June 25, 2015

Whole30: Haters Gonna Hate

Expect a variety of reactions when you talk about Whole30. Accept the support and shake of the negativity. Haters gonna hate, it's your body!

*I originally wrote this post for liberatingworkingmoms.com on January 15, 2015. 
I am now placing it here for safe keeping.*

When I decided to complete a Whole30, I started thinking about what challenges I would face at the workplace. I purposely picked 30 days in which there are no holidays (that require celebrations, no offense Groundhog Day) and no birthday parties at the office. Challenge number one: handled. Then I began to think about the amount of times I eat out for lunch, oh and don't forget Starbucks. Meal planning, tupperware, to-go coffee mugs, and I'm all set. But what about Fridays? People really like to bring doughnuts on Fridays. I happen to have a freakishly strong willpower and a secret stash of Lara Bars, check. The one workplace challenge I didn't consider was the OTHER PEOPLE. Co-workers.

I have only just begun my Whole30, but I have already found that there are three types of responses from others when you tell them about your eating plan. The majority of people fall into the first category, which is indifference. They don't want to hear more, but they also don't call you a lunatic. High fives to those people. The next category consists of those that feel SUPER excited for you. They want to hear more, ask a ton of questions, and are happy that you are trying to do something good for your body. These are the people who will end up doing a Whole30 themselves in the next couple of months. The final category is the group I have lovingly dubbed the
"Super Duper Jerkfaces""Negative Nancys." These are the people that call you crazy. They somehow take offense to the fact that you are doing this, as if it affects them personally. Within this category, responses range from the harmless, "I couldn't go without creamer!" to the uninformed, "Just drink DIET Coke." to the downright hurtful, "There is no way you are going to make it all 30 days."

I am extremely lucky that I work with people who are very health conscious and supportive (I'm not even the first person to put ghee in their coffee). So far every response has been either indifferent or fairly positive. Unfortunately, I think I am in the minority with this supportive environment, and therefore I usually advise people to take a moment to think it through before coming out of the Whole30 closet at work. If you think your co-workers will be unsupportive, if there is even a chance someone will put a mockingly-buttery croissant on your desk every morning for 30 days, maybe don't even tell them.

I think a huge part of completing a successful Whole30 is being able to rely on your support group. Whether it is your family, your nerdy internet friends (hi guys!), or your co-workers, you need people around you who will be your cheerleaders. I'm not saying you can't do this alone, but it would be way less fun. Find those people, they exist.

If you truly have no support and everyone around you is telling  you that you are going to fail, use that as your motivation to succeed. Prove them wrong, you've got this. In the words of the inimitable Taylor Swift, haters gonna hate (your delicious side of roasted Brussels sprouts).

Why I Run

Why I Run. #exercise #runner #motherrunner #bodyawareness #health #fitness #workingmom #bodyimage 

*I originally wrote this post for liberatingworkingmoms.com on December 17, 2014. 
I am now placing it here for safe keeping.*

Over the past year I have started doing something that my teenage self would have never thought possible, I started running. I am currently training for my fourth half marathon, which is a big deal coming from a girl who once took so long to run 3/4ths of a mile that the teacher just assumed she was on her last lap and let her finish. I was a dancer growing up, always fairly athletic, but running was just not in my repertoire. Fast forward to now: running is my meditation, my salvation, my church, and as much as I love it, I’m not just doing it for me.

One of the things I strive for the most as a mother of two young girls is to teach my children that they are in charge of their own bodies. I am trying to instill in them that they alone get to decide what they do with their bodies, from what goes into their mouths (I’m not going to let my two-year-old eat cotton candy for breakfast, but I try to show them what foods make your body more healthy and which ones make you less so) to who is allowed to touch them and how (I don’t force my girls to hug someone if they don’t want to because I want them to understand that physical touch should always be consensual). These things are important to me because I want to raise young women that feel in control of their bodies. I want them to care about their physical well-being because they take pride in themselves, not because they are trying to look or act a certain way for someone else.

Of course I encourage them to try new things and they know not to use their bodies in ways that are dangerous (like darting out into the street or following a stranger home), but I really hope if I help foster these feelings of ownership and self-awareness, that they will develop the desire to make healthy choices on their own. I have also realized that the only way I can teach them these things is by example, and that is why I am making the effort to take care of myself.

