Posts Tagged ‘working moms’

An Uneducated Comment

Wednesday, June 5, 2013
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On Tuesday during a Washington Post event, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant suggested that mothers in the workplace started the decline in the American education system.

In my well-educated opinion, I can’t imagine a more stupid comment.

“I’m going to get in trouble. You want me to tell the truth? You know I’m thinking both parents started working,” Bryant said in response to a question about why the country’s education system has gotten so mediocre. “The mother is in the work place.”

Apparently, he tried to clarify his remarks saying that “both parents are so pressured” in modern family situations.

Both parents? Modern family situation? I’m not sure what world Bryant lives in, but many American children don’t have the luxury of even having two parents in the home.

His comments come on the heels of a study released last week by the Pew Research Center that found mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners of 40% of American households with children under age 18. The share was just 11% in 1960.

Although I’m a working mom,I have to admit I’ve never been the primary breadwinner in our “modern family.” I also know my husband wouldn’t complain if I were.

In reality, I’ve never held a high paying job, but I’ve also never worked just for the money. I’ve worked in positions that, I hope, have made the world a better place – similar to all those working moms in our schools. I wonder what would happen to our education system if all of the moms who serve as teachers, principals, counselors, social workers, librarians, psychologists, cooks and aides quit to stay home with their children.

I know the students wouldn’t be better off, just as my children wouldn’t be if I stayed home with them.

For many years, our family needed my income to help meet our basic needs and to keep my children warm, safe and dry. I’m sure the single, working mothers would say the same.

My children also needed me to work for my sanity. I’m just not cut out to be a stay-at-home mom.  I quickly learned that trying to arrange play dates and doing arts and crafts drained me. I get my energy from working in the community, and I bring that energy home to better meet the needs of my family.

Most of my work involved helping communities look for solutions rather than blame and point fingers for social, education and other problems. For example, extensive research on brain development indicates that what happens between the ages of zero and three affects our ability to learn,  If our education system shifted some of it resources and focus to the very young, children might actually be better prepared for academic learning and our education system might gain some ground.

I’d point that out to Governor Bryant, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t notice. He’s too busy pointing his finger at me, a working mom.

Remote Access

Monday, January 28, 2013
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Some time ago, I found myself in a verbal sparring match with a care adviser who was (at that time) coordinating my aunt’s home health plan. Even though I was on a cell phone discussing issues and concerns that should have been addressed in person, I felt like I was in this woman’s presence…and pushed up against a wall.

“Can you take a leave of absence from your job to help care for her?”  she asked.

“I’m already caring for her,” I replied.

“Yes, but she needs 24-hour attention.  You work.”

“For a couple of hours a day,” I countered.

She wouldn’t budge.  ”Can you take some time under the Family Medical Leave Act?”

“I’m self-employed. I have no paid time off.  If I take a sabbatical, it means I’ve gone out of business.”

And that’s the truth.  When you’re a small business owner — and entrepreneur, a sole proprietor — there’s a healthy chance you’re already on a type of family medical leave.  People who work from home do so for many reasons, one of which is the flexibility to perform services (when it doesn’t conflict with loved ones’ needs).

“Well, then,” she began. “You’re going to have to hire someone to sit with your aunt when you can’t be there. Are you sure you can’t adjust your schedule?”

My brain hummed with anger.  Insults raced from one hemisphere to the other. Can’t you adjust yours? That’s a fine idea, actually.  Perhaps YOU should take some time off from YOUR job!

We hung up with no clear solution — well, nothing other than my desire to talk to someone else about the situation.

The next day, my youngest daughter produced a stomach virus. Four days later, my older daughter caught it. My husband had a deadline that forced him to stay at the office until 7:00 or later.  I needed a babysitter, an aunt sitter, a nurse, possibly a doctor, an office assistant and a drink.

Had I worked for someone else, I would’ve had to quit.  That is, if a supervisor hadn’t already fired me.

Thank God I have understanding clients who have repeated to me on numerous occasions: “First things first.  Family always comes first.”

