Faking Balance on Pre-Order at Amazon

Big news of the day: Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life is now available for pre-order on Amazon!

I wrote this book because I believe that in the quest for work life balance, we’re all faking it. I want to inspire others to celebrate the small wins and laugh off the rest. In a lot of ways, it’s the most personal thing I’ve written, and it really tells the story of the choices I’ve made over the last [gulp] almost 18 years raising kids and raising my own life right along with them. I really, really, really hope you find something to love in it.

AND I am eternally grateful for your pre-order! If you’ve never done this before, it’s super easy. You order now, and on September 1st when the book officially “releases,” Amazon will charge you and ship your book. If you’re planning to come to the launch party here in Northwest Arkansas on September 15th (save the date! more details TBD) you’ll have your physical copy in plenty of time to bring it to the launch if you’d like me to sign it.

Kindle is not available yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

Again, from the bottom of my wiggly fingers, and my heart, thank you for all your support. Book #3 feels special.

Order me now, pretty please:

Faking Balance Cover

 

 

Faking Balance Cover Reveal!

 

 

It’s been a long time in coming, but finally ready to show you the cover of Book #3! September 15th is the big day for Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life. If you are in or around Northwest Arkansas I hope you will save the date. The launch festivities are a surprise–not because I’m so mysterious, but mostly because we haven’t figured them out yet. That’s #FakingBalance

I wrote this book because I believe that in the quest for work life balance, we’re all faking it. I want to inspire us all to celebrate the small wins and laugh off the rest.

I am so grateful this has actually all come together, amid the new day job that has me learning country music lyrics and searching for pictures of mason jars. At the same time, my husband and I are focused on preparing our high school senior (aka, one of those babies from all my stories) for college.

So, how did all this happen? Glad you asked, because that’s what’s in the book. Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life starts when I started really faking my balance, when I got pregnant with my first, and follows the twists and turns that led our family to Texas, Arkansas, and beyond, and me, ultimately, back into the type of full time work I never imagined I’d leave in favor “stay home” motherhood. I have been surprised by a lot of my choices along the way, but we work with what we’ve got, and pretend to balance it all. From being a young mother on a pumping break to being a middle aged mother doing her best not to cry at the office, these are stories of trying to be a grown-up while also raising children to someday be grown-ups.

Couldn’t be happier to have you along for the journey!

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Working Mom Life: Presence Is a Virtue

Working Mom Brandi Riley

Working Mom Life is an interview series featuring real working mothers who are figuring out how to get the job done. Because there are more ways to be a working mom than there are ways to fold a cloth diaper, we can all learn from each other. Join the conversation #WorkingMomLife.

Brandi Riley is a social media and content strategist, lending her influence to some of America’s top brands. Not working was never an option. Brandi started mom life as a single mom, and like many working mothers, she was back at work by the time her daughter was 3 months old. In person, Brandi has an unusual poise and graciousness that I think you’ll sense in this interview, too. She repeats the concept of being present several times, and she makes it sound easy. Simple, yes. Easy, no. Here are 3 takeaways from my time with Brandi:

  • When in doubt (or anxiety), cancel plans.
  • Do NOT get suckered into caring about other peoples ‘stuff. Focus on your own stuff.
  • Just turn off the phone and be present.

LD: What was the biggest challenge of returning to work after your maternity leave ended?

I was very lucky because her daycare was located in the same building as the organization I worked for. The teachers would call me when it was time for her to eat and I would leave my office and go to nurse her. My only challenge was just being exhausted all of the time!

LD: You are a busy lady, sometimes working odd hours and often traveling for your clients. What is your secret to getting everything done in a day?

I just let stuff go. Seriously, I am okay with the fact that I can’t do it all, so I don’t even try. I’m not going to stress out about not being able to cook for my family on days that I’m working 8 hours and commuting for 2. They aren’t going to die if I order a pizza. Not stressing makes life work for my family.

LD: What about household chores? How do you and your husband share the work load?

My husband is great at being neat, but he’s not a deep cleaner. He keeps the house tidy on a regular basis, and I’m the gal that comes through with the vacuum, bleach and scrub brush to make it easy for him to keep things neat! He doesn’t believe in scrubbing and I don’t believe in hanging up my jacket when I come into the house. We’re a match made in heaven!

LD: How to you handle mommy guilt?

