Archive for the ‘Working mommyhood’ Category

What to do when you come upon time to pause and reflect on things

August 31, 2011

They say men do business on the golf course. OK. To me, that begs the question where do women do business? Well, while I’m sure that the answer to that question varies widely, lately — for me, anyway — business is getting done in the basement floor changing room of my office building (a.k.a my pumping place).

You see, in this crazy life of mine, the one that involves a toddler and an infant, full-time employment and management of a house that currently sports eight brown shutters and four green ones (much to the dismay of the neighborhood association, I’m sure), idle moments are few and far between. Not that I would have it any other way, of course. Still, it does leave one with little time to pause and reflect on things.

Enter lactation.

Twice a day, while at the office, nature calls, and I visit the basement to pump in the one area of the building where the walls are not glass (aka see through)! And I sit for about 10 minutes or so hooked up to my bestie with some of that oh-so-elusive time to pause and reflect on things. It is often in these twice daily stretches that some of my best ideas come to me. Free from my BlackBerry (as my hands are — how should I put this? — otherwise occupied), I actually close my eyes and think. Imagine that!

But aside from the several “aha moments” that my pumping time and place have afforded me, I am also meeting new people! You see I work on the second floor of my office building, and I might never otherwise visit the basement bathroom where I now run into my new cronies: Gail and Lucinda** on a regular basis. And who knows, down the road when I need a programmer, I may just call on Gail. Or when I need a recipe to entertain a dinner party of eight, I just may ask Lucinda for a recommendation. Business done! All because of a little pump that could!

This all leads me to wonder what innovations, ideas and possibly even companies have been born of breastfeeding sessions when the sisterhood of nursing mothers have sat unattached to technology to pause and reflect on things. If we harnessed that collective time and brain power, just think what we could do!

Or if you simply want to use this time to close your eyes and think about George Clooney, Denzel Washington or insert your crush’s name here while reliving the moment in ninth grade when you scored the game-winning goal in the regional soccer finals, please do that. After all, when a mother comes by time to pause and reflect on things, she deserves to be able to do whatever the hell she wants.

**All names have been changed to conceal the identity of these frequent visitors to the loo (yes, I used the word “loo.” It’s just fun to say).

Hi Ho Hi Ho….It’s back to work I go!

June 16, 2011

Well they say all good things must come to an end. And so it is that I will soon bid adieu to my maternity leave. Please don’t feel sorry for me as I will have had 12 weeks at home with my munchkins when all is said and done. I am so very lucky to have had this time with them, BUT it is not without a heavy heart that I return to the office for I will miss my little sidekicks very dearly when I am back in my nine to five routine.

So to rally for my return to work next Wednesday, I thought it might be helpful if I scrounged up some inspirational quotes on the value of work. Perhaps if I read them enough my mind will give my heart a hand in mustering the strength I need to do what I need to do in a few short days. Oh and it doesn’t hurt that yesterday I made a trip to my happy place Target where I purchased a complete new set of colored gel rainbow pens and a crisp clean notepad for the first day back (am I the only one who takes great pleasure in a good pen and a brand new notebook)?!

So alas here are some quotes that will be my rallying cries for the next five days:

“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” -Donald Kendall

“Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment, full effort is full victory.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“Work spares us from three evils: boredom, vice, and need.” -Voltaire

“Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.” -James Allen

“We work to become, not to acquire.” -Elbert Hubbard

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” -Thomas A. Edison

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

”I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” -Thomas Jefferson

So I will read these wise words spoken by wise people and remind myself of all the good things that result from my working outside of the home (not the least of which is the ability to fund my bi-weekly trips to paradise Target). So wish me luck and send any of your own personal words of wisdom or inspiration my way if you’re so inclined…I may need an extra large dose come Tuesday night!

Rejected…again

December 1, 2010

I knew a guy in college who, like many of us during our senior year, went on a series of job interviews. He was interested in a career in consulting I believe. He probably interviewed with at least 20 different companies. He received a lot of rejection letters–so many so that he began posting them around his room as wallpaper. Soon they took over. It became a running joke–how many rejection letters could Mike collect before the end of the year?

