Making Peace with Work

We are blessed with choices – and responsibility for the choices.  Just like we teach our children – make a choice and own the consequences.

When my eldest started kindergarten, he asked why I didn’t pick him up after school like the other

Mother on Computer Holding Baby

Moms.  I felt a pang of guilt – was I denying him and his sibling’s attention that they needed and deserved? Three years later, I’m confident that it was then and is now the right choice for me. In discussions, some women are fervent advocates for their choice being THE choice. Few talk about how working outside the home can benefit your family other than financially.


My choice has always been to work outside the home. I tried working from home with a baby for a month and decided I wasn't being a good mother or a good employee. My itch for accomplishment and recognition and compensation gets scratched at work. I love my children and am proud of them, but their accomplishments and recognition are all their own. It’s definitely a crazy life – captured in a new book by Kristin van Ogtrop called Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom.

In a discussion with the author, a group of SV Mom bloggers talked about their feelings about their work decision – full-time outside the home, work from home, stay at home, and other combinations thereof.  Some people described ambivalence, obligation and guilt.  Then a photographer who works full-time from home and on the road said –

“Guilt is self-indulgent”.

She’s right. Guilt is our way of trying to make someone else say “it’s okay that you are not here” when you don’t intend to change your choices.  Guilt says “I’m so sorry we cannot afford that on one salary”.  You can add others.  We all have to own our choices.  I work because I like to work.  I work because my satisfaction at work makes me a better parent (and parenting makes me a better manager).  Some of the benefits I’ve noticed because I work are that my children are comfortable with a variety of caregivers, know how to advocate for themselves, feel responsible (most of the time) for their own homework and want to know how money is earned.  All of these lessons can be taught by parents who do not work outside the home as well AND just as my children know my husband and I love them and care about what is happening in their lives. 

There is no right choice, just the right choice for you. 

This post was originally contributed to SVMoms.

The New Normal – Two Careers, Three Jobs

A group of sociology researchers at UCLA video recorded 32 middle-class dual income LA families to study their lives, time management and stress levels (New York Times). I am a member of this “new” sociological phenomenon that has grown from 36 percent of families in 1975 to 46% of families in 2008.  UCLA generated 1540 hours of research and determined that parents like us are stressed, juggling and constantly negotiating. They found:

 “a fire shower of stress, multitasking and mutual nitpicking.”

They also found that both parents spend considerable time (and roughly equivalent amounts of time) with their children.


Unlike many of these families, I don’t work just for the economic necessity (although if one of us stopped working, we’d have to make serious adjustments like selling our house); I work because I’m ambitious and I enjoy it.  But the stress of coordination is real.  This week, my working girlfriends and I:

  • Tracked field trips/lunches/end-of-school parties
  • Coordinated after school activities/performances/competitions
  • Set up doctors appointments
  • Paid bills and negotiated with insurance companies
  • Arranged/shopped and packed for weekend outings
  • Determined the dinner menu for the family and cooked
  • Participated in community service governance

None of these things (except the doctor appointments) are absolute necessities and I’m not complaining.  But they are part of the real juggling act we perform daily.

 A good friend asked me how we should counsel our young daughters about their career choices and work:life balance. Can we fulfill our professional aspirations while maintaining a marriage, a home and being a good parent? Do we have to compromise on all three? Our husbands are good partners, but (just like in the research) somehow the coordination responsibilities are usually ours.

The study showed

“Parents generally were so flexible in dividing up chores and child-care responsibilities — “catch as catch can,”

one dad described it — that many boundaries were left unclear, adding to the stress.

The couples who reported the least stress tended to have rigid divisions of labor, whether equal or not.

“She does the inside work, and I do all the outside, and we don’t interfere with each other”, said one husband.

That’s what my friend and I determined over a glass of Chardonnay.  We had to communicate what each parent would do and how we needed to ask for help or say we were overwhelmed.  We needed to touch base with our girlfriends and share the load. And that’s what I’ll hope to cultivate in all three of my children so that they can realize their ambitions, the ambitions of their partners and manage the inevitable stress in their lives. What will you tell your daughters and sons?

This was originally posted at SVMoms.

Dumping the junk

I received a terrific volume of suggestions for how to donate the toys in good shape that my children have outgrown - thank you!  But I still have a problem...there are toys that are not in good shape and need to be thrown away.  Option one, throw them in the trash.  This is so 1970, right?  But the trash will take them and put them in a landfill.  My great-grandchildren will be able to excavate them since plastic doesn't break down.

I just want to find a way to recycle them.  Not donate - they're not worthy

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The Second Baby Surprise

Planned or not, parents know a lot more about what to expect when their second child is born.  After all, you did alright with the first one, right?  So you know you'll eventually sleep again, someday they'll stop crying and that either breast or bottle will nourish them.  You may not believe it, but you are capable of loving another being as much as you love your first - it's amazing.

What's not amazing are some of the surprises.

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Child care, mental health and job searching

Motherlode shared two stories on October 5, 2009 - one tragic and one ridiculous - about mothers solutions for temporary child care

So many parents struggle with how to job search while providing responsible care for their children.  In California, childcare easily runs over $1500 per month for an infant - an expense that is out of reach for many families where both parents incomes (if there are two parents involved) are required to support the family. 

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She really does it for her daughter

We all make sacrifices for our children. Gone are the impulsive vacations for two and, in their place, road trips where we hope the kids don’t actually have a fist-fight. Gone are lazy Saturday mornings reading a book, and, in their place, some set of orchestrated activities until it’s a sane time to start the day. But these are little, temporary sacrifices. Anyone on the Peninsula need a cleaning lady?

On Friday, I asked my cleaning lady if her daughter was excited to start fifth grade.

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Setting the ground rules – babysitters, nannies and au pairs

With two full time working parents and three kids, we need help to manage our life and a few years ago we enrolled in an au pair program and have brought three different young women into our home to help care for our children.Livia with the kids 2007

Since we lived in Brazil, speak Portuguese and we know how wonderful Brazilians are with children, it was a no brainer to hire Brazilian au pairs and they have each been wonderful. That said, the US is different from Brazil and our house rules are likely different from those in other homes here and abroad – aren’t everyones?

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