Magic in the Rain

Disney in the rainThis year for Aubrey’s 5th Birthday we decided to “do Disney”. One does not merely “go” to Disney you must “do it”, complete with special experiences, Fast Passes, Disney attire, and Mickey Mouse ice cream treats. We decided to do it with my parents (who live near Orlando), my Aunt Cathy, my daughter’s best friend since she was a baby, and my colleague Breanna and her crew. We took off for an extended weekend and bought two day passes to the parks.

The first day the weather was gorgeous…a December day in central Florida at its finest, sunny and warm with no hint of winter chill. Apparently everyone else thought it was great too, because the park was absolutely packed. We had to stand in long lines for everything – rides, snacks, tables, bathrooms, etc. Despite my normal modesty I nursed the baby everywhere. When an infant is hungry, walking across the park to stand in a line for the one nursing lounge is just not an option. We waited 60 minutes to ride Small World – normally a ride you can just walk on anytime. It was a fun day, but by the time we left I was ready for a break from the crowds. I live in the middle of a big City, but Disney crowded is on a whole other level.

The second day’s weather was the complete opposite. Before we even got to the park it was somber gray and pouring rain – so hard I thought we might have to pull over. Despite the fact that our tickets would have expired I still found myself questioning whether we should turn back. A day in the soaking rain with two little kids seemed like a big mistake. My imagination simply could not picture how this was going to end well. We all talked it over and I called Disney customer service to see if an exception could be made on account of the weather. In the nicest, happiest way possible, they said no.

So we decided to push through. Breanna was already there and had texted me that there were NO LINES and her boys had just finished riding a roller coaster four times. Their rain gear was completely soaked through, but they were having fun. Eric did his best to convince Aubrey it would be like Ariel’s under the sea ride all day, ha! 😂 – and she agreed we should do it. I think we were all less sure than we acted that this was a good idea, but it was in the car we all agreed to give it our best shot.

Sure enough, as soon as we arrived and stepped out of the car we were wet. Our shoes and hair were soaked by the time we got to the front entrance to the park. We were wet and sloshing and yet… moving fast. Breanna was right- no lines anywhere! We did everything we wanted to do and zipped around, no Fast Passes needed. Our families didn’t even have time to coordinate meeting up on Day 2- we were too busy hopping from awesome ride to awesome ride in our separate corners of the Magic Kingdom. It was so much fun!!!

Later that evening we met up for dinner at the Rainforest Cafe at Disney Springs and with frizzy wet hair and smudged mascara we raised our cocktails and toasted to “Disney in the rain!” It was perfect – a day I will remember so fondly.

I’ve been thinking about this experience and how I’m usually a Day 1 kind of person. I like when the sun is shining and conditions are predictable. I like being warm, dry, and comfortable.

Yet life keeps inviting me to Day 2 experiences…

To press forward in moments that don’t make sense when everything in my natural self wants to cubby up and wait out the storm.

I’m not a get up and go girl when it’s raining. I’m a fair weather chic all the way! And yet… real life means sometimes you’ve just got to go for it and brave the weather. I think there are some parallels to being a full-time working mom in America right now. It’s not exactly 75 degrees and sunny – our company maternity and paternity leave policies are severely lacking, hard-working women still get “mommy tracked” for having kids, and we’ve got a long way to go before society values the hard work of parenting as much as we value the 9-5 jobs. In some workplaces it’s raining – a lot.

But life is too short to wait out the storm. And despite the less than ideal conditions, for those who persist there are real rewards – we build our personal and professional capacity (and resume), develop resilience, and learn that we are able to handle more than we ever dreamed. The great Walt Disney liked to say, if you can dream it, you can do it. Sometimes for me the practice comes first, more like:

If you can do it, dream it.

I think it’s a sweet secret about Disney that for the die-hards who show up in their yellow ponchos with Ziploc sealed personal belongings and waterproof backpacks ready to face the elements – they find they get the magic all to themselves.

A Jammie Kind of Day

Trisha's FamilyToday’s post is brought to you by my dear friend and Mom Boss Trisha Anderson! Trisha is a mother of four children and also an entrepreneur. Along with her husband, she runs four businesses under the group name VISIONful to equip people, organizations, and communities to fulfill their vision and purpose. Trisha is also a woman of faith and a servant-leader.

I am having a jammie kind of day :).

