Working Mom Diaries: Back to the Office & the Second Week(end) from Hell

February 11th was my first day back in my office in person. And it went so well! While I was gone my desk was moved to an even better location, and the nursing mothers’ room, which I think I’m the only person in the whole office using, was repainted and got new furniture. I trained a new content manager on my first day back, and enjoyed seeing all of my coworkers again.

Our baby spent Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday at daycare and had no problems at all. I was worried because he often refuses to take a bottle at home, but in a new setting with new people, he ate well and didn’t put up a fuss. The girls in the infant room are very sweet and send me frequent updates and at least one cute picture every day.

Things did go downhill, but luckily not until Friday afternoon. My husband picked our toddler up from daycare and was told that within the past hour he had started crying and had a fever again. I assumed that his ear infection must have returned, but when he vomited twice overnight and woke up on Saturday with a 102.3 fever, I took him to the doctor. That seemed a little high for an ear infection or a stomach virus.

The doctor tested him for strep, flu, and diabetes of all things, because apparently it can present that way in children. His blood sugar was fine, but he tested positive for flu, and for Influenza B of all things, which only 4-5% of flu-positive people are getting this year! Because we have an infant at home, we were immediately prescribed Tamiflu for both kids, and they’ve been on it since Saturday around noon. It seems to have worked like magic, because by Sunday evening our toddler was fever-free and energetic, if still grumpy, and the baby has had no flu symptoms at all.

So it’s been another weekend of divide-and-conquer, keeping the kids as separated as possible and being trapped in the house since we don’t want to spread this around. Everyone will be back to work and daycare on Tuesday, since thanks to Tamiflu no one will be contagious anymore.

As my mom keeps reminding me, having two kids 22 months apart is an immersive parenting experience! We are learning a hell of a lot.

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Working Mom Diaries: 2019 Goals (aka Improvements)

2019 began with my family, including my mom who had been with us for over two months, flying back to Florida. All of a sudden, we were really a family of four, instead of a family of four + grandma. My husband and I both returned to work on January 7th (luckily I am still working from home!), and our older son returned to daycare after a long holiday break.

The start of the year has made me think about what I want to change in 2019. Usually I’m thinking about what I want to accomplish, but with two little kids, I’ve decided not to make any big goals for myself until 2020. Cool things might happen for me, but I’m not pushing it. Instead, I have some problems I’d like to correct and some improvements I want to make.

  1. Reconnect with friends. This is huge for me, and I struggle with it daily. I have no girlfriends who I can see regularly in person since we moved to Utah, and between having kids and working full-time, I have really, REALLY struggled to stay in touch with the people who are important to me in other parts of the country. It isn’t that I don’t want to give people a call, it’s a combination of things: being a little phone-shy, being tired by the time I’m free to talk, and having something like friendship imposter syndrome. Are we really close enough for me to call you to talk? Do you really want to hear from me? Do you feel the same way about me as I do about you? This can be so bad that I won’t pick up the phone when a friend calls me. So I want to start picking up the phone every time, and I want to start dialing it a lot more myself. I never, ever regret it.
  2. Reconnect with my husband. There’s nothing like kids to make you feel like two ships passing in the night (sometimes literally). Between the sleep deprivation of a new baby and the constant attention-grabs of a talkative toddler, there is not a lot of time for uninterrupted adult conversations that aren’t about the logistics of daycare pick-up. I remember this becoming a lot easier once our first child was 5-6 months old, but I’m hoping to make some time for us to connect as two adults and not just as parents well before then.
  3. Control the scroll. I decided before our baby was born that during my maternity leave, I wouldn’t worry about how much time I spent on my phone. When you’re on the couch with a newborn and you haven’t slept much, it’s a lot easier to scroll through Instagram than to crack a book, and I decided to just let myself have the phone as entertainment for a few months. But now the baby is over 10 weeks old, and I think it’s time to start limiting my phone habit again. I’ve charged up my Kindle, downloaded Flipd, and I’m planning to get serious about it this week. I don’t want my toddler seeing me stare at a screen this much. I’d honestly rather have the TV on in the background than have my head down in my phone.
  4. Return to exercise. I totally fell off the workout wagon about halfway through this last pregnancy. I just didn’t have the energy to parent a toddler, be pregnant, and exercise. Now my energy is returning, and I want to get stronger again too. I’m currently three weeks into GlowBodyPT’s 12 Week Post Pregnancy Plan, and I’m loving it.

I think I can handle these four improvements, especially since they’ll all serve to make me happier and more fulfilled in 2019. Can’t really go wrong with that!

Working Mom Diaries: Adjusting to Two

Our second son was born in mid-November, and we’re deep in the process of adjusting to life with two kids instead of just one. So far, it hasn’t been as difficult as I expected it to be, and there are a few reasons why that I’d like to pass on to other moms out there.

