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Survival Tips for Working Moms

meditationWater.  When I first wrote this post, my #1 was “caffeine.” I had convinced myself it was necessary for mental acuity and basic survival.  Not true! A big glass of ice water in the morning together with some stretching, and lots of water all day long….so much better for maintaining a state of Zen.

Sleep.  Turn the screen off and hit the hay at a decent hour. Email can wait.

Meditation + Mantra. 

    • Sitting serenely to meditate outside surrounded by natural beauty might not be in the cards for a daily ritual. Try using the commute to give mental focus on envisioning your state of being for work versus home.
    • It’s easy to inadvertently let the lines blur. You can either lose respect on the work front with an imbalanced display of warmth over strength, or get home after a stressful day and let the frustration unfairly spill over to your kids who have been eager for your loving attention all day. When it feels really hard to show more strength at work, or more patience and love at home — try pausing for 10 seconds and running a personal mantra in your head. Personal fave:  I can. I will. I am.  

Exercise.  Everything that I write on this post is really a reminder list for me — not something I’m proudly doing every day and advising others to do. I continue to struggle with this one in particular, having convinced myself it was impossible to fit exercise into my work+family care schedule. And the negative impact to my body, mind, and spirit has reached a point of badness I can no longer ignore. I’m starting with baby steps — daily early AM exercises at home and physical therapy 2x a week to heal my back, wrecked from hours and hours of hunching over a computer and a few rear-end car accidents last year.  

Daily Greens for the Family.   For breakfast:  smoothies with frozen kale, frozen berries, coconut water or milk, or milk of choice, nut butter.  For dinner:  spinach can be added to or made a side for just about anything.

A digital family calendar.  We’re all about the shared Google calendar.  I’ve been a fan of the Cozi app for scheduling family events and scheduling text and email alerts.  Though I haven’t tried it yet, I’ve also heard that AboutOne is great.

Weekly personal time and date nights.  If you’re an introvert like me, alone time is critical to recharge from people-interaction overload. And marriages always seem to come last in families with two working parents. Weekly date nights can do wonders — especially if you can avoid talking about anything that feels like a family to-do list or an issue to solve at work.

Remember to breathe.  If you haven’t heard this song already – check out  Alexi Murdoch’s Breathe.  So good….

Posted in AP and Working Moms | 1 Comment

Happy Families Are All Alike

Smiley-Face-2And “…every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”   Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina.

Did you hear the Steve Inskeep story on NPR’s Morning Edition this week, “Does Having Children Make You Happier?”

Here’s an interesting part of his interview with NPR science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam that caught my attention:

VEDANTAM:  Lyubomirsky [psychologist who studied happiness and wrote book, The Myths of Happiness] says there’s a difference between happiness measured on a moment-to-moment level and happiness measured at a larger level. Parents report significantly more meaning in their lives than non-parents, even though on a day-to-day basis parenting may be a grind.

INSKEEP: Maybe we should just avoid the word happiness because it seems to confuse people.

VEDANTAM: Yeah. No, one of the things Lyubomirsky is actually saying is that we may have been too simplistic and asking questions – are parents happy or are parents non-happier? She says we need to start asking more nuanced questions. Which parents are we talking about? Are we talking about men or are we talking about women? Are we talking about older parents or younger parents? There’s research showing that older parents tend to be happier than younger parents. Parents with jobs – not surprisingly – are happier than parents who are struggling economically. Parents who have biological or adopted children turn out to be happier in general than parents who have stepchildren. And Lyubomirsky said perhaps the biggest thing to keep in mind is that parents’ happiness is not one static thing that basically stays a constant throughout the life of a child. It varies, especially with the age of the child.

LYUBOMIRSKY: When you have children under five and when your children are teenagers, that’s when you have the most kind of negative emotions and negative experiences with them. When they’re in between those years and when they’re older, there may be many, many positive, you know, interactions. So when we think about parenting we shouldn’t just think about, you know, having a baby or having a 14-year-old.

At the end of the story, Inskee quoted Tolstoy with his own clever twist: “Happy families are all alike; unhappy families have kids under five or teenagers.”

