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.

 

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?

The ghosts of work-life past

grimreaper.jpgI’ve had some close encounters of the working kind in the past week. Remarkably, since I left my job, I’ve had little to do with my former coworkers. It’s not out of spite or anything. (Although I’m sure they wouldn’t appreciate me calling them at 1 pm while they’re at their computers and I’ve just finished watching an episode of Top Chef).  It’s just that I’m being lazy about the whole “networking to get back in the workforce someday thing” and I have no urge to really know what I left behind me.  I wish I could say that I miss work, but I don’t, actually. So while I like to hear from my old friends, I don’t have that morbid curiosity about me wondering, “are they getting by without me?” Because I’m sure they are.

However, in the last week, I’ve gotten some pokes from my former colleagues and work associates.  My old team took me out to a very nice “going away” afternoon tea where I gorged myself on scrumptuous handmade scones and shrimp sandwiches until my stomach hurt. (Cut me some slack. Most of my lunches these days consist of french fries and an occasional crust of grilled cheese.)  My colleague even asked me before our get together if I was excited to bust out some of my old corporate wardrobe again. Like I all I wear are Uggs and leggings all day every day. Please.  It was actually somewhat entertaining to put on a shirt that buttons, pants that aren’t made of denim and have somewhere to be with adults at 3 pm, but by 5 o’clock, I was relieved to go home, take off my thong underwear (I have little problem with panty lines while I’m at home) and slip on my momiform.

I mean, after we discussed gossiped about all our old clients, what was I supposed to talk about? My “blog” which is so “cute?” My son, who’s growing up faster than I care to believe? My coworkers are childless and I’m not sure they were that interested in the latest potty training techniques. Plus, it’s not like I’ve been very good at keeping up with marketplace trends; I’ve let my “work” magazine subscriptions all but completely lapse in the three months since I stepped out the door.

This lack of interest in the working world wasn’t just obvious over Darjeeling and jam. I’ve had other work-related avoidances as well.  For example, I turned down a good freelancing opportunity last week. I blew off a former colleague who wanted me to speak to his class. I’m even bailing on a “how to be a better freelancer” seminar this week that I’m supposed to go to with my new friend and learn how to market myself better.  Freelancing lesson #1: don’t bail on popular blog friend for night at home. (Truth be told I am staying at home to prepare for a vacation later this week, but my former gunner self wouldn’t let a silly thing like vacation get in the way of some good networking.)

I’m sure somewhere out there Leslie Bennetts is signing Hail Marys praying for my working mom salvation. I’m a serious “keeping myself in the mix” flunkie. I’m a career-path dropout.  Hell, I’m not keeping that “key contacts” roster alive. You know, the one I’m supposed to keep so that if in six months I’m going ballistic with a temper-tantrum-throwing-toddler and I want to go back to work it will be seamless.  On paper, I’m setting myself up for complete failure. But I’m keeping hope alive that the way everyone else judges what moms do when they stop working will somehow change if and when I decide to ever be a “working” mom again.

That just being me doing what I want to do when I want to do it will be enough. I’m not giving into the career Grim Reaper yet.

Hold the bread, please

I’ve always known it, but this article solidified it.  I’m not cut out to be the breadwinner of our family.  It’s not that I don’t have the ambition or the drive to be good at my job.  I do.  It’s not that I want to opt-out or off-ramp or whatever silly buzzwords exist to define working motherhood.  I don’t.

It’s that I get edgy and nervous when I’m under pressure.  I’m worse than that Miss Teen USA contestant.  I don’t like being in charge all the time.  I know I keep saying this, but I can’t keep up with everything mounting up around me.  I can’t “do it all.” I don’t know how to take two business trips in a row without getting a pit in my stomach.  I have a hard time being cheery and bright-eyed for my son in the wake of stress at work.  I forget how to be a good and understanding wife after a long day.  When the stress of the job builds, I just become more exhausted, overwhelmed and cranky.  I’m not saying those mommy-breadwinners don’t feel this way.  But while they’re probably solving the world’s energy crisis, my typical big worry of the week is what class to sign my son up for on my day off. 

