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Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Pledge to End Unnecessary Public Praise

Last week I had the privilege of attending part of The Boston Chapter of Hadassah's Salon Series, highlighting the work of inspiring women here in Boston. Cheryl Weiner of Moving Traditions spoke about the goals of their initiative, "Rosh Hodesh: It's a Girl Thing," which I wanted to hear more about as Hannah is approaching the age of participation. I knew the program aimed to turn young girls into leaders, but was surprised at how the conversation over the course of the evening veered into many of my favorite "having it all" topics. There was a quiz on a variety of women's issues, which I excelled on if I do say so myself, and Cheryl opened the eyes of each woman in the room to the importance of equipping the next generation of women to be even stronger than we are now.

And yet there was one moment of the night that stood out to me, so much so that I interrupted to share my frustration on the topic right then and there. In the middle of discussing how she juggled home and family life, a woman stopped herself to declare what a huge help her husband is and how thankful she is for all that he does. And who doesn't agree with that? I know how grateful I am for all that Marc does for our family, and try to express my gratitude directly to him as often as I can. But I also know I've made similar declarations to others as I've described how I try to juggle work and family life, about how Marc cooks most of our meals or is responsible for any number of tasks that make our lives function. Men do enough housework to have even carefully ranked how much a variety of household tasks, well, suck.

But here's the thing: I don't want to make those declarations anymore. If it can be assumed that I'm pulling my weight at home in the housework category, it should also be assumed that my partner is doing it too, and doesn't deserve a special public shout out for it. No one is touting my laundry folding and birthday party planning skills anywhere, and the only people thanking me for it are my own family. If we want to be valued just as highly as men, we need to stop giving them a special pat on the back for doing what is simply expected from us.

So I'm happy to have this blog, as forevermore I can point people here when I want to publicly thank Marc for all he does. And the next time I find myself wanting to say "I couldn't do it without him" to a friend or acquaintance, I'll be sure to tell Marc directly instead. Who's with me?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Are Jim and Pam "Having It All?"

It's been a while since I've watched "The Office" regularly, but this week's episode caught my attention when I heard that the "documentary film crew" was finally revealed after married characters Jim and Pam had an argument. You can watch the full episode, but here's a quick summary: Jim now works at a start-up in Philadelphia while Pam still works at Dunder Mifflin in Scranton. It's their daughter Cece's first ballet recital, and due to an emergency at work, Jim can't make it there. Pam promises to shoot a video, but gets an important call in the middle of the performance, and ends up not recording the performance. And then there's the argument:

(Edited to add: Gah! The original video I had here got pulled down. Here's a shorter clip.)

Putting aside the moment with the film crew and the doubts that portion of the scene obviously casts, I found the argument to be one of the most realistic portrayals of the tension between work and family life that I've seen on television. In two and a half minutes of dialogue, the following points get raised:
  • The moment is gone, and they don't have their own video of it. I understand the sadness that comes from missing out on one of those milestone firsts, and that with the ubiquity of recording devices these days, no one is filming to get the group, just their own kid. It's a double whammy of not being there for a first, and not having the proof that it even happened. An old dilemma wrapped up in today's technological trappings.
  • You should have been there. Not only is Jim physically farther away and dealing with an emergency, but it was one of his "days in Philly" that Pam "agreed to." Those are the toughest moments, when despite all of your plans, things don't fall out the way you expected and you're left a bit heartbroken. Jim had been helping his daughter practice and was looking forward to this day, and it's nice to see an involved Dad on TV, who wants to be in two places at once. But Pam also questions the "fairness" of the situation, and says it's been "intense" for her too.
  • He's "doing it all for his family" while she's "trying to make their home/family life all perfect so he can do what he wants." This might be the crux of the whole struggle. They're both trying to be successful for the same end goal of a happy, well cared for family, be that by providing the salary they need or the opportunities for their child to thrive and have a joyful childhood. And both of them are stressed out trying to do so.
Oh, and Pam was working late too, as her coworkers had all said good night to her just before this clip began - so who was doing daycare pick up? Chances are her character was trying to figure out just how late she could stay at work before she needed to race to get their child.