I am far from perfect and like many women I have my own issues with my body, but I do my best to never speak negatively about myself in front of my girls. It was hard enough to find the time and motivation to exercise when I was a young carefree 20-something, but add two kids, a husband, a house, and a job to the mix and it is damn near impossible. Impossible, but infinitely more important. I have two girls, two girls that still think I hung the moon. Everything I do is an example, everything I say is a lesson. I better watch my mouth.

When you are a working mom, whether inside or outside of your home, the guilt for spending time away from your family is almost inevitable. So how, I ask, do you justify taking even more time for yourself? I struggle constantly with finding this balance, but I truly believe that showing my children that I value myself is essential. This is why I run, they are why I run. I want my girls to see me making the effort to be healthy and strong. I want them to see me fuel my body with good food and I want them to hear me speak kindly about myself.

It is hard to find the time to exercise and I often feel guilt, especially on days when I've already been at work all day, but then I overhear my four-year-old telling someone “I’m strong and fast, like my mommy” and think I must be doing something right.

A New Essential for the Working and Breastfeeding Mom

*I originally wrote this post for liberatingworkingmoms.com on November 14, 2014. 
I am now placing it here for safe keeping.*

“Now get out there, attach a machine to one of the most sensitive and private parts of your body, and make the magic happen. You’re a warrior. You’re a badass. You’re a working mother, and that’s an amazing thing. And when you see one of us on the street, on the elevator, or on the subway (you’ll know us by our “this is supposed to look like a briefcase” pump bag), know that we are with you. We’re exhausted. We have dried breastmilk on our work pants and on our laptops. We have pumped in places we never imagined. And we think you’re awesome.” – Jessica Shortall, Work. Pump. Repeat: How to Survive Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.

Before our babies arrive, most of us are given a virtual library of books, from What to Expect When You’re Expecting to various tomes on the proper way to get your child to sleep through the night (yeah right). But when it came time for me to return to work after my first child I found a gaping hole in my collection of otherwise overly-inclusive parenting literature: the breast pump, every working and breastfeeding mother’s best friend and worst nightmare.

As soon as I began reading Jessica Shortall’s new book, Work. Pump. Repeat: How to Survive Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work, my immediate thought was, “Where the hell was this book five years ago when I needed it!?” As Shortall says, “In a world overflowing with more parenting books and Pinterest sites and mommy blogs than you can shake a positive pregnancy stick at, why is the Motherhood Industrial Complex failing us when it comes to breastfeeding in the working world? I think a big driver of this problem is that so much of breastfeeding education and care is focused on those early days and weeks, when breastfeeding is often confusing, painful, and exhausting. The relatively new phenomenon of lots of women heading off to work with breast pumps in tow is just not covered in the same way by the breastfeeding literature. For me, other working mothers have been the only source for practical, honest, and funny information; war stories; and insightful insider tricks. Only they truly get the guilt, pressure, and anxiety that breastfeeding at work can add to the already stressful situation of going back to work. And only they can make you laugh about the whole thing, when nobody else in the world seems to find any of this even remotely funny.”

Shortall manages to be both hilarious and informative in the non-condescending manner that can only come from someone who has truly been there. In doing her research, Shortall spoke with hundreds of working moms about their experiences with pumping in (and out of) the workplace. The result is a holy grail of information that ranges from the basics (how to choose, use, and wash your pump), to the big stressors (legal rights of breastfeeding mothers, creating a plan for every day pumping at work, supply issues, and dealing with business travel), and finally to the ever so hilarious awkwardness of dealing with  your curious coworkers.
The stories that she has compiled are enough to bring tears of laughter and knowing humiliation to your eyes. I described Shortall’s book to a friend as “postpartum-pee-inducing funny.” It is a book I not only want to buy for my soon-to-be-working-mom friends, but also for all of my coworkers so that they can just finally understand.

There is a crowdfunding campaign going on at www.workpumprepeat.com now through Dec. 4, 2014. This is the best way to guarantee that this book gets the funding and publicity it deserves. Please go check out the website for more information and your chance to pre-order the book, which will be published in January. Adult diapers not included.

