Entrepreneur or homemaker?

My future entrepreneur/home maker

My future entrepreneur/homemaker

Avery went through my magazines this morning and asked to take Inc. and Southern Living with her in the car to school. Of course she can’t read and doesn’t realize the significance of her selections. It struck me though and that’s why I took a picture. It made me wonder which choice she’ll make as an adult: entrepreneur or homemaker or some combination of the two.

I’ve written before about the concept of women having it all – a fulfilling career and a happy home life. It’s a choice all moms have to make at some point. Finances often guide our decisions, but some women are meant to be stay-at-home moms and some are not. I’ve always considered myself in the latter category. I adore my kids, but I like working. I’m enjoying this break, but I still have the kids in school for part of the day, so I can work on business ideas and seek out potential work.

I was talking to a newly pregnant friend yesterday about working, telling her you really don’t know what is best for you until the baby is born. I have friends who I thought would stay home who went back, and others who I thought for sure would continue working, who quit. Some couldn’t imagine ever leaving their babies and others went back to work after six weeks.

I was lucky I had four months off with each baby, and I worked from home (with them) two days a week when I went back to work. I took my most recent job when Avery was nine months old and lost that flexibility. It added so much stress to our family, which I didn’t fully comprehend until the past week. My new schedule of working out in the morning, working at home during the day, picking the kids up early and having dinner ready when Chase gets home is pretty fantastic.

There is a balance between the Southern Living girl in me and the Inc. girl in me. My recent job loss is going to let me find her. I’m hopeful she’ll do great things!

Advertisements

Goodbye work anxiety

Relaxing Sunday!

Relaxing Sunday!

For the past few months, Sunday evenings and Monday mornings have been hard. After spending the weekend with my family, it was time to go back to work.  With the exception of eight months of maternity leave, I’ve always been a working mom. I like working, and I rarely felt bad about leaving my kids. They were happy and safe, while I was doing work I enjoyed and contributing to my family’s financial well-being.

All of that being said, for me to be okay with leaving my kids for work, I need to like what I’m doing. When my job changed in recent months, I started to get anxiety at the end of every weekend. Leaving my kids for a job that did not use my skills gave me a pit in my stomach.

The anxiety would start Sunday evening, though I don’t think the kids could tell.  We’d have a great day and once they were asleep, and I was packing Clay’s lunch, doing laundry and setting out my laptop, my demeanor would change. Chase and I would watch Mad Men and try to enjoy our normal Sunday routine, but I wasn’t all there. The dread had set in: the idea of dropping the kids off the next morning and heading to the job that I no longer enjoyed.

For months, I dealt with the anxiety because my job paid the bills and I was too scared to make a change. I had ideas of starting my own business or finding a job that better fit my skills and interests, but it’s awfully hard to walk away from a well-paying job just because you aren’t fulfilled. Especially when you have a mortgage to pay and kids to feed.

Someone once told me that the universe occasionally forces you to “move or be moved.” Last week I didn’t choose to leave my job, yet being “moved” was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.

Yesterday was my first truly relaxing Sunday in a long time. I had a great Mother’s Day, then Chase and I watched a movie. I watched the whole thing (while folding laundry, of course) and didn’t feel the least bit anxious. The kids and I laid in bed this morning, and I took them to school late. I’m working on business ideas and writing today. Not feeling anxious, just feeling free. And happy that the crazy events of last week have allowed me to say goodbye to work anxiety for good!

Happy 5th birthday, mommy lost her job

My week started out great. I woke up early on Monday to get fresh donuts for Clay to take to school for his birthday. When I got to the office, I got an email from my boss requesting a late afternoon meeting, which seemed odd. I had a feeling right away that something was going on, since 1.) he rarely schedules meetings with me and 2.) the last time he did, he told me he was thinking about selling the company. The minute I walked in his office my suspicions were confirmed. I vaguely remember hearing something about the company “going in a different direction” and “letting you go.” I kept my composure, asked a few questions and went back to finish up my work before heading home.

Awesome timing, I thought. I find out I’m losing my job just a few hours before I’m supposed to host family and friends for my son’s fifth birthday celebration. I wasn’t going to let this ruin my kid’s birthday. I think I managed to pull it off, though Clay’s godmother and grandmother both noticed the vodka cocktail in my hand, which is not common for me on a Monday night. They were kind enough to not say anything until the next day when I told them about my job.

That night, with our guests gone and the kids in bed, Chase and I felt a lot like we did on the night Clay was born, exactly five years prior. He was five weeks early and born very quickly, so we were in shock. That night, we kept looking at each other and saying “what the f— just happened?” We did the same thing this past Monday. I woke up with a job and went to bed without one, just like the day in 2008 when I woke up without a baby and went to bed with one.

