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.

 

 

My Daughter, My Stylist

My daughter asked me to go shopping yesterday—clothes shopping. This was a first. Until now, we’ve shopped for her or we’ve shopped for me, but we haven’t “gone shopping” together. I was excited to get her buy-in on her own wardrobe, but I had ulterior motives, too. My daughter, you see, is also my personal stylist.

“Mom, can we shop somewhere else this time? Besides Old Navy?”

But… I have coupons, and reward points, and—

“Like, can we go to Aeropostale? And Forever21?”

While Gaby is particular about what she wears, her tomboy chic has not yet required daylong excursions. Her uniform has been easy: Jeans—the rattier the better—a camisole tank with a t-shirt over top, bunched up in a ponytail holder in the back. That’s it. Every day.

Every.

Day.

Not exactly chic, but it’s clean and covered up. I can’t complain. I’ve always wished, however, that she were a tiny bit more girly. It might have been my fault for swaddling her in broken-in dinosaur receiving blankets. Maybe when I dressed her in big brother’s hand-me-downs football onesies I should have foreseen future ice rinks, where she would play hockey instead of carve circles while wearing chiffon and sequins. I tried to make up for my mistake during the preschool years, but it was too late. I dressed her up in seersucker dresses and matching bloomers for a couple of years, but by PreK she took a stand, quickly adopting a pants-only policy. I tried to frill up her closet with bright corduroys and matchy sweaters, but it didn’t work. No Davidson will ever forget the Easter standoff of 2007. Lime green and I lost big that day. The battle put an end to my foolishness forever and firmly established who controlled what Gaby wore.

Since then it’s been strictly jeans and t-shirts. Until now. Oh, the possibilities! I wanted to make a day of it, go to lunch and get a pedicure, but I had to play it cool. I would NOT skip from store to store singing like a deranged Julie Andrews who just found new curtains to slice up.

We found an adorable top at Charlotte Russe. “That is SO cute,” my daughter said.

“You’re right, that is super cute.”

“It would look SO good on you. Can we share it?”

Share a shirt? Things were moving quickly, indeed. Fortunately, back in the dressing room we discovered the top didn’t look right on either one of us. We did, however, find the perfect jeans—for her—and because they were buy one get one half off, I searched for a pair for myself. Since I am past my prime for skinny cut skinnies, I searched for a nice boot cut—the new Mom Jeans. They didn’t have those, so I tried something with industrial grade Spandex. The sales girl only snickered once, but the only opinion that mattered was my girl’s.

“They make your legs look demented.” She’s direct. We left with two identical pair of jeans for her, and a couple of age-appropriate tops for me.

I have no idea where my anti-fashion daughter gets her style instincts, but they are always right. Since first grade she has held veto power over my outfits. Anytime I come home with something I’m not quite sure about, she confirms my suspicions and back to TJ Maxx it goes. My clothing lives and dies by her judgments. It’s like having Stacy London on speed dial, except I can just yell up the stairs. Or, better yet, now—take her into the dressing room. As long as I continue to pass Gaby’s inspection I’ll never be one of those 40-somethings who think it’s okay to shop at Justice so long as they can squeeze into a junior size fourteen. Color me ForeverGrateful.

I realize I’m working in a very small window of opportunity, a brief moment in time that my daughter will want to go to the mall with me. Soon her interest in shopping with me will begin and end with my Mastercard. But this time was bliss. She even remembered to thank me when we got home. And I only have to return one tiny little dress to Forever21—the one she told me not to buy.

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.

That One Time I Was Adulterous

It started out innocently enough, as these things often do. Just a text here, some slight dissatisfaction there. There was no big conflict, but rather a slow growing apart that snuck up on me. Everything became inconvenient. Nothing personal, but I had needs and he was no longer able to meet them. We had been together nearly ten years, almost half my adult life with the same man. He knew how to make me feel beautiful. But the idea of someone new, with new techniques, thrilled me and at the same time it made me feel guilty as hell. Before I knew it I was trapped in the throes of an adulterous relationship.