Seriously though, it is worth the read if only for the horror stories, one of which includes the actual Harlem Globetrotters. The worst place I ever pumped was standing in a public restroom with my pump on the baby changing table while hordes of teenage girls wandered in and out wondering “what is that whooshing sound?” Tell me the worst place you’ve ever pumped in the comments.

Disclosure: I was provided with an early copy of this manuscript, but was not otherwise compensated for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own, dammit.

8 Tips for Surviving the Workday on No Sleep

*I originally wrote this post for liberatingworkingmoms.com on October 16, 2014. 
I am now placing it here for safe keeping.*

A couple of weeks ago my oldest daughter had a terrible cold. After being up with her three nights in a row, I was facing a workday with my brain functioning at about 12%. I tried googling tips for staying awake at work, but everything I read was profoundly unhelpful. As a gift to working moms everywhere, I have come up with a more realistic list. Here are 8 tips for surviving the workday on no sleep.

1.  Caffeine is good for you, drink as much as possible! The shaking means it’s working.
2.  If you are in a meeting and having trouble focusing, try mentally adding up the snippets of sleep you had last night in order to get a terrifyingly small total. Your look of concentration and mild distress will give the impression that you are engaged.

3.  Take your daughter to work day! She kept you up all night, she can surely keep you up all day.

4.  Immediately following lunch, grab your stomach and walk swiftly to the bathroom. Take a 20-minute nap while sitting on the toilet. Trust me, no one will question where you’ve been.

5.  Have an office with a door that shuts? Two words: Ostrich Pillow.

6.  When anyone is speaking to you, keep your eyes open as wide as possible. Nodding and frequent thumbs-up gestures will help them believe you are listening.

7.  Wear really uncomfortable shoes. Nothing keeps you awake like stabbing bunion pain.

8.  Scour the globe for your exact doppelganger. Pay her to come to your office and pretend to be you for a couple of hours so you can go take a nap. Better yet, pay her to come to your house, feed your family dinner, put the kids to bed, and let your four year old cough in HER face all night. Proceed to the nearest hotel and sleep for 12 hours straight. Wake up in the morning and head to work refreshed and fancy.

You are welcome.

Disclaimer: This advice is not meant for actual use, though that Ostrich Pillow seems nice.

Musical Beds: How Quasi-Co-Sleeping saved My Job and My Sanity

How Co-Sleeping Saved My Job and Sanity. For more working mom support visit www.liberatingworkingmoms.com #cosleeping #workingmom #sleeptraining #postpartumanxiety #anxiety #postpartum

*I originally wrote this post for liberatingworkingmoms.com on September 9, 2014. 
I am now placing it here for safe keeping.*

There are a lot of things that people don’t tell you about having kids. Whether it is because they forget (too much wine can do that to a person) or they want you to be as shocked and dismayed as they were, I guess we will never know. I try to be as honest as possible with my friends in order to perhaps prevent the perpetuation of parenting myths, but for some reason a lot of them haven’t had kids yet…

One of those things that other parents don’t tell you is that SLEEP TRAINING IS A LIE! Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration. A lot of people (I’ve heard) can get their kids to start sleeping at 6-weeks and then they never wake in the night again. Ever. This may not have been my experience. You know another thing that parents don’t warn you about? Once your kids are in real beds, THEY CAN GET OUT. Terrifying.

Throughout my long (4-year) career as a mom, we have tried many methods of sleep encouragement (that sounds nicer right?) including but not limited to: swaddles (welcomed), pacifiers (unwelcomed), nursing to sleep, rocking, bouncing, silly astronaut sleepwear (it worked!), and letting them fuss (mad cry but never sad cry because no one told me cry-it-out meant I would be the one crying). All of these methods worked with varying degrees of effectiveness and for varying amounts of time depending on the kid.