I spent two days in the hospital when Clay was born, and strangely enough, I only spent two more days in the office before leaving my job on Wednesday. I’m still in shock, but I hadn’t been happy for quite some time and wanted to start my own business, so in many ways it’s for the best. Like the day Clay was born, getting over the initial shock was the worst part. Having a baby was the best thing that ever happened to me and changed my life forever. I have this strange feeling that losing my job is the start of something amazing for our family.

Until I figure out the details, I’m enjoying more time with my kids, working out and just plain enjoying life more. God has a plan for me and that job wasn’t it. Tune in to find what is…with no day job, I will get to write a lot! Oh and let me know if you know anyone who needs a contract writer or content marketer 🙂

Compliments, gratitude and biting your tongue

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the character traits of the people I enjoy spending time with. In the past week, it has become clear that a few simple words and thinking before you speak (or write) can help you be a great friend, spouse or coworker. I’m far from perfect, but it’s a new week, so I’m focusing on the following things:

1. Pay someone a compliment
Last week a college friend wrote me on Facebook, telling me she likes reading this blog, and that she finds my posts useful. Other people “liked” her post. I went from feeling stressed at work to feeling like a million bucks. The next day, I was getting ready for work (rushing as usual), and Chase looked over at me and said, “Gosh, you’re beautiful.”

A compliment is a great pick-me-up and it’s so easy. There are things you like about everyone around you. Why don’t you tell them?

2. Say thank you
I’m  doing some freelance work right now, writing bios for a real estate firm’s website. Some agents have written to tell me what a great job I’m doing and thanking me for helping them out. The compliment combined with a sincere “thank you” makes me enjoy the work more, knowing that someone appreciates my efforts.

Work is not the only place where a little gratitude can go a long way. Chase thanks me for doing laundry. I thank him for bathing the kids. These are things we have to do, but the expression of gratitude reminds us that we appreciate each other taking care of these mundane tasks.

3. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all
This one is probably the most important. We all learned this rule as children, but maybe we forget as we get older. I do my best to be positive and when I have something negative pop in my head, I try to bite my tongue. Those who don’t run the risk of damaging relationships.

Over the weekend I wanted to get my nails done and thought it would be fun for Avery and I to have a girl’s outing, so I took her while the boys were at t-ball practice. She was so excited for “purple nails.” I posted the photo below on Facebook and many people “liked” it and left nice comments. Unfortunately, a family member made a snide comment, and that one rude comment stuck in my head more than all the positive ones. If he thinks I shouldn’t indulge in the “excess” of $3 toddler manicures, he is welcome to his opinion, but why write it?

As I get older it’s become more important to me, in both my personal and professional life, to surround myself with positive people. I want to be one of those people, too. What about you? What things do your friends, family or coworkers do that make you enjoy their company?

mani

Choices

We’ve all heard clichés about life being full of choices, but I didn’t understand the magnitude of these choices until I became a parent. When you are single, your choices mainly affect you. Getting married adds some complexity, but nothing compared to the responsibility you take on when you have kids and the decisions you make, both good and bad, affect them.

We make decisions every day that impact our kids. Some are less serious, like earlier this week when I took them to a park 15 minutes from home. We have five parks within walking distance of our house, so we rarely drive, but we tried something new. So, of course Avery had to poop while we were there. Not a big deal, right? Except Avery puts it off until the last possible minute, so she had to go “right now!” Because all the parks near us have sand, my kids immediately remove their shoes within a 50 meter radius of a park. We grabbed Avery’s easily in our rush to the bathroom, but Clay’s were nowhere to be found. I had to make quick decision: let Clay come to the bathroom with no shoes or let Avery poop in her pants (actually, her bathing suit because there is a lake at the park. A non-swimming lake, in the middle of winter, but you try telling Avery what to wear these days. No, thanks!) I haven’t had to clean poop in months, so I made the choice. Clay would pull a Britney Spears and enter the park bathroom with no shoes. I made myself feel better by comparing the park bathroom to the one at the beach, and lots of people use that one barefoot. And dirty feet are slightly better than poopy bathing suits. I scrubbed his feet with baby wipes and so far, so good. No weird foot diseases (knock on wood). I took a gamble and made a choice and we’re all okay.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the more important choices parents must make. The first one that every mom faces is whether to return to work after having a baby. I’ve written about this before and since I am happier working, the decision for us was not if I would work, but how could I make it work for us while having a family. I had a family-friendly job and worked from home two days a week, so it felt like a good balance for me. I’ve had friends decide to stay home and others who have switched to part-time work. We all made choices, and at times I’m sure we all question those decisions, but we hope in the end it will work for our family.

There are other tough decisions we have to make. What about where to live: close to family, in certain school districts, in an urban or suburban setting? Do you buy a house or rent? Send the kids to public or private school? Feed them organic food? Send them to school with a cold? Let them sleep in your bed? Buy a car or an SUV?