With my current job, I work on a team in which most of us have children under five, and most of us listen to NPR on the commute to work in the morning.  We also have a few younger guys on the team, one single and one married without kids. The morning this story on having children and happiness ran and we chatted about it at our desks, we teased the guys about our superior level of happiness as parents.

“We are happier because we focus on the big picture fulfillment of having children instead of the day-to-day grind. Ready to drop your night life and join us?”

While the sarcasm was thick, we have all also agreed on separate occasions that our lives are significantly more meaningful than they were before we had children and we often come to work bragging about something sweet or adorable or silly that our kids said or did.

I will tell anyone that the year I had two under the age of five AND a teenager was one of the most difficult years of my life.

And four years later, our marriage thankfully still in tact and life relatively easier on multiple fronts — there are any number of moments in time now that I fall into the temporarily unhappy category and say out loud to my children and/or my husband things like:

“I’m just not up for this today.”

“Whining has to stop.”

“Really tired. No patience.”


And as you can imagine, my announcing my state of being and need for perfect angel compliance always results in an immediate cease and desist on any type of annoying behavior.  (Not.)  

Today I had a moment of unhappiness that had nothing to do with my children who were behaving perfectly fine. Unfortunately, they were witness to my impulsive act of irritation. I was driving the girls to a dentist appointment anticipating a ridiculous amount of time in the car between getting to the dentist’s office on south end of town, getting them to school up north, and then driving another twenty minutes west to get to my office. Traffic was heinous and we were bound to be late. I was coming onto the highway from the on-ramp and some jack-ass woman on her cell phone driving a red sporty car couldn’t be bothered to slow down or change lanes to let me in.

I edged in anyway so as not to be forced on to the next exit. Coming in at a slower pace in my oh-so-sexy Prius, I was predictably too close in front of her.

She laid on the horn.

I threw up my arm and flipped her off.

Honestly, not something I do. Not sure what inspired the need to give someone the bird on the highway. I was instantly reminded of my innocent audience.

“Mommy, why did you just put your arm up like that?”

“Oh just stretching.”


Ultimately, I’ve done enough work on myself over the last several years to know the Big Truth that every response and every emotion is a choice.

We all know in the heat of the moment, it’s not easy to take pause to completely own the situation and your place in it and ask yourself,  “Is this worth being unhappy about?” But when you do take that extra few seconds to breathe and ask yourself the question, you can redirect your thoughts, your feelings and your actions in the moment for the benefit of everyone around you and your own well-being.

Thankfully, every day — every next moment in time really — we are graced with a do-ever.





Posted in Mama Peeves, Mama Self Expression | 2 Comments

Sitter Stories

Bad Match

After a loooong hiatus that included losing the URL for eight months because I failed to renew with the host and some company swiped it, put it in no-man’s web-land and then held it for ransom — I’m happy to take another crack at the Mommy Blogging thing.

Topic du jour:  baby sitters.

When I think back to the early years when my girls were babies and toddlers and any short separation resulted in what felt like primal anxiety and heartache, it’s hard to believe where we’ve come since then and how much faith I put in others to help us care for them today.

We’ve found sitters through friends’ recommendations, our own friends, sitter-finding web sites, and craigslist. The first two categories of resources have worked out quite well — except that the young, bright women we found through friends didn’t want to be nannies forever and went on to pursue other things.

In all, we’ve had to part ways with three bad matches.

Here’s the stories — from the most recent a few weeks ago, to the first fire 3+ years ago.

The Evangelist

Really sweet, kind young woman. More than happy to support our family beyond childcare to run an occasional errand, do laundry and help prepare dinner. An unexpected red flag went up for me during our interview when she said she was called to missionary work. But I didn’t follow my intuition.

We’d like our children to learn about different world religions. Somewhat hastily we thereby decided it would be fine for them to learn about their nanny’s faith. But we didn’t think to request parameters on her sharing, not anticipating how it might happen.

During the first week with the new sitter, when lying down with girls for story time, my eldest said, “Mommy, did you know Jesus died for us?”

“Yes, I’m familiar with that,”  I said.