I don't have a solution to all this, but I'll be interested to see where the show goes from here. There are shades of the struggle and conflict that so many of us have experienced, and I hope they don't just gloss over these issues and focus only on the potential betrayal of Pam's relationship with a member of the crew. The only solution I've seen from my own experience is to talk it out, and find a way to cut each other a little more slack. If it was easy, we wouldn't be reading and writing about it. But I hope Jim and Pam keep on with the struggle. I've always thought they make a great couple.

Image and video are credit of NBC. Video was edited by YouTube user kriterr.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Having It All Project: Lynne Murphy

My neighbor Lynne is genuinely one of the nicest people I've had the pleasure of getting to know. And most of those getting-to-know-you sessions have occurred on the train as we commuted to our downtown offices together. Here's how Lynne is having it all.
 
Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.  
Well, I don't think of myself as unique but I suppose I have some interesting aspects to my life.  I was a very independent in my youth.  I had my own apartment for years, enjoyed going out with my friends and I switched jobs every time I was bored (which was fairly often).  I was not even sure that I ever wanted to get married.  I met Paul when I was 27 and by the time I was 30, I realized that I needed to strive for career and some stability.  Paul and I decided to travel to Europe for 4 months and then attend grad school.  We ended up in Boston, where I became employed as an attorney for Department of Children and Families, and we never returned to Conn.  After we were together for 8 years, I decided that marriage was not all that scary after all and we were married in a small ceremony in Rome (I was 35).  We continued to travel every year to a variety of countries (mostly Asia by that time).  When I turned 40, I started to consider children but by then I was older and didn't want to spend years in fertility treatments.  I was very impressed by the China adoption program and when we attended our first info session, I immediately knew that this was something that we were destined to do.  Adopting Eleanor was the most thrilling event in my life and our trip to China was more like a fairy tale.  She is just wonderful in every way and I am thrilled to make her the focal point in my life even though it is chaotic at times (she swims 3 days a week; takes dance once a week; piano once a week; Chinese school -- dance and language -- for 3 hours once a week; soccer once a week; and she just talked me into signing her up for gymnastics).  I just couldn't imagine my life without her.
 
What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos? 
I deal with my hectic schedule through organization.  I have a large monthly calendar at home with all of our appointments/activities and another one at work that includes deadlines so that I can see (often) what I am facing that month in a glance.  I also have a small calendar for weekly items that I carry with me and a chalk board in the kitchen for daily stuff.  I organize all of my dinner menus for that week in advance so I know what I am cooking and can get right to it when I get home after work.  If my organization fails and I find myself in chaos, I could easily become angry with myself -- so I try to keep in mind that I am doing the best that I can -- and that I need to enjoy these days because Eleanor will not stay young forever.   Or I simply yell at Paul for not helping me enough - LOL! 
 
Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it. 
The moments where I lose it tend to be connected to incidents that I cannot control.  When Eleanor was hospitalized at the age of 18 months for surgery to correct a reflux condition, I was under incredible stress.  I never felt anything like it.  At that time, I had many "talks" with myself -- that she would be fine, that freaking out wasn't helping anyone, etc. and I educated myself as much as possible about her condition.  Of course, she recovered completely and all was well -- but that incident showed me how stressful it is to have an ill child and how hard it can be for parents in such situations.   
 
Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you? 
I think my friends (Tom and Karen) are my role models.  Their two boys are grown up and out of college now but I always remember how much fun they had together as a family over the years.  They did everything with the boys and Karen at the age of 30 learned to ski even though she was petrified.  The boys could be a handful at times but Karen and Tom always seemed to be able to keep things in perspective.  Karen is easy going -- unlike me -- but I often think of how she would respond when I am starting to feel frustrated.
 
Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then? 
I am not sure I can remember back that far!  Seriously, at that age, I had no solid plans other than attending college.  I wasn't even sure I wanted to obtain a bachelor's degree -- never mind graduate from law school.  I never would have imagined that I would travel to so many interesting countries; that I would have a great job advocating for children as a lawyer; that I would be married in Rome to a wonderful guy or have a beautiful Chinese daughter who means the world to me.  If someone had told me that would be my future, I never would have believed them -- I really do feel at times that I am the luckiest of women.

Relate to what Lynne is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Are You Watching?

