Hello, dear Reader! It has been too long since my last post. I’ll admit it. I thought it would be easy peasy to keep up with a blog and an infant. Boy, was I wrong. I kept thinking it would be tomorrow that I would pick up my pen or open up my laptop. Tomorrow…and tomorrow..and tomorrow. So many tomorrows have passed that my infant is now a toddler. I guess it is finally “tomorrow” and time to get reacquainted.
1. I like writing lists except the kind that gets washed off my hand before I get the chance to use it.
2. I believe in fairies.
3. I love riding on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
4. I am an accidental gardener. I’m not sure how I get things to grow, but they do.
5. I love collecting recipes and cookbooks, especially vintage Betty Crocker.
6. I have a rather large extended family.
7. I am a long time fan of Days of Our Lives.
8.I drink my coffee black 98% of the time. The rest of the time make mine a double mocha yes on the whipped cream!
In this modern world, having a baby means needing a lot of “stuff”. The baby industry rakes in billions of dollars each year selling everything from carseat/stroller combos to teeny tiny hangers for wee little dresses. Parents and well-wishers spend a lot of money on that new little bundle of joy for both the necessities and extras. One of my favorite baby related websites has a handy dandy calculator to estimate your costs for baby’s first year –not including your hospital or birth center stay. Since my husband and I do not require childcare, our total comes to a modest $6,929 for our daughter’s first year of life. Those who need to pay for day care will spend over $10,000 for their baby in that first year! Needless to say, gifts, discounts, and second-hand items are a necessity for most parents.
Our family is blessed to have a large extended family and amazing friends and acquaintances. Everyone was so excited that we were adding on to our family after 22 years! Our first born just turned 22 this year, but that’s another story for another blog post on another day. Although we had saved some very special outfits, toys, and books, we needed everything, and I mean everything for our second child. The outpouring of gifts from our circle of family and friends was incredible. I will always be thankful for the “kick-start” for daughter 2.0. We seriously did not need to buy any disposable diapers for our baby’s first 3 months of life, and she has a nice stack of blankets and lots of cute clothes in different sizes. She did receive waaaaaay to many baby hats; and by waaaaaay to many, I mean about 20 hats. Once, she got to be about a month old she couldn’t stand wearing those hats no matter how stylish they were. **A little helpful hint: don’t gift a lot of hats to one baby if she is a spring or summer baby because unless you live at the North Pole she isn’t going to need that many.
We were also gifted a lot of great second-hand items: clothes, a little tub, and a baby play mat gym. I absolutely love thrifting and finding great deals myself. When a friend found a free baby swing on an online garage sale page, I was so excited! Our oldest daughter loved hers, and I was hoping a swing would be something our youngest would love as well. After our daughter was a couple of weeks old, we decided to take the swing out and put it together. Well it went together alright–all except the safety straps. They were no where to be found. Who the hell gives away broken baby stuff? To spare my friend’s feelings, I never told her. She has no children and probably didn’t even think about it, and I know she didn’t take them off. They were without a doubt missing when she went to pick up the baby swing.
But now what?! We knew a swing would be another comfort to offer our newborn. Struggling with the necessity versus luxury dilemma, we held off on purchasing one. Then a co-worker of my husband mentioned she had a swing she was getting rid of and offered it to him. She said all it needed was batteries . (Battery operated baby swings were not a thing when our first born was a baby. You had to crank it up to get it to go). My husband brought it home, and we replaced the batteries. Aaaaanndd ….nothing. We double checked to make sure the batteries were in properly and turned it on again. Still nothing. Sigh…. This woman gave us a broken swing. “Having a baby? Here, take this crap!”
Lesson? Be wary of free baby equipment. I know that used car seats are a bit sketchy, legally and liability speaking. Used swings with no straps? Definitely sketchy. Free items? Make sure you can test them out before taking them home or don’t take them. If you have baby gear you want to gift to someone, make sure it isn’t crappy baby gear. You would think it should be common sense. But my senses are telling me that some people just want someone else to figure out what to do with their broken crap. Whatever happened to the defunct baby swings? Well, I have to sheepishly admit that my husband dropped them off in a stealthy manner in the dark of night outside of Goodwill knowing they have a giant dumpster for broken or unsaleable items.
