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Friday, July 3, 2015

Seeking Inspiration at #BlogHer15

In just under two weeks, I'll be in New York City, attending my fourth blogging conference and third BlogHer. My train ticket is bought, new business cards are on their way, and I think I'll come up with some version of an outfit plan in the next few days (what to wear is a big deal with this group). I know I'll be attending the Voices of the Year reception, the highlight of the conference for me, and I'll be stopping by the Listen To Your Mother open mic afterward. I'm even a bit excited for the closing party with Boyz II Men.

But I'm absolutely aimless when it comes to the rest of the agenda.

Don't get me wrong; I'm sure there are many things I could learn to improve my blog, but I'm not totally sure this old dog wants to learn any new tricks. I don't monetize, I'm not trying to win at Instagram, I doubt I'll be the one to come up with some bit of hashtag activism. If I haven't found my online voice after eight years of writing here, it's unlikely to come to me while attending a session. So why go?

I go for the inspiration. Each conference I've attended has brought something new and dynamic into my life. At Springboard in 2012, I conceived and developed The Having It All Project, a series of 50 interviews that took me through all of 2013. At BlogHer13 in Chicago, I got the courage to apply to bring Listen To Your Mother to Boston. 2014's BlogHer in San Jose led me to pitch my writing to BlogHer itself and a couple of paid opportunities there, plus it solidified a tribe of like-minded writers and friends.

I know I need a new project. These last few months I've felt aimless, despite everything keeping me busy with work, the kids and the house renovation. I know I need something new, but I haven't figured out what it is just yet. So maybe I'll find it in the halls of midtown Hilton. Maybe in a conversation with someone new. Maybe in a quiet moment where I have the time and space away from work, the kids and the house. Maybe in the throng of one of the biggest, most diverse communities where I've come to feel at home.

So bring it, BlogHer15. I'm ready.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Half Life

Copley Square, one recent morning.
Today, exactly half my life ago, according to Microsoft Excel's day count function, I moved in to my freshman year dorm room in the suburbs of Boston. So now I've officially lived in Boston for longer than I lived in Cleveland.

I remember being in the car with my Mom when she observed that it was some anniversary she held with my Dad, and her remark that she had known my Dad for longer than she hadn't. At the time, I couldn't really imagine having an anniversary like that of my own. But I did realize this "half of my life" one was getting close a couple of years ago, and I've been waiting for it since then.

I remember my carefully selected outfit for my first day of college. It included a "Planet Hollywood" shirt that no one would be caught dead wearing today. Back then, I said "pop" instead of "soda," "freeway" instead of "highway," I mispronounced the names of most of the local towns and I never said "wicked." I don't say wicked often now either, but I think I have a bit more authenticity when I do, especially more than I did when coming home for winter vacation that first year.

I've always hated when people ask me if I'm rooting for the Cleveland Indians or the Boston Red Sox (the answer is likely neither, unless it affects my commute). Tourists always seem to seek me out at the train station for directions, ending their ask with "you're not from here, are you?" as though someone from Boston would never have been as helpful. But when my town was hurt, there was no doubt where my allegiances resided.

It's not a huge accomplishment, just living somewhere for a long time. As an adult though, we don't get to hit too many milestones anymore. So here's to half my life, Boston. I'm still happy to be here.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Blessing for Sara


I've been in San Francisco this weekend, by myself. Hannah is now at overnight camp for the next seven weeks (more on that in a future post, I'm sure). Max spent a few days in CT with my in-laws, and Marc later joined them there. 

I'm here, along with my parents, to meet Sara, my brother and sister-in-law's first child. Today we are all taking part in a blessing ceremony for her, and Allison and Ryan have asked me to be Sara's godmother. I've never had that role before, and I've been thinking a lot about what I would most wish for Sara at this auspicious moment. 

