Loading...

Follow Mindful Return Blog on Feedspot

Continue with Google
Continue with Facebook
or

Valid


For a few years now, I’ve been a devotee of The Five-Minute Journal, a wonderful book with daily reflection prompts.  I love that there’s an inspiring quote each day.  It’s reassuring to me that the journal is designed so that you write in the date yourself, so there’s no guilt if you skip a day or two!  And I love that there are prompts for both morning and evening.  Best of all, it truly only takes five minutes.  (Pro tip: if you’re going to get a copy, don’t buy the knock-off paperback version.  It’s not the same!)

There is one question in the daily prompts, however, that has bothered me for a while.  “How could I have made today even better?” is the last question on each page.

This question always oriented me mind toward failure, rather than gratitude.  I know that wasn’t the intent of the question, but it wasn’t working for me.  Although all the other prompts lifted me up, that one brought me down.  So I abandoned that question.  Every day.

Recently, though, I started a new practice in place of that one.  Now, each day, I cross off that question that doesn’t work for me and replace it with this one: “What did I simplify today?”

Earlier this year, I took on a number of new projects (e.g. co-hosting the Parents at Work Podcast and starting a Working Parent Group Network for the leaders of working parent employee resource groups).  And while each of these new commitments left me energized, my plate was starting to look more full than usual.  I felt a bit like J.K. Rawling, spewing out a new 1,000 page Harry Potter novel, and I now wanted to cull that back to 500’ish pages.

But what to cull?

As I started to think about what I could trim, without losing the many pieces of life I care so deeply about, I started to hone in on one word.  Simplify.  There were so many things in my life – in particular, in my business – that I was doing the hard way.  That could be automated.  Or that could be made more efficient with a little bit of extra effort.

Concrete Ways I Discovered I Could Simplify Things

I started using the “what did I simplify?” prompt to get me in the mode of thinking daily about simplification.  Once I worked the question into my daily thought pattern, the ideas started flowing.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are some very specific examples of things I simplified, and wrote in the journal:

  • Had my children select all of their own clothes for our upcoming vacation, rather than picking them out and packing them myself
  • Handed off the invoicing process for my business to my VA
  • Automated my new employer client onboarding
  • Stopped cutting up blueberries when putting them into my chia pudding
  • Cut out commentary and judgment (in my own head) when I went to a 5Rhythms dance (and just danced!)
  • Wrote an extra blog post during a slow week, to queue it up for the future
  • Consolidated my hair ties to one place in the closet, so I didn’t have to search the house for them anymore
  • Built an e-mail list for contacts at employer clients, so I could stop e-mailing them each individually before each Mindful Return course session started
  • Gave up on a book I was reading that dragged me down, and picked up a fresh one instead
  • Agreed with my podcast co-host to scale back podcast recordings to one per month, rather than two
  • Hired a landscaper instead of tearing out poison ivy in my front yard myself
  • Asked my tech guy to fix a form on my website instead of figuring out how to do it myself
  • Reached out to Mailchimp for help in fixing an auto-populated field that I was correcting myself, week after week
  • Moved my toothpaste to the front of the closet shelf, so I didn’t have to hunt for it
Categories of Simplification

As you can see, these examples tend to fall into 4 categories.

Delegation:  First, there are things I can assign to others, be it my kids, individuals I already have in my world who could be doing more, or new hires.

Mental Shifts:  Second, there are things I realized were sucking energy from me (reading a book I didn’t enjoy, negative swirling commentary in my head).  Simplifying these things meant a mental shift. Giving myself permission, really, to think differently.

Automation:  Third, there are processes that can be automated.  In the digital world, this meant streamlined e-mails and lists.  And in analog life, having one spot for toothpaste and hair ties.

Abandonment:  And finally, I realized there are things I do every day that I can simply give up. Cutting blueberries?  (What was I thinking?!)  And eliminating a second podcast recording.

Do you have ideas on other things to simplify?  Please, please share in comments.  The working parents who read this will take all the advice they can get on making our crazy full lives more manageable!

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

 

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”: A Working Mama Mantra appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

I have a secret for you: you know things that other people don’t. Yes, indeed. What you are sharing with the person in front of you is probably news to them. My other secret? This phenomenon of not recognizing our own unique knowledge holds us back.

Last week, my husband, Jason Levin, a career coach, came home from leading a workshop for a finance team at a big corporation.  His talk was about personal brand, mentorship, and sponsorship, which are some of his bread-and-butter topics.  “I was so surprised about how much of what I was talking about was completely new to them,” he said in wonder.  “I’m always shocked that the things I think are obvious or well-known are things people haven’t even thought about before.”

The following morning, I observed myself having identical thoughts.  I was sitting in a session of a women’s leadership coaching program, and the leader of the session, an amazing facilitator named Susan Dunlap, read a Mary Oliver poem as part of a “centering” exercise.  (Wild Geese, for those wondering.)  After reading the poem, she asked who had heard of Mary Oliver.  And I was the only person to raise my hand.

“Wait, what?!” I said to myself.  Mary Oliver’s poetry – in particular The Journey– carried me through so many challenges in life, that I simply assumed she was a household name.

Then, later that afternoon, I sat down to record an episode of the Parents at Work Podcast, and once again I found myself strangely surprised that everyone hadn’t heard of The Better Life Lab or the Atlantic article about “ending secret parenting.” What was going on here? Was I oblivious or delusional about my own experience?

I was seeing a trend I didn’t think was a positive one, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on the harm it was causing.  It felt a little bit like imposter syndrome.  But when I looked up the definition of imposter syndrome, this experience didn’t quite fit.

Imposter Syndrome’s Cousin?

According to a New York Times article by Kristin Wong entitled “Dealing with Imposter Syndrome When You’re Treated as an Imposter,” psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term “imposter syndrome” in 1978, describing it as “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”

Times author, Kristin Wong, aptly paraphrases by saying “it’s that sinking sense that you are a fraud in your industry, role or position, regardless of your credibility, authority or accomplishments.”

I agree wholeheartedly that imposter syndrome is a problem.  But that’s not exactly what’s going on here.  I’m not saying I don’t believe I’m good at my job or capable of making an impact.

I’m simply saying I’m not bringing anything new to the table.  Certainly there are similarities in terms of feeling as though our contributions aren’t valuable.  But I think the phenomenon I’m describing is a cousin to imposter syndrome, rather than being the syndrome itself.

I don’t have a name for this thing I’m trying to articulate.  Perhaps someone has already coined one (if you know it, please leave a note in comments!). But for purposes of this piece, let’s call it the “Nothing New Here Syndrome.”  (I toyed with naming it the “I’m not special,” syndrome, but “special” felt like too loaded a term.)

Turns Out, “Nothing New Here” is One of the “Big Fears”

Assuming things about the person sitting across from us is, of course, a natural human tendency.  For good and for ill, we do it all the time.

But it turns out a narrative in our head that assumes we don’t add anything new to the conversation is actually a version of a fear. I’m in the thick of reading Tara Mohr’s book, Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead.  (HIGHLY recommend!)  In her chapter entitled “The Inner Critic,” she quotes choreographer Twyla Tharp’s list of 5 “big fears” she has to ignore, lest they stifle her creativity.

Two of these five “big fears” are “I have nothing to say,” and “someone has done it before.”

