The Laundry Monster

 2011-04-30

I am an overachiever, I want it all...and I'm convinced I can have it all, but I've realized that its just going to take a bit of work.

What defines 'all'?  Well, at this moment, as I sit on my un-made bed writing this post surrounded by three baskets of unfolded laundry that I should be folding and putting away, 'all' is characterized by:
     - a nice, clean house, neatly organized with everything in its place, and a place for everything
     - enough 'me' time to do everything I want to do (like write this blog, for instance)

Being a full-time, 40+ hours a week 'Working Mother', means that time is limited and it is tough to get EVERYTHING done.  In an ideal world, I would come home from work, play with Roland, cook dinner, put him to bed and do ALL of the chores necessary to keep the house functioning just like Bree from 'Desperate Housewives' (wouldn't that be great?!?).  Laundry would be done every night and the house would be glistening as I ventured off to 'dream' land.  Like I said, 'ideal.' The reality is that with the limited time I have, some things can't be 100%...but I'm determined find a way to make things work.

A Nice, Clean House, Neatly Organized with Everything in Its Place and a Place for Everything
I actually reached out for help and hired a cleaning lady, Sandra to do the heavy cleaning once a month and I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND this to all Working Mothers!  With time being limited, why on earth would I want to spend quality time away from my family to clean the house? (Thanks for the recommendation, Sarah!!) The cost is minimal and there's nothing like coming home after a long day at work to a fresh lemon-scented house with glistening, mirrored hardwood floors and windows so clear, even a bird could mistakenly fly right through! They even move the furniture...no more dust bunnies behind the night-stand!

Recommendation #1: Cleaning Lady!

I also discovered the downfall to a messy house...laundry.  After Sandra came in March, I was determined to keep the house nice and orderly until her next visit in late April.  Every morning before work, I asked the Hubby to make the bed, while I started a load of laundry.  Then, when I came home from work, I folded the clothes in the dryer and put them away.  The wet clothes from the washer went into the dryer and I started the cycle all over again.  It was AMAZING that something so simple and quick (do you know it takes less than 10 minutes to fold laundry and put it away?!) could help keep the house so orderly!  Of course, doing laundry every day means that the loads are smaller and hence takes less time to put away.  


We decided to travel back to Western PA for an Easter visit and upon our return, the house has yet to return to normal.  I have three baskets to be put away, two suitcases waiting to be emptied...and everything else just seems to be out of order.  All because the Laundry Monster has returned, but not for long!

Recommendation #2: Make your bed daily!
Making your bed is so simple and it gives the appearance that you've done more than you actually have!

Recommendation #3: Make an effort to do one (1) cycle of laundry daily!

I'll let you know when the Laundry Monster decides to leave...

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Soul Searching: What Defines You?

 2011-04-19

Since the time I was a little girl playing dress up with my baby-dolls, I knew one thing in life was certain: I was going to be a mother.  Growing up, I was not focused on a particular career and ended up in my Bachelor's Program on a dare (thanks Roger!) 

Little did I know that for the past 8+ years, I had been training myself to be a career woman.  I’ve always considered myself an over-achiever and knew that was one characteristic that set me apart from others – for better or for worse.  For example, I graduated with my under-graduate degree in Applied Mathematics in three years, obtained an internship and a full time job all before I was 20 years old.  I was the ONLY person not able to socialize with my co-workers at the weekly happy hour.  Bored from nothing to do in the evenings, I decided to pursue my graduate degree while navigating different positions at my Company.  Within four years, I was selected for a rotational Leadership Program, completed my Master’s degree and started a PhD program and obtained a full time position as a first line manager of 40+ direct reports.  In addition to all of my studies, I spent A LOT of time volunteering in the community.  In 2008, I was awarded the President’s Volunteer Silver Service Award for donating 250+ hours in the community and began speaking at various events including the Society of Women Engineer’s National Conference.

Why is all of this important?  Well, my goal in life was to be a mother.  Everything else was just a ‘filler’ until it was time to begin that phase of my life. I was actually quite convinced of that, even upon my return from maternity leave.  

I returned to work, still committed to doing my job and doing it well, but with a different focus.  I was a mother.  I was going to start at 8:00, leave promptly at 4:30 logging my 8 hours for the day with a half hour lunch break.  My family was first and I had intended in staying in my current role as a first line manager for as long as possible.  I was not interested in moving on in my career or moving up.  I wanted something familiar, something consistent. 

Well, two things happened that made me realize I was delusional in thinking that I could just STOP being an 'overachiever'.