A lighter post here today on Busy Since Birth, on what I do when I'm not overly busy. Or maybe it's what I need to do because I am overly busy? Whatever. Yes, I admit it, my drug of choice is television.

How lucky we are to have so many programming choices, and DVRs that make them accessible when we're ready for them? After a long day, there isn't much I like more than getting to disappear into a show for an hour or two, focusing just on the worries and cares of those reflected on my screen. I'm also very loyal to my shows - there are few programs that I will start watching and not watch until they disappear from the air entirely (though I have to admit that I stopped watching all MTV programming around the time Hannah was born, even if some still consider The Real World to be as good as ever.). In the last month or so, two of my long term favorites, Gossip Girl and Private Practice, came to an end, with over-the-top weddings in both shows' finales, and I cried real tears for each. Yes, I'm a big believer in the cathartic cry that can result from television shows. Speaking of, are you watching Parenthood yet? Because I don't care who you are, but you should be.

And of course there's Downton Abbey, Glee, Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, The Mindy Project and The New Normal. I still get drawn in to The Bachelor too. And a few Bravo shows in rotation throughout the year. It's sad to admit it, but nothing that makes me think too hard, at least not with regularity. I want to laugh and be entertained (and within the lexicon of Bravo programming for sure, be a little above it all too).

What are you watching? Or what do you do to get your mind off things?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Interference

 He's a pretty angry guy...

The coworkers talking so much that you can't concentrate.

People walking through the crowded streets with no regard for their surroundings.

The children on the playground who are getting a bit too rough with each other.

I've been struggling with how to frame this topic for a couple of weeks now, and if I'm struggling with it this much, it probably means my readers are struggling with it too. And that topic is when, exactly, should you interfere?

I have a low tolerance level for annoyance, and I know it. But there are moments that transcend annoyance, and venture into concern for safety. Without getting into the specifics, I intervened on one of those moments recently, and it didn't end well. I tried to handle it calmly, but was left shaking and embarrassed. 

The experience has made me rethink my habits on jumping in to the fray. If there is a clear danger for someone I love, of course I'll still be the first person to step in. But for someone else? I'm not so sure. Others hesitate and avoid, move to the other side of the room. Yet I'm not sure I could do that either.

What about you? What makes you get involved? Or do you pretend not to see?

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Having It All Project: Liz Polay-Wettengel

I met Liz through a friend who was a coworker of hers (and since I know he'll read this, I'm waiting for him to agree to be part of this project too), when we had one of those all-too-rare fun lunches on a work day. We began following each other on Twitter and I love all of the insightful articles she posts. Though the majority of our friendship has been online, she's someone I can see getting to know a lot better in the years to come. Here's how Liz is having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I have a wonderful husband and two boys ages 6.5 and 17 months. We live in Salem, MA and my kids are growing up believing that any beach is about 5 minutes away and that Halloween lasts for the entire month of October. I spent much of my life working in the music business surrounded by tantrums and chaos. It prepared me well for motherhood. Now I create marketing and communications strategies for non-profits.

I have recently dedicated myself to eating better and getting regular exercise in my life. I would not be able to accomplish that without the support of my family. There have been many evenings where I have left my husband to put both boys to bed on his own while I went to the gym. I have lost 40 pounds so far and recently ran my first 5K with my sister and some friends and my family was there cheering us on at the finish line.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
Making sure that I get some “me” time. Pedicures, massage, sleeping in just for an hour longer than everyone else. I wouldn’t be able to do this without being married to someone who is a 100% parenting partner with me.


As far as coping while working full time outside of the home, I strongly believe that part of this juggling act has to do with asking for what you want from your employers. It is important to me to be there for my kids. To be able to volunteer at school every once in a while, to be able to get them when they are sick and for them to know I am there when they need me, but it does me no good to just complain that I work and cannot be there. These days, more and more employers have the tools to allow for workers to get work done remotely. Ask for what you need, whether that is partial telecommuting, adjusted hours or a four day work week you will never get it if you don’t have that conversation. This is a two way street, you have to be dedicated to making it work. Work hard and be just as loyal to your work as you are expecting your employer to be to you.


Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
The question is which to choose! Expect things to break down, expect things to go wrong, there are many times that they will.