AHA!  That’s exactly what the “Nothing New Here” syndrome is about. It’s a voice telling us we shouldn’t speak up.  That our skills really aren’t that unique.  A voice that says we should stay quiet, and play small.  Because really, we have nothing to add.  Our contribution won’t add much value to others.

My acknowledged that these assumptions have kept him from pitching his workshop on personal brand and mentorship/sponsorship to more audiences. By assuming everyone already knew what he knew, he questioned the value of his own insights.  Yet it turns out, these insights were extremely valuable to a group of finance folks who were hungry for exactly the type of material he was providing them.

You Bring Something (LOTS of Things) to the Table

I get the question all the time from the moms who take the Mindful Return course, “what if going out on maternity leave proves my colleagues actually don’t need me at work?”

This sentiment reflects the idea that you don’t bringing anything unique to your job.  That if someone could fill in for you (adequately) in your absence, then your position isn’t justified.

Guess what, mamas: you bring lots of things to the table.  Your background and experiences are uniquely yours.  And you add a perspective to each conversation at work that wouldn’t be available without your presence.

I promise you that right now, for example, you are oblivious of many of your own skills.  And that you’re probably taking for granted the fact that parenthood has honed your own leadership talents.  (Here’s a reminder of some of those skills gained through parenthood, should you need it.)

The next time you hear yourself saying, “oh, they already know that,” or “I’m not adding anything new to the conversation,” pause for a moment.  Ask yourself: “Is that true?  Or could it be an assumption simply masquerading as a fear?”

The moment you shine a light on that “Nothing New Here” fear, it loses its power.  It may be true that there is “nothing new under the sun.” But that doesn’t mean your information is not new to the person sitting across from you.  Or that what you dare to share may, in some way, change that person’s life.

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

 

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post You Know Things Other People Don’t: Imposter Syndrome’s Cousin appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 


Twins! This is a topic we haven’t yet covered at Mindful Return, so this post is long overdue. Today, I welcome as a guest to the blog Susanne Seitinger, PhD, a working mama to twins (a boy and girl) who are almost 2 years old. Susanne is a dear friend I’ve known for over 20 years, and I am thrilled to be able to share her insights with you here. ***************************************************************************

Now that our twins are almost two years old, I’m finally finding the time to reflect on the whirlwind that has been the last 20 months. Mindful Return has been a welcome reality check throughout that time period, and it’s my turn to give back to this extraordinary community of working mamas (and papas!).  I thought I might be most helpful by debunking a number of myths about the first year of life with twins.

While I’ve come to these conclusions as part of our unique experience with twins, I think there might be some nuggets on my list of myth busters that apply to any new parent.

10 Twin Myths Busted
  1. Only mom is important in the first few weeks. Wrong! While for readers of Mindful Return this fact might be obvious, I remember being shocked to hear how my husband’s male colleagues didn’t contribute much at home in the early weeks and months. “I’ll hang out with my kid when she turns 3,” they would quip. With any new baby – and with twins especially – it’s essential to work as a team to keep everyone alive and sane.
  2. Sleep when your baby sleeps! I’m sure you’ve all heard this one. And let me tell you, it’s hard to apply with twins. The moment you’ve finished nursing and changing one, the other one is pretty much ready for another snack. I’ve adapted this one to just “sleep whenever you can.” Don’t wash the dishes, do the laundry, clean the floor, send an email, worry about the baby announcement – just sleep as soon as it’s quiet in the house!
  3. You should be able to handle this twin baby thing on your own. Get as much help as you can. Whether you’re leveraging the gig-economy with services like Instacart or just calling your friends to grab dinner, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you feel like it should be easier than it feels, just sit with that feeling and know IT REALLY IS HARD. You can be proud of getting through every day. Other ideas for getting help include saving for a night nurse here and there, getting food deliveries, and having folks come over ONLY if they agree to help out…
  4. As soon as someone’s unhappy you have to take immediate action. With twins, this one becomes especially tricky, because inevitably one baby is crying and then the other one starts. When both babies are crying, take a break, breathe, and assess the situation. Get comfortable with the discomfort. And don’t feel pressured to make everything better right away. Sometimes you just have to be there, and that’s enough.
  5. You’ll need two of everything. While it’s true that you need two sets of bedding, clothes, many more diapers, etc. you definitely don’t need two identical toys in every category. You can teach your multiples early on about sharing. Plus, you’d be surprised how different their preferences turn out to be even at the earliest age.
  6. You can’t nurse multiples. Nurse as much as you can, but don’t feel pressured to exclusively nurse them. It’s rewarding and wonderful. But if challenges arise don’t worry about whether your multiples will be at a disadvantage.
  7. Everyone eats bananas. Ok, that’s mostly true. But I was surprised to see how my twins’ individual preferences for foods emerged early on. One likes cheese. The other hates it. One likes dry toast. The other eats it with heaps of butter. In the end, don’t worry about it. As long as you keep offering them diverse foods it’ll be ok over time.
  8. Going out for dinner with an infant is easy. I remember hearing folks say how easy it was to go out to dinner with their infant, because he or she would just sleep. I felt like such a loser trying to get out the door with both infants and breaking down halfway because I’d forgotten to pack the extra milk or whatever. Two is more than one. And I don’t even know what parents of more multiples do. Don’t worry if you’re not going out as much as your friends with only one infant. (Just wait until they have their second!) There will be plenty of time to go out again once they reach an age where you can leave them at home with a trusted babysitter or family member.
  9. Nursing makes you lose weight instantly. Giving birth has a massive impact on your body – and two can be even more grueling. I experienced a double-whammy: my daughter was first in line and was born naturally; my son had to have an emergency C-section. The next day, I felt like I was never going to walk again. I recovered quickly – more quickly than I expected – and was grateful for all the physiotherapy and prep I’d done before (see some references here in Mindful Return on pelvic health – so important!), and I had to go easy on myself. Now, about two years later my clothes pretty much fit me again. And I’m not really worried about what I look like in a bikini. I feel strong and healthy, which is what you need to chase after two toddlers. Focus on your well-being and not on your external appearance.
  10. Make sure you treat everyone the same. Not so! One of my good friends and mama-mentors said to me early on as I was rocking one twin almost twice as much as the other one, “everyone gets what they need.” You don’t have to worry about treating each multiple exactly the same way. Or spending exactly the same amount of time with them. You need to give them what they need when they need it. Sometimes that’s more time, more attention, or whatever. In the end, be attentive to their needs and react accordingly.

I’m so proud of how far our two kids, my husband, and I have come. Their identical twin cousins were born only 6 weeks ago. While I miss rocking little babies I also appreciate how hard my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are working right now. Enjoy those long days!

Susanne Seitinger, PhD, recently joined Verizon, where she leads a cross-functional marketing team with many awesome working mamas and papas. Together they deliver solutions and services for public sector leaders trying to make a difference in their citizens’ lives. Prior to joining Verizon, Susanne led Public Sector Marketing in the United States for Signify (formerly known as Philips Lighting). She developed much of the company’s smart cities messaging in the fastest growing Internet-of-Things business segment.

She holds a BA in architecture from Princeton University (2001). During her time there, she had the good fortune of meeting Lori, with whom she shared the supposedly smallest double on campus. She went on to receive a PhD from the MIT Media Lab (2010) and a Masters in City Planning from the MIT Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning (2004). She continues to stay connected to the MIT Media Lab and also serves on the board of the Illuminating Engineering Society.  