I know his pain. I have been pitching numerous magazines over the last year to take on some freelance writing work. I’ve followed each publication’s instructions as absurd as some of them are (e.g. contact us only on the third Wednesday of even-numbered months after 2 p.m. EST in e-mail. NO PHONE CALLS!).  I’ve been as polite as I know how to be and generated what I think have been some decently creative story ideas.

Guess not.

I have a “virtual” pile of rejection letters that would rival my friend Mike’s. So taking a page from his example, I thought I’d start sharing them with others so they can feel my pain or at least get a laugh. Some are very polite. Some are kinda mean. But thankfully my skin is a bit thick after 10+ years in the work world. Heck–I work in PR. If I didn’t have a thick skin, I’d be curled up in the fetal position under my desk by 2 p.m. every afternoon.

Not only am I hoping that these letters (well e-mails mostly) will entertain, I am hoping that they will provide me continued motivation to keep pitching because sometimes it works even if it does take nine attempts–true story! So here are a few recent rejection notes to get us started. More to come I’m sure! :)

A nice one from American Baby magazine:

Thanks, Jacquie, for thinking of us with this idea, but we already have something in the works on this subject.

All the best,
XXXXXXX

A not so nice one from a publication to remain unnamed:

Hi Jacquie,

Unfortunately, your writing style is not in line with XXXXX. Also, your pitch was not between 100 and 130 words.

-XXXXXX

Ahhh….the joys of trying to be a writer!

Where I’ll be Wednesday at noon

July 26, 2010

On Facebook, a friend recently asked if anyone had advice for her as she returned to work following maternity leave. A slew of comments (including one from me) followed. Seems everyone has thoughts on this transitional time. One of the comments I particularly enjoyed was one that read “spend a lot of time with your work spouse.” I am not sure if I liked it because a.) it’s true or b.) I like the term “work spouse.” Either way, my comment to her was somewhat similar — spend a lot of time with other working parents.

This was one of the recommendations made to me when I was going back to work after 12 weeks off with Baby Blue. Go to lunch with other working moms. Share your ups and downs. And I have. And I do. And I will continue to do so — that is if I ever take a lunch again. Seems we in corporate America have gotten away from actually acknowledging the lunch hour. We almost need it forced on us as if we were second graders being herded to the cafeteria by our homeroom teachers. Otherwise, the temptation of doing e-mail or reviewing a report while eating a sandwich in front of our computers somehow trumps enjoying the beautiful sunny days that are way too few if you live in the Mitten. While I know it’s illogical to do the former, somehow I typically do, and that’s so not how I want to live my life!

So, I was glad to learn of a movement (again via Facebook) urging America to “Take Back Your Lunch.” In a nutshell, the movement encourages workers across America to actually take their full lunch hour every Wednesday this summer if on no other day during the week (although it’s an encouraged practice for every day). The idea is that by logging off, workers will come back from lunch more energized and ready to be more productive than if they had lunched at their desk.

So in typical corporate America fashion, I’ve blocked the Wednesday lunch hour off  on my Outlook calendar so I’ll be reminded to take back my lunch for at least one day this week. If you’re in the area (Birmingham, MI) and want to take back your lunch while I take back mine — let’s meet up. Weather permitting, I’ll be in Shain Park!

Paging Dr. Mom

April 14, 2010

I’ve been doing some freelance writing for a publication whose staff I used to be on some years ago. It’s a medical publication, and physicians are the primary audience. I’ve been pitching this publication for some time, and the first article green lighted is on a topic on which I certainly can relate — working parenthood. As part of my research, I’m interviewing working mom docs and working mom med students about how they balance these two roles.

In the interviews I’ve conducted, it has become abundantly clear that no matter the profession, perspective changes when you have a baby.

