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Work Life Balance

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But Not Today…

I added an additional item to my to-do list over the past few weeks because being a Mom of 2 1/2 year old twins while working full-time, and blogging wasn’t enough for me.  I am actively looking for a new job.  After a slow start, I’ve,  fortunately had an influx of calls lately and I’ve been setting up numerous interviews.  Although this is truly a blessing, it definitely adds some stress  to my life as well.

This morning I woke up, called my work’s weather alert line and discovered that, like many other companies here in the northeast, my work was closed for the day due to the impending blizzard.

After putting down the phone, for a split second, I thought about going back to sleep.  My daughter was happily sleeping diagonally across her full sized bed and my son was draped across my spot in my own bed next to my sleeping husband.  My only option for getting some extra Z’s was heading over to my son’s bed.  I took two steps towards his room and stopped suddenly.  I looked around me and really took in the fact that I was in a very dark – it was 5:00am – and a very quiet – everyone else was still sound asleep – house.  It was a peaceful quiet that I wanted to soak in rather than sleep away.  I decided to make use of these extra few golden minutes before inevitably hearing one of my children shout “Mama” letting me know they were awake and ready to party.

I sat down at my PC and continued, completed, and submitted another online job application. Then, I began to think of all of the things that were on my plate for tomorrow.  Nerves, insecurities, and anxieties began to creep in. I let out a huge sigh but immediately afterward the words: “but not today” came into my head.

The power of those three words really resonated with me.  By worrying about the many things that I had to accomplish tomorrow, I had completely lost today.  It was 5:15am and before uttering those three simple words – “but not today” – I had completely lost a full day of everything in this world that means anything to me.

I was grateful that those words suddenly came to me because at that point, a sense of calm filled every inch of me from head to toe.  My whole demeanor changed.  I began to embrace today because today is a snow day. Today is a day that I get to spend with my husband and children all warm, cozy, and safe in our home.  I owe myself and my family the opportunity to have me completely present today and I can be present because I have no additional obligations on my plate today which is a gift.  Life is hard. It’s nonstop.  We have to take those gifts as they come and not waste them because we are worrying about what we have to do tomorrow.

So, I am proud to say that I lived today.  I played with play doh, I played board games, I read books, I sang songs, I gave extra hugs, extra kisses, and I smiled beautifully all day long.   It was only after I tucked my children into bed that I wrote some thank you notes to companies that I interviewed with and composed the rest of this blog post.  Truth be told – I started it on my iPhone during an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

I hope on days when worry over some future event overtakes you, that you remember those three little words:  “But Not Today.”  Because we owe it to ourselves to enjoy the good times that we are blessed with and not let worrying about tomorrow rob us of experiencing the gifts of today.

Mommy Guilt of A Different Color

We all have Mommy guilt whether we are working Moms or stay at home Moms. Most of this guilt, we bring upon ourselves and it stems from our unconditional love for our children.

However, I am not here to talk about that kind of Mommy guilt. That kind of Mommy guilt, in a way, can almost be worn as a badge of honor because ultimately the guilt we feel comes from a good place – a place of love; a place of devotion.  This guilt occurs because we, as Moms, want to do more for our children but we only have so much time, so much money, and so much energy to do so.  Outside factors, beyond our control, contribute and cause this kind of Mom guilt.

But this different kind of Mommy guilt that I am referring to is the guilt that we may feel at the end of the day after we tuck our babies into bed. Working Moms attempt to meet unattainable expectations both at work and at home.   More often than not we are the rope in a nonstop game of tug of war as our work lives and our home lives pull at us in completely opposite directions.  We never actually win at this game but just play hard enough to stay in it somehow.

I’ve heard stay at home moms say that day after day of caring for their kids with little to no adult interaction while wearing sweats and having messy hair makes them feel isolated and alone;  almost forgetting the women that they once were.

Working Moms often count the minutes until it’s time to go home, yet when we finally get there, we have a laundry list to get through – that may or may not include laundry.  Who am I kidding?  It always includes laundry!  We have to make dinner, feed our children, give them baths, and get them ready for bed; making the strongest of attempts to fit into two hours all of the love and hugs that we weren’t able to give them during the day.