My friends were no help. They actually encouraged the betrayal. What’s the big deal? They wanted to know. You need to do what works for you, Lela. And on one level I knew they were right. I knew my relationship was over, but I clung to it, and in the clinging only hurt myself. I could see it in the mirror. Slowly, guiltily, I exchanged furtive texts with a stranger, and with them a troubling internal dialogue.

When could we meet?

Was I really ready for this?

Had I already crossed a line?

But in another town, another county, surely, I could keep this a secret. And who would blame me? It’s not like I’d gone looking for someone new, but I hadn’t guarded against this either. I had let things go too long.

So here I was, meeting in secret. We were awkward together. After all those years, to feel the touch of another, hands through my hair. After all those years, it felt scary and exciting. How could he possibly know what I liked? I soaked in the thrill of the moment while trying not to think about how I might feel the next morning. Would I regret my reckless behavior or was this the start of a new long-lasting relationship?

In the six months before I strayed, we had only “been together” once. I blamed myself. I’d gotten busy, couldn’t make time for him. But he had to take some of the blame. He wasn’t as attentive as he had been earlier in our relationship. He didn’t seem to listen to me anymore, or remember what was important to me. And then there was that spat. We’d had an agreement. He had vowed to protect me from myself. No matter how I begged or what celebrity resuscitated their style stature, he was never EVER to give me bangs.

And then one day, bangs.

Followed by his callous refusal to take responsibility for my actions.

That hurt, but I forgave him. So much history, after all. But we were never the same after that. Now, in the hands of another man, I’m torn between two blowouts, breaking all the rules. I don’t know if I’m ready for a full confession, a reckoning. All I know is I can’t go on like this. I can’t have it both ways.

Who would want two hairdressers, anyway?

This is an excerpt from Lela Davidson’s forthcoming essay collection, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, to be published 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.

Working Mom Life: You Belong Here

Working Mom Life Kellee Mayfield and family

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.

Kellee Mayfield keeps hearts beating, literally, as a sales and clinical specialist for pacemakers and defibrillators. She’s also a talented painter, and writes about life in southeast Arkansas on her popular blog Delta Moxie. Kellee is mom to a 9-year-old daughter, and is married to a doctor, so schedules can conflict. Here are my 3 favorite parts of Kellee’s answers:

  • Routines make life easier, even if life interrupts them often.
  • It’s okay to let your children hang out at work (we heard this from Eileen Jennings, too.)
  • “You belong here.”

Interview with Kellee Mayfield

LD: Did you always know you’d be a working mom?

KM: Probably entering college, I’d say yes. As I aged and advanced, my answer changed with my career demands and where we were located. Now that I’m older and have options, I want my daughter to see me working and contributing. I realize that may not be for everyone, but it is important to me. For many years she assumed I was a doctor like her dad, but I’m in medical device sales. She has been with me when I’ve had to check patients in an emergency and tells her friends, “My mom saves lives (even though she isn’t a doctor)”.

LD: Do you live by routines or do you wing it? 

Our family lives by routines, however we often find ourselves winging it due to our unpredictable work schedules (which happens when you are both in health care). During the week, she’ll stay with her “second mom,” our caregiver. For the everyday juggling of schedules, she has spent many hours in my husband’s office, nurses stations, or ICU waiting rooms as we finish tasks.

We have a strict morning routine that is easy because our daughter is a morning person. It begins at 5:45. Our daughter dresses herself in a school uniform and performs the normal grooming of brushing teeth and hair, washing her face. Once she is dressed, she eats her breakfast which is made the night before with an almond milk, whole rolled oats, banana, chia seed pudding. Her school lunch is also prepared and packed the night before. Makes it so much easier to grab and go.

After school routines are structured following her arrival home. She immediately begins her homework and we work together as a family keeping her on track. She takes dance on Tuesday, piano in our home on Wednesday and tennis on Tuesday. There are times, she will share a ride with a friend or receive transport from our caregiver.

LD: How do you keep the whole family on track? 

