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  1. Like many milestones in motherhood, I turned to social media and my friends who were moms to set my expectations for returning to work after maternity leave with my first daughter. The narrative was this: You will dread the end of maternity leave and curse the swift passage of time. You will feel your heart break and probably sob as you leave your child with another care provider. You will spend your entire work day trying to focus while only being able to think of your child. You will feel pulled in two directions, but mostly in one direction: home with your baby. When my turn came to drop off my 3-month-old at daycare, however, I found that very little of my experience mirrored the typical tale. Although I had some anxiety about leaving her with relative strangers for the first time, after just one week back at work, I felt unexpectedly happy and at peace. [Related: 3 things working moms shouldn't feel guilty about] Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I felt relief when others felt dread. After all, much of my postpartum experience to that point had veered from what seemed to be the norm. I struggled with postpartum depression, which left me feeling distant and somewhat detached from my daughter. I felt lost, scared and completely out of my element. My daughter was a horrible sleeper, making me a jittery, barely-present zombie just trying to make it through every day. When I was back at work, it felt like a gift to put my mind toward a challenge outside the eat-sleep-diaper routine, laugh with coworkers, look presentable and use the bathroom or drink a cup of coffee uninterrupted. After three months of total shell shock, I felt like I was seeing the sun again. As the months passed and I slowly overcame PPD and yet still had no greater desire to be at home, I started to feel guilty. I wondered what my happiness at work said about me. How could I be the only one who seemed absolutely certain that working five days a week was the best thing for me? If I were a more natural mother, would I want to be home with my baby like everyone else? [Related: Navigating the Great Resignation as a parent] But motherhood, it turns out, is much like the introvert/extrovert dichotomy. Where some moms derive their energy and sense of purpose from working, others find it at home with their kids (or some combination of the two). When motherhood worries consume me or I have a bad night of sleep, work provides a chance to step away, surround myself with other adults and remember that life goes on. Work helps me recharge my emotional batteries and regain my sense of self so that I'm a happier, healthier, more confident mom. Best of all, the fulfillment I get from work makes me the best version of myself so that I can be the best mom to my daughters. After several years as a working mom, I've become more comfortable in my skin. And the more conversations I have with other moms, the more I realize I’m not actually alone after all. During a daycare social event last summer, another mom confessed to me in a hushed tone, “Sometimes the weekends are so long and hard for me. Sometimes…I look forward to Monday. Am I a horrible person?” I smiled as I told her, with confidence and not an ounce of guilt, that I felt the exact same way.
  2. NPN Lauren

    Daycation: All I ever wanted

    Family vacations are overrated. As we’ve read on our Forum, seen on social media, and heard from fellow parents, “Vacations are basically just taking the sh*t show on the road.” With little kids, they’re anything but relaxing. So with spring break in the rear view and summer “vacations” still a ways off, it’s time to plan the next-best thing: a daycation, all to yourself. Here’s how. [Related: To the moms running on fumes, here's how to refill the tank] Mark your calendar You know how people say that the hardest part about exercising is getting to the gym, or even getting out the door? Same goes for a self-prescribed holiday: the hardest part is making the mental commitment to do so. If you’re the type who uses a calendar, go ahead and block it out as you would a true vacation day or mental health day. I recommend blocking a Friday, so you can treat yourself to a three-day weekend instead of having to hop back into reality post-daycation. Block the full day — don’t wimp out and just book the morning. I’m talkin’ 9AM to 5PM. Better yet, block 8AM to 6PM. If you can get out of dropping off and picking up the kids on this day, do it. That saying “It takes a village” applies to solo daycations, too. No guilt allowed. Allow yourself to daydream Now that you’ve got a day off to look forward to, it’s time to think about what you would truly enjoy to do with your day. (Imagine that!) Try not to default to a combination of forced “relaxation” and obligatory busywork, e.g., eating half a gummy and washing your delicates. Newsflash: That’s not a vacation, parents. That’s a Saturday night. [Related: 3 steps moms can take to get some me time every week] Think bigger: What does your ideal (solo) vacation look like? Can it be loosely replicated in the city of Chicago in a single day? Unfortunately, we don’t have any private islands within our city limits. But we do have a lot of wonderful ways to play hooky. While I can’t pretend to know what your daycation fantasy is, I can share mine (a full day at the Langham complete with lap swimming, lobster rolls, and literally any of these treatments), and hopefully inspire some well-earned daydreaming. For instance, if you love nothing more than pretending to read a paperback novel while dozing off poolside, this can be achieved. So can a truly luxe spa day, a gorgeous day spent hiking in nature, a decadent brunch followed by hours of bookstore browsing, an unexpected day-trip to another city, or even a deep meditation session. Make it happen If you have an agenda in mind but are struggling with execution, check out the list below for some ideas. Then, book it and start the count-down. Anticipation is half the fun. Enjoy! Spa Day $: King Spa & Sauna in Niles $$: Aire Ancient Baths in West Town $$$: Kohler Waters Spa in Lincoln Park $$$$: Chuan Spa at The Langham in River North Pool Day FREE: Portage Park Pool $: InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile $: East Bank Club $$: The Peninsula Hotel Forest Bathing & Nature Days FREE: Calumet Woods in Riverdale FREE: Forest Glen Woods in Forest Glen FREE: LaBagh Woods in North Park $: Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe $: Morton Arboretum in Lisle Day Trip Wilmington, IL — 75 minutes Michigan City, IN — 75 minutes Milwaukee — 90 minutes Harbor Country, MI — 90 minutes Lake Geneva — 90 minutes
