109 posts categorized "Working mamas"
October 14, 2013
It has been forever since we met for an urbanMamas working mama lunch! So let's get toegther before the holiday weekend (4 days for PPS parents) and check in. How was the summer? Have you been 'leaning in' at the office? Or 'leaning out'? RSVP in the comments by Tuesday, November 5th.
date: Thursday, November 7th
time: 12:30 - 2:00
location: Red Star Tavern
Hope to see some familiar and new faces.
August 27, 2013
I have always had this tendency to overcommit. Back in college, I recall getting involved in so many campus activities, in addition to taking a full academic load, plus working. One day, I just crashed. I went to bed, exhausted, at maybe 7pm one night, and I did not wake up until 9 or 10pm the following day. I literally slept for over 24 hours. I also had a moment in college when I was so overcommitted, I had to drop half of my courseload part-way into the semester. I had gotten so far behind that I knew I couldn't pull myself back.
As a mama, I struggle with similar tendencies. I watch fellow mamas struggle with the same. What is the right balance, how much should I volunteer even if I am working a full-time out-of-the-house job? As school is ramping up once again, I am already receiving requests to coordinate an event or lead another initiative and - "oh, by the way" - could I also pick up the donated pastries for the first-day-of-school coffee social?
I had to stop and remind myself: Mama, you are not supernatural. I am starting this school year with a cold, disorganized from a late summer vacation, and overwhelmed returning to a full load at work. There is no way I can take on much more than I had originally committed to at the end of the last school year. So: my goal. Say "no" to a commitment, but say "yes" to another one, one that serves a grounding or self-preserving function. So: say "no" to picking up those pastries, but say "yes" to a yoga class this week. Say "no" to heading another committee, but say "yes" to taking a 30 minute walk with a neighbor.
We have enough to manage with our kids' extracurriculars. We should keep it simple for ourselves. How *much* do you do? Where do you draw the line? How much is too much, and what is on your "no" list?
April 26, 2013
We have talked a lot about the guilt of travel as working mothers, and how exhausting it is to coordinate child care for business trips and conferences. Even when the conference is brilliant, inspiring, rejuvenating, and chockful of connections that will help us down the road -- I can say all those things, for instance, about the one I attended this weekend, the Oregon Writers Colony spring conference -- when we get home there is the inevitable crash back into the family, both literal and figurative. I walked into the door Sunday late afternoon and my five-year-old ran crash into me with a hug; and I walked into the midst of my boys crashing after a little too much sugar from grandpa. They were wired and the house was extra chaotic and I -- oh, I was happy, to see my boys and on a high from the weekend, but this was so much work.
Since I'm a mother, however, according to a recent and blatantly sexist/is-there-such-a-thing-as-momist? article by the Wall Street Journal, all this is about is escapism.
The WSJ utilized that tried-and-true journalistic condescension, picking out all the very least important bits and turning it into the lede. ("Katherine Stone, a 43-year-old mother and wife from Atlanta, wants to leave her husband and children." [beat] "Just for a few days. On her trip, she will listen to panels addressing issues of concern to mothers, network with other bloggers, and stay in a hotel room that someone else will keep tidy.") Katherine, the mother getting the focus of this condescension is, by the way, a woman who blogs about postpartum depression.
Everyone who goes to conferences (let's be honest) enjoys them a little bit for a few of the wrong reasons. Who doesn't like to stay in a room they don't have to clean themselves? Who doesn't enjoy getting together with colleagues and friends they rarely see except virtually? This has nothing to do with being a parent. And definitely nothing to do with being a mom.
I'll be going to the same conference for which, supposedly, Katherine Stone is eager so she can leave her family behind. Like her, I'm really not that eager to leave them behind; it's just pretty expensive to bring your kids and spouse with you on a business trip where you're going to be working nonstop. This is why so few people do it. I'm also committed to forging partnerships for my magazine and presenting a panel on crowd funding for creative projects.
I'd like to ask the WSJ not to call me, or any of these women, a "mommy," unless actually we are your mommy. And I'd like the WSJ to think about these "mommy" centric pieces, and ask, is it any different for non-parents? Is it any different for men?
Well, other than relieving oneself of the childcare juggle, no. With all respect to Sheryl Sandberg, I really think that the kettle logic and regression fallacies offered by media outlets in support of the theory that mothers are flighty, pleasure-seeking, and unserious when compared to fathers and non-parents is the real problem keeping women from rising through the ranks of organizations.
It's hard enough to go through the second-guessing and priority-juggling when going on a business trip, without a supposedly serious financial newspaper poking fun at you. I'm all for print you know. But not (any more) the WSJ.
April 01, 2013
March 21, 2013
January 03, 2013
November 05, 2012
The mama guilt and chest tightening is in full effect again today, as I ready the fridge and leave notes everywhere for work that requires me to be away for 24+hrs. Yesterday, in preparation for another busy week wherein I must ask my kids to be independent and responsible (taking care of themselves, letting themselves into the home, staying alone for stretches), we all went to the museum and enjoyed a great interactive history exhibit. And, yet, we squabbled almost all other times of the day.
Our time is so limited, and I desperately want to make every minute matter. A few commenters on last week's thread suggest:
Maybe the more useful conversation is how to connect with your kids and build a good relationship when your hours are limited. There's a huge swath of the population that works inflexible, long hours out of necessity. And there are others who have made the choice to put in those hours. So then what?
A great question indeed. How do you maintain a strong relationship with your kids when your time together is necessarily limited?
November 02, 2012
A colleague of mine has a two-month old daughter. Back at work while his wife enjoys another month at home, he still looked a little foggy and fuzzy as we caught up last week. Beyond what baby gear essentials they needed, he wondered: what piece of advice did I (parent to three, eldest being 12) have for him?
My answer, which I learned from watching my own mother (full-time bread-winning, bread-making mama like me): ask for help when you need it, offer help when you can.
