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October 2017

Humor Parenthood

The 4 Universal Truths of Parenthood

October 31, 2017
truths parenthood

New parents get a lot of advice, mostly unsolicited. I’ve written before about my relief upon discovering that my life would not completely end after the birth of my son—that I could still do things that were important to me, whether it be working out or keeping my life (mostly) in order.

With all of the dire warnings expectant parents receive about the horrors that await them after the arrival of a child, I think it’s important to let new parents—and especially new moms—know that there is hope. You can still try to incorporate things that are important and meaningful to you in your new mom life. All is not lost—at least not forever, anyway.

That said, there are some aspects of parenthood that seem to be universally true, and time and again, the thought “they weren’t kidding when they said…” has crossed my mind.

Here are four of those truths. Of course, individual experiences may vary, and I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but they weren’t kidding when they said:

truths parenthood

1. You will never sleep again.

I heard this one frequently, as nearly every expectant parent does. The warnings come from all sides. Your family. Your neighbor. The mail carrier. Your labor and delivery nurse (seriously though, she means it when she tells you take a nap during your overnight labor).

I remember when my son was two months old, an acquaintance remarked that my husband and I wouldn’t get any sleep for the next five years. Everyone had some sleep warning to share. And let me tell you—they weren’t kidding.

They tell you that you won’t sleep, but what they don’t tell you is why. Newborns don’t sleep for the obvious reasons. Then, as babies grow, there is teething, sickness, mental leaps, growth spurts, new transitions, and then toddlerhood where children have the ability to sleep longer stretches, but also have the ability to climb out of bed at 4 AM shouting MAMA and demanding a cup of milk.

Further, even when your kid starts sleeping, your internal clock has been permanently wrecked. I could be in a hotel bed 3000 miles away in a sea of down pillows, and even then I will wake up every 2-3 hours and struggle to fall asleep each time. It’s like your child is literally in your head, manipulating your internal clock from within.

Sleep does improve, but you really will never sleep the same way again.

2. It gets easier.

When you first become a mom, almost every new task is daunting and everything about caring for a newborn is exhausting. You go from being an individual person who exists in the world primarily taking care of your own needs to this “mom” person literally overnight, and suddenly, nothing about your life is familiar and your needs no longer come first.

A newborn doesn’t care if you literally haven’t slept in days or if all you had for breakfast and lunch were Cadbury Eggs. Their needs are desperate and immediate and having to be responsible for the weight of such a fragile new being while also trying to assemble the puzzle of your bewildering new world can feel overwhelming.

The exhaustion, the novelty, the not knowing what lies ahead, and having almost no perspective or experience from which to glean is what makes the new parent stage so difficult.

This is why new parents are frequently told “it gets easier.”  It does—your new baby will grow, her little personality will shine, and she eventually will become a more efficient eater and a better sleeper (for the most part—see above). It does get easier, but that also brings me to the next truth.

3. It gets harder.

It gets so much harder. But it’s OK because you will be stronger.

Somewhere around six months, when your baby becomes much more mobile and starts getting into everything, you realize how calm the first six months of your child’s life were in comparison.

During that time, you could actually sit with your baby and read a magazine or just down gaze lovingly, and he would cling to you without trying to shimmy off your lap or somersault onto the coffee table. You could look at your phone during downtime without feeling too guilty because your baby would actually be asleep, or they just really loved staring at the ceiling fan—not staring at you, wondering what that curious contraption in your hand is.

With every exciting milestone reached come new challenges.  Walking. Running. Talking. Throwing tantrums. Sharing. Responding to directions. You realize more than ever that the choices you make really really matter, and that’s a daunting realization.

Plus, the physical challenges of parenthood also increase as your child grows. Carrying a 7-pound infant around in a bucket seat is awkward and takes some getting used to. Also difficult—toting a thirty-pound toddler around who’s teething and will literally climb onto and cling to your legs like a spider monkey if you put him down.

I’m told teenagers are a dream.

It definitely gets harder, but the upside is you get stronger. The initial shock of parenthood wears off, you adjust your expectations, and with each passing month and year, you become a more experienced parent and are better able to handle the challenges that come your way.

4. You will never love anything as much.

Despite all of the challenges, when they tell you that you will never love anything the way you love your child, they are not kidding.

Even if it takes time for you to feel the “sunbeams bursting from your heart” type of love that everyone tells you about, it will hit and it will hit hard.

With each new smile or new word or act of affection, your heart and soul with shine with a love and pride you never knew possible. You will love fiercely and unabashedly.