  3. Getting through elementary school is not always easy, but when families, teachers, administration, and staff work together, the educational experience can be amazing for everyone. In this session we explore the benefits of sticking with your school even when the experience isn't perfect, and how to positively impact your child’s school and school experience. We will also discuss typical school challenges that arise during the elementary years and give you tips on how to manage them. In this discussion we learn: -The benefits of sticking with your school -How to positively impact your child's school and school experience -Typical challenges that arise in elementary school and how to find resolutions Thank you to our panelists, British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, Bennett Day School, Lake Forest Country Day School, and St. Josaphat School. A special thank you to our presenting sponsor: British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park
  4. I had Omicron on the day I was asked if I had any interest in writing an article about being "over" COVID. I quickly said yes, as this was our second round with COVID in our small four-person family, and I was feeling very over all of it. My daughter was the first to have symptoms. I offered to sleep with her and be the first parent to be exposed, knowing that my husband would soon follow. She had just turned 5 and was about to get her vaccine…more on that later. Anyway, I knew I would be next, and then my husband. [Related: A child therapist admits to committing these 10 COVID-19 parenting fails] My son, however, was the last man standing again (he was the first time around, too), without any symptoms and continually testing negative on both exposures. He’s seven. At some point, while masked and standing from afar, I tried to teach him how to make a quesadilla. His reply: “This sucks. Can someone just breathe on me so that I can get it over with and cuddle?” I know that we are not the only family that has tried to quarantine in the same house away from other family members. It seems futile and like we should all embrace the suck and get it over with all at once vs. one at a time. I guess that is another sign: I’m over it! The first time was scary, as it was four months into the pandemic, and both my husband and I were working in the trenches with people struggling and severely affected by COVID. Vaccines had not yet been created, and everything felt ominous and unknown. After that first bout with COVID, we found our way back to “normal” — if there even is such a thing. We found a way to see family and travel safely within our “pod." (Another thing I’m over are these new terms that flow like water and are now as common as “LOL": pod, pivot, resilience, quarantine, virtual learning, social distancing…the list goes on.) But this time, it was different. It had been two-and-a-half years since we had seen my side of the family in California — for many reasons, but mostly because my parents don’t love science and didn’t want the vaccine. After many conversations about how to travel home during the holidays and remain safe, we came up with a game plan. For instance, this even meant not seeing my Uncle Ralph, who's 80, because he wouldn’t get the vaccine or stop frequenting casinos. The risk would be too high for us, leaving us judged by many. [Related: From slow to go! Balancing life post-pandemic] We survived 10 days in California, where people felt like masks were optional and that we were the crazy ones, living in fear. I have always operated from a science and intuition approach, but to each their own opinion. We took educated risks and felt good about our trip. Back home a few weeks later, it was my daughter's fifth birthday. Everyone had canceled because the numbers were too high, so that only left our immediate family, her aunt, and her grammy. It wouldn’t be the fifth birthday of her dreams, but it would be as fun as we could make it…except that our fully-vaccinated and boostered family brought us Omicron. Thankfully we all had mild symptoms and got through it relatively quickly. Thank you science, and God, and all my friends who knew we needed a meal or cinnamon rolls. Thank goodness we got over it. This “over it” feeling continues as I work every single day trying to help others move through it. As a therapist, I study a topic of interest or a topic that has impacted us at one time or another and use that information to help others. This is the hardest time to be a therapist because we are living the trauma with our clients. We are suggesting to do things that we think will help, but that we can’t find the energy to do ourselves. We are listening and caring more than ever for the doctors and nurses on the frontlines, knowing that this virus will remain in our field for so many years to come. The other day my son wanted to go to the grocery store with me, and I quickly said yes. At the store, he asked if he could eat some raspberries out of the clam shell, “like the good ol’ days.” I said yes to the unwashed raspberries, so long as he ate them under his mask. I continued about my shopping, but when I turned around to look at him, there were tears running down his face. My first response was, ”Did you bite your tongue?" He said, “Mommy, I don’t remember the good ol’ days. I don’t remember not wearing a mask to the store.” We both cried a little bit. He asked more questions: "When will this end? Will we ever go to the store or school without a mask?” This conversation broke my heart. A quarter of his life has been living with COVID. It has impacted every year of his elementary school experience so far. I realized here in this moment it wasn’t just me that was over it; we are over it. All of us. For the last two years, I have been working overtime at both work and mom life. I have been trying to be more engaging, more crafty, more fun, more adventurous, more everything by redefining adventure. None of it matters on days when you just need to say, “I’m over it!” It’s okay to just be done and to say it out loud. Many famous psychologists say that by stating your feelings, you can move them in your brain to be able to better process them in your body. I’m writing this to encourage all of us to speak our truth on our toughest days, and to allow our kiddos to do the same.
