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  1. Event

    Daycare 101: Choosing a Daycare

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    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
  2. 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.
  3. Article
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Jill* came to see me for therapy at the end of her maternity leave. She had never experienced anxiety before and was suddenly suffering from shortness of breath, racing heart, difficulty breathing and intense feelings of guilt in anticipation of returning to work and leaving her newborn son. While the experiences, conditions and circumstances of working vary, many women, like Jill, experience guilt—feeling they are causing harm or doing something wrong. Mothers often strive to meet unrealistic expectations of parenting. When they don’t reach these unattainable goals, intense feelings of guilt arise. Here are some of the most common reasons mothers feel guilty, specifically when returning to work, followed by tips on how to overcome these feelings. Guilt #1: Leaving my baby with someone else “What’s the point of having a baby if I am going to leave him every day?” Jill asked. Often working mothers feel guilty leaving their babies in the care of others. However, most children under the age of 5 years old receive childcare from someone other than a parent, whether through day care centers, nurseries or with nannies. Infants and children do well with a loving caregiver, whether a parent or another provider. In fact, your child may actually benefit from a healthy and loving relationship with another adult. Furthermore, research suggests that using childcare can have social, psychological and financial benefits for both children and parents. Guilt #2: I’m not good enough Many mothers strive for perfection, which sets them up to feel disappointed, frustrated and ashamed. Rebecca* was looking forward to returning to work after being on maternity leave with her newborn son and toddler but soon discovered that she was not the same employee as before. It was no longer realistic for her to be the first one in the office and the last to leave. Whether you are elated or anxious to be back at work, it is important to be realistic and patient with yourself. You are not the same person as you were before you left, and that is okay. Additionally, you are returning to work with new skills gained in motherhood, such as multitasking, delegation, time-management, saying “no” and fully committing when you say “yes.” Guilt #3: Failing at work-life balance When you think of work-life balance you probably think of equality in both work and life. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Instead, think about work-life balance in more flexible and realistic terms—sometimes work triumphs over life and other times life wins over work. When you are at work, try to be 100% focused. When you’re home, try to be 100% present—don’t check work emails or take work calls. If the work-life wins and losses feel about even, then you have achieved work-life balance. Keep in mind that working is not the same as self-care. You still need time for yourself, whether taking a workout class, grabbing dinner with friends or squeezing in a manicure. Try these tips when returning to work: Choose all of your outfits for the week before returning, ensuring the clothing fits your body now. If you are breastfeeding, practice pumping at home. Find out the best place to pump at work and pack all of your supplies the night before. When coworkers ask how you are doing, have one short and positive line ready, such as “It’s good to be back.” Take breaks and call your partner or supportive person to hear a friendly voice Place a photo of your baby on your desk. Ask your caregiver to occasionally send photos, but try not to FaceTime. Learn to say “no” and not over-commit. Spend quality time with your baby when you return home—the laundry and dishes can wait. Take time for yourself. Find your own version of balance. * Names and identifying information have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
  11. As a mom of a rambunctious 3½-year-old girl and super-active 6-year-old boy and working full-time as a partner in family law, I’m often told that I “do it all.” The seemingly praiseworthy concept, while flattering, in no way rids me of mother’s guilt that plagues many of us who work outside the home. At all hours of the day, thoughts of "What experience did I miss out on today?" will creep across my desk, like when my son tells me about a class celebration that I had to miss due to a client meeting or court. That being said, my children know that “mom works” to help finance a lifestyle where more things are possible than not, and I know they love me for that. So, how to strike a balance? Here are some things I have done to ensure that I’m as involved as I can be without risking my day job. Take charge of the classroom. While this seems counterintuitive, being a room parent is not as labor intensive as one may think. I send class emails from my work email (many of which are just forwarded requests from other parents or school organizations) so I can be on top of events and needs at any point of the day. We created a classroom website on Shutterfly which makes it easy to communicate with the other parents. Not only has this kept me involved and aware, it’s allowed for me to get to know the other parents, which is key to staying connected. Look for special one-time opportunities to come to class and commit the time to your calendar. My son’s kindergarten class had “mystery readers” every Friday. Knowing the one day I could come and surprise my son by reading to his classmates way in advance allowed for me to schedule court and meetings around that one hour. Don’t overcommit. While I want to be a part of every parent organization and fundraising effort for my son’s school (a sign of my Type A personality), that’s entirely unrealistic. Just as you can’t donate to every philanthropic organization that comes your way, pick one volunteer organization with your kid’s school to get involved with, maybe during a time of year when you know your job may be slower. That way, you can feel connected but not worried that you aren’t getting your work completed. Katy Mickelson, her husband, Kory, and their two children live in Roscoe Village, a community they love and are proud to be a part of. Katy is a partner in the divorce and family law group at Beermann Pritikin Mirabelli Swerdlove LLP, where she has been practicing law since 2005.
  12. While it may feel like children require an outpouring of funds, here are several child-related tax breaks that may allow you to save some on your taxes. 1. Dependent exemption: You are entitled to a personal exemption for each person claimed on your return. For 2017 this means you reduce your taxable income by $4,050 per exemption on your federal return and $2,175 per exemption on your Illinois return. The savings are these amounts times your tax rates. Note that the exemption phases out for higher-income taxpayers on the federal return. For married taxpayers, the phase out starts at $313,800 and is completely phased out at $436,300. 2. The child tax credit: You may be able to reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17. A qualifying child for this credit is someone who meets the qualifying criteria of six tests: age, relationship, support, dependent, citizenship and residence. The credit is gradually reduced as a taxpayer's income increases. The phase out begins at the following thresholds and is reduced by $50 for each $1,000 of income over the threshold. $55,000 for married couples filing separately $75,000 for single, head of household and qualifying widow(er) filers $110,000 for married couples filing jointly 3. The child and dependent care credit: If all parents on the return have earned income you can claim a 20–35% credit (based on income) on up to $3,000 of expenses paid for one qualifying person, or up to $6,000 of expenses paid for two or more qualifying persons. Qualifying persons are children under 13. Qualified expenses include day care, nannies, preschool, day camp and aftercare. The name, address and social security number or EIN of the provider are required to claim this credit. 4. The Illinois education credit: You can claim a credit for 25% of your K-12 student’s qualified expenses in excess of $250 up to a maximum of $500 per return. Qualified expenses include tuition, book fees and lab fees paid directly to the school. 5. The IL tax deduction for 529 contributions: Illinois allows a deduction of up to $20,000 for married taxpayers ($10,000 for single taxpayers) contributions to Illinois 529 plans (BrightStart, Bright Directions or Illinois College!). You will save 3.75% (the Illinois tax rate) on whatever you contribute. As each taxpayer’s situation is unique, please consult with your tax advisor to determine which of these savings opportunities you can utilize. Lisa Niser is a Chicago mom who has been helping families with their taxes and financial planning for over 20 years. She helps many NPN members with their nanny tax needs as well. Visit www.lisaniser.com to learn more about her practice.

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