Category Archives: working mom

My Reality*

*Note:  This post is published today at Mile High Mamas for their feature story on motherhood and the choices we make.  Thanks to Mile High Mamas for allowing me to share this and reproduce here, and thanks to my friend Eileen who helped me edit this.  Who knew getting it down from 2000 words to 600 something could be so hard?

“Women’s libbers say we can have it all. I do not believe that we can have it all at the same time. Life is give and take. For me, I cannot immerse myself in my career without falling short in other areas. This is not a pessimistic approach or a judgment against those who chose their careers over staying at home. This is my reality and I would not change it for the world.”  Amber Johnson, Mile High Mamas

She’s not wrong, but my reality is a bit different and I wouldn’t change it for the world, either. Being a parent is a tough balancing act that takes a lot of work, and this women’s libber believes you can have it all, if that’s what you want.

I am an “older” mommy.  I had a professional career when I chose to get married, and even later still, when I chose to have children.  Actually, I have two careers; I am an attorney and a JAG for the Reserves. Working now for 17 years in both careers, I have seniority, have moved up the ranks and earned promotions, and I am successful as both a professional and a mother. I am doing what I love and have amazing kids to boot!  I have great employers that are flexible, and understand that my family comes first.  I can achieve balance.  That’s why I didn’t take a break.  I did not want to lose the employers I had, and frankly, it’s not easy to jump back into a career like mine.

Another great thing I have is the perfect husband – well, perfect for us, that is.  There is no division of labor.  We both do it all! Our mutual respect makes our reality work.  Our house may not be clean when you surprise us, but we are raising two great kids.  They are smart, funny, and support their parents’ choices to work (my husband also had a20150320_112821 career when we married and then had children).  They see the independence in me, the can-do attitude, and they emulate that.  Which is why I often wonder why I am asked to justify why I chose a career after I chose to have kids. My husband is never asked that.  For me, I don’t choose either/or.  I choose to have it all as long as I am able.

I acknowledge that I can do this because of him. He does way more than his fair share of household chores and shuttling the children around.  I am lucky to have an employer who allows flexibility for all its employees in the year 2015- what a concept! We are also lucky that we picked a school that has an excellent schedule for our dual working household.  My children have never gone without.  I had a longer maternity leave and was able to nurse both kids upwards of a year, and they get to go on some pretty amazing trips at an early age because of my work.  I haven’t missed a single field trip, play or gymnastics meet.  With 17 years seniority, I have plenty of leave and I take time off when I need.  When my parents needed me in 2012, I was able to fly out each time and help them as well!

I hold no judgment against your choice to have a single income family, and we ask for the same in return.  I want my kids to succeed in all they do, but I also want that next promotion, and I am not ashamed to admit it.  So that’s why I choose it all, not because I want to escape my family (because I don’t), but because I am driven and I love serving my country too! I hope my girls one day say what a great role model they had in me.  But mostly, I hope my girls will grow up in an America where no one will ask them, “why do you choose to work,” or “why do you stay at home.” That would be a great reality, indeed.

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You at the Center (R) of your Life 100 day Course – Introductory Post

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http://www.youatthecenter.com/

Life is busy – often, crazy busy.  Do you find yourself saying that?  Do you find yourself going from one TO DO item on your checklist to the next, including “Number 20.  (____) SPEND TIME WITH KIDS AND HUBBY?” If you feel you are busy, unbalanced, and have no time for anything, this course may just be for you.  The details of the 100-day course are here, and you can see for yourself.

This past August, Labor Day, I got sick from all the stress, lack of sleep, and going from one check list to another to just getting so sick that I could not travel to see my family.   And exactly a month later, I got sick again.  In fact, for August, we had to cancel one of our summer trips to see family, and this was my wake up call.  It was time for me to put ME at the center of my life and that which matters to me – that which nurtures me.  When your health fails, everything else inevitably follows, and this was a wake-up call which I inevitably needed.