September 24, 2012
August 22, 2012
This summer as been hot and fun, but fall is around the corner. Let's meet for lunch and talk summer, fall, school, PTA, whatever is on our minds.
date: Thursday, September 27th
location: Southpark Seafood (on the Park Blocks @ SW Salmon)
Please RSVP in the comments by Tuesday, September 25.
June 23, 2012
Have you read the epic, flag-planting, fierce-debate-inspiring cover story in The Atlantic? I came across it the evening it was published and immediately -- though it was past 1 a.m. when I finished -- read the entire story, 12,000-some words and all. I wanted to stop in the middle several times to say, "this is ground breaking! This is amazing!" but I read through to the end. Of course, by this time, it had already begun to create controversy.
I read it almost like gospel. In my opinion, Anne-Marie Slaughter eloquently and persuasively make the case for why it is impossible for women today to "have it all at once" -- the high-powered career, and children who are well-cared for -- and how societal expectations, policies, and our own relationships might be changed to make "having it all" possible. For one, the "culture of face time" needs to be wiped out (something I agree with so much I'd happily write an entire 12,000-word column on that alone); for another, family values, even the sort that value older parents and siblings and partners, need to be re-valued (this one's worth a couple of books).
The biggest criticism of Slaughter's article is that she doesn't discuss the potential contribution of dads enough; she makes a point that "having it all is possible if you marry the right person" is one of the "half-truths we hold dear." Her husband, indeed, was a working dad rock star, a nurturing dad who helped his boys learn lines for the school play and made Hungarian palacsinta for foreign food night. She mentions Sheryl Sandberg, who famously pointed to her own husband and said, "There’s my work-life balance." Well, great. Not all of us make such brilliant choices; and even if we do pick fantastic husbands, it's still not ideal to put far more of the parenting load on dad. There are times we as moms want to be around; there are times we're really just needed; there are times that a culture that valued family more than work would be nice. OK: that would be nice all the time. We're also going to have to stop expecting any young parent to dedicate him or herself to a job. It's just ridiculous that any boss (or financial backer) should see a new parent or parent-to-be and think: "well, we'll give them a week or two off for family leave and then the responsibility will be done." We should change the expectation of work entirely; 40 hours should be more than enough. You should be able to go home and turn off, even if you do work in a high-powered job. Unless actual lives are actually depending on you. (And then it's probably better if you're actually happy.)
Slaughter makes a point of the Washington in-joke, that those who say they're leaving a position to spend time with their family are using it as a euphemism for "fired," and that when one does actually leave to spend time with one's family, everyone rushes to say, "it's true! FAMILY! Really!" and hardly anyone believes it.
I left my last full-time job to spend time with my family. But, to be honest, this was also a euphemism. My family took more than the hours "after" work could fit. I didn't "marry the right person." I had kids with extraordinary (in the literal meaning of the word, "outside the ordinary," not "insanely difficult beyond all reason" as it often has come to mean) challenges that kept me running around to IEP meetings and to pick them up from school and up at night, literally. They required more from me than someone who wants to vault up in her career can handle.
So, I -- if you are to take literally the weird and logically-flawed reasoning of another Atlantic writer, Elizabeth Wurtzel -- became an unreal feminist. (Here's what she wrote, so you don't have to click, "Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own." Her argument was based on "1% wives," who she tarred and feathered as being "dumb" and so obsessed with yoga that they had no room in their brains for anything else, and were ruining feminism for us all by being so dumb and making their 1% husbands think that's what all women are like. I am not exaggerating her piece at all. Like I said: weird.) I started to, over time, depend on a man whose living is mostly made on the other side of the planet driving VIPs to their Very Important Appointments for the Army.
So I can't have it all. And I'm only a feminist in the eyes of the generous. Throwing off an Ivy League MBA for the thrift-shopping, bike-riding, weed-pulling, dish-washing life of an Army wife is fullscale traitorism in Wurtzel's mind, and I'll bet Anne-Marie Slaughter would never have made this call in her 30s, though maybe she would consider it in retrospect.
This is when we find something else. I'm an idea person; I make up what-I-imagine-are-paradigm-shifting ways to run the business world while I shower and while I run and while I bike and while I wash dishes. One of my many such plots was "Mom VC." A venture capital firm run by mothers, kind of micro-social venture capital. Each woman would contribute either time or money -- not a lot by VC standards, $1,000 or so -- or their skills as lawyer/marketer/graphic designer/accountant/strategy expert/content writer/editor. A board would decide where investments would go. We'd all be "job creators," creating jobs for other moms, jobs they could make as flexible as their family needed them to be.
I still love this idea. But it would take an extreme amount of time and dedication to make it happen. Could we? Would we? I think so. In the meantime we have Kickstarter. And it's, amazingly, becoming the kind of place where we can have, not "it all," but a little bit.
I think of it as a version of my Mom VC, but not just moms, and you can buy in with anything. Here are three projects you can support -- use your own venture capital in any amount -- for Portland mothers working to create jobs we can believe in.
- Stealing Time, a literary magazine for parents. This is my project and it's already shown me just how incredible the community here in Portland, and across the U.S. social media landscape, can be. We've had donations of time and talent and love beyond what I could hope for, mostly by moms, but some of it by people who just care about great writing and reading. It's a literary magazine for parents to take the place of the closing-down Brain, Child, and to also be something more; one issue a year will be devoted to pregnancy and childbirth, creating the only regular venue for truly literary writing about pregnancy. Funding ends July 2.
- Yankers, time- and stress-saving baby clothes. These adorable and sensible baby clothes are the brainchild of Rosalee Rester, a mom whose funny Babywit was the stuff of consumer lust when I first became a parent. She's back with "stylish, modern, all-in-one outfits designed with a unique and simple pull down panel in the back. This panel allows easy access to your baby's diaper without having to deal with any snaps or fasteners." I love innovation like this; it's exactly the sort of thing a Mom VC would back. Funding ends July 13.