The thing is, my kids weren’t bad sleepers, I was. If one or both kids woke in the night, my husband or I could always get them back down fairly easily using one of the above-referenced tricks, but then they were asleep and I was not. I would lay awake, thinking I heard someone crying or walking down the hall to get me. My mind would race. I would start to fall asleep, realize I was falling asleep, and that realization would jolt me awake. Postpartum anxiety is a real thing, and now that I’m through it (mostly) I can see that I had it. I was aware enough at the time to ask my doctor about medication, but I didn’t feel comfortable taking anything while nursing so I let her recommendations slide.

As time went on, I became a zombie. My decaf lattes went out the window in favor of the real stuff (preferably by constant IV drip). I would get to work and not remember driving there, mind you it is a 45-minute drive so that should be more memorable. When I did get to work, I was so tired that I couldn’t focus my eyes on the screen. Something had to change before my bosses decided to put this zombie horse out to pasture (No, I’m pretty sure that is how the saying goes). Any mom is going to struggle on such a small amount of sleep, but when you work outside the home, your sleeping situation affects more than just your family.

Then one night, a miracle. My older daughter woke with a bad dream and I climbed into her bed to calm her down. The next thing I knew it was 7 am and I was waking from the best night of sleep that I’d had in years. We had never had the girls sleep in our bed and everyone I ever talked to said (tsk tsk), “Don’t start co-sleeping unless you want to do it forever.” Well, I have different advice and that is this: you need to do whatever gets everyone in your family the most sleep. Pardon my French, but screw what other people think. You are the one who has to live your life, so do what you’ve got to do, buddy.

Now both my girls are in (full-size) beds in the same room, they are a bit older (2 and 4) and are both much better sleepers than their infant selves. However, sometimes one or both still wake me up and do you know what I do then? I sleep in their room. Not every night, but some nights. It isn’t just for them, it is for me too. They are asleep and being near them is enough to lessen my anxiety. I sleep. We all sleep. I still have my job and I still have my sanity (mostly).

Do what you’ve got to do, buddy.

Where Is My Acronym?

Where is My Acronym? When you're not a SAHM, a WAHM, or a WOHM...what are you? www.liberatingworkingmoms.com #sahm #wahm #wohm #parttime #workingmom #mommywars #parenting 

*I originally wrote this post for liberatingworkingmoms.com on August 21, 2014. 
I am now placing it here for safe keeping.*

The following is not a comment or criticism on being a stay at home mom or a working outside the home mom.  Whatever you are doing, you are great!  Good for you!  I'm sure your kids love you.  This is my experience.

Once I found out that I was pregnant with my first, I (like many new moms-to-be) began obsessing over baby websites.  I was mostly just trying to figure out when she had fingernails or started drinking her own pee (it’s true!), but I stumbled upon discussion groups filled with words I didn’t understand.  DH, SAHM, WOHM, EBF, WAHM, AP, CIO … WTF?  I was lost.  After much diligent googling I had it mostly figured out, stay at home mom: SAHM, work at home mom: WAHM, working outside the home mom: WOHM.  Wait, where is my acronym?

Mommy wars exist on all fronts (unfortunately *side-eye lady giving me the side-eye for typing on my phone at the park*) and one division amongst moms that is rifled with criticism and guilt is this: go back to work or stay home with the kids, SAHM or WOHM.  I am both and neither and therefore fall into that large gap of other where most of our situations exist.  I work three days a week and I’m home the other four.  I guess I’m a WPTBRFTBBHWYKIWM (working part-time but really full-time because being home with your kids is work…mom)?

A lot of parents think of part-time work as the ideal situation when your kids are little.  I am often heard describing it as “the best of both worlds” and it is, it totally is, except for when it isn’t.  I’d say approximately 93% of the time I want to shout from the rooftops, “THIS IS THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!”  That other 7% though, that can be kind of rough.  I don’t talk about it much because God forbid I sound like I’m whining, but sometimes having your cake and eating it too leaves you feeling kind of sick.  Was that the worst metaphor ever?  Maybe.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to keep one foot in the workplace, fulfilling my desires for my career, while at the same time getting to be home with my girls for a good chunk of time, but sometimes it seems that I am not giving anyone the attention they deserve.  When I’m home with the kids, I feel that nagging guilt that I’m not getting to the things that need to be done at the office, and when I’m at work I feel like I’m missing out on little moments with the two most adorable girls in the world (IMHO… that means in my humble opinion, just so you don’t have to google).

