Monthly Archives

November 2017

Motherhood

Growing into Motherhood

November 29, 2017
Motherhood

On my thirtieth birthday, about a month after my son was born, I had brunch with a good friend. Being just four weeks post-partum, it was one of the first times I was physically away from my son for longer than a few moments.

As we dined on fruit salad and Eggs Benedict, my friend asked me if I could believe that I was now a mother. I don’t recall anymore just what I said in response, but I know it was something to the effect of “um, no. I definitely cannot.”

It was a refrain I turned to again and again during those early months when people came with the same query.

“Can you believe he’s here?”

“Can you believe you’re a mother now?”

And I was not exaggerating when I said over and over again that I could not believe that I was someone’s mother.

I, of course, exhibited all the symptoms of a mother. Physically, emotionally, socially–it was evident that I was this tiny baby’s mama.

I loved my son fiercely and selfishly. In my new mama cocoon, I avoided early morning appointments and late evening social gatherings like the plague. I shunned help, certain that I could best care for my new family’s needs.

I found ways to incorporate meaningful parts of my former life into my new life.

Still, as I evolved from my former self into my new mama self, I struggled to conceptualize the fact that I had brought a little boy into the world who would one day call me mama.

Motherhood

There’s something bizarrely surreal about the birth of a child. Indeed, when a new baby is born, a mother is also born. But, just as it takes time for that little baby to develop into a tenacious, independent little human, it can take time for a mother to feel fully at ease in her role as mom.

For me, becoming a mom and gaining a son was a bit like the transition of going from law school graduate to licensed attorney. The descriptor was correct, but early on, somewhat ill-fitting.

At times, those first few months of being a mom conjured up feelings of make believe.

The first time I went to the store on my own after my son was born, I relished in the liberty and the guilt of my temporary freedom. I was acutely aware of every small family I passed. I recall how inept I felt as I watched experienced moms and dads wrangle several children at a time, wishing my son were with me at that moment.

I couldn’t wait for the time I would feel at ease in my new role and wondered if that day would ever come. I longed to be the exasperated mom picking up a thrashing toddler off the floor at Target. 

Those were the real moms–not me, awkwardly straddling the line between pre-baby and post-baby life.

Part of the disbelief that I was actually a mom may have come from the fact that my son was not yet old enough to acknowledge me as such.

Of course, I read all the books and articles about how my son would instinctively know I was his mama.

I read about one-week old babies turning their heads toward their mother’s scent, and how babies at every age show attachment.

But still, without my son ever calling me mom, it felt like I was playing this mom person to a tiny being who may or may not have been fully sold on the idea of me as his mother.

Alas, the day eventually came when my son actually began calling me mama.

By that time, I had enough months of motherhood under my belt that I had already started to feel more like one of those “real” moms.

I ran miles alongside my son.

I hefted his wiggly, growing body through the grocery store and calmly reminded him to use his indoor voice when he excitedly screamed at strangers.

Of course, I know that I became a mother long before my son knew to call me mama.

I know now that the early uneasiness, along with the worry, the fear, and the uncertainty are as much a part of my motherhood journey as the joyous cries of mama and the tantrums in Target.

Becoming a mother is a beautiful thing, and like everything that is beautiful, it requires time to blossom and flourish.

Motherhood

Monday Motivation

11 Powerful Monday Mantras to Supercharge your Day

November 27, 2017
Monday Mantra

Staying motivated on a Monday–particularly the Monday after a holiday weekend–can be challenging. I’ve previously discussed helpful tips for having a better Monday as part of my Monday Motivation series. One of those tips included creating a Monday mantra, a word or phrase you can repeat that motivates and inspires you to push forward when things get tough.

Today I’m sharing eleven inspiring mantras to help you power through your day. The quotes I’ve selected below may not be reminiscent of yoga class, but they can still inspire, empower, and motivate you to be your best self.

My list follows below, but if you’re still looking for inspiration, be sure to check out these Quotes of the Day from Fairygodboss: 52 quotes to get you through every week of the year (organized by month!).

I hope this list inspires you to have a great day on Monday or any day of the week!

