Submitted by "Human Rights Mama"
Note: This is not a sponsored story. Neither the author nor Working Parent Stories have received any form of compensation from the businesses and services mentioned below.
As a lawyer specializing in policy advocacy for refugee rights and the mother of two, I've found myself pumping in a wide variety of places including New York City, Geneva, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, and Brussels. (Not to mention on airplanes to said destinations.) I have also purchased pump replacement parts in nearly all of these cities, as I seem to forget one key part on every single trip. Target stores are a blessing to all women who need quick pumping solutions!
Figuring out where to pump can be a challenge. On many trips I need to walk or take transit between multiple meetings in a single day. It's often hard to find places to pump or nurse when I'm away from home and on the go; especially in big cities. Thankfully there are some apps and websites that crowsdsource good places to pump, including momspumphere.com. When in doubt, I’ve found it helps to ask the Internet.
Hotels have been the most accommodating in my experience. They usually offer me an empty room or an office, even if I'm not a guest. And like many, I've had to settle for the gross public restroom on occasion.
Airports often have lactation or baby rooms now, which is in credibly helpful. San Francisco International Airport has a great room on the new pier in Terminal 3; it has become one of my favorite stops before boarding a plane.
My favorite ad hoc location was a Nordstrom dressing room near Washington, DC. It was quite comfortable, though I am sure the other patrons were a bit confused by the mechanical sounds coming from my room :)
And what to do with all that milk? Thankfully there are services available to ship it home in a chilled container. I’ve used Milk Stork, and FedEx has options as well.
Being a working parent is a challenge. After reading the book The Hate U Give recently, I'm reminded that it's even more of a challenge for some parents, like those depicted in the book. This young adult novel was a book club "assigned read" and one that I feared would be a difficult one. But it was just the opposite. While the subject matter is heavy and revolves around a police shooting of an unarmed young man, the story is told in a way that is compelling and well-rounded. Along with the very difficult situations, there is love, laughter and teen-aged silliness (and angst).
Even though the book is targeted at readers much younger than me, I found it compelling, relevant, and very worthwhile. It made me realize than one person's idea of struggle just may be another's idea of privilege. If everyone in the US (at least) read this book, I think we might have at least a little less strife and a lot more understanding of each other.
Submitted by "Human Rights Mama"
Remember the video of the man who was being interviewed by the BBC live when his toddler walked into the room? That is probably every work-from-home parent's nightmare, and I was thinking about it recently when I was asked to create a "welcome video" to introduce myself as a tutor for an online course on refugee protection.
Online learning and virtual workplaces are magical inventions for working parents with small children. No one needs to know that you are in your pajamas, or haven’t showered for a couple of days, as long as your brain is clear and your fingers type swiftly. Unless, of course, you need to be on video.
As the mother of a 10-week-old, I don't currently go into an office during the day, and I don’t have the luxury of time. While my baby isn’t mobile, her little voice travels in my small apartment, so I'm pretty proud of the fact that I was able to create and post a video recently. And it was done on time, and I looked (at least theoretically) polished. The technique? I put on some makeup very early in the morning. Later that day, I put the baby down for a nap, pulled a blazer on over a nursing shirt, clipped my hair back, found a good backdrop (a bookshelf), and filmed the whole thing before she even woke up.
As Leonard Bernstein once said, "To achieve success, two things are needed; a plan and not enough time." I concur.
Submitted by the 40 daddy
While it’s common to discuss the merits of the Family/Career balance, I actually feel healthier when I focus on the Family/Career/Passion balance.
At a high level I define these as follows:
-- Family time is spent with my children and spouse; all of us together as well as time alone with my spouse.
-- Career provides my source of income…obviously.
-- Passion The collection of activities and hobbies that bring me joy.
Family obviously consumes the greatest share of time, as it should. Kids wake up and need to be coaxed back to sleep, they need food (so needy ;), want to play, and get sick. (And those little germ factories will get you sick!) We all know the drill. It takes a lot of time to raise kids.