My responsibility at work, in addition to managing the employees, was to manage our budget for the department.  With the recent focus on affordability, our Director was interested in a proposal of potential budget cuts to make the organization 'lean'.  My manager called me on a Thursday to ask if I could work the drill.  Originally, I would have jumped on the assignment, proposing a detailed report within a day (of course, I would have worked longer than normal hours to complete the assignment.)  Instead, I decided to put the 'Mom First, Career Second' focused foot forward, 'Sure, I can have that to you by next Thursday.'  That wasn't sufficient.  Tuesday?  Nope.  We were to review internally Monday which meant that I HAD to work on the tasking over the weekend.  I jumped in, worked all day Friday, Friday night after I put Roland to bed, and Saturday morning and had a draft to them to review by Saturday afternoon.  My first attempt to be 'Mom First, Career Second' failed.  

The second instance occurred three weeks after I returned from maternity leave.  As I mentioned earlier, I was not interested in moving on or moving up.  I wanted to stay in my job for a while.  One afternoon, I ran into one of my rotation managers from the Leadership Program.  He informed me that his program manager responsible for research and development (R&D), strategic planning and white space decided to take another job within the company and was transitioning in two weeks.  On top of that, they just received a contract for R&D work and he didn't have anyone to lead the effort.  Without thinking, I blurted out "I would LOVE that job!" At that moment, a huge internal struggle erupted inside of me...what was I doing?  On one hand, I wanted consistency.  I didn't want to go through a huge learning curve, I was happy where I was and couldn't handle another transition so soon.  On the other hand, this was my dream job, one with tremendous growth potential.  I also felt guilty returning from maternity leave and immediately transitioning to another role.  My employees were counting on me.  In the end, I decided to take the advice that we so often give our employees, "When opportunity knocks, answer the door!"  Within a month, I transitioned into the Program Manager role.  

In both cases, I realized that I cannot just give up my drive, motivation and desire for success at work....it defines who I am as a person.  In every aspect of life, I set stretch goals for myself to prove that I cannot only do a task, but do it well.  Being a super Mother and Wife AND having a career is possible and I am DETERMINED to make it work!  You just need to work WITH yourself instead of trying to change what defines YOU! 

WORKING MOTHERS: HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE TRANSITION BACK TO WORK? WERE YOU PRESENTED WITH A SIMILAR INTERNAL STRUGGLE? 

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Guilty

 2011-04-17

Guilty, guilty, guilty...that's how I felt about having to be a working mom.  I was absolutely beside myself that I couldn't enjoy the daily interactions with Roland and was frustrated at the thought of someone else raising him. I do admit, guilt was very prevalent for the first year of life.  After much research, I soon came to realize that feeling guilty is a common feeling among new working moms.  Phew! 


Looking back, I remember the first time I felt the guilt.  After three months of PJs, no make up, and spit-up I was slightly excited about returning to work.  If nothing else, I had a reason to 'look pretty.'  Roland got up at 4:30 am for his morning feeding and after I put him back to sleep, I decided that I might as well shower and get ready for the big day.  

I had been off for 12 weeks with Roland and thanks to the New Jersey Family Leave Act, Hubby was able to take two weeks off to help me transition back to work.   After reviewing his schedule about four times, I kissed both Roland's goodbye and walked out the door.  "I did it! I did it! I made my first step without shedding a tear!" I remember thinking.  I was so proud of NOT crying that I called my Dad to share the news.  I heard my Dad's voice and completely broke down in tears...so much for that!


I came home at lunch for the first two weeks to help Roland with the transition of being apart...truthfully, I'm not sure if it was for him, or for me.  He was my little buddy. I had been with him every single day for 9 months in the womb and 3 months in the world.  So yes, perhaps it was more for me, perhaps I was the one who had separation anxiety.



My first day was complete! I successfully made the transition as a full-time working mother!  It was exhausting however... my sister snapped the picture below after my first day back to work.  I was mentally and physically exhausted...and Hubby was exhausted from being 'Mr. Mom!'


Almost a year has passed, and the guilt has subsided.  Either I'm doing a good job of ignoring the guilt, or I've learned to cope.  I was feeding Roland breakfast last weekend and I asked if he wanted more or if he was done.  He put his two hands together and signed 'more'.  Who taught him that?  His daycare - The Goddard School.  I was tickled pink...and I realized, no one else is raising him, they are just enhancing his learning! 

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It IS Possible: Working and Breastfeeding

On April 18th, Hubby and I decided it was time to introduce a bottle to Roland.  I had been exclusively breastfeeding up to that point.  Knowing that I would eventually return to work in a few months, coupled with the fact that it can be difficult to transition a baby from breast to bottle, we decided it was the right time to do so to ease the transition.  

At first, I had high expectations.  Hubby could help with the feedings and bond with Roland while I was able to give up a feeding and sleep for a little longer than a 2-3 hour time period.  That was my original thought and one thing I've learned - your feelings and emotions can change in an instant.  