Monday Mantras

Inspiring Monday Mantras

1. “Great people do things before they’re ready.” – Amy Poehler

Monday Mantra

 

2. “You must do the things you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday Mantra

 

3. “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.” – Nido Qubein

Monday Mantra

 

4. “Make each day your masterpiece.” – John Wooden

Monday Mantra

5. “The beginning is always NOW.” – Roy T. Bennett

Monday Mantra

6. “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. – Oprah Winfrey

Monday Mantra

7. “Leadership belongs to those who take it.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Monday Mantra

8. “Fall seven times. Stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

Monday Mantra

9. “Light tomorrow with today.” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Monday Mantra

10. “Someday is not a day of the week.” – Janet Dailey

Monday Mantra

11. “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali

Monday Mantra

What’s your favorite mantra or inspirational quote? Let me know in the comments or on social media! 

 

Weekly Roundup

Weekly Roundup: Giving Thanks

November 26, 2017
Weekly Roundup

Each week I share my favorite pieces from around the web along with noteworthy news items relevant to readers.

In keeping with the spirit of giving thanks, this week’s Weekly Roundup includes some great pieces on gratitude. There is also an insightful post on self-care that made its rounds around the web this week (for good reason!).

As always, there are also some great pieces for working parents, including a post from Baby Caravan, LLC explaining what to expect when New York’s Paid Family Leave takes effect on January 1st.

I also share my latest for Fairygodboss: 6 Qualities Of People Who Are Confident — But Not Cocky.

Scroll down for the full roundup!

In Case You Missed It: Each week I’ll link back to my own posts from the previous week. You can find them filed below under ICYMI.

Did you come across an interesting piece about work, life, or motherhood this week? Feel free to share in the comments or on social media. My links are at the top right of the page.

Thanks for reading!

The Roundup

Weekly Roundup

Gratitude

6 simple ways to be a thankful mom by Amy Alpert for Motherly.

Why You Should Read: This piece lists some great, practical ways to practice gratitude even when you may not be feeling particularly grateful. It suggests tips such as playing the “aren’t we lucky” game, which is great advice for days that feel like years. My favorite line: “Gratitude is a pathway to mindfulness because it puts you squarely in the present.”

11 simple ways to teach children gratitude by Christina Clemer for Motherly.

Why You Should Read: This is another great article that discusses ways to instill gratitude with the focus being on raising thankful kids. My son is still young, but I think often about how I’d like to raise him with a sense of gratitude and an appreciation for the life he has. The piece gives great tips such as “set expectations” when you’re shopping (not every trip will yield a new toy) and “give experiences” to reduce reliance on material possessions. Great advice for this month and the whole year!

Self-Care

This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake by Brianna West for Thought Catalog.

Why You Should Read: Chances are, you’ve seen this article circulating in your newsfeed this week, and it’s for good reason. In a culture that is obsessed with the presentation, maintenance, and care of self, there’s a lot of confusion about what it actually means to engage in self-care. As Ms. West writes, “it’s not all salt baths and chocolate cake.” It’s not pretty Instagram filters, candles, and treating yourself. True self-care is self-preservation in its rawest sense: it’s learning to say no–to others, to yourself, to your indulgences. It’s living responsibly and creating a life you don’t need to “escape from.” A great read!

Working Parents

HOW DOES NEW YORK STATE’S PAID FAMILY LEAVE WORK? by Baby Caravan.

Why You Should Read: If you live in New York and aren’t clear on what to expect under the paid family leave laws taking effect January 1st, Baby Caravan’s piece lays it all out in plain English. In the upcoming month, I will be sharing additional resources to help you navigate the paid family leave landscape, and Baby Caravan’s post is a great place to start!

4 Ways Working Mothers Balance Career and Family by Alexis Lupo for Career Contessa.

Why You Should Read: This article tackles the reality of what it takes to successfully balance career and motherhood. As the article mentions, juggling a career and motherhood often requires a reassessment of priorities and redefining what success means to you. The piece gives great tips like “do what feels right” and “stop trying to find work-life balance.”

The lessons here are similar to the ones in the self-care piece cited above. Succeeding as a working mother and caring for yourself both involve a degree of shaking off societal expectations and making choices that are truly right for your well-being–even if those choices don’t fit the script you think you’re supposed to follow.