It seems as though more employers are sitting in softer office chairs these days, as about 34 million people work from their residence on occasion, reports Forrester Research, a technology and market survey company. Forrester Research also predicts that the number of people who work remotely will nearly double — to approximately 63 million people — by the year 2016.

Why is this the case when the demand appears to be for more human interaction?  It’s all about the Benjamins. Alternative employment saves an average business $10,000 per year by hiring a virtual employee. There is no need to lease office space when the business grows, owners don’t have to invest in equipment when they can hire a freelancer that already has it,  and they don’t need to hire a full-time staff member for a termed project. Employers can hire professionals anywhere on the map, and an invisible employee eases tax burdens.  As with creative freelance work, most every product or service can be e-mailed to the employer or client. And, most managers will admit that the majority of in-office days are wasted in unnecessary meetings or in Cubeville chit-chat. They also believe that most off-site employees are more productive because they don’t want to lose the sweet deal of working from home.

As for freelancers, the upside is being able to “walk” to work. Office hours are scattered, which frees parents to spend more time with their children and at school activities. While there may be start-up expenses — computer, cell phone, software, etc., if the employer doesn’t provide those tools — there are considerably savings in automotive upkeep, parking, meals and dressing for a public office setting.

Did you notice what was missing from these savings?  Childcare expenses.  Even though a parent works from home, mom and dad may find themselves in a bind when kids aren’t in school.  Business doesn’t fold up just because it’s spring break or summer vacation…or when a relative gets sick.  And I can tell you that it’s a weird feeling to be working in a basement office with a sitter carrying for children a floor  away.  It’s a type of “Upstairs, Downstairs” production.

No job is perfect, and a home-based arrangement has its own set of disadvantages.  As I explained to the care adviser, being self-employed means there’s no security net of any kind:  No long-term or short-term disability coverage, no paid holidays, no free Saturdays or Sundays.  In the words of the The Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith) from Downtown Abbey, “What is a weekend?”

As for my situation? Two options remained:  Be there all the time, or hire someone to be there part of the time (if I refused a nursing or personal care home).  So, I’ve stopped teaching and I’ve scaled back on my volunteer work.  I handed off a few projects that required undivided attention, and I’ve hired a sitter to be with my aunt while I work part-time…from home…next door to her house. However, if she still needs me, I can run from my desk to her bedside in seven seconds flat. I’ve timed it.

I was angry with the care adviser because my best efforts weren’t good enough. That was hard to hear. There would have to be trade-offs if my aunt intended to stay at home.  But isn’t that what I wanted, too? To remain at home so I could be with my family?

As a parent of a child or as the guardian of a family member, you do what you have to do, when you have to do it, without second guesses and without regret.  And, in the end, I doubt too many people will look back on their lives and wish they had spent more time at the office.

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Words Sting a Little

Monday, September 17, 2012
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Greetings.  Karen here, aka Brad McElhinny’s “my wife, let’s call her Karen” aka mom of Isabelle and Katie and chief cook and bottle washer at the McElhinny household.  I have been a fan of the Mommyhood blogs for sometime.

I felt moved to write this column after having a conversation about a  colleague who decided to quit her job to, “stay home and be a full-time mom.”  This comment got under my skin because I just happen to be a mom who, in addition to mothering two adorable, active girls, also holds down a full-time job as a lawyer.  Despite this fact, I have never, ever considered myself to be a “part-time mom.”

Indeed, is the mommy bird any less a mommy bird because she leaves the nest to get her babies a worm?  Is there any dad who you would call himself a full-time or a part-time dad?

So first I got mad, and then I got to thinking.  What does it say about us as moms (not to mention women) that we feel the need to label ourselves in such a way that, at least implicitly, puts down other moms?