As I sit here in my living room writing this, our daughter is peacefully napping in her swing we purchased shortly after the second one was found to be a piece of crap. It was $80 dollars well spent and came with a cord so we wouldn’t need batteries to operate it, and I solemnly swear not to give it away for free if it breaks down.
P.S. And if anyone has any suggestions how to transition our 6 month old from swing naps to naps in her crib that would be great!
I recently became a mommy again in March of this year. I say “again” because my one and only up until now just celebrated her 22nd birthday! Let me tell you, parenting twenty-two years ago was much different than it is now. First, the hospital setting in labor and delivery was much more relaxed and not as clinical looking. We even had a small sofa in our birthing room! Plus, I was given the option of having my daughter room with me. I was also offered and took advantage of lactation counseling services, something that just wasn’t done here after giving birth to my first-born. Mind you, this was the same hospital where I gave birth to my oldest. Further, technology is so much more advanced in 2016 than it was in 1994. I was so excited to have ultrasounds done with 3-D imaging! Consumer products such as cell phones, computers with Internet access and Wi-Fi, and digital cameras are found in most American households. Oh, the pleasure I got from online shopping from my baby register on Amazon from my tablet and deleting unflattering pregnancy photos from my smart phone! This was not the case in 1994. Here’s something more. Twenty years ago, I hadn’t even heard of the term “Mommy Shaming”. Sure, I would see the mom cliques during school functions when my oldest was growing up. And yeah, I would get a sideways glance from another mommy from time to time, which I usually attributed to being ten years younger and looking it than most of the moms in my daughter’s class. (My husband and I started our family when we were both 21 years old). Sometimes, I would accredit those looks to my obvious baking skills when I brought my offerings to the class bake sales. Or, those looks could have also been out of a mixture of curiosity or disgust because we are an interracial family. Needless to say, those fleeting looks did make me feel uncomfortable. Yet as uncomfortable as I may have felt then, it is nothing compared to the feelings that mommies, including myself, have when another mom out right shames them in a public forum.
Now, fast forward to 2016. Today, the majority of Mommy Shaming is done from behind a screen and is no better than the cyber-bullying we teach our children to look out for and report. Google the term “Mommy Shaming”, and you’ll get over 500,000 related results. In just 4 short months, I have observed the different ways to shame another mommy:
By comparison such as my-child-versus-yours, MommyA-versus-MommyB, or this-way-versus-that-way of doing things
2. Name calling i.e. thigh-gap crew, sanctimommies, crunchy
3. Acting holier than thou (where the term sanctimommy comes into play and is closely related to #1)
4. Posting articles and memes and tagging a mom you know parents a little differently than you do.
Sadly, before my wee one has even figured out the art of sitting up on her own, I have been on the receiving end of Mommy Shaming; most recently with the double whammy of my-child-versus-yours mixed in with an article to back this other mommy’s claim. The reason? I decided to start feeding my child her first foods. In this case, I had posted a picture of my baby with a happy, messy face. She really did enjoy that organic oatmeal. I knew she was curious about foods. I know she can sit with help of her Boppy Chair. I know that food is just for “fun”. I know babies need either breastmilk or formula as their main source of nutrition. What I didn’t know is that I would be shamed for feeding her an age appropriate food: “Ben* has never had baby food ” along with an article about baby-led weaning. This woman and I have been acquaintances for a few years now. In fact, her ex-husband and his family have been close family friends since we were children. This other mommy is also a nurse, and often posts great articles that I read and comment positively on. The article she included this time was also informative; but I am not weaning my daughter, just letting her explore food. I am pretty sure this mommy didn’t even realize she had shamed me. Yet, after comments from my mom, sisters, and girlfriends about how cute my little Sweet Pea was in that picture; this mommy had to put her two cents in about her way of doing things and information to back up her claims. I just responded by telling her thanks for the article. Thank goodness for my little sister! She had my back like she always does and was quick to point out that some babies sleep better with a bit of solid food in their tummies. (I love you, Kayla!). But of course, the mommy (would she be considered a sanctimommy?) had to put her cents in and talk about lack of scientific evidence and blah, blah, blah. Meanwhile, my sister is messaging me to make sure I am okay and to remind me that I am a great mommy and to do what ever works for my family. To make a long story short, I ended up just deleting the original post because I didn’t want to deal with any more comments from the mommy shamer.