  5. NPN Tareema

    College Admissions 101

    Do you have a young child and you are thinking about their college career? Or do you have a high schooler and you need to figure out the college application process quickly? Either way, this is the session for you. If you wonder how to determine which colleges are a good fit for your child, where to start in applying for financial aid and scholarships, and how to approach standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, NPN can help. In College Admissions 101, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS College Search Guidance, you will learn: -How and where to begin your college search -What colleges look for in an applicant -The timeline for a smooth college application process Recorded February 2022
  6. NPN Tareema

    Preschool Philosophies

    Choosing the right preschool for your child can be an overwhelming task, especially in Chicago where there are so many options. With so many different preschool philosophies, how do you know which philosophy works for you and your family? In this discussion you will learn about a variety of preschool philosophies, hear examples of good questions to ask and things to think about when you are researching preschools, and walk away confident in your ability to choose a preschool that is a good fit for your family. Our esteemed school panel consists of Erin Woodhams, Director of Marketing, Admissions, and Communications, British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, Meg Fitzgerald, Director of Early Childhood Education, Bennett Day School, Samantha Maxwell, Preschool Director, Bubbles Academy Arts-Integrated Preschool, and Andrea Shaffer, Faculty Director, Chicago Waldorf School We appreciate our Supporting Sponsor, Bennett Day School and a special thanks to our Presenting Sponsor British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park. Recorded February 2022
  7. NPN Tareema

    Kindergarten Prep & Age Cut Off

    Preparing for kindergarten can feel like a daunting task, and myths about the Illinois age cut-off abound. If you are wondering if your four year old or six year old can attend kindergarten, or if you want to know how to help your child prepare for kindergarten, this is the session for you. Our esteemed panelists will explain what teachers really want parents to know about kindergarten. We will also discuss the Illinois law around age cut off, answering all of your questions about this confusing piece of the puzzle. You will walk away from this discussion understanding: 1. What it means to be kindergarten-ready 2. How to help your child prepare for kindergarten 3. The kindergarten age cut off law in Illinois and if there are any exceptions Our esteemed school panel consists of Tiffany Wells, Director Enrollment Management, Catherine Cook School, Meg Fitzgerald, Director of Early Childhood Education, Bennett Day School, Georgia Burke, Admissions Director, St. Josaphat School, and Bonnie Ho, Principal, Pui Tak Christian School A special thank you to our presenting sponsor: Catherine Cook School
  8. NPN Tareema

    College Admissions 101

    Do you have a young child and you are thinking about their college career? Or do you have a high schooler and you need to figure out the college application process quickly? Either way, this is the session for you. If you wonder how to determine which colleges are a good fit for your child, where to start in applying for financial aid and scholarships, and how to approach standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, NPN can help. In College Admissions 101, presented by Grace Lee Sawin of Chicago School GPS College Search Guidance, you will learn: -How and where to begin your college search -What colleges look for in an applicant -The timeline for a smooth college application process This event is FREE and exclusive to NPN members only. Join now!
  9. NPN Tareema

    Preschool Philosophies

    Choosing the right preschool for your child can be an overwhelming task, especially in Chicago where there are so many options. With so many different preschool philosophies, how do you know which philosophy works for you and your family? In this discussion you will learn about a variety of preschool philosophies, hear examples of good questions to ask and things to think about when you are researching preschools, and walk away confident in your ability to choose a preschool that is a good fit for your family. There will be time for Q&A at the end! Our esteemed school panel consists of: Erin Woodhams, Director of Marketing, Admissions, and Communications, British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park Meg Fitzgerald, Director of Early Childhood Education, Bennett Day School Samantha Maxwell, Preschool Director, Bubbles Academy Arts-Integrated Preschool Andrea Shaffer, Faculty Director, Chicago Waldorf School Thank you to our Presenting Sponsor, British International School of Chicago, Lincoln Park, we also appreciate our Supporting Sponsor, Bennett Day School. By registering for this event, you agree that NPN may share your name and email address with our presenting sponsor.
  10. until
    Are you a new mom with a baby 0-12 months old (or about that age)? If so, this is the group for you! Join our current NPN new moms, for these monthly video chats. Here you can connect and talk about sleep, feeding, all of the unique challenges and joys you face as new moms. NPN New Moms Group meets the second Thursday of each month from 7:15 PM - 8:00 PM via Zoom. We encourage you to attend every month! These chats are for NPN members only. Please login to RSVP for free. You will receive an email confirmation with the Zoom link immediately after registering. Not a member of NPN? Join now and enjoy everything NPN has to offer!
  11. We have all seen the headlines around the growing exodus in the labor force with people leaving in what appears to be record numbers. The “Great Resignation” is real and it is impacting all if us in both direct and indirect ways. First, let’s do a brief overview of some of the data. The biggest exodus seems to be in the accommodations and food service industry, with retail next. Interestingly, this trend was happening before the pandemic and researchers aren’t sure if the continued trend was due to the pandemic or not. Healthcare workers are quitting and finding alternatives due to burnout and dissatisfaction (can we blame them?!). [Related: Working mom hacks: Tips and tricks to make your life easier] None of this is cut-and-dry, and researchers are working to get at what is really going on, but I believe it is super important to acknowledge the disparity in reasons people are leaving. Some are leaving good jobs for better work environments and more flexibility — these are the fortunate ones. The other broad category is comprised of folks who are experiencing truly deplorable work conditions and have to choose between unhealthy work environments and survival. And how very different it is for women who have consistently outnumbered men in exiting the workforce out of necessity to care for children, aging parents, sick relatives, or all of them at once. [Related: How to hire more moms? Corporate America needs to learn to share] We are all a part of, and impacted by, this world phenomenon. What is important about understanding the bigger picture is being aware that it unconsciously sways our own behaviors. Suddenly we are given permission to think about our work life in very different ways prompting us to ponder the following questions: * How do we think about being a working parent now vs. pre-pandemic? * Are there aspects of our job that previously didn't bother us, but now do? * How do we think differently about our role as a working parent vs. pre-pandemic? Personally, I fall into the privileged category of assessing a work-life situation that is already good, but the pandemic has brought up gaps and caused me to step back and inventory what aspects I love, and what I want to change. As a coach and facilitator, I love being with people and did not think I could take my practice online and keep the same level of impact. Our children are recently out of college, and this new flexibility has caused some regret to surface around being physically gone many evenings and weekends while I was raising them. I would say I value time, nature, and learning and growing more than I realized before the pandemic, and I am changing my work situation significantly to have more of what nourishes me. I have found in my coaching of couples and families that many had previously gone along with the program as it was scripted, and are now stepping back and assessing their priorities. In many fields, it is a job-seeker's market, but before you make a big leap, take some time to assess and create a vision for your career and family life.
