When I was nursing my babies, pumping and storing breast milk was the bane of my existence. Unlike a friend of mine who could pump an 8-ounce bottle of breast milk in 10 minutes, I worked hard for every drop, and it took three 30 or 45 minute pumping sessions to get enough milk for the next day at daycare.
So believe me, I developed quite a few secrets to pumping and storing breast milk. By the time my youngest daughter was ready to start on cow's milk, I'd gotten so good at the routine that I was almost sorry to give it up. But not that sorry! There are only so many times you can close the lactation room door and keep your fingers crossed that nobody mistakes it for the bathroom. Not to mention arranging conference calls around my pumping schedule.
If you're a new working mom who's still nursing, please share your own secrets for pumping and storing breast milk in the comments section.
Today is a half day for my children's school, so our Thanksgiving celebration starts at 1 p.m. This year, I've accepted the reality that the holiday will completely disrupt my work week, and arranged to take off work for three entire days, rather than pretending I could accomplish something close to a normal amount of work.
A good bit of that time off will be spent cleaning and cooking in order to host my husband's family for turkey day. You can bet my kids will help with chores since there's so much to do. Fortunately, they're still at an age when they think this is fun business. My husband proposed catering for our meal, but I couldn't bring myself to outsource the most homemade of all holidays, even though it would've been so efficient. I may regret that at this time tomorrow!
I'm certainly glad that we're not traveling for the holiday, given the bad weather predicted this week. How are you streamlining your Thanksgiving logistics? Or are you bold and full of energy for the full-on holiday madness?
How many times have you picked up your kids from daycare or greeted them at the school bus stop with eager questions about the school day, only to get a glazed-over look and monosyllabic response? You're not alone.
The solution to this common parental dilemma is two fold. First of all, choose your moment of opportunity well, when your children are receptive to questions. Second, ask better questions of your kids! The more specific the question, the better. You'll want to change up the typical question and catch them off guard. (My dad used to ask if the principal came down the chimney, which got us interested the first couple of times before getting old.)
Please share your experiences getting kids to talk in the comments section. I'm guessing you've come up with some good tricks of your own to loosen their lips.
Earlier this week, we got together with my cousin and her children for a playdate and pizza dinner. Over the meal, the two second graders compared notes on their bedtimes and discovered that my daughter's is one full hour earlier than her cousin's! Before she could get outraged, I reminded her that she gets to read as long as she wants after I kiss her goodnight -- often until close to her cousin's bedtime.
That's right. We decided long ago to stop the bedtime battles in order to restore peace to our home. We'd had too many nights of children pleading for one more glass of water, one more bedtime kiss, one more story, not to mention wandering downstairs when their calls went unanswered. How do you have an pleasant morning routine after hours of that nonsense?
I'm not saying that we've reduced dawdling and wheedling to absolute zero, but it's a very rare occurrence, and usually signals that something's on a kid's mind. And usually the new routine means that my husband and I get a short date night at home after the kids are in bed.
How do you handle bedtimes in your house?
For stories connected to this Veteran's Day, I interviewed a number of former service members about their transition to civilian employment. It was eye-opening for me to learn about the challenges members of the military face when they step off the all-consuming military career track and start looking for work in the private sector.
In particular, I was moved by speaking with military moms and dads who retired reluctantly in order to spend more time with young children. Having just returned from an exhausting four-day work trip to New England, I can't imagine being in the Middle East or Europe for a entire tour of duty -- just think of what an entire year away from your family would be like.
If you're a civilian employee, do you work alongside any military veterans? Have you talked to them about the culture shock they experienced when they started civilian work, or what they missed when they left their previous job? Make this holiday an opportunity to learn something new about your co-workers.
We've picked apples and pumpkins. We've overdosed on sugar and candy for Halloween. It must be time for the third annual fall family ritual: the parent-teacher conference.
Aside from the hassle of taking time off work in order to attend a parent-teacher conference, I always look forward to the chance to peek inside my children's academic world. Sure, there's a tiny hint of fear that I'll learn something unpleasant, whether a gap in learning or behavior problem that the teacher's only recently noticed. But meeting with teachers one-on-one is really the best opportunity to connect with my children's education and see where we parents can reinforce what's being taught at school. It's definitely worth the effort it takes to work out the child care during that 20 minute chat.
Have you already have had a parent-teacher conference this year? Any tips for those of us who are awaiting ours?
Is Meredith Grey taking the mommy track? On a recent episode of the Grey's Anatomy television show, her best friend and fellow surgeon Christina Yang accused her of letting her surgical skills erode after having a baby -- her second child -- and returning from maternity leave. This was after Christina replaced Meredith on a big surgery when she spent the afternoon stressing over a princess party for her preschooler instead of reading an important research paper.