Susanne grew up in Austria, the United States, and Australia and has traveled and worked around the world. Learning about other cultures and exploring new cities is one of her passions. When she is not talking about smart cities or urbanism, she likes to do yoga, cook, and spend time with her husband Peter and their twins Klara and Max. They live in Brookline, MA.

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

         

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post Surviving Your First Year with Twins: 10 Myths, Busted appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 
Mindful Return Blog by Lori Mihalich-levin - 3w ago

Parenthood is all the things, no?  It gives. (Snuggles.)  It takes. (Sleep.)  Life speeds up. (Where did last year go?)  It slows down.  (How long will this car-ride temper tantrum last?)  We reorient. (Our identities and priorities.)  Again, and again, and again.

But if there’s one word I’d use to say what it’s done for me, broadly speaking, I’d say it’s made me more brave.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed for an article in Forbes about how parenthood makes me a better business owner.  Here’s what they ended up writing:

“Mihalich-Levin is a firm believer that parenthood is the perfect training ground for leaders and that it makes people better at their jobs. “Parenting has taught me, above all, to be brave.  There is nothing quite like growing a human and giving birth to teach you how much in life is out of your own control.  All you can do is run in the direction of your dreams.  The daily, mountainous demands of parenthood deprived me of my time for worry.

Instead of worrying or ruminating over what to do, Mihalich-Levin learned to just do.  Without the time to worry if a presentation would go well or a decision about her business was the right one, Mihalich-Levin says she has gained a courage that has allowed her to accomplish far more than she did before becoming a parent. In fact, becoming a mother is what she said influenced her to become an entrepreneur: “I’m a risk-averse lawyer by nature, and without parenthood, I doubt I would have had the gumption to start my own company.  I found a gaping hole in the supports provided to new parents coming back to work after parental leave, and I felt compelled to fill it.”

Do I mean to say that I never worry about anything anymore?  That I’m still not scared to do things outside of my comfort zone?  Gosh, no.

Fear is one of those things where the onion-peeling metaphor is apt.  There are always new layers of fear to uncover.  New areas to break through.

Years ago, I was terrified to reveal my first-ever blog-post to the eyes of the internet-gazing world. Now, 217 blog posts and a book later, the written, published word is no longer so scary to me.  When I welcomed my first cohort of mamas into the Mindful Return program, a course that takes place on an online portal, I was a bit terrified of coaching the course participants, even remotely.  Now, 25 sessions and nearly 1,000 mamas later, it’s my normal.

But step into my actual coming-out-of-my throat voice, and see myself online?  “WAIT!! You don’t have to expose yourself that way!!”, screamed the fight-or-flight part of my brain.  “What if you say something stupid or ineloquent? It will be recorded forever!! What if you look ridiculous on someone’s computer screen?!”

Sigh.  “I’m already “out there” in internet world, I argued to myself.”  There are so many reasons not to go further.

And yet, there are so many reasons to try.  To be brave. To push myself to new edges, to help more working parents.  And to connect with many of you more deeply.

This year, some amazing people have encouraged me to push through fears and just get out there. Here’s where that’s led:

  • I took the plunge and created some video content for my website, to be able to connect with all of you in a bit of a more personal way. (And I wouldn’t have done it without the encouragement of Mia Durairaj, my co-creator of Mindful Return’s Balancing Career with a Special Needs Baby program.)  Check out this clip about me and why I created Mindful Return.  And my intro to the Mindful Return program.
  • I braved the terror of hearing my own recorded voice, by starting to co-host a podcast called Parents at Work. (I am so grateful to Tom Spiggle, my co-host, for extending me the invitation.)  Check out our most recent episode here, interviewing working moms who are HR professionals.
  • I pushed hard to get the parent professional network at my firm to be open to all employees, whether they were lawyers or not. And now, anyone can join.

This is me, saying it doesn’t come naturally to me to make a video of myself and put it up on the internet. To have recorded phone conversations with perfect strangers and post them online in the hopes they help someone. Or to argue to people in positions of power that “the way it’s done” should be changed.

And this is me, throwing caution to the wind.  Being a tiny bit more brave today than I was yesterday, in the hopes it will give someone permission to be a tiny more brave in her world today, too.

It’s me wearing hair tinsel (a.k.a. fairy hair) at my law firm.  And sometimes causing a ruckus.

Working parenthood helped get me here.  And I suspect it will keep pushing me further and further into new realms of bravery. How about you?  Any chance becoming a parent has led you to take some risks you otherwise wouldn’t have?  I’d love to hear your stories, brave mamas, in comments below.

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

 

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post Parenthood: The Bravery Pill appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

We are social creatures, we humans.  And without the villages of yesteryear that we used to turn to for support, we create our own.   How do we connect working parents to other working parents, though?

Parents truly need other parents, I discovered.  Yes, this initially came a bit begrudgingly for an “I can do this myself, thank-you-very-much” type.  But community truly saved me in the dark early days of sleepless working parenthood. And it is community that I am now committing to building.

I’ve mentioned before being a serial starter of working parent groups at companies.  (Are you the leader of one of these groups?  Join the Working Parent Group Network (WPGN) here.)  Where but at your own employer will you find others who can truly relate to what it’s like to be both a parent and an employee in your specific situation?

In this context, I recently received a question from a new mama in a smaller regional office of a larger company.  She wrote, wondering how she can find her people.  Here’s her question about how she might connect with other new parents:

I work for a company that has a few large offices (100+ people) and many smaller offices (20-40 people).  I’m in one of the smaller offices. And I’d like to connect with other new parents at my company, because I’m the only one in my own office.  (My baby is 6 months old.)

If we were all in one office I’d suggest a monthly brown bag lunch like you’ve recommended in blog posts before.  But this would have to be done virtually (over conference calls or maybe video chats). Such calls seem really awkward, since we wouldn’t know each other to start off. And “discuss your feelings and experiences returning to work post baby,” seems like a pretty heavy agenda for a call. Can you recommend how we might build this community among colleagues who aren’t located in the same place?

The mama who wrote this question is spot on.  There are challenges to connecting across offices.  Deep, personal subjects can be awkward to tackle over a first video-conference.  Colleagues who run parent groups and I put our heads together to brainstorm a few ideas for her, though.  Here’s what we came up with.

