Leaning In and Loving It; Or, WWSD?

pirat-games-3I just wrapped up reading Sheryl Sandberg’s hotly contested book, Lean In Lean In is the latest book about working motherhood to hit the shelves and it’s causing quite a stir. If you haven’t heard of it by now, well, let’s just leave it at that. You probably have heard of it by now.

And it seems like everyone has an opinion or take on the book, or maybe worse, Sandberg herself. I don’t really want to re-hash all the opinions or arguments the book has caused. I’m not being cowardly, (maybe lazy and tired), but really I just am not sure I’m going to add too much insight to the discussion of the biggest book on women working that’s come out since, well, I’m not sure when.

What I’d rather focus on is the positive I gained by reading the book. Because I gained a lot. Really and truly! Sandberg has an informative and pretty inspirational point of view. She was extremely lucky in her career, but also, clearly, she was very hardworking. She didn’t just get there because of favors that were called in. And hey, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably had a favor called in for you once along the way — is that such a bad thing?

Anyway, I digress. I’m thinking about this book a lot lately. It’s like “What Would Sheryl Do” in my head every time I’m on a call, in a meeting, trying to write a new business proposal. I sort of know WWSD, but here are some changes and observations about myself that I’ve made in just the short time since I’ve read the book. My own WWSD (See we even have the same initials!):

  • I don’t aspire to move all the way up the corporate ladder; I just want to be on one of the rungs. Even though Sandberg clearly speaks to women in executive positions, I was empowered by her message to continually go after your goals and to not settle.
  • I also have decided to speak up more. I used to constantly just keep my mouth shut because I was afraid I was being impolite or talking out of turn or because I was just nervous. So I loved the part of the book where Sandberg talks about how women never interrupt in meetings as compared with men. Now, I’m not advocating interrupting, but I am advocating being honest and speaking your mind appropriately and assertively. You cannot go wrong being true to yourself.
  • I’m not as nervous or resistant to asking my husband to pitch in and help when I need it for work. He’s most definitely the breadwinner, but I’ve been pulling in my share of the pie lately and if I need to work, he needs to adjust his schedule if he can. My kids generally like him better anyway.
  • I also know it was one of the lightest parts of her book, but I appreciated Sandberg’s examples of forgetting to dress her kids for school theme days, leaving work at 5:30 and logging on after bed, and generally feeling torn about where to be and when. Part of me knows that it is very anecdotal and meant to appeal to more of the masses, but that even someone with more help and resources than I can ever imagine still f’s up once in awhile with her kids.
  • The part that really resonated with me was how Sandberg identifies so many examples of how women screw over other women trying to get ahead in careers. It happened to me, I’m sure it happened to you, and I really want to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone I manage, work with, or other. Easily implementable for me as my own business owner.

 

Did you read it? What was your key takeaway?

Taking your brand from online to “on air”

Yesterday, I had the chance of talking to a great group of women at Bloggy Boot Camp Chicago. I’ve never attended at BBC before, which is run by Tiffany and Fran, two really dynamic women who also run SITS Girls. But my dear friend Cynthia has always sung their praises, so I was really glad to be included.

Y’all know how much I hate speaking in public, but the group of women in attendance were so welcoming and genuinely seemed eager to hear what I had to say that I instantly felt comfortable. Tiffany and Fran really set a good vibe for the conference.

I spoke to the crowd about how to transition your brand and content from online to video and on-air. I’m not a vlogging expert, but through my PR work I do do a lot of TV work, and as such wanted to share what I’ve learned about getting on TV with other women who might be interested in doing the same.

I’ve posted my presentation to slideshare and posted it below. What questions or thoughts do you have about TV work? I’d love to hear it so I can improve on this talk in the future.

Back to School, Back to Mommy Guilt

One would think, what with the extra hours of “me” time, the schedules, the fact that our kids are learning, that back-to-school would be a celebratory time for many parents.

For me, however, it’s meant one thing – back to mommy guilt. Back to the routine with the nanny, the drop off, the pick up, and g-d forbid I miss one practice, outing, field trip, one anything once school starts. Back to school, back to mommy guilt.

Today, I had a meeting that started an hour after pick up ended. I thought I timed it perfect. I’d pick up my eldest from school, feed him a snack and head downtown for one last meeting of the day. I even planned to be home in time for dinner. Perfection. In my head, at least.