But it’s easy to forget what I consider to be a critical component of family time: I call this “spousing”. (Is spousing a word? I’m not sure, but it wasn’t autocorrected so let’s add it to the lexicon.) And while Netflix is technically shared time together, it’s not really enough. We make time to talk for at least 10-15 minutes before Netflix. (We have so much free time!) We take walks together (e.g. we go down to the basement to look at what needs to be repaired or walk over to the garage to discuss the strange pool of liquid under the car). We try to go out for dinner together every few weeks too. (At least when our parents are in town, and there are plenty of diapers and breastmilk on hand. And the emergency numbers are up-to-date on the fridge. And you’ve conveyed which snacks are okay and which stuffed animals should always be near which blankies. And … ok fine we’ve only done this twice in three years.) It might end up only being 10-15 minutes, but we try to have “non-child-based" conversations …
Career takes almost as much time as family. We all know you gotta pay the bills.
Many employers will say they respect the demands of parenting, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Some of my previous co-workers (and managers) didn’t have children and didn’t truly understand the demands they present. To be fair, how could they possibly understand? I know that I didn’t fully understand them until I took the plunge.
I’ve always been open about my family obligations. I try to manage expectations about my work through clear communication. I’m also careful about the spacing of large projects that require a lot of time and attention (e.g. long days, weekend work, fast responses times). One trick I use is to be sure to include often overlooked tasks within my full-time schedule. (i.e. I schedule blocks of time for mundane activities like administrative work and supporting teammates.) This provides me with a bit of a buffer so when I’m not in the middle of a critical project I can often arrive a little later, or go home a little earlier, and shut off my phone for the weekend.
When I strike that clear, well-defined balance, it helps with my morale at home and at work, it enables me to spend plenty of time with my family and on my career, and feels like I’m contributing in both roles.
For me, it’s crucial that I also make some time to pursue my passions. Sometimes it’s guitar, sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s carpentry, or rehearsing a theater piece.
I find it hardest to make time for these things. Several nights of broken sleep aren’t great motivators for waking up early to write the next Game of Thrones. If we don’t get all the kids asleep until 9:30 pm, I don’t have enough energy left to break out the guitar or get the table saw running. Standard home maintenance tasks like sweeping, dishes, groceries, and laundry can easily consume all of our time during a weekend … That makes a beer and Hulu feel like the most peaceful way to spend my cherished down time.
I’ve managed to carve out some time for these activities in several ways. I hustle the kids out a little earlier than normal so I’m at my desk 30-45 minutes before I’m needed. Or I pack food, kill the Internet, and put on head phones during my lunch break. My wife and I will swap out time on the weekends so she can take a yoga class on Saturday and I can go for a run on Sunday.
Time for ourselves and our passions does wonders for my wife and me.
I feel lucky in many ways. I started a family later than many; just after I turned 40. That gave me 20 years to play around, screw up, try and reject jobs, learn to live without much money, and then land a career that I enjoy and really establish myself. By the time my kids were born I’d developed a strong reputation, a large industry network, and marketable skillsets. This stability means that my career enables me to spend a reasonable amount of time with my family.
I also have a strong partner with a career and passions of her own that I actively support, and on occasion I make sacrifices to help her accomplish her goals. We have each focused on each other’s careers and needs as much as, if not more, than our own. For us this is hugely valuable; doing everything we can to support each other’s careers. At different times, one career or the other takes precedence. Sometimes only one of us is intensely pursuing a passion or career, and if a balance isn’t struck it can lead to stresses in the relationship.
Just recently I reached a point where I am able to trim back my career, which I love, to make a bit more time for family as well as passions that could lead to a secondary career. It’s taken 20 years to reach this point, and it still feels like a risk. We’ll see what happens.
I feel strongly that my deathbed memories will not be focused on my careers and hours worked, but instead will focus on our family and the passions we pursued. I’m working on making sure I have lots of great deathbed memories. (As morbid as that sounds as I write it.)
Submitted by "Human Rights Mama"
As a lawyer specializing in policy advocacy for refugee rights and the mother of a 3-year-old and 10-week-old, I've had a number of experiences that only seem "funny" in hindsight. I share them in an effort to encourage other working parents because it isn't always easy, but we get the job done (at work and at home)!
When my son, our first child, was 3.5 months old, I took a required work trip to a conference in Europe. It was my second week back from maternity leave and my employer was very supportive, encouraging me to bring my spouse and baby along. Having them close enabled me to more easily focus on my work; leading a staff retreat and attending human rights hearings at the UN all week. My husband was extremely supportive and happy to come along to help, but the universe kept throwing obstacles in our way. At the time I was exclusively breastfeeding and quickly discovered that I did not have the right electrical adapters to enable me to pump. Plus there weren't many electrical outlets in the city restrooms anyway.
