Our Meltdowns, Our Teachers

If you’ve ever had that morning when your two year old clearly knows you have a 9 am meeting so she decides to throw a fit when you leave and your babysitter pries her out of your arms and you make it to the subway, to the office, coffee in hand with one minute to spare. Then you have that sinking feeling when you arrive and the conference room is empty and you check your calendar again and realize—the meeting was actually at the agency’s office across town. (Cue Meltdown)

How about when you’re running in to pump in your boss’s glass office that you’ve covered with poster board from floor to ceiling. You have 30 minutes until your next meeting. You race to get undressed and strapped into the torture device (I mean, pump) and realize you’re missing one essential part. (Melt. Down.)

Or you hear the date of the final class trip you promised you would chaperone and it turns out, you’re scheduled to present to the CMO. You break the news to your irate daughter and all of a sudden Kindergarten is locked down in infamy, as “the year mommy didn’t go on any trips.” (Ready, set, meltdown)

In these moments, my gut instinct used to be berating myself about doing a shitty job at this whole balancing act. And asking, “How is this ever going to work? How do other people do this? Where’s the ice cream?” I was left confused and paralyzed…with a nasty sugar hangover.

I’m a Type A at heart, so I don’t expect these meltdowns to go away completely, but in the past two years, I’ve been able to consciously shift the way I handle these moments. I may always be pushing the boundaries of time and my finite amount of energy, but I’ve started respecting these red flags and using them as reminders that I don’t have to live like this all the time.

When I work with clients who are dealing with this same struggle, that feeling that they’re “not doing any of it well”—I teach them the approach I use to get back on track. 

It goes like this...

  1. Cheer up your best friend, you:
    Instead of dragging yourself through the mud (you know how that feels), try acknowledging how much you’re pulling off. Believe me, your husband, your boss and your kids are not going to see it, if you can’t see it yourself.  Find what works for you, but I’ve written a little speech that I like. 

    You’re doing/juggling/pulling off a ton right now and you’re doing most of it really well.
    You’re not a robot. (Sometimes it helps to say this 2x.)
    It’s not going to all work perfectly and that’s ok.
    Perfect is boring and people love you because you’re weird…in a good way!
    You got this.  

     
  2. Create a buffer:
    You’re doing too much. You need to clear the decks and add more space into your life. What are you doing that your husband or other family members can do? What can your children do for themselves? One of the best days of my life was when my 7 year old started showering on her own.  Are you a laundry addict? Try going from 3 times a week to 2, or blasphemy…1.
     
  3. Write, re-write or pull out your priority list:
    Back when I was single and dating, somebody quite wise told me to write a list of 4 to 5 things I wanted in my ideal guy and to keep that list in my wallet. I thought it was ridiculous at the time, but I was open to trying something new. I did it and my list went like this: Smart, Funny, Doting, Handsome, Creative. Anytime I started dating someone, I would run him past the list to make sure he had everything on it. And most of the time, he didn’t. Until, finally, he did…and I married him.

    Now, I want you to do the same thing with the high level things you want in your life. It’s not a detailed life plan, but it’s a quick barometer that can let you know when you’re out of balance.  Here’s mine: Peace, Courage, Connection, Inspiration, Fun. When I’m doing too much, I run some of the things I’m doing by this list and it helps me filter out the tasks that aren’t bringing me there.
     
  4. Add something you love back into your life:
    As moms, our creative outlets and our joy often come last on the list of daily agenda items. How’s that approach working for you? Instead, choose something you truly love and do it for an hour a week. If an hour seems like too long, start with 15 minutes. It doesn’t need to be something you’re good at, something you’ll make money doing or something you share with anyone. It simply must be something you love. Something only for you. You deserve it. Refer back to number 1 to remind yourself of all that you’re doing! Not only is it your treat, but the creative fuel will give you the mojo to charge through the rest of the items on your list like a boss.

Now of course, if you’re motivated, you can kick this process into gear without having a meltdown moment. But the next time you (hypothetically) almost miss your client session because the Keyfood delivery is two hours late due to a hurricane that never happened, just know that there’s a way to bring yourself out of the depths and back into a world where you can be your imperfect and authentic self. 

Unraveling My Class Parent Flavored Mommy Guilt

Last week I went to my sixth and final preschool “Meet the Teachers” evening. All the preschool bases were covered—emergent curriculum, the not-so-subtle helicopter parent warnings, show and tell of the sweet art that will be sent home (95% of which will end up in the trash under crumpled paper towels when nobody’s looking) and then it happened. The moment I’ve dreaded for six years running. The Class Parent Solicitation.

Since I’ve done this a few times, I could basically lip-synch the speech. “It’s not that much time. Just a few emails. The more parents who sign up, the less work it is.” And then, in slow motion the public humiliation began. The sign up sheet was passed from one parent to the next until it made it’s way around the room. As it came closer, I felt the room heat up a few degrees, the sweat dripped off my temples and the excuses bubbled up to the surface.

On the menu this year: “I can’t, I’m building a business!”
Last year: “Forget it, I’m running the marathon.”
The year before that: “We're moving.”
Before that: “I have an infant.”
Finally: “I’m pregnant.”

