Posts Tagged ‘working mom’

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).

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 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.

The wisdom of Marmee

May 29, 2009

15813__littlewoman_lOn my wedding day a little less than two years ago, my sister and matron of honor, Carrie, presented me with a new hard cover copy of Little Women and inscribed it with the wish that I would read it to my daughter (should I ever have one) as our mom had done for us. You see there are four girls in my family just as there are four March sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. We sisters always laughed as we compared ourselves to our counterpart in the book.

A few weeks ago, I took the book off the shelf in my infant daughter’s room, re-read the inscription from my sister, and thought it a good a time as any to start reading to my daughter the words of this cherished work of literature. My daughter seems to fuss a bit less when I rock her and read to her–no matter what the nature of the text–so I began reading the novel aloud, a chapter at a time. She is usually fast asleep one or two pages in, but I keep going (for my sake as much as hers)!

As I’ve read through the first ten chapters, I’ve been struck by the character of Marmee (the mother to the four little women at the center of the book). Marmee is the mother we should all aspire to be. Her kindness and wisdom know no bounds. Rather than tell her daughters how to tackle a problem, she helps show them. For example, when the girls persist in their complaints about their school work and household chores, she gives them the week off to do as they please and lounge at their leisure. After a mere few days of this new found freedom, the girls grow bored and cranky. Soon after, they eagerly pick up the chores they had so hastily cast off just days before. Marmee smiles as she sees her plan working–the girls learned the lesson she had hoped they would–that working has value and provides an outlet for our creative energies.

Perhaps, I should heed this lesson as today I find myself at the two-week mark before returning to work full time. I certainly have enjoyed these last ten weeks of maternity leave, bonding with my baby daughter, spending ample time outdoors and enjoying being out and about during the hours I would typically be at work. I’d be lying if I said I’m looking forward to returning to work. I’m sad to leave my baby girl. I’m nervous about balancing work and motherhood. And if I’m being honest, I’m going to miss being in control of my own day.

But perhaps cosmic forces led me to the bookshelf to begin reading Little Women when I did so that I could stumble upon Marmee’s wisdom at this critical juncture when I need reassurance about my decision to return to work. Marmee’s right–there is value in work, and I have a lot of creative energy to unleash for which work provides an outlet. I hope one day my daughter sees me as a role model for balancing a career and parenthood. And as Marmee would say, I’ll probably be a better person for it, and I dare say, so will my baby girl.

Note to self

February 17, 2009

I’ve got about six weeks to go before D-day (delivery day). I will soon be someone’s mom (gasp)! This is kind of a scary proposition to me. Though I am 30, I often feel every bit the child I was 20 years ago. As I visited with my mom yesterday, I hugged her and said aloud, “I can’t be nearly as good at this as you have been.” She assured me I would. Though I am not sure I agree, I will give it my best go.

Today, I decided to write a letter to myself reminding me of special things my mom did with me that I need to replicate with my daughter so she feels as special as I always have in my mom’s eyes. Here goes.

Dear Jacquie,

You can do this! You can be a good mom. If you give it your all, you may even be a more than good. In addition to all the every day support and caring you give your child each day, be sure to make her feel extra special with simple but heartfelt gestures that she may not remember to thank you for but will always cherish. For example,

• Take her to feed the ducks, just you and her.

• Even though you’ll be a working mom, take days off to be a chaperone/driver on school field trips and to attend school plays. She may not admit it, but she’ll love that you were there.

• When she’s old enough to appreciate it, go for mom-daughter manicures and pedicures. Make her feel like a princess.

• On Valentine’s Day, make her a handmade Valentine letting her know she’s the apple of your eye.

• When she goes off to sleepover camp, send her letters before she even departs so she has one or two waiting for her when she arrives.

• Learn to sew even a basic pattern so that some day when she needs an elf hat for the Christmas pageant, you can make her one, and she can tell the other kids, “my mom made this for me!”

• Be her biggest fan on the field and off, in school and out.

• Surprise her with her favorite cookies for no reason at all.

You can do this. You will get as much, if not more, from it than she will. Good luck!

-Jacquie (at 34 weeks)