While female leaders such as Huffington and Sandberg help shape the national conversation about “worklife balance,” a growing number of working mothers want to work full-time, according to a Pew Social Trends survey released last week. The report found that 37 percent of working mothers think working fulltime is ideal, up from 21 percent in 2007. Half of working moms would like to work part-time, and just 11 percent say they’d rather not work at all. (Women Juggle Work, Sleep, Parenting Differently Than Men Do (INFOGRAPHIC), Huff Post, Less Stress Lifestyle, March 21, 2013).
We find it fairly significant that 37% of moms, feel it is ideal to work full-time. So if it is working for these moms, what are their tricks to finding balance, especially when it comes to summer when the kids are out of school?
Summer time is fast approaching and many questions come to mind, such as what are we going to do for a vacation, what projects would we like to complete, and what are the kids going to do? Sometimes, just the thought of all the possibilities of summer can be overwhelming.
Transitions in Motherhood would like to share with you techniques that have helped many moms balance all the “biz”. One of these techniques is creating a mindful “to-do” list. This could be done at the end of the day, when the kids are asleep and you are lying in bed. Having a pad of paper on your nightstand where you can give yourself a moment to digest the day and look at what would help you tomorrow. After a busy day, many moms say it is hard to settle down and fall asleep. This is when the list runs through their minds of what needs to get done and didn’t get done. So instead of having the list continually running through your thoughts, release them on paper. Some moms choose to journal at this time too, but you have to see what works for you.
Once you have identified your “to-do” list, you can itemize them by importance by assigning a number. With the number 1 signifying most important and 5 least important. This helps prioritize and also can remind you that completing everything may not be realistic, especially if you start to create a list that goes over 5 items. This is not the time to list personal goals and hopes for lifetime achievements. This is the list of what you need at the store, clothes that may need washing… If it isn’t rated a 1 or 2 give yourself latitude to do it tomorrow. There is always tomorrow.
Another trick of the trade that moms share is knowing your limits. If signing up to volunteer at different events, kid’s activities, clubs, or organizations doesn’t fit into your life or feels overwhelming, DON’T DO IT. We were talking with some moms recently and they spoke about hiding from PTA meetings and feeling guilty for not volunteering in their child’s classroom.
At the end of the conversation one mom said, “What is most important to me is that my child feels loved.” That’s it! At the end of the day, when you are creating your list and deciding what needs to get done, check in with your core… your core values and see if it all aligns. Of course, paying bills, submitting your taxes, and washing dishes might not be a part of your core values necessarily, but know what can go on the back burner. And check in with yourself to see what’s working.
Finding balance is truly a daily activity. Depending on the season, weather, time of the month, what feels like balance one day may not the next. The same is for our children. Finding down time for everyone may need to be scheduled. I really like the way the Huffington Post identified the need for “Serendipity Space”.
When you’re caught up in the routine of everyday life, it’s easy to forget that you’re modeling for your kids’ how to structure their time. The time is planned, but what happens within the time is serendipitous. (Stress Less Parenting, Huffington Post, March 24, 2013).
“Serendipity Space” may occur at home or in the car in between activities. Taking time to sing your kids favorite songs in the car, have a snack, chat, or play tic-tac-toe. It’s planned, but only the time is…what happens within the time is serendipitous.
So what about the summer, right? Everything above can be applied all year round, but the summer is special or at least you want it to be. Another brilliant mom shared how she has a meeting with her family and discusses what everyone wants to do for the summer. This does not mean it will all happen, but it gets “buy in” and helps in planning. If you have certain options you would like to present, have those prepped for the meeting. If you know of certain summer camps/ classes that are within budget that your kids can choose from, you can present them. Have a calendar to reference during the meeting, so you can remind everyone of the time frame and perhaps certain commitments that may be non-negotiable. We hope this gives some more tricks to the trade of balancing.
Transitions in Motherhood recognizes that life is full of transitions and sometimes we may lose sight of what is really important in life and that is when depression or anxiety might set in. We provide a very nurturing environment where you can talk freely and openly. Feel free to check out our website at Timotherhood.com for more resources.
The following is a story of a mom who after having tried to become pregnant for several years found her family welcoming twin boys into the world this past October. She is well accomplished in her career and was returning back to work after her 12 weeks of maternity leave. She wanted to capture her feelings that she could later share with the twins in the following journal entry. This is a true sentiment of the wealth of a mother’s love and maintaining her wellness in the process.