I knew this came from the sitter and wasn’t really concerned beyond worrying about possible details shared about the death — which I think is too much for a four and six year-old.

The second week, again during story time before bed, she said, “Mommy, did you know if we love Jesus, we go to God, and if we don’t, we go to Haides?”

She’s familiar with “Haides” because we’ve been reading the Greek Myths.

My response:  “Yes, that’s a story some people believe and some people don’t. Daddy and I don’t believe that.”

With that I knew that we’d made a mistake and this wasn’t a good match for us.

I don’t want to talk to my small children about hell as a real place. My personal belief is that hell is a state of mind and I’ll share my view of that with them when they are older. We also want their exposure to different religions to come through as learning there are multiple paths to God and different faiths exist based on family upbringing, where you live in the world, and sometimes what you choose when you’re older.

We realized for our family, that for someone who will have significant influence on the kids as a regular caretaker — we either need someone more aligned with our personal worldview or someone who isn’t called to convert others to their beliefs.


The Risk Taker 

Took girls to the neighborhood park in our double-wide stroller. Didn’t feel like hiking up the hill back home and took a ride with a male “acquaintance.”  My eldest, who doesn’t miss a beat, said the sitter met this nice man for the first time at the park.

A) If my daughter spoke the truth, she was essentially taught by a trusted adult in her life that getting into cars with strangers is a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Oh My God.

B) Even if this guy was in fact someone our sitter knew, she made the choice to put the girls (2 1/2 and 4 1/2 at the time) in a car without carseats.

We got home from our date later that night after the girls were in bed.  The baby-sitter was open in sharing all of this with us while casually drinking a beer she found in the fridge.

So disappointing on many fronts.  The girls really adored her.


The Crier 

Super sweet. Creative. Came to the house with art supplies and fun projects to do with the girls.

And within the first three days on the job, she cried on two occasions to us with girls witnessing her upset.  Once because she was distraught at getting caught in traffic and being 20 minutes late.  And the second time, I don’t remember the impetus.

I just didn’t have the emotional capacity to take it on — straight out of the gate with a brand new sitter.  I really wanted someone grounded, emotionally stable, who felt good about herself and could model that for the girls when they were together.

We were very fortunate to find someone who was all that and more in a nanny we were blessed with for two years that we hired after we let go the emotionally sensitive young woman. She is busy at an important new job now and I am really missing her!

Our girls are in after-school daycare now five days a week. I’m holding the vision that we find someone of her quality that could help pick up the girls two days a week so they could have some play time with each other at home and I could exercise after work.



Posted in AP and Working Moms | No Comments

Dear Time Magazine…

Just in time for Mother’s Day, your new issue of Time has been the talk of the nation this week. I’m imagining all the editors basking in the glory. I can see the champagne toasts in the office, the high fives for the “brilliant choice!” on the cover image, the hugs and congratulations for young writer, Kate Pickert for writing a potentially career-changing article.

Good for you guys! Wow. You proved shocking, provocative, controversial images and perpetuating the polarization of working mothers versus non-working mothers can stir the pot and sell your tired magazine. You transcended the threat of digital — at least for this week — and can “own the conversation” with your print. BRAVO!

Were finances really so threatened that you had to kick a big part of the population of Moms the week of Mother’s Day?

First, I’m personally not offended by the cover image. I might have nursed my Littlest until she was three. It just didn’t work out that way, and I chose to wean just after her second birthday. But I have friends who nursed until their children were three. Who cares? Why do people have to make up sick stories in their heads that sexualize breastfeeding and decide that small children still breastfeeding are on the path to being “messed up.”?   Show me a pre-adolescent boy on his mom’s breast, and I’ll likely join the call to Judge.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for at least the first year.  The World Health Organization recommends that continued breastfeeding continue up to 2 years or more years. There’s no denying the scientific, proven — life-saving health benefits. And yet Time decides to paint a picture of extended breastfeeding as “crazy”?!

On the flip side, you could just have easily put together a controversial cover with a woman in a business suit at her office and baby in a daycare crib alone with a bottle and listed a bunch of stats on this baby’s future health risks. But I don’t think my friends who didn’t breastfeed deserve national Shock & Awe criticism either. I have friends who were not interested in trying breastfeeding at all. Straight to formula after birth. I have other friends who tried nursing for a few days and gave up when it wasn’t working for them.  Their business.