  12. until
    Are you a new mom with a baby 0-12 months old (or about that age)? If so, this is the group for you! Join our current NPN new moms for these monthly video chats. Here, you can connect and talk about sleep, feeding, and all of the unique challenges and joys you face as new moms. NPN New Moms Group meets the second Thursday of each month from 7:15 PM - 8:00 PM via Zoom. We encourage you to attend every month! These chats are for NPN members only. Please login to RSVP for free. You will receive an email confirmation with the Zoom link immediately after registering. Not a member of NPN? Join now and enjoy everything NPN has to offer!
  13. until
    Are you a new mom with a baby 0-12 months old (or about that age)? If so, this is the group for you! Join our current NPN new moms, for these monthly video chats. Here you can connect and talk about sleep, feeding, all of the unique challenges and joys you face as new moms. NPN New Moms Group meets the second Thursday of each month from 7:15 PM - 8:00 PM via Zoom. We encourage you to attend every month! These chats are for NPN members only. Please login to RSVP for free. You will receive an email confirmation with the Zoom link immediately after registering. Not a member of NPN? Join now and enjoy everything NPN has to offer!
  14. Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night with a crazy idea? And then by morning, you think you can actually do it? Well, that's what happened to me in June 2018. At the time I had a successful cooking blog, MommaChef.com, with more than 80,000 followers. It features recipes using six ingredients or less and prepared in six minutes or less. I also was busy writing articles for dozens of magazines and working with various companies to develop recipes using their products. All of this would have been a dream come true for most food bloggers, but I didn't feel complete. Something was missing. It was that aha moment at 3 a.m. when I realized that I wanted to focus more time and energy into helping others. And what could be more perfect than opening a soup kitchen to feed the needy? [Related: Make kindness a daily act with your kids] Once the idea came to me, I was determined to make it happen. Over the next few months, I researched what was needed to help the under-resourced people in the Chicago area. I quickly found a facility that was willing to donate its space to house the Soup Kitchen. I created a business plan, held fundraisers to offset the costs, and designed menus to feed more than 100 people. Within four months, in October 2018, Momma Chef's Soup Kitchen opened its doors at Congregation KINS in West Rogers Park. Each Tuesday evening, Momma Chef’s Soup Kitchen provides a 5-course homemade hot meal to anyone who comes to our doors. We also deliver 70 meals to two local shelters. That middle-of-the-night idea has provided over 15,000 meals since opening our doors. What makes this soup kitchen unique is that I was determined to run it with no overhead other than the cost of food and security. The Soup Kitchen needs more than 600 volunteers/year to prepare and serve the meals. And every person involved, including myself and members of my family, donates their time.* During the start of COVID in April of 2020, when I passed by a neighborhood little free library box, the notion that I could help address food insecurity around the city in the same manner as the library boxes struck me. I decided that day that I wanted to start a “Momma Chef Little Free Pantry Movement” in Chicago, providing 24-hour non-perishable food to anyone in need. It took around a year to get everything in place, and in May 2021, I opened my first pantry at West Ridge Community Methodist Church. My son, who is a junior in high school, is in charge of running the pantry for me. We keep the pantry stocked daily with healthy non-perishable food such as peanut butter, cans of fruit, cans of soups and stews, cans of tuna, chicken, etc. It’s a wonderful way for people in need to take food anonymously at any time of the day. With the success of the first pantry, I am going to be installing more pantries around the city in the next couple of months: My next two will be at Beth Emet Synagogue in Evanston, and New Beginnings Church in West Woodlawn. I want to encourage everyone that if there is something you believe in — a cause that taps your shoulder or keeps you awake at night — believe in yourself! One person truly can make a difference. You can find me at www.mommachef.com. I am keeping busy with my blog, Soup Kitchen, Food Pantries, and I plan to publish a cookbook in 2022 with my delicious “6 under 6” recipes, with proceeds going to these projects. *If you're interested in volunteering at the Soup Kitchen, you are more than welcome! Kids 11 and up are welcome, too. Here's how.
