Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My Cause - Defective Girls

Since graduating in July I've spent the last three and a half months trying to play catch up, recover from being over committed in responsibilities and  focusing on being the best Mom that I can be. One of the hardest things about making the sacrifice to pursue my graduate degree as a Mom of two super young kids was accepting that I had to do less with them during that 19 month period. This was hard - yes a tradeoff (ha!) but something that I knew they would yield returns from in the end. 

Now that the "too busy" fog has cleared and I've re-engaged in "life", I've been drawn to a cause that is personal - and I'm learning - very real for many others also. This cause involves helping to advocate for the special needs of boys in our educational system.  My journey in advocating for my son began when he was a preschooler. He is now a first grader and in retrospect I am realizing that this journey has really just begun. One of the most profound statements I've come across recently sums it up best - "Sometimes we may look at boys as defective girls" (Education Week article - 2012). This statement, to me, is where the issue begins. Growing up I never really gained an appreciation for the unique differences and needs of boys(and men).  That makes this particularly interesting to me. As I look for ways to feed my son's insatiable appetite for knowledge - within a system designed to manufacture common knowledge learners - I realize that there are greater challenges for boys in the larger equation. That realism sparked my "middle child, big sister" fire (watch out!) and my journey began. Fortunately, there are tons of people who had this revelation before my journey began and I'm so grateful for their knowledge and the resources that I'm uncovering. Not sure where this journey will lead but it's fueled a passion greater than anything I've felt before in life. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Trade Offs

In late July I completed one of the most challenging and rewarding accomplishments in my life. I graduated from a competitive 19-month Executive MBA program while working full time in a senior leadership role and being a full time wife and Mom to two super sweet, very high energy children (ages 3 and 6). So many friends and associates quietly (and not so quietly) questioned the timing of this decision, as well as, my judgement given the many competing priorities around me. These voices and opinions were never a deterrent as I was driven by long term realities and a vision that was much greater than the meek mindsets that attempted to disrupt this selfless determination. I was humbled by this journey and empowered by the role models that showed(and told) me it was possible. Most importantly I was humbled by the strength that was developed along the way.  I am equally grateful for the lessons that were cemented and those that I can now share with others. 

One of the most impactful lessons and takeaways during this soul searching experience was the concept of trade offs. (Sidebar: During my studies I fell in love with strategy so I apologize in advance for my bias in relating to life through a strategic lens.) This simple definition may be helpful in understanding my interpretation of a trade off.
"A trade-off means that more of one thing necessitates less of another". 
Trade-offs in general occur when activities are incompatible.  Embarking on the MBA journey itself was a significant tradeoff and along the way there were (and will continue to be) so many more in life. This discovery proved hugely valuable as the extensive leadership development components of my studies forced me to dissect and identify a balanced "strategic" path as a Mom and a professional. 

As a highly ambitious and goal driven person, I often found myself conflicted on how to balance my career aspirations and parenting desires. This became more difficult as my career progressed in parallel to the growth of my family. As my husband often says, "having one kid is like babysitting". I found that life as a working Mom of one - especially in the very early years - was manageable and there were fewer tradeoffs required to find a work/life balance.  Fast forward to child two along with the first child entering elementary school and life becomes .... Well, let's just say life becomes a game of trade offs and a deep dive into discovering what really matters hits like a train wreck. 

Being the closet research scientist that I am, I began to quietly and openly explore ways to find peace within what felt like a 'rat in a wheel' lifestyle. While this is an ongoing process, I immediately found a few sources to be particularly helpful in sorting personal challenges (e.g. - career, "am I really doing what brings me joy") as well as parenting life balance challenges (e.g. "am I giving the kids and their school enough attention", "how do I keep my personal and marital interests in play"). Aside from reading lots of awesome books (Mojo Mom is one of my faves) and perusing great parenting resources online, I also found engaging and connecting with other Moms - openly - to be the most helpful. I believe the latter felt more helpful because there was mutual benefit. I learned that Moms tend to exist and make it all happen while silently carrying so much with us - emotionally and otherwise. We 'just do' and more often than not we assume that everyone else is doing it more easily than us. This can be true, on occasion, but what I found most often was that we all have so many of the same desires, challenges, trade offs and need to connect. What I also discovered is that while we all recognize the huge benefits in the moment, many of us tend to bypass this arguably therapeutic outlet and other opportunities for self care in spite of the overwhelming returns such interactions create. 

As I discovered this personal re-fueling effect and the other benefits of this interaction, I became deeply committed to the pursuit of a life that encourages and incentivizes other Moms to deliberately schedule time for regular, frequent and guilt less self care. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The One Thing That Must Be on Every Moms Schedule Today

So often when we hear the words self care we may conjure up images of self indulgences such as massages, facials, manicures or good old retail therapy - correct? 

While physical self-care is a component of self care it is NOT a complete view of self care. Self care includes eliminating critical thinking, not over-scheduling, releasing the need to be perfect, hiring a babysitter for dates with your partner or yourself, saying no, refusing to do things out of guilt and giving yourself much-needed rest and downtime to refuel are also integral to total self-care.  

Today we ask our Vain Mom community to pause, schedule and share one self care activity.