We are a one car family by choice and there have been times where I need to work late or attend a meeting or event outside of typical work hours. One day I had an evening appointment, and I had the car. I had to get the kids, grab my husband from the train, drop them off and get to my meeting.
So of course, my tire blows out. I stood at the side of the road with no way to get the kids, or my husband. I had to figure out how to get the car to a place to be fixed AND I had a meeting.

This was literally a moment where it all broke down.

After a moment, I gathered my senses, called my future brother-in-law to help and got the kids and the husband. My meeting participants completely understood and we rescheduled. Towed the car to where it could be fixed first thing in the morning.

The lesson here is .. Breathe. Don’t panic. Take stock of what you need to do, be rational and think about how to solve your problem and you will get things worked out.

And maybe it’s time to buy a second car.

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
I have many role models for many parts of my life. These are the people I get advice from in order to achieve success. Whether that is success in business, in parenting or even with “balance”, I think that everyone should have role models. I think that each role model offers something different that I’d like to see in my life and I learn from that.

There really isn’t anything I tend to avoid. Different things work in different situations.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?
I’m not sure how I would have expected life after 40 to be when I was 18. I was pretty wild and was mostly wondering when my next concert was. I’ve always taken a “work hard for what you want and take it as it comes” approach to living my life. It has served me well. I have lived an exciting life so far, full of grand adventure, great love and beautiful children. Whether I expected this kind of life or not, I sure do feel lucky to have it.

Relate to what Liz is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

General Busy-ness: January 2013 and More

The end of December and start of January are always a busy time as we fill in school vacation and celebrate both kids birthdays. This year was no exception.

We spent about four days doing various projects around the house, and most importantly Marc painted and updated the accessories in our bathroom. All of this was done in preparation for a visit from my mom, who arrived on Christmas night. Since Hannah was home with us, we had three days of girl time: seeing Les Miserables (we all cried), going to the Museum of Fine Arts, and doing lots of shopping. I scored a new suit for work at a serious discount on one of our trips, and am excited to wear it soon. We really enjoyed having Grandma visit, and hope she comes back soon!

Marc and I enjoyed a night out with friends and the next day hosted brunch for some of Marc's friends from his hometown of Newington, CT. The old friends enjoyed being together while the kids had a blast playing Just Dance 4. We got a bit of rest in and then it was time for...

Birthdaypalooza 2013! Max really enjoyed finally celebrating his birthday, and took the whole "it's your day" concept very seriously. We had dinner at the Deluxe Station Diner and cake at home, and he was a very happy boy. Four days later, we celebrated Hannah's birthday, first with birthday Shabbat at synagogue, then with her party at Laser Quest, and finally with our traditional dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. She had a great time doing all of it. The following day was Max's party at Kid's Street, another great success, and a pizza dinner with Grandma Fillis and Grandpa John. Yesterday they also joined us to take Hannah shopping, and both kids ended up with very trendy fedoras...which they've both been wearing for 24 hours now. :) So another successful birthday season is complete, other than the thank you notes. I swear I'll get those done soon. Thanks for all of the wonderful gifts and wishes for both kids.

Work is back to being busy now that the new year has begun, and I'm getting used to our new schedule, even if I'm struggling with not being able to be everywhere at once. More on that soon, I promise. I still haven't figured out how I'm going to study for this licensing exam, but I need to fit that in now that the birthdays have passed.

Finally, I've seen a popular blog topic of not resolutions, but a word of the year for 2013. I've never been big on resolutions anyway, but I like the idea of choosing a word, and mine is going to be "more." I'm really happy with how many facets of my life are going right now - I think I'm doing pretty well as a wife, mother, analyst, blogger, and heck, even as an exerciser (the fact that I willingly do jumping jacks at Zumba still astounds me). So if anything, I want to do even "more" in all of those categories. Somehow, I was to expand in all of those areas in 2013, and I think I'm on track to do it.

So another busy month is on the books. What about you? How did you start the year? Do you have a word to focus on? I'd love for you to share it in the comments below!

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Having It All Project: James Kaplan

I met James on the sidelines of birthday parties that our younger children attended as classmates a few years ago. Our paths have kept crossing since, and let's face it, I'm a sucker for anyone with a blog. Here's how James is having it all. 