This is not to say there weren’t trying moments, exhaustion, breastfeeding struggles and tears, but she knew when to access support. This mom joined two twin support groups and a local parent group that provided meals for the first two weeks of the babies’ lives. Local families generously donated clothes and baby items…to the point that they did not need to buy any clothes. She was able to access the grandparents, friends, and family to help in the beginning weeks and plan for future visits as well. Her wealth in support, strong partnership with her partner Theresa, and ability to ask for support when she needed it are a testament, which leads to this beautiful journal entry as she prepares to go back to work.
I’m desperate to capture this time—to commit to memory my first months of mothering, your first months of life. I take dozens of photos, videos to remember. But how do I capture this— the softness of your tiny hairs against my cheek, the sounds of your sleepy sighs, the way you gently lean into my kisses upon your forehead. How will I remember the feel of your cheeks on my lips, the weight of your body on my chest, heart to heart? I want to pause this moment and revisit it a hundred times. My heart is opening so wide—an ocean of love overtaking me. And I know there are thousands of moments like these to come. But I don’t want to forget your little squeaks and grunts, your crinkled nose, the first time you smiled at me. I want to stop time, have your little fingers remain wrapped around my pinky, your soft breath on my neck. This is the most beauty I’ve known. I’ve never been in love like this. I’ve never felt this full, this present.
I feared parenthood would close me in, stifle life. I could not have been more wrong. This is the most expansive thing I’ve ever done, the most wide open path, the greatest journey. I feel more love, more meaning, more possibility, excitement, hope, anticipation. In just two short months I have felt more, grown more, and loved more. I feel blessed, chosen, lucky, and grateful. I feel something sacred and magical. I am in awe of you both. I want to commit it to memory—the feel of your skin, the soft hairs on your back, your breath. I want to remember me and your mom sitting side by side in the love seat in the nursery, each of us holding one of you, giving you your last bottles of the night, tired but adoring. Together in the late night moment, loving you both, loving each other, pointing out to each other the tiny details of your faces, your movements, your sounds- discovering you together. It’s like falling in love again for the first time, with you and with each other. My life just got so much bigger—the love is overflowing, washing over me. And we are just at the beginning of this journey. There are so many moments to come, so many details to try and capture. I know I will fail to remember the way I want—I know it will slip by- through my fingers like sand. But I can only hope to remember the awe, the wonder, the sweetness of this time, and to be open to embrace all that is to come. To stop and breathe in the feelings and say thank you for this life—these blessings, these magical moments.
Everyone’s journey through the many Transitions in Motherhood is so personal and individual. We thank this mom for sharing the wealth of her love and her ability to access the support she needed to lead to such a beautiful love letter. No one should feel alone in their parenting journey. If you are looking to connect with support, you can find it on our website at TransitionsInMotherhood.com.
by Stefanie Ryan
(Photos courtesy of Grace Photography)
I am married and have 2 kids. I work a job and am involved in lots of activities around my kids and community. I am a leader for one of my daughter’s Girl Scout troop and my other daughter is actively involved in her troop. I am on the Children’s Hospital of Orange County’s (CHOC) Parent Advisory Committee and I volunteer there. I am also on the board of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) for Newport-Mesa Unified School District.
Tell us about your special needs daughter.
My daughter has Spina Bifida. She goes to school with a one-on-one aid that I trust now after quite a long time. She also attends a good after school program that is available until 6:00 pm, which is important to me. If I need to work until that time, I know she’s in a good place.
I started a chapter for Spina Bifida and had a walk two weeks ago. I set up volunteers for it. I also work for New York Life Insurance where I am able to run my own business and work 1 or 20 hours. That flexible schedule allows for other activities and I am able to work and fit in what’s important.
So what is Spina Bifida and what does that mean for you and your family?
Spina Bifida develops in the first month of pregnancy. It is the number one defect at birth and because of it, my daughter is in a wheelchair.
When she’s with me, I call it the rubber band effect. The rubber band doesn’t stretch too far because she doesn’t like to be too far from me. When we’re at home, she has chores, does what she can at home, puts away silverware and puts towels away in the laundry room. The other day I asked her why she didn’t take the plate off the table. She replied that she didn’t want to pick up the plate because it’s made of glass and she didn’t want to break it. She’s very funny.
She has a medical procedure that has to happen every 3-4 hours every day and procedures every other night as well. It makes it hard to plan family outings, because we need to be conscious of her medical schedule. We have to plan things out and not let it hinder what we’re going to do. I’ve worked with her medical doctor to ensure that she can be involved in an activity without being hindered by her medical procedure. Sometimes they’ll tell me about new medications or procedures and they say a certain product can allow her to go all day. So now she can go on school field trips.
She is very knowledgeable of the world and how to make her life easier. A while ago we went through and made things easier for her in the kitchen. Everything has handles so she can do the day-to-day things. We really wanted to keep it functional but pretty too.