Because I work so much, I tend to overcompensate with things. There was a trip recently that I was planning to take my daughter on. It was going to completely bust our budget, but I felt like I owed it to her because I’ve been exceptionally busy lately. I realized however, that all of that isn’t necessary. She just wants quality time. We’d spend more time stressing out about the trip than spending actual time together. I cancelled our plans and just made it a priority to be more present.

LD: You make the #WorkingMomLife sound easy. Are there any words of wisdom that guide you?

Jobs come and go, family is forever. Focus on family and things will work out.

LD: What is the worst advice you’ve received lately?

“You work in social, it’s your job to be online all of the time.” – No. No, it’s not. Every life needs balance.

LD: What would you offer to new moms who are going back to work?

You can’t be everything to everybody. Choose the most important things and focus on them. Don’t get suckered into caring about other people’s stuff, especially if it’s going to take away from the real work that you need to get done in order to get back home to your family.

LD: I love that line. I think many women are perpetually suckered into spending attention on things that are none of our concern. So, final question, what would you say is your super-power?

My secret power is being able to turn 15 minutes of downtime into a meaningful time of togetherness. Just turn the phone off and be present. :-)

Turn off the phone? How does one even do that? If this is too drastic a step, as it is for me, you could start with simply putting the phone in a different room. It works. Thank you, Brandi! Learn more about Brandi on her blog, Mama Knows It All.

Learn about more working moms’ lives here:

 


Where Are You Making Do?

My hair dryer exploded this week. Literally, sparks came out of the little box where I have plugged it into the wall for I don’t know how many years. I really thought the whole thing might start a real fire. I smelled that weird electrical fire smell and sniffed the outlet several times, in between concealer and mascara. I stopped short of texting my husband, who was traveling for work. Because what could I say? Hey, honey, there might be fire in the wall.

There wasn’t. I’m lucky like that.

Even luckier, my hair was about 98% dry when it happened.

Just a few days earlier, for the first time in a long time, I thought I was probably going to have to get that on my list: buy new hairdryer. Because it’s been broken. For a while. And I’m not just talking about that melted part where it got overused while defrosting the freezer because household appliances must multi-task to earn their keep in this house. One of the many, many times I dropped the dryer, I broke the mechanism that holds the handle in place while the thing is in use. The same one that “un-holds” for handy folding and storage. For a week or two after I broke the handle I was determined to get a new dryer.

But that task never made it to the list.

In time I learned how to hold the handle just right so that drying my hair was almost the same with the damaged tool as it had been before. That happened about 2 years ago. Rather, I should say at least 2 years ago because I have no idea really, except that I remember it was broken before we moved. All those years accommodating something broken, holding it just so in order to make do. Not only because buying a new one never made it to my list, but also because why did I need a new one when this one still worked?

I take a certain pride in making do. It’s seeded deep within me. Which is why it took an explosion to make me take action. An interior designer once assessed my house and declared, “Well bless your heart, you’re just using what you have.” I didn’t know there was another way. And I’m not alone. I have a friend who asked a group of us to hold her accountable for buying new shoes because, although she went back to work nearly a year ago, she has been “making do” in her wardrobe. I have been making do in my office at work for almost 2 years. Maybe it’s time to settle in and make it pretty.

My new hair dryer is slick. It’s very light and it has fancy red lights where the air comes out that make it look like a heated up burner, which is actually kind of terrifying, but also makes me smile. The hair dryer incident made me think about other things in my life I’m just making do with, and that I might want to replace before they threaten bodily harm.

Where are you just making do? 


 

Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.

 

Working Mom Life: Don’t Worry, Be Happy, Say No

Working Mom Life is an interview series featuring real working mothers who are figuring out how to get the job done. Because there are more ways to be a working mom than there are ways to fold a cloth diaper, we can all learn from each other. Join the conversation #WorkingMomLife.

Working Mom Life - Amy Bradley-Hole and Family

Amy Bradley-Hole is a force of nature. I know because I’ve been in a room with her. Her energy and ideas seem to be never-ending. She’s got two young sons and a resume full of stops and starts and start-overs. I really relate to her squiggly career path, and so admire her tenacity and her ability to lead with her talents and let everything else fall away. I know you’ll enjoy getting to know Amy, but if you’d rather fake it, here are 3 takeaways you can use right now:

  • Remember that fathers are fully capable of running households.
  • Ask for help, and accept help.
  • Become brilliant at saying no.