  15. until
    Choosing childcare that is right for your family can seem like an overwhelming process, especially in Chicago where there are so many options to consider. This session will focus on daycare centers—private/family-owned, corporate and in-home. In this intimate live discussion, we will discuss safety, curriculum, daily activities, enrollment/finances, student-teacher relationships and transitioning into group care comfortably. There will be time for parents to ask questions at the end. You will walk away from this discussion with a better understanding of the following: 1. What daycare in a group setting is like for your child 2. Important considerations for parents, including safety and finances 3. How to help your child prepare for daycare and more! Our esteemed daycare centers featured on the panel include: Kids Work Chicago Too Choo Choo Chicago Bright Horizons Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Kids Work Chicago Too. Free for NPN members. $15 for non-members. Zoom link will be sent in your registration confirmation immediately upon registration, and again in your event reminder 1-2 days before the event. If you have questions about this event, email Amy at amy@npnparents.org
  16. I can hardly believe it myself when I tell people that I have been a pediatric mental health therapist for 12 years now. I mean, that is over a decade of my life! I would say that I don’t know where the time went, but I do. A lot has happened since beginning my professional career. I moved to Chicago, got engaged, and landed my dream job. But what really makes time fly is having kids. Nothing in my life has made me realize just how fleeting life is more than raising children. One day they fit into the palm of your hand, and the next, they barely fit in your lap. There are a lot of expectations about what kind of parent I am and how I raise my kids. After all, I keep up to date on the latest research in child development and behavior. My passion is in supporting parents and teaching parents how to be connected and attuned to their children. So I talk A LOT with parents. I am often told by parents I work with, “I bet your kids are so well behaved,” or, “I bet you never yell.” (Yikes, the pressure!) Of course, I do have to practice what I preach, and while I try my best to be a playful, accepting, curious, and empathic mother…I am also a “good enough” mom. I am not perfect. Despite my training, my knowledge, my passion, and my love, I am here to tell you: if you only knew how I epically fail on a daily basis! Well, actually, maybe it would help. Maybe it would help you have some compassion for yourself, because I promise you there is no such thing as a perfect parent, and good enough is actually all you need (and this is backed by research!). [Related: This is how to travel with young kids during COVID] So in all my vulnerability, I will share with you my top 10 epic parenting fails during the COVID-19 pandemic: Becoming so frustrated and out of control with my own emotions when my 5-year-old refused to go to bed that I threatened to throw out her JoJo Siwa Bow. Feeling guilty about my (above) tantrum, giving in, and allowing my 5-year-old to stay up till 10pm watching Naked and Afraid. (This went on for a month.) Experiencing the full range of working-mom shame when my daughter named each family member’s hobby and declared, “Mommy’s hobby is work.” Begging my 5-year-old to “Just leave me alone for two minutes while I finish my Zoom call!” realizing that I actually did not mute my mic. Spacing out from exhaustion while the baby crawls on the lawn…and eats actual bunny poop. Logging in my kindergartner late to virtual school. Every. Single. Day. Witnessing her announce to her teacher, “Sorry I am always late. We like to sleep in.” Knowing pandemic guilt has turned me into a “Yes” mom, and I have a trillion stuffed animals to prove it. Thinking that brushing my kid’s teeth before dessert was OK. Hello, child’s first cavity. Being mindless while getting my children out of the car and putting my laptop on top of the car. Forgetting about my laptop. Finding my laptop smashed to bits on North Avenue. If a child therapist can’t get it right all the time, take some pressure off yourself to be perfect. After all, we are in the midst of a pandemic. We are all truly doing the best we can. And that is good enough.
  17. Mother's Day is such a loaded holiday for lots of reasons — often tied to traditions set in place to honor our own mothers. But like it did in 2020, this Mother’s Day isn’t “normal.” Will it be any different this year? Or is it something that you're looking forward to because it's predictable? Given the challenges and victories for mothers and all caregivers who continue to prevail in this pandemic, I believe it’s a perfect time to expose and disrupt the status quo. Starting with Mother’s Day. Do you know its origin? It started as an anti-war movement in the 1850s. In 1870, Julia Ward Howe — composer of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" — issued a widely read "Mother's Day Proclamation" calling for women to take an active political role in promoting peace. Ultimately, in 1914 Anna Jarvis was successful in her campaign to have the day dedicated to appreciating your own mother when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national holiday. [Related: Mother's Day ideas for Chicago moms] Unfortunately, Jarvis lost her second battle which was to keep the holiday out of the hands of consumerism. Speaking of which, how much do you think we spend on Mother’s Day? Made up mostly of greeting cards, flowers, and social outings, Americans spent $26.7 billion dollars on Mother’s day in 2020. Does the 7% spending increase (in the throes of a pandemic) from 2019 and the 45% increase from 2010 translate to a mothers' increased fulfillment and satisfaction in the day? Well, that is for each individual mother to decide. Let’s look at it another way that might spark your interest. Just as you are the author and director of your pleasure in all spheres of your life (wink, wink), so too are you ultimately responsible for your own “MOM-GASM!” I may be stretching it a bit with the metaphor, but the possibility for a day where everything from time with yourself to experiences with others brings you delight. [Related: To the mom missing her dad on Father's Day] The sky's the limit, but the key is to make it your own. Map out your day, and if you want it a certain way, you have to ask for it — your family cannot read your mind. While lovely to receive gifts and acknowledgment, one day won’t refuel you from a year of incredible stress and increased hours of unpaid labor. But you deserve to design a lovely day. As women, we are generally great at caring for others, but not so adept with mothering ourselves. Empower yourself this Mother’s Day to disrupt old paradigms that do not serve you, and create a vision or intention for yourself. It’s not selfish, nor does it take away from the day to communicate your wishes and set the tone. While hardly exhaustive, I offer a few ideas to get your started: • Do some research on May day/Mother’s day in different cultures. • Create your own “ritual” or devotion for the day that you may carry forward. • Inventory all the ways you have mothered yourself and others during a deadly pandemic. • Ask for a vision or wishes from your family for the year ahead. • Carve out a minimum of an hour, but hopefully more, of alone time. • Keep it real and remember it has been an incredible year, and you can feel all of your feelings on this day and beyond. Cheers to you, Mother.
