Category Archives: Home life

It gets easier, right?

I’m the newest parent at the company. I have coworkers with kids in their twenties, in the teens, even preteens, but no one has babies. Just me.

After coming off a tough night with my 13 month old (TWO HOURS of “I’m so sleepy but I can’t fall asleep and NO DON’T LEAVE ME YOU MUST HOLD ME but now I have the giggles oh wait I decided I’m cranky and I’d rather just cry and fuss…”) I came into the office in the morning with a much-needed coffee, and not just a little bleary-eyed.

We were gathering in the conference room, and I looked around and joked, “It gets easier, right? Tell me it gets easier,” fully expecting people to commiserate with me at this stage and confirm that it does, in fact, get much easier and more delightful.

But the other parents just looked at me, not saying a word, as though they didn’t want to dare voice to a pathetic new parent THE ACTUAL TRUTH. They were saved by the proverbial bell when the client came on the conference line, and I was left to my coffee, my sleep deprivation, and my joke-that-wasn’t-a-joke hanging in the stale conference room air.

I’m just going to assume they didn’t hear me and if they did, they would have reacted the way I expected. I would never recommend denial in client relations, but for parenting, hey! Denial *is* a parenting style.

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By the skin of my teeth

On Tuesday, my daughter was 364 days old. I felt like a bad mom that morning because I decided to spend time with my husband the night before instead of doing the work I needed to do, so I was scrambling to get work done in the morning instead. I was paying more attention to my laptop than to the kiddo. I was also feeding her breakfast and preparing her lunch for later. She was content to eat her bread and bananas, didn’t fuss except when she wanted some more, but I couldn’t help thinking I was missing out on a morning of her life and now I can’t get it back. To top it off, our part-time nanny was late, causing me a lot of stress since I had a packed day at work and was going to be late, and I had done nothing to prepare for family who was coming in from out of town, much less the housewarming-plus-first-birthday party that was scheduled for the weekend. So my daughter got a stressed out mom who basically ignored her. Lucky kid.

Whatever, it’s fine. Nobody died, right?

But that was the morning. Here’s how the day actually turned out:

Got to work, was late for my 9 am call but the host pushed it back to 9:30 anyway so I had time for coffee and breakfast. Score!

Then I had a company manager meeting where I was able to report how I kicked ass in the past month and I proposed something totally off the cuff that everyone voted yes on and will be implemented. Score!

Then I had to drive to the boondocks of the East Bay to try and land a new client. I wasn’t careful about my GPS and it took me to their manufacturing facilities rather than their headquarters. %&$#!! I was a half hour late. I walked into the office and there are a dozen people staring at me from inside a glass wall conference room. I thought I was meeting with 2 people. %&$#!! I made my apologies and got introduced, and learned the CEO deigned to come to this meeting. I ordinarily love that, but I’m somewhat unprepared. %&$#!! So I had to wing it and didn’t show my slide presentation at all because it was a little weak anyway. (So much for ignoring my daughter in favor of working on slides in the morning.) Turns out the discussion was awesome, the CEO was very interested, and when I hit on something in particular, he said, “Hold on, you can do that for us?” I said, “Yes. We’re currently doing it for 5 other companies right now.” He said, “When can you start work for us?” Score!

I drove back to the city, parked the City CarShare car in its little cubby, and I quickly decided that my day needed to be topped off right. I called my husband, who reported that his sister landed safely and since they were taking care of the kiddo, they didn’t need me to come home immediately. (My poor daughter really got the short end of me today.)

And here is how the day ended:

I sat at a bar taking advantage of happy hour cosmos for a bit, then headed home to a loving husband, a delighted sister-in-law, and a happy, chirpy baby girl who would be turning 365 days old the next day, full of hugs and kisses for Mom.

Not a bad ending to a sketchy beginning.

Weaning an infant in executive fashion: My nursing BHAG

Ten to fifteen years ago, the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) was all the rage in executive circles. The way for people to buy into your vision was to have one giant phenomenally zany there’s-no-way-we-can goal and believe you could get there. And chances are, you would. I started to apply BHAGs to my professional and personal life.

My baby girl was breastfed exclusively for 3 months, received breast milk from me or a bottle until she was about 4.5 months old, had some formula supplements beginning around that time, and will continue to have a mix until she’s around 9 months (maybe longer!). Then she will be on formula exclusively until she can have cow’s milk at a year old.

This was not my original plan. In fact, as time passed, my plan kept changing into something bigger and more ambitious. At first, I thought, “It would be great if I could nurse her at all; very few of my family members nursed their babies, so I don’t really have a good support network in that way. But I will do my best.”