7 Ways to Connect Parents Across Offices
  1. Start with Informal 1:1 Connections: Maybe you’ve heard that a woman in an office in the next state over recently had a baby. Ask colleagues for an introduction to her via people you have in common.  Yes, it may initially seem odd to say, “hey, we both just had babies, can we talk?”  But chances are you’ll have a million common topics to discuss in the first phone call. In creating strong working parent bonds across offices, I’ve discovered that the 1:1 interactions really are where it all starts.
  2. Provide Remote Access to Working Parent Group Conversations: When a working parent group comes together, reserve conference rooms in main offices (preferably with video conference capabilities).  Provide teleconference info for those who can’t make it.  True, there’s nothing like being there in person.  But video conference technology can provide a happy middle ground between being live and only hearing someone’s voice by phone.  Also consider varying the day of the week and the time of these conversations, to accommodate different schedules.
  3. Consider Starting with “Safe” Topics, to Get Folks Engaged: Even video conference technology has its limits.  Opening up with strangers you see by phone can indeed feel awkward.  To reduce the chances of that deathly silence, consider starting conversations with “safe” topics to start building trust among the group. Then delve into more personal topics.
  4. Ask Parents in the Smaller Offices to Lead a Discussion Topic: One idea for engaging folks from the smaller office is to ask them to lead a discussion on a particular topic.  Posing open-ended questions to the group about how to handle a particular issue can also help parents in the smaller offices contribute to the conversation and feel engaged.
  5. Use In-Person Time Unrelated to a Working Parent Group to Connect with Other Parents: Do employees from different offices in your company ever gather in person for retreats, meetings, or other project work?  Even if these opportunities are infrequent, perhaps parents who are attending can intentionally carve out time to connect in person.  Remote conversations are always so much easier once they have a grounding in real, in-person connection.  There’s a higher likelihood of feeling more comfortable going deeper on difficult topics by phone, if that in-person trust is established at some point.
  6. Connect with E-Mail Lists and Message Boards: Relatively easy to set up, company e-mail lists and message boards can be fantastic ways to connect parents across a company.  You can use the lists not to broadcast parent-related events.  And also to share relevant articles and resources, and post questions.
  7. Consider New Parent Mentoring Programs: My own firm offers a “new parent outreach program” program to new parent attorneys.  The program pairs a new parent about to go on leave with someone who has been through the leave-and-return process already.  The obligations for the mentor are minimal (a few roughly-scheduled check-ins), and the rewards for the mentee can be huge.  Just knowing there’s someone at your company who has “been there done that” and who has your back as you become a working parent can be incredibly reassuring.

If you’re reading this, and you’ve had success connecting the working parents at your employer across various offices, I’d love to hear from you!  Please share wisdom and experiences below in comments.  As we cross-pollinate ideas, we can make these working parent communities even richer and more helpful to the next generation of parents.

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post 7 Ways to Connect Working Parents Across Company Offices appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

This Father’s Day, I asked Jeremy Smith, the co-creator of the Mindful Return Working Dad Course to share his reflections on the day and fatherhood.  I was really moved by what he wrote and agree wholeheartedly with his assessments of the chaos of parenthood.  Here’s Jeremy:

******************************************

Once every year we all set aside a day to appreciate the Dads. For me that typically means receiving a card, a handmade gift, or even a kid-cooked meal.  Then, like many, I will make calls to the dads in my life.  Share a memory or two.  And show some appreciation for all of the love I have received through the years.

I should say upfront that I think all of that is awesome. It’s great to be appreciated, and it’s even better to acknowledge those who’ve had a positive influence on our lives. But between us friends, just like Mother’s Day, it feels alarmingly insufficient. How can one act, call, or even day possibly communicate the importance of fatherhood?

Obviously it can’t. And maybe there’s something in that. Since you’re reading this, you are undoubtedly aware that being a parent is relentless, exhausting, and almost always thankless.  A day, heck, a YEAR’S worth of appreciation would probably still be insufficient relative to the sacrifice.

But, as a parent, you might also feel that what we often need isn’t external thanks at all. If Father’s Day passed by and my kids never said an appreciative word to me, it wouldn’t change a damn thing. I would work just as hard to create an environment where they can lead spectacularly amazing lives. And to me, that’s what really makes all of us dads worth celebrating. That somewhere in the midst of the craziness we feel fulfilled through what we give, even without acknowledgement.

Becoming a father has undoubtedly been enlightening, but it’s no crash course. Quite the opposite. It is an absolute marathon-level grind towards selflessness.

I’ve yet to meet any parent who truly knew what they were getting themselves into before they accepted the greatest responsibility this side of the Presidency. And yet, somehow, no matter how difficult it gets, and no matter how daunting the road ahead, those who truly live up to the title of Dad put one foot in front of the other and keep marching up the mountain (almost always with a kid or two on their backs).

So when I sat down to reflect on the approaching Father’s Day this year, I began (as I often do) with a simple Google search to get my mind flowing.  What I typed into the browser is the word I feel most synonymous with fatherhood:

Chaos.  

What I uncovered from there was all too apropos.

“The thing about chaos, is that while it disturbs us, it too, forces our hearts to roar in a way we secretly find magnificent.” –Christopher Poindexter

Now I have no clue who Christopher Poindexter is, and candidly I don’t really care. That quote could mean a thousand different things to a thousand different people. But for me, it means that this terrifyingly insane parenting journey just might be disruptive enough to bring out the best in me. And in doing so, give that best piece of me to those I love. 

I genuinely believe that to be true. Because as a dad, I’ve already felt it.

So to all of the dads out there (and all of the moms too), I hope you’ll join me in this inward thought on an otherwise external Father’s Day. It didn’t start out being about us and it won’t end that way either. The chaos of parenthood is the chaos of life.

As my wife Caryn often says, “When you stop having problems, you’ll be dead. So don’t wish this away.” Instead of dwelling on the challenges, on this Father’s Day I’m choosing to embrace the chaos. And I would invite you to do the same. Maybe it will be so disrupting that when this ride does eventually end, it will be because we have roared our magnificent hearts out.

Cheers.

Jeremy Smith is a father to two amazing & rambunctious kids, ages 4 and 2. After taking two extended paternity leaves, Jeremy teamed up with Lori to create the Working Dad Course.  He feels strongly that everyone should be empowered to seek out both the time and flexibility they need, in order to succeed in their most important roles as parents. Jeremy and his wife Caryn currently resides in Austin, Texas where he works in the tech industry.  

 

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

 

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post The Thing About Chaos…A Father’s Day Moment of Reflection appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Welcome to the 4th annual Mindful Return summer reading list for working mamas!  Every year, I seem to find more and more nonfiction books (and this year, a parable!) that delight, inspire, and teach me.  This year was no exception. If you’re looking for the prior three summer reading lists, here are the links – I still highly recommend all of the books on the other summer reading lists as well:

When do I find time to read? On my metro commute (more on finding your zen on the way to work here), and a few pages at night before bed.  This year I’m down from 6 recommendations to 5.  Why? We moved to a new house (i.e. Q1 of 2019 was a blur), and I can’t seem to find my copy of Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead, but I remember enjoying it immensely.

Now, on to the list. And as always, if you’re a new or newish working mama, I hope you’ll check out my own book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave.

2019 Working Mama Summer Reading List

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, by Cal Newport

  • Why read it? I’m a raging fan of Cal Newport’s book Deep Work so figured I’d enjoy his new book as well.  I was not disappointed.  If you, like most parents, are concerned about the use of technology and screen time in our – and our children’s – personal lives, you MUST read this book.  It opened my eyes to the way social media is designed to capture our attention for longer and longer periods.  And it offered practical strategies for combatting the lure of our screens.
  • Favorite quote? First, I love how Newport defines the term he uses as his title: “Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else.”  And second, his commentary on the disappearance of (but importance of) solitude truly resonates: “The smart-phone provided a new technique to banish these remaining slivers of solitude: the quick glance.  At the slightest hint of boredom, you can now surreptitiously glance at any number of apps or mobile-adapted websites that have been optimized to provide you an immediate and satisfying dose of input from other minds…[BUT] when you avoid solitude, you miss out on the positive things it brings you: the ability to clarify hard problems, to regulate your emotions, to build moral courage, and to strengthen relationships.  If you suffer from chronic solitude deprivation, therefore, the quality of your life degrades.”

Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too, Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

  • Why read it? This book became my bible once I had a second child.  For whatever reason, I’m not one to read a book twice.  But I’ve made an exception (a few times over) for this one.  The authors truly get inside the hearts and heads of siblings and give us so many useful strategies for tackling nearly every sibling-related issue under the sun.  Better yet, each chapter ends with cartoons that make concept-review fun and easy.  A must-read for anyone with more than one kiddo.
  • Favorite quote? This pretty much sums up the central premise of the book: “When all of the stories were read or told we looked at each other in wonderment.  What a strange an poignant process was going on here.  It seemed such a puzzling paradox: Insisting upon good feelings between the children led to bad feelings.  Acknowledging the bad feelings between the children led to good feelings.  A circuitous route to sibling harmony.  And yet, the most direct.”

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, by Laura Vanderkam

  • Why read it? I was initially startled to learn that a week had 168 hours in it. Seemed like a lot for something that often flew by.  But the math checks out.  Time-management guru Laura Vanderkam’s book is a well-researched, convincing argument that we actually have much more time than we think.  The key is to fill these hours with intention. She’s a big fan of doing so-called “time studies” – i.e. writing down everything you do for a few days to show patterns.  And her insights are spot-on.
  • Favorite quote? I have two.  First (and I’ve certainly found this to be true for me):, “But here’s the fascinating part: if you love what you do, you’ll have more energy for the rest of your life,too.  If you’re trying to build a career while raising a young family, you will have more energy for your children if you work 50 hours a week in a job you love than if you work 30 in a job you hate.”  And from her time study work, she discovered that “Distractions make us feel more pressed for time than we really are.”

Juliet’s School of Possibilities: A Little Story About the Power of Priorities, by Laura Vanderkam

  • Why read it? Because it’s a powerful parable (and how often do we take the time to read modern-day parables?).  I haven’t ever recommended two books by the same author in the same list before.  But this pairs so nicely with her book 168 hours, it’s as though the sommelier ordered it to arrive with your meal.  We know, through experience, that stories are likely to stick with us longer than mere facts.  And Vanderkam has turned her principles from 168 Hours into a memorable tale.  You’ll probably want to gift this book to all young women in their 20’s.
  • Favorite quote(s!)? ’I don’t have time’ means ‘It’s not a priority.’  We always have time for what matters to us.’  Juliet paused.  ‘I wrote that down.  I made myself write that phrase over and over.  We always have time for what matters to us.”  And also: “…’It’s often easier to meet the expectations that are flashing right in front of us instead of the expectations that are more important, but more nebulous. And here’s the thing.  There can be infinite expectations.  Even if you never slept, you could not meet all the expectations of your employer, your colleagues, your clients, your friends, your family, yourself.  You cannot do everything; the choice to meet one expectation is always a choice not to meet another.’ Juliet paused.  ‘The difficult truth in this is that sometimes you need to disappoint someone’s obvious expectation in order to eventually meet bigger ones.’”

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

  • Why read it? I knew Michelle Obama was an impressive working mama and First Lady. But I had no idea she was such an amazing writer and storyteller.  This book is raw, open, poignant, and vulnerable, particularly on many of the topics we struggle with as working parents.  She’s been in the trenches right there with us (one time bringing three-month-old Sasha to a job interview!).  And she doesn’t mince words.
  • Favorite quote? In debating whether to send in a résumé for a new job after Sasha was born, “In any event, this was not a moment of high glamour for me, not a time I could really imagine blow-drying my hair and putting on a business suit.  I was up several times a night to nurse Sasha, which put me behind on sleep and therefore sanity.  Even as I was still rather fanatically devoted to neatness, I was losing the battle.  Our condo was strewn with baby toys, toddler books, and packages of diaper wipes.  Any trip outside the house involved a giant stroller and an unfashionable diaper bag full of the essentials: a Ziploc of Cheerios, a few everyday toys, and an extra change of clothes—for everyone.” So true!  Also, her recognition of the importance of her mama friends: “I felt it every time we gathered, the collective force of all these women trying to do right by their kids: In the end, no matter what, I knew we’d help one another out and we’d all be okay.”

If you’ve read anything recently that has helped you with life as a working parent, please tell us about it in comments below.  Happy summer reading, all!

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

 

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post 2019 Working Mama Summer Reading List: 5 Fabulous Books appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

This week, I’m delighted to have Lani Inlander of Real Life Style back as a guest on the Mindful Return blog.  She’s been our go-to working mama fashion guru in the past (see To Buy or Not to Buy? What’s a Working Mama to Do About Clothes?).  And today, she’s here to help us with that summer closet purge.  Check out her top 5 tips for clearing closet clutter.  Then join us for this summer’s session of Mindful Return’s Wear Your Power Course!  Here’s Lani:

******************************************************************************

What did I do with my Memorial Day weekend? In addition to multiple pool outings with the kids and quality time with family and friends, I completely reorganized my closet while switching it over for the season.

Usually my closet is a well-oiled machine which only requires pulling out the past season and putting in the new, moving things around as necessary. This time, I knew my closet needed a major overhaul.

Now that my kids are 5 and 7, I am back to wearing more “real” clothes.  (I.e. dry clean only investment pieces.) I was frustrated with my closet all winter, feeling as if I couldn’t see my clothes well enough to remember to wear all of them. What a great problem to have: too many good clothes that are not getting worn enough! Toward the end of the season I pulled out the pieces that had not been worn and gave myself a chance to wear or donate them.

Even your favorite fashion stylist needs a tune up every once in a while!

Most major life changes bring with them a major wardrobe change.  Not to mention each new decade requires a wardrobe re-calibration. Have a few kids and suddenly there are clothes in your closet (or in endless bins and boxes!) in so many sizes and styles, even a personal stylist would want to throw her hands up and start over.

Of course most of us can’t just buy a new wardrobe and really do want to wear some of our old favorites again.  So we keep all of these sizes and styles around, waiting to see if they will again be of use.

In the meantime, how do you get dressed every day? What should be in your closet? Do you even know what your style is anymore?  Here are my top 5 tips for clearing closet clutter.  And some other ideas of ways I can help.

5 Tips for Clearing Closet Clutter 
  1. One season only. Have only one season at a time in your main working closet. You don’t need to be looking at winter sweaters in summer or shorts in winter.
  2. Use seasonal switching to re-evaluate. Switching your closet for the season forces you to pay attention to which fabrics are appropriate for which time of year, narrows your focus to only the clothes you should be wearing, and forces a review of your clothing as you move it in and out twice a year.
  3. Recycle any clothes that have stains or holes or are otherwise worn. Don’t just keep wearing something because you always have. Really give each piece of clothing a good look to make sure it doesn’t need any repair or to be replaced. Use the last month or so before you switch your closet out to wear anything you have not yet worn that season. If you can’t seem to bring yourself to wear it in that time, donate it to someone who will.
  4. Look for the gaps in your wardrobe. Was there something you wanted to wear but didn’t because you didn’t have the right piece to go with it? Grab it at the end of the season while sales are happening, or put it on your calendar to shop for at the beginning of the next season.
  5. Plan for 5 work days. Want to make sure you wear your favorite pieces before the season is over? Put together enough outfits in the front of your closet for the next 5 work days. Can’t do it without a struggle? Maybe you need to sign up for our Wear Your Power course to figure out what you are missing!

Stop living with the frustration! Make fashion fun again. Find the joy in getting dressed. Yes, you. You can do it.