But during our nightly chores, there’s a part of us looking at the clock and thinking… just a half hour left until bedtime.  And as that thought comes into our head, we smile to ourselves and feel a sense of relief, which helps us to push ourselves to finish our unending list of chores. I know stay at home moms must do the same; craving a couple hours of freedom each evening before passing out from utter exhaustion.

As I sit watching my children drift off into dreamland I feel a sense of accomplishment that I’ve made it through another day and a sense of gratitude that I’m about to get my coveted “me” time. Then, that different type of Mommy guilt that I mentioned earlier begins to creep in.  How can I be excited to be getting time to myself when there is nowhere I’d rather be than with my kids?  Am I living only for this downtime?  Am I wishing their childhood away?  Am I missing it all by just going through the motions?  Am I a bad Mother?  And as a working Mom who just spent the day away from her kids, how can I be craving time away from them?  This is the guilt that eats away at us in a different way than the more noble kind of Mommy guilt.

The way that I get over this type of Mommy guilt is twofold. First, I realize that my kids know without a shadow of a doubt that they are my entire world; because they are. They never question that I want to be with them every second that I get. Second, I know that I’m a good Mom – no – I know that I’m a great Mom. But I’m only human and it is totally and completely exhausting to give 100% of yourself away – every single minute of every single day – up until that point that our kids fall asleep.

Whether it be to our company at work or our family at home, Moms are givers. And those couple of hours of downtime before we go to bed allow us to somehow keep our sanity and recharge; giving us the strength to be able do it all again the next day and the next day after that.  And yes, time does pass by quickly but if you are working hard for your family, loving your kids, and making sure they know you are there for them totally and completely, you aren’t missing anything. You are living and Mommying exactly how you should be. You are doing your best and your best turns good kids into good people which is our biggest goal in all of this.  At the end of the day, before you close your eyes, peel away the layers of the day that don’t truly matter – work, chores, frustration, exhaustion, etc. and what do you have?  If the answer is a grateful heart then you are living right and there is nothing to ever feel guilty about.

You Know You’re A Mom When…

  1. You stop yourself short of slicing the sandwich you just made for yourself into fours.
  2. You refer to yourself as Mommy and your husband as Daddy even when you’re kids aren’t in the room.
  3. You notice stains on your clothing throughout the day that you, yourself did not put there.
  4. You smell like syrup at 4pm in the afternoon and you weren’t even the one who ate pancakes.
  5. You don’t recognize one new song when you turn on the radio but you can sing every word of both the Sesame Street and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse theme songs.
  6. You drive a minivan.  Enough said.
  7. You’ve given 3 other people baths today but haven’t gotten to shower yourself.
  8. You cook food that no one else eats but you.
  9. You have snacks and backup snacks on your person 24/7.
  10. You are desensitized to poop, pee, puke, and snots.  Seriously.  Nothing really grosses you out anymore.
  11. You accept that Sponge Bob lives in a pineapple under the sea, Toodles can fix absolutely anything, puppies can be more than just K9 cops, and Elmo is the most intellectually gifted 3 year old on the planet.
  12. You drink coffee ALL DAY LONG. There isn’t a time of day that is “too late” to have coffee.  You actually contemplate having coffee late at night to avoid going to bed at all.
  13. You are tired 24/7 and want to kill anyone who does not have a small child who claims that they are tired.  Trust me.  You are not.
  14. You can do more with 15 extra minutes than most people can do in 2 hours.  Seriously, you are bionic.
  15. You pack a week’s worth of rations for a quick trip down the street.  You can never be too prepared.
  16. The phrase:  “I’m tired.  I’ll do it later” no longer applies to you.  Refer to #12 above.  Please note that the odds of being tired “later” are 100%. You only have the option of being more tired later, not less. You might as well do whatever “it” is now while you still have some strength left.

Resume Builders for the New Mom

Now that I am a mother I feel that I have some additional skills that should be added to my resume.  Feel free to add these gems to yours as well.