- Dark and Light, a love story for babies. This board book series was created by sweet Portland mom Shasta Kerns Moore, one of whose twin sons has cerebral palsy. The book "is an elegantly simple board book aimed at very young children. The pictures are straight-forward enough that babies can follow along while adults can consider the wider implications of the story's metaphors." Funding ends June 27.
June 14, 2012
Just a friendly reminder that we are meeting for lunch on Thursday, June 21 at 12:30. There will be a raffle for urbanMama gear. Details and rsvp here.
April 10, 2012
Do we have enough pithy posts here on urbanMamas? No! Try this.
Sheryl Sandberg made headlines everywhere by saying in a Makers.com video that she leaves work early every day -- 5:30! -- to spend time with her kids. She has two, ages four and six. "Why can't you?" said the Inc. magazine headline. I don't know if I'm more depressed that this is such a big deal today (OMG someone important spends less than 12 hours at the office) or that even the COO of Facebook is better at spending time with her family than I am.
Also, she's super gorgeous and her husband changes diapers.
[Sorry, comments are now closed. Evidently this is too touchy a debate.]
March 07, 2012
I seemed to have missed the winter lunch and now spring break is just around the corner. So let’s meet the first week of April to talk kids, work, spring break - whatever is on your mind. As I am not feeling adventuresome or creative just now - we are headed back to Red Star Tavern. Details:
Working Mama Lunch
Thursday, April 5th
Hope to see you there. /courtney
February 23, 2012
My 2.5yo nurses in the morning and evening. On the weekends, sometimes he will nurse mid-day. We're not ready to give up breastfeeding. My two previous children nursed until right about this age.
Last week, I had to take an overnight trip without the boy, despite my success over the past 2 years in bringing babe along with me for work travel. I left for my work trip this time, with no child to nurse and no pump to extract milk. It was somewhat intentional. The trip was less than 48 hours.
By night, a good day after I had nursed, my breasts were tender, started to feel engorged. By the time I went to bed, they were bumpy, full of big bubbles of milk. By 3am, I tossed and turned, unable to find a comfortable spot or position. Every thing made my breasts hurt; they were becoming more and more rock-like with every hour.
February 17, 2012
My blog buddy Liz Gumbinner won an award for being a fabulous working mother. And while I don't know any of the intimate details of her at-home life, beyond those on her blog, I can attest that she gets so much done I quake in her shadow, amazed, and her children always wear the most adorable clothes! But, as she says, she doesn't do it all. There are sacrifices she makes -- some so dear she writes long blog posts about them -- and she wanted to acknowledge that. That none of us "have it all." She wrote of the other honorees, "...mostly there a lot of [acceptance speeches] stories in which everyone has a perfectly supportive husband, doting children who never miss us, stellar colleagues, and no need for “me time.”"
December 05, 2011
Just a reminder that we are meeting for lunch on Thursday, December 15 @ 12:30. See details and RSVP here.
October 05, 2011
When we met in 2004, the foundresses of urbanMamas were all seeking a central place on the 'net to get together with other likeminded mamas; to find and share reviews of kid-friendly businesses, events and things to do; to get advice on the issues that were especially pertinent to mothers living here in Portland. We came up with the name "urbanMamas" and we all loved it -- it represented who were were then and still are now. Women who love the opportunity to raise children in a city, who are proud of our identity as mothers. At the time, we were all working full-time in office-type jobs; now, we have a variety of working situations.
We have put in a lot of work here, and we don't do it for the free wine and antipasti at our w[h]ine nights. We do this because we still believe it's something our community needs. A place without a corporate agenda. A place that's not selling anything but our admittedly passionate ideas. A place where we can be honest -- and you can, too, without fear of being censored or attacked.
That last bit is causing problems lately. Our honesty has often been getting us, not support and advice and community, but personal -- and often hurtful -- attacks. We are called "elitist" with such regularity that it's become a caricature. Sometimes our commenters are attacked by other commenters, which at worst becomes an ugly east/west or working mama/at-home mama showdown.
What we're going to do is this: start enforcing our community standards. No personal attacks will be left published, even if the comment is half-helpful. Arguments among commenters will not be tolerated, unless they are civil and constructive. There is never -- ever -- a reason to tell another parent she is being a bad parent. As they say in therapy, label the behavior, not the person. And even then! Let's please not label! If someone comes here for advice, give it in love, or keep your thoughts to yourself.
If there are volunteers to help moderate the community, please leave a comment to this post and we'll get in touch.
September 07, 2011
August 18, 2011
I have been a "professional blogger" since before that was really a thing, starting out making $3 a post in 2004 at BloggingBaby.com. I wanted to go to the Very First Blogher conference, in 2005, but was a bit hampered by an infant baby (Truman) and no money. In 2006, I managed to get a spot on one of the panels and a roommate -- Asha from Parenthacks -- and brought my infant along. Jonathan and Everett drove down to San Jose in a Flexcar minivan and the boys hung by the pool with other daddybloggers while we women browsed the casual panels. Arianna Huffington was there. Dooce was there! So were all the OMB's, Original MommyBloggers. Even then, though I knew almost everyone, I felt like a bit of an outsider, not as famous as Dooce or even Melissa Summers; not as commercial, not as edgy as just about anyone. Since then, Blogher either didn't fit into my career (the finance management I was working for by then at Aol wasn't really interesting in me writing about a bunch of women bloggers) or my family.
This year, I knew it was time to reinvest. I bought my ticket back in February when I had extra cash and was planning my year. I booked a room at a hostel and, after much debate, a flight by myself, no family at all, to San Diego for Blogher '11. As both an insider and a decided outsider -- I don't really get involved in the same communities as the OMBs, even though I do enjoy reading their work and think they're brilliant and lovely women, I don't do giveaways or participate in the more commercial social networks of the new crop of MBaB (MommyBloggers as Businesses) -- I wasn't sure. Would I have a blast? Would I feel left out? Would I learn a lot? Would I roll my eyes?
