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A (somewhat) balanced schedule

Eighteen months ago, I bought a house, moved to a new state, then had my third baby. Maternity leave was survivable (and even lovely at moments), but going back to work left my head spinning. I was managing three different childcare plans, trying to prove myself at work, commuting into the city a couple times a week, trying to stay on top of  (and learn about) household management, all while nursing a baby and still being mom to my two other boys.

I pretty much abandoned any sense of a social life, particularly since it required that I make new friends. That wasn’t a happening thing — most of the time I was showing up 20 minutes late, unshowered, with tears pricking at the back of my eyeballs. I just couldn’t get it together.

But a few months ago, things started to get better. I started to feel like I could breathe again. I committed to exercise, therapy, and regular showers. I started to design ways to get social interaction and a bit of pleasure built into my life. But after a year of barely surviving, I got a bit overzealous. After finding myself triple booked or just completely overwhelmed by the pace of my life, I decided I needed rules. Hard and fast rules. They require self-control, but they’ve worked well for me as I learn to balance being a working mom of three little ones, who wants a little something left for herself and her marriage. Here they are:

Everything goes on cal. I’ve put all of my meetings/appointments on my calendar for years, but now I add anything that HAS to get done. If I need to process the pre-school registration by a certain day, it gets scheduled. If I schedule a babysitter, her hours are on my calendar. Basically, I don’t rely on my memory at all anymore.

I’ve started respecting my limits. I have a very limited ability to manage “extras.” Getting real about this has helped tremendously.  I consider extras to be things like dinner with friends, special outings with the kids, being Mystery Reader in my kindergartner’s class. Anything that is a one-off and requires a commitment. I found that I can swing 1 or 2 “extras” per week. When I want to plan a get-together with a friend, I don’t look for my next possible opening. I look for the next week that isn’t already scheduled with its allotment of extras, and find a time in there. Sometimes that means scheduling a month out, but I would rather do that than make plans that I’ll ultimately be too overloaded to keep or enjoy.

I don’t kick the can down the road. If I have to do something – whether because it’s a straight-up obligation, or because I really want to — I schedule it and then do it. Cancelling only causes stress, wastes energy on scheduling/re-scheduling, and annoys people.  If I don’t really have/want to do it, I make it clear to the other person that it’s not going to happen for a long while. Kind of a “sorry, not sorry” situation. Mama doesn’t want to implode.

My goals are flexible. Life tends to blow up a lot around here (sick child, urgent work meeting, snow day, etc), so my routines need to be flexible. I found that saying “I’ll work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday” doesn’t really work for me, but I MUST exercise regularly. Every month, I commit to a number of workouts for the month (usually 12-15), depending on my travel schedule, kid obligations, workload and more. Then it’s up to me how I get those workouts in. I track them all in a fitness app to keep myself honest. I do the same “monthly goal” plan with anything I’m trying to focus on: home-cooked dinners, long chats with my siblings, quality time with each of my sons. I keep the goals modest, reachable, and flexible, and only have a couple each month.

This is working for me, though I’m interested in how other busy people are managing to stay sane…

June 14, 2018 0 comments Read More

My Kate Spade

It was the summer of 2010, and I was just home from my honeymoon, thin and tanned, feeling fresh as I embarked on the unknowns of married life. I felt perfectly 29. On my lunch break, I would walk down 5th Ave the ten blocks or so to the Kate Spade store and look at dresses that were adorable but too bold for me, overpriced baubles, and the most perfect purse I had ever seen. It was black leather with gold hardware. It zipped and folded over with a smooth magnetic closure. It had two small carrying handles, but also — sigh — a detachable shoulder strap. It was perfection. It was everything I wanted to be. It was also well over two hundred dollars.

After weeks, or maybe even months, of lunchtime rendezvous with this beautiful bag, I told my husband about it. “Why don’t you buy it?” he said. My heart leapt. Did he really think I deserved this bag? Me? Would it be that easy? Could I walk into the store alone, and walk out with The Bag? I felt a pulse of love for my husband, who would treat me this way, and a swell in my chest for who I might become.

It escapes my memory how, but I was able to get a discount coupon that brought the price down by fifty dollars or so. Walking into the store, I was all nerves. Worried the coupon wouldn’t work, or they wouldn’t have my bag in stock. But they did. And it did. And, feeling overwhelmed by my newfound glamour, I walked out of the store with my bag, a mere ten minutes after I went in. It was wrapped in tissue in a box in a shopping bag, and I could not wait to get back to work and take a peek. Walking up 5th Ave in the sunshine, I felt like an adult. A fancy, beautiful adult.

I carried that bag every day. I was happy. I loved my job. I had lots of fun girl friends. I had some beautiful clothing, and a gorgeous haircut. When it was nice out, I would walk all the way home, up 5th Ave, through Central Park, and over to our apartment on 75th and Columbus. I couldn’t believe my life. I’d never imagined.

