Mom 2.0 2012 Recap: The Year of Calm

This Mom 2.0 must have been the best blog conference I’ve been to in my nearly six years of blogging. Maybe not for the content I learned (a little more on that later), but for the comfortableness I felt amongst my peers. I think it’s taken a long time to get here, but finally I think I’ve found my place in the world of don’t-call-them-mommy bloggers.

When I started blogging I didn’t struggle with what to write or who my target audience was – it was the working moms I felt solidarity with – we were banded by our guilt (or lack thereof) and of our purpose balancing young kids and life.

Then, when I left the big agency, I went adrift. I never wanted to blog personal, any attempt at me blogging about being frugal was an all-out farce, (have you met me?) and I felt adrift in an ocean of popular mom blogs.

But this time around, Mom 2.0 2012 I think I figured it all out. I’m now my own business owner with a plan and a purpose. I have a role professionally and felt that would benefit from the energy of my longtime blogging peers and new friends.

And that’s why I enjoyed Mom 2.0 so much this year. I had a room filled with fun and laughs (and loud hilarious partying from the boys next door) and meaningful conversations that pushed me beyond worrying about page views and site progress.

Not all the discussions had purpose – I personally felt there were too many inspirational keynotes (I’m not one for motivational talks, shoot me now) and not enough break out learning sessions, but overall I got the gist of what the intention and purpose of the conference was and I got something more for myself. The confidence again that I make sense in the mix. That I have a renewed purpose for my blog. That I belong. Maybe it was the Jew thing. But I’m thinking not. I’m thinking it’s because I’ve found some peace between the struggle I’ve always had with my blog and work. No more. My blog has led me to many interesting places with interesting people and I continue to be grateful for its presence.

Just don’t expect me to start blogging every day or anything now.

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.


Big week

Last week was one of those weeks where I over-committed a bit. It’s been awhile since that has happened. A quick re-cap, because we all know how often I blog. Ha!

  • I introduced our new client, Artizone (launching in February and you will be glad when it does!) to my BFF moms in business friends at the quarterly Neighborhood Parents Network networking event. If you are a small business member of NPN, it’s totally worth it to attend one of these get-togethers!
  • I co-hosted a great blogger breakfast for my friend Hope and her Social Media Masters Summit with my other friend Alison.  We got to meet representatives from two amazing companies, Jockey and Calumet Photo.  Just so happened the Jockey PR rep was my friend from grad school, so, in addition to all the amazing blogger friends I got to see there, I had a little IMC reunion! Holla!
  • I got to attend the Social Media Masters Summit. I don’t get to go to conferences out of town that often so when I can do something local I get so excited to learn from my peers. Especially good was the panel on brand and bloggers (clearly my interest) with Foiled Cupcakes Mari, Gabi Tompkins from Crain’s and Gina Judge a PR pro from PepsiCo and also a new Chicago mama. I’m hoping after this panel and the resulting changes made to Klout, we can all agree, influence is social media is all relative! You have to decide for yourself and not only pay attention to just the numbers.
  • I went to the opening of the new baby store behemoth in the suburbs, WONDER! WONDER! Is CRAZY COOL!! I mean, look at this wall of strollers below. That’s right. Strollers. And that’s just a start. They offer classes, every baby product competitively priced under the sun, customized birthday parties, healthy food (cafe coming soon), and also soon enough, an online store.
  • All the while, I was able to shop on Totsy all week (I’m a compensated Totsy mom but all opinions about the site are true!) for some awesome stuff for the kids for the holidays and a few awesome pieces of jewelry, for, well, ME! Not everything on the site is a great fit for me, but this week I scored! I totally recommend you registering and of course, buying!

Thankfully, this week is a bit slower…

So, what did you do last week? What are you up to this week?

    48 Hours

    That’s how long I’ll be gone on a business trip for the She Streams Conference tomorrow. This is slightly shorter than my foray down south in May for Mom 2.0, also the last time I went away on a work trip.

    Forty-eight hours is nothing for me but apparently a lifetime for my eldest son who cried a bowl of tears at bedtime tonight. It was if I said I was going hyperspeed on the Millenium Falcon to a galaxy far, far away.

    Close, I’ll be in New York.

    I sort of thought as he got older it’d be easier to work more. Turns out that’s about as big of a myth as the Star Wars story itself.

    Yes, the logistics of working are a bit easier. He’s away in school all day, so I have that time to fill.  He doesn’t care what I do when he’s busy building and learning and running around the field at school.

    But he does care when I’m not the one who’s going to be with him when he wakes in the morning. Or when he gets home for school. Because to me, those times are the ones that make me as crazy as when they freeze Han Solo in the vat of carbonite. However this is sacred time to him, I know. It is security to have mommy there to wake him up, put him to bed and keep the “normal” routine going.

    And while it’s not bad to shake the routine up every so often, it doesn’t help with the dreaded “mommy guilt” that I constantly try to stray from in my quest to have a part-time, flexible, [insert work-life balance adjective here] job. He’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, we’ll all be FINE. But it just might take 48 hours to ensure it.

    No more kids. No girl. So stop asking.

    Now that the baby burrito is almost two, I’m getting the typical inquiry I got when my eldest turned two.

