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working mom

working mom

3 people you need to boost your friend count

June 30, 2016

When we were younger we were told to ‘use the buddy system!’ The same is true for when you become an adult and especially when you become a parent.

There are three distinct friends every working mom needs to cultivate…

  1. A friend at work
    1. Fact – you’re at work A LOT. So find someone who shares a kid around the same age or similar child rearing philosophies. Grab lunch and talk about struggles around work/life balance or preparing for/returning from maternity leave. Share great deals you’ve found, talk about your favorite products or how weird it is when co-workers ask you about your bottle sanitation bag in the microwave like it’s a cool new meal that they’ve not yet discovered. You will always have a willing listener for your stories and viewer of your pictures.
  2. A friend at daycare
    1. Your kid knows their kid, and more importantly LIKES their kid. Strike-up a conversation at drop-off or pick-up, or do what I did and leave a note for the teacher to pass along. You’ll be glad you hooked-up. Not only is it great for the kids to continue their relationship outside of daycare (they usually know how to play together which is an added bonus!). But you will also have someone else to talk about the happenings at daycare – why a director left, get the skinny on specific rooms and teachers, learn which kids are teaching yours potty humor, etc.
  3. A friend in your current circle
    1. One great thing about longtime friend who also has a kid is that you have a history that predates your offspring. You can talk kids, or talk work, or talk relationship, or talk about weird shit you wouldn’t dare mention to anyone else, or NOT TALK AT ALL because you just get each other. Your relationship endures even though you now sometimes have little people in tow.

I’m the first one to say ‘ugh I have enough friends’ but trust me, you’ll be glad you reached out.

motherhood, working mom

guilty as charged – no more milk here

June 23, 2016

It’s officially over.

I’m not breastfeeding. I’m not pumping. My boobs are mine again. I should be rejoicing but instead I’m mourning the last drops of breast milk that went into New Baby’s bottles just the other day. Thinking about it still makes me feel a twinge of sadness.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. I am one of the few and lucky ones that didn’t have problems breastfeeding. Meaning that I had supply, I didn’t get mastitis, my baby latched and all was good. (As an aside, for anyone who has issues I applaud your efforts I’m not quite sure if I could have shown the same dedication in the face of challenges on this front.)

My approach to breastfeeding was simple – if it works for us great but if it didn’t then no worries the kid will still eat. I was given formula and turned out to be a healthy happy human so will New Baby.

Before you think I’m effortlessly chill let me just tell you I HAD to take that stance for my own sanity. I’m actually a crazy perfectionist at heart and if I didn’t tell myself that it’s totally cool to do or not do this and deliberately NOT have plans about it I would have driven myself into depression.

And now that the well has literally dried up I feel… a little… well… guilty.

  • Guilty for not breastfeeding longer
    • And extra guilty because it was relatively easy for me, I didn’t even have to work that hard for it and I’m not doing it anymore
  • Guilty for not trying hard to keep up my supply
    • I could have tried ‘power hour’ pumping sessions or all of the lactation inducing food items on repeat, but I didn’t
  • Guilty for being excited to have my body back
    • No one is relying on my body for anything and it’s kinda great

This is where it’s awesome to have a cheerleader in your life. As I confessed these things in our kitchen to my husband who was busy washing New Baby’s bottles from daycare he said:

I’m not going to pretend to understand how you’re feeling but what I will tell you is this…

  • You made it longer with New Baby than you did with V

  • He’s got over 9 months of breast milk under his belt and soon he’ll be One and onto real human food so it’s about to end anyway

  • You did awesome, it’s over… and time for you to get over it

 

He’s right. All of that is true. Especially the last point – it’s over and time for me to get over it. Stop dwelling and MOVE ON!

There really are so many things to look forward to…

  • My pump doesn’t need to ride shotgun on the commute to work anymore
  • My schedule just opened up, no need to block chunks of time and lock my office door to pump over emails
  • No more thawing bags of milk and stressing about losing a drop of liquid gold to a leaky bag
  • I get my boobs back

Oh.. and above all my little dude will be totally and completely FINE without it.

Cheers to that!

-JLVR

working mom

5 simple ways to support your pumping partner

June 9, 2016

Recently in my facebook feed the article on Romper by Jamie Kenney “12 Things Grown-Ass Men Do For Their Partners Who Are Breastfeeding” popped up in my feed. Since I was, at the time, still breastfeeding (which can been an all-consuming activity) I was intrigued. I agree with some of her points wholeheartedly such as ‘don’t be weird about boobs’ and ‘don’t complain about having to “share the boobs”’ (and for the record they are MY BOOBS THANK YOU!). I have been thinking of my own journey with breastfeeding and more importantly as a full-time working mom PUMPING. Here are my ‘5 simple ways to support your pumping partner’.