  1. Accept all of the help you can. I decided very early on to ask my mother to come and help us for as long as she could stay. With our first, we had a total of about ten days of help from anyone, and I felt like I needed more this time. My mom stayed with us for over two months, from around Halloween until January 2nd, and it was fantastic. If you can get this help from family or if you can afford to hire a night nanny, do it.
  2. Continue childcare. I got very anxious about germs and kept my older child home from daycare for a couple of weeks. Things were much easier once he went back, for him and for me. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have disrupted his routine just to quell my own anxieties.
  3. Lower your expectations (of yourself). Don’t expect too much of yourself too quickly. Plan on eating a lot of frozen Trader Joe’s meals. Set up a meal rotation so that you’re making the same 5-7 easy meals every week. Get takeout. Hire a service to clean your house, at least for a few months. Push non-crucial projects out a couple of months. Say no to events, visitors, and opportunities that make you feel stress or dread.
  4. Prioritize rest. This might be the hardest thing for me to do. It’s very tempting to spend time when you could be napping cleaning the house, working, cooking, exercising, etc. Try to let the messy living room go and sleep instead. Or, if you can’t sleep, just sit on the couch and veg out. You don’t always need to be accomplishing something; you’ve already got plenty going on.

This makes it sound so simple… and honestly, it is simple. There’s nothing complicated about having two children, at least not right now. But that doesn’t make it easy. It’s tough, and it’s time-consuming, and I’m more than glad that I can have a cocktail at 6pm again!

Stay tuned, because I’m planning on some more frequent updates in 2019.

Working Mom Diaries: Online Role Models

This topic is why I’ve begun this blog series. There aren’t many working moms writing and posting online—that I’ve found, anyway!—who I can really identify with and admire. And I’m focusing on online examples because 1) not many of my close friends even have children yet, and 2) where I live, full-time working mothers are quite unusual. I have to find my support online.

I have some specific issues with a lot of “working mom blogs.” Here are my biggest problems:

  • “High powered.” Vocal working mothers online definitely seem to skew towards “high powered” or “heroic” careers, like lawyers making $350k, surgeons, lab scientists, etc. This creates an atmosphere in which women feel like they shouldn’t work full-time unless they’re doing an “important” or extremely lucrative job. As a content manager, I just can’t identify with a working mom who is a trauma surgeon or who is completely financially unrelatable to me. It’s not that these women shouldn’t be proud of themselves! They’re amazing. But it’s also okay to have a “regular” job.
  • Pumping. I’ve found that working moms tend to put an intense focus on breastfeeding and pumping once they go back to work, and that it becomes a borderline obsession for a lot of women. This just isn’t important to me, and I wish it was less of a focus for working moms. I think we have bigger and more important issues as working mothers than pumping. Sorry. (In the past I might have recommended The SHUbox blog in my list below, but I would not want any other women to be affected by her recent pumping posts.)
  • MLMs. I just can’t with multi-level marketing schemes (also known as “network marketing” or “direct selling.”). This means stuff like Lipsense, AdvoCare, Young Living, LulaRoe, Mary Kay, etc. Go ahead and get involved if it’s your thing, but don’t call yourself an “entrepreneur” or “businesswoman” based on your involvement in an MLM. I personally do not count MLM sellers as “working moms.”
  • “Influencers.” Kind of the same thing as MLMs. If your “job” is running an Instagram account… it’s simply not the same as the type of job that I do, and I cannot relate.

Here is the short list of blogs and online presences that I like best (and even some of these have caveats):

  • julmarie: Julia has a blog and Instagram, and I found her via her writing on The Everygirl. She has a job similar to mine, her kids will be close in age to mine, and she even bought a house around the same time I did! Her freelance hustle is really inspiring to a writer like me, and yes, she works full time and employs childcare for her son. No caveats here; I find Julia extremely relatable and feel like I have a ton in common with her despite never having met her.
  • Carolina Charm: Christina has a blog and is also active on Instagram and Pinterest. I only recently found her blog, and have been reading some of her archives from when her kid(s) were the same age as mine. There are some really big things that I don’t have in common with her, like her affinity for girly stuff (like makeup and cute clothes) and her strong faith, but nevertheless I find her incredibly relatable and personable online. She works full-time and employs childcare for her two kids, who were “two under two” for quite a while! She gets super real about family life, food, exercise, and more, and I really love her honesty. She is also responsive on social media and feels like a friend whenever I have reached out. No caveats at all.
  • Sweet Tooth Sweet Life: I think that Courtney’s blog used to fall into the “healthy living blog” category, but I would say that now it’s a very general working mom’s blog, a lot like Carolina Charm’s, that includes Friday facts, recipes, meal planning, and life updates. She had a bit of an epiphany about “healthy living” in 2013, and revamped her attitude towards diet and exercise. I am not sure if Courtney’s two boys are in daycare or if they have family care or a nanny, but she and her husband both work full time and she’s very realistic about the challenges and rewards of that lifestyle. No caveats at all.
  • Rising*Shining and The Girl Next Door podcast: Rising*Shining is the blog of one of the co-hosts of The Girl Next Door podcast. Caveat: I can only recommend past blog entries and podcast episodes, because Kelsey recently quit her job to stay home with her two kids. But in the past, she was a very relatable full-time working mother who used childcare and worked as a science writer for a university. I still enjoy her blogging and am still subscribed to the podcast, but I was disappointed to lose a vocal working mom.
  • The Everymom. This is a new site from The Everygirl. I can’t really pass judgment yet, but I’m hoping that it will be a good resource for finding some other working mom bloggers. Caveat: There’s plenty of sponsored content, and the blog is not working-mom focused, so it’s a grab bag.