Professionalism

6 Qualities Of People Who Are Confident — But Not Cocky – my latest for Fairygodboss.

Why You Should Read: In this piece, I share my thoughts on the six qualities that set confident people apart from their cocky counterparts. Confidence is key to getting ahead and reaching your goals, but many people (especially women) are afraid of appearing too confident for fear of seeming brash or arrogant. However, there are simple ways to distinguish the two. Read on to see if you agree with my take on things!

ICYMI

9 Small Luxuries I’m Thankful for as a Mom

11 Questions: Lori Mihalich-Levin of Mindful Return

The Ten Commandments of Parenting Toddlers

5 Tips for Staying Motivated as a Working Parent

Humor Motherhood

9 Small Luxuries I’m Thankful for as a Mom

November 23, 2017
thankful mom

Happy Thanksgiving!

Recently, I came across this piece discussing the things exhausted moms are really thankful for this year. It made me laugh, but it also made me think about what would be on my list if I were to create one. So, in the spirit of giving thanks, I give you the nine small luxuries I am most thankful for as a mom. Let me know if any of these are on your list!

1. Kid Gyms

Thank you, kiddie gyms for giving my toddler a safe space to run loose and burn off crazy amounts of energy before nap time. Whether we show up for a scheduled class or for open play, I know that my little guy is going to safely have the time of his life.

Rather than dangling from the towel rods at home, he can hang from a horizontal bar intended for little bodies with actual mats in place for when he takes the inevitable spill. Instead of bouncing off the walls and furniture, he can flip around an enormous bounce house intended for such shenanigans.

So, thank you, again, kid gyms for sparing my home and my sanity.

2. Apps that Deliver Things to my House

Where do I even begin? Thank you, delivery apps, for saving my time and sanity on dozens of occasions.

You’ve delivered dinner to my home on evenings I was too busy or exhausted to throw anything together myself.

You delivered sushi and gallons of milk to my door on days I was trapped at home with a sick toddler.

You are like a reverse drive-thru window, which is somehow even more convenient than a regular drive-thru window.

You are so appreciated, delivery apps. Thank you.

3. Remote Servers

Thank you, remote servers, for without you, I would have no way to work outside the office.

Working from home can sometimes feel like working on a desert island, but the remote server helps me feel connected to everything that’s going on. Plus, without it, working from home likely wouldn’t be feasible, which would mean less time spent with my little guy.

So, thanks for existing, remote server! I am glad you’re around.

4. Nap time

Nap time, you have given me so many hours of uninterrupted productivity and relaxation.

Constantly attending to the needs of a small child requires more focus than studying for the bar exam.

When the morning has been 100 hours long and it looks like a toy tornado has stormed my family room, you swoop in and save the day. You arrive gallantly, placing a momentary pause on the chaos.

And when you leave, everyone is recharged, refreshed, and ready for Round 2.

Thank you, nap time. You are a true hero of the parenting world!

5. Family Memberships

This list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank family memberships.

We have family memberships to basically every place that sells them. The zoo, every museum, our botanical gardens. They are a surprisingly cheap way of securing endless hours of family entertainment nearly every day of the year.

Because you only pay one time for the year, it feels like you’re getting in free every time you go. Just don’t blow $30 in the gift shop every visit and you’re golden (ahem).

Rainy days, snowy days, lazy weekend days, no school days, no nap days: they are all made easier by the family membership.

If I could change one thing though, I would make every museum or zoo open earlier and close later. The hours between 5 AM and 10 AM can be a real bear when everyone is wide awake with no place to go. Then again, I suppose that’s what Target is for (thank you too, Target!).

thankful mom

6. Online Workouts

Online workouts are the greatest thing since sliced (whole grain, organic) bread.

I’ve been a regular exerciser all of my adult life. Pre-motherhood, I spent hours in the gym every week. I was still able to hit the gym fairly regularly after I became a mom too until a move and a change in work schedule meant I could no longer get there as easily.

Enter the online workout. There are so many reliable programs from which to choose. Some of my favorites have included BBG by Kayla Itsines, Adidas Runtastic and Results, Peloton, and online barre classes from Buffalo Barre (my personal favorite).

Online workouts, you’ve made it possible for me to continue my favorite activities while also providing the steady stream of endorphins that makes me a generally pleasant human being to be around. My family thanks you–as do I!

7. Starbucks

I know: a mom thanking Starbucks is super original. But this is my list, and my list would not be complete without it.