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
I am the father of two girls (ages 7 and 4), and am married to a wonderful woman who works part-time (by choice). I am an attorney working at a large law firm in Boston, in a senior non-partner track position. I came to this firm from a smaller firm in Boston, based on the appeal of working at a large firm, but with the opportunity to work in a position requiring fewer hours than a typical “partner track” associate. Having been in this position for more than 5 years, it has worked out well for me and my family, as I have been able to succeed professionally while still maintaining good quality of life. I’m home for dinner and bedtime with my kids almost every night, and while work does carry over into nights and weekends sometimes, the balance feels overall reasonable to me.


What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?

One step that’s really improved our family life recently, and helped me feel more in control of the busyness of our lives, is that my wife and I set up a shared Google calendar that goes directly to both of our smartphones. Previously, in what I’m sure is a gender stereotypical way, I used to defer a lot of scheduling to my wife, but that situation became untenable for us. Once I made it about technology and fiddling with my iPhone, it became easier, and empowering. I’ve taken it as a challenge to make sure the calendar reflects everything that’s going on in our daily lives.


My wife and I have also figured out that each of us needs to have time to ourselves to do the things that will help us feel fulfilled as individuals, and that being able to do these things for ourselves makes us better spouses and parents. For example, I’m a big fan of comic books and science fiction, and I’ve found that my weekly trips to the comic shop (and the enjoyment of reading those fantastical stories) really add to my quality of life. In the past I’ve also trained to run a marathon, and taken writing classes at Grub Street Writers in Boston.


I guess the point is, as you’re busy living your life and fulfilling your obligations as a spouse, a parent, a professional or otherwise, not to lose those things that are fun and enjoyable for you. In doing so, I’ve actually been able to share that enthusiasm with my kids, who now appreciate superheroes and Star Wars.

   
Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
When everyone is feeling fine, our lives work pretty well. However, if one or more of the kids get sick (or if I or my wife get sick), it feels like there’s not that much “give” in our life and things start to break down. My wife and I will take turns being with the kids when they're sick, and we try to pick up the slack for each other when we can. The tasks I’m mostly responsible for (dishes, laundry) can quickly pile up, and I can feel overwhelmed. Often “getting through it” means just muddling through the best we can, and things (like home repair and maintenance) sometimes fall by the wayside.

 
Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't work for you?
My wife is actually a role model for me this area.  She has for years tried to live her life in a balanced way, and I think it’s rubbed off on me!  I will also say that, growing up in my family, I learned that everyone needed to contribute to make the household function, and that’s a lesson I’ve carried forward with me.


Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to be then?

In a lot of ways, at least on the surface, my life is a lot like I would have imagined for myself at 18. I’m an attorney in Boston, we live in a nice community, I have a lovely wife, great kids, and I’m involved in my synagogue. But digging a little deeper, I think my 18-year old self might have been surprised by some of the choices I’ve made. When I came to my current firm, I made a decision that I was not going to try to be a partner, and so I took myself out of the traditional career trajectory and into something a little more unknown. The sense of balance I sought was something my 18-year old self might not have understood, but which is central to my life and my family now.

Relate to what James is saying? Leave him some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

So, this happened.

So the first interview for The Having It All Project went up on Friday, and while I was excited to see where it would go, I honestly wasn't expecting much. I thought it would take a while to gain some momentum, and see where the project would go. But I also figured it couldn't hurt to reach out to some of the sites I read most often, and well, promote it a bit. Kind of like tweeting a celebrity and asking for a shout on your birthday, right? But when I tweeted Anne-Marie Slaughter, of The Atlantic's "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" fame, I hardly expected these responses:

I nearly fell over reading that. It complete validated this crazy mission I'm on. And while Slaughter lauded it for being a resource for parents, I don't see this project as having such a limited scope. It's not just for parents. It's not just for people who are working. It's for anyone trying to find that elusive balance that we're all hoping to find. Maybe you're launching a business, or writing a book. Maybe you've moved to chase a dream. Maybe you're taking care of a sick relative or dealing with a chronic illness. Maybe you're starting over. Whatever it is, I hope to feature people with relatable stories. Maybe even your own.