As with anything, it's all about who you spend your time with. On the second day, I walked past a woman in the hall on her phone. It was in the middle of a panel session -- I'd ducked out in the middle to switch sessions -- so it was quiet. "It's like being with 3,000 babies who only want to talk about themselves," she said. I thought about some of the questioners at the sessions -- those who preambled their queries with a 60-second (or more) bio in which they list their dotcoms and economic interests. Yes, some of them just wanted to talk about themselves and their own unique concerns (I'm sure I've said things that could be construed as such). But most of the women I was encountering were just as eager to talk about us. Issues we have in common; how we can make a difference using social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of it); who we are and how sharing that is making our lives better.
the wonderful Jessica and the lovely Charlene. you know, they're both lovely AND wonderful.
The first two sessions I attended had me in tears, rolling-down-my-face sniffling tears. The first one, Blogging Your Way to Self-Acceptance, talked about so many things I feel that the OMBs were all about: finding your own truth, telling a story that speaks to the universal, being true to yourself. Brené Brown started, taking us all outside the hustle and bustle of sponsors and products for a beautiful hour-and-a-half. She said, "one of the things that I have come to learn is that our worthiness, our ability to really engage with the world from a place of I am enough, that worthiness lives inside of our story. ...we have two choices and that's own our story and share our story or stay outside of your story and kind of hustle for our worthiness, which I have done a lot of in my own life, perfecting, pleasing, performing, proving, and it's just exhausting and I don't think it's sustainable." The way I heard her was this: believing that our own truth is worth sharing -- and doing so in a personal, authentic way -- is not just an exercise in self-worth but also a necessary and world-changing act.
Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl, was someone I already knew I loved through Twitter. I wasn't sure if I knew what she was doing on this panel, though -- until she started talking (oh!).
July 21, 2011
Back in February, a conference call was arranged very suddenly, at the same time rumors started flowing that a significant number of layoffs were occurring at AOL, where I worked for two-and-a-half years and freelanced for years after that. The Huffington Post acquisition was becoming more of a murderous coup d'etat. I was -- of all things -- at the Apple store with my kids, buying a new Macbook Air with my tax return. The pleasure of the brand new writing tool was immediately wiped away when I got on the phone -- it wasn't just layoffs. Every single person I worked with -- but one -- had lost their jobs in one fell swoop.
For the next month or so, the freelancers ran the sites, more or less -- and then the freelance terminations came, always sudden, in the very early morning or even the middle of the night. Hundreds of people lost their "jobs" with no notice, not even enough time to copy and paste the post they'd been working on with the notice came. I went for weeks logging in every morning as soon as I woke up, just to see if I could. The not-knowing was terrible. And then, the last termination seemed to have occurred and there were four or five of us left (a few I wasn't sure -- were they employees or freelancers?). We posted two or three or four things a day. I made way more money than usual, what I consider to be our bottom line income (enough to pay the mortgage and the utilities and buy groceries), which was good; my husband had just come home from a year in Kuwait and was, for the time, unemployed.
Tuesday morning, another last-minute conference call yanked my safety out from under me. Well, not yanked exactly -- I have a "job" until August 1, when I'll start a new career as a freelancer without a regular gig. I'd like to devote more time to urbanMamas, so if you have ideas about things we can do with my time, please share them. I'm telling myself, this time, I'm only going to follow my passion -- no jobs writing about things I only care about a little. I'm pitching every morning; essays about family and journalist-type pieces about food. I'm going to try harder this time to get the regular mealtime established (this is my chief failing as a parent -- the food's great, the schedule messy). I'm going to work on my novel. I'm going to get the food book finished, and published!
Naturally, I'm in simultaneous mourning (it sounds weird, but I'll miss the software I've logged into nearly every day for the past six years -- it was built by a group of people I now consider my dearest friends, even though I like and respect almost no one in my department any more) and excitement. New things! A new practice! If I can just figure out how to make it pay... (On the new Google+, my 'what should I do' query was answered with universal agreement, 'make jam.')
What would you do if you got to follow your passion?
May 20, 2011
Ever since having my third child, I've discarded my woozy free spirit self when it comes to bedtimes and mealtimes. I've cultivated, with great struggle and with mostly fabulous success (when I get it right), a predictable day in which waking up, breakfast, lunch, dinner and bed time come at more or less the same time each day. If I get it wrong -- don't put the three-year-old to sleep within an hour of his regular time, let the eight-year-old skip breakfast in favor of a big brunch -- the melt downs are spectacular.
Last weekend, I went to a conference in Montana -- a fantastic opportunity for which I was making enough money to pay for a new bicycle I'd been dreaming of. I was only going to be gone for two nights and my childless sister-in-law generously offered to spend the weekend with my three balls of energy. They had a great time; but I neglected to remind her that my boys will not fall asleep as long as you let them have a screen in front of their faces. There was a prodigious amount of sugar and schedule-zonking shenanigans. Monday was not fun for me, at all; it wasn't until late Tuesday after a rigorous regimen of whole grains and early bedtimes that I felt I had my kids back.
So: we were surprised Wednesday to find out that my husband would be returning from his year's tour of duty in Kuwait after 364 days, on Thursday night -- very, very late Thursday night. After a little deliberation, I decided to let his friend pick him up from the airport, and keep the boys at home, letting the oldest stay up until Daddy got home.
Monroe, the youngest, had a hard day and fell asleep at 8:30; Truman tried to stay up but fell asleep around 11 (I gave him the day off kindergarten today). Everett was awake until at least 2 a.m. They were all up at their regular time, today: 7:30, or thereabouts. I'm bracing myself for the fallout.