When breastfeeding her became well established, my goal changed. I then thought, “It would be awesome to get to 6 months!” Providing breast milk after I went to work was my new challenge.

When I worked out a way to pump reliably when I went back to work, my goal changed again. I thought, “Wow, I can build up a stash. I’ll try to nurse morning and night, but even after I dry up or my daughter decides she doesn’t want to nurse anymore, I’ll still be able to give her breast milk in a bottle from the freezer stash.”

These truly were BHAGs for me, an executive with no family experience in nursing their babies (it was the 1970s, what can you do?) who has a very demanding job with travel requirements and high stress, high profile, high impact, and high risk management duties.

For *ME* to nurse a baby longer than *SIX MONTHS* while working full time?! Seven months ago, I wouldn’t have said, “Wow that’s extremely ambitious, but I will try to make it happen!” Instead, I would have just said, “No. I don’t even know what that looks like. How can I possibly?”

Baby girl is 8 months old, and we’re right on track. In fact, if anything, she’s the one who is telling me she’s more interested in the world around her than nursing. A little independent thing, she is.

Next up: early toilet training. This one is made for a BHAG approach.

Three practical ways to say “No”

Juggling family and work – something’s got to give. All the work-life balance blogs, books, and articles say that you should learn to say no, but rarely do people talk about how to do so well so that it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re the bad guy or leaving people in the lurch. Here are some ideas – applicable to work AND home.

1. OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE. “No, but let’s do this other thing instead that will give us the same or similar result.” Often there is an alternative approach than my doing the specific thing I’m being asked to do. Can I do it differently than how I’m being asked that is more efficient? Or do I need to do it at all – are we just going through me because it’s always been that way? If I don’t need to do it, then what can happen instead? The trick to this is concentrating not just on the task you’re being asked to do, but stepping back and thinking about what youre collectively trying to accomplish in which your task is a part: is there a way to meet the objective that doesn’t require the task being asked, or at the level of involvement that is being asked?

2. PUT IT OFF A BIT. “No, I can’t right now. We should definitely get to this, but let’s connect tomorrow/next week/etc on this since I’m focusing on something else right this minute.” If it’s not urgent (truly urgent, which you’ll find few things actually are!) then you might find it resolves on its own or other things happen to get it to the next step if given some time.

3. HELP SOMEONE ELSE DO IT THEMSELVES. “No, I can’t do it myself, but I can definitely help you get to the finish line on this.” This one is my favorites because it’s a win-win. In order for this to work, you’ve got to have someone who doesn’t know how to do it and is willing to try. So many of my junior and mid-level staff are willing to try anything. GREAT! Let’s do it. I always give the baby a bath at night, but if my husband does it with me a few times, we can trade off and I can get some much needed down time. Is it going to happen exactly as you would do it? Probably not. Does this require up front investment in your time? Yes! But the ROI of saying no this way is typically realized fairly quickly.

Maybe there are other ways to say no in an effective way?

I’ll say it: I’m looking forward to going back to work

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a new mother, it’s that people don’t have qualms about judging you every which way. Though I nurse my baby, I’ve seen enough “how dare you choose formula” posts on online mommy boards that I cringe and really feel terrible for the new moms who are subject to those scathing comments.

Well here’s one for all those judgmental people out there: I love my baby girl to the end of the world and back but I CAN’T WAIT TO GET BACK TO WORK. I feel like screaming it from the mountaintops.

Our little girl had a rocky delivery, and a rough start with 12 days in the NICU. She was fussy and generally unhappy when we got her home; it was a tough transition for all of us. Thank goodness we have come out on the other side in many ways, and you know what? It feels damn good! Our little girl is a delight, and she’s thriving. Maybe we first-time parents are doing something right.

But while I’ve cherished all the smiles she has for me, and I’ve celebrated all of her milestones, and I’ve marveled while watching her learn new things every day, I still desperately want to head back to the office.

I’d like to have conversation with other adults, and have it not be about babies.

I’d like to dress in sharp clothes every day and feel great about how I look rather than wear sweats covered in drool or spit up.

I’d like to challenge my mind by figuring out issues around new medical technologies rather than figuring out how else I can entertain a two month old.

And I was going to say that I’d prefer to hear clients whining than my baby, but that’s pretty much a draw.

*****
When I left for maternity leave, I purposely (and purposefully) created a situation in which the idea was not to have things maintained in the exact same way during my leave as before, but instead to keep our team’s goals in sight, ensure they had the skills and support necessary, then let the team run with it on their own while I was gone. (It’s easier to do when you hire the right people from the start.)