"You have different priorities now. You cut back on your clinical hours. You log in less time in the OR. You don't do research, and I get it," Christina says. "You and I started running down the same road at the same time, and at a certain point you let up. You slowed down and don't say that I don't support that because I do. You made your choices and they are valid choices. But don't pretend they don't affect your skills."
While I do think the episode was primarily exploring the relationship between the two friends, it also raised sensitive issues that most working moms think about when returning to work. Will they take me seriously? Will I get the stretch assignments and interesting projects?
And the following week, the story line continued with Meredith's hunky husband Derek Shepherd, also a surgeon, volunteering to reduce his work hours in order to give her the opportunity to pursue an important research project.
"This is a big year for you. You need time to make it work. I had a big year. I can step back, scale down on my surgeries, focus on this research, spend time with the kids and give you the slack you need to make this year count," he said. When Meredith expressed worry that he'd resent her and the children, he responded, "Spending time with the kids is not a consolation prize. It is the prize."
No wonder they call him Dr. McDreamy! If only our real-life work-life balance problems were solved so easily. Then again, it's possible that in future episodes, they will encounter some bumps in the road. (Maybe starting tonight?) Either way, it's nice to see a fictional world addressing these important questions for all working parents.
Tomorrow is Halloween, possibly the working mom's biggest work-life juggle of the year. Unlike Thanksgiving or Christmas, workplaces don't slow down during the celebration of ghouls or goblins. And yet, preschools, schools and neighborhood communities schedule back-to-back parties for us to attend and supply with goodies. I'm not even talking about the drama over what costume the kids will wear!
With two kids in elementary school, I've been collecting mini water bottles, sweet confections and even a limbo stick to prepare for the festivities. My husband and I both took the afternoon off to help set up for the parties and costume parade, and will alternate between the two rooms during the celebration. Then, we'll bring the kids home to get ready to host our cul-de-sac friends for healthy snacks before trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Our public schools are closed Friday, so basically we have a 3 ½ day work week. That's right, the schools decided that our sugar saturated children will be our problem, not theirs.
But that schedule pales in comparison to a friend with a daughter in preschool (9:30 am party and parade), son in elementary school (2 pm party and parade) and a townhome community party at 5 pm. Needless to say, she took the day off.
How are you handling the demands of Halloween?
Today is National Flex Day, a new annual celebration of workplace flexibility sponsored by Working Mother to share stories about successful flexible work arrangements and their benefits to employer and employee alike. For instance, a typical business saves half a million dollars in facilities costs for every 100 employees who telecommute full-time, according to Working Mother. By contrast, they spend 50 percent more in health care costs on stressed-out workers. (And flexible work lowers employee stress by 30 percent.)
For workers, the benefits of flexible work are obvious: the ability to work from home with a sick kid or to take the morning off to meet the cable guy at home. There are some drawbacks, though, such as having to learn how to set boundaries when you can work anywhere, any time, not to mention taking more responsibility for managing your own work responsibilities. But I think most of us would agree that it's worth the tradeoff.
The recent discussion of employees covering up family responsibilities in the workplace, such as on KJ Dell'Antonia's New York Times parenting blog, underscores how scary it can be to admit that we use flexibility, and why. For some people, in punitive workplaces, it's not wise to come out of the closet. (I would argue that you should find a new job, joining the 87 percent of professionals who look for flexibility in a new position.)
I used occasional flexibility long before I had children, taking off a few hours for a doctor's appointment or to wait for a repair person. But since starting a family, I've become a real devotee. At first, I flexed by staying home with a sick baby or taking half days for daycare events and pediatrician appointments. Then, after the second baby, I proposed a reduced hour schedule and used my no-work Fridays to exercise, spend one-on-one time with each girl or to catch up on household chores so weekends could be free for family connecting. For the last five years, I've been working from home almost exclusively.
How do you flex? Please share your stories in the comments section! Or join Working Mother on Facebook at 2:30 p.m. EST today to join their live chat.
Janet Yellen, vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board, today stepped into the limelight as President Barack Obama's nominee to head the central bank, which would make her the first woman to lead the Fed and set the course for U.S. monetary policy. She's also a high-profile working mother who built her career as an economist while raising son Robert with her husband George Akerlof.
Yellen spent her early years of motherhood as an academic, branching out into public policy roles once her son became a teenager. She joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley in 1980, a year before he was born. She took a leave of absence in 1994, in order to spend three years as a member of the Fed board of governors and then two years as chair of the Council of Economic Advisers, according to the Fed Web site. She joined the Fed as vice chair in October 2010.
She became Obama's top choice for Fed chair after former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers withdrew his name from consideration. If the politically divided U.S. Senate confirms Yellen, she would succeed current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, whose term ends in January. What do you think of the possibility of a woman heading the Fed, a role often called the second most powerful job in the country, after the U.S. presidency?