Saturday, March 7, 2015

Why companies need me (or someone like me), and the return to work

I have been back at work following maternity leave for just over two months.  This continues to be a fascinating discovery journey in how I feel about being a working mom, and how others view it as well.

First, for all of the new moms out there, let's discuss returning to work.  I took 12 weeks off from work, and for anyone who is lucky enough to be able to afford taking 12 weeks (or even longer) off of work, I highly encourage it.  I remember distinctly feeling at 6 weeks of leave that neither I nor the little guy were ready to be apart.  I imagine that some people struggle with the idea of taking 12 weeks off of work, and how they might be viewed by their peers and leaders.  Here is one of the best lessons I have learned yet...When I returned, I learned that (drum roll) no one really noticed I was gone that long.  Now, I don't mean that I am useless or people didn't notice, but to my surprise almost everyone outside of my close circle said, "Oh you're back!  How long were you off, six weeks?"

That is right - no one really even noticed I was gone for 12 weeks.  It flew by so fast, that everyone thought I may have been missing for only 6 weeks.  The moral of the story is that my perception or worry that people would think poorly of someone taking 12 weeks off of work was truly my own, and no one else was counting.  Thank goodness I never let this internal question cloud my judgement on how much time to take off of work.

Now that I am back to work, I am continuing to evolve in my new role as a working mom with a new baby.  I realized that I have more perceptions or worries, like whether or not people will think poorly of me when I am out the door at 5:00 p.m. on the dot no matter what for the daycare dash.  Once again, no one has cared (I have even heard two women tell me they think it is cool that I am committed to leaving on time).  My own misperceptions could have gotten the better of me, but so far I think I am managing it pretty well.  Don't get me wrong - it is tough every day.  But if you are newer than I to this, I will tell you that (1) you do get better at it/it gets easier, and (2) we can add value in more than one place in our lives at once.

This is why companies need me (or people like me) working for them in leadership positions.  It can be easy to question whether or not I can handle a leadership role and be a new mom at the same time, but the reality is that if companies want to include a whole huge part of the talent pool they have to realize the value of a working mom.   Moms can be extremely efficient, great at multitasking, experienced under pressure, and bring a whole host of other skills that the female half of the workforce can often offer.  In addition, having moms in leadership roles means they not only bring something to that position, but they show that it is possible to every other female aspiring leader in the company.  This means big things to the organization.

It was my own perception that people might be upset that I don't work as late as I used to.  Instead I found out no one really cares.  If I can deliver great work and add value to the company, albeit in less hours, then I need to continue to do that.  I justify my time away from my little peanut by knowing I am a more present parent in the smaller time that we have, by knowing I am making money that will send him to college, and by being the type of strong female role model that I want to be for my son.  Not that you cannot be those things by staying out of the workforce, this is just my way to contribute.  And so help me if my misperceptions get in my way!

Another article that I read earlier this week struck a chord on this topic as well too - it is a reminder about what we didn't know before we had kids of our own.  Enjoy and be enlightened...
"I'm sorry to all the mothers I worked with" - Fortune column

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Red lights and other bothersome new realizations

I have a new level of disdain for red lights.  This is my first week back at work after being off for twelve weeks hanging out with my cool new little man and as I was driving from work to pick him up from his first day at school, I was amazed to discover that I could not get there fast enough.  The red lights were more bothersome than ever, and I wasn't even running late (I hate being late).  I then really lost patience with myself on the two wrong turns that I took. This is why people invented hover boards; for taking the most direct routes without those pesky traffic lights and bad drivers.

Is this why people are speeding at rush hour?  Probably not all erratic drivers are trying to get to their incredibly happy babies, but no doubt some of them are.  This is my new "It's 5 o'clock somewhere."  It does not involve a margarita, it involves a smile of recognition from a tiny little person.

I have to admit that it is a new challenge to pack up my work projects at 5:00 p.m. on the dot.  I haven't found the answer to how this works in reality other than my lunch usually consists of things that I can eat with one hand.  If anyone has figured out the answer to this, please enlighten me.

The most difficult part about this week is realizing how truly little time I have to spend with the little munchkin.  I have already realized that I can not afford to blow any of my two hours a day with him awake being angry, annoyed, being on my phone, thinking about work, or doing really anything except staying present in the moment and providing my undivided attention.  I can see how the weeks go quickly.