LD: Going back to work is different for every mom. How did you do it?

AB: I worked up until about the 6th month of my first pregnancy. At that time, my husband’s job had us relocate from Reno down to the Vegas area. As much as I would have liked to have gotten a job when we moved, no one was going to hire a visibly pregnant woman! So I enjoyed the rest of my pregnancy, and stayed home with my first son for the first 18 months of his life. When we relocated to Florida, I found a great daycare and went back to work on a part time basis. I carried on with the part time work after my second son was born. THEN we moved to Arkansas. I was eager to earn more money, so I went back to work full time for a few years.

LD: You’ve worked for yourself for a while now, first as a freelance writer/editor/publicist and now as founder of Bonta Toscana food company. Why did you decide to go out on your own?

AB: I enjoyed the income of working full time for someone else, but the stress was terrible. I hated missing my kids’ activities or school programs, and I hated that they were in after school care every evening and all summer long.Trying to juggle everyone’s schedules got more difficult the older they got. So I quit working for other people, and started working for myself. I work a ton of hours now, but I can at least set my own schedule, and that’s what matters most. My boys are 10 and 8 now, so we’re pretty busy, but they’re also more capable of doing things for themselves, so that saves me time.

LD: Every successful working mom I know has a few tricks that keep her sane and keep her family fed and out of jail. What are yours?

AB: We are creatures of habit, and are very routine-oriented. I have been like that since the day my first son was born. Our morning routine, our after school routine, our evening routine — they’re very ritualistic, even when we throw things like sports practices or special events into the mix. I’ve found that the more we can keep a steady routine, the calmer everyone is. Everyone knows what to expect.

I couldn’t live without the Cozi Family app and website. It’s where I keep everyone’s schedule, and grocery lists, and notes to each other, etc. It’s always at my fingertips whenever I need to update anyone’s calendar, and it makes it easy for me to send messages to my husband about schedule changes.

LD: That’s a great resource, and speaking of your husband, would you say he’s an equal partner on the domestic front?

AB: We’re pretty much fifty-fifty, but honestly, we don’t even think about who does what. We both just chip in and do whatever needs to be done. Whoever is available, whoever has the free time, whoever will be close to the store — that’s who does the chore. We’ve hardly ever had a conversation about doling out duties. And when one or the other of us has to travel, the other just steps in and makes it work. I’ve never been one of those wives who has to make meals, lay out clothes, or arrange for sitters for a week before going out of town. I would lose my mind. My husband is fully capable of running our household beautifully in my absence.

LD: I have been that wife and it’s part of the reason I did lose my mind a little when the kids were young. I think it was part of my mommy guilt, which I believe is an inevitable part of motherhood. What’s been your experience?

AB: I really struggled when I was working full time during the summers. The kids would get invited to go swimming, or got to a movie, or go grab pizza for lunch with a friend, and I had to say no, because they were at daycare or day camps, and the logistics were too difficult for me to make it happen. They used to literally cry because all their friends got a summer vacation, but they went to school all summer (their care programs were at their school). I couldn’t accept that, so I overcame it by quitting full time work. (Paying a nanny or sitter to stay with them every day and drive them places was too expensive.)

LD: What is the best advice you have received about thriving in the #WorkingMomLife?

Your kids won’t remember the stressful times or the bad times as much as you do. They’ll just remember the good stuff. So don’t worry too much about those rough periods. It won’t do lasting damage.

LD: Any terrible advice you’d like to forget?

I’m not the kind of person who gets mad at unsolicited or bad advice. I truly think there’s something helpful to be gleaned from all advice. That said, I remember being told that the income I was making when I was working full time would make the stress and the time spent away from my kids worth it. It wasn’t necessarily bad advice, but it simply wasn’t true for me.

LD: What would you like to tell new moms who plan to work, or moms headed back to work?

Ask for help. Always. Don’t be afraid to tell people you need assistance. And if anyone ever offers help, take it! Whether it’s your mother-in-law offering to clean your house and do laundry after you’ve had a baby, or a friend offering to take your kids for the afternoon, or your husband offering to cook supper, say yes. This was difficult for me at first, because I’m a control freak. I like things done MY way, and I’d rather just do something myself rather than have someone else try but screw it up. I’ve learned to let a lot of that go. The stress of having too much on your plate is worse than the stress of someone else doing things differently than you’d like them done.