Obviously my situation is a bit unusual; it's not everyday mama or papa comes home from a year in the Middle East. But, when you've had a parental homecoming after much time away, even a week or two, that could really destroy your schedule -- and make the inevitably stressful re-entry even more stressful and potentially cripple your family's integration in the coming days or weeks -- how do you manage it? Do you think ahead and schedule flights that will come home during waking hours (not a choice for Army Reservists)? Do you do a big homecoming in the airport (/train station/driveway), or do you get the absent parent home solo and re-unite calmly? Do you preserve the bits of your life you can control to get ready for the chaos, or do you embrace it wholeheartedly?
April 27, 2011
My mom tells a fond story of me, when I was about 3. She & my dad were looking at a map, tracing a route with a finger. I followed in suit, picking a highway on the map and running my nub along it. My mom asked me, "where are you going?" I responded, "I have to go first to the store", running my finger along one road, "then I have to go work at the ah-pee-tal", running my finger in another direction.
My mom was and still is a doctor, the breadwinner of our family. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be like her. As I grew older, wanting to "be like her" really meant wanting to be a successful working mom who mastered the balance of work and family.
My mom took me to work all the time. She had her own medical practice, in pediatrics (fittingly). By age ten, I got to walk patients into their rooms, measure & weigh them, record the findings, and plot them on the "growth chart". By age 14, I was filling out insurance forms for her and earning $1 per form that I completed correctly. This was way before HIPPA.
Now, I have three children, and I work full-time. The kids see me attempting to juggle work and family at every moment, as I work from hom many days.
Tomorrow is "Take our Daughters & Sons to Work Day" to show our kids that parents are working people too, but also to show our workplaces that working people are parents too. There are many benefits of observing the Day, from modeling workplace ethic to the kids & instilling interest in different industries to recognizing that working parents should take time to mentor their children.
Do you have anything planned at your workplace for tomorrow? Or, perhaps your child is still too young yet to participate in planned activities?
April 15, 2011
Ready to meet some working mamas? Connect again with some you have met before? Join us north of Burnside for lunch at Davis Street Tavern.
Hope to see you there. Please RSVP in the comments by Tuesday, May 10th.
April 13, 2011
On Sunday, I arranged for my sister to come watch the boys as I rode up to the prettiest and hilliest part of NW Portland for an interview for a job writing a book. I was breathing hard as I locked my bike, and the interviewer met me there. By 15 minutes into the chat I had so little hope of getting the position that I almost stopped worrying about it; it was one of those situations where, despite the likeability of the people on the other side of the table and our obvious shared interests, I knew we just didn't mesh.
When I got the email message on Tuesday -- I hadn't gotten the gig -- I wasn't upset about anything but this: I'd squandered my child care! With my sister pregnant and in possession of a day job, we have our regular Tuesday/Thursday gigs (errands and writing group) and sometimes one other day. I'd used up my share and knew it would be too much to ask her to babysit Wednesday... when I had rare dinner plans with the other urbanMamas. Emails and phone calls to my regular backup caregivers were fruitless.
In the end, I was happy how the situation had turned out; the gig would have been a lot of work for a payoff that wasn't quite enough to give up some other opportunities (and not enough to afford a new regular caregiver). Except I felt so cheated that I'd "used up" my small tender of loving care for my children. As a solo parent while my husband is in Kuwait for the Army, this is one of the most valuable resources I have, and I'd thrown it away!
I'm wondering if other parents who spend lots of their time solo, whether for a travelling spouse, an absent partner, or a very busy one -- or who are doing the job on their own full-time -- feel similarly. How do you use your precious commodity? How badly do you mourn when you've wasted it? Do you, too, feel as if you have to pack a million things into those few hours each week?
March 14, 2011
I moved to Portland in the Autumn of 2003. At the time, I had a three year-old, and I was 7 months pregnant. Our family made wonderful fast friends in those first few months, but - postpartum - I knew I needed something more. That need took me to the yahoo-group, which took me to Hau, Sarah, and Shetha. With this longing for community and support (and cherishing these qualities as societal ideals), we started urbanMamas.
Our families have grown, and so has our community. I hear many stories from mamas, whom I may not even know, who have made their closest friends through playgroups or playdates posted on urbanMamas. There is one amazing success story I will never forget: a mama connecting with several families in order to weave a complex schedule of a nanny share at her house, all using urbanMamas as the community that connects.
Now, I find myself in Memphis, TN. A Facebook plea led to several introductions to friends in Memphis, to friends of friends. Tonight, I visited a friend of an urbanMama who I know personally. She, her partner, and their four children welcomed me into their home, a complete stranger! They were all so doting and loving. They will be host-family to my little toddler while I work in the next couple of days; and I feel completely comfortable leaving him there, even if we just met. Just a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Tucson, dropping off the little one at a former PDX-dwelling urbanMama, who adopted our boy for a long afternoon into nighttime.
It is testament of the power of this community. I feel so fortunate to be a part of it, and I feel so fortunate that our community reaches so far beyond Portland. I will be honest: it exhausts me to continue to invest in the urbanMamas community. It takes so much out of me. On the other hand: it really is so rewarding to be the recipient of so much support from mamas far and wide, when I really do need it.
To everyone in my expanded urbanMamas community (yes, that means YOU), to those who have respectfully weighed in on my personal dilemmas in a non-judgmental way, to those of you who listen even if you do not share my circumstance, and especially to everyone who has watched RJ in the past 1.5 years, thank you.
And, just a little plug: for those of you who want to continue connecting on Facebook, hit us up on our new "PDX urbanMamas" page. ("UrbanMamas PDX", the person, will be going defunct soon.)
March 08, 2011
I have been open with my recent challenges, juggling a full-time working from home routine with our recent child. One of the more stressful juggles has been the travel. With my organization's 60 staff spread nationwide, we get together for a big staff meeting at one location every 6 months.