I have been guilty, from time to time, of referring to myself as a “working mom.”  Gosh, I’ve even read Working Mother magazine at the gym without hiding the title.  I never really thought about it, but that label probably implicitly puts down those moms who are home (or volunteering at the elementary school, or carpooling to dance class) working their derrieres off but not getting paid for it.  And, let’s face it, THOSE kind of moms, regardless of what you call them, are probably working a good bit harder than I am at my paid workplace.  I rarely have any vomit on me or have to wipe anyone’s bottom (at least not literally!) at my lawyer gig.

But you have not felt pain until you have had to squeeze your postpartum body into a business suit and leave your six-week old newborn behind while you go away for eight (or more) hours to practice law.  And you do not know true heartbreak until you hear a little girl’s voice on the other end of a long-distance line saying, “Mommy, I miss you” when you are on a business trip.  And you do not know exhaustion until you are up all night with a sick kid and then have to go try a case the next day.

Or maybe you do.  Because, frankly, sisters (and brothers) I don’t really know what it is like to be a mom who does not work outside the home.

I suspect that we all work pretty darn hard and have a lot of difficult days.

So why, WHY, do we fell the need to put each other down?  I think it may have a little something to do with our doubts about our own choices.  We have all had those moments when we question the choices we have made, and I think it is human nature to argue our cases, with phrases like “full-time mom” and “working mom.”  Even when no one is questioning our choices.

Can’t we all just get along?

Let’s find a new language of motherhood.  Let’s recognize that all moms (and dads) work pretty darn hard and do the best they can under sometimes next to impossible circumstances.

No one really know what goes on at 3 am in someone else’s nursery.  And know one really knows what kinds of sacrifices another woman has made for her babies.

Let’s love our kids and ourselves.  And recognize that we are all are full-time working moms.

Websites guide families to healthy eating

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
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As mothers (and fathers, grandparents, and any other caregiver that reads The Mommyhood) we are busy, but we want the best for our babies. Even when our babies aren’t really babies anymore. I know I want my child to eat good, whole, nutritional foods. However, I don’t always have the time to make it happen. I know there are days when it’s 5:30, there’s no food in the fridge and I remember we have to eat dinner.

Well, over the past several months I’ve been made aware of a couple websites with local ties that teach and support healthy eating, from birth on. They’re great resources for everyone that has a child in their care. In fact, they’re just plain ol’ good resources for everyone.

The first is Healthy Kids, Inc. Operated by locals Kirk and Mandy Curry — Mandy was recently named one of the State Journal’s 40 under 40 — the site offers a plethora of healthy eating tips. The Currys have two young sons, the inspiration for HKI.

I found out about HKI when I wrote this story for the Gazette-Mail Outlook edition. What I personally like about HKI is the guidance from menu planning, to the store, to food prep, to actual cooking. Mandy, with the help of dietician Sarah Sturgill and chef Joe Crockett (one of Jamie Oliver’s helper chefs in Huntington), do everything but actually cook for you.

There are step-by-step videos and great photos to use as visual guides, as well as provided nutritional content. I picked up a few tips from Mandy during my interview.

  • First, do all your prep on one day. After your menu has been planned and the food has been bought, take a chunk of time and get everything ready to cook. Mince all that garlic at once, get those peppers chopped, peel those carrots, etc.
  • Second, organize your meals in containers. Mandy puts everything for a meal in a container (which the site will have for sale, soon) and puts the recipe on top of the container. When it comes dinner time, Mandy pulls out the container, cooks up the meal and has dinner on the table in around 30 minutes. Isn’t that brilliant?
  • Third, buy fresh foods. Mandy told me she took a friend to the store one day. The friend didn’t believe you could eat fresh, healthy foods for less than you could buy frozen foods. Mandy guided her through the produce section and the friend ended up spending about half of what she normally spent, for a week’s worth of meals.

HKI is a membership-based site, but offers some free recipes if you want to try out the meals before committing your money. However, it’s less than $100 for a year’s membership. If you’re struggling with menus and need help creating kid-friendly foods, they’ve got you covered. Worth the money.