I don’t even like coffee, but I love Starbucks. As a teen, I loved their hot chocolate. As a college and law student, I loved their quiet tables, hot chai, and wi-fi. As a mom, I love the quick snacks, Refreshers, and drive-thru window.

Whether it be a sleepless night, looming deadline, or generally rough day, a stop at Starbucks is an instant pick-me-up.

So, thanks Starbucks. For as long as I can remember, you’ve made the crunch time better.

8. Amazon Prime

Of course Prime is on this list too.

In my pre-mom life, I had occasionally relied on our Prime account for various things, but it wasn’t really a necessity. Why would it be? As a non-mom, getting out the door was simple, and I definitely wasn’t concerned about things like diaper subscriptions.

After I became a mom? I’m pretty sure I placed my first Prime order from the Mother Baby Unit at the hospital.

And I haven’t stopped since. Thank you, Amazon Prime!

9. Spa Days

Finally, I must thank spa days.

After spending 105% of my days taking care of my home and family, it’s nice to just relax and be pampered a little.

Plus, there’s nothing like a good facial to hide the fact that you haven’t slept a full night in two years.

Thanks, spa days!

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy this day with family and friends.

What small luxuries are you thankful for this year?

 

 

 

Featured Maternity Leave Working Parent

11 Questions: Lori Mihalich-Levin of Mindful Return

November 22, 2017
mindful return

Lori Mihalich-Levin is the working mama guru behind the successful program “Mindful Return.” I recently had the privilege of interviewing Ms. Mihalich-Levin regarding what Mindful Return is and how it helps working mothers. I am pleased to share this interview on the blog today.

Mindful Return

1. For readers who are unfamiliar, can you describe what Mindful Return is, and why you started it?

Mindful Return is a 4-week online program (and a blog!) designed to help new parents return to work after parental leave in a more calm, empowered, and successful way.  I started it, because while there seemed to be a curriculum out there for everything baby-related (how to make a birth plan, puree baby food, massage your baby…), there didn’t seem to be a course one could take on “how to navigate maternity leave and the return to work without losing your mind”!

For the past 3 years, about 500 women have taken the Mindful Return course, and the paternity leave version just for dads will be launching in January 2018.

2. What led you to create Mindful Return? Were you prompted by something in your personal or professional life? 

Mindful Return was definitely born of my own experiences returning to work full time after my two boys (who are now 4 1/2 and 6 1/2).  I returned to an employer where plenty of people had gone out on and returned from maternity leave, but no one seemed to be talking about how challenging this transition could be.  I was first inspired to launch a “Returning to Work Group” at my office.  (More on how to form a “Working Mom Posse” at your office here.)  Then, taking the Abundant Mama e-course with moms from all over (with kids of all ages) inspired me to develop an online program where new working moms could connect, mentor one another, and learn how to do this transition in a better way.

3. In your opinion, what are the biggest difficulties women face in returning from maternity leave?

Oh, there are many!  But here are three I hear frequently and have experienced myself:

(1) Sleep deprivation is high on the list; it can be a huge struggle to figure out your new life and balance work demands while having your sleep interrupted every two hours.  American maternity leave policies, as you probably know, aren’t known for their generosity; so many moms end up heading back to work right around the time of that dreaded 3-month sleep regression.

(2) Finding the time and energy to pump milk during the day is another challenge many moms confront.  With the irony being the more you stress, the less milk you produce.

(3) Guilt.  New moms returning to work are trying to figure out their own new identities, trying to be good moms, and trying to be good employees.  We often hold ourselves to remarkably high standards and feel guilty when we come up “short.”

4. In your opinion, are the struggles working women face in returning from maternity leave primarily related to inward pressure, outward pressures, or a combination of both?

Definitely a combination of both.  Society often holds up the image of the “you-can-do-it-all mom”, and social media doesn’t exactly help to dispel these myths.  Workplace policies tend not to favor working parents, and it’s well known that there’s a “motherhood penalty” in the workplace (there’s even a Wikipedia entry on the topic!).  At the same time, many of us put an incredible amount of pressure on ourselves to be all things to all people at all times.  It’s okay to ease back into work, find new rhythms, and just “be” in our new lives as mothers.  But we often don’t give ourselves permission to do these things.