I’m curious what your end goal really was? I can hear your editorial management staff claiming something noble like:  “Let’s start a powerful conversation on parenting that engages people across the country!”

Seems to me the goal was to stir up conflict, insecurity, defensiveness, polarity, and ultimately divisiveness between people — and leverage those emotions to make money. If it were truly about encouraging dialogue, I think you might have chosen less negative language. You would have interviewed and been CURIOUS ABOUT middle of the road Attachment Parenting folks like myself. You would have interviewed people from the national organization.

To make the gross implication that anyone that practices Attachment Parenting breastfeeds their children until they are 4, 5 or 6 years old was a clever, sensational tactic to draw attention to the subject — but it’s just not true and you are choosing willful ignorance to paint that as the norm for Attachment Moms.  And trumpeting the “crazy mom” thesis?  Just flat out lame.

People who associate themselves with AP like myself have the opportunity to participate in the conversation you started — which is a good thing. But you choosing to write from such a judgmental point of view doesn’t make me feel good. Most Mothers, including myself, tend to have no shortage of self-doubt and worry about the best way to raise emotionally secure human beings.

Your words:

A lot of people might use the same word {crazy} to describe the child-rearing philosophy Joanne subscribes to. It’s called attachment parenting, and its rise over the past two decades has helped redefine the modern relationship between mother and baby. It’s not just staunch devotees like Joanne; the prevalence of this philosophy has shifted mainstream American parenting toward a style that’s more about parental devotion and sacrifice than about raising self-sufficient kids.

First, what do you mean exactly by “self-sufficient”?  The infant who has learned to soothe himself?  The infant who has learned that no one will attend to him when he’s hungry or upset at night and eventually gives up?  Is that how you define self-sufficient?  Is it all about being able to go to sleep alone and stay asleep?  Or are you making a judgmental leap that babies that nurse “too long” and are tended to at night will grow up to be weak, nervous, and incapable of functioning independently on their own…..?

The childhood formula for self sufficiency: LOVE. Compassion. Attentiveness. Cuddling. Acceptance. Encouragement.

In your video interview, Kate, you imply that anyone who is drawn to Attachment Parenting is likely compensating for something emotionally missed in their own early childhood.  You also write that the science is murky.  But honestly — for being a Time magazine writer, I really think your own research was weak. Only focusing on Dr. Sears, you miss a library of material on the subject.

My early childhood was wonderful. I have very fond memories of both my parents. I wasn’t drawn to Attachment Parenting because I felt like I missed some critical bonding. I was drawn to Attachment Parenting because I spent a great deal of time studying about pregnancy and infancy before having children and was impacted by the new scientific findings that didn’t exist when I was born.

Aside from the health benefits of breastfeeding touted by the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization — there’s proven emotional benefit for both mother and child with breastfeeding. And for an infant having his or her needs met in general. You mention nothing in your article about the stress hormone cortisol and the impact to infants when this is consistently elevated. Nor did you write about the positive biochemical benefit of oxytocin and how this is released with breastfeeding and physical connection.

But if you haven’t received thousands of letters by now educating you more on this subject already, I’d be surprised.

Here’s where I may surprise you.  While I wish you would not have been so extremist and judgmental (I truly think it was a selfish move on your part to get attention and make money), I do appreciate the opportunity for Attachment Parenting to be self-reflective and take a hard look at the reality of the recommendations put forth that are very difficult, if not impossible, for every woman to adopt. AND I think for anyone who has adopted Attachment Parenting and is unhealthy or in chronic poor emotional state because of lack of sleep, or has taken attachment so far that they’ve sacrificed their marriage and forgone time together without children — this is a good time to self-reflect and consider making some different choices.

Having participated in both extremes — staying home, nursing around the clock for years with 2 children and co-sleeping to working 70 hours a week, only seeing my children for an hour in the morning and an hour at night and insisting we sleep apart during the week so I could get good sleep and function at work — I think I have a unique perspective and appreciation for both types of Moms.