Resume Builders for the New Mom

  • Exceptional block builder; regularly builds towers exceeding 2 feet in height.
  • Extensive experience working 24 hours days and can perform any and all job functions on limited to no sleep
  • Can effectively use play dough maintaining excellent color separation; prevents blending of dough to undesirable brown color.
  • Convincing impressionist; Can alter voice to sound similar to Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Elmo, and Abby Cadabby; demonstrations upon request.
  • Can contort body in various matrix-like positions if it means not waking sleeping baby.
  • Effectively memorized all verses of “Wheels on the Bus” including a fabulous impression of a Mom saying “Shhh…shhh…shhh – seriously… I say this all day.
  • Mastered driving while children yell, cry, and throw things; can find almost any object in a diaper bag with hand while driving and give it to requesting child without taking eyes off road.
  • Can deliver any and all news – good or bad –  in a very soothing, calming voice.
  • Fluently interprets broken English.
  • Can complete jigsaw puzzles quickly often while simultaneously performing other activities such as meal preparation and waste management.
  • Memorized a series of books which include but are not limited to:  Good Night Moon, But Not the Hippopotamus,  The Cat In The Hat, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  • Can be ready for virtually anything at a moments notice (Can be dressed in 5 minutes from the moment of turning on the shower to the tying of my shoes if position requires)

I Am Entitled to My Own Pity Party

I’m not sure if I am the only one who does this.  Sometimes, more often than I’d like to admit, I feel bad for myself.  And immediately… and I’m talking seconds after these feelings creep in… I feel an insurmountable level of guilt about ever having had these feelings in the first place.

Then, I have an internal dialogue with myself where I tell myself that I do not deserve to feel badly for myself.  I tell myself that my life is amazing.  My children, my husband, my parents, and those that I love the most in this world are healthy and safe.  I am healthy and safe.  We don’t worry about where our next meal is coming from.  We have a nice home.  I really do not deserve, even for a second, to feel badly for myself.  There is nothing to feel bad about so suck it up and stop it…. RIGHT NOW!

This little pep talk that I have with myself, more often than not, gets me out of the momentary funk that I am in, and I table those feelings of self-pity typically for the remainder of the day.  But eventually these feelings return and I go through the above process again and again.  What I’ve realized recently is that we all have feelings for a reason and I am becoming a believer that the healthiest way to live is to not downplay your feelings but rather to embrace them.

It’s okay to feel bad for yourself sometimes.

Now, when I feel bad for myself instead of trying to deny the way that I’m feeling, I cry – if I need to.  I do.  Typically, I cry in the car on the way to work or on the way home.  The shower works too but my showers these days last a total of 3 minutes with my twins yelling MAMA!  MAMA!  at the door so … yeah… I cry when I’m alone in the car.

And during my Tear-A-Palooza, I tell myself that it’s okay to feel what I am feeling.  Instead of deflecting my feelings and feeling guilty, I take ownership of my feelings and embrace them.  Feeling bad for yourself does not make you a bad person.  It also does not undo the fact that the majority of the time you feel blessed, happy, and grateful for all that you have.

I know that I am blessed.  That is a fact.  And probably a good 80% of the time I am beyond grateful for the many blessings that I have in my life.  So the rest of the time I allow myself to feel a little negative – annoyed, tired, sad… you name it.  Because you know what?  I rock.  I totally do!  I, like so many women, handle a whole lot of crap day in and day out and I do it with a smile.

smsm2 I help to support my family financially; I run my house; I provide support and love to those around me, etc.  Every single day my kids are appropriately dressed, well fed, safe, happy, are learning, growing and laughing.  Go me!  Every day, I go to work and I get things accomplished.  I make a positive difference in my company and in the lives of my coworkers.  Um… go me again!  My kids ate on clean dishes today because I cooked something and ran and emptied the dishwasher.  My kids are playing on a clean floor today.  Did a fairy come to my house and clean it?  No.  Me again!  I cleaned it.  My kids are wearing clean clothes because I washed and dried several loads of laundry this week even though I didn’t want to.

Letting yourself feel bad gives allows you to battle back and results in a stronger you!
Letting yourself feel bad allows you to battle back and results in a stronger you!

So if I feel bad for myself for 15 minutes because at the end of the day I am exhausted, don’t have even a moment to myself, feel a little unappreciated, and cannot figure out how I am going to find the strength to do it all again tomorrow, then I am completely 100% entitled to feel exactly that way!    And you are too!