This will continue to be one of my biggest learning moments in parenting; how to parent and work.  Can anyone share any suggestions?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Home is where you hang your mini jacket

We moved into our current house just one year ago today, and it has been a bit of a troubled journey making it our own.  If you remember, we had some home problems including several mouse incidents (refer to posts: “The mouse incident” and “The mouse incident, part two”), a roof to replace unexpectedly, a pool that wasn’t closed properly before an extremely cold winter, among some other small troubles.  The upside to our new nest is that we were able to spend the year making it our own.  And while we aren’t done, we have made a nice little abode here, complete with a newborn.

The easiest changes that you can make to your home to change the look without major remodeling include two big things: paint and fixtures.  Here’s what we did:

  • Paint every room in the house, including ceilings and trim.  In this case, our house had original dark brown espresso trim, windows and doors.  We updated this look to white trim.
  • Replace door handles.  Our espresso colored doors (now white) were complete with some old and outdated gold-ish round knobs.  Since we were taking doors off of hinges and repainting, it seemed a waste to put them back on with the old hardware, so we updated with brushed nickel hinges and lever handles.  We have a lot of doors, so this made an incredible difference in the look of the house.
  • Update light fixtures and cabinet hardware.  We updated some light fixtures (e.g., nursery), salvaged some light fixtures with a little paint or rewiring, and changed cabinet hardware in key places (e.g., bathroom).

Nursery - before:

Nursery - after:

Guest bedroom - before:

Guest bedroom - after:

Master bedroom - before:

Master bedroom - after:

Bathroom - before:

Bathroom - after:
I am so happy to have a house we can call a home for our little family of three.  I look at our house as the first makings of the background of so many family memories.  This is the house that our kid(s?) will remember fondly as the cool house they grew up in.  It will be in the background of so many family photos, and has plenty of memorable spaces.  Home is where you hang your mini jacket.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Pop of Joy Official Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Not many things bring me as much joy as choosing the right gift for someone, and the Christmas season is the best time to get my gifting on.  In fact, picking the perfect gift for someone is way more rewarding than receiving gifts, and the receiver can see that you gave some thought and love their way.  Here are some of my favorite gift ideas this year, in case you are still looking to pick up a few items this season.

For Classy Ladies:
This tray is so cute - Mark and Graham has awesome monogram gifts, and this is a versatile tray that can last a long time.  A bit high-end, so look for knockoffs if you can't spring for the real thing here.

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I bought these for myself during a moment of weakness in the "impulse purchase bins" while standing in line at Sephora last year, and I am so glad I did.  They have them this year as well, so march right in the store and just get in line to shop.
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I often can't help but buy a few things for myself when I find cool gifts for others.  This was one of the "one for you, one for me" gifts of last year.  Very sturdy, good size and shape, great adjustable strap that can be worn cross body, and super cute colors.
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For People Who Like Fun:

I don't need to tell you why this is cute.  Plant sold separately.
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This is the ultimate rubber chicken gift (that is, other than incessantly chickening people year round).  I hope my sister is ready for her wine to be super-chickened in a few days.
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I know a lot of people whose problems would be solved with this wine container that holds an entire bottle of wine.  Poolside, picnics, shenanigans, you name it.
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This is available for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but also for Madison.  The tin includes coaster gift cards for $10 off your $25 bill at 20 Milwaukee area restaurants.  I will note that the list of restaurants in the tin is legit, and a fine selection by the tin creators.
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Less stuff - Want, Need, Wear, Read
This was a concept shared with me this year (Thanks, Kathryn!) and I think it is a great idea, especially for young children.  Buy only four items, one item for each category listed.  This helps you and your child prioritize what is really important and what they really want the most.

Make a gift out of a family vacation, special day, or other experiences.  Or, buy something that the family can use to make memories or experiences.  One mom I know is picking up a "Go Pro" camera as a family gift, and think of all of the fun things that can come of that with the family!

Okay, if you need more than those four items, check out the Kiwi Crate.  It is a box shipped to your child (age range is 3-8 years) once a month with fun activities in different themes.  You can buy a subscription, a single box activity, holiday boxes, or other smaller items.
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I think that handmade or "hand assembled" gifts are always a nice way to put a personal touch on a gift.  I love a good themed basket or kit for a gift, it is a great way to put together some smaller items and make it feel really thoughtful.  This list from the is one of my favorite lists of basket ideas for all year round.  The key is throughout the year when you see containers or baskets on sale or clearance, snatch them up so you have a few on hand to make a basket when you need it.  World Market is also a great source for cheap basket and wrap kits in a pinch.