You will understand the exquisite pleasure and pain felt by every mother who ever lived and will be so honored that you’re able to share in the vast mystery that is the creation and growth of human life.

It will knock your socks off—and also make up for the fact that you haven’t slept in five years.

Advice Career Monday Motivation

How to Find a Great Mentor Early in Your Career

October 30, 2017

There is a lot of advice out there about mentorship and mentors, namely, how to find one who is the right fit for you.

There are many schools of thought. Some argue that you should never outright ask someone, particularly a stranger, to be your mentor, while others support asking under the right circumstances.

I’m of the opinion that a mentor can come from anywhere, and if it means reaching out to a stranger whose work you admire, then go forth and ask.

Still, whether reaching out to someone you know or a complete stranger, I believe there are certain guidelines you should follow to to maximize your chances for success. Below are eight of them.

1. Network on your own terms.

One of the most important things you can do to find a potential mentor who would be a good fit is to network on your own terms. By this I mean, if happy hours aren’t your thing, or if you’re a parent who has to immediately rush to daycare after leaving the office, then don’t think of weeknight happy hours as being your only option to network with other professionals.

Look for other opportunities to connect, either formal or informal. If there is a morning or afternoon event, try making that instead. Sometimes professional associations host weekend events, which can also be a great opportunity to connect with someone you might have otherwise missed.

Also, don’t limit yourself to formal gatherings. If there’s a person or group of people you’re really interested in meeting then reach out directly to them and try to set something up. Don’t rely on the obvious paths–forge your own.

2. Learn about your community. 

Make an effort to learn about the community in which you practice or work.

For example, if you’re an attorney, most state and local bar associations have newsletters or bulletins they issue on a monthly or quarterly basis. They’re filled with stories and accolades about new and experienced attorneys, events, and initiatives.

Reading these publications is a good way to get a sense of your professional community and those who practice in it. You may take a particular interest in someone’s work or career trajectory, and if you do, reach out to them and let them know you appreciate their work.

Even if they don’t become a mentor, you’ll at least have made a new professional acquaintance.

3. Establish genuine connections.

A true mentor-mentee relationship is never forced, so always strive to establish genuine connections with people. Don’t try to force a relationship with someone because you think they’re important and would be good for your career.

Similarly, don’t dismiss someone because you think their position is unimportant.

Treat everyone with respect and don’t try to change your values to match those of the person with whom you’re hoping to connect.

4. Put yourself in their shoes.

If you’re interested in connecting with someone you view as a potential mentor, be sure to put yourself in their shoes when reaching out to them. If they’re a working parent, don’t suggest meeting for dinner at 6:30 P.M. on a Friday.

On the other hand, if they suggest that time, and it also works for you, then go ahead and meet with them then.

If the person works in a busy practice downtown and you’re located 20 minutes away in the suburbs, when making plans, don’t expect them to come to you in the first instance.

Also, when scheduling plans, don’t wax on about how busy your schedule is when trying to find a time that works. We’re all busy professionals, and it’s very likely that your potential mentor has an even fuller calendar than you.

You’re hoping this person will bring value to your life, so put yourself in their shoes, and try to make it easier for them to connect with you. Which brings me to my next point.

5. Bring value to the relationship.

A mentoring relationship is a two-way street. Often times, the mentor is someone who is older, wiser, and has spent many more years in the field. You may see them in a warm, guiding light, but don’t treat them like they’re a parent and you’re an overgrown teenager.

When you meet for a meal, don’t expect them to pay. If they offer, which is common, you can still offer to pay your way, but accept if they insist–you don’t want to turn a nice lunch into a tug-of-war over the check. You can volunteer to cover the next one.

Similarly, don’t consistently take anything without giving back–advice, assistance, gratitude. You may be early in your career, but you still have value to contribute.

Always be willing to share and bring value to your mentor’s life.

6. Know your goals.

What do you want out of the relationship? Don’t expect your mentor to steer your course. Be prepared with concrete goals and ideas for what exactly it is you need.

Similarly, if possible, know your mentor’s background and values. If their values don’t match your own, they might not be able to help you in exactly the way you’re hoping.

Of course, don’t completely disregard them because of this, but realize they may not be the right fit as your mentor.

7. Trust your instincts.

Sometimes you just know a person would be a good fit for you as a mentor. You’ve seen them countless times, have interacted with them, admire them, and just know that they are the inspirational leader you need in your life.

If there’s someone like this with whom you’ve established a connection, and who has taken an interest in your life and career, trust your instincts. There are a few great mentors I’ve had in my life who have come about just this way, and I still tremendously value those relationships.