My son had nothing to do with it, however. He took one look at his friends playing on the field languishing leisurely with their mothers and proceeded to go off.

“I’m so MAD AT YOU MOM,” he said. “Why don’t you want to spend time with me?”

Dagger to the heart. See, if it was summer, he’d be by my side for most of the day, so sneaking out at 4 would be a non-issue. Back to school, back to mommy guilt.

Apparently my kids don’t separate well twice in one day. I can’t blame them; I’m fun to be around. Or something. Apparently, my kids think that the first day of school is that exciting. I guess I felt that way too one day long ago.

So how did I smooth things out this afternoon? By promptly bribing him with a treat from Starbucks. You bet I did. Because croissants trump everything. Even tears.

Tomorrow it’s back to school again, but I’m throwing the mommy guilt out of the carpool lane. Back to school, back to keeping things cool, indeed.

On starting a start up…

Emily had a great idea for me whenever I get into a writer’s block here: that I should talk about what it’s been like starting a company as a mom, and as… well… just what it’s been like.

It’s a great idea. Every day I’m living and breathing the growth, success and viability of the company I co-founded with Caitlin, 2 Moms Media. What started on a whim has grown to my half of a full-time, flexible job with clients, conference calls, meetings, stress, fun, late nights, early mornings, and most of all, fulfillment.

Luckily, I have the financial backing of my husband to see if this little experiment in being a business owner works. Luckily, I have in Caitlin a terrific business partner and friend who I can’t imagine doing this without. Luckily, my kids have adjusted to my work schedule. I try to do most things during the day when my eldest is at school, and to not miss too many bedtime routines.

But, starting this little (very little) startup hasn’t been all easy peasy. There have been weeks where the mom guilt of years past has reared its ugly head or when I’ve served the kids mac and cheese for the fourth night in a row or I just really needed to take that conference call from the bleachers during the tennis lesson. I have made school pick up. I have missed school pick up and sent my son home exhausted with a friend to buy me another hour of work time.

There are times where I feel that I’m not doing enough for the business. Not enough networking, not enough meetings, not enough WORK.

Still, three years later, it’s the same issues, the same debate, the same feelings. Guess that’s because, at the core, not much has changed. I’m still the same person; I still believe you have to do what makes you happy with your career, your kids, your husband – to the extent that you can afford to and have the ability to do it. In my world, even in my back to part-time working world, motherhood will always be my job #1. Ok, after that last email gets sent in the carpool line.

 

In the stream

My dad always had a saying, “Once you’re in the stream, you’re golden.” Meaning, if you want to be networking and doing, and working, you have to get in the proverbial stream of fish, and go…

I’m obviously my father’s daughter. When I see a chance to jump in, if I can, I will. This weekend I jumped into She Streams, a conference leading women and brands into the future of social technology. I was asked to speak on a panel about finding success from your passions with the amazing Mojo Coach Debi Silber and the incredible Angela Santomero, also known as the creator of Blues Clues, Super Why, and the forthcoming new take on Mr. Rogers, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. And me.

Before our session, which concluded the break out sessions for the day, I attended yesterday’s terrific keynote speech from Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark and a good talk on branding with my new idol, Luxury Travel Mom and the go-getter Go Mom. Had a terrific post-lunch chat with the CEO of Macaroni Kid (boy is that woman smart!) and got great advice from Audrey McClelland and Maria Bailey herself about videocasting (it’s what we should all be doing, apparently.) And, I was labeled by one attendee of our session as “that marketing woman in the red blazer.” (It was in a good way.)

Me and my passion posse.

Mostly, I learned that it’s good to go out to conferences like this and see people and remember that you’re part of the school of fish.

Other key learnings from She Streams:

1) If you’re not doing video for your content, you’re missing the boat. What blogging was 3 years ago, video is now. So, if you feel like you are camera-savvy, hop on that train!

2) Bloggers want money. I don’t really know how to couch this any other way. The debates are ongoing, but the experts keep telling the bloggers – you are worth something, so ask for it. As I’ve said before on other blogs, I agree with this — to an extent. I don’t think every blog or blog post or tweet or what have you is worth the same amount of money. Sometimes I think product should be worth enough, if the product matches what you talk about on your site. But look for money to continue ruling the conversation between brands and bloggers in the days/ weeks/ months to come.

3) There’s no substitution for in-person or face-to-face communications. In my prior life I would coach corporate execs on this very thing – it’s important to see your employees in person every once in awhile. Same with my blogging and marketing co-horts. Best part of going to these conferences, again, is talking to people in the flesh. Much less snarky and more fun than on twitter.