Once the kids are in bed, 9-11pm is my time since my husband works the night shift. I like to read and make jewelry. My oldest daughter and I make jewelry together. It’s one of those things that allows us to spend time together.
People often ask me how I handle it all. It is a lot of work, but when I have a bad day I think about my friend that has children that don’t speak or others that have more physical disabilities. I put myself in their shoes and think my life is not that bad. It’s pretty good. Everything’s a gift.
If we lighten up a little bit and don’t have to be a perfect mom or wife all the time, I think we’d all be a little bit happier. We don’t have to be Mrs. Cleaver!
Each person needs to take 10-15 minutes to breathe. To do things that make you happy and what satisfies you at the end of the day, such as getting a massage or doing yoga everyday. We’re unique and we have our own thing that will let us relax and not have our mind in overdrive. I like to have my time at night so I can sleep better after I’ve relaxed, instead of running around the house right before going to bed. When I do that, it takes me so much longer to fall asleep. That’s why I read and calm things down before I go to bed.
What advice would you give moms who are struggling to find balance between their work and home life?
My daughter has allowed me to focus on how precious everyday is and to not let the small things get to me. Sometimes people drive around and get so angry. If someone cuts me off I just think to myself, “I hope they get to the hospital a little bit faster.”
Look at things through someone else’s eyes and maybe your situation isn’t as crazy and hectic. Life can really be simple if you let it be.
(Photos courtesy of Grace Photography)
by Liana Wong
I am a 35, almost 36, year old lawyer. I have been married for 12 years and we have 4 children; 4-year-old triplets, one boy and two identical girls, and a younger child. We call her Baby, but her name is Penelope.
What were your initial feelings when you found out you were pregnant with triplets?
I actually laughed really hard when we found out. We had spent three years trying to get pregnant, fertility treatments and things like that. For us to end up being pregnant with three was ironic and funny. My husband, on the other hand, probably did not speak for two hours after we found out. It was a little more shocking for him. First, we were told we were having twins and the next week they found a third one. We were scared they would find another one.
Did you take a maternity leave?
If so, how long? With the triplets, I had a very conservative doctor. She was a highrisk doctor that specialized in working with mothers of multiples where she places all of her patients on what she calls “home rest” at 16 weeks. So she basically told me that I had to be at home starting at 16 weeks and I needed to be upright, either sitting or walking or standing no more than 4 hours a day. Based on that, there was no way that I could get up and drive to work and drive home without having to lay down the rest of the time.
However, I was very lucky that I was an associate attorney back then and that my firm was great. They set me up with wireless internet at the house with a printer, computer, phone line and everything else. I was able to stay home reclining in my recliner and work as if I was in the office, which was just what I wanted to do. Then when I was 23 weeks pregnant, I went into preterm labor and was hospitalized for the rest of the pregnancy. I did some work from the hospital. My firm was very supportive. I could either work or not work but I wanted to do something. So I worked from the hospital, not much, but as much as I could for the next 7 weeks. Then I had my children and went to work part-time after 8 weeks and full-time 4 weeks later.
With my youngest daughter, since it was just one baby, we thought I was going to have a normal pregnancy. But I went into preterm labor again at 28 weeks with her and I was put on home rest again. I was lucky to stay at home instead of the hospital, especially since I had three other kids at the house. I worked from home with the same set up I used with the triplets for 11 weeks until I delivered her full term. I took a maternity leave with her but by then, I was a lot busier at work than I had been the first time. So I did some work from home during my maternity leave.
How did life adjust for you after having kids?
I think I just have a new work schedule now. Before I had kids, I was an early bird and I worked early. My husband also had a pretty demanding job. We just stayed in the office until we were done and then go home. With kids, I would like to be able to see them and so I would often get up in the mornings and send a few emails from home. Then I would get ready and get the kids up and dressed and sit down with them for breakfast and then go to work later than usual.
Dinner with my family is important to me. I go home for dinner with the kids and we read and I put them to bed. Usually after that, I fire up the computer and do some work. But I have the flexibility to work it out so I can see the kids for the times that are important to me.
Now that you’re working as a full-time attorney, how do you find balance between work and family?
I think that I work on balance everyday and each day is a different type of balance than the day before. I know there are some people that say, “I will work these hours and spend these hours with my children everyday,” but I feel like that does not work for my career and me. On any given day, I say, “Here’s what I have on my schedule for work today and here’s what my children have on their schedules,” and just decide what I need to do.
Sometimes I wake up and I would have a sick kid that needs to go to the doctor or sometimes I have work that comes up and I can’t make it home in time to have dinner with the kids. I feel like I don’t have this overall balance that works for me everyday. I’m finding a different balance each day and that works for my family and me.