Communication keeps our family running. Thank goodness for FaceTime, texting and mobile phones. Also, on any given day, we have a vital network of friends that we can count on in a pinch. Relaxing and socializing with this group keeps us sane. Our daughter also plays a role in coordinating our family calendars and schedules. She’s a born leader and contributes to the organization of our family. She gets her calendar out and she marks upcoming events, special birthdays. The girl wants details. She must know our plans. What time will we leave? How long will this event last? What will I wear? What are you going to wear? Who will be there? Who is hosting? What is the theme? Who’s car are we taking? Do we take a gift? When will we have a gift? And if she isn’t going, she asks, “who will be keeping me?”

LD: I love that your daughter is so involved. How do you and your husband share domestic tasks?

My husband handles so much of the transportation as well as the kitchen area (including washing dishes) and I wash clothes. I hit the jackpot in this area. I am a road warrior and drive 50,000 miles per year. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support of my husband.

We also have a wonderful caregiver and we lucked into the situation. Her daughter was one of our daughter’s first babysitters. Our caregiver’s daughter is now in college and loves our daughter like her own. If she hasn’t seen her in a week or two, she’ll call and see if our daughter will come spend the night or just run errands with her. To nurture the relationship…that’s easy, she and her family are part of our family. We also try to make sure we don’t abuse her generosity and we ensure she is well compensated. She is a gift from God.

LD: Have you ever received any really good advice about winning the #WorkingMomLife game?

Oh, Lela, I’m in a male-dominated field. The best advice I’d ever been given in my field was; you belong here. Be prepared and go for it. I have a mentor but she recently retired. She has become one of my best friends. On the corporate level, there are opportunities to join women mentoring groups, but I haven’t taken advantage of them yet. I did find a blogger named Marney Reed who happens to work for my company in California (different division) and I follow her blog, Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling. She is inspiring. I also learn from the men in my industry as well. There are many opportunities.

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

Have backup plans for childcare, build a support network for yourself and your family. Allow others to help. Communicate. Invest in yourself. You are valued in the workplace. A great read is Sheryl Sandberg’s, Lean In.

Thanks so much to Kellee for sharing what works for her dual-working parent family! 

Murder by Mexican Food: A Simple Plan

At a recent dinner with girlfriends I learned a shocking truth: 90% of them fantasize about murdering their husbands. I’m not talking about passive, “what if he fell off the ladder” daydreams such as I occasionally indulge. I’m talking full-on deliberate master planning of the demise and dispatch of the spousal body. Maybe because most of the women I know are the primary food and personal grooming product providers for their husbands, most of the strategies involve some sort of poisoning. Most imaginative method: Arsenic injected into a tube of toothpaste.

Before that night with the girls, and aside from my idle musings on what my life might look like sans spouse, I’d never given actual murder much thought. After that night, I started to wonder, was I being irresponsible not to have a plan? Everybody else had one. What was wrong with me? What if I suddenly met a hot pool boy, or a lonely underwear model? Didn’t I owe it to myself to plan for any and all contingencies? Having an exit strategy is always comforting and comfort makes me happy. Since we all know that when mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy, I quickly reasoned that when mama has a murder plan, she could get downright delirious.

That’s called selfless mothering.

So I set out to formulate a plan. I did not want to copy any of my friends’ plans because that’s not ethical. Plus, they would know the details of my plan and you never know when a friendship can sour. Here in the suburbs we are one silent-auction-gone-wrong from a grudge that can last for generations. I had to be original.

I pondered for days. At the grocery store and in carpool line I would try to dream up ways to off my faithful husband. Nothing came. It might have helped if I were angry or if he had done something awful. But he wouldn’t. Still, I needed a plan. This wasn’t personal; it was practical. I had nearly given up on my ability to accomplish a simple task when it hit me over chips and salsa at our favorite Mexican restaurant. My husband reached into the basket for the last of the chip shards, while simultaneously declaring, “All right, that’s it, no more chips!”

The kids and I rolled our eyes knowing two things. One, there would be more chips and he would eat them. We all would. And two, only my husband would later complain that “something didn’t agree” with him.

Perhaps it was the trough of fried corn meal, Dear.