4) Let’s remember to be supportive of each other. Too many times, I think we, as moms, worry about the backstabbing and the superiority factor. In my short talk, someone came up to me afterwards and thanked me for being honest that I have a lot of support to help do what I do and to make my career and beautiful life happen. She felt that we, as moms, sometimes put up the facade that we can “do it all.” I told her you’ll never get that from me – so let’s try to be as real as we can be…

Is there really no room for women part-time in medicine?

I’ve debated this topic with my father, a physician, for over eight years now. He, an old-school doctor, established in his field, has always had a beef about women in medicine – that it’s not fair for them to take spots in medical schools and residencies, if only years later, they are to exit the workforce, or, work part-time.

As his strong-willed, feminist and outspoken daughter, I could not believe what I heard my progressive father say. He, who told me to always “be my own boss.” He, who always told me not to ever have to rely on anyone else “but myself.” He, who supported my every career move. How could he say these words?

Well, you can imagine my astonishment today when I read this Editorial piece in the New York Times called “Don’t Quit Your Day Job,” and written by a female anesthesiologist, Karen Sibert. The premise of her argument is that part-time medical work (the majority of which is taken by women) is bad for medicine because it’s hard for patients, hard financially on the institutions that provide the female doctors’ education and ultimately, bad for the industry because of the so few residency positions available to many hard working and educated young med students.

An excerpt from Sibert’s piece reads:

Students who aspire to go to medical school should think about the consequences if they decide to work part time or leave clinical medicine. It’s fair to ask them — women especially — to consider the conflicting demands that medicine and parenthood make before they accept (and deny to others) sought-after positions in medical school and residency. They must understand that medical education is a privilege, not an entitlement, and it confers a real moral obligation to serve.

She goes on:

You can’t have it all. I never took cupcakes to my children’s homerooms or drove carpool, but I read a lot of bedtime stories and made it to soccer games and school plays. I’ve ridden roller coasters with my son, danced at my oldest daughter’s wedding and rocked my first grandson to sleep. Along the way, I’ve worked full days and many nights, and brought a lot of very sick patients through long, difficult operations.

Patients need doctors to take care of them. Medicine shouldn’t be a part-time interest to be set aside if it becomes inconvenient; it deserves to be a life’s work.

When I read it the first thing my competitive-self thought was, “damn, my father is now validated.”

But I have to think further about it before I really will concede too much ground. I don’t know the ins and outs of residency programs and med school applications and the finances behind Medicare. But, what I do know are my friends, who are doctors, some who work part-time and some who do not, and whether or not our medical world would be better off without them, regardless of their schedule, and their present commitment to their causes.

And the answer is no. I don’t know what the ramifications of women in the medical field will be down the road when I’m old, or g-d forbid, sick. But I can’t imagine that one woman’s choice to stay home with her children more would really impact the big picture of the care I’m getting at any particular moment. And I can’t imagine a world where the caring, thoughtful, smart and dedicated doctor friends of mine are not practicing because of the inflexibility of systems, procedures and old-school rules reinforced by Congress.

I’m not sure if Siber is an anti-feminist. I don’t know if she comes from the old-school world of medicine like my dad, but I appreciate her words. However, in the facile world I live in, I just don’t agree with them.

What say you? Can female doctors work part time, and do it well?

Behind every great woman is an even greater man??

Women are constantly trying to get out from behind a man’s success be it in the business world or beyond, but what about when the great success of the family is the woman?

That’s why I loved this piece in yesterday’s New York Times about Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the soon-to-be chair of the Democratic National Committee. She not only kicks butt as a Congresswoman, but also as a mother. And she gives due credit to where much of it is clearly due — to her husband. Wasserman says in the article:

“I promote that you don’t have to choose between work and family.” But, she adds, “I married a great guy.”

He’s apparently so great that he doesn’t even need hired help around the house when she’s off in Washington working. Unreal!

It’s refreshing when I read accounts of women who are uber-successful in their professional life cop to the fact that they have a husband at home bearing the weight of child care or personal responsibilities. I keep thinking all those awesome working moms I meet are somehow making it all happen on their own (FWIW Design Mom says Ben Blair does his half – love it!).

So a big thanks to Ms. Schultz for being so forthcoming to all us curious bystanders about how she gets it done.