We originally decided to breastfeed Roland based on the health benefits and (I'm not going to lie) the cost savings.  To help prepare, I went to a breastfeeding class offered by our hospital and at the start of the class, the instructor went around the room asking why we decided to breastfeed: 99% of the expecting mothers said they were breastfeeding to "bond" with their child. 'Bond with their child'??? What is that?  Seriously, these people are way too into it.' I thought.

The moment I handed over Roland to Hubby to give the first bottle, I suddenly realized that those 'crazy expecting moms' were right.  I felt helpless.  That was my job, my role, my responsibility and our bonding time.


If I didn't have to work, this wouldn't be a problem (enter GUILT - first appearance, but definitely not the last).   But I didn't have a choice: I had to work, Roland had to learn to take a bottle, and this was the best way to ensure that we were well equipped on his first day of Daycare. 

I was able to make the transition to a 'Working Mother' while supporting Roland on breast milk his first 5 months of life (3 months breastfeeding on maternity leave, 2 months breastfeeding at work).  I would have continued as long as possible, but I was diagnosed with Postpartum Thyroidits (look for an upcoming blog topic on this).  So how did I manage to make the transition as a 'Breastfeeding Working Mother'?  Here's how: 

1. Plan, Plan, Plan
One of my favorite quotes reads "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." and I was determined not to fail. Before I started back to work, I set some time aside to write down my daily breastfeeding schedule.  I knew that I needed to pump 3 times a day, at a minimum, to sustain my current supply.  My first day back to work, I set up a private recurring meeting notice on my calendar for 9:00-9:30, 12:00-12:30 and 3:00-3:30.  Thankfully, I had an office so I didn't have to go to medical to pump.

I also made sure that I had enough supplies/breastfeeding equipment to ensure that I didn't have to clean the storage containers daily.  If I had a rough day, they could go in the dishwasher and I'd be prepared for the next day with my extra set of supplies.  I used the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Pump and would highly recommend it! 

2. Communication
Prior to my first day back, I called my manager to discuss a variety of different topics, including my schedule.  I informed him that I was breastfeeding and wanted to sustain it as long as possible.  He was very supportive and had no issues with the plan that I had proposed.

At the time, I was a co-manager for 60+ employees.  I informed the other manager as well as my admin (Nancy) of the planned schedule (9:00, 12:00, 3:00).  They were both very supportive and worked with me to coordinate meeting attendance, etc during those two months. 

3. Stick to Your Plan  
There were times when I was requested to go to high profile meetings during my scheduled pumps and times when I contemplated skipping one due to my workload.  That brief moment of GUILT for even thinking such a thought forced me right back on target.  (It also helped that I had Nancy keep me on track, too!! Thanks Nancy!!)

Inevitably, my supply did decrease due to the transition; within three weeks of returning to work, I was down to pumping twice a day, rather than three times.  But nonetheless, I survived.  I was a full-time working mother who was committed to breastfeeding, and proud of it!

I'd love to hear about how you made the transition and any tips/tricks you used along the way!! 




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Welcome to 'The Diary of a Working Mother'

 2011-04-11

Mother, Wife, Daughter, CEO (of the house, of course!), Sister, Leader, Employee, Volunteer, Mentor…sound familiar?  Chances are, the titles above describe a fraction of the actual roles you hold in your life and the number of times your brain switches from one role to the next throughout the day (let alone a minute) is endless.  

On March 24, 2010 at 4:36 am, I continued my journey with a new and added purpose: Motherhood. The first three months were wonderful.  Yes, they were filled with sleepless nights, constant wonder of “Am I doing this right?” and less than desirable communication techniques.  All common struggles among first time parents.  




However, on June 28, 2010, I realized that I was faced with a new struggle as I transitioned back to work as a full-time working mother.  I wasn’t able to focus all of my energy on my little bundle of joy.  Somehow, for those three months, I was able to escape the reality of cooking, cleaning, laundry (thanks to my Hubby) and focus on little Roland.  On June 28th, it was back to life, as I once knew, only with a HUGE added responsibility.

The past year has been nothing shy of a top-ranked, emotional theme park roller coaster ride.  You can say I’m on the runway, as I’ve just barely started my journey as a full-time Working Mother.  Looking back at my pregnancy, I realized that in the numerous books I’ve read to help prepare me on my journey, not one provided any advice, shared any insight or provide guidance on how to cope with the emotional ups and downs, tug-of-war and guilt (at least that’s the primary feeling I experienced in the first year) you experience as a Working Mother. 

To caveat, I am not a licensed psychologist or child development expert.  The information that I hope to share with you is solely based on my experience and the “Aha!” moments and lessons learned along the way is my attempt to help inform my fellow Working Mothers (or to-be-working mothers) of slight modifications that can be made to your everyday life to help manage the territory that comes with being a Working Mother.  

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