One year ago, it was New York. Lucky for me, we have family there. It was the perfect opportunity for my in-laws to meet our newest baby, who was about 4.5 months old then.
Last fall, it was in Seattle. I felt lucky to have it so close, as I worked with another mama to make a trip of a lifetime: two mamas, two toddlers, full-day schedules, one nanny, one two-bedroom apartment (that is an epic story for another time).
There have been a few other overnights mixed in: Oakland, Tucson, San Francisco. These are places where I have had some extended family or friends who could watch the babe for a bit while I focus on work.
Next week, it's Memphis. Not only do I think about the challenge of two-legged flight cross country, with a center seat assignment on all legs (will he be entertained and generally still in that center seat?), I also think about how much less portable this babe is, as small as he is. As baby grows into toddler, I am wondering when I should draw the line? My previous children nursed until 2.5 years old. Am I destined to be traveling for work with this child for another year if we intend to nurse until then? Part of me is not ready to be away from him, not for a whole night. I wasn't ready to be apart from him when he was 9 months old, and I'm not sure I am ready now. Another part of me worries that I just cannot juggle it like I used to, now that he likes to bounce balls, clank spoons on tables, and draw on everything. I can't just tote him into the meetings, nurse him, bounce him to sleep in a carrier, and continue to focus on the meeting at hand.
Part of me worries still about trying to nourish him at all times, nursing on demand every moment possible and feeding him high-calorie foods to bulk him up. I could not do that if we were apart for 4 days.
I know my situation is very unique. I bring my baby to meetings all around the country. I like to see just how "family-friendly" the organization really is. And, managers are tolerant and accepting of my choice. Dare I make the long haul next week? Would you?
Also, have you heard of employers that offer traveling employees an allowance of up to a certain amount (I've heard up to $1500) to cover costs of a sitter out-of-town or the cost to travel with a sitter?
March 07, 2011
The mama is the queen of multitasking. On most days, I work at home. My most favorite multi-tasking mama *must-have* item is.... my bluetooth. On a day with lots of calls, I can easily bang through my four loads of laundry. Or, when the kids are tucked in, sometimes I like to catch up with friends far and near on the phone while sweeping, washing the floor, making lunches.
There may be lots of things in your bag, but what is the one item that simplifies your busy mama life?
February 09, 2011
February 07, 2011
Many of us use daycare outside the home for our children. Some of us need assistance to be able to afford that care. The Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program helps low-income families pay for daycare so that they can continue to work.
ERDC helps approximately 20,000 Oregon families every year pay for child care for approximately 35,000 children each year.
(Here's a great policy paper (*pdf) with some stories about mamas & papas who need this program.)
Our state is facing a $3.5 billion shortfall, and legislators have to choose where funding cuts will be made. This program has already been cut; participation is limited to 10,000 families. The program could be cut even further or - even worse! - cut completely. Families rely on this assistance. Without help to pay for daycare, some of us working mamas and papas may no longer be able to afford daycare. Cutting the program will mean lost jobs for those who work at these daycares.
To let legislators know just how important this program is for the state, there is a rally planned for Wednesday, 12 noon, outside the Capitol Steps. Details here. Consider joining in or even sending in a letter of support would help.
February 02, 2011
Upon returning to work, many of us have become fast friends with our breast pumps. We have worked hard to find a pumping routine that works for our workplaces and our schedules, but this commitment has not been easy.
Today, MomsRising.org posted a great piece about pumping at work, highlighting the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. And, it makes sense. Breastfeeding is linked to many positive health outcomes, including protecting mama & babe from illnesses, from post-partum depression, from the risk of obesity. And, with lots of us mamas now in the workplace, playing important roles as "wage-earners" in our households, we can't just stop breastfeeding just because we go to work.
Once at work, we need support to help us continue with our breastfeeding. We need a private place to pump, not a cold sometimes- or usually-vacant storage room where I tried pumping a few times. Not an unlocked conference room with blinds (are you sure no one can see in?) where I positioned a chair against the door while leaning forward because the electrical outlet was a good three-feet from the door that I was trying to protect. Not in the "quiet room" on the eleventh floor where employees sometimes went to nap, where there was no guarantee that it would be available, where it took about 10 minutes round-trip to get due to the inefficient elevators (that cuts into my productivity!). No, not there.
January 25, 2011
I started working for my current employer almost four years ago, a non-profit organization. I love the work; I do important work in communities that don’t have access to these services. One reason I chose to work for this organization is because it prided itself in being one big happy, supportive family, professionally and socially. Many of the employees have families. In their time with the organization, they have juggled life with young ones, life with medical conditions, and life as primary caretaker to less able partners. One of my colleagues works primarily at home, as his partner is home-bound. Where there is a meeting he has to attend, he is able to skip the meeting or make other accommodations (perhaps call in) if he cannot find a caretaker for his partner.
When we found out we were expecting a baby two years ago, even though I had worked full-time before and after my first two children, I was again nervous about how to handle the juggle of a baby and a full-time work load. This time, however, I had the flexibility of working at home when I returned to work on most days, whereas my jobs when I had the previous babes had been more rigid 9-to-5 (rather, 8-to-4) jobs. The most flexibility I could finagle back then would be working an hour earlier than the standard office hours. Telecommuting or working at home was not an option.
October 05, 2010
... says the girl who knows it all, now that she is double-digits in age. I was huffing and puffing around the kitchen, trying to get dinner in order, orchestrating kids needing to empty lunch boxes, loading diapers into the washer, etcetera etcetera. You know the 5 o'clock drill.
We have had looooong conversations about whether you stay home, "why or why not?" Me? I have made the decision to work outside the home. We have found a rhythm that generally works for the family. I work hard outside the home, and I do my darndest to be home "early" and set aside plenty of time. I will be the first to admit, the full-time juggle with kids is not an easy one. So, my thoughts have been drifting again: "Working Part-Time: Does it ever work?"