Also, have an in-case-of-emergency friend. I have one friend I know I can call on no matter what. If I’m running late and can’t get the kids from school in time, she’ll pick them up. If I need a last minute babysitter at midnight on a Wednesday night, she’ll do it. I’m her ICE friend, too, so I can always return the favor. Knowing that you have a safety net is a wonderful feeling.

LD: Running your own business takes a special set of skills. So does motherhood. I believe you can acquire and hone those skills over time, but stamina can’t be learned. What’s your secret?

Not giving a f*@$. I don’t care what the latest parenting trends are. I don’t care about how other families do it. I don’t care about SAHM/WOHM/WAHM competitions. I don’t compare myself to other moms. I just do what works for us, and that’s that.

Also, I’m brilliant at saying no. I don’t volunteer too much of my time, I don’t sign up for stuff, I don’t take on commitments I can’t handle. And I don’t feel one bit guilty for saying no, either.

That’s the perfect place to end, because we all could be better at saying no– to the wrong things– so that we have more time to say yes to the right ones. Thank you, Amy Bradley-Hole!
Learn about more working moms’ lives here:

 

Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.

 

How To Handle Change in 3 Easy Steps

Handling change is a critical skill for anyone. If you’re alive, you’re handling change all the time. But some life circumstances throw change at us faster than others. How we deal with it can be the difference between freaking out and settling in.

When I returned to the world of those who work with other humans in close quarters toward common goals I resumed the practice of some skills and started cultivating others in new ways. In addition to attending meetings and being held accountable for revenue and expenses, I now have the privilege of helping several people grow careers that are fulfilling and meaningful. One of the strong women I work with recently asked me, within the context of her performance and our team’s changing focus, “How have you dealt with all the changes?”

We work in an extremely fast-paced web-based environment, where technology and market forces can conspire overnight to change fundamentals in our business. And we have a company culture of moving with the changes. It’s what we do. But my colleagues question caught me off guard. I can’t remember what I said at the time, and I wasn’t satisfied with my answer. I’ve been thinking about the question all week. How do I deal with change?

The truth is I have no idea, because I don’t know any other way but change.

Step 1: Freak Out

During a two month period in 2013 I went back to work full time, my husband changed jobs after 13 years at the same company, my daughter switched from her big public school to a small charter, and we moved to a new house (before selling the old house). It was all very exciting and terrifying. But it was also just the way of my world.

My first job out of college was in consulting. Nothing static about switching projects, managers, and clients every 6-12 weeks. Then I had two babies and mommy-tracked over to the tax department. Big city tax work was very dynamic. Not so much at a regional firm. So I left. Because I craved change. Next came years of freelance writing, editing, publishing, speaking, content strategy and social marketing consulting. Never the same day twice.

Still, all those changes a couple of years ago had me spinning. I didn’t handle it all very well. I got overwhelmed. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. My husband tells me this is all a very normal part of something called the J Curve. I called it freaking out.

Step 2: Relax and make a [new] plan 

I’ve been obsessed with the question of how to deal with change because I’m a sucker for systems. I LOVE my routines. It’s Sunday as I write this. I’ve stocked the refrigerator and pantry. I know more or less what our family will eat for dinner every day this week. I have 5 outfits hanging in my closet that I don’t have to think about (thank you, capsule wardrobe), and I’ve walked my dog and hit my yoga mat today because it’s part of my routine. I live by these routines. But I also live to change them. (That’s a huge part of my love for Arkansas, by the way, the fact that there are distinct seasons here, natural delineations for changes in routine.)

The only thing I love more than a routine is a new routine. The only thing better than a great spreadsheet is a new great spreadsheet.But for me, when things are in flux, my need for order asserts itself. No sooner has change descended than I have a 7-point plan. And maybe a flowchart. The new plan might not work for long, but that’s okay, because we’ll need a new one soon anyway.

Step 3: Let go and repeat

Here’s the trick: Make the plans. Map the process, but don’t get too attached. Because you know what they say about our puny human plans. God thinks they’re funny. Embrace routines. Court stability. Of course. But when change comes along, take a deep breath– and make a new spreadsheet.

