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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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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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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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Sugar, playdates and parenting decisions

Categories: Parenting & Family

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OK, so first a confession:

I’m a bit of a healthy eating nut and I think it is a skill and a philosophy I have to teach our kiddo.

When I say healthy eating I think I mean something reasonable without being extreme: Lots of veggies and fruit, less sugar and white anything, whole grains, very little red meat, lots of fish, nuts and other awesome stuff, like avocados (an obsession of mine and thankfully, my daughter). We don’t have junk food or candy in our house, don’t drink soda or sugary drinks, and our daughter has never been to McDonald’s. But we definitely have dessert and treats a few times a week and one of the most important things I try to teach at home is enjoying eating and food and making it a special experience as often as we can.

The other day our kiddo came home from a playdate and I asked her how it went. She said fine and then got this look on her face that said “hey, mom, I’m not telling you something.” I gave her my best version of the “hey, it’s OK, just tell me, I promise I won’t be mad” look and then she confessed: They ate pop tarts. And candy.

I think she expected me to get upset. But I wasn’t.
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How to get your kids to help more at home

Categories: Balancing Act, Parenting & Family

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I’ve had a major revelation recently about how to get my daughter to do more to help out at home.

She is seven and a half and for a while now we’ve had a chore chart going in an effort to get her to be more consistent about doing a few things to help. Nothing too crazy: Put away the dishes after dinner, make her bed in the morning, check her backpack for school, sweet the kitchen floor, feed her fish, etc. She is not terrible about remembering but I do have to reminder her, a lot.

The other day I wasn’t feeling well so I plunked down on the couch and said to my daughter, half kidding: “Could you please go and make me some tea and a snack?”. She has never done this and I wouldn’t trust her with the hot tea, but as soon as I said it she got really excited and ran to the kitchen. My husband was there and she asked him to help her get the tea ready and figure out what snack I might want. They came out and brought me some tea, cut up apples and some cheese on a tray. I kissed her and told her it was the best snack ever and she was so excited.

A few hours later I was in the kitchen finishing up making dinner and she came over and asked me: “Mama, do you want me to make you more tea?” I told her sure, so she went and got my husband, and they repeated the routine from before (she pressed the electric kettle button, he poured, she timed three minutes on the clock for the tea to steep). The next day she asked me again. And it’s now become a regular things she asks me and I don’t know which one of us likes it more.

So here is my revelation about how to get your kids to help out more:
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Kids and iPads/iPhones: Where do you stand?

Categories: Parenting & Family

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How much time do your kids get with an iPad/iPhone/computer?

Lately I find myself having this conversation a lot with friends and other moms at my daughter’s school. Everyone seems to be wondering what’s enough, what’s too much, and how everyone else is dealing with preventing the wave of technology from completely overtaking their homes and kids’ minds. And like every parenting decision, it’s not easy and not black and white.

I have spent the last ten years of my career working in technology and I am big enough to admit that yes, I am quite inseparable from my iPhone. A lot of it is for work but a lot of it is for things outside of work: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and a bunch of other time-takers. We have an iPad at home and a laptop in the office. My husband and I often spend the evenings sitting next to each other working on our respective work laptops.

Do I like that technology is such a huge part of our life? Absolutely not. I think there are ways in which it is bad for our family. We try to be as disciplined as we can - no phones when we are eating, no background TV, etc. - but we’re absolutely not perfect. It is a core part of our daily lives and while we can blame it on work, the reality is that that’s not the only reason we’re attached to our gadgets.
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My latest parenting lesson: Tell my kiddo about my life

Categories: Parenting & Family

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We’ve got a pretty set routine most nights after work. My husband or I come home by 6pm to relieve the babysitter, who picks up our daughter from school. (We trade off nights when one of us can work late or hit the gym after work while the other gets home right on time. It’s something that allows our two-somewhat-crazy-job household to function.) When I get home, I hang with our kiddo for a bit in the kitchen, asking her about her day. Then it’s homework time, piano practice time, and if we have time left, we try to play a game or read together.

The other night I asked our daughter my usual coming-through-the-door question: “How was your day today?”

She said it was good and that they played museum on the playground (I think more adults need to play museum at work, but that’s for another post). And then she did something that startled me a little. She asked me how my day was.
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Why I’m a total stickler for teaching kids good manners

Categories: Parenting & Family

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My daughter is a really good kid. Of course we all think our kids are good kids but there is a general consensus amongs friends and family that she is well-behaved, nice, and all-around not a lot of trouble. I dig that. But there is one thing that I’ve been pestering her about endlessly, especially as we’re in the midst of the holiday season: Saying thank you and please more often.

We’ve had lots of presents giving and lots of meals with friends and family, all of which made me realize that my daughter doesn’t remember her manners as often as I think she should. She is 7 and to be honest, I think most of the time when she doesn’t say thank you after finishing a meal or getting a present it’s because she is off to the next thing or she is excited to play with the new thing she just got. When I remind her to say thank you or to use please when she is asking anyone for anything — including family, friends or strangers — she is quick to do it.
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Do you apologize to your kids?

Categories: Parenting & Family

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Yesterday was one of those Tuesdays which felt like ten terrible not very good Mondays squished in one. I’ll spare you the details, other than to say that it started with my sitting in traffic for over an hour and missing an important meeting and involved spilled tea, temporarily lost phone and forgetting to call someone I really needed to call. Yowsa. Needless to say by the time I got home I was cranky and exhausted.

I don’t know about you, but one of the first things that goes when I am exhausted is patience (and no, I’m not a very patient person to begin with). So when my kiddo - who also happened to be pretty tired - was goofing off as we practiced piano, I got upset. When she left her dinner dishes on the table and walked out of the kitchen, I gave her a lecture on my not being her made and her needing to clean up the dishes (it’s one of her responsibilities in our family.) You get the idea — it was one of those evenings.

After I put her to bed, had some tea and caught my breath a bit I felt pretty terrible.
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