Mommy shaming has become so prevalent in our society that there are even trends in the shame game:
Breastfeeding– vs. formula, breastfeeding + formula, in public, cover or no cover, up to a year, more than a year
Snacks– organic vs. non-organic snacks
Parties– Pinterest perfect, store-bought vs. homemade, theme vs. no theme
Mom Fashion and Hair– mom jeans, yoga pants, messy buns vs. coiffed hair, natural vs. make-up
Working Mom vs. Stay at Home Mom (SAHM)
Baby food– store bought vs. homemade, baby food vs. baby-led weaning
Baby transportation– baby wearing vs. stroller or carrier
Seriously mommies, unless another mommy is abandoning, abusing or neglecting her child or allowing another person to abuse or neglect her child we don’t need to shame each other. Are your children fed, clothed, given shelter, and loved? YES! Are mine? YES! We are all doing the best we know how on any given day. My sister summed it perfectly, “What works for you, works for you!”
P.S. This article was not meant to shame my shamer. My story is included to illustrate a mild case of Mommy Shaming.
I am a dyed-in-the-wool Libra. Though I don’t always bank on my horoscope, one thing is certain: I constantly seek the balance of those archetypal Libran Scales. Like most of us, the more things I have going on in my life, the less I feel in balance. Whether you are a stay at home mom or the CEO of a Fortune 500, you have a multitude of work-related responsibilities along side your life commitments. Leaving your work at work can be difficult, especially if you work from home in any capacity. Recent research on work/life balance by Brandman University shows exactly how challenging escaping work can be.
BY THE NUMBERS
Here are some of their findings:
30% of employees feel burn-out
27% report being emotionally drained from work
42% of those surveyed feel fed up by the end of their work day
81% of U.S. employees check work emails outside of work
50% say work interferes with life responsibilities 2 or 3 times each week
55% check work email inboxes after 11 p.m.
40% of women have delayed having children because of work/careers
Can you identify with this? I sure can!
A helpful tool I came across while conducting my fact-finding expedition for this article and upcoming workshop I am giving on Work/Life balance is Mallika Chopra’s “My Balance Wheel”. Taking an honest look at yourself, rate each area using the scale provided. This will give you an idea on which areas of your life need improving the balance in your life.
12 TIPS ON RESTORING BALANCE
While some stressors will come and go, others will stay. However, the more balance we can find in our lives, these stressors will be more manageable. Try applying these tips to your life to achieve that equilibrium you seek.
Have a designated tech-free time each day or each week. In this day and age, it is harder than ever to be tech-free or screen-free. Work this in during times you already notice yourself stepping away from your laptop or cell phone. I will admit it. This one has been challenging for me.
Be organized, and learn time management skills. Really? Yes! I would always get so annoyed at my husband for telling me to write things down in our shared planner. However, after missing an event and being late to my youngest daughter’s well baby check-up, I realize that this simple task is so important. One of my busiest times of my life was when I was seeking a second degree, running my cleaning service, and getting my oldest daughter through high school. Without proper time management, I could have never done it. Important note: Include commuting times when you jot down your appointments and child’s activities.
Exercise on a regular basis. I used to struggle with this one. I would buy workout videos, and do really good for awhile. But, then I would just get bored. When two of my closest friends got into powerlifting, I thought I would try more than just 5 lb. hand weights. This didn’t last long either. I realized I wasn’t as passionate about it as they were. Then, two years ago, I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended a group fitness class by myself. This was a pretty big deal because in the past I would “need” someone to go with me. This class was like no other I have ever taken! Oula is really “dance mania for the soul” like their advertising claims! I am a regular Oulakin both at my gym (I kept that membership after I decided not to give powerlifting any more thought) and at the new Oula Studio here in Bozeman. I love it so much that I plan on taking the instructor training when my baby gets a little older. I finally found the exercise routine that I am passionate about, and that’s a wonderful feeling!
