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?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Feeling My Feet: LTYM Boston Wrap

Our 2015 cast. Photos courtesy of the amazing Amy Emily Photography
This past weekend was the second annual production of LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER Boston, my second year as producer of a show. I am so, so proud of what I helped to create. Over this year and last, I helped 24 people craft unique stories of motherhood and sent them out into the universe. Two of my own stories were shared, and I know they resonated with people. I have new people in my life, many from around the country, who have shared in this story-telling mission with me. I am endlessly grateful to LTYM's founder, as well as the national production team, for having faith in me, for knowing that I had what was needed when I didn't see it in myself, for saying yes, it's yours, go.

But this year was really hard for me. Despite the show's ultimate success (it was), and my confidence that our cast would be amazing (they truly were), I struggled a lot with this season. I spent a lot of middle-of-the-night hours in a panic. And, worst of all for me, I basically didn't do any writing.

Reading "The Geology of Motherhood"
The one piece I wrote over the past couple of months (other than a few quick, not very deep updates here), is the piece I ended up reading at the show when one of our cast members was no longer able to participate. I liked the piece, but it didn't have a hold on my heart the way I had with Kitchen Sink. It's a piece on how just like the earth's plate tectonics cause endless shifting and reshaping of our worlds, so too does motherhood. I've been feeling a shift lately, and I tried to document it there.

I got into all of this because I got to read at a BlogHer LTYM Open Mic night, and everything changed for me in that moment. I wanted to help other people to feel the way I did then, that I couldn't feel my feet. I felt that way after reading in 2014. I think most of the cast members in both shows had that moment. This year, I didn't. This year, as I said in the piece I read, all I saw were the brute forces involved in getting to that peak moment, and not the sun-soaked view I deserved. But as I also said in the piece, it's a perspective that I need to work on improving.

That's a wrap on season 2. That shift I've been feeling is telling me something, and I'm trying to slow down and listen. I think it's saying that my feet have been firmly planted on the ground for all too long now, and I need to find a new way to fly.

LTYM-colored flowers from my super supportive family.