3 things I wish I learned a lot earlier that help me stress less

Categories: Balancing Act, Parenting & Family, Your life

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My kiddo is eight years old (OMG, my kiddo is EIGHT YEARS OLD!!!) and you’d think by this point I’d have this working mom routine down cold, right? No such thing, as it turns out — with every stage there are new challenges, new discoveries, new awesome moments, and yes, new things I learn that I wish someone got through my stubborn head earlier.

Here are three recent discoveries which are helping make my crazy busy life a little less so:

  • Ask your kids for help. OK, so this advice is hard to take if your kiddo is still a baby, but I think it definitely applies to toddlers and older. Here is one example of what I mean: Cooking. I cook a lot and it’s one of the household chores that takes a bunch of my time. I used to do all the cooking at night, after my daughter went to sleep (a few times a week, so that there would be fresh dinner for next day or two). I tried to optimize the time with her for stuff like reading or playing or doing some art together. Recently I’ve started to get her involved in the cooking and it’s a life changer on so many levels. She actually has fun and is learning about food and cooking, which I think is really important longer term. I get a helper and a companion (she is getting pretty good at peeling carrots!) We do something together and create something together, which is awesome. And I don’t need to stay up til all hours at night cooking. Serious win-win and I highly recommend that you find something in your busy life your kids could help you with.
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Do you ever stop moving?

Categories: Balancing Act, Your life

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Earlier today we went on a picnic with some friends of ours. The sun was shining, it was finally warm like May warm should be, and we were sitting in a beautiful park with enough food, wine and conversation to keep us happy for hours. Our daughters are all similar in age which made for lots of fun giggling and running around, giving us some much needed time to catch up with our friends. It was awesome (and I’m proud to say that my phone stayed in my bag most of the time.)

When we got home my husband told me that this was the first time, in a very long time, that he saw me sitting down anywhere for more than a few minutes (long car rides excluded.) He told me that he looked over at me sitting on the grass next to my friend and it struck him that he almost never sees me sitting still.

You know what? He is absolutely right. If you exclude the times when I am working at my computer or sitting in the car, I can’t say I sit very much. Of course I sit down to eat but I wouldn’t count that as sitting still. I think what he meant is sitting still like you would if you were watching TV or reading or just chillaxing.
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My Mother’s Day wishlist has only one thing on it

Categories: Your life

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And here it is:

I want to feel like an awesome mom.

For this Mother’s Day, my kiddo and husband are plotting something and I think they are planning to make me breakfast. I will love that, not the least because I do 99% of the cooking at home and I do gripe about how nice it would be to be served some food. We are also doing a dinner together with all the grandmas and it’s one of my favorite meals we have as a family — I love celebrating all the moms.

But what I really really want is to feel like I am a rockin mom and that’s something that I need to feel from the inside. My biggest struggle as a working mom is that I constantly feel like I’m not doing a great job: as a mom, at work, as a wife, friend, daughter. Last night stuff at work was blowing up and I needed to answer some emails while helping kiddo do homework and practice piano. I could see her looking over at me and I hated that I was on my phone, but at the time that was what I needed to do. But you can bet I didn’t go to bed feeling like an awesome mom. (Of course I know she will be OK and we will make up the time together and life is life and not perfect. But it doesn’t make it easier.)
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Conquering my email, one step at a time

Categories: Balancing Act, Career Talk

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If you have total control over your email and it doesn’t stress you out, please stop reading now. For the rest of you, fellow overwhelmed-by-email readers, this will sound familiar:

I am in a constant struggle with my email.

There is too much of it. I feel overwhelmed by it most of the time, and just barely in control of it on the best days. I spend too much of my day answering and reading email and while I know it’s something that I have to do — for work and for life — it’s not something that makes me feel good or productive enough.

Over the years I’ve tried to develop email habits that will help me tame the animal. Here are a few of them:

  • Don’t check email first thing in the morning. This is my favorite one. When I manage to stick to it, I am more productive, my day goes better, and I am much more focused.
  • Check email at set times throughout the day. My worst email days are those when I leave my inbox open throughout the day. Then I can’t avoid the temptation of checking new mail when I see I have some and it just completely kills my productivity.
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Vacation question: To bring the laptop or not?

Categories: Balancing Act

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This week my family and I are going on vacation. Woohoo! (And also OMG, all of us really needed this one. A lot.) I’ve packed the bags, cleaned up the house so it’s not a total disaster when we get back, and gotten our documents and tickets ready. And now for the big important question:

Should I bring my laptop?

My initial answer was absolutely not. It’s been a crazy few months and I really need a break. My brain needs to disconnect and I need to spend time worrying about whether we all have enough sunscreen on instead of checking emails. Out of sight, out of mind.

At the same time, there is something to be said for being able to check email once a day (and I truly would only limit myself to once a day) and not having a panic attack when I’m back and there is a mountain of emails here to greet me. I’ve done this once before on vacation and thought it worked well. It also prevented me from stressing about the crises I didn’t know about because well, if they happened, I would know about them. Out of sight doesn’t always mean out of mind.

My husband suggested that I don’t bring a laptop but instead go to the business center at the hotel to check email if I absolutely can’t resist the urge to do it. (We’re traveling abroad so checking it on my phone is not an option. Otherwise I think that’s what I would do.) I’m considering this idea.