Nurture relationships, and commit to plans with friends and family. All relationships need work to stay healthy and alive. Pencil in time with your family and friends if need be. Most importantly, stick to those plans. And, do keep your phone out of sight unless you need it. When my oldest daughter pointed out I wasn’t fully engaged with her because of my cell and tablet use, I was heartbroken. No Facebook post or silly text from your sister is more important than the people right in front of you, especially your children.
Learn to say “NO!” Funny this should follow committing to plans. You are allowed to say no to projects and events you have no interest in or are too busy to do. True friends will understand your needs. Just don’t say “NO!” so often you are no longer considered to be asked. When I served on a social life committee at a local church, I didn’t voice my “NO!”, and subsequently got roped into doing the dishes after social hour. Every. Single. Time. I got so frustrated that eventually I just quit the committee. Had I voiced my frustration and felt like I could say “NO!” things would have probably turned out different. Hindsight is 20/20.
Don’t waste your vacation time! Life happens. Sometimes you do need to use vacation time when sick time is used up or for emergencies. The idea here is to actually take a vacation or at least a stay-cation. And definitely don’t be stuck on your phone checking work emails the whole time you are on your get-away.
Get sleep. This is way easier said than done. Having an infant, myself, I know that I need to get rest and sleep whenever I can find it–even if it means going to bed at 8 p.m. when she does. Many experts also say to stop hitting snooze and just get up because 9 more minutes of sleep between alarms won’t do much, or you may not even really sleep at all. I say do what YOU need to do to get in a few extra winks here and there. Life is so much easier to navigate if you feel well rested.
Create a study area. This quiet area with no distractions is helpful for the student and non-student alike. Use it to further your education, as reading nook, or as a homework station for your children. I should add that the terms “quiet area” and “distractions” are relative to each individual. I like music when I study and am more distracted without a little background noise.
Seek out companies with flexible schedule. When I interviewed for my AmeriCorps VISTA position, I also interviewed my host site about the flexibility of the schedule. Flexibility is important to me as an entrepreneur. Since my host site is an entrepreneurial launchpad, my supervisor had no issue with my needs.
Break your phone habit! You know what I am talking about. I do it too. There are other ways to kill your boredom. Also, remember, the phone is there for your convenience not the caller’s .
Pursue a hobby. Hobbies? I have several: Zentangle, journaling, gardening, collecting Pez dispensers. Hobbies like refinishing furniture or embroidery could become income streams for the budding entrepreneur.
Self care, self care, self care! This one should be a no brainer. Unfortunately, a lot of us give so much of ourselves to work, family, and friends that we often overlook our own needs. From drinking enough water and eating healthy foods to a much needed soak in a hot bubble bath, get in all self care you can!
Try these pointers to be a happier, balanced version of YOU!
Got an idea for your next blog post? Me neither. Writer’s block can be a blogger’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, inspiration can strike at any moment. I had one such serendipitous moment recently while reading an online article about entrepreneurship. When I had scrolled all the way through the article, I saw a link to a related article about cures for writer’s block. Following the link, I skimmed through the article and read a brief mention about blog topic/title generators. Aha! This could help me, I thought. With the help of Google, I found several such generators. Using the key word phrase “Working Moms”, I tested out 6 popular blog topic/title generators to see what they would give me. Surprisingly enough, I have found the spark I needed for my next blog post. Yay! And with any luck, you too will find just what you need to kill writer’s block.
Content Idea Generator With this easy to use blog topic/title generator, all you need to do is type in your keywords and voila! “13 Ways Working Moms Can Make You Rich!” Content Idea Generator uses humorous thought bubbles to comment about the title choice and offers the user tips and extra resources to fill out a content plan. I will without a doubt be using this generator when I need it.
