Article: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

If you are a working mom you most likely were sent or saw this article published in The Atlantic: Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.  It has been a hot read with over 75,000 shares on Facebook and was the most trafficked article in history for The Atlantic. There is a reason why this article resonates with so many women, evoking passion and anger about the challenges with trying to “have it all”. The article is long, but a great read.

The author, Anne-Marie Slaughter, asks “Has the older generation of feminists sold younger generation a fiction?”  The answer is yes. The older generation of powerful and strong women have paved the way for young women today to blaze the trail of  upper management and executive leadership, but weren’t explicit that in order to get that you’d have to put family time on the back burner. Many of us who are really ambitious and career oriented struggle with actually saying we want to be home with our kids. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to work, many of us do, we need a balance of both.

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Working Moms: Pumping at Work

When you head back to work on your first day, you’ll likely have one extra bag with you — a bag with your breastpump! You arrive thinking all you need is your equipment, ice pack and storage bags or bottles. Think again! Here is a list of what to pack in your breast pump bag from someone who more than once was caught without something I needed:

  1. Breastpump and accessories: this seems obvious but make sure to double check that you have everything before you leave for work
  2. Paper towels: there will be all sorts of drips and drops that you’ll want to catch so they don’t mess up your clothes
  3. Cleaning wipes: medela sells some breastpump “quick clean” wipes for your equipment. A must if you don’t have a sink where you pump
  4. A sharpie! Important if you are pumping into bags or containers that you will store, make sure to date each one.
  5. Frozen ice pack: don’t forget to put in the freezer the night before! No one wants to put their breastmilk in the work refrigerator.
  6. Nursing cover or shall: on a normal day you won’t need this, but those few times you have to pump on the go (yes, I have pumped while driving in the car on the way to a meeting) you’ll wish you had it
  7. Extra breast milk storage bags: just incase you have to stay longer than you thought, you want extra storage containers on hand
  8. Hands free nursing bra: you’ll be upset if you forget this! The nursing bra is essential for a productive or at least entertaining pumping session (you can use your hands to check email, read, make calls, etc…)

Here are other tips in terms of making time for pumping at work:

  1. Schedule time on your calendar to pump. That way no one will book meetings back to back and not allow you a 30 minute break to pump.
  2. In a long meeting, don’t be shy to speak up and say you need a 15 minute break. People who know you ‘re pumping will respect it and for those who don’t, everyone appreciates a break in a several hour meeting.
  3. Plan ahead. This is the single biggest bit of advice. Look at your calendar to know when you will pump based on your schedule. Sometimes you’ll need to pump 45 minutes earlier than you would have because of meetings.

I am quite busy at work and usually have several meetings a day, sometimes all day meetings. I have always found time to pump you just have to plan ahead and make it a priority. One more thing to manage I know, but totally worth it.

Happy pumping!

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Maternity Leave: What It’s Really Like

For most of us, maternity leave is the first time in a long time where we wouldn’t be working for an extended period of time. For me there wasn’t a time I didn’t work — since college I had a job and I never took more than 1 week between jobs. Vacations here and there sure, but not 3 months of no work. Of course I had all sorts of plans for maternity leave… finish scrap books from vacations past, clean out my closet, try those brunch spots I never seem to make it to. Ya right. As you know or will soon find out, if you have any time you’re bathing, eating or getting some much needed rest. And then If you have a few extra minutes outside of taking care of your basic needs, you are so freaking tired and worn out that all you want to do is lay on the couch and veg out.

You will live in PJs. You will not wear makeup. You will live in flip flops and tennis shoes. You will look in the mirror and think, “Wow I look 10 years younger than I feel”.

Then as your baby grows and starts sleeping longer and longer stretches (maybe 4 hours) giving you some well deserved reprieve you finally find some energy to start the baby book, or write thank you cards or maybe even get your nails/toes done and put something on other than sweats. You start really enjoying your new life hanging out with your baby, going to the grocery store mid-day during the week when no one else is there and never sitting in traffic because you can make your own schedule. You become very busy taking care of the little one while doing whatever side or house projects you have lined up.
This is the time to get out and start exercising, taking mini trips with your baby to meet family or just to getaway. Trust me, once work starts up again there will be no time to work out (without sacrificing time with your baby or sacrificing sleep) and weekend travel you want to spend with your baby not in a car or plane.
If you have high hopes for a productive maternity leave don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get anything done but take care of your baby, that is all you need to do. Cherish every moment because before you know it you’ll only be seeing your baby mornings and evenings during the week and you’ll wish you had days full of staring at each other just watching them grow.

Working Moms: Going Back to Work

Going back to work after maternity leave is a transition. Some moms look forward to getting back in the swing of things and getting a break from ‘baby world’ and others — like myself — there isn’t any longing to return to work. I knew it was inevitable that I’d have to face the transition back to the daily grind, but for good reason I managed to keep these thoughts out of my head during maternity leave.

Then… all too soon… it’s the call or email from your boss. “We look forward to seeing you on Monday!” You spend the next few days mentally preparing for taking back work responsibilities and trying on all your clothes to see what actually fits (not too much).