So, how do you manage change? 


 

Got Books?Screen shot 2015-08-16 at 9.09.26 PM

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.

 

6 Book Club Books for Working Moms

You’re a working mom and you’re in a book club. Time is precious. And while it’s super fun to get together with girlfriends and drink wine and eat snacks, and have opinions about books you may or may not have had time to read, there are only so many meetings in a row you can get away with not reading the book. (In my experience this is approximately 37% of the time, missing no more than two books in a row.)

When it’s your turn to select the book, take the opportunity choose one of these 6 ideal types of books for working moms to read in book club.

The Make-You-Better Book
Book club is recreation, but all the best working moms know how to multi-task. My book club read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project a few years ago and I guarantee we’ll be reading her new title, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives sooner than later. A great self-help book is a win-win for everyone mom in the room–working or not.

The Escape Book
All books take you somewhere, but some are better than others at immersing you in a world you’d never have the chance to experience. The 19th Wife, A Novel by David Ebershoff and The Other Bolyen Girl by Philippa Gregory are two of my favorites.

The Holy-Crap-How-Do-I-Get-It-All-Done? Book
Working moms are always juggling something, or spinning plates, or balancing on a tightrope. (Trust me, I’ve tried to come up with better metaphors, and when I do I guarantee there’s a book deal in it for me.) So when you’re wondering how others cope, check out Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte and Good Enough Is the New Perfect: Finding Happiness and Success in Modern Motherhood by Rebecca Gillespie and Hollee Temple.

The Depressing Thinker Book
What would you do in an impossible situation? Better to play our your choices in the page of a novel. Our book club really enjoyed The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. We didn’t agree on how we would have handled the situation. And arguing over wine about the decisions of fictional characters is some of the most fun a girl can have.

The Empowerment Book
Sometimes you just have to take on the world. But if you’re a working mom, time’s tight. If you have a fantasy (as I do) of taking a extended nature sabbatical, walk a few miles in Cheryl Strayed’s hiking boots by reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. It doesn’t disappoint, but it does spark very good conversations. And don’t forget that other Sheryl– Sandberg. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is required reading for any working mother.

The Comedic Relief Book
I’ve written before about my favorite funny mom books for book clubsI Just Want to Pee Alone and You Have Lipstick on Your Teeth are anthologies by dozens of very funny ladies. But my very favorite new funny book that is the ideal book club read for working moms is, not surprisingly, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, which will be released in September!


 

Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.

 

 

Working Mom Life: Living Full

family photo 11 14 (2)

Working Mom Life is an interview series featuring real working mothers who are figuring out how to get the job done. Because there are more ways to be a working mom than there are ways to fold a cloth diaper, we can all learn from each other. I hope you’ll join the conversation #WorkingMomLife.

Michelle Unabia might be the busiest person I know. And not in that crazy to-do list, make up things to do busy, but in that way that women are when they refuse to let go of any of their ambitions in the face of unending motherhood. Unabia is a mother of 12-year-old twins and a 7-year-old son. She works full time in human resources, goes to school full time, runs half marathons, and is currently planning her 30th class reunion. How does she allocate her time? Very intentionally. As a woman who has also been known to fit a ridiculous number of things into a 24-hour day, I admire Unabia’s energy, and her structure. If you’re too time-pressed to read the whole interview, here are 3 takeaways to consider right now:

  • Working mom life is not and all or nothing game. It’s fluid.
  • Don’t judge yourself by others’ unrealistic units of measure.
  • Staying home doesn’t mean losing your mind, or even your professional skill set.

LD: What did “going back to work” look like for you after becoming a mother.

MU: Currently I am a Sr. Human Resource Consultant and have been with PEMCO Insurance for 9 years. Prior to this role I was a stay at home mom for 3 years raising my twins. Having the twins 12 years ago was a dream of my husband and mine and we decided that it would be best for me to stay at home while they were young and then eventually we would trade spots and I would return to work and he would stay home. I loved every minute of staying home. I was always on the go with my children doing all sorts of things, and what kept me sane during those times was the structure that I had in place. I got my chores and meal prepping done in the morning while the children played or watched cartoons. Then after lunch we would be off exploring the parks or doing whatever. This system worked well because the kids knew that mommy had to get her stuff done in order to do their stuff so we switched between mommy tasks and kids tasks which met everyone’s needs.