I welcome you to revisit the archives and our past conversations on the topic (linked above), gain perspective from other mamas, chime in.
August 16, 2010
Thank you. To every one of you who took the time to donate your cast-offs to our sale, and to those who shopped it, and to those extra special types who did both, or who volunteered your home as a drop/store spot and worked the sale.
All together, we raised $3,000 for Family Forward Oregon. That's exactly TWICE what we raised last year. We rocked it, mamas!
If you're not familiar with Family Forward, allow us to introduce you. See, in 2007 Activistas was conceived as a part of urbanMamas - another child, sort of. It brought mothers together who care deeply about how our country's public policies are failing families. A few of them decided to kick it up a notch and created a non-profit organization called Family Forward Oregon. Perfect name since their entire plan is to move families forward in, yup, Oregon.
August 09, 2010
Just a reminder - or maybe you are seeing this for the first time - we are having a working mama lunch on Friday, August 20. See details and RSVP here. Hope to see some new and returning faces.
July 29, 2010
Many, many of us have been there before, preparing to tell our employers about expecting a baby. I was nervous telling my manager this most recent time, even though I knew how family-friendly and family-supportive my organizational culture was/is. Still, it is hard. It is hard to plan for a several-week or several-month absence of any employee. It can be even more difficult when that employee manages others or oversees programs. An urbanMama recently emailed about her not-so-positive experience in sharing the news of her expanding family:
July 20, 2010
Let's get the working mamas together. We will talk summer, school, work, or whatever is on your mind. This mama is normally out of the office with the kiddo on Fridays, but needs to work August 20. Lunching with the mamas will make it a much more pleasurable day.
When: Friday, August 20
Location:Dragonfish Asian Café (in the Paramount Hotel) @
June 15, 2010
Here in the PPS, today is the last day of school; other school districts finished up last week, and some finish tomorrow. I have to say that I am looking so forward to summer; the back-and-forth drudgery of taking kids to and from school, especially with my husband off to the other side of the world, has taxed me greatly. For those of you who work in an office, summer may be even more stressful than the school year, what with juggling camps and summer travel.
I am loving, though, the urban agrarian version of why-they-originally-devised-summer-vacation, and have my first flat of strawberries arriving tonight (through the very awesome new Know Thy Food buying club). I'll be making jam tomorrow; I'll be ordering some "living compost" in a few minutes so I can (finally) plant beans and corn. I'm planning any number of jamming parties and (hopefully I can convince some of my boys to join in) garden-ins. I want to get together with some other neighborhood mamas and dads to do some fruit foraging from neglected trees and bushes and overgrown alley vines; I hope to take part in some Portland Fruit Tree Project volunteer harvestings.
For the kids, I'm plotting swim lessons with Portland Parks & Rec [pdf link] -- maybe we'll even score some of the free lessons (though you must be up early this Saturday, the 19th, at your neighborhood pool to register, in person only -- 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.). Other than that, I'm hoping lots of trips to farmer's markets, you-pick fields, and neighborhood jaunts will satisfy their thirst for social interaction.
What's on the schedule for you this summer? What are your hopes and dreams? Are you excited, or stressed, about the last day of school? School's out!
May 01, 2010
On Saturday, May 1st: I grabbed the May issue of Metro Parent and read a great article with an (even better?) title: "A Mother's Place is in the House... and Senate! How Female Politicians Nurture Family-Friendly Policies."
Coincidence? Perhaps. Fortuitous? Absolutely.
How we vote, of course, has loads of implications for everything from war to wave energy to pumping breast milk in the (probably dark) broom closet at work ... and beyond. I don't know about you, but I want my votes to let candidates know that how they approach the public policies that affect families is key to winning my vote.
Of course we all have our top issues - environment, jobs, education, health care, etc.... Mine just happens to be work-family policy (OK, and toxics). But even if it's not yours, I think it's very worth adding to your 'top 10' list. If you, too, want to live in an Oregon where workers (and our grown children) have access to paid family leave and paid sick days and can find convenient, high-quality childcare that's actually affordable (among other things), it makes good sense to vote for the candidates who will make that a reality.
Unfortunately, there's no candidate scorecard for this yet (that I know of) - maybe someday soon. So for now, it's easy to just pick up the phone and simply ask them this:
"What's in your platform to support Oregon families during your first/next term in elected office? Paid family leave? Paid sick days? Any ideas on making childcare more affordable and consistently high quality?"
The more they hear from us, the more likely they are to support progressive family policies. Just raising these issues makes a difference. Maybe they don't know that child care costs as much as a college education - even though we all do.
- Read the May Metro Parent article about mothers & politics (p. 26).
- Family Forward Oregon is an excellent local resource. They are building a family-friendly economy in Oregon that values and supports the work of caring for children and families. They offer an informative discussion course/action group, called the Economics of Motherhood, for those wanting to explore the topic more.
- Also, there's a mom-driven Political Action Committee (yes, a Mom PAC) in the works to support the Oregon candidates we need to move our "mamagenda" forward. Interested? Email them.
[Thanks to Flickr CC & kainr for the familar gray clouds and shiny Gold Man atop the Oregon state capitol]
February 26, 2010
After a week of actually having to get all three boys together and out the door in the morning (Everett's been going to school via bus for the past two-and-a-half years, and I've been working, more or less, at home), I've finally grudgingly acknowledged the truth of the matter: for me, it's a whole hour between the moment I get out of bed and the moment we're on the bikes in the driveway (or sidewalk, if we're walking or taking Trimet). I thought back to the old days when I used to work in an office, and only had Everett to get ready, and sure enough: it was the exact same truth. Doesn't matter how bad the weather is, what sort of conveyance we're planning, what I make for breakfast (or if we decide to stop for a treat on the way), if I try to pack getting ready into anything less than an hour, I end up stressed, pushing boys past their limits, and inevitably, 10 or 15 minutes late.