As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, it was 100F degrees outside, and it was humid too. But we made it work.
Instead of seeing some sights as he'd planned, my husband brought the baby to me every three hours for feedings. The thing was, my husband rarely had the right badges to get into the buildings, so he had to wait for me out in the heat. Or sometimes we met in an air-conditioned grocery store to pass the baby back and forth. Then he would pack our little boy up and try to get him somewhere cool for a nap. He must have logged 50 miles of walking that week!
In one of my favorite moments, the UN refused to let the baby through security because he didn't have an official badge from an accredited organization. That meant that I missed an entire afternoon of hearings at the Human Rights Council. I believe they were talking about women’s rights in that session ...
The irony was not lost on me.
Pointer to the recent CNN interview with Mark Zuckerberg
Last night, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, was interviewed by CNN in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. While the entire interview was interesting, we couldn't help but appreciate Mark's brief comments near the very end about how being a father has changed his "guiding philosophy". You can hear his thoughts for yourself starting at the 14:00 min mark of this video.
Link to a video posted on Twitter
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Often we encourage our kids to persevere when they struggle. And sometimes we learn by watching them. Check out the tenatious child in this video (<1 min) that was recently posted on Twitter.
Being a working parent can be like this, but if you keep at it, and get some good advice, you're likely to have a great sense of accomplishment at the end!
A book review
Pointer to a Yahoo! Lifestyle video featuring Anne McClain
Some working parents fret about the need to travel for business. Astronaut Anne McClain, who will be heading to the International Space Station in November, offers a balanced perspective shared by many. Some of her thoughts have been included in a short Yahoo! Lifestyle video (<2 min). Enjoy!
Submitted by The Mama Politic
My husband and I both work. I'm an academic researcher. He's a sociologist. We have a daughter who recently turned one and older children from my husband's previous marriage.
For now we're prioritizing my career, although neither of us is slacking on the job. His strong support is enabling me to advance in my dream job as an applied research faculty member at a large university. I feel lucky to have his backing along with somewhat flexible work hours. We also have great daycare which we appreciate. Our caregiver is wonderful, and our daughter appears to be thriving. Lots of things are going really well.
Still, it isn't easy. One of the things I find hardest about being a working parent is balancing career objectives with this feeling that I need to "do it all". And look fantastic doing it! As the sole cook in our family (long story), I need to get dinner ready each evening. Given my food allergies, this takes some extra effort. And to make things extra challenging, my daughter just started becoming incredibly fussy when we get home at the end of the day. Trying to make dinner and keep her happy is starting to feel like a losing battle. Between my Type A personality that has me wanting to make a great dinner and her unabated screaming, feelings of frustration and uselessness often take over. Hopefully this is a temporary phase.
One way I am staying motivated is by training myself to say, "Screw that!" to a lot of things. I didn't puree my daughter's food when she was younger, I don't make bento boxes, and right now I just feed my daughter everything we eat - spices and all. She has slept in her own crib since day one, and I never breastfed because post partum depression required me to take a mood stabilizer. Sometimes I feel like I can't possibly be "enough" at home. Interestingly, many things seem to come more naturally to my husband than they do to me. Maybe it's because he has older children and has done this before. Still, I feel like I need to do it all, or at least I want to do it all. These feelings and challenges are helping me learn the value of prioritization.
As I ponder the way we negotiate this life, I think about my need for my husband to support my career goals and understand my need to go to work every day. We are far from perfect, but he definitely has my back professionally. This may be difficult for some couples to understand. Maybe the fact that we both had working moms is why it feels right to us.
Some friends who don't get it give me flak. They warn me that I'll regret not putting our daughter to bed every single night, and they're concerned that I've never cried when I've taken her to daycare. When our daughter was six months old, I changed jobs so I could spend more time with her, but some still seem concerned for me.
My husband and I take this all in. We also know that our daughter is healthy, happy, and developmentally on track. She clearly loves us. Because we need our work to feel fulfilled, we truly believe that we're making choices that are best for her, our marriage and our family. It just feels right.