There are many old jokes along a similar refrain: two Jewish people, three opinions. But behind the joke is a serious thought: we are encouraged, at all levels and at every age, to question, question hard, the world around us and what we are supposed to believe. Nothing should be taken at face value. We are instructed to learn, to research, to develop our own beliefs and opinions and find the things that bring meaning to our lives. And then once we have found those things and our purpose, we should use our voices to tell stories and to bring about change, to improve our world. 

So my blessing for Sara, my prayer is that she will grow and learn and share her voice and who she is with the world. I may be 3,000 miles away most days, but I hope that some day she'll be loud enough for me to hear her, wherever she is. 

In the meantime, Sara, just work on the growing piece. And maybe sleep through the night once in a while. 

My first selfie with Sara. The first is always the best, right?

Oh, no! Don't yawn now! It's picture time. 

Well, you might not like it much in this moment, but know that I love you. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Kid is Alright


Today is Hannah's last day of after school care. Her last day ever of needing daycare, as far as I can  see.

After entering family daycare at 12 weeks old, she received full-time care, first by a loving, caring and dedicated family, then in three daycare centers as we moved and things changed. In kindergarten, she began the after school program at her elementary school. The first month of school was all half days, and aftercare filled in the rest. Then she had two full and three half days from there. In first grade, she attended five days a week from 3 pm on. 

In second grade, because we added in religious school, she began attending on only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, which she has done for third, fourth and fifth grade too. I've handled Tuesday afternoons while working from home, and Marc worked from home on the random Thursday afternoons off that she also had. (And a special shout out to our friends the Pellers, who have brought Hannah home with them most Thursdays and took her to Hebrew school; we're so grateful to have you in our lives!). 

And now she's done. 

Now I know she's my kid, so of course I'm biased, but I think she's awesome. She has great friends, does well in school, has a close relationship with her family, and a good head on her shoulders. While I'd like to take all of the credit for that, I know that I've had the assistance of many fabulous caregivers and teachers along the way that have helped shape and guide her too. 

I also know how lucky we've been, and how privileged we are. I've read the daycare horror stories and I know this isn't what everyone's experience is like. But as a young working mom, I held out hope that she would be okay, and she really has been just fine. I only have a sample size of two, but so far, Max has been just fine too.

She's moving on to middle school, where she'll have options for how she gets home and what she does after school. I'll be thankful for cell phones and I know we'll be checking in a lot. I'm excited for this next step, and am truly grateful we've made it this far.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Status Update: Overwhelmed, But In a Good Way

I made up a new word at dinner a few weeks ago. Defleated. It's a combination of deflated, depleted and defeated, and it's aptly summed up the recent period for me. I have had so much going on that there hasn't been enough of me left for blogging, which always makes me a bit crazy (or "cray" as Hannah would say). So here's a random update post to catch you up.

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My most exciting writing outside of here at BSB was having my LTYM piece published over at The Mid. It's called "The Geology of Motherhood," and I really hope you'll click over and give it a read. It's still incredibly validating to see my words published elsewhere, and exciting to receive a bit of money for them too. I love the fact that something I came up with completely on my own is resonant enough that more people get to read it and connect with it. Here at BSB, I recently passed 200K pageviews, which is pretty cool too. A good portion of them are probably robots though, but if you're not a robot and have been reading along, thank you. So many personal bloggers seem to be quitting lately (or taking an extended break for summer), and I'm always bummed to see that, because I love reading blogs almost as much as I love writing my own (maybe more, since I read everyday, and only write very so often). So I appreciate you sticking with me if you're here, and if you're a blogger, maybe I'll see you next month at BlogHer15? I'll be looking for the other non-sponsored types to have a "what the hell are we doing here" breakdown with me.