    “So, are you having any more kids?”

    That inquiry seemed benign enough when I had one. We always planned in having another. But when baby burrito arrived after all the pregnancy drama , we pretty much decided that was going to be it with the pregnancies and the babies. Two healthy boys and I’m fine with it. Happy with it. Thrilled with it! I live for my kids.

    Seems that many people are not, however.

    “You going to try for that girl?” they will ask. “A girl would be SO fun,” they suggest emphatically.

    I have no doubt. I’m sure that friendship bracelets and hair braiding and PINK are joyous things. But I will just have to borrow my friends’ girls to find out. Because this shop is closed.

    And how about those who ask not if I’m going to “go for the girl” but if I’m going to have more kids in general. As if having two kids isn’t carrying my weight on reproduction. I personally think four kids is the new three because everyone I know is having four kids, so I guess my kids are virtually only children.

    Fine by me. I love babies, love them, and maybe maybe down the road I will want to squish a little newborn again, but between city living, and working, and oh yeah I’m fine with the two I got, it’s not happening, people.

    So please, please, stop asking.

    Eau de Barista

    There are many benefits to not having an office for my job. First, there’s the cost – it’s cheap. Then, there’s the convenience – I can work in my pajamas, in my bed and while watching repeats of Sex in the City in the background. I can have un-brushed teeth, hair and look un-glamorous even when dazzling on a conference call.

    It’s a beautiful thing, at times, to not have an office, even if I’m looking more like Miranda after her workout rather than Charlotte at the art gallery.

    But, there are those times where not having an office is quite a pain in the ass. Like when the kids are home with the sitter and they are running in and out of my bedroom. Like when the re-runs are over and I need a change of scenery. Like when, I just need to dress like something other than a homeless person and get out of the house.

    And where do I go? Everybody’s second home, office, meeting space, relaxation spot, money drain – Starbucks. Therein lies the problem. After a long day at work, I come home reeking not of glorious productivity but of crushed coffee beans.

    I might as well trade in my marketing prowess for a green apron and be a barista.

    The other day, I picked up my new bag to head out to a meeting, and smelled something so g-d awful I thought my 20-month-old crapped on the floor. But, no, it couldn’t be that. No, it was my purse. It reeked. I couldn’t quite place the smell. Something between sweat and espresso. Of coffee, egg sandwiches, baked goods and paper cups.

    Of Starbucks.

    I smelled my clothes.

    They smelled like Via and scones.

    My hair?

    Like Frappucino and Horizon milk.

    Even my shoes had a whiff of a Caramel Macchiato.

    Everything about me reeked of the drinks that the 50 zillion other patrons ordered before me.

    So I did what any sane mom under the gun would do.

    I Febreezed. The clothes, the shoes, the hair, the bag and anything else within a 30-foot radius. I may have even hit one of my children in the process.

    Victims of the Febreeze attack.

    When the war against the Eau de Barista was over, all that was left was a clean-showered me and a lost, un-registered Starbucks card.

    I think I’ll hit Caribou next time. Or maybe Argo Tea. Tea doesn’t smell as bad as coffee, does it?

    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?

    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.

    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 project that “grew” on me. Growing the modern organic family.

    It all started over the summer at the Not BlogHer event when Caitlin and I were discussing our current projects. Just so happened we had some crossover in meeting Deree Kobets, the owner of grow modern boutique in Wicker Park. The conversation was casual but purposeful, “wouldn’t you love to do something with her?” “Yeah.”

    See what I mean?

    After a nice meeting in early Fall, we proposed an online campaign plus an in-store event to try to increase grow’s awareness online with our blogger friends, but also within our social and community network. Our campaign, a culmination of tips from Deree and four amazing giveaway packages last week were a huge hit and the event on November 4 was a beautiful showcase of the power of community (thank you Wicker Park!) and good mommy fun.

    But I can only write so much about how nice the evening was. I’ll let the photos tell the rest…

    My messy closet floor is evidence I was in a huge rush to get to the event in time.

    Did I mention it was really rainy hailing hurting snow pellets that night? Really hard to get somewhere in time in rain/ hail/ wind/ oh my!

    So mad props to the moms who braved the Chicago weather to join us. (Cyn and Alma not pictured, because my camera deleted that one. But they deserve a shout-out.)

    But I did get there. Ok, meet Deree (right). Isn’t she cute? I still can’t believe she grew up on a farm. She’s standing with Sarah from Olive.You.Nanny. Gosh, they just accentuate my brunette-ness.

    Thank g-d wine from The Noble Grape, cupcakes from Tipsy Cake (pictured) tea from Honest Tea, pizza from Crust and appetizers from Real Naked Food (not pictured) were there waiting for me. Because of course I had no time to eat before.

    Once Little Miss Ann started rockin’ we all forgot about the downpour and cold outside. She just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy!

    I also think the kick-ass goodie bags and giveaways sponsored by Square One Organics, Little Miss Ann, Time Out Chicago Kids, Little Twig,  and Eco-Minders helped.

    By the end of the night, I was one pooped lady, but one pooped lady with a whole lot of love after a fun night out and a great week of learning about how to live more organic, smart, and modern. It was worth the wait!