And that’s pretty much all! I would love to hear about more if you know of any! I’m sure there are plenty of great working mom bloggers who I just haven’t stumbled across yet, and I can’t wait to find them. I’ll write follow-up posts as I discover more.

Working Mom Diaries: Let’s Begin Here

This week, one of the very few outspoken, “normal” (not involved in an extremely high-powered or extremely high-earning career), visible-online, relatable working moms that I am aware of announced that she had quit her job to stay home with her children.

I don’t begrudge anyone this privilege or opportunity or choice. In fact, if it was important to me, I could also be a stay-at-home parent. But I couldn’t help feeling a wave of disappointment at the loss of one of the few online voices of working moms like me: moms who work because they prefer to, who aren’t trauma surgeons whose work is “heroic,” who are professionals but who aren’t earning super impressive $300k salaries, who don’t trudge to work longing to spend more time with their kids, who aren’t made miserable by their dual role as breadwinner and parent.

Laying in bed last night, I thought, “I may just have one tiny little corner of the Internet to write about this, but why not put it out there? I know there are moms just like me who might stumble upon what I have to say and feel a helpful, supportive connection.” So I’m starting this series about being a working mom, and my only hope is that it helps one other woman feel like she’s perfectly normal and not at all alone.

After all, we shouldn’t feel alone! Almost half of all American mothers are full-time working mothers. But see the rest of that article? We also get a lot of feedback that tells us that we shouldn’t be working full-time, that working full-time is bad for our children and our marriages, and perhaps most importantly, that we shouldn’t want to or enjoy working full-time. When I returned to work after my son was born, people made a lot of assumptions about me. I heard, “It must be so hard to be away from him,” “It must have been tough to come back,” and even, “You must be saving for something.” None of those were true for me. I was thrilled to return to work. Of course, I am lucky enough to have an employer that understands that it’s a process: I returned to work full-time immediately, but I worked from home three days, then two days, and now one day per week.

It’s easy to feel like something is wrong with you when you’re a mother of young children who wants to work full-time, enjoys working full-time, and doesn’t long to be with her kids while at work. But why is any of that considered unusual? Men are expected to work full-time, to enjoy it, and to be satisfied with the amount of time they spend with their children. So why not women, too?

know that I’m a great mother, but it took me a while to fully believe that in the face of feedback that told me that great mothers are with their kids 24/7 and don’t care about having careers.

For me, being a full-time working mother has more benefits than downsides. Here are the three biggest pluses:

  • More money. This is a simple one. It’s important to me to be able to go out for dinner, cook high-quality meals, entertain friends, dress well, improve my home, save for retirement, and go on vacations. With two incomes, all of these things are much easier to achieve, yes, even with the cost of childcare.
  • Higher-quality time. I’m not, have never been, and probably never will be someone who’s crazy for babies and toddlers. I love my child and I love spending time with him, but I get more out of that time when it isn’t 24/7. I enjoy my kid-time more when I also get time to not think about kid stuff at all and focus entirely on an editing project, producing a great piece of writing, or interpreting a tech white paper.
  • Changes for my child. We live in a small home, and we can only buy so many toys and travel to so many parks. When he’s at childcare, my kid gets a change of scene, some playmates, and caretakers who sing him different songs, talk about different items and activities, and play different games. This wasn’t very important when he was a baby, but as he grows older it’s really helpful. He’s excited to go to care and excited to be home.

And of course there are downsides:

  • Career limits. I feel limited both geographically and time-wise while I have very young children. Luckily I have a job that suits me perfectly, but if I lost it, I would not want to switch to a super long commute or to a position that might demand a lot of overtime or cause a lot of stress right now. Those options will have to wait a few more years.
  • The daily grind. Waking up and getting a kid ready for childcare in the mornings is definitely a chore! It takes a lot of planning and a very stable routine to get everyone out the door smoothly without forgetting anything vital.
  • Costs. Childcare costs money. So does having someone else clean my house and so do the occasional takeout meals, convenience food items, and lunches out that are necessities when both parents work. Luckily, at least where we live, those costs don’t come close to outweighing the financial benefit of two working spouses.

Let’s begin there. In my next post, I want to talk about some of the online working mom role models and inspirations I’ve found so far, and how they’ve helped me navigate this role.