The second site is Eating for Breastfeeding. The site was started by Marshall grads Elizabeth Green and Stacy VanBibber. Elizabeth (aka Marybeth, for you St. Albans folks) is a broadcast journalist and WAHM and Stacy is a registered and licensed dietician. Together, they provide a series of videos on tips for breastfeeding and provide support to moms that might be struggling as they nurse their child.

Along with the videos, Elizabeth and Stacy also offer downloadable PDFs and a Q&A, as well as teach the basics, update you on the latest breastfeeding recommendations, and provide meal plans (the tropical salmon looks amazing), shopping lists and tips on how to save time in the kitchen. One of my favorite resources on their site is the Freezer and Refrigerator guidelines. I am always asking if our food is still good and may be throwing away food that is perfectly fine.

Here is one of the videos on Eating for Breastfeeding.

I hope you take the time to check out these sites. I love that Mandy, Elizabeth and Stacy are taking the time to show other women what to eat. It’s a simple part of our life that we get so, so wrong on a daily basis. Enjoy!

When mommy works

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
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Tiny dancer

  My daughter loves to dance. She flits about and twirls around in check-out lines, waiting rooms and even at school when she’s supposed to be sitting for circle time.

  She lives for Tuesdays, the day we go to ballet and tap class.

  But a couple Tuesdays ago, I found myself still at the courthouse with a stack of cases before me at 3:45 p.m. Julia needs to be dressed and ready to go by 4:15. It wasn’t happening.

  And in sets the working mom guilt.

  I’ve been having a lot of that lately.

  I wasn’t able to chaperone a field trip to the pet store. Instead, I had to entrust my child to the care of another parent. On the interstate. This was almost more than I could bear. I was the kind of mom who got nervous when my husband took her somewhere in the car without me.

  I couldn’t attend the school Valentine’s Day party. My mom went in my place. I didn’t want her to be all alone, when all the other kids’ mommies were there passing out cupcakes and cards.

  Those are just from the past few weeks. There are more.

  It’s awful being torn in two. You want to be with your child, to take care of them. You didn’t give birth and get stretch marks just to hand them over to someone else.

  But you also have to be your own person, with your own career ambitions and, in most cases, you have to keep a roof over your heads and food on the table.

  How do you explain that to a little girl who just wants to put on her tutu and dance?

Making it work

Tuesday, November 22, 2011
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  Just when I think I’m finally finding my groove as a single mom, something comes along to put me in my place.

  You see, for the first few months, I wasn’t being much of a mom at all. I was in a grief-filled haze and had little energy or desire to do anything more than the basics. Then I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom for a while. I had all the time in the world for board games and baking cookies.

  But even that wasn’t exactly right.

 So, I decided to not only go back to work but to go back to school for another degree. I realized I was taking on a lot. But my daughter was starting preschool and I was ready to take on some new challenges. I want to be a good role model for my daughter and a good provider. So I rolled the dice.

  And most days it works out really well. I am loving my job and my classes. I’m rediscovering a career drive and ambition I thought I had lost long ago. Julia is excelling at school. My shy little girl no longer clings to me and is the first to run through the door without so much as a kiss for her mama.

  We’ve pretty much got our schedules and routines down pat.

  But when something happens, say a stomach bug or a teacher training day, it’s like our whole world crumbles to the ground.

  Because I’m not just a single parent, I’m an only parent. I don’t have an ex to pinch hit. (Wow, wouldn’t Mike be proud of me for working a sports reference into a mom blog? God, I hope I used it right… )

  And that’s when life can get overwhelming. Who’s going to pick up Julia if I’m stuck in traffic? How am I going to get my reports done when she’s sick? Who will watch her when there’s no school? Drive her to a doctor’s appointment? Wash the dishes? Study for a test?

  I panic and doubt myself when there’s a kink. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone back to school. Maybe I should quit my job. Maybe I should just stay home and take care of my daughter.

  Then I take a deep breath and realize I am actually not completely alone.

  And on this week of Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful for my own mom and all my awesome mom friends who step in and help me, even when I’m too stressed to ask. Even when they are overwhelmed with lives of their own.