I'd love for you to help spread the word. Come back each Friday for a new post, or use the handy subscription line on near the top right of the page to have posts delivered to your email.

In the past six months alone, Busy Since Birth has doubled in page views, which is really amazing considering the blog is already almost six years old. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Nine

Today, Hannah Ruth, you are turning nine.

You are so authentically nine. You are neon and sequins, bunny ears and (sometimes, not often) back talk. You are eye rolls at the silly and embarrassing things I say, and you are contemplative nods of agreement once you've assessed the situation. You have become the girl who writes in her journal while singing along to break up songs on the radio. You are long hair and super cool glasses.

You chose to watch "Fiddler on the Roof" with your family instead of a surfer movie with the rest of your friends. Your art was put on display numerous times. You were beyond excited for the second grade field trip to Chinatown. Your first piano recital was a duet of "Puff the Magic Dragon" with your Daddy. You cried over having to leave at the end of your first two weeks at Camp Yavneh (I cried at getting to see you come home). You appreciated the grand splendor of Radio City Music Hall. You narrated the story of lupines and sang about reason as an alien. From the sanctuary bimah, you led our congregation in a paragraph urging justice written by Anne Frank.

You now have school friends, after care friends, temple friends and camp friends. Your social calendar continues to be busier than mine (though how lucky am I to have made so many friends just because you exist?). You care beyond measure for your family, and are incredibly patient with your brother. I don't know how you do it sometimes, but I am so happy to write for the third year now that Max is your very best friend.

I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for you. Max will be joining you at Kaleidoscope Camp and later at Bowen Elementary, invading on your turf. There will be trips to take, and a longer session of overnight camp that I'll somehow have to get through. And hopefully, there will be a lot more singing along with the radio. Happy birthday. I love you, Hannie.

(You can also see letters for ages seven and eight.)

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Having It All Project: Rabbi Allison Berry

I have been friends with Rabbi Allison Berry, of Temple Shalom in Newton, MA, since long before she was "rabbi" or even "Allison," as she will always be Allie to me. We met at the end of our freshman year at Brandeis University, when we both became members of the incoming Hillel board. At the time, we laughed and said "how have we not known each other so far?" Though we don't get together in person as often as we should, each time it's like we've never left each others side. I'm thrilled to have Allison as the first guest poster for The Having It All Project; here's how she's having it all.

Briefly describe your life and what you think makes it unique.
Currently I am the mom of two (3 year old and 6 month old) and work as a part-time rabbi at Temple Shalom in Newton. Rabbis work a unique schedule – days off are usually on Mondays and the weekends are filled with teaching, service leading and a myriad of other activities. After over three years of leading a very full-time congregation I made the decision before my second child was born to move to part-time work and a position with more structured boundaries (usually 25 hours each week and very few emergency 4 AM phone calls!). One of the best parts of my current routine is supervising programming for families with young children within the synagogue. Basically I get to plan and implement activities that directly benefit my family! Not only am I very proud of the work I do – basically a full-time job with part-time hours – I now have more time at home with my kids. The balance has worked incredibly well. Some weeks I work 15 hours and others 45 – but I have incredible flexibility. On the downside – we make certain budgetary sacrifices to make this type of lifestyle work.

What are some of your favorite tips and strategies for coping with the chaos?
What has always worked for my family is flexible childcare! Because I have hours that are not traditional (on the days I work I could NEVER do a 5 PM school pick-up – I generally work until 9 or 10 at night) we rely on two key childcare providers. Our nanny is amazing. She works for us three days a week – in particular she arrives early in the morning and helps minimize the early morning chaos. I am NOT a morning person, but because she helps at this key time I get to work on time and keep my sanity intact! She leaves early on Thursdays (one of her three work days) and that is how we make the finances work and she can be there when I need her the most for my own emotional state
and happiness. We are also blessed to send our son to a preschool that does not penalize you for a late pick-up or a change of schedule. Need him to stay until 3 PM instead of 1 PM? Of course! Add an extra day that isn’t usually scheduled? Absolutely! They do charge us a set amount for the extra add-ons – but just knowing that if I have a funeral come up or am in a counseling session I don’t have to leave in the middle or risk my life rushing to be on time is a huge relief.