Paying to work

I’m at the precipice in my new career where I’m too busy to not be working until 11 pm every night, but not busy enough that I can afford more help so that I’m not working until 11 pm at night.

I’m paying to work. The cost of my childcare is just being covered by the revenue I’m generating.

And that’s before taxes.

This is how I think life is going to be as a quasi-consultant until my kids go to school full-time. You mean you thought I was raking in the dough? You thought wrong.

I’m finding that while it’s mentally challenging/ enjoyable, exhilarating, dramatic, funny and cathartic to be working, it’s not exactly lucrative. But little are the options for the stay-at-home-turned-semi-employed-freelancer.

How do you all do it? Are your kids just running around like mad while you’re fielding calls? Are you that efficient during nap time? Do you pull all-nighters like Janice? Do you fake it til you make it? Please tell me if you’ve figured it out.

I found an old blog post of mine about how part-time work is the devil. Ouch. I do see it’s ghoulish qualities, but now that I’m purportedly my own boss, I see the benefits too. Hey, I’m packing it up and high-tailing it to NYC tomorrow.

Which just means I’ll be up to my ears when I get back.

I’m gonna pay for this gig I got either way.

Kim Clijsters is my hero

Kim Clijsters is my new-ish hero. It’s not the first time I’ve written about her on this blog before. The first time I mentioned her was when New York Times author Selena Roberts took her to task for “opting out” of tennis at the young age of 23.

I bet Roberts is eating her words now.

Clijsters just won her FOURTH Grand Slam last weekend — the Australian Open — in Melbourne last weekend. She won her second — the U.S. Open — after taking the last 2.5 years off to birth and raise her daughter. And won another U.S. Open last year.

How’s that for opting back in? I hope my re-entry into the workforce is one-bazillionth as successful.

And what did she credit for her stirring “comeback” to tennis?

Why, the maturity she feels she has now that she’s a mother. I heard her say that on TV too.

It’s scary to opt-out of the workforce for whatever reason – injury, age, kids, whatever. And it’s equally as scary to opt back in not knowing what challenges might lie ahead. But I get what Clijsters is feeling. In some ways, taking the time off (if you’re lucky enough to be able to do so) only to go back in gives you the drive and insights you might not have had otherwise.

I’m a firm believer that having children has only helped my career, not hindered it. I may not have won any Opens, but knowing I have those little (and one big) dudes to come home to every night makes me feel like a champion.

The not-really-working-yet-working mom’s guilt

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted just what I’m going to do with my career, or, lack thereof. See, this past Fall I decided I wanted to go back to “work.”

But “work” when you don’t have to “work” for a living has many definitions. I thought I wanted a real job in a real office where I could have set hours, a real paycheck and other benefits. So, I had a bunch of meetings, poked around job and social networking sites, but after a few months of that, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not quite ready to go back to WORK.

Instead, along the way, I’ve built up with my “business partner” various projects that are keeping us busy. Busy enough that we’re in the process of building our website which will lay out our offering (think marketing to moms, not a huge stretch), and sort of crystallizes in my head what I really want to do: help brands connect with real-life moms through experiential marketing, traditional PR, networking and writing. It’s not rocket science, but it’s taken a long way to get here.

And, for now, I’m happy.

But here’s the rub. All of my networking, business development, website creation, meetings for paying clients and such is slowly drawing me away from my kiddos activities. Already.

Out goes the work I produce, in comes the guilt. The not-really-working-yet-working mom’s guilt.

I’ve already had to cancel on my baby’s two mom-and-me classes for today and tomorrow due to a packed meeting schedule. The baby won’t know the difference, but I know what he’s missing. I’m trying to be good about staying offline at home when my kids are awake and want my attention. I’m staying up late at night sending the emails, drafting notes, connecting. I use my babysitter hours to do more work, but that just translates to taking kids on more errands.

It’s all coming full circle again, three years (wow) after I quit my job.  A reader asked me over email how it felt to quit work, because she was thinking about doing it. I told her I’d write my thoughts and opinion. I can only sum it up like this:

A mom is always working even if she’s not getting paid. A mom is always feeling guilty about something. You just gotta do what feels right for you and your family because that’s what matters the most.

So I’m going to keep on truckin’ for now. Because even though the guilt is there dangling above my shoulder, I’m feeling better than ever about my professional prospects. Now’s the time.

What say you all on not-really-working-yet-working mom’s guilt?