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!

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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 🙂

April 25: A tough day on the calendar

Cinnamon cunch bagels

Cinnamon cunch bagels

My memory is particularly strong when it comes to dates. I can’t remember what I ate for dinner two days ago, yet I can remember my childhood friends’ birthdays. I associate a great deal of meaning with dates – the date I arrived in Tallahassee for college, the date I met Chase, the date I found out I was pregnant for the first time. Those are all happy memories, though. It’s the unhappy ones that I wish I could forget. I almost immediately forget the endings of movies I see, why can’t I get these dates out of my head?

My dad died on April 25. Fortunately, this year I’ve had a lot going on, including a fun trip to Disneyland, so I wasn’t in a funk for the 15 days between Avery’s birthday and the 25th like I have been in past years. Three years later, I’m doing much better. People say that “time heals wounds” and in some ways, that’s true.

Since my dad died, three people have come into my life whose birthdays are on April 25. First, was a little girl down the street I’ll call “C.” She turned one the day my dad died and turns four today. She suffers from epilepsy. C is so sweet and brave. My kids love to play with her and genuinely worry when she has a seizure or spends time in the hospital. She and her parents have taught us all so much. She’s an inspiration.

Second, was our nanny, “M.” She came to San Diego and stayed in a youth hostel to interview with me. M dressed up for the interview and planned to walk back to the airport afterwards (I drove her). She had a work ethic and maternal instinct that was possibly stronger than my own. M was only 20 at the time, but acted older. She had the most important job in the world, caring for our kids. Sadly, M moved back home to Washington, but she’ll always be a part of our lives.

Finally, comes my coworker, “A.” She’s my kindred spirit at work. Another non-economist and a working mom. She has two young boys and is divorced, so we discuss the challenges in finding work-life balance. We’re also not billing our hours to clients, so she is the only person who takes the time to chat on occasion. I need this interaction in the workplace, and she provides it for me.

While April 25 brought so much sadness, it also brought these lovely people into the world. I realized this morning one of my college friends has a birthday today as well. The worst day of my life – losing a parent – was one of the best days of their parents’ lives. Something about my obsession with dates makes me think they came into my life for a reason. In the future, if I meet others with April 25 as a birthday, I’ll take it as a sign.

I took my kids to Panera this morning to have my dad’s favorite bagel, telling Clay this was the day he died. He is still young, so I wasn’t expecting him to understand much, but he said “well, it’s not Grandpa’s birthday, but we’ll celebrate him today.” And celebrate, we will!

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

Sample lots, buy once

sephora

If I ever win the lottery (which is unlikely since I don’t play often), my splurge would be to have my makeup and hair done by a professional every day. Like most moms, I rarely have the time to do either properly, so it’s a real treat when someone else does it for me. After a breakup years ago I decided I needed a new look, so in addition to growing my hair out (that boyfriend liked short hair), I went to the mall to get a makeover. I bought most of the makeup she used and decided I should do that every few years, so I have the tools to look good, in case I ever have the time.

To save time, I go get my makeup done on a day when I have plans for the night, so I don’t have to worry about doing makeup myself (I also schedule hair appointments strategically for the same reason). If I am spending money, I want to save time, too!

The last time I got my makeup done was for a wedding when Avery was a baby, so I decided to go last weekend before a friend’s 40th birthday party. I loved my makeup (go see Jessica D. at Sephora in UTC if you live in San Diego), but she also mentioned I should exfoliate my skin to help makeup stay on better. As much as I don’t want to spend money on another product or take the time to apply it, I knew she was right.

I didn’t buy any that day, wanting to survey my friends about products they like. And the survey tool for the 21st century? Facebook, of course. My friends suggested several products and in the past, I’ve just picked one randomly and purchased it. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don’t. If I don’t, I’m wasting money and time, which you all know I hate.