So today, we were a few minutes early to school! What a pleasure. As I coasted down the hill toward home, feeling satisfied, I reminded myself how pushing my snooze button is only making my job as a mama way, way harder. So, I wondered, how about the rest of you? What's your morning truth? Is it an hour for you, more or less, or do you have some amazing skills (or extra needs) that make your mornings special-in-your-own-way? What throws you off? What gets you streamlined?
February 01, 2010
This morning, Olivia heads back to work, her maternity leave for her third babe concluded. I think I'm feeling all of the things she must be feeling, for her: it's so hard to go back to work! (Plus, we loved having her extra energy here on urbanMamas.) We know how many things are on a mama's mind when she heads back to work, and the more children at home (at least for me), the more conflicted I felt.
We've chatted before about some of the mechanics of going back to work; whether struggling to bottle-feed a baby who'll be without mama's breast for several hours a day, the logistics of a nanny share; some thoughts on how to return to work after a long absence; and about how much leave we'd want (were we to have a say in such things). But today, let's tell stories about returning to work: how long had you been at home? How did you feel? What was the first day like? Did you feel a little guilty enjoying that unencumbered walk to the coffee shop, the feel of "nice clothes" on your freshly-showered skin? Or did you sit down at your desk that first morning and resolve to fight for laws requiring longer, paid leave for parents everywhere? (yeah!)
January 22, 2010
Don’t forget our working mama lunch is on Thursday, January 28 @ 12:30. LOCATION CHANGE: Red Star Tavern located @ 503 SW Alder (www.redstartavern.com). Mother’s could not accommodate our large (21+) party at 12:30. With a party this size, Red Star will automatically add 18% to the bill and requires one check. Reply in comments only if you are unable to attend or would like to attend but have yet to RSVP. Can make changes to the reservation until noon on Wednesday, January 27. Reservation under Courtney/urbanMamas. See you Thursday.
November 30, 2009
Staying at home with babe is not necessarily a financially advantageous situation. Many mamas try to craft a work plan that allows them to stay at home, while also trying to make ends meet. An urbanMama's sister-in-law recently emailed, to see if the rest of the community had suggestions:
My brother and his wife recently had their first child and we are all thrilled. She teaches and has worked it so that she took her maternity leave at the beginning of the school year and will have to be returning to teach in December while my brother takes all his sick days to stay home and take care of they baby.
My sister-in-law would would love to work from home and take care of they baby full-time, but she doesn't have a job that will work like that at the moment. Financially, they both need to be working. I know it's going to be really tough for my SIL to go back and I'm wondering if you have tips on things she might be able to do from home in order to keep ends meeting and still be with the baby.
Do you know of work options that could allow a mama to stay home with the baby?
November 17, 2009
Don’t forget. We are meeting Thursday, 11/19 @ 12:30 @ DragonFish.
Reservation under Courtney/urbanMamas.
See you then.
Note: If you can’t make it downtown, see if there are other mamas in your area that want to have lunch.
September 22, 2009
One of my least favorite things about returning to work post maternity leave is pumping. With regularity, every three hours despite being in my office or out and about I have to hook myself up and pump. I close the door, draw the blinds, and turn off the lights hoping that it would prevent disruptions from coworkers. Short of putting a sign on the door stating that I am pumping, I hope every time that disruptions are minimal. Inevitably someone knocks. Uh, "I'll be right out in a few minutes," I would say. I'm the kind that's a bit private about pumping at work and feel like I shouldn't draw attention to what is happening behind closed doors but I am wondering if I need to. Should I put a sign on my door? What should it say? What have you done and is it effective?
September 08, 2009
Even though the restaurant did not get the best review in the Willamette Week (http://wweek.com/editorial/3542/12981/), I am still looking forward to lunching with the working mamas on Thursday, September 10th at The Original (http://www.originaldinerant.com/) located at
300 SW 6th Avenue @ Oak. Reservation at 12:30 under Courtney/urbanMamas.
See you there.
August 17, 2009
This is our first summer with a child out of school for the summer. Until this year, our kids have been in year-round childcare, where summer is no different than the rest of the year. Back in February of this very-different year, I got busy planning the summer so my husband and I could work, and the kids would be in good care, have some down time and some fun time. We mixed a few week-long camps with a family vacation or two and some visiting grandma and cousin time (they "watched" the kids). Good variety, some fun, quality care, and mostly no boredom.
Well it's August now, and I'm nearing the end of this first summer vacation after many years without. As a long-time proponent of shorter summer breaks for kids, I've been pleasantly surprised at how much more summery (for lack of a better term) life feels this summer with some real vacationers in the house.
Yet I struggle with some of the anticipated issues, too: camps are far more expensive than public school (and Multnomah county's SUN program, while excellent and very reasonably priced, came out with its schedule so late in the spring that this I-gotta-have-care mama was done planning by then), logisitcs are challenging and ever-changing (life jacket this week? snack or not?), a professional degree in planning is required, many camps don't run on a 9 to 5 schedule and so aren't an option for many, and finally, I gotta work, already!
Does parents' work trumps kids needs? I wish I was designing a great summer more with my children in mind than our work schedules. While of course we considered both, it's clear to me that our summer "plan" was driven more by our work schedules than our kids' needs.
What about your family? How's this summer thing working out for your family's work schedule? Did you recruit family to help? Get an Au Pair? Find a great, affordable, nearby summer-long program? Think summer break should remain 12 weeks, or is it just too dang long? I'm thinking about 9, myself. You?
[Thanks to wsilver & Flickr CC for the summer-y pic]
August 03, 2009
June 22, 2009
Don’t forget to attend, or you can still RSVP for the Working Mamas Lunch.
When: Thursday, June 25 @
Where: Mama Mia Trattoria (www.mamamiatrattoria.com)
439 SW 2nd Avenue
Reservation under Courtney/urbanMamas.