Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Son is Well Adjusted At Daycare...I Should Be Happy, Right?

My son seems happy with his daycare. He gets excited when the caregiver opens the door and he runs in to see his friends. He is THRILLED (but in a good way) when I come to pick him up and is usually in really good spirits. You can tell he's happy and has had a good day but happy to see his mama. He's not the kid that is afraid to see me go in the morning or is crying by the end of the day because he misses mommy so much. He seems really happy and well adjusted.

This of course has curbed my feelings of anxiety and guilt for having him in daycare full time. It was a hard decision; one that I knew was necessary, but I am glad I was able to hold off until he was a year and a half before putting him in. 

Yesterday morning when I was dropping him off, another mom was dropping her son off who I know has been at the daycare center for at least a few months because I see him on a regular basis when I drop my son off and pick him up. He was hesitant to go inside and his mother repeatedly said bye, gave him lots of hugs and kisses until he felt comfortable to go in. My son on the other hand will barely give me a hug and race to see his friends. Now of course this leaves me thinking...is this a sign my son is feeling disconnected from me?

I finally finished reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids and as good as I should feel to have proven, helpful parenting advice, I can't help but feel as if I've done too many wrongs by yelling, focusing on time outs and keeping him in daycare as long as I do. I wonder if him running into daycare, not really caring whether I'm there or not is a sign of my bad parenting because he feels disconnected from me and will continue to do so as an older child by acting out or giving into peer pressure. 

I'm getting all of this from seeing this little boy, sad and timid who is afraid to leave his mom when I know it would break my heart to see my son react that way every morning and it would hurt just as much to arrive to pick him up crying because he's unhappy. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Get Ready To Laugh

When I was pregnant I found this deal for like 7 Dr. Seuss Books along with a book bag, tote and free shipping for $13. I didn't think we would enjoy the books while my little one was a baby but boy was I wrong, Dr. Seuss Books are our favorite to read together. 

Fox In Socks is bound to make anyone laugh. I dare you to say this and keep a straight face:

Through three cheese trees three free fleas flew.
While these fleas flew, freezy breeze blew.
Freezy breeze made these three trees freeze.
Freezy trees made these trees' cheese freeze.
That's what made these three free fleas sneeze.

Now try this:

Bim bends Ben's broom.
Bim's bends.
Ben's bends.
Ben's bent broom breaks.
Bim's bent broom breaks.
Funny thing is, my son NEVER lets me get through the entire book because I sound like a bumbling fool so as much fun as I have reading this book, he would rather read this. 

When beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle 
and the beetle battle puddle is a puddle in a bottle...
...they call this a tweetle beetle bottle puddle paddle battle muddle.

I got the hubby involved and he was able to complete the book; our son moved away to do something else while he continued reading on in a room by himself because who wants to sit and listen to someone stumble through his words? As foolish as we may seem to our son its nice for him to see us laugh a little more. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time Out

Even though I wrote my last post yesterday, I had been meaning to write it for nearly two weeks. I was feeling confused, conflicted and overcome with feelings of guilt with how to handle my son’s behavior and my emotions. My boyfriend and I know that spanking isn't an option, which is I why I think the yelling came in as an alternative; but when I realized my yelling was a sign of anger within me and was clearly not working, I decided to take the time out approach.

As I mentioned in my previous post we did the time out thing in the past, but in an attempt to not yell I made time outs the primary form of discipline. Even though it didn't seem to work, I figured it would eventually stick that certain behavior would result in time outs without TV and toys. After about a week he would act out and before I could even say “time out” he would beat me to it. “Time out Mommy”, “yes, you get time out now”, I would say. “OK” he would reply as if it didn't really matter to him. When he started saying “Mommy I want time out”, I felt even more confused and frustrated and realized this method was not working either.

I decided to pick my Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids book up again because you know what? If spanking, yelling and time outs aren't the answer then what is? I knew something was missing and I was willing to try anything. As I started where I left off I felt as if something clicked. I wasn't open to reading about how to handle MY emotions and MY behaviors when I originally began the book, I was looking for a way to control his behavior.