Christmas is in the air….my favorite time of the year. This is the time when many begin to unwind, reflect on the year, sip hot cocoa and egg nog, and fill the home with family and friends and lots of love and laughter. This sounds like the perfect holiday or to some maybe even a dream right? Well for me this sounds more like a dream especially during this time of the year.

Honestly, from November until the end of December it’s more like the time of the year when I have to scramble to make sure I participate in all 4 of my children’s holiday performances and activities at school. This is the time when I have to sign up to bring cookies and treats to all their Thanksgiving lunches and Christmas parties. (By the way, I always pick cookies since it’s usually the easiest thing to grab from the grocery store while trying my best to push my 1 year old in those big clunky car-like grocery carts.) Why are those things so hard to push anyway?!

This is the time when I have to make sure I am being a good mother by begging the dentist office to take 4 kids on the same day when they only have 1 appointment left for the entire year. This is the time of the year when I have to hunt down where the kids put their gloves, scarfs, and hats yesterday so they don’t freeze when they go outside today. I brought my youngest daughter to school the other day and once I got her in the classroom, I realized she had her shoes on the wrong feet, had some crust in her eye, and had socks on her hands as gloves. I made every effort to avoid the look in her teachers’ eyes. I swapped her shoes, cleaned out her eyes, gave her a kiss and quickly made my exit.

As I walked out the door I heard her say to her teacher, “look at my sock gloves”…OMG I just kept walking at that point. I still don’t know how I didn’t realize I had put socks on her hands.

Later that same day my little sister and a friend of mine asked what I wanted to do for my birthday. My birthday falls after Thanksgiving but before Christmas-right in the peak of the holiday season. In the past I usually say, “Go to dinner with my girls”, or “Go to the movies”. Without hesitation though, I answered them and said

“All I really want to do for my birthday is to stay in my jammie’s, eat pizza, watch Netflix, and drink cherry icee’s all day.”

This mom of 4 was in desperate need of a jammie kind of day! As I am writing this now, I realize how much I was in need of a day like that in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle. When my birthday came around, I took the whole day to do absolutely nothing.  Well almost nothing- I confess I did spend a few hours preparing a year-end report for my businesses before anyone else woke up, but to my defense I did it in my jammie’s as I laid in the bed. That day I stayed in bed until 1:00 pm in the afternoon. (Hey don’t judge me.. this was MY Jammie Day.) My husband brought me breakfast in bed, my oldest realized I wasn’t budging so she cooked lunch and she brought me lunch in bed. After I finally got up, I took a shower, and you know what I did next? I put on more jammie’s! This was the first time I had been so intentional about taking a day for me….oh and it blessed me tremendously!

Having four kids and four businesses, there is always something or someone that needs my attention. Maybe some of you reading this often struggle with a similar juggling act during the holidays or other times of the year. My advice to you when things get a little crazy is to just take a day for yourself ….better yet take a Jammie Day! When the Lord blesses me and my husband to be able to hire a full staff team at VISIONful, one of the perks will be that we offer paid Jammie Days to all our employees!!  When are you going to take your next Jammie Day?

 

 

Making Peace with Mom Guilt

Today’s post is brought to you by my friend and super mom Breanna Lathrop. She is an amazing mom of three awesome kids – Porter, Micah, & Selah. She is also chief operating officer and a family nurse practitioner for the Good Samaritan Health Center. Enjoy!

I’m going to count today as a win. It’s the Thursday one week before Thanksgiving and the second to last day of school before break. I knew today would be crazy a month ago when I started getting emails from the room moms about Thanksgiving parties. Room moms. I am really thankful for the folks who take that on but if I’m honest, I often feel like the concept of “room mom” was specifically invented to remind the rest of us of our inferior mothering. I dutifully paid the fees and signed up for my dessert contribution. I actually did both to make up for the fact that I am never going to be room mom.

By 6:30 in the morning I’ve got 50 brownie candy corn creations that look like turkeys on trays and dinner in the crock pot and I’m out the door with our 15-month-old. I drop her off at daycare and she doesn’t cry because the teacher bribes her with a cracker (win!) and I am on time to work (win!). I’m not seeing patients today so I have a few back-to-back meetings. Then I quickly review all the incoming labs, phone messages, and emails and respond to all the most critical (win for those who got a timely response, I guess).  I leave the office at noon because the school party is at 2 pm but I have a 1 pm conference call. I get the call launched on time from my hot spot in the school parking lot and it ends before 2 pm (big win!) I carry in my tray of Pinterest-inspired turkeys and get a huge hug from my 7-year-old (biggest win!) After a thrilling hour of First Grade Thanksgiving Party, I pick up my 4-year-old from Pre-K and drive over to daycare to get the baby. The evening is the usual: playtime, dinner, bath time, homework, story time, cuddles and bedtime (win, except for the moment when I threatened to take the boys’ Legos away forever if they did not get in the bath.) Once everyone is asleep I start the famous “second shift” well known to most working moms. It’s the 8:30-11:30 pm window in which I try to catch up on the emails, results, and patient messages that didn’t get addressed during the day.

