat, realizing that if something really bad happened to my kid, my life would not be worth living. Now that’s fun!

But I also know that having children is also a convenient excuse for falling back on your own insecurities and faults instead of pursuing your dreams. Lazy? “Oh, I had no time to do that – you know, the kids.” I’m sorry, Father in Florida, but you’re taking the easy way out. People have lived through Auschwitz, amputations, cancers and other horrors to write books, win Nobel Prizes, run marathons and move mountains. You see where I believe that it’s possible for you to handle your 4- year-old and 1-year-old. If you build it, they will come. No, seriously – if you want to accomplish something, you make the time and you force yourself and you can do it. Stephen J. Hawking doesn’t sit around because it’s the easiest thing for him to do – and I’m sure it would be. Instead, he writes unintelligible books on levels of brilliance I can barely comprehend.

Basically what I’m saying is, don’t surrender. Live your life. Be the best person you can be, both for your kids and for yourself. Show your children what it is like to be a loving, happy adult – not only because it will be a hell of a lot more fun for you than bitching, but also because then they will have a role model after which to pattern their own loving, happy lives.

Oh, also? Every now and then, I highly recommend getting a sitter. Trust me.

May 9 2011

Write at Home

By at 3:47 pm

Sarah and her mom.

Before I was born, my mom spent two years in the Peace Corps. She volunteered in Robert Kennedy’s campaign. She worked for the Western Center of Law and Poverty, and served as Chief of Staff for a California Congressman. She was an activist, and an intellectual, and in July of 1981, she became a mother. So, she decided to make a monumental job-change and exchange her high heels for sneakers.

My mom’s work-shift started at daybreak — long before I woke up to the moan of the foghorns, and the smell of coffee brewing in our teeny-tiny house in Venice, California. While my dad showered and shaved, I’d stumble to our dining room table, where she’d bring me a cup of mint tea, and a bowl of Quaker Oats Maple Brown Sugar oatmeal. While I ate, she’d sit next to the open window, sipping her coffee and smoking her third cigarette. The laundry was done, and folded neatly. Lunch — usually a salami sandwich with extra mustard, a Capri Sun, a baggie of sliced carrots and cucumbers, a hard-boiled egg, and sometimes a brownie — was already tucked away in my neon pink backpack. While we waited for whoever was driving carpool to BEEP BEEP BEEP the horn, my mom would quiz me on my multiplication tables and ask me who I was the most excited about seeing at school.

When I’d come home from school, the house was redolent with the fragrance of dinner. Sometimes, she’d make her famous spaghetti and meat sauce, other times, chicken kebabs, or salmon croquettes. When I had soccer practice, or art class, or Hebrew School, my mom drove, and we’d listen to classical music in the car while she’d fill me in on the latest murder mystery she was reading each night before bed. On evenings when my dad had late-meetings, she would prepare finger sandwiches, and we’d dine daintily like royalty. And sometimes, in the still of the night, when even our cat, Nebbie, was snoring gently, she’d wake me up, and we’d sit by candlelight on the front deck, drink chamomile tea, and eat squares of dark chocolate. We would whisper ghost stories while surrounded by the powerful stillness of midnight.
Still, when asked what she did for a living, my mom would never describe herself as a Stay At Home Mom. Instead, she would tell people that she “worked from home.” You see, during the day while I was gone, she would take her coffee and her cigarettes out to the little shed behind our house, and write childrens’ books at a well-worn library table from the 1920‘s. Along with managing the house, cooking, cleaning, and just being home in case I got sick or hurt at school and needed her, this was how she financially contributed to the family. And more importantly, this was how she nourished her creativity and kept her sense of self happy and alive.

When I started to think about having a family — even before I met B. — I knew that I wanted to follow my mom’s example and (if, financially feasible) “work from home.” And so, B and I have tried to make it happen: He waltzes off to his office on the kibbutz every day, and I take care of the kids. But still, as I may have said before, you can only sing “The Wheels on the Bus go Round and Round” so many times before going absolutely bat-shit crazy. Between power-struggles over bath time, scrubbing splattered sweet potato from the floor and walls and — how did this happen?– the ceiling, and spending more time with my iRabbit vibrator than I do with my husband, I wonder how my mom made it all look so effortless. As much as I love my family, some days I feel like I stumbled into somebody else’s life. A life of sneakers and sandwiches, of early mornings and sleepless nights. And it was in one of these moments after while listening to Little Homie go all Ike Turner on his toy xylophone (and wishing – Oh God if only — I had a screwdriver to jam in my ears), that I began to fully appreciate how important it must have been for my mom to have her creative identity. Certainly, I don’t know how I would survive without it, which is why I’m writing through to the other side of midnight. Again.

Good Enough is the New Perfect

By at 1:39 pm

One of the best parts about being part of the Kveller community is that my fellow writers are so real. They share their stories of pregnancy and having babies and raising toddlers and all of the train wrecks that make up daily life with little ones. I have little time for mothers who write (and talk) as if they do it all, perfectly, every time. Because I know I sure don’t.

And that is why I was so pleased to come across Good Enough is the New Perfect, by Becky Beaupre Gillespie and Hollee Schwartz Temple (and yes, Hollee is an MOT, in case her name didn’t tip you off). The authors are both mothers of young children, and both women struggled mightily with their career choices when their children were born. They share their own stories in this book, as well as the conclusions they reached after surveying approximately 900 women, and interviewing nearly 100 of them in depth. Based on all of this data, Becky and Hollee came to an important conclusion—that mothers today can have the lives and careers we want, as long as we make decisions based on our own priorities and goals, as opposed to the pressures and expectations that so often influence and even dictate the choices we make.

There were several aspects of this book that resonated with me. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who can appreciate what they have, even in the face of life’s many challenges. Becky and Hollee begin the book by acknowledging the mixed blessings of the many choices life has given them. They recognize the benefits of having opportunities, and they aren’t whining about them. But they are noting that crafting a life that is fulfilling both personally and professionally isn’t easy.

Good Enough touches on so many different aspects of my experience as a new mother struggling to find my way, at home, at school, and at work—the desire to give up at work, the hope of getting back in, the challenges of maintaining my relationship with my husband through all of it, and the ways in which technology represents both opportunities and limitations to finding balance. At one point in the book, the authors compare the balancing act of managing our work, our relationships, and our children, with solving a Rubik’s Cube: “In order to complete one side, we end up throwing the other five out of whack.” I haven’t heard a more apt description in a long time.

The stories in this book remind us that we can’t have it all, but we can have all of what we really want—what is truly important to us. Balancing work and family isn’t easy no matter what you do, but it’s not possible if you expect to be perfect at any of it. Sounds simple, but it’s not easy.

So, if you’re like me, and so many of my Mama friends, who are struggling to figure out the right balance, check out this book. It’s not going to give you specific answers, nor should it. But this book will inspire you to take action to create the life you want, and realize that Good Enough really is the New Perfect.

Tags

Recently on Mayim

Blogroll