Since I’ve been gone, revenues have been maintained and business has grown to support hires. Clients are happy. My staff have tackled things they’ve never encountered before and have grown professionally by huge strides. This is excellent news!

My first order of business when I return in a few weeks is to interview both my team members and our clients to learn their new ways of working that developed in my absence, so that I can do my job to put in place additional support systems, identify areas of quality improvement or increased efficiency, give people an opportunity to identify and commend colleagues who did exceptional work internally or externally, and basically celebrate how far we’ve come.

Yes, it’s a little kumbaya, but I don’t care. My absence was very disruptive even as prepared as we were, and I want my team to know that disruption is nothing to fear, and coming out on the other side should feel damn good.

eReaders: one step closer to having to carry nothing at all

This week’s Mind the Gap: How do you prefer to read, with an eReader like a Kindle or Nook, or with an old school paperback in hand?

I hate lugging things around. My laptop, files, papers, binders, reference books, ANYTHING. OK, soon I will be lugging around a baby, and I can’t really get around that, BUT! If a genie gave me a wish, I would wish that I could pull anything up readable right before my eyes and shuffle, make changes, close things out, whatever, a la “Mission Impossible” or “Iron Man.”

  • No paper.
  • No laptops.
  • No binders.
  • No books.

Is it shocking, then, that I love my eReader, which brings me one step closer to having TONS of material without carrying tons of materials?

I like gadgetry to begin with, but I’m not an obsessive gadget hog. I looooove my Mac at home, but I’ve avoided the iPad (too expensive) and the iPhone (preferring early 4G availability and other Droid functionality), even when those items were so ridiculously hot that to not have one was to be perceived as a caveman. You know what? Don’t care.

But I’m all about functionality. If something helps me live more efficiently, more beautifully, more conveniently, more cost-effectively, I’m so there. Imagine my delight when I was able to pull up work documents on my simple little Kindle HD and read and take notes while on my commute without a laptop or paper notepad. I felt like I’d found a treasure map to the meaning of life. And this was just the rinky dink Kindle, not an iPad!

Magazines come alive on eReaders! My favorites are Working Mothers, National Geographic, and cooking magazines. Such a joy to read, and again, so portable and flexible. You can increase font and pictures, change the format to simple text, bookmark pages, and highlight passages.

I actually read through long books because the eReaders mask the heft of a book that might otherwise be intimidating in length. (Yes, I read fiction! I’m trying to get my fiction in before Baby comes and I will be lucky to manage my basic functions, much less reading and following an intricate story.) And who wants to be tied down to one book at a time? When I travel, I’d like to have some variety to fit my mood. Am I going to carry around 5 physical, page-turning books? No way.

So it’s eReader for me, all the way… until we get that Mission Impossible/Iron Man thing going. Then I will drop the eReader like a hot potato.

Decisions, decisions: Should I stay or should I go?

We have decided to cancel a babymoon trip because of other circumstances that can’t really be helped. (Our dear kitty cat has been sick, and we don’t really want to leave her in others’ hands for too long while we’re gone.)

My husband expressed regret, and understandably so. He noted that it was an opportunity for us to clear our heads before we have to really dive into preparing for the birth of this baby. But for myself, honestly, having a babymoon at 7 months pregnant is a bit rough. The discomfort of being so big is starting to be a daily reality.

So I suggested that the trip be less of a cancellation and more of a postponement, to sometime in the next year after the baby comes. We can take the baby, or not. He asked, “But would we really want to take a vacation without the baby?” and I responded, “I don’t know, but it might be good for us to do so, regardless.”

* * * * *

Kids will be a priority, no doubt. But how far of a back seat would our marriage take, or how far of a back seat should the job take? What is walking that fine line going to look like for my husband, for me?

I have NO IDEA. And few people do, right? Am I going to be a blubbering idiot, guilt-ridden and with serious separation anxiety once I have to go back to work? Or will I be so desperate to get back into the swing of things at work and leave the stress and uncertainty of Baby to someone who can handle it better than I can? (shrug) Don’t know.

But regardless of how our hearts react, there is balance to achieve with our rational sides as well. We may not want to leave the baby at home, even with someone we trust implicitly, but perhaps we should take some time away for ourselves, even in the first year. Kids benefit from their parents’ healthy and loving relationship. I may not want to work away from the baby, but who knows? Maybe I’ll be setting a good example for her. Maybe I’ll be closer to achieving true flexibility between work and home life as an executive that my mom struggled more to accomplish in the 70s and 80s.