While these are all valid excuses, it doesn’t take a genius (or a coach) to figure out—“Hold up, something’s telling me, I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS!” And I feel like I should—but why?  If I tell myself it’s for the kids, the truth is—that they have no clue what a class parent does. They don’t see the emails back and forth about teacher gifts and every last school fundraiser.

For me—and I’m guessing a few others out there—it’s about my own guilt and what others might think.

Bypassing my inner conflict, I also handed the sign up sheet, unchanged along to the parent next to me, but that moment stayed with me for the rest of the evening. 

At first I calmed myself by saying, maybe next year (lie) but then I thought,

What would my connection to my kids’ education look like if I was NEVER a class parent?

What’s a way to get involved that feels (dare I say) fun and not like a chore?

As a wave of relief ran through me, I was flooded with ideas:

  • More class trips (in my favorite city)
  • Singing in class with the kids—which I love!
  • Career Day (hello 26 seven year old Coaches unleashed on their respective worlds!)
  • Dramatic readings of my favorite (age-appropriate) Judy Blume books

Yes. This all feels more like me and less like who I think others think I should be (especially when they’re probably not even thinking that).

And while my list resonates with me, I’m quite grateful for all of you parents out there who look at it and would actually prefer the administrative Class Parent role. I know you’re out there. I’ve talked to some of you and I hope our kids will be in the same class one day.

I know I'll get an Amen when I say--we’re all busy. We’re all doing our best. When you feel that guilt creep in, challenge it. Question it. What do you really want here? You may be able to find your way through it, get what you want and still get the chance to read “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” a second or even a third time. 
 

SET UP YOUR COMPLIMENTARY STRATEGY SESSION TO GET STARTED

 

Get in touch for an hour-long Strategy Session if you're ready to ditch the guilt and overwhelm and discover your confidence. 

5 Podcasts for Women Returning to Work After Baby

You’re back at work. You’re pumping three times a day (or your goal is four, but you fit in three). You’re dozing off in meetings about campaigns that launched while you were out. All you can think about is how many ounces your little one took today and if she finally made the poop that was coming to her. 

When you have some (well deserved) downtime during your workday or on your commute—I highly recommend the following podcasts to bring you the inspiration and energy you thought would come from that fourth cup of coffee (but no such luck).

cover170x170_ML.jpeg

1. Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert
ALERT – Stop what you’re doing right now (even if it’s due by COB) and download the first three episodes of Magic Lessons. Liz Gilbert’s mellow and thoughtful tone—even her opening music—had me hooked within minutes. She selects a willing participant each episode and coaches her to tap into her creativity and her lifelong passions; to find ways to release guilt, ignore what others think—and begin. I want to wallpaper my home office with the brilliantly relevant and poignant quotes she selects for each caller. The message that Gilbert is bringing to the surface truly speaks to me as a woman and mother. We spend our days taking care of others and putting our creative energy as one of our lowest priorities. And by doing so, we are missing out on the precious fuel that allows us to come to our caregiving and the rest of our lives as happy, whole selves.

2. The Longest Shortest Time
The Longest Shortest Time is a podcast and blog, hosted by author and This American Life contributor Hillary Frank. Averaging around 25 minutes an episode, it’s the perfect length to listen to during a pumping session. Covering unconventional stories of parenthood and the messy moments some people don’t like to talk about—the podcast will help you stay connected to your role as mom when it seems like your baby is a world away. LST reminds you that you’re not the first and only one to pull off this crazy experiment. And really, laughing at ourselves is the best way to enjoy it. Beyond the podcast, there is an uber active and supportive Facebook group that is a must-join for anyone seeking validation of just how much you're pulling off right now. 

3. First Day Back
If long form content and detailed storytelling is more your thing, jump to the beginning of documentary filmmaker, Tally Abicassis’s story, where she chronicles her return to work after a six year maternity leave. Tally touches on the real fears and mixed emotions of moms who are heading back after a long gap. Interviews with her 3 and 6 year old boys provide fun highlights that take the story in a different direction than you would expect.

4. School of Greatness
Having a baby has shifted your priorities and you may be wondering if the career path you’re on is right for you in the long-term. You may be asking yourself how your job matches up to your values and your unique strengths. Guess what? You’re onto something and the School of Greatness podcast provides an endless connection to accomplished leaders and innovators who can help you take this journey—FOR FREE. Whether you want to hone your leadership skills in your current role, start your own business or simply begin to re-evaluate your life purpose, this podcast will give you the jolt of positive mojo you need to turn off The Real Housewives marathon and get into action.


5. Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin
This one has nothing to do with parenthood and everything to do with re-connecting to the person you were before you had kid/s.  If like me, you were obsessed with all things Carrie Bradshaw back in the day, please go straight to the Sarah Jessica Parker episode and drink her in. I may or may not have listened to that one twice.  If you’re not back to your pre-baby reading pace, Here’s the Thing will expose you to writers, directors and actors who are inspiring and most of the time—really freaking funny. If you get a chance to get out to that party your friends want to drag you to, Here’s The Thing will give you something interesting to say beyond explaining why there’s still spit-up on your shoulder.