Hubspot Blog Topic Generator This handy dandy blog topic/title generator gives a week’s worth of topics/titles after you type in your keywords. Using the same “working moms” keyword phrase, this generator gave me these 5 topics: Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Working Moms, History of Working Moms, 7 Things About Working Moms Your Boss Wants to Know, The Worst Advice We’ve Ever Heard About Working Mothers, and 14 Common Misconceptions About Working Moms. Given the variety with the week’s worth of titles, this generator is worth checking out.
Blog Title Idea Generator This generator automatically generates a blog title idea, or you can click on the “Need More Inspiration” prompt to generate another title: “[Number] Essential Tips for [Keyword]”. Quick and painless.
Content Ideator The Content Ideator gives you a plethora of ideas depending on the relevance of your topic keywords. A few title/topic ideas that came up for my keywords “working moms” include: Book Reviews for Working Mom and Their Kids, How Working Moms Find Emergency Child Care, ” and “Working Moms Site of the Week”. With an upgrade to the “pro” version for $79/month, you can get relevant sats on the keyword content on LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, and Google Plus as well as being able to see how your competition stacks up. Want to save your results or get more results? Pay for the pro version. This service could be useful for a blogger who has monetized his or her blog or wants to take the blog to the next level.
Link Bait Generator I’ll admit it. I fall prey to link bait (also called click bait) quite often. Seriously?! Who doesn’t. However, as with fishing, the best bait will actually lead you to an awesome catch or in this case an awesome article. This generator was by far my favorite because it gives you 25, yes 25!, title possibilities. Unfortunately, the titles are the same each time you input different keywords just in a different order on the page. Be that as it may, I found some worthy titles play with for my next post. One of my favorites from this generator: 8 Unbelievable things you never knew about Working Moms.
On my journey as an entrepreneur, I have come to a crossroads. I am unsure where to go from here and what my next project will be. How do I market myself after only marketing services and products for the past 13 years? Recently, the idea of “personal branding” has come into my radar.
How do I go about creating my personal brand? Essentially, without knowing, I have already created one. When I Google myself, I see that I have a book on Amazon, made Honor Roll when I attended college for my post-bacc degree, am part of The Team at the Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State, use a public Facebook account as well as personal one, and have a LinkedIn profile. Whew! The question is how do I manage my personal brand so that others see what I WANT them to see?
Keep Your Personal and Professional Lives Separate
It is important to make sure that I keep my professional life separate from my personal life when it comes to social media. For example, I recently created a public page Facebook to promote my book and upcoming projects to a wider audience. This way I can keep my family photos and political rants and preferences private. Now, how do I want to project my professional image to the world? Authenticity is key! Am I an expert at anything? How do I stand out against the other Jill McIntyre’s of the world? When I understand how I want to be perceived, I can then take measures to be more strategic about my personal brand.
Keep consistent between social media platforms. Does your name match up between your accounts? I had realized that I used my middle initial for my book but had not for my LinkedIn profile. This was easy enough to change. Plus, now it is consistent with my name on this website too!
Get A Personal Website
Build your personal brand by creating a website using your moniker as the domain name. Apparently, “Jill McIntyre” is a fairly common name and jillmcintyre.com was taken. However, when I searched “Jill S McIntyre.com” that domain name was available. Just by adding the middle initial, I am able to be differentiated from the other Jill McIntyre’s.
Be Deliberate with What You Share
Every blog post, every tweet, every update, every photo reflects your personal brand. When you discover how you wish to be perceived, your posts and tweets should reflect that. You can now be more strategic with your personal brand.
Associate with Other Strong Brands
It is who you know. Remember the 3 C’s: college, colleagues, and company. There are opportunities there to cross-promote one another so scour those LinkedIn and Facebook contacts.
Reinvent! Reinvent! Reinvent!
Revaluate your personal brand from time to time to make sure it still works for you. Strong brands have a clear story. If you have a variety of passions, it is essential to have a clear story and unified theme. There are books and online resources to help you define your theme and brand story. Your personal brand, just like YOU, should be fluid and ever evolving.