But tell me, when you go on vacation, do you disconnect entirely or do you check your work or personal emails from time to time?

Family-friends juggle, weekend edition

Categories: Parenting & Family

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My daughter asked to have a playdate with a girl from her class recently so I emailed her mom to see whether one of the next Sundays would work. She kindly replied that weekends are family time for them and asked if we could do the playdate during the week. Thing is, during the week our kiddo has activities on most days and weekends are when playdates work best for us, especially because my husband and I both work. (Our babysitter could bring her to a playdate after school one day but because she is only here three days a week she prefers that they do stuff together instead or she helps her with her homework.)

So this got me thinking about the weekend life juggle between family time and friend time. Starting with our Friday night sushi and movie night tradition, weekends are when my husband, kiddo and I have time to spend together. A lot of times we’re definitely guilty of trying to fit too much in, but the main ingredient is us hanging out together. Once in a while we succeed at leaving an afternoon open, and as unexciting as this sounds, one of my favorite times is when the three of us just hang out at home together, without rushing off to another activity, however fun it might be.
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How to get productive when you’re stuck

Categories: Balancing Act, Career Talk

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Confession: My to-do list is a mile long and I’ve done nothing concretely productive in the last few hours.

There was a lot of phone calls, emails, Twitter browsing, and looking over my to-do list, but it’s not far from the truth to say I wasted a bunch of time. I hate this feeling. If you’ve had it you know what I mean. So this blog post is part of my strategy for dealing with it. Because the way I see it, I could either call this a day (which I think would be a mistake, although not always, just today) or try to get some stuff done and quick.

Starting as soon as I hit publish, here’s my plan for coming out of the productivity rut:

  • Turn off my Wi-Fi. It’s maybe the oldest trick in the book but I rarely make myself do it. Without email, Twitter, Facebook, NY Times and other distractions, I know I will get more done. Or at least something done.
  • Take a tea break. I think there needs to be a physical reset from wasting time to being productive. Since I can’t change where I am right now I am going to take a mini break and make some tea. And drink it.
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My work-life juggle casualty: Time with friends

Categories: Balancing Act, Your life

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If I think about things that make me truly happy, spending time with friends is right near the top of the list. And yet, it’s one of the things that consistently gets squeezed out of the otherwise insane work-family-stuff-I-have-to-do schedule. Every time I catch up with a friend I reminder myself to make that a priority, and yet, it’s still a challenge.

All of my friends have busy lives of their own so it’s understandable that it’s tough to align two (or more) schedules and find time to hang out together. It’s definitely not for lack of trying: I have strings of text messages and emails with friends where we’re attempting to get together only to be derailed by a work meeting, almost-forgotten playdate, a business trip, or something else. Still, this doesn’t help the fact that I love spending time with friends and I have too little of it to spend with them.

Thinking about it, I realized there were a few somewhat creative things I’ve done recently to make more time:

  • Joint errand running. OK, so this is much less fun than say getting dinner at one of our favorite places, but a friend and I recently spent a few hours running errands together. We stopped for some frozen yogurt in between and had time to catch up walking around and in the car.
  • Post-bedtime quick drink. Going out to dinner at 9pm on a weeknight is a no-go, but my friend and I recently decided to go grab a quick drink after we put our kids to bed (with both of our husbands staying home with the kiddos). It was just an hour or so but completely worth it.
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Work-life juggling tip: Make more traditions

Categories: Balancing Act, Parenting & Family

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I’m a big proponent of the quality over quantity time argument: I think the quality of time you spend with your kids and family is more important than the quantity. When I put my phone away, stop multi-tasking and really engage with my kiddo and my husband, it’s awesome. The key ingredient in quality time is being there mentally, 100% (which is hard to do when I’m endlessly being distracted with incoming work emails on my phone.)

One of the best ways I’ve found to add quality time to our crazy busy hectic life is by setting up family traditions. It really helps to have some regular times and things we do as a family that we can all look forward to and that are non-negotiable. (Well, I’m being idealistic. We’ve skipped many a tradition because of schedules or because we simply forgot or were too tired. But the intention is there.)

Here are a few of our favorite ones:

  • Family movie night. Every Friday we eat dinner together and then watch a movie. It’s my favorite part of the week and I look forward to it all day Friday. By the end of the week I’m wiped and I think my husband is too. It’s awesome to know that we have this completely relaxing family chill-out time waiting there for us.
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“My mom likes weekends because she doesn’t have to work”

Categories: Balancing Act, Career Talk, Parenting & Family

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The title of this post is an actual quote my 7 year-old kiddo said to someone this weekend.

Ahem.

To be honest, it kind of stopped me in my tracks. Of course I like the weekends — who doesn’t like a break from the work grind and a chance to chill with family? But what struck me is that my kiddo has this notion in her head that I don’t like to work. Or at least don’t like to work enough that the reason I like weekends is because I don’t have to work.

Without getting into yet another stay at home or work debate (which oh, I hope we are done with!), I’ll say this: I like to work and I’ve never imagined myself not working. (Well, to be honest, I have imagined myself on a prolonged vacation somewhere warm and tropical, but that’s another story.) When I read Leah’s post, about whether she’d still choose to work if she won the lottery, I was nodding my head. I work for more than money, although money is an important necessity. I work because I love the challenge, building something, creating something, working with awesome people, keeping my brain buzzing and my sanity relatively intact.
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