Tell us about your blog and what encouraged you to start blogging?
The way it started was when I was placed on bed rest at the hospital. I would send updates to people on a weekly basis through email just to let them know what is going on with me and the kids and how things were moving along. After the kids were born, there were lots of people who still wanted updates on the kids and
how they were doing. But there were also people who I felt I was pushing things on them by sending all these emails. This was why I started the blog. It was mostly just to give updates on the kids so I wasn’t forcing my emails on them and they can just go on the blog and read or not if they didn’t want to. And it just kind of took off from there.
I don’t have baby books for the kids and I feel like the blog is each of their baby books. I posted stats from their appointments, pictures of them, things that they’re saying and doing. It’s really gone from something to update everyone else to being a way for me to record our daily lives; like what we do and what our kids are like and what they look like right now. Once a year I have the blog printed into a book so I have all the pictures and stories and posts in a coffee table type book. That way I can just keep it and have it and I hope one day the kids will love me for it.
What top advice would you share with a woman expecting multiples?
I would say to listen to your body and try to put aside all the other demands of life so you can just focus on those babies. I think it’s very hard for a lot of us, especially career women, to do this because they are usually driven and have a lot of goals and things they want to do. However, when you’re having twins or higher order multiples, it is a very stressful and hard pregnancy. Some people do great, but I did not. It is important to listen to your body and remember that it is a temporary state of being. Your job is to do whatever you can to keep those babies safe and you can worry about yourself and everything else later.
Could you share with us one thing that may surprise people who know you?
Well, it’s not such a big surprise to people who know me but I am a huge fan of modern country music. Never thought I’d say that about myself but sometimes I start listening to country music and I love it.
Anything else you would like to share that we missed?
Another mom once said to me that really stood out in my mind was that sometimes she feels like she’s a great mom and sometimes she feels like she’s great at her job. I think that’s just the constant flux when you’re balancing the demands of your career versus the children and feel as though you’re not doing everything that you need to be doing in one of those areas of your life. It’s important to remember the ebb and flow in getting your job done and taking care of your family. Don’t get too wrapped up in the daily balancing act. In the end, it all works out.
Hold on to your pencil boxes, because the Back to School season has arrived! One of the annual activities at our house this time of year involves taking stock and stocking up. Whether it’s classroom supplies, school uniforms, or physical exams, the fall always seems to be the time to take an inventory of what we have, what we need, and what we can discard (we’ve currently got three working piles growing in our living room).
So in the spirit of taking stock, I’ve decided to put together another set of piles for the new school year. I’m calling them my family vision piles, based on the term coined by parent educators, Janis Keyser and Laura Davis. A family vision, they explain, is seeing the big picture of where you are going as a family, what values you most want to teach and model, and determining what is most important. Basically, by establishing a vision, you set-up the long-term intentions and goals for your family for the year. Here’s what my piles look like so far:
Discard Pile: Like the stained uniform shirts, and ripped 3 ring binders, what do I want to discard this year when it comes to our family?
1. The sound and quality of my voice during times of stress. This carping, droning, (dare I say nagging?) voice, usually heard in the morning rush or frenzied afternoons of homework and practices, tends to repeat itself in 5-10 second intervals, with phrases such as, “Come on!” “Hurry up!” or “Don’t forget..!” In addition to being both annoying and agitating to everyone involved, this voice and it’s shrill requests, become increasingly futile as time goes on.
2. The myth of being a perfect supermom. I’m also going to try and discard my unrealistic expectations that I can control everything and do it all. And in case I needed further motivation, two recent articles, aptly entitled, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All and Why Supermoms are Sad, confirmed that moms who expect that a work/life balance can be achieved easily (or at all), are more unhappy that those who accept that they can’t do everything, and tradeoffs will have to be made.
3. The blame and guilt I put on myself, my family, and the world in general, when life gets stressful. Like the supermom myth above, I will work to discard these negative feelings that seem to crop up whenever I am most stressed, and to replace them with compassion and forgiveness, remembering that we all are generally doing the best we can.
Add Pile: Next, what do I want to add to our family, along with the new lunch boxes and football cleats this year?
1. More interactive communication. I will make a conscious effort to add more interactive conversations with my boys and husband each week, with sentences beginning with, “What do you think of…?” “How was your…?” and “What are you feelings about…?” (as opposed to that nagging voice I hope to discard above). My goal is to stay as connected with them as possible, even when life gets hectic.