These women have a more demanding work schedule than many. Some take call every third or fourth night. Some work weekends. Some work 14 hour days. Some are up all night with their infant and then rounding first thing in the morning. And all of them miss their little, and in some cases not so little, ones while at work or school.

In speaking with these women, I’ve noticed a common thread. All always wanted to be a doctor. All  always wanted to be moms. And they’re not letting anyone (even resentful residents or attendings, less than understanding professors or overly concerned family members and friends) tell them they can’t do both. Because, quite frankly, they already are.

But that’s not to say they’re not struggling with that oft-referenced thing we in the media like to call “work-life balance,” because they very much are. And so I have particular respect for the women who’ve taken the bull by the horns and said, “I’m going to do this my way.” Case in point, one family medicine physician from the Chicago area who is launching her own micro practice, where she can set her own hours so she can also spend more time with her infant daughter. Case in point, one pediatrician from metro Detroit who is working a part-time schedule and raising four kids (including newborn twins). Case in point, one family medicine physician who pursued a career in academics so she could spend more time with her kids and less time working nights in the hospital.

And for each of these women, there are just as many others who work even more demanding schedules while also raising a family. And kudos to them as well. They’re doing what’s right for them, which is ultimately what it all boils down to.

I was particularly struck by what one second year medical student shared with me as we discussed the challenges and triumphs of parenting while working, or in her case, going to medical school. She said, “I sometimes tell myself during particularly hectic times that even if I were to flunk out of school (which I won’t), I’ll always have my husband and daughter.” She’s got her priorities straight. And I may just be scheduling an appointment with her come 2012.

Thoughts from 30,000 feet

February 19, 2010

I have what some might consider an obsession with the Keira Knightley version of the film Pride and Prejudice. While I enjoyed the book when I read it back in high school and earlier film adaptations of it, the Keira Knightley film version of this tale simply lives in a realm of its own. I actually won’t let myself buy the DVD of this film because I don’t want to feed the beast. I borrowed it once from my sister and watched it each night for seven consecutive nights before I finally—and reluctantly—returned it. My husband was slightly amused at first, but as the week went on, the amusement turned to a little bit of fear. He simply doesn’t understand the allure of P&P.  But then again, has any male ever understood this?

The reason I can’t own the P&P DVD is that since I had a baby, I have made a conscious effort to avoid activities that suck away at my very limited free time for little fruitful benefit. Watching television has been the primary victim. I rarely ever watch it anymore (except for Mad Men—Best. Show. Ever.) Renting and going to movies have also become uncommon practices. And much like any obsessed person, I can’t pull myself away from the high that Pride & Prejudice affords me, so it can’t be in my house.

So why am I writing this on a blog about parenting? Well, I’m writing this post as I fly 2,909 miles from Detroit to San Francisco for a business trip. As I have written about before, I am not a big fan of business travel these days. But duty calls, so here I am aboard a Delta 757 kinda bumming that I can’t rock my little girl to sleep and letting all sorts of horribly tragic scenarios play out in my head about me not making it back. Sick—I know.

Anticipating this very moment, I allowed myself to rent a movie for play on my portable DVD player. You guessed it—P&P. And I suddenly feel a little less anxious. Thank you once again Ms. Austen!

This actually happened

August 6, 2009

DSC02176See this photo? Which bag would you guess is the diaper bag, and which the computer bag? Hopefully now you can see why it was understandable that I should arrive at work on Monday morning to discover that instead of my laptop, I was pulling baby wipes and a onesie out from what I thought was my computer bag!  I suppose this is a lesson to those moms-to-be (or others in the market for a diaper bag) that there’s a reason so many diaper bags are a brilliant shade of  pink and covered with baby bunnies playing ukeleles. It’s so crazies like me clearly select the appropriate bag for the appropriate occasion. I think a few people at the office got at least a smile out of my excuse for getting a later-than-usual start to the day after having to return home to retrieve my computer. I know it provided me with an oft-needed reminder to try to slow my marathon run down to a jog every once in a while.

