Check out my new e-book!


If you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s because I’ve been busy with this:

haveitall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share my journey as a working mother because I’d tried it all:  staying home full-time, working part-time from home, part-time outside the home, full-time outside the home and finally full-time from home.  In every situation, I made every possible mistake along the way (did I mention I learn things the hard way?), and so my hope is that YOU can benefit from my mistakes!  At least you’ll feel you’re not alone.

Along with my story, I share some great tips and resources, and follow up with self-coaching exercises you can do to achieve YOUR ideal work/family balance!  Here’s what others are saying about the book:

“Jenny opens up to us with her own story that is so very honest and touches your heart. It made me feel it’s okay to be myself and nothing more or less. I would definitely recommend to others! It’s a must read for not only working parents but anyone that has self doubt themselves.  I’d love to hear more of Jenny’s stories. They are truly inspiring.” Nozomi Morgan

“I would absolutely recommend this book to other working parents. Jenny provides simple strategies and ideas that I think would be helpful to many working parents.  It was perfect timing for me to read this right now! I would actually like for my husband to read it too! I felt like I could really relate to some of Jenny’s experiences which made me keep reading!” Lori Goldsmith

Get your copy of Have It All:  You CAN Balance Work and Family today.  And if you like it, please leave me a review on Amazon.  Thanks!

 

 

Can working moms really have it all?


In talking with my clients and friends, it seems there’s one wish most of us have in common:  to “have it all”.  We  want quality time with our kids, to be a real, caring, patient mother.  We also want a career – not just a job, not just to help with the family finances, but something fulfilling – a purpose.  If not our mothers, certainly our grandmothers were expected to feel that being a mother was purpose enough.  And it is.  But even my grandmothers worked outside the home when their children were older.  Womanhood, and motherhood, is fraught with changing seasons.  Sometimes we can work this to our advantage.  Because I didn’t have kids until my 30’s, I had already been Mary Tyler Moore or Ally McBeal, the independent career woman.  I chose to stay home with my kids, feeling that I’d waited a long time for this experience, and I wanted to enjoy it fully.

That decision was immensely rewarding and unexpectedly difficult.  I missed interacting with other adults.  I felt guilty that I wasn’t contributing financially.  However, I knew it was a season, and that I would go back to work as soon as my kids were in school.  I was a teacher, so I assumed this would be somewhat easier than it is for many working moms; after all, I would basically working the same hours and days that they were in school.  This worked well when I was an Instructional Coach because I didn’t have any “take home” work.  However, when we moved for my husband’s career, I landed back in the classroom, which was much harder.  I felt like I had to make an almost nightly choice between helping my kids with their homework or doing mine – lesson planning and grading.  In the end, I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job anywhere:  I was emotionally drained, all my patience used up at school and none left for the two kids dearest to me – my own.  And I felt like I was always behind at work – that I could always be working harder, doing more.  It wasn’t working.  Something needed to change.
This is the dilemma of so many working moms:  how to have a fulfilling, rewarding career, and be a fantastic (not just ok) mom to their kids.  But there are inevitable trade-offs.  Rewarding careers often require a lot of commitment.  Is it possible to “have it all”?  Maybe not in the purest sense.  There are only 24 hours in the day, and we must make choices about how we spend them.  That being said, when we stop to really examine our priorities and we’re willing to sacrifice a few things that don’t measure up, we can come very, very close.  Employers are becoming more and more open to alternative working arrangements; a couple of my close friends negotiated a job-share when their kids were little so that they could each work half-time and spend the other half at home.  More and more companies are open to telecommuting or offering more quality childcare options.  Also, many women are figuring out how to work from home.  While writing this post, I ran across an infographic stating that “96% of professional women believe having it all is attainable”.  With that kind of optimism, surely many women have figured this one out.

In the next few weeks, I’ll post some questions to ask yourself when planning your ideal work/family balance, and ideas for making it a reality.

Mothers Returning to Work – How to Ease the Transition


When I was a teacher, this time of year meant returning to work after having my summer off with the kids.  Though it was never as hard as the first time, each fall was a difficult transition for the whole family:  suddenly I was not there full-time to clean the house, prepare meals, do laundry, buy groceries, etc.  Though heading back to work after being home with kids is a challenging time, there are several things moms can do to ease the transition.