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There you have it!  Only 8 more shopping days before Christmas, so this is your last chance for online shopping without paying a ton for shipping.  Go get 'em, tiger.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Note to my future self: Things I must not forget about what it’s like to be a new mom

Photo by Kate Kroes Photography

It is already starting.  My memories of the earliest days as a new mom are already becoming a little foggy.  Because being a new mom (and in some cases any new parent) is a unique experience, I wanted to make sure I never really forgot what it was like during those first six weeks (or still is).  I want my future self, the one with a toddler or teenager or grandchild, to remember really what it is like to be a new mom so that I don’t turn into one of those people who do not get it.

Being a mom means entry into this (not so) secret club of moms where we all understand what each other are going through.  I did not realize that this club really existed, because I couldn’t see it with my non-mom eyes.  This club of supporters has gotten me through a lot of challenging moments, and I am so grateful.  Some of the most recent new moms in my life have been the most helpful, because they have not forgotten what I have written down here to remember.  My first task as a new mom is to pay it forward to those who come after me, and people did for me.  It is now a life mission for me to help other new moms.

So I say to myself, “Self, please don’t forget these things:”
  • Don’t forget how hard it is physically on moms after having a baby.  I will not go into details or scare anyone away from having kids, it is still totally worth it.  But it goes without saying that it is tough on the body, and not only for a week or two but sometimes six or longer.    I will not forget to help people lift things or to share tips (NOTE: This does not mean unwanted advice) on all of the things that are challenging, like boobs, butts, guts, backs or anything else that doesn’t feel the same.
  • Don’t forget what it is like to be postpartum emotionally.  I cry at baby shampoo commercials and YouTube videos.  There is a lot of information about baby blues and postpartum depression, but nothing that really gives you any real life or helpful information, or for the people who fall somewhere in between a two week emotional roller coaster and real “I want to hurt my baby” postpartum depression.  And there are a thousand steps in between.  The only resource is the aforementioned “Mom Club” so make use of this resource and ask what your friends’ experiences were.  The reason I know that my friends experienced some form of emotional challenges is because they were the same friends who asked me directly how I was feeling emotionally.  They are some of the same people I asked for help when I wasn’t feeling quite myself.  This stuff is real, and don’t forget it.
  • Don’t forget how challenging it can be to get a stroller or a car seat through doors.  I am sure I will get better at it, but that means I have to continue to remember to hold doors, not cut people off, or get out of the way in the aisle when I see an infant carrier.  That shit is heavy.  I am also amazed at how many businesses do not have wheelchair buttons on doors.
  • Don’t forget that it starts out scary to go in public with a baby, so be nice.  It is scary enough to think that, god forbid, your newborn wake up, or actually have to feed them or change a diaper in public.  Remember not to add to it with being an inconsiderate jerk in a hurry.  Also remember not to tell new parents, “Oh yeah!  Just bring the baby!”  As if it doesn’t require an act of congress to get them, and yourself, out of the house.
  • Don’t tell pregnant people or new parents how they are never going to sleep again.  We know.  No seriously, we know.  It is just irritating both during pregnancy and after baby is born.  Did you know sleep deprivation is a form of torture?  This is true.  I don’t need anyone reminding me of the obvious.  And if you are lucky, it will be over before you know it.
  • Don’t forget about the kindness of a meal, or some help.  That “pay it forward” rule previously mentioned is in play here.  I am so thankful for all of the wonderful meals that people brought over for us so we didn’t have to cook.  I was particularly excited about anyone who brought vegetables, so that my diet wasn’t entirely carbohydrates.  Delicious carbohydrates.  But no seriously, you need fiber.
  • Don’t forget that taking a quick trip to the grocery store or to run an errand is not really a “break.”  Sometimes people ask me if I enjoyed my break, and the reality is I was running an errand as fast as I could without my baby so that I could get back since he would need to eat, and I never stopped feeling anxious about being away.  So no, I did not really enjoy my non-break.  I really just ran a lame errand that could be done faster without my infant and my incompetence as a new parent.  I will consider it a break when I can let go of the fact that I feel I should be at home with my kid.
  • Don’t forget to wash your hands.  I don’t anticipate forgetting this, but just in case I get senile it is here in writing.  Don’t touch peoples’ kids without washing your hands.  I am still living in fear of my child’s first illness, so don’t let it be from you.