Like I said, I’m counting the day as a win but it was also filled with reminders that choosing a family and a career has consequences. My baby girl spent more time at daycare than with me today. Tomorrow is the Pre-K Thanksgiving party and I won’t be there because I am seeing patients. My husband will go with a tray of really impressive brownie turkeys but my 4-year-old still asks why I can’t go when I’m tucking him in. I am chronically behind at work, even with the nightly second shift. The guilt is always there, reminding me of what I am sacrificing.

I’ve read all sorts of articles and blogs on mom guilt which claim we just need to get rid of it. There seems to be a theme that says we should just do the best we can and feel good about it. Our work, kid’s screen time, quality of dinner, bedtime routine- just do what works for you and move on. I hear it and I want to embrace that whole-heartedly, but I can’t. My husband jokingly tells me that I will always find something to feel guilty about and I should try caring less.

Since mom guilt doesn’t seem to be something I can eliminate, I’m making peace with it. I’ve decided to accept mom guilt as a reminder of how very deeply I care.

I’ve always thought that the day I stop having a healthy fear that I could hurt someone by prescribing the wrong medicine or missing an important diagnosis is the day I should stop practicing medicine. Maybe the same is true with mothering. Rather than seeing mom guilt as a reminder of failure, I’ve decided to own it as a part of the processes of loving my family and loving my job. I’m determined to not let guilt consume me or cloud the joy of this crazy phase of life but I’m not going to beat myself up for having it either. I wouldn’t have guilt if I didn’t care. Guilt is also a reminder to re-evaluate from time-to-time. Maybe balance has been off and maybe a few simple changes can improve my family’s functioning.

For me, being a working mom means some late nights answering emails and making school party snacks. It means leaving work early to get to the class party and other days staying late to help a patient.  The balance isn’t always perfect and mom guilt is always lurking. So I’m done running from it. If I can work full-time and raise three kids, I can handle some guilt. I’ll welcome it as a reminder that having a family and a career is more than worth the balancing act.

Why Moms Stay

IMG_2181Recently Eric and I toured a local private school as part of our on-going journey to figure out where to send Aubrey for Kindergarten. As we strolled the halls during the self-guided tour time, we struck up a conversation with a parent volunteer. After a few minutes of answering our questions, she told us more about herself, “I have an eight year old girl and a two year old boy. This morning (a Saturday) as I got ready to leave the baby was crying. He didn’t want me to go. That’s always so hard…” her voice trailed off then she started again, “but I wanted to be here to do something for the school. Because I work full-time I can’t volunteer for a lot of the classroom stuff that happens during the week.”

We thanked her for being there on a Saturday and inquired about her work. It turns out she is a scientist working on curing cancer. As she spoke about her research her tired eyes sparkled and she was filled with a sudden energy. She spoke about specific cancers that are now on the decline, and risk factors that can be controlled to improve others. “I love what I do. Life can be so crazy and hard, but I really am passionate about my work. I know it’s making a difference in the world.”

I could totally relate. A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to zoom out and share about my career with Aubrey’s Pre-k class. As I talked about working at a charitable clinic that serves people who can’t afford to see a doctor, or don’t have insurance (Aubrey at my side calling on her classmates) I was reminded of why I endure the hectic schedule and long days… to make a difference. To be a part of something bigger than me that has a tangible, positive effect on the lives of other people.

These sweet moments come every once in a while… there was the time I was on a conference call with an architect planning our capital expansion project. As we talked about the vision for the new fitness center and how it would help patients with diabetes, heart disease, and other health related illnesses I looked around the room: a motley crew of people who had never done this before were working as a team and turning long-dreamed dreams into reality. It was a holy moment.