8. Don’t be afraid to get rejected.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get rejected. When you’re reaching out to someone new, there’s always a chance that they won’t be interested in meeting with you. Similarly, there may be someone you’ve already met who just isn’t interested in getting to know you any better.

Or, maybe you’ve already started a mentoring relationship with someone, and have begun to realize it isn’t a good fit. That’s OK. Don’t be afraid to get rejected. You’ll have a lot of wins in your life, but they won’t come without losses.

Rejection will help you grow as a professional and ultimately will help you find the right mentor for you.

Motherhood

An Open Letter to all the Tired Moms

October 27, 2017


Dear Tired Mom,

I know you’re exhausted. You’ve been at this parenting thing for two weeks or two months or two years or more, and I know sometimes it feels like you will never get the hang of things. I know there are times you feel on top of the world, so proud of all that you’ve accomplished as a woman and mother, in awe of your strength. And I know how quickly your perspective can change.

I know you are giving your all every second of every day and couldn’t possibly be stretched an inch further. I know you’re tired. I know that you yearn for the days you could collapse into bed at night with the peace of mind that your slumber would be undisturbed. I know you long to sleep even two or four hours uninterrupted throughout the night.

No matter how long ago it was, I know you may not have felt like yourself during your pregnancy, and that by the end, you longed to have the baby out so that you could get back to normal.

Only, I know that your old normal never came back. You have probably stared at pictures of that younger, well-rested woman you barely recognize as yourself. I’m also certain you don’t give enough credit to the beautiful, incredible woman you are now. .

I know how physically taxing being a mom is. I know that you are hoisting your baby or toddler or big kid around while you are brushing your teeth, combing your hair, or trying to find your car keys. I know you have a tiny person clinging to you while you try to have a conversation or go to sleep or have dinner.

I know you love your kids more than anything, and I know you feel guilty for feeling so exasperated sometimes.

I know you might feel guilty when you actually get a moment to yourself. I know that when you finally do get to have a massage or go to yoga or walk around the grocery store all by yourself, you might not enjoy the experience as much as you thought you would. You’re not a bad mom.

I know how quickly babies change and routines change. I know you may have had a schedule that worked for months or years, only to have it be disrupted by a move to a new house, or a new job, or a new school.

I know you feel like you’ve been sacrificing for so long. I know you try so hard to keep bits and pieces of your former self, only to find those pieces being reworked again and again. I know it’s like someone is asking you to turn in your identity and swap it out for a new one.

I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but I know sometimes it does. I also know you should hang in there. You’re doing an amazing job, and you’re not alone.

Advice Motherhood

The Best Advice I Ever Received from Another Mom

October 26, 2017
advice


There’s no shortage of advice for moms out there. New moms, experienced moms–everyone has something to share. The worst kind of advice is the kind that comes unsolicited and without regard for your circumstances. The best kind of advice is the kind that comes with permission and stands the test of time.

When I was a brand new mom, I frequently sought advice from some of the more experienced moms I knew–friends who had undertaken motherhood years before me, who I’d watched with curiosity and more than a little bit of awe.

I trusted their counsel and took comfort in their words. Even if I ended up making different choices than them, I respected their opinions and valued their insight.

It was one of these friends who gave me the best piece of advice I’ve ever received as a mother, one that I’ve turned to again and again over the years.

The Best Advice I Ever Received From Another Mom 

The advice she shared with me was that, even though I may make certain choices for my life right now, I could always make different choices later. Your plans can change, and that’s OK. Simple, but completely mind-bending to me at the time.

She shared this bit of advice with me over lunch during my maternity leave. As I held my wriggling 3-month-old in my lap and took the occasional bite of summer salad, I explained my plans for my eventual return to work. I expressed my concerns about being away from my son and over the huge changes that loomed ahead.

My friend’s statements, while seemingly simple, were a revelation to me at the time, and frankly, not exactly what I wanted to hear.

I wanted her to say that the plans I made would be perfect, then and forever. I was already nervous about the new transitions that awaited me as a working mom and all the choices I had already made as a new parent. I didn’t want to think that I’d have even more choices to make later on, or that the decisions I had already made for my family could end up being the wrong ones.

As someone who has never been a huge fan of major life change, I wanted to feel I’d be able to settle in to my new life once the dust cleared. I didn’t want uncertainty. I didn’t like uncertainty. I wanted to find comfort in consistency.

But the incredible thing about this advice was that it stood the test of time. I grew into it, and eventually, found comfort in it. While my freshly minted new mom self may not have been ready to hear that life could and would eventually change again, the more experienced me was able to see value in the fact that, although life would bring many changes, I had the power to change with it.