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If you follow me on Instagram (why not start now?) you've been seeing my almost daily updates on the main disruption delight happening all around me right now: the renovation to our house. I keep wanting to write a post on it, titled "Renovate Me, Baby" but this will have to do. We're adding a two story addition on the back of the house, which included a new foundation for that section. The main goal is to add bathrooms to the single one we have now, and so we're adding a half bath on the first floor and a master bath on the second. Hannah is moving into our current master bedroom when she gets home from camp later this summer, and Marc and I will be getting a new room with a walk-in closet. We're also moving the laundry to the first floor from the basement, replacing lots of windows, and putting in a new heating and cooling system (shout out to my window AC unit that is serving me well for the SIXTEENTH summer--that is, if it ever gets warm again here). It's a huge project, we're currently six weeks into it, and no, I don't know when it'll end. Our team has been working very fast, I think, and we're really thrilled with everything so far. But it's disruptive and time-consuming and I feel like I'm playing human Tetris as we try to reconfigure all of the stuff in our house into the remaining spaces. It's all an amazing wonderful thing though, and I know we're going to fall in love with our house all over again when it's done. Here's how things look right now:

Did I mention my window seat? I'm so going to blog from that window seat.
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We've started to do more to plan Hannah's bat mitzvah, which is about 18 months away now. I'm already overwhelmed thinking about it, though not about all of the specific aspects of that day itself. I get the "I can't believe we're here already" overwhelm. She's finishing elementary school later this month, going to middle school in the fall. She's done with our synagogue's version of Hebrew school. She's going to read from the Torah for the first time at family services soon. She's acting in another play this weekend and she's on Pinterest and she's got braces and her social calendar reflects how in demand she is. And she's awesome--though she'd probably tell me I can ditch the punctuation here, because it's all too formal for her, before she texts you "gtg" (that's "got to go" for the uninitiated). I'm not usually the "my baby" type, but it's hitting me hard lately, and I don't know how I'll hold back the tears when the 5th grade sings "Don't Stop Believin'" at their concert next week.

Hannah and me before "Pitch Perfect 2"

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Fortunately, Max is still very much a seven year old boy. He's growing by leaps and bounds, but I still know so much of what is to come for him. Though I didn't expect this new style of dressing he's rocking these days, with an open-front button-down short-sleeved shirt on top of his t-shirt, accompanied by his fedora. He was very excited to have Hannah and me attend his end of the year French class play, in which he played a pirate searching for treasure and candy, but all in French. Thankfully the acting was so good that I could understand it without subtitles. ;) He continues to work on his beat-boxing as well, especially with an after school teacher who has taught him some more specific techniques, including how to "solo," meaning making sounds from three different instruments in a pattern. And he's looking forward to this year's Color Day at school, since last year he had a broken wrist at the time. He's had a great year, and I'm excited to start spending Tuesday afternoons with him next year.

Max at the bus stop, wearing a vintage Red Sox shirt to boot.

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I have a new niece! My brother Ryan and sister-in-law Allison welcomed Sara Gloria to the world at the end of May. She's completely adorable and I've fallen in love over FaceTime. I'm going out there to meet her at the end of June, and I can't wait to meet her in person.

Welcome to the world, Sara!

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My post-LASIK eyes are doing really well. I went back to the doctor just this morning, and I'm seeing well and still can't quite get over how wonderful it is to see without glasses or contacts. Even the simple act of reading a book at the end of the day is easier. The doctor said I might not need reading glasses until I'm 50, so I'm recording that here for posterity and hoping it really stays that way.

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I'm still really liking clothing rental service Gwynnie Bee. I'm in no way compensated by them, so this isn't a plug, it's just me telling you about something I've enjoyed. I get new clothes just about weekly, since I'm pretty good about sending back things quickly if I don't like them or they don't fit. I've bought a couple things, and have worn others once or twice before sending them back. But mostly, I don't seem to hanker to shop as much. Adding things to my virtual closet is enough, and I don't seem to spend as much time shopping online (and therefore, less buying too!). Wanna try it out? Click on this to get started.

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Phew. I feel like we're caught up now. How have you been? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: Lose The Cape - Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive


Disclosure: I received a free advance copy of the book to review here on the blog, but all opinions are my own.