Plan and Practice Ahead of Time

The transition will be easier on everyone if there is time to adjust to the new routine.  If your children are not yet in school, research and commit to a childcare option that is comfortable for everyone.  Transitioning a breast-fed baby to a bottle will be less stressful if you give it some time – you don’t want to worry about whether or not your child is going hungry on your first day back to work.  Give yourself and your child plenty of time to take care of learning new skills like potty training.  It will go better if the pressure’s off.  In the days leading up to the Big Day, practice getting up and dressed by the time everyone needs head out the door.  Practicing ahead of time can instill confidence in kids and ease anxiety for mom.

Enlist Help

Starting back to work part-time is a great option for moms if it is available, but often it is not.  If you’ll be working as many hours as your spouse, make sure he knows that you will need an equal partner in household chores.     Most husbands are more likely to respond positively if presented with a request for help instead of  a demand.  Make a list of what needs to get done and divide it up based on personal preferences.  Maybe your husband is a master with the vacuum, but isn’t big on cleaning bathrooms.  Older kids can pitch in, too.  Even if they are ambivalent about mom going back to work, you can sweeten the deal with an allowance or reward for completing chores.

Go Easy On Yourself

This is the most important part!  It seems that guilt and motherhood just go together; stay-at-home moms often feel guilty that they are not contributing to the family’s income, and working moms feel guilty about kids having to go to daycare, or just spending less time with them.  Remember that quality, not quantity, counts when it comes to time with your kids.  It’s better for kids to get a few hours per day with a happy, fulfilled mom than a whole day with a resentful one that doesn’t really enjoy staying home.   Also, give yourself permission not to have a perfectly clean house or home-baked cookies for your kids’ snack.  Trying to do it all is the fast lane to burnout.  Finally, remember to make time for yourself – for exercise, relaxation or girls’ night out.  By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of your kids’ mom, and that benefits the whole family.
Need help balancing work and family?  Visit newfrontierslifecoaching.com

How Cleaning Green Can Improve Your Life


You might be wondering: what does cleaning green have to do with making a better life for myself?  There are several compelling reasons to “green up” your cleaning routine:

1)       Household chemicals can disrupt hormones, cause breathing problems, risk the potential for poisoning children and pets, and are downright dangerous. Read about it here. I first became interested in cleaning green when my son was a toddler; he could climb, unlock and satisfy his never-ending curiosity with alarming skill.  I was convinced he would be poisoned and began seeking out safer alternatives.

2)      Chemicals are bad for the planet.  If you are like me, you can only block out the knowledge that we are polluting our planet at an alarming rate for so long without feeling a constant undercurrent of guilt.  I have found that, even if it means some sacrifice, the closer I live to my principles and ideals, the happier and more content I am.  You’ve heard the expression:  “Be the change you want to see in the world”.

3)      It’s cheaper!  The cleaning companies would have us believe we need to spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year to keep our houses clean, fresh smelling and germ-free.  The truth is that you can effectively clean, deodorize, AND kill germs naturally, for pennies on the dollar.  Who wouldn’t rather spend money on fun stuff than cleaning products?

4)      It’s easier than you think:

  • First, let me say this:  if you are skeptical, I was too.  My aunt had been telling me for years that you can clean your house with nothing more than white vinegar.  (Ha!  Maybe HER house, I thought – it stays clean all the time!  I have kids, dogs, dirt!  I must KILL GERMS!)  Turns out vinegar kills bacteria, mold and germs.  It is also a natural deodorizer. To use vinegar, just mix with equal parts of water and put in a re-usable spray bottle.  Vinegar can also be added in the laundry or mixed with water for mopping wood or tile floors.  Thanks, Aunt Shirley! *Note:  if you have granite or marble, don’t use vinegar: the acidity can erode the surface.  I did a little research and found that rubbing alcohol is safe for granite.  Just mix with equal parts of water in a spray bottle. 
  • Don’t like the smell of vinegar?  Buy a little bottle of your favorite essential oil from the health food store and make cleaning your house a spa experience!  I like lavender, peppermint or eucalyptus. 
  • Need something with more muscle?  Replace scrubbing cleanser with baking soda to scrub bathtubs, sinks or ovens.
  • Replace carpet deodorizer with good old baking soda.  It’s the main ingredient anyway.
  • Clean the microwave:  just put a coffee mug or measuring cup of water in and set the timer for 5 minutes.  The steam from the boiling water loosens stuck-on food so you can just wipe it off.
  • Invest in a steam mop and disinfect the floor naturally!