  18. I am a 47-year-old mother of four girls who has been out of the paid workforce for 18 years. Right now, I’m in full-blown job search mode to get back into it, so I think about my resume a lot. Not surprisingly, getting back in has been quite a challenge for many reasons. But recently, after yet another informational interview, I realized my resume doesn’t represent who I am at all. Sure, it has my degrees and all of the very impactful and important volunteer work that I’ve done over the last eight years, but it has a huge, gaping hole. It doesn’t include my most challenging, most rewarding, and most acutely painful work experience. It doesn’t include the work experience that changed me from a self-centered narcissist into a grown-up and made me into the person I am today. My resume is missing my work as a mother. Can you imagine if I included what I’ve accomplished and learned as a mother on my resume? Hiring managers would think I was crazy. They would send it to their colleagues as a joke and write, “You’ve got to look at this one!” But as I thought more about it, I realized a lot of my experience as a mother would translate well to corporate America. [Related: How to hire more moms? Corporate America needs to learn to share] Conflict management and resolution: I had a child between the ages of two and four for eight years straight. I've resolved a lot of conflict, to put it mildly. Creativity and tenacity: After trying many, many, many ways to get my daughter to sleep through the night over an 18-month period, I finally did. (The solution: I put her in the same bedroom as one of her sisters. Thirteen years later, all four of my daughters still sleep in the same room.) Diplomacy and discretion in discussing difficult subjects: More than once I’ve had to call a fellow parent and tell her that her child shared thoughts of suicide with one of mine. Empathy, patience and assiduousness: I’m seven years in on a total of ten years (in a row) of helping my daughters navigate the friend drama of middle school. Humility: I've had my teenager tell me I don’t like or understand her and then had to put my own bruised ego aside to figure out how to convince her that isn’t true. Project management skills: Planning and scheduling the logistics and schedules of four children in three different schools playing up to ten different sports; planning, shopping for, cooking and cleaning up after four meals (including snacks) for six people every day (even when I’m on vacation) for 18 years; planning and executing a budget that satisfies as many different people’s needs as possible for 18 years; planning and executing a variety of events where failure would mean disappointing those you love most (no pressure!) for a variety of ages, audiences and needs including birthday parties, all family and national holidays (Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.), classroom parties and team parties; coordinating all personal-care appointments, such as doctor appointments (well and sick), dentist appointments and haircuts. I could go on and on. And my work ethic? Well, I’ve been parenting 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for 18 years, and I’ve got seven more to go. I think I’ve got a pretty strong work ethic. I think we should live in a world where my parenting skills and experiences are viewed as a valuable part of my resume. But I know that right now we don’t. So while I’m not going to add my parenting experience to my resume, I am proud of the person that I have become because of it. It will make me a better employee than I was before I had children. I just need to find an employer willing to let me prove it.
  19. When I had a four-year-old, a two-year-old and an infant (and a seven-year-old who was in school all day), I had a preschool carpool that was one of the most dependable and important parts of my life. It was the linchpin to my getting a few moments to myself. After I dropped off the four-year-old, if I managed to get the two-year-old and infant to nap at the same time, I had a few blissful hours to do things like go to the bathroom by myself or eat a meal sitting down. Nothing stopped me from fulfilling my side of the bargain—not snowstorms, temper tantrums, lice, swine flu—NOTHING. Luckily for me, Rebecca, who did the pick-up, also had four kids and knew how critical this potential window of sanity was for me, was just as dedicated. We kept up that carpool for six years, and I’m still grateful for it to this day. Now I’m 47 and my kids are 18, 15, 13 and 11, and I’m trying to get back into the paid workforce after 18 years outside of it. I’m still not ready to go back full time for many reasons, and I’ve found that part-time work is extremely difficult to find. Ideally, I’d love to share a job, just like I did with that carpool, but that option is nonexistent as far as I can tell, and I think that corporate America is making a huge mistake by ignoring it. [Related: What if I put my parenting experience on my resume?] During my 18 years in the unpaid workforce, almost all of my jobs have been job shares with other women. The carpool is just the tip of the iceberg. I was a PTA co-president with three other women, and we were able to divide and conquer everything that needed to get done efficiently and with ease. Right now, I’m a volunteer leader on a political campaign with a good friend, and part of what has makes us successful is that we have different but complementary skill sets and trust each other’s opinions and instincts. By working together, we make each other and our efforts so much better. And, yes, we have a lot of fun doing it. Outside the paid workforce, women partner together all the time in ways that allow our society to function. Why then, hasn’t that dynamic been incorporated into the paid workforce? I’m not talking about being a “team player” and pitching in to help colleagues; we know women do way more than their fair share of that at work. I’m talking about letting women partner together to share one job—dividing the work, dividing the responsibility and dividing the skills necessary to fill the position. Can you imagine what kind of creative and economic power would be unleashed if companies started doing that? It also would open up opportunities to a huge, untapped population of workers. [Related: Working mom hacks: Tips and tricks to make your life easier] Employers might object that job sharing would be disruptive and confusing for other employees and clients. But here’s the answer to that concern: This job-sharing dynamic is happening all the time, all around you (and most definitely in your own household), and it happens so seamlessly that you don’t have to see it to know it exists. Why, when we manage to make it work so well in our personal lives, would we not be able to translate that to a work situation? The answer: We would. Corporate America, when you’re ready to start allowing employees to job share, I’ve got an army of incredibly accomplished and competent women ready to go.