I did mention in my earlier post I understood my negative energy was having an effect on him and I needed to make changes. My attitude, my disposition, my way of treating him and connecting with him are essential for him to thrive as a toddler and continue into his preschool and teenage years. As emotional as I am, my emotional IQ is practically zero because I apparently only see things from my perspective (maybe that’s because I am a narcissistic millennial) and need to learn how to see things from his perspective, also known as empathy

The author discusses the need for us to have meaningful connections with our children and try to set aside at least 15 minutes each day for “special time”; time that is spent without any distractions doing whatever our little one wants to do. Whether it be playing trucks, roughhousing (she mentions this a lot) or coloring, our children need quality time with us to connect each day.

I have dealt with feelings of guilt because he is in daycare nearly 10 hours each day. He would normally wake up at about 7:30am and we’re out the house on our way by 8:45am. That’s a little over an hour in the morning and the time we spent would be getting ready and me yelling at him for fooling around when he should be brushing his teeth. His father is normally gone by the time he wakes up so he doesn't have any time to connect with him in the morning either. We normally get home at 7:15pm with him going to bed at 8:30pm and when I come to think of it, we really don’t have that much time to spend during the week so why and how could I use the little bit of time we have to bond pushing him away and ignoring him to do housework when all he really wants is my love and affection?

That’s what the book really comes down to. Showing love, empathy and creating deep meaningful connections with our children. When we ignore our children, we are passing up on an opportunity to share a loving embrace with our child. When we focus on our cellphones and television we show our children they are not important and when we yell and put them in time out we make them feel shame, anger and feelings of abandonment. When they have those feelings they only continue to act out because they feel bad. When they feel bad they act bad. If we miss out on opportunities to connect now, we may not be the influence we need to be for our children when they’re faced with peer pressure when they’re older.

Wow. This book really hit me like a ton of bricks. Now don’t get me wrong, I tell my son I love him everyday and I am incredibly affectionate toward him. At the same time I do yell and push him off to do other things and not give him the time he needs with me. How could I be so selfish? I placed most of my focus making sure he was well taken care of physically but I was completely ignoring his emotional development. How could I expect him to control his temper when I, as an adult, cannot set the example he needs? How could I expect him to feel loved and secure and happy when his emotional needs are not being met? He’s still developing and does not understand the concept of time when I’m in a rush or my need to cook dinner in that hour and a half we have between getting home and him going to bed. He feels lonely, confused by my behavior and feels bad inside and THAT is why he acts out.

Finding Ways To De-Stress

Since I have accepted I have issues controlling my emotions I decided to find ways to de-stress. I used to go to yoga frequently years ago and remember it not only doing wonders for my bad back, but it made me feel so good inside as well. Its pretty hard to explain, but I used to leave class feeling a light heart and as if a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I also used to be a runner. In high school I ran track and I picked up running again right before I got pregnant and never really got back into the swing of things after giving birth.

I found myself with a day off during the week last week and thought it would be cool to send my son to daycare so I could have the day to myself. I went to the park for a run and when I was in so much pain I could barely move, I sat by the lake for about 30 minutes to relax and recharge. It was nice. Introverts like myself need time alone to think, reflect, gather our thoughts and recharge. I felt nice for a few hours but then I started to feel like my old self again.

I took a couple of yoga classes and while it was great getting out of the house for some "me" time, the pain in my neck and shoulders from attempting a headstand didn't give me the “weight off my shoulders” feeling I was hoping to have. The deep breathing exercises and meditation was pretty cool and the studio I went to is donation based which is great since I’m on a budget. While I did feel good and relaxed for the remainder of the day, I still questioned if I were doing enough to control my emotions.