Don’t worry, I am here to help! If you are not already a private client of Real Life Style and are not quite ready to make that leap, we have an affordable summer course for you. On June 24th I will begin the third session of our four-week long Mindful Return Wear Your Power E-Course, which will give you the experience of working with a personal stylist at a fraction of the cost.

I chose to partner with Mindful Return, a resource for working parents to navigate pregnancy, parental leave, and the return-to-work journey, because I believe in the power, efficacy, and importance of the work they do.

During the four-week course, you’ll get two new lessons and prompts each week (plenty of time to do your homework between lessons!). And you’ll receive feedback directly from me, a personal stylist with over 20 years of experience, and from the other mamas in the course. No shame, no blame.

Everyone will be there for the same thing: to get her style straight and her fashion groove back!

During the 4 weeks of lessons, you’ll learn how to:

  • Take stock of your fashion journey
  • Edit your wardrobe
  • Define your style type
  • Find your Power Color
  • Shop for the 5 must-have pieces for your work wardrobe
  • Put it all together with outfit guidelines and styling tips
  • Sign up now! The course begins June 24, and the first 10 people to sign up get a free 30 minute consultation with me! Use promo code MR25 for a $25 discount off the $199 price of the 4 week course.

You deserve the same thrill I now get every time I pass my super organized closet, filled only with clothing I love and can’t wait to wear.

Wear Your Power, 4-Week E-Course

 

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

 

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post Take Control of Your Working Mama Closet appeared first on Mindful Return.

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Welcome to your ultimate guide to the nanny share! On the Mindful Return blog, we’ve covered every type of child care option imaginable, including:

But there’s one more popular childcare option we haven’t yet touched on: nanny shares. In today’s post, I’ve interviewed four Mindful Return alumnae.  They were all eager to share their own personal experiences with a nanny share.  Please welcome Ceridwen Cherry, Katie Ellis, Septima McLaurin, and Linda Cendes Hosler to the blog. 

Yes, this is a long post, but it’s worth the read.  WOW do these incredible women offer some helpful perspectives and advice. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us here, mamas!  (Scroll to the bottom, if you’re looking for a special bonus about using a nanny-share as an interim solution between a return to work and getting off a daycare wait list.)

*************************************************************************

Mindful Return: What exactly is a nanny share?  How does it work exactly, from a logistical perspective?

Ceridwen: A nanny share is when two (or more) families share the same nanny. Each family directly employs the nanny and pays the nanny directly. But splitting the cost of a nanny helps reduce the cost for the families and increase the salary for the nanny.

Most nannies will charge slightly more to work for two families than for a single family with multiple children. Why? Because of the added complication of having multiple employers. Some nanny shares have both of the children attending on the exact same schedule. Others might have one with the nanny full time and the other only participating a few days a week.  Or any number of different variations. A nanny share is usually hosted at one of the families’ homes, although many nanny shares rotate hosting duties.

Katie:  Our nanny share was an agreement with another family to share in the weekly expense of a nanny. We managed the nanny together. And we agreed on logistics and activities as a team. In our case, the other family hosted the nanny share, so we dropped off our daughter at their condo each day.  They set up a pack-n-play for our daughter’s naps.  And they already had a double-stroller and the booster seats and high chairs needed.

Each family paid the nanny directly. We agreed on paid vacation and sick days, and tracked that as best we could.  When our daughter started eating solid foods, we started to pay the other family a flat rate for food, so that the nanny could simply take from whatever was at the home, rather than us packing special foods.

When we decided to end the nanny share, we discussed it first as employers, and then with the nanny. We tried to be on the same page about all employment matters.

Septima:  A nanny share is an arrangement where two families share a nanny. Benefits include a high level of attention for your child and highly customized care that works for your family.  All at a reduced rate, because you are splitting the cost between two families. The two families can either split the fee 50%, or one family might pay a little bit more if the other family hosts the majority of the time. Regarding hosting, you can split the time between both households.  But I always found it easier to have one family host so the baby gear could stay at one house.

Mindful Return:  How did you decide on using a nanny share as your child care option?

Ceridwen:  We joined a lot of daycare wait lists.  But when it came time to decide on childcare, we found that it was unlikely we’d get a spot when we needed one (even after joining the waitlists more than a year prior!). Ultimately we also decided that we weren’t comfortable with sending an infant to daycare.

We originally thought about getting our own nanny.  But when we asked around and heard that in the DC market at the time, it would be at least $18-22/hour plus overtime, taxes and additional expenses, we decided to look into the nanny share option. Nanny shares are very common in our neighborhood. Daycare waiting lists can be really long, meaning daycare sometimes isn’t an option initially even for those families who prefer it. We were in a nanny share from the time our son was 6 months old until he turned 2.

Katie:  We thought we would use a daycare for our first child and toured various locations in our neighborhood. When I posted a message on my building message board asking for recommendations, a neighbor reached out to me and asked if we would want to consider a nanny share with their family.  We were total newbies and didn’t have an entrenched idea about what childcare option was best.  When considering daycare and a nanny share, the nanny share seemed a great option for us.  We liked that our infant would be in a comfortable setting. Logistically, it would be super convenient.  And we really liked the other family and the nanny.

Septima:  We wanted our son to have a lot of attention and couldn’t afford a nanny on our own. He was our first child, so we felt strongly about the attention factor. And we also liked that he would have a buddy to learn from, and share experiences with, so that at an early age he would know how to be around other babies and kids.

Because I knew from very early on that we wanted to have a nanny share arrangement, we didn’t sign up for a child care center. It’s possible this could have backfired since in our city (Boston) the waiting lists can be months if not years long. But, at every center I toured, I left feeling anxious about the environment and nothing felt right.

Since I had been told more than once that I should trust my gut regarding a child care center, I really did rely in that instinct. My husband was supportive although worried about the backup if a nanny share fell through. But I was determined it was going to work. And luckily, it worked out beautifully.

Mindful Return:  How did you choose the family with whom you decided to share? And how did you choose your particular nanny?  Which decision came first?

Ceridwen:  We were really lucky to find our nanny share family easily through our neighborhood’s parent Facebook page. Our sons were born only a few days apart.  We were all first time parents.  We had similar work schedules.  And we wanted similar childcare hours. So it was an easy fit. We met initially at our local coffee shop and talked over our goals then decided to look for a nanny jointly.

Katie:  We chose both at the same time!  When the other mom reached out to me, they had already selected the nanny and had worked with her for a few months.  Rather than an interview, it was more of a conversation. We spent a little bit of time trying to get to know the other family. The other mom was very open with their schedule and expectations, as she had been in nanny shares in the past.  Her perspective and openness made it really easy.

Additionally, the nanny was okay with entering the nanny share. Our nanny was experienced and had worked in a daycare, so she was comfortable with multiple kids and the multiple family perspectives.

Septima:  It took me a while to find the other family. My son was already 6 weeks old, when I saw an ad on the Boston Moms listserv that another mom was looking for a nanny share for her son who was 4 days younger than my son. I had interviewed one nanny that I liked well enough, but I wasn’t convinced she was the right nanny. I did have the other mom (once we decided we were a match) speak with the nanny over the phone, and she felt that we should continue looking.

Once we found the other family, it became clearer what type of personality and timing we were looking for in our nanny. I think it worked out best for both families to interview and decide together, so we could choose the right person. Prior to and during the nanny search process, we talked a lot about our preferences, must haves, and must-avoids. We got more clarity on our vision as we interviewed candidates.