In the fall, I visited Kate Spade again. And there on the white lacquer display table were the most beautiful shoes I’d ever seen. Gold sandals with a tiny smoothed wedge heel, a very thin ankle strap with buckle, and a wider straight toe strap with a flat bow design. I tried them on. They looked like heaven on my very long, narrow foot. They fit, a coup for this size 10.5. Nothing pretty ever fit my foot. I bought them. They were me.

I remember the first night I wore them. To a work party on 31st street. After the party, I didn’t want to wait for the elevator and decided to walk down the concrete back stairs. On my way, I slipped a bit and scraped the back of the shoe, removing the gold and laying in a small gash. My heart sank.

Ultimately it didn’t matter. The shoes carried me through many many months, worn daily through the fall and spring and summer of 2011. I wore them to my great uncle’s funeral, and my mother cooed about them. Somehow, she said, those shoes just scream Bailey. They’re perfect. I wore them on dates to expensive restaurants in the Village with my husband. I wore them to work with shorts, crisp tank tops, lightweight cardigans and appropriate jewelry. I wore them with my pink Theory dress that made me feel like a knockout. I wore them to the holistic doctor who removed my IUD, and walked back to the office with a mixture of terror and excitement pulsing through me. I wore them in Block Island with my family and my coral button down dress and the gemstone necklace my husband had given me in St. Lucia for our first anniversary. I wore them every chance I got.

That summer was sunshine and lightness, the excitement of abundance, and all the loveliness that was still to come.

————-

First went the bag. In the fall, I sadly transferred my items into a backpack, which just made more sense. Even weight distribution across my back, no extra heaviness from chunky hardware to exhaust me even further. Then the weather got cold, and I needed supportive shoes anyway. I put my golden lovelies away for spring. Being pregnant was not nearly as fun, nor glamorous. I wore Uggs all winter, and increasingly larger polyester tents shirts.

I still do have the bag. That beautiful bag. I bring it out on dates when I dress up, though most times, to be honest, I ask my husband if I can bring nothing but my phone (he covers the wallet and keys) because it makes me feel light and unencumbered. Freedom from bags is the big luxury these days.

The shoes. Those are gone. In the spring of 2013, I had lost the baby weight and regained my sense of self and style (after a very cruel post-partum period) and I delighted in wearing my old friends again. They were pretty scuffed, but they still looked lovely to me. When one ankle strap broke, I repaired it with duct tape and kept wearing them — not every day, but when I could. One day, as I was crossing the street, the front of the shoe caught on the curb, and my foot tore through the front cross-toe strap. There was no way to repair them. It was over. I sadly put them in my closet.

We had two more children and moved twice before I tossed them. I don’t know why I kept them around so long. They were unwearable, but in some far corner of my heart, I halfway hoped they’d magically repair themselves and I could be that sparkly version of myself again.

June 8, 2018 0 comments Read More

Simple ways to give more

Whenever I hear about a natural disaster, I wish I could be one of those people who jumps on an airplane to volunteer with relief efforts. But at this stage in my life – with three tiny kids and a full time job –  I frequently feel like I’m drowning in my own responsibilities. Sometimes I feel like I’m going to explode from the constant mental rattling of my endless to-dos.

And yet, I’m compelled to do something to add some love and kindness into the world. So until I can make more of a concerted effort, I’m doing small things every day, like…

* Donating to GoFundMe campaigns that inspire me. Sometimes it’s someone I have a connection to, and other times I just flip through campaigns and send off a random $20 to someone who is struggling.

* Taking my kids out with chalk to write (draw) messages of kindness, hope and love on sidewalks.

* Using SmileAlways to make sure all of my eligible Amazon purchases result in a donation. Totally brainless way to give a tiny more.

* Making room for people, whether they “deserve” it or not. You know, like letting people cut in front of me in traffic.

* Sending cards. I think actually paper cards are underrated, and love sending them randomly to friends and family.

* Dropping change on the ground. This one is fun. Just grab a few handfuls of coins and sprinkle them about in the town center. You’ll give other people the excitement of finding a shiny new quarter or a heads-up penny.

* Bringing extra snacks to the playground in case another parent forgot.

* Let it go. Even when I’m absolutely most definitely right 😉

I know these are tiny little efforts in a world that needs so much help, but I figure doing something is better than doing nothing. Please share your ideas too!

 

 

October 5, 2017 0 comments Read More

My post-partum uniform (for winter babies)

My friend Debra is about to have her first child. I sent her my “greatest hits” list for the baby registry, then added a couple of nursing shirts I like. Minutes later, I got her reply: “Now THIS is the stuff no one has told me about! I’m shopping for…

October 4, 2017 0 comments Read More

What I hate about natural peanut butter

A decade ago, I started switching to cleaner, healthier foods. It wasn’t too tough, except for one thing: I loved Skippy peanut butter, passionately. In all of its sugar-laden, hydrogenated glory. In a fridge full of fresh kale and berries, homemade almond milk (oh, those were the days…), and grass-fed butter, I…

October 19, 2016 0 comments Read More