Exacerbating my stress about this topic is that I feel I’m a part of a momosphere that is decidedly feminist and that I’m not living up to my end of the bargain.  While I’m pro-choice, pro-civil liberties (not of the Bush kind), pro-everything-you-want-to-do-how-you-want-to-do-it, at the core, I still like it that my husband is the one who worries about the big things.  I admire those women who rise to the top, do it all and more.  I can relate to a  lot of what they say, but a lot of it is different for me.  I have a job that’s on my terms, one where my husband was more concerned with how happy I’d be than how much money I’d make.  And I make some sacrifices as a result.  But they are sacrifices I can afford to make.  I live a life where I’m somewhat oblivious to reality.  I come by it honestly.  I grew up very pretty sheltered due to the fact that my father had it rough and wanted to protect my brother and I from his worries.  It’s not a good thing, but sometimes it’s all I know.  And while my husband is trying to break the mold, he also helps to perpetuate it by being the breadwinner and not asking me for more than to be happy and be the primary caretaker of our son.  I’m sure this all sounds incredibly old-fashioned, and well, it is, but I like it this way.

But there’s a part of me that knows I should try to be an agent of change; that I should try to make more of a difference.  To be the best.  To help others more. To earn more money.  But I can’t do it right now.  I don’t have it in me yet.  I’m just happy to be me.  Little ol’ non-breadwinner, part-time working mom, possibly not-feminist, rookie-blogger me.  And that’ll have to do for now.

Offices are overrated

Did I mention that I’m working “remotely” this entire week? Like, really remotely.  Like, so remote that when I ran out of facial moisturizer yesterday and went to the local grocery store to buy some more they didn’t have my favorite Aveeno one.  My nanny had to go out of town (again!) and since I really have no back up child care, I thought I’d piggyback on my parents vacation.  I’m paying them in love and gratitude.  And a cute kid.  Don’t we all work on our vacations, anyway? 

To accomodate my shift in plans, my parents have basically turned their house into a mini-Kinkos.  I’ve got wireless internet, a brand new speakerphone for my conference calls, a better view than in Chicago, and a fancy color printer. I mean seriously, this is Jewish guilt at it’s worst. (My mother’s already asked me if I can do this again next summer.)

It’s weeks like this when working from home actually works that I wonder if I really do need a big fancy office. Then I read this which totally makes me fume over my 40-minute commute.  But, I’ve honestly never been all that keen about working from home.  It’s a terrific luxury that I have, but it’s not my first choice.  I like getting dressed (ask me if I’ve worn anything but sweats for the past 2 days), I hate hearing my son laugh and not being able to play with him, and I can only watch “The Hills” on mute for so long.  I mean, what are the benefits of working from home when you can’t even enjoy a good Heidi/ LC cat fight?

But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say working remotely has its perks.  I get to sit by the lake during lunch, take a walk on the beach in the morning and dip my toes in the water at sunset.  Then again, it’s not like you guys can see what I’m looking at because my cell phone won’t send picture text messages from up here.

[insert beautiful beach photo]

[caption: How’s your view of the cubicle looking?]

One can only be so plugged in, I guess.

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Delta Mom: A marketers’ worst nightmare

I read an interesting article this week in USA Today, branding a new set of moms – Alpha Moms.  According to the article, Alpha moms are:

…educated, tech-savvy, Type A moms with a common goal: mommy excellence. She may or may not work outside the home, but at home, she views motherhood as a job that can be mastered with diligent research. She’s also wired — online 87 minutes a day…

In addition, 

An Alpha Mom typically has money to spend, and — key for marketers — she is, as the label implies, a leader of the pack who influences how other moms spend.

Ok… so I get it… marketers liked the “buzz name” for a certain type of mom and now will do anything to get that mom to use her superpowers to get her and her friends to try and buy certain products.  Makes sense to me.  Hell, I work in PR.

Problem is, I don’t quite fit into the Alpha mom genre (I may be Type A, but I’m not deluded enough to think motherhood could be mastered), nor the yoga mom genre (these moms don’t buy their kids anything and that is NOT fun), nor the Beta mom label (I like my house to be a little neater, sorry!) and so I’m left wondering, where’s my group?  Since it doesn’t quite exist, I’m creating a new label for moms, or, well, me. (Haven’t you noticed how selfish I am yet?)  The name? Delta Mom.  A Delta Mom is fickle about products she buys, a chronic plan-canceler (there’s always something else she HAS to do), a half-listener about advice she’s given (she really only listens to herself), and always changing her mind about what makes sense for her her baby.  Read on and see if you are a Delta Mom too.  I could really use some friends.*

Characteristics of a Delta Mom:

  • Doesn’t really care what brand of diapers to buy as long as they don’t leak pee-pee all over the floor. Occasional diaper rash is acceptable.
  • Buys the cheapest bath products she can find as long as they remove the crusty-formula residue build-up behind the ears.  No, we don’t believe in internet rumors!
  • But, she IS on the internet at least 90 minutes a day researching things to buy – like a great pair of heels she can wear to work. Or the park.
  • Will tell her NMF that she’ll meet to help pick her out a new stroller, only to reschedule at the last minute due to an unforseen long return line at Target.
  • Makes a home-cooked meal every night.  As long as it comes from Trader Joe’s (as good as home cooked my home cooking.)
  • Compulsively buys her son toys but chooses them by how well they match the decor of her house and how low she can turn the volume down. (Teaching second-language skills is optional.)
  • Knows the details of all her favorite TV shows, but has no clue what time her husband came home from work.
  • Tunes out medicinal advice from anyone unless they have a D.R., D.O, or R.N. in their name.  We are very, very neurotic about meds.
  • Knows deep down she really needs to baby-proof her house (all her friends have told her she should), but can’t bring herself to put up ugly accessories all over her painted wood cabinets. *Sigh*
  • Realizes that it’s not worth it to be the leader of the pack.  It’s much easier to let another mom test things out and tell you how not to do it.

Delta Moms, I know you’re out there, just waiting to be marketed to.

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* Full disclosure, and PLEASE don’t laugh, I was a member of the Delta Delta Delta sorority back in the day. Waaaay back. I put this at the end so you wouldn’t stop reading my post on account of my stupid college mistakes.

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My anti-nap ritual

nap.jpgOne of my biggest pet peeves after I first had my son was when everyone told me to “nap when the baby naps.”  Even if I was a bleary-eyed, drooling mess, no matter how little sleep I got, I couldn’t nap “on demand.”  But isn’t it that how this whole baby thing works?  You never get to do things when you actually want to do them.  So it was much to my chagrin this week when I read about a new study on the benefits of napping.  Like, that napping can possiby prevent you from a heart attack.  (I personally think not changing messy diapers is the sure fire way to prevent heart attacks, but I’m not a scientist.)  Just another thing for me to try to squeeze into my already jam packed days – a nap!  (I think the people who write these articles are conspiring against new mothers with that Baby Whisperer woman who says you can schedule your child at the ridiculous age of 3 weeks or something.)

And the kicker?  I also read that some people get to sleep at work.  Why don’t you just schedule my triple-bypass surgery now?  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to nap.  Not at work, not at home.  My days are too busy with conference calls, meetings, errand running and oh yeah, taking care of a baby.  I don’t care if napping will “recharge my batteries” better than a “chocolate bar” (which, if you eat too much WILL give you a heart attack.)  I don’t believe you when you say that napping is a way to “gain a competitive edge.”  Diet Coke is working just fine, thank you.  I’m anti-nap.  So while you’re snoozing under your desk today, here’s my “just say no to napping” strategy.

  • I will drink at least two caffeinated beverages a day.  A hot one in the morning, and a cold one in the afternoon.  Even if it costs me $5 a day.
  • If I’m feeling drowsy in the late afternoon I will haul my butt to Old Navy to poke around for a few.  Nothing gives me an adrenaline rush like finding a cute top on sale.
  • I will go to bed at 9:30 every night.  This is not good news for my husband, but I only have so much time in my day.
  • I am going to banish boring from my vocabulary.  The sure fire way to ensure napping is to be bored.  So, no boring books, no boring projects at work.  Excitement is my new middle name.
  • I am going to tune out all my WAHM and SAHM friends who tell me what a good nap they had today.  They are dead to me.  Even though it is harder work to stay at home.  They still don’t deserve it.

Who’s on board with my anti-napping plan?  Ok, you probably don’t want to croak early.  But at least you will have had a happier busier life.

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Oprah Asks, “Can Women Have it All?”

oprah.jpgThank goodness for my DVR.  For without it, I would not have been able to watch today’s episode of the Oprah show on the topic, “Can Women Have It All?” (see representative sample of “women” to the right). The episode discussed the issues between being a working mother or an SAHM.  However, because I have a short attention span, and because Oprah isn’t exactly my favorite TV personality, I’ve decided to split my thoughts about the show into two sections: the serious and the catty.

Skip the next 2 paragraphs if you’re not interested in my really interesting, insightful and very lucid (I’m running on 6 hours of sleep) thoughts about the topic. I promise it will be worth it.  But, since I’m in the business of blogging about working motherhood, I can’t stay completely out of the work-life balance/ SAHM fray that has become my new existence. So here goes.