It’s common knowledge that exercise does wonders for the mind and body. It releases all sorts of good chemicals to improve our mood, it builds and repairs cells which is great for those under a great deal of stress or suffering depression and gives us more energy. I have decided to make exercise an important part of my routine because who wouldn't benefit from an improved mood and increased energy to deal with a toddler? While I know this is important, I also know it’s not the answer to everything and I need to still dig deeper to find the root of my emotional state.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Learning To Control My Emotions

“DADDY DON’T DO THAT!” my son screams at his father who was adjusting the fan. “DON’T TOUCH! LISTEN TO ME!”. He even did the eye roll and deep sigh. My boyfriend turned and gave me a disapproving look. Our son was acting just like me.

He’s turning into me. He yells to get his point across, acts sassy and recently started hitting us. I know I have a tendency to yell and lose my cool, my boyfriend even told me I need “to get my emotions under control”, but at times I feel so frustrated everything just boils over. Recently while getting him ready for daycare I found myself getting angrier and angrier by the second because he was doing everything possible but brush his teeth. He was talking, turning the water on and off and fiddling with my hair products and we were running late.


I immediately felt terrible. I felt terrible for getting so angry and screaming at him when I knew I was only setting a bad example which made me feel guilty and like a horrible person and then I started crying hysterically. It’s an ugly cycle. I get upset, scream then feel like crap. And you know what? The screaming doesn't make him “learn” not to do whatever he was doing because he does it again.

I stumbled upon  The Orange Rhino about a year ago, but didn't really go through it because it didn't apply to me at the time. I was happy when I found it again. The author, mom to four boys, started a challenge which is now in day 500+ to stop yelling and has found her relationship with her family has improved immensely and she feels better about herself. Her site is incredibly inspiring but it leaves me to wonder, how to I teach my son right from wrong? I can not yell, but I don’t want him to think he can get away with everything. I decided to get a parenting book to teach me some tactics.

I ordered Peaceful Parents, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham and after the first twenty pages or so I decided to put it down. Based on the introduction and the first few pages I could tell the book was about controlling my emotions and attachment parenting which is something I clearly do not do because my son is in daycare. OK, but then what? How do I get him from throwing his food, spilling his juice and touching the fan? How do I get him to hold my hand when we’re about to cross the street instead of throwing himself down and having a meltdown?

I figured a great alternative to yelling was putting him in time out which is something I already did but maybe not as often as I should have. You hit mommy or daddy? Time out. You throw your food all over the floor? Time out. You spit your juice out? Time out. You throw your toys down in anger? Time out. A couple of weekends ago he spent more time than not in time out while we were in the house. Then he started biting.

I know its normal for babies to bite but for him to start now at almost 2 1/2, when he knows how to verbally express himself and knows that biting hurts seemed alarming. I think the negative energy I walk around with because of my current financial situation and the pressure of having to move has created even more waves of tension and anxiety that I’m passing off to my son.

I get it. My unhappiness and my energy is the reason why my son is acting out. Instead of trying to control his behavior I need to control my emotions and reactions first. I started to feel really bad but then I stopped myself. Feeling bad is fine, for that moment but I have to make changes. Real positive changes because feeling guilty and self loathing will only bring more negative energy toward my son.

I think acknowledging that the problem lies within me and not my typical 2 year old is the first step toward making real progress. For now I will focus on ways to improve my relationships with my son, his father and myself.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

NYC Apartment Search Continues...

So my boyfriend and I decided to leave our apartment on or before the date our landlord proposed and after  a few heated "discussions", she offered incentives such as cash back when we turn in keys and additional money for each day we leave before the deadline. Apparently she's going to put up walls and make closet size bedrooms and rent the place out for a few extra hundred bucks. Let's see how she likes those tenants. 

Even though we still won't be in a position to move within the next 5 weeks, we figured it would be best to stay with his mom to avoid going to court (especially since we were on a month to month lease and not a year long lease) which will force us to miss out on work and potentially damage our credit and still run the risk of not being able to secure an apartment in time.