By the time the kids turned three I felt that they needed to be put in daycare for more socialization and because I needed someone to help my potty train them. (Editorial Note: I. Hear. That.) So we decided that it was time for me to reenter the workforce before my skills went too stale. The first week I sat outside their class all day thinking that they would need me. They didn’t.

LD: I find that most working moms live by one or more systems. What are some routines your family could not live without?

MU: Time is of the essence for me so I have to make sure that I have everything pre-planned on weekends so that I know I will accomplish what I need to and have time to relax before heading back into a full week’s work. I have a rotating schedule of household chores that everyone contributes to. The twins help in the morning with getting breakfast for their brother. The kids do their homework on the way home in the car so that they have dedicated time to play when they get home. Sundays are family time where we attend church and chill at home. We all eat dinner every night at the table and we have Saturday movie nights where we all gather for a movie and eat popcorn.

LD: What does the split look like between and your husband when it comes to domestic tasks?  

Until all the kids got into school it was a real sacrifice for me and my husband managing the drop offs and pick up time with the kids. The twins were in school and the youngest was across town in a daycare so I would drop the youngest off at 7am and go to work while my husband would drop off the twins at school. Then I got off early enough to rally them all and race home to cook dinner. Life is much easier now because my husband retired and is now a full time dad. He does the housework and cooking during the week so that I can fully engage in my career to support the family. I do deep cleaning on the weekend like bathrooms, beds, washing floors and yard work.

LD: What is the best advice you have received about thriving in the #WorkingMomLife?

MU: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Nothing is more important than hugging and caring for your children. I had family members that measured my capability of being a mother by how clean my house was, how my children were dressed and whether or not I had meals on the table by 5pm. These are all unrealistic units of measure when you have twins or more children. There are times where I was stressing myself out because I didn’t get the house cleaned or the bed made because my child was having a melt down and I needed to stop and hold them. There were times when dinner didn’t get made because we were having too much fun at the park. At these times I had to ask myself which was most important? Playing tennis with my child which they will remember and you will cherish for your life or washing the floor? Is anyone coming over that will need to lick that floor? Of course not!

LD: What advice could you have done without?

MU: The constant judgments that stay at home moms have it easy and don’t have much to talk about other than their children. That is far from the truth. Our lives might revolve around our children and Sesame Street but we are smart and educated people that are doing the most important job in the world.

LD: Do you have any words of wisdom for new moms who plan to work, or for seasoned moms headed back to work?   

MU: For working moms it is to keep engaged with your profession and to remember that you have valued skills from being at home that can translate to the workforce. When I returned back to Human Resources I felt that people were farther along in their careers than I was and I envied them because I used to be that person who offered to take on big projects, who was able to attend networking sessions and could work those extra hours. When you have kids you give up that flexibility and have to take a backseat to those initiatives until your kids get older. Your primary focus is your children and not your job and that is hard to get used to at first. But I say cut yourself some slack because there will be a payback time.

For new moms my advice is to enjoy your children and try not to get caught up on being better than others. Be yourself and don’t forget to play music loud and dance as much as you can with your children. Take naps with them so that you have the energy to sustain yourself throughout the day. But most importantly make sure you don’t lose yourself in your children and that it is equally important to schedule in time for yourself to continue to do the things that make you who you are.

I love my life and how it played out but I couldn’t have done it alone. I needed my husband and his understanding. And there were times when he came home and I had a drink poured that was stronger than wine and he knew when that happened I needed a break and took action and I love him for that!

LD: Do you have a secret super-power?

MU: I love my job!

And it shows! Thanks so much to Michelle for letting us peek into her very full life. 

For more portraits of working moms’ lives, check out these posts: 

That Time I Went Insane Over Office Supplies

I got up at four in the morning. Crazy, I know, but my husband does it one day every week so sometimes I show my solidarity by getting up with him. It’s a bad idea, a pointless show of support that usually does not end well, but if I’m lucky I get a lot of work done before the kids wake up. On this particular morning I paid bills, cleared my inbox, and worked out a four-leg carpool schedule for my children’s cotillion class. We can all rest assured the children will be on time to the classes where they learn to say hello and where-do-you-go-to-school to a member of the opposite sex without shaking, sweating, or humping a leg.