When I was at Sephora last week, Jessica gave me samples of a few things, so I had an idea. I would take my list from Facebook to Sephora and ask them to sample the products my friends suggested. I also went to the Kiehl’s store next door. I don’t know why I never thought of this before. Before I spend $85 on Exfolikate, I should test it out first. So for the next week or two, I’ll be working from my little sampling station, trying to find the best product for my skin. It was free and even though I’ll have to spend some time buying the actual product, Sephora and BeautyBar.com offer free shipping on online orders over $50, so it will be quick and easy. And I know it won’t go into the trash unused a few months from now.

Time and money, saved! Now I’m off to buy a lottery ticket…

My unlikely Valentine

valentines-heart-2Valentine’s Day makes me think a lot about relationships, and certain moments in my dad’s relationship with my stepmother are etched in my brain. I don’t recall the first time I met her, but I do remember the nights I learned of both their engagement and their marriage.

For the former, I met them for dinner at a Thai restaurant in the Virginia suburbs, not too far from my hometown or my new apartment in D.C. My dad grew up in India, so he always enjoyed ethnic food, but after my parents’ divorce, he often ate meals off the McDonald’s dollar menu or out of a Hamburger Helper box. Partially because it was easy, but also because he was cheap. That’s how I knew he meant business with this woman: they tried all sorts of new restaurants and he never once complained about the cost. So off I went to an “authentic” Thai dinner and noticed a diamond ring on her left hand. I made it through the meal, telling them congratulations before finding an excuse to leave. I called my boyfriend in California, telling him the news while I got gas before crossing the river back into D.C., as it’s cheaper than in the district (the apple doesn’t fall far).

I moved to California that summer to be with Chase, and my dad moved to North Carolina a few weeks later, to be closer to his fiancée. About six months later, on a Friday afternoon, my brother was on spring break from college and visiting me in San Diego, when I received a call that they had gone to the courthouse to get married. That night, we went to a bar near the beach with friends. I drank a lot and kept saying to Chase, “I can’t believe my dad got married today.” I’m fortunate that I don’t really get hangovers, but the next morning I was still a bit queasy from the thought of my dad married to someone other than my mom.

For the next couple years I was always polite to my stepmom, though I didn’t think she was as fun as my dad and she was a total neat freak. I realize to those who know me that this may sound like “the pot calling the kettle black.” They came for a visit and she spent hours scrubbing the grout in my kitchen counter tile. I’ll admit it looked amazing, but it was a rental apartment and she was on vacation. I am organized and neat, but that lady is out of control, I thought. Is this her idea of fun?

A few more years passed. I got married and had Clay. She was beyond helpful at our wedding. She helped me unpack in our first house, making sure I arranged the kitchen in a way that would be kid-friendly. Clay couldn’t even crawl at that point, so as a new mom, I didn’t even think about the fact that putting fragile items within arms reach would be a bad idea. She loved Clay as if he were her own grandchild and they spoiled him. My kids were my dad’s greatest joy and she was there to experience that joy with him. I liked her more as time went on, but still rarely talked to her directly. I always called my dad, then would occasionally chat with her for a few minutes.

Everything changed when my dad died. She tried to revive him, but after a massive heart attack, it didn’t help. Though she had called me I was nursing a two-week-old baby and didn’t hear it. Upon seeing the missed calls, I called my brother first. Then her. We spoke for some time, in the middle of the night. I don’t know what either of us said, except that before hanging up, she said “I love you.” Our relationship took a different turn then and there. I didn’t love her in the traditional sense because I hadn’t taken enough time to get to know her. I loved her for the way she loved my dad. For the fact that his last meal was pizza and ice cream (his favorite) and the last TV show he watched was Desperate Housewives (hers).

In the years since, I have maintained a relationship with her. That woman I thought was uptight? Turns out we have a lot in common. She flew in to visit us yesterday. Appropriately enough, on Valentine’s Day. My dad was my first Valentine and he was her last. This year we were each other’s.  Last night we celebrated as a family, enjoying pizza and (too many) sweets with Chase and the kids. I’m sure my dad smiled looking down on his two unlikely Valentines and wondered which one of us would be the first one to clean up after dinner. For the record, it was me.