Though I’ve been cleaning this way for many years, I wish I had discovered all of these tips sooner.  When I started cleaning green, my son’s frequent ear infections disappeared.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but I swear we are all healthier now.  Plus, we’ve saved hundreds of dollars on cleaning products, aren’t washing harmful chemicals into our water system, and are re-using the same spray bottles, cutting way down on plastic to be recycled.  Have any green cleaning tips of your own?  Share in the comments!

 

Stop eating Oreos while brushing your teeth!


So we’ve been talking about careers a lot lately…but (luckily) that’s only part of life.  When we’re not at work, (and for some of us, even when we are), we’re at home sweet home.  Since you spend a lot of time there, the environment you create in your home is an important part of your overall state of well-being.

Out of habit from having summers off as a teacher, as well as getting the majority of visits from family during the summer, I tend to do my deep cleaning and organizing this time of year.  It’s an activity that I enjoy and look forward to, though this wasn’t always the case.  I used to struggle a lot with keeping a clean, organized house.  First of all, I just wasn’t interested; it seemed I could always find better things to do.  Then, when two kids came along, things got really messy!  A friend recently posted a card on Facebook that said, “Cleaning the house while the kids are home is like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos!”  Pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

Learn a few tricks from the experts:

Luckily, several years ago I stumbled upon Fly Lady (Funny name, I know.  FLY stands for First Love Yourself.  If you don’t understand the connection between loving yourself and keeping a nice house, read her website.  Really – good stuff.)  If you are not familiar with her, think of Fly Lady as a sort of grandmotherly next-door neighbor who’s been-there-done-that and figured it all out.  She says to think of housecleaning not as a chore, but as an act of gratitude for your beautiful home.  (If your home is not beautiful to you, make it that way: paint rooms, buy new throw pillows, fresh flowers, whatever your budget allows.  Having a house that pleases you is much more motivating when it comes to keeping it clean.)  Fly Lady has great tips for simplifying cleaning and breaking it down into daily tasks that only take a few minutes to do.

I have a friend who was so grateful for me introducing her to Fly Lady that I felt it was the best gift I’d given her in a long time.  She even bought some of Fly Lady’s cleaning products. (She has a special toilet brush, you see…)

Call in the troops

Another way to make cleaning more manageable is to delegate.  When we bought our current home, which is larger than any of the previous ones, I was nervous about being able to keep it clean while working full-time.  I told my husband and kids that if we were going to buy this house, they had to help me, and they do.  They key is to find which tasks everyone likes and is good at. (I know, you’re thinking they won’t want to do any, but trust me, some people really like vacuuming!)  An added benefit to having the kids help out is that it’s good for them.  Studies show that kids who have chores at home grow up to be more successful in school, as well as later in life.  It makes sense: they develop a work ethic, learn organization and responsibility.  Even the tiniest ones can pick their clothes up and put them in the laundry, put their toys in the toy box, etc.  Older kids can do most other cleaning chores, if you show them how.  Just remember it’s better to have help than to have everything done perfectly.

Simplify

Keep it simple by getting rid of clutter.  Fly Lady says you should give away, recycle or throw away 27 things every week.  I admit I don’t always remember to do this, but I am a notorious purger – I love to go through closets and rid them of anything that hasn’t been worn in a year.  My sister in law once enlisted me to help her throw things away because she knew I would help her get rid of her clutter.   But what about sentimental keepsakes, you say?  A good rule of thumb is, keep it only if it’s important enough to pass on to your children someday.

Break it down

I used to have a designated cleaning day.  Then, during one particularly busy week, I told my kids we would have to clean their rooms one day and vacuum the next.  Later, my son announced that he liked cleaning better when I “broke it down into chunks”.  I’m all about helping my son to like cleaning (my future daughter in law will thank me someday…), and do you know what?  I discovered I like doing it better in chunks, too -that way one room is always freshly cleaned!

Now, when I clean, it really is an act of gratitude.  My clean, organized house relaxes me and frees me to be more productive.

How About You?

Is your home a refuge for you?  If not, what can you do to make it more relaxing?  What are your cleaning/organizing tips?  Share in the comments!

Next week:  How to Clean Green

Need help organizing your life? Check out newfrontierslifecoaching.com