5 simple ways to support your pumping partner

5 simple ways to support your pumping partner

Clean It Up

I can definitively say that my husband washed my pump parts far more times than I did. He’s most excited now that I’m done pumping that he doesn’t have to wash the parts ever again! Be a good partner – know what the parts are, how they come apart and how they’re cleaned.

Leak Guard

One of the most devastating things for a mother who’s pumping is to see any precious milk go to waste. One of the sneakiest culprits of this is a leaky milk storage bag. It can literally bring a mom to tears. Keep an eye on the bags while they’re thawing and when necessary save any of that ‘liquid gold’ from going literally down the drain.

Take the Wheel… or the Baby… or the Baby and the Toddler…    

For me there was a clear tipping point where breastfeeding was no longer an option but pumping was. Not only was pumping an option, it was a very necessary one. Drive the car so she can get a pump session in on a road trip. Take the baby, or in my case the baby and the toddler, so that she can get a quick session in.

Camaraderie

After our kids were put to bed for the night I’d pump one more time before I retired for the evening… (and by ‘retired for the evening’ I mean promptly passed out until a screaming infant woke me in the middle of the night). My husband would sit up with me and watch TV while I pumped. It was a small gesture but so appreciated. He made me feel like I wasn’t in this alone.

Celebrate

One day this breastfeeding ride will come to an end, for some that may be sooner than others. If you’re like me, and likely most women everywhere, you’ll feel a mixture of excitement (yay my body is MINE again!) and guilt (should I try to keep going?!). You reach a point where it’s like squeezing water from a stone – it just ain’t gonna happen. And that’s OK! You want your body to be your own again? That’s OK too! Support your partner, celebrate the triumph of a freezer full of milk. Assure her that everything will alright and  that she did a great job. More importantly pop some bottles because the days of abstaining from alcohol are over!

As an aside…

You know something funny? Inevitably as a working mom in an office setting your co-workers will get a glimpse of something related to pumping at some point. Most notably me sterilizing my parts in a Medela Steam Bag* in the kitchen microwave. More often than not the women in my office knew NOTHING about what I was doing but there were a handful of fathers around my age that did. They knew the terminology, the gear, the struggle, everything. They were a source of support that I didn’t expect to find at work.

Happy Pumping!

-JLVR

*By the way the ONLY brand to buy is Medela in regard to a steam bag, they’re super sturdy! Trust me do not waste your money on generic.

working mom

3 reasons NOT to join a lactation support group

March 29, 2016

FACT: breastfeeding working moms think about lactation pretty much all of the time.

How much milk am I producing? Is it enough? Can I do anything to boost it? How many times and for how long should I be pumping? How can I keep my supply up?

It’s maddening sometimes how all consuming it can be. You know what sucks? When you actually reach out and join a support group that you think will provide actual support just to end up quitting in a fit of rage-tears because it hurt more than it helped.

3 Reasons NOT to join a lactation support group

  1. Extremes
    1. You want to breastfeed your baby until they are a toddler, can walk around, form sentences and ASK FOR YOUR BOOB? Cool, you do you. As soon as my kid cut teeth and bit me a few times we were done. And guess what, that’s cool too. You don’t have to join a demonstration to be committed to breastfeeding.
  2. Shaming
    1. You know who joins a lactation support group? People committed enough to breastfeeding to want the support of a community. Know what you probably shouldn’t do to those people? Shame them in any way for being ‘less-than’. There is no less-than! A group by definition is ‘a collection of persons considered together as being related in some way’. The best way to sabotage your own group is to shame people out of it. It’s counter-intuitive. You’re all there for the same reason. Be inclusive – that’s the point!
  3. Agenda Pushing ‘Advice’
    1. Guess what’s not helpful or supportive? Suggesting I change my work schedule to accommodate my baby’s eating schedule. If that was an option, I’d probably already be exercising it. So no, I cannot shift my work schedule to breastfeed on demand. Maybe try offering up actual advice rather than trying to push your agenda.

You know what’s not good for lactation? Stress and anxiety. So when your “support group” totally sucks at being supportive – ditch it.

-JLVR

 

working mom

Be kind to yourself

March 10, 2016

Sometimes this working mom thing is rough. There was a patch of time that I felt like I had to fight for everything – at home, at work – nothing was coming easy. It was all a struggle. Like trying to run through knee high water.