As it turned out, we found a wonderful nanny whom my son (now 4.5 years old) loves.  She is now a family friend, given our nanny share arrangement ended when the boys were 1.5 and the other family moved away.

Mindful ReturnHow does the cost of a nanny share tend to compare to other child care options?

Ceridwen: In our area, each family’s contribution to a full time nanny share usually costs a little more or equivalent to the most expensive daycare.  It costs a little more than half of what a nanny working for a single family would cost.

Rather than just a single lump sum payment to a daycare provider each week or month a nanny share required a little more work to keep track of various expenses. In addition to each family’s paying an hourly rate to the nanny, under DC law, we also had to pay time-and-a-half for any hours over 40/week. We then also had to pay state and federal taxes. And we paid a bonus at the holidays.

We also provided paid sick and vacation days, so sometimes had to also pay for back up childcare on days our nanny was out. DC law requires having workers compensation insurance, and we also paid for a payroll company to handle the weekly pay checks and all of our tax filings. Because our nanny share was jointly hosted at both houses, we also had some additional costs to make sure each house had the essentials to host two babies like a pack-n-play, baby monitor, sound machine, high chair etc. We also paid to install nanny cameras in our houses.

Most nannies will expect a raise after a certain period of time (often a year). So while daycare might stay the same price or even get cheaper over time as your child gets older and moves to a room with a higher student/teacher ratio, a nanny share usually increases in cost over time. If you plan on being in the share long term it’s important to factor that into your budget.

Katie:  In our area (Chicago), a nanny share was equivalent to daycare costs.  Paying taxes and paid vacation leave, as well as identifying back-up care, made the nanny share slightly more expensive.

Septima:  I have found that the cost of a daycare center is by far the least expensive child care option. But for the personal touch and knowing at a very detailed level what my child did on a given day, I have found the nanny share to be much more transparent.  For me, that peace of mind doesn’t have a price tag.

Mindful ReturnWhat are some good resources to use to find nanny share options?

Ceridwen:  Neighborhood listservs and Facebook groups are an invaluable resource for finding both nanny share families and nannies who are recommended by area families. We found most of our nanny candidates that way and really valued having recommendations for other parents. In DC, the website DC Urban Moms and Dads also hosts a widely used nanny board where you can post a job advertisement for nannies.

Septima: Facebook Moms Groups and other online Moms Groups were always what worked for my family.  The online-word-of-mouth network is powerful in most urban locations. I know some people use agencies but I never did.

Also, I found once I had a nanny, she had nanny friends.  I discovered that the nanny network is very strong. So, if I needed backup care, or evening/weekend hours that my nanny couldn’t cover, I would ask her if a friend could cover.  Often, I was lucky enough to find another wonderful nanny who could help us out.

Mindful Return: What are some of the benefits of your nanny share arrangement?

Ceridwen Obviously, the lower cost than having our own nanny was a huge benefit. We also loved that on the three days a week we hosted the nanny share, we didn’t have to deal with any drop off or pick up logistics. Being able to walk out the door when the nanny arrived and come home right as she was going off duty helped extend our work day and make our mornings and evenings a lot less stressful. Our nanny share family lived only a ten minute walk away.  So on the two days a week that the other family hosted, it was easy to do drop off and pick up as a part of our commute.

Sleep was a big priority for us in selecting childcare and a big benefit of the nanny share.  Compared to our friends with kids in daycare who were seemingly constantly struggling with naps, we felt like our son napped a lot better.  He was either able to nap at home in his own crib or in his own room at the nanny share family’s house. We also appreciated the amount of personal attention he got from the nanny, given he was only with one other child all day. This also meant we could have a lot of input into what his routine looked like and allowed us a lot more control over things than we would have if he’d been in daycare with many other children.

For example we wanted to do baby-led weaning with our baby, and the other family chose to start with purees. Our nanny was able to cater to each family’s wishes and each kid’s needs as they changed over time. As our boys got older, we really appreciated that the nanny share allowed them to get out and enjoy neighborhood parks or other activities around the city like museums or the zoo. And we were able to enroll them in local classes like music, Gymboree and toddler yoga.

Our nanny also frequently met up with other nanny shares, which meant they got a lot of socialization through play dates. For our son, the nanny share was the right balance between having a full time built-in play date, but not being the in the very stimulating environment of daycare all day. Having a nanny share family also allowed us to cover for each other when emergencies came up. If one family needed child care before the nanny share started in the morning or was late to the pick-up, the other was always happy to cover.  And because the children got to know all the parents and we were familiar with each other’s houses, we often we did babysitting swaps.  This allowed us to get free date night childcare!

Katie:  We really liked the relationship that our daughter had with the other baby in the nanny share. I came to really trust the other mom in the group and found her friendship and advice really helpful.  The nanny share made it easier to be first-time parents, as well as first-time employers! I think that helped our learning curve and also helped my husband and me to think through many aspects of raising our kid.

Septima:  Flexibility with schedules.  Ability to take kids to classes.  One point of contact who knew my baby really well and could give me advice on what I might try for him.  Or on what she tried and worked (or didn’t).

I loved knowing details of what my son did on a daily basis, and I got regular texts and pictures of his activities. The nanny can cook for the children or do light housekeeping depending on the arrangement, too.  Usually, the agreement is the nanny takes care of anything baby-related and leaves the house orderly at the end of the day.

Personally, I wanted my nanny to focus on the kids, so I didn’t have her do laundry or even light housekeeping. A professional, career nanny will always clean up and organize the baby stuff. Even if she’s not required to do light housekeeping.

I also liked that my son had a strong network of kids in the neighborhood thanks to our nanny and her network. I used to say he had a better social life than I did! Now, I have mom friends because of the nanny share. Quite honestly, another benefit is that if your kids are sick at the same time, as long as the nanny agrees to it, she can watch 2 sick kids if moms and dads have to go to work. Not ideal, obviously, but it can be done. Then, you pray the nanny stays healthy! More on that below.

Mindful Return:  What are some of the challenges, and how have you addressed them?

Ceridwen:  For us, the biggest challenge of a nanny share was decision fatigue. Every decision required input from four parents and our nanny. Dealing with multiple people also added some emotional labor into the mix.  Sometimes we wished we had our own nanny just to make decisions a little easier.

We also unfortunately had to go through two bad nannies before we found a good one. Also, having to do all the interviewing and making hiring decisions jointly added to the stress of the process. Sharing a nanny also meant we didn’t have complete control over every aspect of our childcare. For example, at one point we weren’t able to enroll our son in a playgroup we wanted him to attend with the nanny, because the other family didn’t want to do it. There were also a few times when the boys’ schedules didn’t align perfectly. For example, one kid was ready to drop down to one nap a little earlier than the other.  But having them be on opposite schedules was too difficult for the nanny, so we just had to decide to move them both to one nap.

It’s also hard for a nanny to have to answer to two sets of employers. To make communication a little easier for her, we had a daily group text with the four parents and the nanny. And we also asked her to use the Baby Tracker app so we could get real time updates on their eating/sleeping/activities etc., rather than constantly answering questions from four parents.

Because communication with five people could be challenging, especially when evening pick up can be a bit chaotic, we held a once a month check-in meeting. That allowed us to talk about how things were going and any changes that needed to be made.