Yes, I am that person who watches a show I like and is on my DVR whilst working on something whether it’s a blog post, work stuff, or checking email, etc.  I mean, has it gotten to the point where watching a show on my DVR is part of my TO DO checklist?  Yes, why yes, it has reached that point.  It’s sad, really.  I miss the days when my parents and I went on vacation and truly had a vacation, dad disconnected from work, mom disconnected from the kitchen, and everyone disconnected from any glimmer of social media, devices, etc.,  That was almost 2 decades ago.  Now, I cannot even take a day of leave without checking my E-mail, and checking in on things, and I have two outside the home jobs.  I have no idea why we do the things we do to ourselves.  I haven’t been able to do the things I enjoy – try out new recipes, have fun with the kids, and write thoughtful, meaningful posts here at Get Clued In!  All the things I enjoy take a back seat to the all-powerful checklist and numerous TO DO lists, some of which I even lose throughout the day, and have to re-create.  Yikers!

Enter this amazing course, which, in its introduction has set the stage to be a great eye-opening lesson for me.  So far, I have had the intro, and read Lessons 1, 2 and 3, and have done the worksheets.  Because I got sick for a few days after starting this course, I missed 2 days.  But, it seems like a process to me and truly is a 100-day process, in a way, writing daily about how I feel, what were the highlights and what happened.  My initial thoughts are – “this course speaks to me.” For example, did you know a Question is more important than an Answer.  We kinda know the answer, but “how” do we get to the answer – that is key.  We all have goals, but how do we obtain our goals?  The “how” is more important than the answer.

How can it be October already?  Can you believe that looking back on this year, I do not remember April through August because I was traveling so much and busy with so many things that I took no enjoyment in any of it.  So far, this course has spoken to me and that I am not alone in this busy world.  It is time to put YOU, or in this case, ME at the Center of my life.  I am looking forward to what the next 90 days holds for me.

I am not expecting the holy grail from this course, or it to give me the answers to all my questions (and believe me, I have plenty), but if I can learn a few things to help me  regain some control of my life, I will truly feel that it has been of benefit to me.   Heck, I do not even know if I have time to devote daily, much less weekly for something of this nature- yes, this course is on my TO DO List for the week… otherwise, I may forget amid all the crazy busyness.  🙁

* Disclaimer: I am participating in this program and was compensated the price of the course for four review posts of the course.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

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I hope they say

IMG_9552* This post was written for Mother’s Day but alas, here we are a week later….

When I am gone and have left, I hope they say, “she was a good mom.” That is the only thing I hope they say.  Yes, I am ambitious, I am driven, I am successful in my career, and my profession, and I do so much.  Yes, I have made rank, earned a few accolades, received some awards, and traveled to far away lands.  I am told I am smart, motivated, driven, blah, blah, blah.  I am not sure if this is true.  But, I do not know if any of that matters.  So many women have made so many more sacrifices, so many women have done far more to make a difference in this world, to change the world.  I am not defined by my work and what I do, rather, I am defined by the choices I make, and the lives I have helped create, and the world I leave them behind in.  The world in which they can make a difference, the world I hope they can change, and ultimately, the world they can leave behind better than they found it.  This is what I hope they say.

I am defined by so much more.  I hope they say, “she was a good mom- she left behind these people who ultimately made a difference, who made the world a better place.”  Out of all the things they can say about me and who I am, I hope that is what they say.  Being a mom day in, day out, 24/7; nothing compares to this most important job in the world.  And, moms, don’t fret, you don’t have to be stay or work at home to know what a difference you are making daily.  Frankly, those who juggle the most often make the biggest impact.

Happy Mother’s Day 2014!  “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

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Celebrate Choice: Working Moms, At Home or Outside the Home

I have had just a glimpse of a different life, just a mere taste, and I think it’s time to end the age-old battle between working moms outside the home and those who work so hard at home.  It’s a choice depending on life circumstances, and sometimes it’s not a choice, but a necessity for special circumstances.  Suffice it to say, celebrate the choice, appreciate where you are in, and just stand still long enough to enjoy it.  In this post, I refer to stay at home moms as “work at home moms” because honestly, I do not see what else you call it.  These women and men, although I just use the female reference for simplicity of this post, labor at home for their families, and work very hard- cleaning, repairing/fixing things, errands, finances, chores, kids, sometimes homeschooling, volunteering at schools, churches, and hospitals.  I refer to moms who work at an office, or outside the home (even if part-time) as moms who work outside the home, but let’s face it, these men and women are juggling all of the above plus the job(s) outside the home.  It’s amazing what they can do and accomplish, often on little to no sleep.