As someone that works in real estate I know how important a strong credit score is for securing an apartment. And not just in areas like Park Slope or Williamsburg, I'm talking Flatbush, Crown Heights and Bed Stuy. I also know that any landlord/tenant issues on a credit report will almost certainly destroy any chance of renting somewhere decent. So, we are doing what I hate to have to do but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

So just when I started feeling all bad about myself for being nearly 30 and having to move into my mother-in-law's apartment I came across the site Worst Room which didn't necessarily make me feel better, but gave me a bit of a laugh. I pray none of the people that live in these conditions have children, but I think it is kind of funny that people will pay the price for a dump in a "hip neighborhood" when they can pay the same money and get a decent apartment a little further out in Brooklyn, Queens or the Bronx. 

For anyone going through landlord drama in NY, here is some helpful information. And if anyone has any other additional resources feel free to comment and don't forget to subscribe!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pregnancy Discrimination Has Got To End

The National Women’s Law Center and A Better Balance released a study highlighting the discrimination that many pregnant women, more specifically those in low paying and physical jobs face even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 guarantees pregnant women the same considerations someone that is sick or disabled would receive. The study featured women that were capable of doing their job with minor restrictions such as not lifting more than 20 lbs or sitting on a stool instead of standing behind a cash register for 8 hours. These women were often fired, denied water and forced to take unpaid leave during their pregnancies that they would have saved for after the birth of their child. 

It is fairly unreasonable to expect that in a field that requires physical strength each employee is going to be physically capable to perform certain tasks throughout the entirety of their career. There are more risks involved and with those risks come injury resulting from accidents or the inability to perform a job due to an unrelated accident, illness or age. If certain groups of people can be accommodated, then why can’t pregnant women? 

Wouldn't an employer benefit from offering slight adjustments rather than firing existing employees and hiring and training new employees? And if so, what makes them think they will hire a woman that does not want or cannot have children? Firing one woman and replacing her with another is not going to solve the underlying issue. Employers need to take a common sense approach when dealing with pregnant women instead of looking down on someone for getting pregnant while unmarried or working a low paying job.

I think we need to stop looking down at those that are less educated, speak English as a second language or work lower paying jobs. For the most part, parents want what is best for their children and want for them to grow up with more opportunities in life than they did. Some families are just starting out on their journey to achieve that and some have already reached it, and a person's paycheck should not be an indicator as to whether or not they are good parents or should or should not have children. 

When will we begin to realize that pregnancy discrimination is not only a women’s issue, but a family issue? And bigger than that, a societal issue? Women that work in fields that are physical, require standing for long periods of time and with infrequent breaks are working so that they can support their families. They are paying taxes. They are contributing to society. Some women may choose their profession, such as a police officer, and others may work a job because working at the local Walmart is their only option. Whether they chose their physical career or not, there is overwhelming evidence that supports the necessity of a diverse workforce

 For every woman with a child there should be a man defending her right to safe working conditions while pregnant. For every couple that desires to have children in the future, there should be a man defending his partner’s right to have safe working conditions. Even for those who choose not to have children, I am sure at some point they have a woman in their life that works and contributes to her family whether it be their own mother, sister or friend. The point I am trying to make is this is not an issue that should only be fought by pregnant women facing work place discrimination. 

Although legislation cannot change an employer's opinion, it can at least guarantee the most vulnerable workers the protections they need. When employers and society as a whole begin to recognize the contributions that women make in the workforce whether it be as an executive with a major company or in a low paying entry level job, the need for these laws will hopefully cease to exist. Until then, it is important to allow hard working, law abiding taxpayers to continue to work and provide for their families. 

Please click on this link to the National Women's Law Center and tell the EEOC to issue strong guidance to employers about workplace discrimination. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

What is Success?

When you think about success in life what comes to mind? Is it the house with the two car garage, a “good” job that offers benefits and a retirement package? Is it being a top level executive with a Fortune 500 company or an entrepreneur? Is it making enough money to take exotic vacations and own a wardrobe of designer clothes or the ability to not have to work full-time?