Then there was the day I came by work with the girls on a Friday morning to visit our Homeless Clinic and one of the patients stood up to share how Good Sam had completely changed his life. He was crying happy tears and saying thanks for everything – from the breakfast to the bus transportation to the medical care – he has received that not only got him on a path to healing, but also helped him secure a job. Aubrey leaned over and explained to me that he wasn’t sad; he was crying tears of joy.

There was the day Breanna and I received word that a Christian publisher was going to take a chance on two no-name first time authors who wanted to write a very esoteric book about social determinants of health. We were braced to submit our manuscript over and over again, but instead they said yes. I ran through the halls until I found her (leading a Medical Team meeting) and yelled out, “we’re going to write a book!!!”

Moms stay because we make a difference. We stay because today’s world is full of complex problems that we can help solve. We stay because the very same skills that make us good at home with our babies make us good in the board room or in the research lab. We stay because our work matters and even though we give up our free time and “me time” and well, just time in general to do it – every once in a while we have a few minutes to see the impact and remember why we work in the first place.

Evidence-Based Quitting

cartoon7633My Myers-Briggs personality profile is ENFJ. The F stands for feeling and it’s a strong F… I feel ALL the feels, and deeply.

So when I “think” about quitting, I’m more accurately “feeling” about it. Thankfully I’m married to an ISTJ (yep, the T stands for thinking), who is logical and measured in his evaluation of big decisions. Eric’s thoughtful questions remind me that quitting on a feeling is not a good way to decide. Which leads me to my suggestion for moms: evidence-based quitting.

“Evidence-based” is a term I’ve learned working in the healthcare industry for the last four years. It is: the conscientious use of current best evidence in making decisions about patient care (Sackett, Straus, Richardson, Rosenberg, & Haynes, 2000). It seeks to base decisions on evidence, specific situations, and ever-changing realities. It does not merely rely on tradition or gut feeling – although they are still considered.

I think there are some parallels for moms on how to think about the decision to stay at or quit their jobs. The decision to work inside the home vs. outside the home is so full of emotion, tradition & expectations that it can be hard to sift through it and even when you do, hard to feel confident long-term about your decision. For such a big decision, who wants to have to keep making it over and over again? That’s exhausting.

Enter, evidence-based quitting – a process of evaluation in which moms require a certain level of rigor and research before making a job decision. This could involve some or all of the following:

  • Inclusive pro/con list – In addition to your own personal assessment, talk with moms of different choices, backgrounds, and economic levels. Once you have this, take time to imagine the alternatives. Don’t allow yourself to assume the grass is greener on the other side.
  • Literature review – What do the scholarly articles and books say? What evidence is there (for and against) working outside the home?
  • Family audit – How are your kids doing? How is your overall family doing? How are you doing? Ask them for feedback.
  • Laser it – Tease out your primary reason for wanting to quit and evaluate if quitting will really resolve this tension. Are there other ways to accomplish your goal without quitting?
  • Consider the future you – While you may prefer not to work now, will you want to work later? If so, come up with a professional development plan for your time out. Work with a mentor on how to “off ramp” and “on ramp” effectively.
  • Release branch – This is something I have learned from Eric and the world of engineer personality types. They never make an important decision fast! Even once you have made your decision, “release branch” for a few weeks or months and pay attention to your thoughts, questions, concerns, doubts, etc. during that time.

A few examples of things I’ve felt real hard, but didn’t pass the evidence-based quitting test:

When I wanted to quit because, after our first child was born, I couldn’t keep the house clean… we decided to hire a cleaning service twice a month. I said to myself, Veronica, don’t quit your career over dishes and clutter.

When I wanted to quit because I didn’t feel like I was doing anything well and always dropping a ball somewhere… my loved ones reassured me that I was doing great, and that I was being too hard on myself. Don’t quit because of perfectionism.

When I wanted to quit because the demand of doctors’ appointments, kid sick days, dental cleanings, etc. didn’t jive with my meeting-heavy, face-time-requiring job… Eric agreed to be first to handle these events since he has a more flexible job. Don’t quit over kids’ schedules.

When I wanted to quit because I didn’t feel like I was getting enough quality time with the girls… we made schedule changes that allowed for more playtime before the evening bedtime routine. Don’t quit over logistics.

When I wanted to quit because work was hard, or the big grant wasn’t awarded, or the results were underwhelming, or I questioned my impact… I asked for feedback and looked for areas of improvement. Don’t quit over failure.