I fall into the category of a mom who works outside the home and I can attest to a zombi-ish state on most days.  However, over the past two weeks, due to circumstances outside my control, I have had the rare opportunity to get a glimpse of the work at home mom and wife’s life.  Unlike maternity leave, though, there was not a newborn at home, both kids were in their respective schools, and the probability is high that I will be paid back for this lost time.  During this time, I have come to both understand and respect work at home mommies so, so much more.  The days just fill up, and there’s sometimes not enough time to do it all!  And add to that, one, two, three, or more kids at home, school drop-offs and pick-ups (no aftercare), and perhaps even special needs children, and voila! These mothers (or fathers) don’t just work, they work their **** off! I don’t know how you do it all, but I completely am in awe.  It is a non-stop day, and you wake up the next day and the next and you get to do it all over again.

Sure, working outside the home is no picnic either.  The commute is awful, the work is often piled sky high, and my home looks like a tornado ripped through it all the time.  But I get a little distraction or escape daily.  I can shut my office door, get my work done, and I can sip my coffee whilst I read and reply to the countless e-mails in my inbox.  I am interrupted by a knock on the door by colleagues with whom I can have pleasant adult conversations with, and then still return to my work undaunted.  Sure, there are crazy emergencies, and deadlines, but I get to control them and I get to choose how I react to the stress.  I can either let it overwhelm me and freak out, or just get it done.  I use my lunches to either workout, run errands, or eat lunch peacefully at my desk whilst knocking some work out.

A work at home mommy with kids at home can’t often control what is going on around her and has to simply react.  She has to structure play time, learning time, keep doctor’s appointments, pay bills, manage household finances, shop for groceries, run errands, and keep her sanity.  The knock at her door is often while she is trying to escape to use the restroom or shower in peace.  She often can’t return to what she was doing undaunted.  As I can attest, she often eats her breakfast or lunch standing up while serving others, if she eats at all.  I have literally had to take breakfast with me and eat it in the car while doing drop offs.  Forget about running errands in peace if the kids are at home.  Activities with kids are exhausting because you’re watching them, helping them, and not really distracted or engrossed in something fun (other than your smart phone).  Granted, those are the moments working outside the home mom really misses, and often cries at work because she can’t be at the park with her daughter after 3 p.m. pick up.  It’s a choice, and often a hard one.  It’s sometimes not a choice if finances are at issue, or she’s a single mommy, but it doesn’t take away how hard it is for working outside the home mom.

Work at home mommy has a hard time breaking away for even a coffee break.  The entire day is planned for her.  If all her kids are in school, she has a chance to do something fun with friends, but her friends are all in the same boat, so scheduling is tough.  Often, work at home mom finds herself living Groundhog’s Day– different week, same routine. Cleaning bathrooms and rooms 1-2 one day, kitchen and flooring on day 2, and basement on day 3 (or, some other order).  Dishes are always part of the daily routine. The following week, this repeats in some form or fashion.  Add in there menu planning, and cooking and shopping for the ingredients.  She may have time to work out only if her kids are not there, and even then it is a luxury.  Chores are still chores, and errands are errands, but work at home mommy has an advantage that work outside the home mommy does not have: She can always be present.  She is there!  When the school calls, she can run there.  When something was forgotten at home by little Joey, she can run it to the school, or just be more present at the school and in her kids’ lives.  She is there when they get on the bus, get off the bus, or for pick up and drop offs, and after school care is provided by the best care provider ever – her!  This makes me jealous and a bit envious of work at home mom.  Don’t get me wrong, work outside the home makes time for her kids too when she can, and she cherishes those moments too.  She volunteers for field trips and classroom parties at the school when she can, and she always schedules doctor’s appointments too.  It’s just that some weeks, work outside the home mom will be out of town, or she has to schedule around work commitments, so her schedule is more unreliable than work at home mom.  And if work outside the home mom is as lucky as I have been with my employer and my supervisors, she has a lot of flexibility, but work outside the home mom feels guilty when she has commitments at work and has to miss something for her kiddo.  Likewise, she feels bad or feels she is letting her colleagues and others down when she can’t be at a work because of something for her kiddo.  It is literally a two-edged sword.   Work outside the home mommy is always packing her bags and going on a guilt trip no matter what.