Some days I feel like I can relate to both groups (SAHM and WOHM. Not WAHM, because I do NOT know how you guys do that.  Seriously, good work.) and some days I feel like I relate to neither.  The real struggle is: which side do I fight for in the Mommy War?!  Just kidding, that stuff is messed up.  Personally I think a mom is a mom and MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST SUPPORT EACH OTHER, but whatever.

I’m not looking for a pity party because like I said, 93% tap dancing/shouting on roofs, but I think a lot of us working moms fall somewhere in the middle.  We are all struggling to find that balance, whichever way the scales are tipped.

So tell me, what is your acronym?

January 3, 2014

Um, it's January?

It’s no secret that instagram has killed my blogging. It is so easy for photos and quick updates that it has made me lazy lazy lazy. I am glad to have that daily record of our lives to look back on, but I do miss writing and this is my space to do it. So here I am! Happy New Year!

Our holidays have been fun and exhausting. Sleep round these parts is, to put it delicately, not good. Mila has had back to back to back colds and is now getting two molars and four canines at the same time. Most nights Ryan ends up falling asleep in her room with her. Hey, whatever works. At least I get to sprawl out in the bed? Lily on the other hand was sleeping great, but finally (at 3 ½) realized that she can get up and leave her bedroom in the night. Fancy that. She is really so good though, she just comes to our room and pats me. After I jump out of my skin she puts her little hands up and with her tiny voice says “It’s just me. Lillian.” She is very serious about making sure I’m not afraid. Just Lillian. I tried bringing her into our bed (for the first time in her life!), but she was too restless and has way too many bony joints for my liking. She would prefer I come back and lay with her in her bed until she falls asleep. This is all fine with me as she has a full size very comfy bed. Sometimes her bed is too comfy and I fall asleep there for a couple hours before sneaking out and cursing all the squeaky floorboards like I did when she was an infant. Sometimes I get stressed because I have trouble falling back asleep, but I know it won’t last forever and I kind of love snuggling her crazy bedhead.

Besides our midnight shenanigans, things around here have been pretty rosy unicorn rainbow sparkle-factory-esque. Three (and ½)  and 1½ are awesome ages. Lily is rounding the corner out of the boundary-pushing phase and Mila is entering the crazy walking/talking/belly laughing/growling phase. Is that not a normal phase? Well it is around here and it is super cute. They are so fun and love playing together. Lily gets upset when Mila doesn’t understand what she wants to do and I often hear her yelling “EMILIA!” trying to get her attention. Poor Mila has no clue her name is Emilia so this is not super effective.

Mila is honestly the most affectionate kid I’ve ever seen. So many unprompted cuddles and hugs and kisses. Oh the constant kisses, I just melt a thousand times a day for that girl. She is suddenly obsessed with dogs. It was one of her first words, but recently “dog” has become “DOGGIE!” followed by huge dimpled grins and giggles. She has about 5 different stuffed dogs now and can be seen carrying between 1 and 3 dogs at any given time.

Lily has grown so much just since starting preschool in September. She still needs about 5 minutes to warm up to new people/places, but then she is off making friends and introducing herself to people. Oh by the way, she is Lillian now. We still call her Lily, but they call her Lillian at preschool (there is another Lily) and now that is how she refers to herself. She is so smart and is such a sponge soaking up knowledge and asking questions about everything. I can’t tell you how many times a day I say “I don’t know, let’s look that up.” Thank goodness for iPhones. What did parents do before the internet? Make things up? Maybe that is why I don’t know this stuff…

I was about to finish off this post with some holiday pictures and then realized, I’VE DONE STUFF TOO! Oh yeah, me. I am training for a half marathon! I ran one half marathon right before I got pregnant with Lily and I haven’t run much since, what with all the baby creating. My sister is a running rockstar and has been incredibly patient, willing to run veeeeery slowly, and the most excellent cheerleader as I begin my long road back to being fit. I've been at it a few weeks now and I already notice the difference in how I feel both physically and emotionally. I am meant to be an active being.

And now for pictures. Try to guess how my kids feel about Santa.

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