Please share a moment where it all broke down, and how you got through it.
Lately we struggle on Friday afternoons! Something always goes wrong and plans go awry. I help lead worship services at the synagogue on average two Friday evenings each month. My husband will commute from Cambridge to Newton to meet us at the synagogue and take the children home. Something always goes wrong. There is terrible traffic and I end up late for services (has happened and been so embarrassing – imagine having someone announce to a room full of 200 people that their rabbi is late, stuck in traffic on 95!). One of the children has a tantrum and screams the entire car ride. Or – my husband is late from work. Then I find myself leading Shabbat services with two children – infant and toddler jumping up and down and on and off the bima (altar/stage). We can’t seem to fix this problem. We thought hiring a mother’s helper to meet me at the synagogue would work – it did help – but my son still had a tantrum when he realized I wasn’t going to stay with him too. We are still working to fix this one. Would love any ideas!!

Do you have any balance role models? Anything you try to avoid because it wouldn't
work for you?

Balance role models – I meet every other week with two other women clergy. They are slightly older and have children in late elementary school. They always have the best ideas and advice. One of them once told me – “Stop trying to fit your needs into the boundaries of what traditional childcare offers! Your life doesn’t fit those boundaries so why should your childcare needs.” I really felt like she gave me permission to find options that fit my schedule and emotional stressors. So now I hire help for early mornings when I’m not at my best and manage evenings (dinner and bedtime routines) on the evenings I’m not working on my own when I’m in a better frame of mind.

What wouldn’t work for us -- When I worked full time we had no family time on the weekends. Since I moved to my part-time position I really cherish the weekend time we have together as a family. Even if we just go grocery shopping it is really important to me that we do it together. Not only can my husband and I support each other – we get out of the house so much faster when there are the two of us getting the kids ready – but we can actually relax a little and have fun. I missed those unstructured hours terribly. It doesn’t work for us to be overscheduled on the weekends. We don’t do a lot of play dates or programmed activities. My kids are still little so we will have to see if this is realistic as they get older.

Think back to your 18th birthday. How is your life different from how you expected it to
be then?

My mom died four years ago. I never expected at the age of 18 to be raising two kids without my mother around and available to help! My mother-in-law lives in Canada – she is very helpful when we see her – but it isn’t all that often. What I have learned is that none of us should ever take our family – especially family that is ready and willing to help (even if the help isn’t always perfect or the way we would do it ourselves) for granted.

Relate to what Allison is saying? Leave her some love in the comments. Read other posts from The Having It All Project here. Want to participate? Send me an email at havingitallproject@gmail.com!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Five

Today, Max Benjamin, you are turning five.


FIVE! It's finally here! Today! You have been counting down to five for most of four. I have to admit, it's been a bit exhausting for me, this constant counting and questioning of yours, but I've learned that it's just how your mind works. You are always turning something over in your brain, trying to figure out the next thing and the thing after that. Usually, you get it. And if you don't get it, heaven help anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.

You enjoyed gymnastics and loved T-ball, but aren't a big fan of swim lessons. You went on a real pirate ship, and I've never seen you follow directions better. You loved eating from hot dog carts all over New York City. You are a proud Transitional Kindergarten leader. You love to sing as much as you love to do "flying" karate kicks. You know more about space than I do, and think you've traveled the world with your classmates. You amaze me with your grasp of letters and numbers. You want to be a doctor, an astronaut, a pirate, a baseball player, an author and in a band. Somehow, I can see you making it all happen. Well, hopefully not the pirate part.

You can be very sweet and kind, when you're not too busy proving how big and strong you are. You are genuinely interested in everyone and know how to hang with any crowd, even if older kids sometimes scare you at first. You like nothing more than spending the day at home with all four of us and all your favorite toys. And despite knowing how to push her every button, Hannah is still your very best friend.

2013 is going to be a very big year for you, leaving the JCC behind for the wilds of Bowen Elementary. It doesn't seem possible that we're here already - that saying that the days are long but the years fly by definitely applies. I'm so lucky to be your Mama, and I can't wait to see adventures you'll have as a costume wearing, karate chopping, dreidel spinning, Cinnamon Toast Crunch eating kid in the year ahead. I love you, buddy.

(You can also see letters for ages three and four.)