When indulging in Mexican food, it is critical to know one’s limits. This knowledge is honed over a lifetime of enchiladas and chimichangas. Just as a young person learns their tolerance to alcohol by trial and error, so too must the Mexican food aficionado learn the appropriate balance between too much and not enough. My husband has not mastered this critical life skill. He habitually orders the Grande, the Gordo, the Mucho Dos Fried Platter. And he eats it—all of it. With chips and beer.

The last time we ate Mexican he swore he felt his heart quivering around in his chest.

My husband’s failure to moderate his intake is the reason we have never eaten Mexican food for lunch. It is why we only go out for Mexican food once or twice a month, even though it is our favorite food. It is why he does not eat for twenty hours after any documented Mexican Food Incident (MFI). His lack of restraint is also the way I will kill him one day, if he crosses me. Or if that pool boy opportunity pans out.

All I have to do is ply my husband with chips and guacamole and fajitas smothered in queso. I’ll start slow so he doesn’t realize what I’m up to. Once a week. Twice. Thrice. Until one day he keels over in pain as his insides explode, piñata-like, all over the fake terra cotta floor in a final, fatal MFI.

In his final moments, I will offer comfort. He will pull me in close, stroke my face, and utter his last words.

“That’s it,” he’ll squeak out. “No more chips.”

This is an excerpt from Lela Davidson’s forthcoming essay collection, Faking Balance: Adventures in Work and Life, to be published in September 2015.


 

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Capsule Wardrobe: Saving This Working Mother’s Morning

I’m only somewhat embarrassed to admit that the hardest part of going back to work has been getting dressed each morning. Enter the solution: a capsule wardrobe. This simple concept has changed each and every morning for the better, simplified my days, and — I believe — improved upon my style, although that part is debatable and ultimately irrelevant. What is important is that I no longer worry about what to wear, or waste precious morning moments arguing with myself over the right outfit only to come up short and leave the house in the third attempt which is still not great but will have to do because I’ve run out of time. If you don’t have trouble getting dressed every day then by all means, move on. But if, like me, you do, then the capsule wardrobe is for you too, dear friend. Your world is about to be rocked.

When I first started back to work in an office (with a highly individualized dress code norm) I enlisted the help of my daughter to plan my outfits. But stylish as she is, no fourteen-year-old girl can grasp the unique challenges with which we women of a certain age must grapple. The capsule wardrobe takes the guess work out of getting dressed.

The concept is so simple: thirty-seven pieces (give or take) including shoes but not other accessories, switched out every season. It’s like having a uniform with a lot of different options. I’ve followed the UnFancy post that the lovely (and very fashionable, no matter what she says) author Kyran Pittman pointed me toward in her post on Planting Dandelions. I shall be forever in Kyran’s debt for chronicling her own wardrobe adventures.

capsule wardrobe

There is peace in my closet now. And the constraints make room for creativity. More is never more for me. The capsule wardrobe is to getting dressed as deadlines are to writing. Every morning I’ve got to put something on and it’s going to be some combination of these 37 things, one way or another. Just like when I commit to submit some bit of writing by a certain date, it gets done, one way or another. I’m fairly certain that I’ve actually put together better outfits with fewer repeats under the new system, but even if that’s not true, what matters is I have an easier time of getting dressed every morning. If I haven’t driven this point home yet, let me say once more, as clearly as I can, I have a really difficult time dressing myself. I’m like a three-year-old, but with less fashion savvy.

I suspect there are deep insights to be found in the way we dress ourselves each day and how we manage the care and keeping of our clothes. Maybe someday I’ll write about that. And while I appreciate those who share their fashion savvy with the world, you’ll probably have to see me in person to check out my outfits. A fashion blogger I’m not. What I will tell you is that if you have trouble getting dressed in the morning (or afternoon or evening) then the capsule wardrobe might just change your life. Or at least get you out the door faster.

Calendar This

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My husband’s company recently switched from the antiquated Lotus Notes to Google for all their messaging. This was the catalyst for me to finally convert from an equally obsolete paper calendar to an electronic one. My husband and I could finally synchronize our calendars. Never again would we speak in clipped tones about the “surprise” soccer practice or missed dental appointment. And all without persistent verbal reminders from me. Either one of us could create an event and invite the other to it. Finally, a solution for eight out of ten of our marital disputes.