2. A weekly electronics-free time zone. This idea came to me one desperate summer afternoon in the midst of a computer game/ tv show/ web surfing binge our entire family was on. As I noticed our levels of agitation increasing with each successive sound and click coming from the machines. I desperately ordered a complete shutdown of devices for an “electronics-free” hour. And wow! After the initial caffeine-like withdrawal symptoms, a peace and calm descended upon our household that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Books were cracked open, lego towers were built, and actual conversations were initiated!
3. More time and flexibility during rush periods. Finally, in place of that supermom mindset, I will work to add more time to prepare and organize during rush hours, as well as giving myself flexibility and permission to let go when all doesn’t go smoothly (remembering that when my sons forget their water bottles or we arrive a few minutes late to practice, the world and my competence has not suddenly come to an end)!
Keep Pile: And finally, like the tried and true backpack my 11 year-old is using for his third consecutive year, what are the things I want to keep and continue in our family?
Those elements and activities that reflect our shared values of laughing together, slowing down when we can, nurturing ourselves and each other, and connecting in general.
Some, but not all, of the items in this pile will include:
- Family mealtimes at least 2-3 times every week (hopefully more)
- Unstructured family time, with no other commitment except hanging out
- Family movie nights with popcorn, whenever time permits
- Maintaining a sense of humor
- Continuing those activities we enjoy on our own, and together, that help us stay refueled and healthy
- Remembering an attitude of gratitude
- Breathing in, breathing out
- Letting go
- Did I mention a sense of humor?
So that’s where I’m starting. Although I’m sure there will be plenty of bumps and setbacks along the way, I’m hoping that keeping my family vision in mind, will enable me to make the best decisions possible in the midst of the action-packed and frenzied moments ahead. Here’s to a happy, reflective, and intentional school year for us all!
To adapt to the challenges of the recession, to create more flexible work schedules, and circumvent the limits of a male dominated corporate culture, women are starting businesses and becoming self-employed. Women-owned businesses are growing in numbers at twice the rate of all U.S. firms (23% vs. 9%), and the ranks of women business owners are increasing by 23% annually, 2.5 times faster than the growth of businesses in general. “Women Rising: Five Predictions for Women in the Workplace—2012” is from the upcoming book Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work, and Society, by Dr. Tracey Wilen- Daugenti (Lang, January 2012).
Today’s society is pushing more and more mothers to go into the work force and provide financially for their families. Mothers are reevaluating their abilities and how they translate into the workforce once they have transitioned into motherhood. More mothers are opting to creating their own businesses in order to get the flexibility they want to continue to be a part of their family’s daily activities. Dr. Wilen-Daugenti also states that, “Women now influence more than 25% of the U.S. GDP and hold nearly 48% of all jobs. Without women, the U.S. economy would be 25% smaller than it is today.” Now that does not calculate the kind benefits of moms who are “at home” where 70% manage the finances of their family and reduce household costs by being “at home”. Basically, as Beyoncé states, “Who runs the world? Girls!!”
So how do you know if you are ready to take on the entrepreneur leap? What are the tools that you need to start being your own boss? Erika Anderson, creator of Proteus, wrote an article for Forbes Magazine in March and identified “What it takes to Create Your Own Business – Really”.
Anderson identified that passion is the most important element in creating your business; finding what wakes you up in the morning and moves your spirit. When we decided to create Transitions in Motherhood we identified motherhood as our passion and supporting mothers and their families in their journey through motherhood. Yes, we wanted both motherhood and career, which is a balancing act. But when you think about it – what isn’t? Everything is a balancing act and finding what that means for you is extremely personal. Literature can go from one extreme to the other as to women working “outside the home”, but finding what makes you happy is something that can only come from within you. Know there will always be someone who has an opinion one way or the other of your choices, but only you who will be living them.
Transitions in Motherhood would like to identify one more element that can assist in supporting your process in considering the entrepreneurial world. We would like to add self-reflection. We believe that making that leap also requires faith in self, so taking time to reflect on your fears that could potentially become roadblocks down the road is very important. We all have fears, but being able to face them and move through them will strengthen you as an entrepreneur. Having clarity regarding your fears will keep you from making decisions based on them. When you have a business that you are passionate about you can feel very exposed at times. So when you face moments when things don’t turn out the way you planned, being able to learn and move through those moments will be key.
We sometimes hear moms share that they feel like they “should” stay home if they have the ability to, but struggle with wanting to go to work once they do. And moms who want to stay home, but are returning back to work. If you could create your idea, what would it be? If you could create your vision and find/ follow your passion, what would it be? Research shows that when mom is happy, so are the kiddos…and partner too.
So whatever you decide or have already decided we wish you all that you could dream of and know that Transitions in Motherhood is a support for you along the way.