  20. Coffee alone won't cut it. Parents who work full time need a plan to get out of the house on time in the morning with everyone fed, dressed and backpacks packed—without tears. (No one would blame you if you have a little cry on the way to work, btw.) How do seasoned working moms make it all happen? We asked our members their top tricks and tips for keeping themselves and their kids happy and sane despite hectic schedules. Hopefully these hacks can make your routine go a little more smoothly. Plan ahead Many of our members said the key to a smooth day is preparing nearly everything the night before—or even earlier. "I plan my outfits every Sunday so I never have to wonder what I'm going to wear," says one member. And this working mom has a great closet strategy: "I keep my everyday, in-season work clothes grouped together in the closet, with whatever I wore most recently on the far left, so that every morning I can just grab an outfit from the 3-4 that are the farthest to the right." Dinnertime is another opportunity for advance prep. "I prep a lot of meals in advance and freeze them," says one mom. "If I don’t get everything cooked on the weekend, I usually cook it the night before, so I can get dinner on the table quickly. If I don’t have a plan the night before, we don’t eat!" And here's a genius cooking hack: "Whenever I cook anything requiring spice assembly, I create extra baggies of the same spice mixture so that the same future 'from scratch' meal is a lot easier/faster." Enlist the kids Why should parents have to do everything themselves? As soon as kids are old enough to help out, many parents put them on the chore list. "During the school year, I used a visual checklist so my kid could figure out what task needed to be done next (this also helped me and my husband)." Here's a great idea to ensure more adult time: "[My kids] have to help put everything away before they go to bed, so that there aren’t more chores for adults to do after bedtime." We can all aspire to get our kids to do as much as this mom's: "They make their own breakfast 80% of the time (I'm in charge of mornings). I've started getting the kids involved in doing their laundry but we are nowhere close to having them take it over yet." But still. They are feeding themselves and washing their clothes. High-five, mom. Enlist other parents Getting the kids ready and driving them to school can add a lot of stress and time to an already hectic morning. Many parents suggest splitting driving duties with other parents. "I work from home a couple days a week so I drive the carpool the days I don't have to get myself ready for work," says one mom. "The days I go into the office, I only have to have them ready to walk out the front door and I can finish getting myself packed and out." And what about after-school activities? Carpools can help with those, too. Says one mom: "The kids were on baseball/softball teams this past spring with a ton of overlap so having friends on those teams to share driving with was the only way it worked." House help Hiring help around the house isn't attainable for everyone, but if you can afford even a little help, you will save yourself a lot of time (and stress), according to our members. "We have a before school nanny/house manager that helps get our son ready for school, takes him to school, and comes home and cleans up breakfast, folds and puts laundry away, accepts said grocery delivery (marks everything off so we know what came and what didn't), starts laundry, and will do light cooking, load/unload dishwasher, help clean/cut up fruit, and help with little things and projects around the house. She also helps with Target returns, etc.," says one mom. Yes, she is living the dream. But wait, there's more. "We also have an afterschool nanny (college student) that picks our son up from school and drives him to his activities, etc." Possibly more attainable for some of us: a house helper who comes one day per week. Check out how much work this mom squeezes out of once-a-week help. "She arrives at 6am so [my] husband and I can get one early-day start to work, and she gets kids ready and drives them to school. Then, she cleans our house from 8am-1:30pm, including laundry and changing all sheets, and then runs errands for us like...returns, dry cleaning, a few groceries as needed, buys all household cleaning supplies. Then picks up the kids at 3:30 from school [and] drives them to all after-school activities and goes home at 6pm." Phew! That's quite a day. "All other days [my] husband and I juggle responsibilities but this one-day-a-week position is amazing," she adds. Delivery Delivery isn't just for pizza and Amazon packages you forgot you bought. Many working moms recommend getting everything from dry cleaning to groceries delivered to save precious time. "We have all groceries delivered...It saves [my husband] and me a ton of time. [Now] I don't impulse shop." This mom did the grocery delivery research so you don't have to. "I used to do grocery delivery but then did a side-by-side cost comparison between Instacart and regular old Jewel Drive Up 'N Go, and well, I now mostly do Drive Up 'N Go." Do you have any tips and tricks you'd like to share? NPN members can comment on this thread on our member discussion forum.
  21. Mom, have you ever had the feeling that you are running on fumes? Has your tank ever felt empty already when you were waking up in the morning? Have you gone to bed with your mind racing with all the things you need to get done the next day only to be in a twilight sleep the entire night and wake up as tired as you were when you first went to bed? If you are like most moms, you have probably felt like this on more than one occasion. If you are a normal mom, you have probably felt like this at least once a week. I know I have. There are many moments when I want to yell, "Mom down!". In those moments of despair, I am secretly wishing for someone to come to my rescue and say, "Nicole, I got this ... Go relax." Many times when I am stressed, tired, overwhelmed or all of the above, I am guilty of leaving a trail of mommy meltdown destruction. I am more susceptible to being short with my kids or even my husband. My tolerance for normal kid behavior becomes nonexistent. It's not even who I am. I want to be a compassionate, loving wife and mom but in those instances where I have reached the point of no return, I realize that it is time for me to rest and recharge. I have recognized more than ever that for my sanity, health and happiness—and my families'—I cannot ever let my cup get that empty where they get the brunt of Mommy being stressed. It's not fair to them or me to create a stressful environment in our home because Mommy is in a bad mood. Here's a plan to help save us and our families from cranky mommy: Ask for quiet time When my sister and I were teenagers, my mom would ask for 15 minutes of quiet time as soon as we got In from school. She would go upstairs to her room close the door. We didn't know what she did for those 15 minutes but she came back downstairs ready to conquer her second job as Mommy. At first read, your initial reaction may be that you don't have time to take 15 minutes and risk throwing off the evening routine. I would argue that taking that moment to take off the day is worth the sacrifice. Create a bedtime routine As important as bedtime routines are for our children, they should also be mandatory for mommies too! Not only do we need to get as much sleep as possible to recharge our batteries, but we also need to quiet our brains to make sure the sleep is quality. I am inconsistently consistent with my bedtime routine but on a good night, it is comprised of a hot cup of sleepytime tea and a long, hot shower. Every time I am intentional about doing it I often ask myself why I don't do it more often. Ask for help I am a pretty prideful wife and mom and it takes a lot out of me to ask for help. Ironically, the days that I hit a wall are the days I should have raised a white flag much earlier. It's ok to ask a girlfriend to watch the kids for an hour. It's ok to ask your significant other to fold the clothes in the dryer. Take a mommy break The fastest way to refill your cup is to take a mommy break. You owe it to yourself to take a moment to recharge and reboot. It may be a simple as a manicure and Target run or as elaborate as a full weekend off of mommy duty. Find the one thing that brings you a moment of joy and go after it at least once a month (ideally once a week). It does not cure all the woes of mommyhood but it definitely makes it more manageable! Enact these four ideas to avoid your family ever experiencing the wrath of a mommy who is running on "e" and not taking the time to take care of herself. Let's continue to be the fabulous, perfectly imperfect moms that we are and not let stress get too much in the way.