I was drying my hands in our bathroom going through the motions, on autopilot, blankly staring at myself in the mirror when a coworker approached me. She said…

I don’t know how you do it. You’ve got two boys at home and you work on a demanding and challenging account. You are always so even keeled and everyone has nothing but nice things to say about you. I really look up to you.

She almost brought me to tears. It was a complete surprise and so appreciated to hear her unsolicited impression of me. It felt amazing. Just the pick-me-up I needed.

Sometimes when you think no one is noticing… they are. For all the times you feel like you’re not doing your best, know that showing up and pushing through counts for something too.

-JLVR

motherhood, working mom

New Mom? Quit Social Media.

November 18, 2015

My advice for a new mom going back to work? Quit social media.

Why? The recent bombardment of articles around infant death. Seriously.

Going back to work is difficult enough without reading about tragic stories involving infant deaths – which are rare. Even though these incidents are in the vast minority, infant death doesn’t feel rare when you see multiple articles pop up in your feed as you’re checking your social media between meetings. The worst thing? You can’t not read them – you’re compelled by some inner anxiety and fear that ensures you click thru. Why torture yourself?

Many of the articles I’ve read mention having to leave your infant with strangers. To that I ask, why are you leaving your infant with strangers? The people that take care of your child while you’re working should not be strangers. Get to know them for fuck sake you’re leaving your precious tiny human with them!

Many also mention a group care setting. Not comfortable with a group care/daycare setting? Don’t send your kid there. Find another option – a nanny, an au pair, relatives or determine which partner will stay home. You have options – exercise them.

I will tell you from experience, however, leaving your kid to go back to work with ANYONE other than YOU is f-ing HARD. Even if it’s your own relatives – the fact remains it’s not YOU. And that SUCKS.

What can you do to ease your mind? Get to know your care providers in any setting you choose. Ensure that appropriate certifications are in place, like CPR for instance, and that your child will only be allowed to sleep in a crib devoid of loose material on their back (not in any type of seat or carrier). Oh… and quit social media for awhile.

I just recently began back at work full-time after having baby #2 – ‘new baby’ according to our toddler – and all these articles are making me beyond anxious. Even though this is not my first rodeo, I furiously texted my husband in a panic just yesterday morning after reading yet another story.

Are you a new mom preparing to go back to work? Do yourself a favor and quit social media for awhile.

 

 

working mom

Another Reason to Love Netflix

August 5, 2015

As a parent ready to embark on leave in the all too near future, I’m attracted like a moth to a flame to Netflix’s announcement on their parental leave policy. If you’ve not heard about this yet, it’s worth a quick read. Not only are they offering full salaries and benefits but allowing flexibility for parents to return part time or come back full time for a few months and leave again. If that was not enough, and this is practically unheard of these days, they’re offering this to both men and women! I’m dying.

While I’m grateful for FMLA which ensures me a position and also that at my company offers short-term disability coverage which ensures some financial assistance, I long for more. In honesty we lose out on a nice chunk of income even at the standard 6 or 8 week leave period not to mention extending to a full 12 weeks. Keep in mind I’m speaking for myself, a woman in the workplace that is offered leave, my husband doesn’t even have the luxury of parental leave.

One of the biggest considerations when becoming a new parent is weighing the time you would like to/need to take off, prior to knowing what your needs will really be, with the financial implications. It is almost always a bummer of a conversation.

What Netflix is offering is beyond amazing, something that is likely not to be rivaled let alone matched by many others. Like I needed another reason to keep my Netflix subscription!

– JLVR

P.S. If you’re a new parent and handling middle of the night feedings, I highly recommend investing in a Netflix subscription. I’ve written about my Netflix addiction before – it’s the real deal, I’m hooked. My iPhone equipped with the Netflix app saved me – it kept me awake, engaged and made it easier to get up… AGAIN… in the middle of the night with my newborn. In fact, this go ‘round I’ve saved Orange is the New Black and Wet Hot American Summer – First Day of Camp specifically for this reason!

working mom

why I’m a working mom

June 15, 2015

I’m a working mom because my husband and I are in this parenting game 100%.

He may have never packed a diaper or overnight bag but he does 99.9% of daycare drop-off and pick-up. (He always gives Daycare the heads-up if I’m ever to pick-up V so they don’t assume I’m trying to kidnap him I’m there so infrequently).

He gets V set-up for dinner every night and cooks for all of us. He also takes V to swim every weekend, it’s something they do together.

I work because we work together.

We do V’s bedtime routine together every night trading off who will read him a book and rock him to sleep.