One of my morning desk jobs required tape. It was urgent, in the way that only Scotch tape emergencies can be. But I’m nothing if not prepared and I took comfort in the knowledge that my trusty tape would be there, waiting patiently in my top left desk drawer.

Wrong.

My heart raced as the swell of anger grew. Such a mildly sticky substance should never cause this much distress. However, instances of lost tape have become a peeve of mine, along with missing scissors and borrowed mechanical pencils. I need little to practice my trade and manage the myriad amusements of our family. All I ask is that my simple tools remain in, or are returned to their proper homes. Is that so much to ask?

My children are infatuated with tape. They make things out of it—pictures, shoes, bicycle parts. They write notes on tape, and then tape them onto walls with more tape. They stick it to their faces. They make out with it. They’re totally going to have a double wedding with Scotch and masking. Duct will be the Maid of Honor.

Me? I just use tape. And when my little stick buddy isn’t where I left it, I get pissy.

I looked in the drawer, in the office supply cubby, and behind the bookshelf. No tape. At least three rolls of it—gone, vanished without a trace, like tissue in cold season. Maybe it was the hour, or my not quite fully caffeinated state, but I was livid. I wanted that tape. I wanted it NOW. But it was five-thirty in the morning. Instead of rousing my children from their beds in a mad woman’s frenzy, I plotted revenge. I would teach those ingrates the consequences of stealing a woman’s tape. It’s not like they hadn’t been warned. A few weeks earlier, I’d stocked up. And not just for me. Generously, I provided each of my two children with a personal roll of tape.

“This is yours,” I said. “You can let me know if you need more, but under no circumstances are you to take the tape from my drawer.” I had showed them the two rolls of tape in my desk drawer so as to underscore the importance of this directive.

“Got it?”

After the expected number of eye rolls, they answered in unison. “Yes, Mom, we got it.”

Clearly, they didn’t get it.

Before finishing my pre-dawn cup of coffee I devised a surprisingly rational plan. I would simply take the cost of the replacement office supplies out of their allowances. Each time I reached for something of mine that was not where it should be—cha-ching, show me your money.

When my son and daughter came down for breakfast I said good morning, hugged them, and calmly announced the new policy. One set of eyes narrowed, then teared up. The other just rolled back in its annoyed ‘tween skull.

Voices were raised.

The toaster was abused.

Corn flake shrapnel flew.

My daughter was most visibly upset, as she values money more than her brother does, more than shoes, more than breath, I sometimes fear. She shook while pleading her case of injustice.

“You just want to make money off us!”

Ah… yes, exactly. Exploitation of my children popped into my head shortly after peeing on the stick. My wicked plan to get rich extorting my own money for Scotch tape and paperclips was finally starting to pay off! And boy, was I in for a windfall with the scissors.

I resumed typical morning activities—cooking for my children, cleaning up after my children, writing checks so that my children can read books and attend enriching extra-curricular activities. However, I soon noticed that neither of them were speaking to me. Perhaps I’d been a bit harsh, a bit reactive. It occurred to me that picking a fight about tape over breakfast might not have been the wisest choice. And yes, I wondered if it was actually my husband who had taken the tape. But I had to stand my ground. This is the new normal, tape thieves. Deal with it. Because once you go too far down a road you need to stay the course or accept a kind of parental defeat that undermines every future disciplinary effort.

God help us if someone ever swipes the three-hole punch.

This is an excerpt from Lela Davidson’s award-winning essay collection, Who Peed on My Yoga Mat?


 

Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.

 

Faking Balance: Time Management by Panic Attack

I’m taking the day off today to take care of a few things. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first, this working mom thing, in case you haven’t heard, is not easy. And before you warm up your fingers to compose your strongly worded comment about how dare I complain, what with my good job and my supportive husband and my healthy children. Let me beat you to it. You’re right. I’m incredibly fortunate.

I have an amazing job that I love mostly because I get to work with really smart, really sensitive, really creative people every day. When I worked at Arthur Andersen right out of college I knew I worked with the smartest people I ever had before that. But working at a startup — a technology startup in Arkansas, no less — is different. My colleagues at Andersen were primarily corporate, family pedigree, fancy school smart. Now my days are spent with entrepreneurial problem solvers who are also next-level smart. And some of those days these individuals also drive me to drink. That’s part of the fun. My job is incredibly dynamic, fulfilling, and hard.