When I wanted to quit that time my daughter suggested we play mom and kid, and she set it up by saying “you be the kid and I’ll be the mom. When I leave for work you cry because I’m gone ok?”… or when every day (for a season) dropping her off at daycare involved tears… Eric reminded me that kids (especially mine!) have big feelings too and that daycare was great for socialization and learning. He also agreed to take the majority of drop-offs and pick-ups after that. Don’t quit over mom guilt.

While the above examples might sound silly and like an over simplification, it has been useful for me over the years in my “I can’t do this, I should just quit” moments to tease out that feeling to a specific challenge that is bringing me to that conclusion – and forcing an evidence-based process to evaluate the issue. So far (almost 5 years in to working full-time with kids), the evidence (for me) continues to point to working outside of the home.

The Shame of Outsourcing

44708423-vector-illustration-in-super-mom-concept-many-hands-working-with-very-busy-business-and-housework-paAround the time our second daughter was born, I discovered grocery delivery services. While I genuinely love grocery shopping, it gets progressively less fun the more kids you have. Part of the joy for me is perusing the shelves, reading labels, smelling a pineapple to check if it’s ripe… with two kids I’m running down the aisles, throwing as much food as I can into the cart before the baby gets fussy all the while explaining to my oldest why I am simply NOT going to purchase a Barbie doll at the grocery store. The idea that instead I could add $15-$20 to my bill and have the groceries delivered to my doorstep was life changing. It’s been six months and I haven’t looked back.

Yet for some reason every time I place an Instacart order I feel a little guilty. This seeped out recently when Eric and I pulled into our driveway just as our groceries were being delivered. Eric commented lightheartedly, “Well V, you sure have outsourced!”

I snapped back, “Well, aren’t you glad to be coming home to something to eat for lunch?”

He stammered, “uh yeah, I didn’t mean…”

“And fresh cut WATERMELON? (his favorite food)” my voice shrill and rising.

He nodded slowly.

“And what do you mean I’VE outsourced? Isn’t it that WE’VE outsourced? It’s not just my responsibility to feed the family!!!” I’m fully agitated at this point.

Eric looks bewildered, like a man who just realized he’s surrounded by landmines and isn’t sure it’s safe to move in any direction.

But Eric wasn’t being unkind or placing expectations on my shoulders. Of all people Eric is the guy who is happy to eat raw, uncut fruits and vegetables for every meal. But something had touched a nerve because deep down, I am ashamed of outsourcing. My mom, who stayed home with me and my brother, did her own grocery shopping, cleaned her own house, cooked nutritious (and delicious) hot meals every night, made our school lunches, etc. etc. Something in me believes I am supposed to do all this and work too. Having someone else do things I am capable of – like rake my leaves, wash and fold my laundry, cook family dinners, or purchase groceries – is somehow lazy.

But I’m in a season of life where outsourcing makes sense. If I try to do it all then I end up spending my precious limited time at home doing chores instead of building massive Lego castles with my daughter. Instead of catching a desperately needed weekend nap, I’d be grocery shopping. Beyond the benefit it brings to me as a working mom, the tasks I have outsourced are supporting other working-mom-owned small businesses that are allowing these moms to have flexible schedules. The people I outsource to have become friends, part of my village. I count on them, and they count on me as a customer.

The me who shows up at work has no problem outsourcing. I know there is no way to “do it all” at work. In fact, it would be foolish to do so and frustrating to the people I supervise. It would severely limit progress, create bottlenecks, and go against leadership guru Andy Stanley’s advice to “do what only YOU can do”. The real value I bring to my team is strategic thinking, vision casting, execution plans, and fundraising. I could be outside clearing kudzu off our clinic’s perimeter fence, but as my colleague likes to say, “then who’s left steering the ship?”

This all makes good sense to me until I get home and suddenly it’s personal. Outsourcing, rather than a wise move, feels like a personal failing. In the same day I can proudly confirm with a board member that I’ve selected a contractor for the landscape clean-up project, and later shrink into the corner when I admit to a friend that Fresh by Tonya is cooking dinners for my family for a while.

I don’t have a silver bullet solution to cleanse my brain of the shame game – but I do think being aware of it is half the battle. Like today, I feel a little ashamed that I’m having a cookie cake delivered with “Happy 5th Birthday Aubrey” written on it. Yet Aubrey won’t know because she’s napping… and I was able to write this blog. So if even one other working mom relates to this and is encouraged, it’s worth it. And later today when we’re singing happy birthday and eating huge slices of cookie cake with our friends, we’ll realize that outsourced cake tastes just as good.