I've seen plenty of people that went to work in a suit and tie (or skirt suit) in corporate America after college to learn shortly after they hated it. They hated being micromanaged, they hated sitting in front of a computer for nine hours a day. They hated not being able to take as much personal time off to pursue their passions; they felt work was taking over their entire lives. Is climbing the ranks of a major corporation the epitome of success in America and is this what we should be encouraging our sons and daughters to do?

I ask these questions because when I think about my own personal happiness, I don’t envision myself in a suit, moving from cubicle to corner office to suite over the course of twenty years with a major corporation. I don’t envision myself having to wait 10 years to take 3 weeks vacation or working 50-60 hours a week for someone else. I see myself as being independent and working for myself. I see myself having the ability to decide for myself if I can make my son’s school play or take time off because he’s sick and not have to ask permission or be made to feel guilty about it. I see myself as making enough money to support my family and save for my retirement. I see myself as having a life outside of work.

I recently read an article in the Huffington Post about Millennial women not aspiring to be executives in corporate America. Maybe they see the stress that their male counterparts face in those positions and think, I don’t want this for myself. I do firmly believe women need and deserve to get paid what their male counterparts are earning and families should have more favorable options as far as flex time and maternity/paternity leave. But for some people, even with the additional benefits (for those that are fortunate enough to have those options available) working in said environment still may not be all its cracked up to be.

Could that be the trend? That more people, women in particular, are seeking careers where they are their own boss, they set their own rules and still have the ability to raise a family in the way they wish to? I think the spotlight should not only be on the female CEO of a major company, but on the people that have been able to start something from scratch whether it be as a small business owner, freelance writer or consultant where their creativity, skills and intellect can be used to its fullest extent and not limited based on a job title.

There are many different measures of success and I think we should encourage our children, the future generations, to really hone in on where they see themselves and what would truly make them happy. If becoming a CEO of a major company is their goal, then great. If not then that’s OK too. To be honest, this country would probably benefit more from there being more small businesses and banks so that large companies do not have complete control over entire economies. But hey, that’s another post for another time. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Time to Disconnect

I have found motherhood to be a lot lonelier than I anticipated. I get that my life is different now, and I can’t expect to go to happy hour after work with my friends, go to the gym when I feel like it or afford to take cool vacations. I don’t have much family in NY and neither does my boyfriend so our son won’t have the experience I had growing up surrounded by lots of 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins.

I've used social media as a way to keep up to date with what everyone was doing from my single, childless friends to my acquaintances with children and found myself feeling as if my life sucked. Between feeling left out when I see the fun my friends have without me to seeing the dates and budding social lives my acquaintances with children seemed to be able to maintain, I started to feel like I was doing something wrong. After working all week which results in my son being in daycare for 50 hours, laundry, cleaning, groceries and cooking I really didn't have the time, energy, money to go out on dates with my boyfriend or spend an entire Saturday at brunch. And even if I did? Who would watch our son?

I felt as if being connected to what everyone was doing was making me feel worse. The last thing I want to see on a Sunday afternoon when I’m tired from laundry and grocery shopping is people with and without kids at some social event, dressed up and having fun. OK, I get it, I don’t have family that is really willing to babysit and I’m broke but do I need to be constantly reminded of that? I decided it was best to delete my Facebook and to be honest, I feel great.

I think its easy to look at other people's lives with envy at times when I feel down. When I'm feeling cranky because I didn't get much sleep because he was up all night with a cough, when I just paid my rent and utilities and feel broke or when I haven't had much time with my boyfriend because he worked overtime during the week and I'm lonely. 

I also understand that everyone’s life is different. Would I really want to go out every weekend? Would I really want to spend so much time away from my son so I could have a social life even though he’s already in daycare 50 hours a week? The answer is a simple NO. I actually feel terrible I spend as much time away from him as I do and during the rare occasions I do go out I think about him constantly.