The first thing I did—after filling in the requisite parent-teacher conferences and basketball games—was invite my husband to: Sex, Tuesday, 6:30 am. I received his response right away. He declined. Then the phone rang. However, I was busy scheduling good intentions into all those rectangles, so my husband left a message with our daughter. She handed me the note, written in her childish scrawl:

Dad says that’s not funny. He could get fired for that.

This did not bode well for the new system. If I couldn’t get my husband to pay attention to such an inviting appointment, what chance did I have with morning carpool?

I’ve had a thing for calendars since I was a 20-year-old bank teller with my first At-A-Glance. It showed a full month in square-inch boxes, few of which actually had anything written in them. I like calendars so much that I keep them. Deep in the back of my closet are chronological records dating back to 1991. If some future descendant ever wants to reconstruct my life, he or she could plot the highlights: met my husband, graduated college, got married, had a baby, had another baby, etc. through the scribbled evidence of my days. These boxes may someday provide valuable insights about life at the turn of the century. Right there on December 31, 1999 it reads: Y2K Semiahmoo. A party at the end of the world. Except that the plans I had in the weeks following came to pass. The apocalypse did not arrive as promised. Instead, I got a haircut and went to a pre-natal appointment.

I’m a little sad I won’t have those physical mementos anymore, but I’m not going back. Much as I love paper, you can’t access a 8 ½ x 11 spiral bound calendar from a smart phone. My attachment to seeing the whole month on one page held me back for years. It hurt my back to carry a stone-age calendar around in my bag. I envied friends who whipped out their phones to schedule appointments. Online calendars are the over-committed woman’s crack pipe, and I loved mine from my first hit. The high-tech convenience enables—no, encourages—the tendency to over-schedule by making every obligation fit so easily and efficiently among the others.

My husband liked his new calendar too, but the longer we used our new toys, the clearer it became that being on the same electronic page did not help to synchronize our schedules. Immediately after inviting him to sex I added all my trips to his electronic calendar. Together, we reviewed a print copy to identify any potential conflicts or gaps in childcare coverage. With highlighted boxes and multiple email alerts in place, we were golden.

Not so fast, Execu-Mom.

A few months later my husband “just now remembered” a very important trip he had scheduled “a long time ago.” With complete disregard for my carefully crafted minute-by-minute timetable, he had planned this trip without consulting his digital calendar or the handy paper backup. When he suddenly recalled this critical trip that could not be rearranged, I remained calm. As did he. My outer peace was an intentional strategy to resist the strong urge to solve the problem for him, after I stabbed him with a highlighter.

His serenity was based in blind faith.

“My parents can come up,” he said.

This is his go-to answer for all childcare, home improvement, and pet sitting needs. Never mind that his parents, with a combined age of 163, maintain a fully loaded bridge and travel schedule of their own, and live five hours away by car. Surely they would drop everything to pack up the fish oil capsules and merlot and race off to babysit the grandkids. I did not ask my husband if he would make actual requests for definite dates, and then record those dates in a systematic way, such as on a calendar. To do so would have displayed a lack of faith in him.

He said he’d take care of it and I trusted him to do so.

A week before our coinciding trips, feeling guilty about missing my daughter’s only band concert of the year, I reassured her that her grandparents would be there to watch her.

“They don’t get to see you do this kind of thing very often. It’s special.”

My husband was in earshot.

“Hey, um…” he said, “have you… um…. talked to my mom at all?”

“About what?”

He started to scratch his head, just like his father does when he’s frustrated. “Are they coming up next week?”

Oh, the things I did to him in my mind, things right out of a Mexican soap opera.

Which brings us back to sex, and those handy invitations. For all my love of a good planner, and all my lists and matrices, I never thought I’d become someone who put sex on a calendar. Sure, the invitation started as a joke, but seeing the words there on my screen so official and certain in a business-like font has its merits.

If only I can get my husband to accept my invitations.

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

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