  Thank you moms for helping this single mom somehow make it work.

The mommy wars

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
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 I have been a stay-at-home mom to my 4-year-old daughter all of 77 days of her existence. The other 1,500 days or so, I was a working mom.

  Why am I telling you this? Because The Mommyhood moms have gotten some recent feedback from a working mom who says she can’t relate to our lifestyle of having the time to “worry about the organic green beans” we’re going to feed our child when “he or she wakes up from a nap.”

  I don’t know about the other moms here, but I’ve never bought an organic vegetable in my life, and nothing green has passed my daughter’s lips since the days of that pureed stuff from a jar.

  I’m a single mom for the time being because in a six-month period, my daughter lost her father to cancer and I uprooted her from the only home she’s ever known to move back to West Virginia to be closer to friends and family. I made the decision to take a break from work for a few months so I can help her adjust and cope and get settled in to our new lives before shipping her off to daycare while I toil away in a cubicle. It was not a decision made lightly, but one I felt was in the best interest of my daughter.

   But I do understand the struggles of working moms. I am a journalist. I have been a reporter and a copy editor for the past 10 years. So I know what it’s like to drop my daughter off at daycare some mornings when she was crying hysterically and had to be literally peeled off of me by her teachers. I sat in my car and cried a little myself before heading into the office where I had to pretend that everything was ok and get my job done.

  So I get it.

  I have been given a project by an editor 20 minutes before I was supposed to leave work so I could relieve my husband of his child care duties so he could get to work himself.  That usually meant waiting until my own mom got home from work so she could watch my daughter and I could go back into the office on my own time to get the project finished.

  So I get it.

  Because I work in the news business and news doesn’t stop for the holidays, I’ve had to sit in my cubicle on Christmas Eve, trying to hide the tears running down my face because I was missing my husband reading “The Night Before Christmas” to our sweet baby girl. I used to work a 4 to midnight shift on the copy desk of a newspaper. A baby doesn’t care about the fact that you’ve had no sleep when she’s up and ready to play at 6 a.m.

  So I get it.

  The working mom who wrote in wanted to make sure we knew that working moms do just as much parenting as stay-at-home moms. She listed all of her roles: homeroom mom, t-ball coach, dance mom, laundry, meals, cleaning, etc.

  Yep. I get that too. Just like her, I too, did laundry, cleaned the house, went grocery shopping and prepared all the meals. And while my daughter was too young for t-ball or dance or a homeroom, I did have a husband who was fighting cancer for two years. There were days I would get up early to spend some time with my daughter, then sit with my husband for hours of chemotherapy before rushing in to work until midnight.

  So I get it. I really do.

  When I was working I was so envious of stay-at-home mothers. I envisioned leisurely mornings of playing and watching Sesame Street, baking cookies from scratch and long afternoon naps. The reality of my brief stay-at-home stint is this: I’m frazzled, things are a mess and meals come from the freezer.

  But so what if I wanted to fret about organic green beans? Why are mommies criticizing the choices of other mommies? Why are we tearing others down for making different choices?

  Fellow mom blogger Kara says the elephant in the room is guilt. The emailer has working mom guilt. Kara, who left her job to stay home with her newborn, has what she calls feminist guilt, feeling ungrateful for a century of feminist advancement.

  I had working mom guilt for sure. I felt like I was shirking my responsibility as a mother by handing  off  my daughter to someone else to care for. I felt terrible missing some of those firsts. I felt like I wasn’t putting her first, or worse, that I was abandoning her all together. And I have guilt now that I’m staying at home. I feel guilty for not doing craft projects or organizing all the toys or putting her in front of the TV so I can take a breather. I feel guilty that  some days she stresses me out so much that I can’t wait for her to go to bed.

  It seems to me that working moms and stay-at-home moms should be on the same team. We’re all moms, just trying to get through the day, loving our kids and trying to make the best decisions and do right by them. It’s hard being a mom, no matter what the circumstances.

  Anyone care to wade into this one?