There are pros and cons to both lifestyle choices, but it is what it is, and it’s best to find silver linings in what you are present in now.  Know that no matter what you choose, someone will be in awe of your choice even if you are not.  There is still so much judgment about work at home mommies, and it’s just wrong.  They don’t sit around and do nothing all day.  They don’t have all this free time  – in fact, the day just flies by before its time for pick-up and after school activities.  They are running kids from music lessons, to gymnastics to swim and appointments.  Their houses are not always the cleanest, and they don’t need to get lives- they have amazing lives, and they are living in the present.  All of us can learn something from work at home mommies.

There is also so much judgment around work outside the home mommies, and this is  wrong as well.  These women are often working upwards of two jobs, commuting daily, and still balancing and juggling their jobs, parenting, household responsibilities, and all of the other things.  They are trying to do it gracefully as possible, so cut them some slack.  They are not neglecting their children, nor are their children growing up any less loved than yours.  Often, they are loved even more because their parents cherish every second they get with them.

Whether you fit inside one description or another or a totally different one, doesn’t matter.  You are a mom and with me, celebrate choice.  I have seen the light and it took a forced furlough for me to understand what my life could be like if I made a different choice.  If you feel you need to change things, try to imagine yours differently and you may appreciate how the other half lives.  But, more importantly, hopefully, it will remind you that wherever you are, whatever choice you made, you are living an amazing life and doing the best you can do!  You are where you are supposed to be!  If you are not, don’t be afraid to change it. For now, celebrate the choice you made, celebrate the choice I made, and let’s be on the same side.

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From the Mouths of Kindergartners

Mornings in kindergarten
Mornings in kindergarten

I volunteer at my daughter’s school a few times a month and sometimes that is in the morning.  They start their day with the school bell, then the pledge of allegiance, and after that, they all say a bunch of phrases or hymns so to speak.  It can go something like this, “In everything you do, do your best, even if it is coloring.  Try your hardest.  In everything you do, try your hardest.”   There is another one that goes like this, “respect means treating others the way you want to be treated,” and finally, “responsibility means wdoing your job without being told or just one time since you’re a kindergartener.”

I love, love these little sayings, and I started to think everyone in society could benefit from these little sayings.  Think about it:  isn’t life often like a Kindergarten or in some cases, high school?  Simple phrases like this can really serve some people well, and serve to remind them of simple principles that will hopefully help them be true to themselves and others.  I like to add one more phrase to the list, “everyone is not you, everyone is different, and you are not better than any one else.” I think if Kindergarteners learned this up front and throughout their lives maybe they wouldn’t be so difficult to deal with later on in life?

When my friends and I talk, it seems that there is a common theme in most everything they encounter – whether its interactions with other parents, neighbors, at their business, or at the child care centers:  Personality conflicts, lack of respect for others and their property, and the perfecting of interpersonal skills.

Think about the words said by these kids first thing in the morning, “in everything you do, do your best…” Sure, its not coloring but shouldn’t we all be doing our best in all we do- trying our hardest?  How much better would our friendships and relationships be if we heeded the phrase “respect means treating others the way you want to be treated.” This is a common theme in most religions too but just saying these out loud daily or in our heads, could it change the way we view our world, and ultimately, change our world?

My personal favorite is the one on responsibility.  You shouldn’t have to be told – okay, so there is the one-time exception for a Kindergartner.  But I also view responsibility as someone accepting responsibility for their actions as well, instead of blaming everything and everyone around them for their shortcomings.  It comes as no surprise that lawsuits and tort actions are so rampant in our society- no one is ever to blame for anything they do anymore.  And, going back to the adage above of people thinking they are better than everyone else, why would they ever take the blame for anything they contribute to if they always think they are right?  If we recited this phrase daily that we learned from Kindergartners, would more people learn to take responsibility for their actions in society?

Ah, from the mouth of babes!  I love volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten class.  There are so many parallels between school and daily life – more than I care to admit.  I love volunteering and seeing the interchange between the kiddos.  The same parallels present themselves to the parents of these kids in almost all they do, whether it’s shopping in a grocery store, mommy’s day out, parents’ groups, and working outside the home.  No matter what it is you do, or don’t do, we could all benefit from lessons from the mouths of Kindergartners- to enhance ourselves and our interpersonal relationships … “in everything we do, do our best, even if it is just coloring.”

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