You wrote about Attachment Parenting being misogynist because a woman has to give up her career to do it. Women are choosing to do this. We are grown-ups, intellectually capable of making big life choices including the choice to take a break from careers for focused time with children.

However, there is a serious financial impact for most American families who make the choice to live off one income and the harsher reality of so many single mothers — some of whom don’t have maternity leaves, or have very short ones. How many people have parents like Dr. Sears who “subsidize” them when babies are born so the mother can stay home at no financial loss the family?!

Honestly, my being so hell-bent to be home with my Littles when the recession kicked in and my husband’s business was in trouble nearly destroyed us. Now I’m working my ass off to try and make up for lost income.

Yes, these precious souls new to the world need Big Love and there’s many different parenting styles — all of us loving our children in different ways, all of us with the same goal of raising emotionally stable, self-sufficient young people.  And part of being able to love well is when you love yourself — which for many women includes the intellectual satisfaction of a career.

Women who work from home can have it all in my opinion.  It’s challenging and takes a ton of discipline and still requires childcare help. But it’s doable. Extended nursing easy. Planned breaks to give children attention at different times during the day — easy.

Women, like myself now, who work in an office twenty-five minutes from home?  What we can do is pump during the day and save milk for babies.  Though I’m not nursing anymore, I appreciate that the company I work for has reserved private rooms for Moms to do this that can’t be booked for anything else.

Working Mamas can also give our children big, full attention when we get home — quite possibly in a way that the stay-at-home mom can’t because of the compressed time that we have to be together and our guilt. And we can choose to keep sleeping together in a big bed to get that physical connection and cuddle time missed during the day. In our family, we rarely do this now, but we chose to recently the night we got home from taking a week long vacation without our children who at age 3 and 5 happily stayed with my mother.

What we can’t do, is see or be with our children while we’re away at work for 40, 50, 60+  hours a week.  And this is what every working mom struggles to deal with emotionally.

I would have loved to see an article the week of Mother’s Day that brought together the different approaches to Motherhood today. In a way that looked to find the common threads. That had a goal of inspiring curiosity versus judgment and bringing people together with compassion and sympathy versus creating division.

Maybe next year?





Posted in AP and Working Moms, Article Reiviews, Time Magazine | 2 Comments

Getting Unsolicited Parenting Advice

So I went to my first baby shower in probably three years this weekend and was reminded how outrageous people are about giving unsolicited advice to pregnant women.

I know I’m guilty of this and am vowing to stop it. Showers are the worst at drumming up Mommy advice en masse. Mamas – pregnant for the first time — consider asking the host of your baby shower to make a request to attendees coming to support you in your transition to motherhood to focus their best intentions in another way. Like putting together a food calendar for you. (Your local friends and family sign up on a calendar that goes into effect after the baby is born to bring dinners to your house.)


In my opinion, the best thing we can all tell a fretting mom-to-be is:  trust yourself and be kind to yourself.

What happens throughout pregnancy and following the birth of every angel that joins us is nothing short of miraculous. (Yeah Monica, we know that. Duh.) But you may not know about the primal intuition and sensitivity to Truth that you gain as a mother. I believe this is universal. It’s like growing another heart inside your body.

Mothers know. You know when something is not right with your baby.  You know when something’s not right with the world that threatens them or you. You become a Lioness that will do anything to protect your young. And you will hear, see, feel what no one else does.

Some of the advice thrown at my friend this weekend (I held my tongue):

  • Don’t listen to the Breastfeeding Gestapo
  • If you’re a light sleeper at all, don’t let your baby sleep near you
  • You have to get a swing — it’s the only way you’ll ever get through a meal

Of course I have my opinions about all of the above, but my personality loathes conflict and I wasn’t about to start a counter-advice session with my friend. She’ll figure out what works best for her and that is none of my business.

However….on the subjective of breastfeeding — the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin is in desperate need of donors. New mamas, or Mamas-to-Be, please consider it. Right now for Texas and the surrounding states this milk bank serves, the demand for donated breast milk to feed premature babies in hospitals is 3x the available supply.

Thank you milk makers.



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