5. Following up on the last question, how does the Mindful Return course help women navigate these pressures?

The Mindful Return course focuses on a different theme each week, as follows, to help take some of the stress (and feelings of being alone) out of the return to work:

Week 1: A Mindful Mindset for Return.  This week of the course helps new working moms develop skills that will help keep them from going off the rails, mentally, when they return.  We work on gratitude practices, perspective, coping with new motherhood and anxiety, and self-care.

Week 2:  Logistics.  During this week, we focus on learning all those logistical ninja tricks around things like transitioning to childcare, negotiating flexibility, coping with sick days, snow days, and the unexpected, nourishing our little ones (whether we’re pumping or not pumping), and putting food on our own tables at night.

Week 3:  Leadership in the space of return.  Yes, working mamas can be amazing leaders at work upon their return.  During this week of the course, we focus on things like taking credit for a well-planned leave and return, learning delegation skills, naming those skills we’re gaining as parents that are applicable at work, and being a role model for other parents.

Week 4:  Community.  This week reminds us of the power of “me too” and the importance of not isolating ourselves.  We remind ourselves of the perils of isolation and explore things like the new parent communities that are most helpful and ways our villages (from caretakers to in-laws to friends) can support us.

Beyond the curriculum, the course helps new moms feel like they aren’t alone.  Everyone going through the course is in the same position, facing the same fears.

6. Beyond the 4-week course, what other resources does Mindful Return offer to mothers returning from leave? 

7. From your experience, what are some of the biggest concerns women have about returning to work after having a baby? And do concerns change in relation to whether the woman is a first-time or second-time plus mom?

Some of the biggest concerns women have include: (1) will my baby be okay with this person I’ve chosen as a caregiver (but may not know well)?; (2) will I miss seeing my baby’s milestones?  (Read this if you’re worried about this one!); (3) how will I regain my focus at work and be as productive as I used to be; (4) how will I afford the ridiculous price of daycare?

A large percentage of moms who take the Mindful Return course are second, third, and even fourth time moms.  Which tells me it’s still a struggle, no matter which time you do it.  While you may, for example, already trust your daycare provider by the time your second baby arrives, other logistics are infinitely more complicated when you add another baby to the mix.  When our second son arrived, my husband and I used to joke that 1 + 1 = 85!

8. If you could offer one piece of advice to a woman who is currently on maternity leave and having difficulty navigating her return back, what would it be? 

To say two things to yourself every morning when you take a shower: (1) you are enough, mama; and (2) comparison is the thief of joy.  You WILL get through this (fleeting) time in life, and you don’t have to go at it alone.

9. What are some ways non-parent colleagues can help facilitate a new mother’s return to work? 

Great question!  We working parents are always in need of allies at the office.  I think the number one way non-parents can help is to show compassion for the new mother.  To understand that things have changed in her world, and that the hours between 5 and 8pm are both insane and precious.  Believe in her for the long-haul, too.  Yes, these first few months back are crazy; and she will be the most loyal (and efficient) employee you can imagine if you give her the time now to find her new groove.

10. Do you have a particular Mindful Return success story you’re interested in sharing with readers?

Absolutely!  I have two, actually.

  1. Not long after a Mindful Return course session ended, I had lunch with one of the participants, who had just returned to work the prior week.  When I met her, I was anxious to hear how her return went.  “Oh, the return was totally fine, thanks to the Mindful Return course,” she said.  “Now let’s talk about something more exciting, like my baby and your boys!”
  2. After taking the lesson on negotiating flexibility, one of my mamas mustered up the courage to meet with her boss over lunch to ask for adjusted hours (i.e. starting and ending her workday earlier).  She was terrified to make the ask, and was afraid of what her manager would think.  The reality?  Not only did her boss say yes to her request, but her boss declared, “Oh, take anything you need!  I thought you were asking me to lunch to say you weren’t coming back!!”

11.If nothing else, what is the one thing you’d like readers to take away from this interview today? 

Working mamas rock.  We gain superpowers of efficiency, patience, the ability to meet the needs of clients who can’t communicate their needs, and we become problem-solving ninjas.  Be proud of yourselves, working mamas.  You are truly amazing.

Thank you to Lori Mihalich-Levin and Mindful Return for this interview!