Sunday night comes and you’re in tears. Monday morning comes and you’re in tears. You arrive at work, everyone is so happy to see you, but you’re just fighting back tears every time they ask you about the baby.

It’s a big transition. Expect tears, expect fear and anxiety, and of course expect a little guilt. Maybe you’ll be lucky and will not have any of this — I wish that for you! — but the majority of moms I’ve spoken to do. I had all these feelings and really wondered if we should make a drastic life change (i.e. move somewhere cheaper) so I could stop working and be home with Archer. We are very lucky that Donavan’s job allows him to work from home and take care of Archer. I know not every family is able to have a stay at home parent, but no matter your daycare situation you still will miss your baby, wondering if what you’re doing is right and wish you had more time at home.

I was so desperate to spend more time with Archer after the first few weeks of going back to work that I came up with some ways to spend more time with him, even if it was just 15 more minutes in the morning, it was worth it. Here’s what we did to help with my transition back:

  1. Frequent picture text messages
  2. Calls mid day to check in
  3. Shortened hours for the first few weeks (left a little later for work and promptly headed home at 5:15 or 5:30 to get another hour and a half with him before bed).
  4. Lunch visits once or twice a week (Donavan would bring Archer to the office for a lunch date)
  5. Videos saved on my phone to view when I needed a pick me up
  6. On my way home from work, mentally transition off of business Lizzie to mommy, by singing his favorite song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Sounds weird to sing this in the car by myself, but I needed something to get me out of my traditional work role. It’s a mental shift that takes some practice.

If you have an at home Nanny all of this is doable. If you have daycare, you should still be able to get a phone call check in and at least one picture text message during the day. If you work close by, you should be able to go in for lunch once a week. (my sister does this with her son) Tell them you need it for the first few weeks to help you with the transition. If they refuse… maybe that’s a sign of needed a new daycare!

Now I’ve been back at work for 2 months and I am over any anxiety, fear or major guilt. Now I do have a different type of guilt, guild that I enjoy work and don’t miss being home. But I remind myself that I am doing what’s best for my family and I work hard to spend as much time I can with him. While I’m not there all day, I am there when he wakes up and to put him down for the night.

I’ve spoken to other Moms who have quit their jobs to stay home and almost all say “The grass is always greener.” You have to make the best decision for you, but I will tell you wait a few weeks before making any big changes. Try these tips and it will get easier. You’ll be surprised how quickly you fall back into a pattern. I don’t know if that is good or not, but if you have to work then know it gets easier with each week that goes by. It’s important that your boss and caregiver are flexible and supportive. The number one reason women quit promising careers is because their bosses are inflexible — don’t be one of those bosses — and I hope you don’t have one of those bosses. I had a conversation with my a week in and asked him to be patient with me as I transition back to full time work. He was supportive and even suggested bringing him in the office for lunches. You may be surprised what they offer if they know you are struggling a bit.

At the end of all this I asked myself, If I could stay home would I? I am not sure I would, I might prefer to work 3 or 4 days a week instead of 5 but in the end, I am proud to be a working Mom and to teach my son that his Mom is a hard working and successful woman — women can be mommies, wives and executives. That has to count for something!

Here I am getting ready in the morning with Archer. I spend as much time with him as I can, even if that means doing my makeup with one hand!

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Breast Feeding: Choosing a Breast Pump

If you’re a working mom committed to breast feeding when you go back to work, I recommend investing in the top of the line breast pump. I don’t know of anyone who has a breast pump that isn’t Medela branded. They seem to be the leader in this category.

They have several options, but the two most common are the Pump in Style and the Freestyle. The main difference between the two is the Pump in Style must be plugged in while you pump and it comes in a large bag which you can’t remove it from while the Freestyle is cordless, you charge it over night, so you can take it anywhere with you and can pump anywhere — no outlet needed. Of course the Freestyle ($350) is about $100 more expensive than the Pump in Style ($250), but in my opinion it’s worth every penny if you’re a working mom who will be using it up to 4 times a day, 15 minutes at a time.

Several friends of mine bought the cheaper Pump in Style and wished they bought the Freestyle. I took their advice and so should you! You can also keep using it for all your kids so you can think of it as an investment.

Freestyle® Breastpump | Medela.

Breast Feeding: Breastmilk Storage

Once milk is thawed you must use in 24 hrs do not refreeze. If milk is warmed you must use, you can’t refrigerate and reuse. If a bottle isn’t finished and there’s still milk in the bottle, you’re supposed to toss it. I usually just refrigerate and reuse the same day, otherwise I toss.

If you are unsure if milk is spoiled or not you can smell it, it will spell like spoiled milk (sour smell) or you can taste it. If it’s not sweet, but tangy and foul tasting it’s bad. Still unsure, offer it to your baby. If it’s bad they won’t eat it — mother nature is pretty smart that way!  Twice when my husband tried to feed Archer a bottle he rejected them, we didn’t understand why and only when we tasted the milk realized it had gone bad. We’re not sure how it went bad… but it did and Archer knew better than us.