The show started out with working mother example-extraordinaire Elizabeth Vargas. I actually kind of feel bad for her now, as she’s had to go on the record several times to defend her position for leaving her post at ABC’s “World News Tonight.” Well, on today’s Oprah, she did a terrific job doing just that.  I blogged about her 20/20 piece on the “Mommy Wars” awhile back and found that segment to be boring and a little self-serving.  I take it back.  On today’s show, “Tin Lizzie” (a dependable spokeswoman for all of us working mothers) was eloquent, and brutally honest in her reasoning for making the choices she did.  When she said that on “90% of her days I feel I’m never doing anything quite right” I could totally relate.  Unfortunately, Tin Lizzie was only on the show for a mere 10 minutes or so (excluding commercials which I happily fast-forwarded through).

The rest of the show was left for the “lay” women, both working and not working.  Here, we covered familiar territory: judging others, fear that if you work your kids will be screwed up adults, fear that if you stay home you lose a sense of “self.”  The debate “raged” on (on Oprah’s terms) but, unfortunately, Dr. Robin got in the way of some really good fights.  I wish we could have heard more about why these women made the choices they did and less about how we find “the gift” in each choice we make.  To me, a gift is something that comes in a small blue box with a white ribbon.  But I digress.  The debate pointed out a few insecurities I have about myself as a working mother – I’m not doing a good job of what Dr. Robin calls “being attuned” to yourself and your kids whether you’re at work or at home.  I promise, Doc, no more checking BlackBerry when junior is awake and whining. I seriously promise.

Ok, now onto the catty.

oprah2.jpgFirst, can somebody out there please tell me why on God’s green Earth Oprah and Dr. Robin wore matching outfits? I’m just not digging the shiny pink shirt/ brown combo enough to see it twice on my TV screen.  But Oprah’s earrings were fabulous.

elizabethvargas.jpgAnd, I really liked Tin Lizzie’s hair cut.  Where does she get it done? And do you think that ‘do would look good on me?

 

 

mom1.jpgFinally, why did all the moms on the show who were profiled look constipated?  Do I look constipated like that all the time?
 

 See, I told you it’d be worth it.

Oh, and if you care about what I think about whether or not a woman can have it all, here’s my answer. NO. Why? Because we all define “all” differently, so I don’t think we’ll ever come to a consensus.  I feel that I have everything I could ask for, but maybe other moms think I’m missing out on something.  Frankly, I’m kind of “over” this debate at the moment.  But, I’ll throw it out there, what do you think?

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Translations of a working mom

workingmom2.jpgMy friend Emily pointed me to a hilarious post on Minor Tweaks which translates your baby’s common noises (no, not the woman from the Oprah show).  As a newly working mother, I can relate.  Usually only about half of what I say makes sense, so most of what comes out of my mouth needs to be interpreted to understand its true meaning.  Some examples:

What I say: “Honey, what time are you going to be home tonight?”
Translation: “Honey, you’d better put the kid to bed tonight or you’re dead.”

What I say: “Sorry, on urgent call, will be to your office in a minute.”
Translation: “If I don’t get my son registered into this mommy-and-me class right now my son will never learn how to socialize.”

What I say: “Yes, of course, I’m right on it.”
Translation: “I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and haven’t had my coffee yet, so can you ask me again in 10 minutes?”

What I say: “Sure mom, come over after I get home from work, that will be great.”
What I really mean: “Mom, you’ll be cooking us dinner tonight, thanks.”

What I say: “I’m going to grab a sandwich.”
What I really mean: “I’m heading out to get these great shoes I saw on sale at Macy’s, but I’ll have my BlackBerry if you need me.”

This is probably enough to get me in big trouble tomorrow.

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Wall Street Journal takes on work and family balance

Check out The Juggle, a new blog by Wall Street Journal columnist Sara Schaefer Munoz.  (I’m not 100% sold on the name, but it might grow on me.) “The Juggle” aims to discuss all the issues that pertain to the modern family- stress of finding the right caregiver, trying to finish your neverending “to do” list, and managing to do your actual day job – all at the same time.

I liked what I read at first, especially about fake workplace productivity problems  (for those who care, I suffer from PCAST with a small case of my own diagnosis,”Nannyitis“).  And I’m totally glad to see another mainstream paper getting on the blogosphere bandwagon.  Guess I’ll add it to my Feeds… how will I ever “Juggle” all the stuff I have to read!?