Another major downside of most nanny shares is that you can’t send your kid if they are sick, in case they infect the other child. So while our son got sick a lot less frequently than he would have if he was at daycare, we still had to do the parent juggle of figuring out who was staying home if he was sick or recovering from a fever. And because we were reliant on only a single child care provider if our nanny was sick, we had to take time off work or find back up care.

Katie: The biggest challenge is addressing the relationship between the families. We had to be really understanding and respectful of each other. It is a very intimate arrangement – you are dropping off your child to be in another family’s home for most of their waking hours.  To help this, we had guidelines in place for many things, including drop-off and pick-up.  What happened when we were late.  And what to do on sick days. Setting up the guidelines helped us to work through “what ifs” well before they happened.

One of the challenges is sick days.  When the kids were sick, would the sick kid stay with the nanny and with the healthy kid? For some illnesses, but not all? We had to establish the expectations for this.

Ending the nanny share was also a challenge.  Our nanny share came to an end when the other family decided to enroll their child, then 2 years old, into daycare. To address this, we worked out a timeline, had plenty of time to adjust, and gave our nanny plenty of notice.

Septima:  Personal household habits can sometimes cause issues, and it’s important to address these as soon as they arise. We had an issue at one point with dirty breakfast dishes in the sink that the nanny then had to clean up to be able to handle baby and meal prep. Since our arrangement was to take care of baby things, and not adult things, the nanny was upset that she was being forced to clean up after the parents.

The best way through these times is direct, clear communication with the party/ies in question, and going back to the agreed-upon rules or contract if needed.  (If there’s one in place, that is.  We did not use a nanny contract.)  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend having one in place, since I’ve never decided to use one. However, there are standard agreements that most nannies have access to, or that you can obtain from another mom. I’m not sure how legally binding they are; but it’s nice to have a set of ground rules to refer back to.

Vacations could also be a challenge.  Our nanny offered to take her vacations at the same time as both families. But as it worked out, we had different vacation-timing needs so the times away never aligned. I suggest having a backup service or plan in place; flying a family member in to take care of kids can work for one family but not always both.  So vacations always needed extra planning-ahead and teamwork by all.

Finally, sick time was by far the most difficult part of the nanny share. As I mentioned above, it’s important to have back-up care options in your hip pocket. Some day care centers and babysitting services offer this option. There were times when the backup care option didn’t work out, and we’d have to stay home or take turns. It wasn’t ideal but we got through it.  And it didn’t happen often.

Mindful Return: Any recommendations you have for others considering a nanny share?

Ceridwen:I think it’s really important to be on the same page with the other host family about what you want out of the nanny share.  And whether there are any particular parenting/childcare philosophies you want the nanny to follow.

I think it was much easier to be starting a new nanny share and finding a nanny together than it would have been to join an established nanny share.  We wanted quite a lot of say in how the nanny did things, and that would have been harder if the share had already been set up.

It’s also important to agree on the hours you want the nanny to work and to any benefits you plan to provide. We always discussed and made decisions about raises and bonuses jointly.

In our area because daycare wait lists are so long, its common for people to do a nanny share until a spot opens up. But that can leave the other family in the lurch.  Especially because finding another family whose needs fit yours can be hard, particularly if it’s important to you to do a share with a child of the same age. I think it’s important for both families to be really upfront about how long they intend to stay in the share. We were fortunate..

  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

If you’ve ever been on “the great daycare search,” you know the challenges that come with finding a spot that’s the right fit for your family and actually getting a spot.  (I wrote more about my own decision to use daycare as our child care option here.)  Imagine my delight when I recently learned about an online service called Winnie that actually helps you locate nearby daycares and tells you whether there are openings!  Today, I’m sharing a guest post from Winnie’s co-founder, Sara Mauskopf, on how to go about getting the right daycare match.  Here’s Sara!

********************************************************************************

One of the biggest challenges facing new parents returning to work after parental leave is finding child care. If it’s your first time looking for child care, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. But just like big projects at work, it’s a lot more manageable if you start early and break down the process into key steps. Here’s a high-level guide of how you can go about finding child care to prepare for your return to work.

Consider Whether Daycare is Right for You

There are other types of child care besides daycare, such as a nanny, nanny-share, au pair, or a family member providing care. Daycare is a popular type of child care, but there are other options that may be a better fit for your child or your family’s unique needs. As a rule of thumb, daycare is a great option if the hours of care you need are well defined and your child would thrive in a group environment with other kids.

Identify Your Criteria

It helps to write down what you’re looking for and what factors matter most to you. For example, you may be more flexible when it comes to location for the right program at the right price. Or maybe you have some wiggle room in your budget, but you absolutely need certain hours of care every day. Below are some of the factors you might consider:

  • Hours and days you need care
  • Budget
  • Locations
  • When you’ll be needing care and how old your child will be at that time
  • Other criteria that matters, like type of program, languages spoken, etc.
Search for Places using Winnie

Once you identify what you need, then you will want to search for places that meet your criteria. Head over to https://winnie.com/childcare and put in your Zip Code. You can view places on a map, so you can identify all the options that might work location-wise (near home, near work, or along a commute route). You can also filter by the age of your child.  Full-time or part-time.  And even see programs with immediate openings. Winnie works all over the United States and has comprehensive data on every licensed daycare and preschool in California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, New York, and Pennsylvania.

One super important thing to look for on a provider’s Winnie page is their license. All daycares and preschools, whether they are run out of a provider’s home or a center, are licensed and inspected regularly by the state. Make sure the provider’s license is up to date.

Contact Them and Tour

You’ll want to setup a tour for daycares that most interest you. Call or email providers to find out a good time to come in and meet. Winnie has a premium membership that can help with doing this legwork and can help you through the process of finding and assessing child care providers.

Meeting with providers and visiting their space will give you a good sense of their program and whether you’d be happy with sending your child there. Most importantly, trust your gut!

Tips and Tricks

If you find a provider you love, be persistent. They may not know if they have open spaces just yet, but spaces open up all the time. (Kids age out of daycare, families move, etc.). Continue to follow up with the providers and reiterate your interest, even if their program is currently full.

Another thing to know is that prices are often flexible. If you can’t afford a provider that you fall in love with, ask for discounts or scholarships they may be able to provide. Finally, in-home providers are a hidden gem. Typically these programs are smaller (fewer kids) and the more “homey” environment can be great for babies. Winnie helps you find these in-home options, too!

Best of luck in your child care search!

Sara Mauskopf is the co-founder and CEO of Winnie, a website and mobile app that helps parents discover daycares, preschools and more. Winnie is used by over 2 million parents across the United States. She’s also the mom of two young daughters and lives in San Francisco with her family.  

 

If you need more help getting your head in a better place to return to work after maternity leave, join us for the next session of Mindful Return.

Want more practical tips on working parenthood?  Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave

Saturday Secrets

Be a calmer working mama. Join the thriving Mindful Return community to receive our beloved, short, weekly newsletter. We're here to help you feel empowered to trade your mama guilt for meaningful connection.

Success!

First Name

Last Name

Email

Subscribe Me!

The post Your Guide to Finding Daycare (in a World Where That Hasn’t Been Easy!) appeared first on Mindful Return.

Read for later

Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
close
  • Show original
  • .
  • Share
  • .
  • Favorite
  • .
  • Email
  • .
  • Add Tags 

Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.
Start your free month
Free Preview