It turns out I'm not the only one obsessed with how working parents are having it all; my online friend and new author Kerry Rivera is too, and we met when I appeared on the Her Juggle series on Kerry's blog, Breadwinning Mama. So when this working mother of three managed to write a book on top of everything else, I was seriously impressed and happy to review it here at Busy Since Birth.

Along with Alexa Bigwarfe, Kerry has written Lose The Cape - Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive, which is available now on Amazon. The book is filled with lots of advice and practical solutions for working moms, with a healthy dose of "this isn't right for every family, but maybe something here will work for you."

They discuss so much, from recognizing the signs of spousal burnout to how to find your mom squad to keeping bedtime routines manageable. There's a special section for new moms and another for single moms. They also cover my friend Liz's concept of invisible tasks, and suggest actually writing them down so they can be shared. What a revolutionary idea, huh?

While the book has its repetitive moments, they often serve to stress how difficult a lot of the tasks of parenting are, and they help to remind moms that they shouldn't feel alone.

It's exhausting trying to be Super Mom. So how about we all join Kerry and Alexa and try to lose the cape? 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Doing a "Big Job" With Kids

Earlier this month there were a couple of articles in The New York Times on how parents with "big jobs" manage to put in all of those hours and occasionally see their kids (the Motherlode blog takes it on here). Supposed 80 hour work weeks (with no kid responsibilities), in careers such as "investment banking, consulting and law," are long-professed to be standard in those fields, and I have no doubt that is the case for many people. I just don't seem to know them.

I think, technically, my job would be considered to be a fairly "big job," if not an official big job. I work as a product manager at an investment firm, working closely alongside the portfolio managers and several other departments to help those that invest with us in many different ways. It's a demanding job, and my days are usually very full. Email really helps us keep up with a global clientele, and if I'm checking my personal email account, I'm always checking my business account too.

But that's just the same at work--if I'm checking my work account, I'm often checking my personal account too. I recently did a presentation to 150 people, and the first email I saw after removing my lapel microphone was that Max had forgotten his lunch on an early release day (when no cafeteria options were available). The lines between my work life and my personal life are definitely blurry, but from my view, everyone in my life benefits that way. That's what the article generally revealed as well, that "if you have control of your calendar, you can work solid hours, and still score kid time."

I recognize how lucky I am to have that kind of control over my time, but as I have come to see the inflexibility involved in public school scheduling, I realize that so many parents have to have some measure of control just to make it all work. You can't bend the school bus schedule to your will just because you'd like it to be that way; somehow, parents are making a lot of things work.

For an article that had me nodding along for most of the way, however, the last sentence struck me as off. Here it is:

"But in some circumstances, if you’re hoping to keep that job and advance, excelling at work without drawing attention to your also-excellent life may be the best way to live to fight another day."

An also-excellent life? Being a parent and the responsibilities required aren't always "excellent." Having a work-life that allows me to take my sick kid to the pediatrician? Or the other one to an orthodontist appointment? Or to get treatment for a child with special needs, mental illness or addiction? Being a parent isn't just about attending the preschool Mother's Day tea time, although that is also a completely valid reason for needing some flexibility too. And further, the idea that if we want to advance, we should also have to shut up about our lives and needs outside of the office? That's a really outdated model, and surprising to hear touted as a solution to anything. It doesn't work for me, it wouldn't work for my employer, and it shouldn't work for any of us.

The quality of the work we do, and whether or not advancing is something we actually want, should be the sole determining factors in whether or not we can advance our careers. Needing to meet the responsibilities we hold as parents shouldn't mean we aren't capable of taking on "the big jobs." If it does, then frankly, many who have held those jobs probably shouldn't have had them either. Or maybe we need fewer "big jobs" and a lot more "middle jobs" where no one has to work at such a breakneck pace.  Hiding your "involved parent" status shouldn't make you more eligible for a promotion. People who are skilled at managing the needs of their jobs while simultaneously not making detrimental sacrifices to their family life should be just as suited to succeed.

What do you think? Do you have a "big job?" How do you manage it?