I have an awesome husband who cooks and cleans and also takes care of the manly things. Mostly cars and ducts and the printer I think. That’s the beauty of him taking care of things. I don’t have to think about them. He is the best partner I could have hoped to end up with. He’s a great father, a patient spouse, and a pretty damn good friend. But, news flash– marriage? That’s hard, too.

My children? Well, they recently informed me that “no one wants to hear about other people’s kids” so I won’t bore you with the brag. But they are 16 and 14, so, no matter how wonderfully above average they happen to be, you can use your imagination about how hard they are right now.

Being a working mom is difficult for me, with all my advantages. And yes, of course I understand that others have it a lot harder. All the more reason for me to assure you that despite my calendars and lists, my walking, my yoga, my on-and-off again affair with juicing, and my borderline pathologic love of spreadsheets, I am most certainly not the picture of work-life balance. Whatever that is. I’m faking it. And I’m cool with that because mine is the good kind of fake. It’s the kind of fake where you smile even though you’re pretty sure the world is going to hell in a hand basket, the kind of fake you need to get comfortable with if you’re going to accomplish much of substance in this life.

Because most things worth doing or having are hard: Education, relationships, homemade cheesecake with Nutella sauce and strawberries.

Don’t worry, there’s no big breakdown coming. I tell small stories. God willing, that’s all I’ll ever have to tell. One of my writer friends dreamt of writing for years, but she didn’t have anything to write about. Then her daughter died and she started writing. Like I said, God willing my stories stay small. Because small stories are important too.

So here I sit on a Friday afternoon at my favorite Starbucks, working the day job a little, working the publishing world a little, eavesdropping a lot, and generally taking a few hours to catch up on all those carefully laid plans outlined in my planner. But before I got here, I spent a few hours shopping for party supplies, making a casserole, and mapping out a plan for a big project at work.

Why did I take the day off to do these things? Because I’m so on top of it all? Because I’m practicing work-life balance? Because it was in my planner? Not exactly. The things I’m taking care of today are the things causing me to wake in a sweat, sick to my stomach, sure that I’ll end in ruin if I don’t get them done. Because, napkins got to match, you know?

Last fall I decided to be intentional about big personal projects, to be really honest with myself about what a big project really was, and how, you know, you can’t just keep adding on and adding on. I limited myself to three big projects. One of them is my husband’s 50th birthday party, which is next weekend. I want it to be nice, like Southern girl nice, not like the casual get-togethers I usually throw where I might be asked, “You do realize you’re hosting this thing, right?” (Actual quote.) So, I’ve been in a bit of a panic about candles, cheese, dip, punch, balloons, tiered cakes, and also napkins.

At the same time, a friend has been in the hospital with sick newborn and I’ve been wondering if I was going to be the friend who shows up with the casserole, or just the friend who sends quippy texts because she’s uncomfortable about sick babies and other scary things. So, I made some food.

I got cranky at work this week because I was mad at myself for failing to get in front of a project that needed my attention. So I took some time for that, because I spend a lot of time at work and I don’t need to be mad at myself while I’m there, or when I’m home but still there.

And then there’s this book I’ve been working on since before the launch of the last one, the final edit of which is sitting in my inbox because I’m afraid of something. I’m not sure what yet. Maybe that the third time will not in fact be a charm. Maybe that my editor was just being nice all these months and this is the edit where she finally tells me what an idiot I’ve been, and oh by the way, “No one wants to hear about other peoples kids.” Maybe just because once the writing is done, and it really is done already, all the marketing begins and I know there’s just. So. Much.

So yes, I am lucky to be in a position to take a day off so I can take care of all these things, and therefore keep my mental health in check. And yes, it’s all very wonderfully hard and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And yes, my time management skills would be strengthened by a stronger “no” reflex. But damn it, life is short and I want to do all the things.

You can have your life hacks, I’ll keep managing by panic attack*. And faking my balance.

*I reserve the right to use this term however I please. No offense intended to those who suffer actual, verifiable, medical, panic attacks.

Lela Davidson’s forthcoming book, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, will be released in September 2015.


 

Got Books?

Lela Davidson’s award-winning, best-selling essay collections. Short reads for busy moms who smile and smirk. Available on AmazonNookiTunes and every other place books are sold. But probably not at your neighbor’s garage sale.