Future self: These are the things you should remember for keeping membership in the secret Mom Club and for being truly resourceful to those who come after you.  You’ll figure this stuff out eventually, so don’t forget what it was like.  Don’t screw this up.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Moms are the best.

Shirley MacLaine and her daughter, 1959 - Photo by Allen Grant via the LIFE Picture Collections
I think we all had been there at one point in our lives where we were a little concerned that me might turn into our mothers.  I remember a moment in time where I was feeling there was no way around a future life of caring about drink coaster on wooden tables (my mom) and always forgetting to put the rolls on the table for holiday dinners (my grandma).  Now that I am older and arguably wiser, I realize that we should all be so lucky.  I mean honestly, now that I can afford to buy a table not made out of veneer fake wood, use a coaster.

Over the last several years, I have continued to grow in respect for moms everywhere as I have had the privilege watching my friends and sisters have children and raise fantastic kids, and as I have watched my lifetime moms become grandmas.  To all of my people, your kids are amazing.  They are funny, smart, and the weirdest little combinations of you and their dads.  You have done it with grace (but not too much so that it isn't real), humor (probably not without a few times yelling at Target), and you make parenting look good.

This year my respect for moms has grown even more as I have grown my own bun in the oven and experience the strange wonder that is being a mom.  So far, I am batting a thousand as I haven't screwed up any of my children yet as far as I can tell.  And while I haven't had to do much parenting for the 4-month old nugget in the belly, I have already found myself driving more cautiously though intersections and considering organic cucumbers.  Parenting win.

My mom in particular is something special, as all of our moms are to us.  As an adult I continue to grow in appreciation for all of the things that I really didn't realize as a child that I picked up from my mom.  I am also so thankful for the mom that she is today; she is non-judgmental, considerate of those around her, thoughtful at every holiday, willing to listen when I vent, gives advice only when it is needed or solicited, and even-keel, among all of the other thousands of reasons why she is the right mom for me.  Of course she is the right mom for me, she made me.

We are lucky too to sometimes have other moms in our lives that make an impact, like step moms, moms of our friends, and those co-workers or neighbors that take good care of us.  We will always have nice memories of the neighbor we stayed with for a few hours while our parents were away, or the lady at work that made sure to remind me to eat lunch when I was busy enough to forget.  Your awesomeness did not go unnoticed either.

So thank you, ladies, to all of the inspiring moms around me.  I have been watching carefully and making mental notes of how awesome you are at being moms so I can pay it forward.  The fact that your kids wear Spiderman costumes most days of the week and that you take the BEST Instagram photos of your kids makes my day and I can't wait to join the club.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Don't change who you are, but let's be real...this isn't a sprint, it's a marathon

Image Source
The concept of not being too weird to early is not foreign to me, I generally refer to this strategy as "time-releasing the crazy."  You don't want to go full Monty before people realize they can handle and enjoy your weirdness.  When I started dating my husband (and I knew that I would marry him very early on), I waited a whole month before I put a little statue of a sleeping gnome in the back of the fridge.  When he finally saw it, he stood there staring at it muttering, "What the...?" in front of an open refrigerator door.  That gnome has lived in our butter drawer ever since.  I knew the hubs appreciated me for being a little nuts when he made a straight-faced joke one day about how high the gnome's cholesterol must be (living by the butter and all).

When I started a new job last year, it took me almost two months to start hiding mini rubber chickens in peoples stuff.  And it took everyone else a few more weeks to figure out just what was going on.  Seeing as I have hidden over 500 chickens in the world, they have some catching up to do at work.

It's not that I advocate people being anything but themselves, because I don't.  But, as a curator of weird shit, I have learned that it is an art and a good strategy to not put all the weirdness out at once.  Hopefully by sharing a little at a time, I can help bring joy to my day and to others, and quietly convince people that it is okay to be funny, and carefree, and weird, and unique, and yourself.  I think that I learned it was okay to be a little weird by one person in my life, and I am glad I came to the realization that being myself would be enough.

If you are feeling unsure sometimes about being yourself and letting the weird out, just do a little bit at a time.  You can also surround yourself with at least one person who really is comfortable with being a little weird.  All the right people will appreciate you for you, not in spite of you.