  22. I had the pleasure of joining thousands of other women to attend Michelle Obama's book launch event for her book, Becoming, on Nov. 13 at United Center. It was amazing! I was in awe of her story, her strength, and steadfastness to become the Michelle Obama so many of us have come to love and adore. No matter your political affiliation, you cannot deny the superpowers she displays as a daughter, wife, mom, friend and leader. A true boss! Ok, so now that I have finished gushing about Michelle Obama (can you tell I admire her just a little bit?), there was so much that I took from listening to the over two-hour conversation between her and my other hero, Oprah Winfrey. I am sure every mom felt a little bit more confident in their walk leaving the event! I know that I walked away feeling reassured by my mission as a mompreneur to inspire and enable moms to be more intentional about their self-care. One of the things that Michelle Obama shared that evening was to "push yourself up on your priority list." Sounds easy enough but yet it is so challenging for moms to do. I mean, if we push ourselves up on our to-do list, what will need to get de-prioritized? Will it be our partners? Our children? Mommy chores? It will likely be something, but we as moms have to get to a place where we are ok with it. We have to feel confident in knowing that the benefits of prioritizing "us" will far outweigh the cost of not conquering the to-do list or temporarily de-prioritizing someone else. It will be there tomorrow. I can talk to you about this until I am blue in the face. I can have your bestest girlfriends call you and tell you once a day to have some me-time. I can even ask your significant other tell you its ok to be selfish every once in a while to have a mommy break. But if you do not truly believe this yourself, it will be in vain. If you do not put mind over matter to make it happen it will not. In order to become the moms and, most importantly, the women we were destined to be, we must be more intentional about our self-care in 2019. Here are three easy things you can do: 1. Create a list of your favorite things to do. From working out to trying new restaurants to taking a walk along the lake, there are tons of different things you can do. 2. Once you make your list of favorite things, pick two things to do over the next two weeks. It can be as quick as 15 minutes or as long as a couple of hours. Write it down on the calendar. (Writing it down is important.) 3. Share your intention with at least one person. This can be a fellow mom (and if it gets her on board to join you), your significant other, or a co-worker. Ask them to check with you a couple of days before the scheduled break to make sure you are on track for still taking it. If you are successful with completing these tasks, “rinse and repeat” and try again next month. We not only owe it to Michelle Obama so that she has tangible proof that her story made an impact, but more importantly, we owe it to ourselves. I am ecstatic for 2019 and all of the awesome women we will continue to become as a result of being intentional about our self-care in 2019.
  23. Self-care. It’s a necessity to being the best caregiver you can be to your children. But it’s a low priority for many parents who wear multiple hats to maintain a career (even as Chief Executive Mom), maintain the household, and raise healthy, happy, and well-balanced children. Confession: I have been there multiple times. Albeit passive-aggressively, but definitely there. I know you may be thinking, “How can I possibly fit in one more thing in an already overcommitted schedule?” But it’s not just one more thing. In the absence of self-care, fatigue, stress and resentment set in. Your mental sanity is at stake here! [Related: 4 ways I focus on my marriage after becoming a parent] Your goal: Take a moment for yourself at least once a week. If that’s too aggressive starting out, aim for twice a month. Following is my foolproof plan to being more mindful of “me time”: Plan, Share, Do. Plan The nature of our role as “mom” or “dad” does not often allow us to be spontaneous when it comes to taking time for ourselves. After you wrap up your Sunday chores and get the kids to bed, look at the week ahead and determine when you will have an hour or two to steal for yourself. You will need to be flexible with your schedule, whether it’s Friday evening or midweek — whatever is going to be your most frictionless opportunity to get out of the house and decompress. Keep a running list of the types of activities you enjoy doing. You can plan something as simple as sneaking away to Starbucks with your new issue of O Magazine or something more intense, like a 4-hour cooking class. No matter how simple or complex, be intentional about looking ahead and planning the break, so that come the following Sunday, you won’t be kicking yourself for not making any time for yourself. [Related: To the moms running on fumes, this is how to refill the tank] Share If you say you’re going to take a break once a week, you want someone to be holding you accountable to make sure you do it. You would think spouses/partners are the best accountability partners, but their support can wane depending on the number of chores (and number of children!) you are asking them to support while you take your break. The next best thing is a close friend. Bonus if your close friend is a parent, who can be extra empathetic to what you are trying to do. Let them know what you are trying to do, why you are trying to do it, and to check in with you midweek to make sure you are still on track for your mindful “me time.” Do This is where the rubber meets the road, where you actually have to follow through on the plans that you made. You may have to turn the other cheek to a sink full of dishes, a toddler meltdown, and an empty fridge waiting for you to grocery shopping. No matter the exhaustion and to-do list demons working against you, fight back! Take that moment for yourself. One hour away from the house is all the rejuvenation that most parents need. Don’t delay: Enact this plan today. Being more mindful of your “me time” is a win-win for the entire household. Put yourself first, because when you do, you will truly be the best perfectly imperfect parent you can be, and your family will thank you for it.

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