Still, I think I need a new diaper bag. Any suggestions?

(Oh and btw, the bag on the right is the diaper bag……I think)

The Marathon

July 31, 2009

I’ve never run 26.2 miles, but I would imagine it’s right up there as one of the most physically and mentally challenging undertakings that people actually choose to put themselves through. I think being a working mom might be somewhat similar. I feel like I’m part of a long distance run where if I stop I might not get started again!

Since Baby Blue arrived, my M.O. has been to take one day at a time, to get all the essentials done and get to the non-essentials when I can. So that may mean letting the dogs out to do their business, but that their businss may sit in its spot on the lawn for a week or more before it’s picked up. The former is an essential (unless you’re this man). The latter not so much. Likewise, I may run the dirty bottles through the dishwasher, but the spoons, bowls and plates may sit there for a few days until I find myself eating yogurt with a fork.  Just keep moving I tell myself.

Last night, my marathon pace became more like a brisk walk. I saw an opportunity to do something non-essential that was too good to pass up—a free concert in the park! Because I’m so used to running, I did struggle to relax (I do admit to pulling out my Blackberry more than once), but I saw through the fog of my marathon exhaustion to capitalize on a great photo opp and a reminder of why I started running in the first place.

Gotta love the Flip cam… now back to my run!

“Ferris”ism rings true

July 24, 2009

ferrisI was out of town for work for about 36 hours earlier this week. First time away from baby, and I slept like a champ. (I probably shouldn’t sound quite so jubilant, but it was sooo nice to have an uninterrupted night of sleep)!

On Wednesday morning, I drove to a parking garage in downtown Chicago where I parked my rental car on floor 614 (or so it seemed as I coiled around and around and around the garage to the one vacant spot in sight). I had a lot on my mind as I maneuvered into a spot next to a couple emerging from their own vehicle. I was joining five co-workers at a new business pitch later that day. I had been reviewing the points I wanted to make during this presentation as I put the car into park. I was also silently missing my little girl. I was wrapped up in these thoughts when I noticed the woman emerging from the car next to me, and she was VERY pregnant.

Now as a recent pregger myself, I feel a certain kinship to women going through pregnancy. It wasn’t long ago I was carting around 41 (yes 41) extra pounds of body weight myself. And this woman was the about-to-give-birth-on-the-concrete-floor kind of pregnant looking ready to pop. I then observed her husband pulling a large duffel bag, a pillow and what resembled a diaper bag from the trunk of this car. She was in labor!! They were arriving to give birth to a new life!

How very different their day was going to be from mine. I was wearing my one and only business suit that makes about four appearances outside of my closet a year. She was wearing yoga pants and a long-sleeve T. I was carrying a computer bag and a cup of tea. She was carrying a pillow and a person! I was turned around in this maze of a parking garage. She marched forward with purpose in the direction of Northwestern Hospital to deliver a child. I was going to remember this day because I had a challenging new business pitch ahead of me and missed my daughter terribly. She was going to remember this day because she brought life into the world! The whole encounter lasted no more than two minutes, but I was struck by the appropriateness of a quote that I try to bring to mind every so often when I need a reality check:

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around every once in a while, you could miss it.” -Ferris  Bueller

Congrats mystery woman and man. Welcome to the world little baby!

The longest Sunday night ever

June 12, 2009

You know that feeling you get in your gut on Sunday nights when you’ve had a great weekend but have to go back to work the next morning? My husband likes to call it the “Sunday blues.” Well I’ve had the Sunday blues for about three weeks as I anticipated my return to work–but this time as a mom. I can handle going back to work. I’m a big girl. But I’m more concerned about my mental state now that I have a daughter, and even more importantly I’m concerned about her well being in the care of someone besides me.

But like many things in life, the reality is rarely as bad as the anxiety that precedes it. I’ve made it through the first half of my first day back at work after a 12-week maternity leave, and I’m still alive. The world is still turning. The beat goes on. Maybe I can handle this after all.

We’ll see on Sunday night.


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