So embrace the bad feelings among all the good ones that you feel everyday.  Feeling bad does not undo the good.  Allowing yourself the ability to see your feelings through is healthy.  I am not a doctor but I am willing to bet that validating your sad feelings probably wards off depression.  So my advice is:  frown for a little bit in order to be better able to show off that beautiful smile of yours for the long-run!

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JOBromance

I have always felt that job searching and dating are very similar.  You put yourself out there on the open market and approach companies that interest you.  If you look good enough, the company will arrange a first date called an interview.  You make sure that you look your best, and even rehearse some of the things that you are going to say beforehand.

On the day of the interview, you wonder how early you should arrive.  You want to look interested, but not appear desperate.  You are a little nervous walking in.  You ask to see the hiring manager, who comes out, offers you a drink, and leads you to his office.  You sit down and he looks at you and starts off by saying:

“So, tell me a little bit about yourself” and concludes with, “We will be seeing other people over the next week or so and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can after that.”  In other words, right now we still want to see other people but we’ll let you know when we want to be exclusive.

As you wait to hear back, you wonder when you should follow up.  You can’t call too early but you can’t wait too long either.  The days pass as you sit by the phone.  Maybe you can just send a casual email… like… “Hey… Monday was really fun.  Just wondering if you had any additional questions for me and where you might be in the decision making process.”  Just remember to be cool.

And like any relationship, your JOBromance doesn’t end when you are hired, it merely evolves.  At the beginning, your boss and fellow colleagues are just psyched to have you around.

At the beginning, you get all the accolades!

Anything and everything you do is totally amazing and wholeheartedly appreciated.  This is probably due to the fact that your job had been vacant for a while before you were hired and stuff just wasn’t getting done or because the person who held the job before you was partially disgruntled and was only doing the bare minimum.

This is the best job ever!

Also, at the beginning you are in the learning stages of the position, so you are blameless for almost anything that you may do wrong.  If you make a mistake, your colleagues will say “oh that’s okay” and look at each other and exclaim “she’s new” while giving each other sympathetic nods.

Time passes and that honeymoon period is just a distant memory.  Now you can’t get by on just your good looks anymore.  You better be churning out some quality work by now because  colleague and supervisor expectations are at an all time high.  People are getting demanding and aren’t praising you or thanking you like they used to.

They are officially taking you and your relationship for granted.  The nice compensation package that you received at the beginning was your last “gift”of appreciation.  You even had a meeting yesterday where the CEO announced they are having a bad year and you might not get that merit increase or bonus you had been hoping for.

Whatcha you talkin' about, Boss?
Whatchu talkin’ bout, Boss?

Months and even years go by and you don’t remember the last time a co-worker actually thanked you for doing something or the last time that your boss recognized you for your hard work.  Most days you and your colleagues don’t even speak.  You just communicate with loud grunts, eye rolls, and sighs.  So there you are, at your desk, getting no respect, no raise, and no appreciation.  You begin to question if you should turn to someone else to find these things.  Right then and there you decide that enough is enough.  You are better than this.  You need to find something new.  You start your search, again putting yourself out there on the open market, and eventually you receive and accept another offer.

After accepting that new offer, you march confidently into work, look your boss straight in the eye and say “This just isn’t working out.  It really hasn’t been for a long time now.  We both know that.  So, I think it’s best if we part ways.  I won’t just up and leave you flat, though.  We have too much history.  I’ll move out over the next two weeks and tie up any loose ends.  Don’t feel too bad, though.  I know you’ll find someone else very soon.  It’s not you… it’s me.”

Never lose site of the fact that people are people and this does not change in a workplace setting.  A relationship from a romance, to a friendship, to a casual or work-acquaintance, is similar at its core.  People in relationships just want to be respected and appreciated at the end of the day.

The best relationships maintain the perfect balance of give and take between both parties.  It’s imperative for employees to appreciate the opportunities that are afforded to them and not take them for granted.  But at the same time, it is also equally important for firms to not lose sight of the fact that employees are company assets that need to be protected and appreciated because if they are not, someday they will walk out of your life… forever.