(photographed here, November 2015, presenting at a conference with my 5-month old at the hip. This, after he had a major blow-out poop that I changed on the floor in a corner in the front of the room, hopefully out of view of the session attendees)
Many of us have the privilege of making our own choices as it relates to the work-life balance as a mother. For our family, work has been a financial necessity but also a personal decision as I forged ahead with my career. I first became a mother 16 years ago; I continued to build a career at the same time we decided to build our family.
I joined my current organization 2.5 years ago. Within my first six months on the job, I had to have that awkward conversation with my boss to let him know that I'd need to take family leave six months later. (It wasn't a planned thing.) Once I returned back to work on a full-time basis five months later, I resumed a robust schedule of travel. Working for a national organization headquartered in DC, east coast travel was frequent as well as travel to events and conferences.
I was rather flabbergasted to unearth an underutilized benefit: back-up care. The Bright Horizons Back UP Care Advantage program was offered to us by our employer: 20 days per year for our dependents (whether our children, an aged parent, or any other dependent). This means I could use it when:
- There was a random "no school" day when I had to work (i.e., parent-teacher conference days or what not)
- My child was sick and could not go to school, and I still had to work
- My regular nanny was sick and could not care for my infant, and I still had to work
- I had to travel overnight and could not leave the baby behind since he was still nursing through the night
I could think of many other uses for this program:
- A former colleague would have to miss out-of-town meetings when he could not line up care for his spouse, who suffered from very advanced multiple sclerosis and who required round-the-clock assistance
- A friend who lived with and cared for her aging mother, who often could not attend professional development events due to her care responsibilities
- And more
This is something too good to not share. I haven't even shared the best part. This program is subsidized by my employer: I pay either $20 per day for using a drop-in Bright Horizons center or $5 per hour for using a nationwide nanny placement service. This year, I've used this service in 6 different cities nationwide, toting my boy along knowing he'd be well cared-for during the day while I attended events and meetings.
What do you think: useful?
Passion drives me day to day, and my passion is mostly around my family, my home, and my children. I recently attended a huge [somewhat work-related] event in San Francisco, along with 170,000 other people, and I had the privilege of listening into a couple of empowering and motivating speeches.
Nadine Burke Harris is a pediatrician, a mom, and an advocate. She speaks with passion and evidence. She explained how she was faced with hundreds of patients daily with a common diagnosis: ADHD. However, when she looked deeper at her patients' circumstances, she realized that their social conditions were causing brain-altering stress and that they did not necessarily suffer from ADHD at the core. Rather, these children suffered from "adverse childhood experiences" that lead to health and societal problems. She explained how relieved her patients were to know they did not really suffer from ADHD!
Melinda Gates is a mom, high tech professional, and philanthropist. She believes everyone has value, and she shared how heartbreaking it was to visit Africa 20 years ago when AIDS-infected women would be left by the wayside to die. Through her work, much advancement has been made in treating AIDS and HIV, especially in Africa. She wants to eradicate HIV.
These amazing people - these women, these mothers - are changing the world, changing the way we see things, and changing the way we do things. As I listened to them, I kept thinking: how do I breed a change agent just like them? How do I make huge change in the way they make huge change, both in my personal life and in my professional life? What drives them to scale impact and how do they get it done? What can each of us do to make the world a better place, in big ways and in small?
I like to think that giving birth to urbanMamas was one of the biggest things I've done. Five years ago, when I moved away, I slowly stepped away from it, though I never completely left it behind. Now, I realize that urbanMamas is a home to me, it is a passion to me, it is what I want to leave behind, it is the impact I want to have. I come back to the site, intending it to transcend geographies, hoping to resurrect it as a place where we can come for support, for laughs, for new insight, for a safe place to share.
As it was in the beginning, we cannot do this alone. If you want to help, please reach out. It takes a village.
It's a topic I struggle with year after year. When my boy came home, the day before his birthday, he was excited to share news of the other kid who had celebrated a birthday in the classroom that day. Excited, he said "we made buttons, each person got to make two of their own buttons". And also: the celebrant distributed owl stickers (the owl is the school mascot) and lollipops to take home.
I was a bit dumbfounded. An activity like button-making sounded like a heavy lift. I knew I couldn't come up with an activity that would compare with the wow-factor. It was already 9pm the night before his birthday and I had let the teacher know I would come for the 30-minutes window before lunch. But: I had no idea what I'd do. I had no bandwidth to conduct an art activity. I considered playing a classroom game (like "heads up 7-up"). What else? And, what about the treats? Bring some, bring none, bring fruit, bring pencils?
The next day, it was a hectic work-day especially since I had taken off for an hour to show up in the birthday boy's classroom. I was disheveled and disorganized as I sauntered into the room with 3 large framed photos of the celebrant from prior birthdays and his baby book in hand. I read selected excerpts from the baby book: about his favorite foods, about his love for music from a young age, about his favorite sports now that he was older. The classmates laughed at the stories, and my boy loved the attention.
As for treat? I found it within myself that morning to make a batch of mini-muffin tin donuts, a household favorite that takes me 20 minutes, beginning to end. Thank goodness his classroom allowed homemade treats (some classrooms don't!). Happy Birthday, big boy!
It's been so long since I started down this road. Now on my fourth child, he is almost 16-months old. Very much lovable, as many toddlers are (I love this age), the nights are pure horror, whereas his first year of life was a walk in the park in the sleep department! Whether it be teething or something else, he is up and fumbling around from 2am onward. I nurse and try to put him down in the same cycle for up to 2 hours before I give up, call my co-parent for back-up, and/or just let him scream it out, waking up everyone else in the household and probably neighbors too.
I was up last night from 2:27 until 5:12 AM, and during my awake time I crafted strategy for tonight's wake up:
- Be disciplined. When he wakes up, he no longer needs to eat, right? Maybe just go see him in the crib, pat his back as he drifts back to sleep.
- Show stamina. I can't crumble. I need to stay with it. Don't let him into the bed.
- Use drugs. Does it seem like the teeth are what are bothering him? I should use the advil/motrin/tylenol as it seems like it makes sense
- Get my co-parent on board. We need to be aligned on the strategy. At one point this morning, I noticed a glow from the other side of the bed, and there was my toddler watching Elmo on my partner's phone as he snored!
Please: may tonight be a better night. I cannot be a zombie any longer!
I became a parent almost 16 years ago to this day, and I had always been drawn to the "love and logic" parenting approach. Upcoming in PDX is a one-day session by Dr. Charles Fay. If you can afford a day learning about it, check it out! Upcoming on October 18th 2016: https://www.loveandlogic.com/portland-oregon-oct-18-2016
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