Life will change again and again, whether you want it to or not.

If motherhood teaches us one thing, it is that time marches forward. Though the days are long, the years are short, and what works now will not always work for us later.

The ability to make plans, assess your circumstances, and revise if needed is a beautiful thing. I know that now, and I hope you do too.

A version of this was republished on Scary Mommy on December 24, 2017. See it here!

Motherhood

3 Ways to Combat Mom Guilt

October 25, 2017
mom guilt


Mom guilt. It’s one of the more unpleasant side effects of motherhood. It’s quiet. It’s stealthy, and the threat of it is always looming, ready to ruin the day. None of us are immune to it, but what are the best ways to manage it?

Before I became a mom, I told myself that if I ever started to feel the slow creep of mom guilt then I just wouldn’t let myself feel guilty. Simple enough in theory, but in practice, of course, dealing with mom guilt just isn’t that simple. It comfortably settles into your bones, ready for the long haul, and can unveil itself in even the most unexpected of moments.

While it may be impossible to fully rid yourself of the burden of mom guilt, there are effective ways to manage it. Remembering that it is OK to make yourself a priority is one of them, but there are other methods you can adopt that can change your whole perspective, making you less susceptible to mom guilt. Below are three of them.

mom guilt

1. Focus on Quality over Quantity

One of the best ways to dissolve mom guilt is to focus on the quality of time you have with your family rather than the quantity. Whether you spend 12 hours a day in the office, or you spend every waking second with your offspring, ensuring that you are placing value on your interactions is an important way to combat the guilt you have about your time together.

Working moms can be especially prone to the lurking threat of mom guilt. Being away from your kids, especially when they are little, can be tough, and it can be easy to forget that the time you are away can actually be beneficial to them and to you. There is increasing evidence of the advantages for children of working mothers.

Further, continuing your career can increase your feelings of value, confidence, and self-worth–and a happy mom is important for a happy family. Further, if you are working, you are likely also contributing to your family financially, and that is definitely not something to minimize.

Still, even if you are a stay at home mom, or a work at home mom, it is still all too easy to feel guilty about how you spend your time. After spending all day, every day, with your children, you may worry you’re not “making the most” of every minute–an impossible feat for anyone.

Remembering that there is value in the work you do at home is important, as is realizing that life does not follow a script–so it’s OK if not every minute is picture perfect.

Staying present and focusing on the quality of your interactions, rather than the quantity, can help prevent mom guilt from rearing its ugly head. It can also make you feel more confident that the choices you’ve made for your family are the right ones.

2. Shake off Nagging Expectations

This is a biggie. It’s easy to feel guilty when you feel you aren’t living up to your own expectations or those around you. Society doesn’t help with this. The expectations put on parents–especially on moms–are often ridiculously unreasonable.

Mothers are regularly placed in a double bind and given competing, but completely irreconcilable expectations. We’re all familiar with this. You put your child in daycare, and you’re “letting someone else raise them,” but if you stay home with them, “you’re wasting your potential” and “stunting their social growth.” It’s impossible to win.

Still, even if you’ve shaken off societal expectations, we all have our own sets of expectations by which we judge ourselves. Maybe you expected to make partner in your firm by 35, or maybe you thought you’d never be the type of mom who uses TV as a babysitter.

Whatever the case, there are likely certain compromises you’ve had to make as a parent, that, at times, can make you feel like you’re failing.

Shaking off the nagging expectations for what you “should” be doing, and embracing your life as it is is liberating and goes a long way toward banishing mom guilt.

You can always take stock and make changes for things truly important to you, but you should never let a case of the “shoulds” bog you down.

3. Lean into your Support System

 

Moms frequently feel guilty about asking for help. There is a certain amount of pride in the ability to handle everything on our own, and the allure of being supermom can sometimes be hard to resist.

Still, there’s no shame in realizing that raising human beings truly does take a village. No one becomes successful completely on their own.

Titans of industry, tech entrepreneurs, and leaders in every field all had a hand from someone, somewhere, regardless of how self-made they seem.

Further, kids benefit from having a variety of positive influences in their lives. By sharing them with the world, you are making their own small worlds bigger and brighter.

Accepting that it’s OK to ask for help is one of the kindest things you can do for yourself and your family.

Whether you’re relying on daycare to nurture and educate your kids while you work, or having a friend help out while you hit the gym or grab a much-needed caffeine boost, leaning into your community of support is important for everyone.

Learning that it’s OK to share the load goes a long way toward banishing mom guilt, and will make you and your family healthier and happier–and there’s no reason to feel guilty about that.