For a few months when it was all about ‘Dada’ he put V to bed every night and  comforted him whenever he needed it, even in the middle of the night.

When V had to go to the hospital, we navigated it together and were there for every moment as a team. He has subsequently taken him to every doctors appointment and almost every blood draw.

I work because we work hard to figure out our balance.

Some days work is challenging, luckily our challenges tend to trade off allowing the other to pick-up the slack. Whether its me or it’s him that needs to work late, it’s no problem – pick-up, dinner and bedtime still happen.

I work because my husband supports my role as a mom AND my career.

Outside of my parents there is no one person more proud or excited about my career achievements than my husband. There’s also no one more enthusiastic about my role as V’s mom. He knew I could do this motherhood thing before I did. Literally.

 

For all the times I want to murder him a little bit in his sleep, I’m reminded of his hard work and sacrifice for our family. For now, we live on in our version of harmony.

working mom

it’s not a threat, it’s a promise

May 28, 2015

Our little guy has had a rough go of it lately. He’s been a little off. I think he maybe picked up a bug going around school (aka daycare) which has made him a bit more irritable. He’s also waking up WAY TOO EARLY and we’re trying to get him back down for the extra sleep he needs. (Easier said than done). He may also be going through a bit more of an attachment phase. All of which has created the perfect storm in an approaching 2 year-old which has lead to a boy that will cry at the drop of a hat. (Dad puts a shirt on – he sobs. We put yogurt in a bowl instead of giving him the GIANT container – he sobs. You get the idea…)

That said, leaving the house and being dropped-off at daycare has been on the list of unpleasant activities as of late. The kid that enthusiastically kissed me goodbye and went with Dad into the car, then popped out of Dad’s arms at daycare to play with his friends before even getting his coat off is replaced by a crying clinging little boy.

You know it’s bad when my husband basically passes off duty on me for a day, and by ‘pass’ I mean ‘forces duty upon me’ by all but refusing to take V to daycare. So I, by default, got drop-off duty. (To be fair, my husband does literally 98% of both drop-off and pick-up, it’s VERY RARE for daycare to see me – likeever – so I figured I could step-up this one time).

Let me preface this by saying that I’m pregnant and hormonal (a card I typically do not play but when you read about my display and subsequent response you’ll understand why).

Getting out of the house was not a problem. Got in the car and drove to daycare without a hitch. Walked through the door and into his classroom… this is where the problems started. He didn’t want me to go and was jumping for me to pick him ‘up! up! up!’ when I set him down to pull off his coat. I decided to sit with him and figured that would get him acclimated to the room and he’d be good for me to go. He was not good to go. Every time I even mentioned getting ready to leave he started sobbing. I say sob because most of the time V doesn’t just cry he full on sobs – very dramatic this one. It was heartbreaking. I could feel tears welling in my eyes. Finally I had to rip the band-aid off and place him in the arms of the teacher and head out the door. I cried the entire way down the hall, out the door and in my car for a good portion of my commute. I literally couldn’t talk about it when I was at work because it would cause me to cry. It was the worst. No wonder my husband didn’t want to drop him off!

Then again it doesn’t help matters that work is particularly challenging which piles onto my stress level and really was not an attractive activity to have to leave a sobbing toddler for. I would have much rather been hanging with him than dealing with things at the office. After this particularly trying day both on home and work front I was spent. Later that night when my husband returned home we were chatting about the day. (I use the word ‘chatting’ loosely it was more like me venting intensely and him patiently listening to me). I told him, in no uncertain terms, that if he wanted me to be on drop-off duty for V again I would literally walk into work and put in my notice. This was not a threat, this was a promise. I literally can. not. do. it. A bit dramatic? Yes. Far fetched? Not so much.

working mom

Rachel Zoe is my spirit animal

May 8, 2015

I was surfing my favorite news sites quickly yesterday afternoon during my 4:15PM lunch break at work (yes lunch) and stumbled upon a a quick read on USA Today Life which talks about designer and business owner Rachel Zoe and her claim that creating an office nursery was her best business decision yet. As a fellow working mom who was motivated and committed to returning to my career after maternity leave I just loved the approach she took. I was compelled to read her essay in its entirety.

The icing for me was this quote:

“My advice to you: Never apologize for being dedicated to your kids and challenge those around you to not only acknowledge, but celebrate your ability to be a mother and an asset in the workplace.”

Work/Life balance is always a struggle, one that parenthood adds an additional layer onto for both mom and dad. Though it’s one, I would argue, that has also made me a better employee.

Just loved this take from her, so refreshing.

It may only be one small step, but it was taken like a boss.