Every day presents new choices, some big, some small. For us, I work. We live close to Chase’s family, in a good suburban school district so we can send the kids to public school. We (along with Bank of America) own our house. I try to feed them organic fruits and veggies, but other food I don’t worry as much about. Both kids have been sneezing since they got their flu shots, but it’s not the actual flu, so they’re at school today. We let them in our bed in the mornings, if it’s after a certain time, otherwise they are sent back their rooms for a few more hours before I drive them to school in my SUV. Chase picks them up in his car. For now, all of this works for us, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be faced with new decisions and dilemmas as the kids get older and our needs change.

Jean-Paul Sartre said, “we are our choices,” but for parents, it’s not just us. It’s our kids. It’s a lot of pressure making decisions on behalf of someone else. For their sake, I hope we make the right ones.

Chasing perfection

My husband often says I’m a perfectionist, and I suppose he’s right. I want everything to be perfect, though I know in most cases, it is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. As the great football coach Vince Lombardi once said,”Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” Excellence sounds pretty good, too.

When I interviewed for my job, it was an all-day process and I met with every employee. As the day went on, I noticed a theme: perfection. Everyone talked about the importance of things being done right, the first time. They said the staff was hard-working, intelligent and committed to always doing their best. I imagine all companies say that, but my company “walks the talk.” I work with seemingly perfect people. They are smart, friendly and interesting to talk to. Sometimes I feel like I work in the office version of Pleasantville.

In the past couple weeks I’ve made a few small oversights (nothing major) at work, which I caught on my own, then one was pointed out to me by my boss yesterday. I was horrified. My perfect image was shattered. I stressed all day about it and thought up a solution to remedy the situation and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I think those of us who chase perfection do it partially because of our Type-A personalities, and in part because we don’t want to disappoint other people. At work and at home, I try to please the people who depend on me to do a good job. If I make mistakes at work, my boss could fire me and at home, my kids could be unhappy. Neither sounds fun, and sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure.

In my case, work is an easier place to seek out perfection than home, because it is not dependent on attitudes and actions of tiny humans. I have some sense of control. If I mess up at work it is my fault, while at home dinner can be ruined because I’m pulled out of the kitchen by a kid who pooped her pants and another who simultaneously shattered a glass on the back patio. Good times!

I’m slowly realizing that no mom or employee is perfect. We all make mistakes. It’s human nature. Things fall through the cracks and that’s okay. Emails will go unreturned, chicken will be overcooked. You’ll miss a spot painting a wall, your kid will go to soccer with dirty socks. It’s not the end of the world.

I’m trying to use the imperfections that I used to consider failures as learning experiences. No one is as hard on you as you are on yourself. Striving for perfection at work is a noble goal, but excellence is more attainable. More importantly, your kids love you no matter what. Even if they eat hot dogs for dinner three nights in a row and their shoes don’t match, when they tell you you’re “the best mom ever” nothing else matters. Clay said that to me this morning and my most important job (mom) gave me the energy to tackle my other job (marketing director). That’s perfection.

Team effort

With Clay starting preschool, our morning routine has gotten more complicated. Instead of one drop off we now have two (five miles apart), we have to pack him a lunch and we need to leave the house earlier.

I was saying goodbye to the kids today when Chase asked me to get them some milk. I told him that I needed to leave (I go in early so I can get home earlier) and he would have to do it, to which he responded that some of our male friends “don’t have to deal with these types of routines in the mornings.” Trying not to sound snappy, I replied, “well, their wives work part-time.” I know that being home with kids part time and working part time still equals a full-time job (or more), but they have a bit more flexibility than I do in the mornings. This is not to say they have it easy and I have it so hard. It’s a personal decision and we all try to make the best choices we can for our family. 

I know he didn’t mean to snap at me. Between the change in our routine and exhaustion from Avery’s odd sleeping habits lately, it is easy to feel frustrated. I have felt it too this week.

I realize my career would not work for my family, if it weren’t for Chase. I breastfed my kids, so clearly Chase could not help with that. He did however, bathe them and play with them. He fed them baby food and now makes meals for them. He changed diapers and now convinces Avery that going potty is fun. He doesn’t do laundry, but that is because I’m afraid he’ll mix up my carefully organized drawers and then it will just take me more time to redo it.  So I do that. I make doctor’s appointments and pay our bills. He does yard work. I grocery shop. He takes Clay to swim lessons. I take Avery shoe shopping. Working parents have a lot to juggle, and in our house, it really is a team effort.

Team parenting is a relatively new concept. As was common in the 70s and 80s, both of our dads worked and our moms did housework and cooked. My mom said my dad was very helpful and hands on when he was home and that doesn’t surprise me. I know he would be so proud of the dad Chase has become, helping to make life easier for me and more fun for the kids. He’s pretty great and I know I’m lucky. Now if only he would put away his shoes and empty the dishwasher, he would be perfect…