I love being a mom and understand there are sacrifices that come along with it. I take pride in keeping a clean, orderly home and preparing healthy meals for my family. I enjoy the time I spend with my son on the weekend because we don’t have much time during the week. So why the frustration when I see what everyone else is doing? I think its easy to look at other people’s lives and see fault in our own. While I would love to have a date night with my hubby every once in a while and have the chance to catch up with friends over brunch or drinks after work I wouldn't want that to be what I spend all my time doing outside of the home.

I’m not looking to judge how other people spend their time and how they raise their children. Some people may not have their children in daycare as many days or hours that I do and get that quality time with their kids. Some may have more help from family with preparing meals and housework. I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. Sitting around thinking about what everyone else is doing is taking away more of the precious time I have with my son doing the things that are most important to me and my family.

Friday, June 14, 2013

NYC Apt Search

I consider myself fortunate to have lived in a cheap apartment by NYC standards for as long as I have. Originally, my mom, brother and I lived in the small one bedroom for about 5 years when she and my step dad separated until they got back together about four years ago. The landlord was OK with me staying and requested additional security since I was “so young”, but eventually dropped the rent by $50 because I was “such a good tenant”.

When my boyfriend and I found out I was pregnant, we decided it was best to hold on to the $850 apartment instead of rushing into getting bigger space so that we may save instead. Our landlords were OK with him moving in, but not so much when they discovered I was pregnant. That’s when the problems started. My landlady’s response to why it would be a “problem” for us to have a baby was “we had a couple that was not married and they had a baby and they used to fight a lot. The police even had to come one time so you see? That’s why we don’t want couples that have children out of wedlock in our apartment.” And then she raised the rent.

Now I get that when you pay cheaper rent you sacrifice certain things like heat during the winter and repairs to the giant hole in the living room wall caused by the neighbors in the attached house. You put up with street noise and pollution blowing in our apartment since we’re on the ground floor, we deal with the landlord’s father in law smoking directly in front of the house so that the wind blows the smoke inside through our open living room window. We deal with repairs to the apartment not being taken care of and asked questions like “what did you do to cause that crack in the ceiling?” months after requested repairs.

On that snowy day when we brought our son home from the hospital to a freezing apartment, I was told “you see? I told you this baby was going to cause problems for us” when I requested the heat be turned back on. I had to deal with random “inspections” multiple times a month and constant drop ins (they live in the house next door) so they could see how many visitors we had because “when you have a baby, everyone wants to come see it and we never approved you having company over”. 

I was harassed by my landlady, asked if I was receiving government benefits because “I know the government gives money to minority women that have babies out of wedlock so if you’re getting money from the government I need to know.” Huhhhh?????? And WHY would it be any of her business you may ask because I certainly did ask and her response was- “if you’re getting cash from the government then I can raise your rent because you have more money.” I was threatened on Christmas Eve with yet another rent increase (only months after my first one by the way) because the guy next door rented his two units and got more money so they felt it was best I find something new so they could rent it out for more money.

We stayed because we weren't going to pick up and voluntarily leave just because we felt bad our landlords weren't making as much money as the guy next door. We decided even though we weren't happy living in such a small apartment we’d A) wait till we were financially ready to move or B) wait until we were told we have to leave hoping the former would come first. Well, the time has come and our landlady asked us to leave in 60 days and I should feel “lucky I gave you 60 days because I only have to give you 30 days notice.”  

Finding a reasonable two bedroom apartment wouldn't be such a challenge if we weren't already spending money on daycare. The cost of the average apartment in Brooklyn is currently $2600. Landlords normally request you earn 40x the rent which means you would have to earn approximately $104,000. The average household income in Brooklyn is approximately $60,000 which means the average household qualifies for a $1500 apartment. Add childcare, insurance and the other expenses families with children have and even a $1500 apartment may not seem all that affordable. Affordable housing in NYC is going to get even tighter for the neediest New Yorkers. With cuts and decreases to Section 8 vouchers, those at or below the poverty line are not going to be able to find anything at all.

It leaves me to wonder if the middle class or lower middle class can continue to live in the outer boroughs of NYC (forget about Manhattan) if the prices continue to rise. Its as if the teachers, healthcare workers, civil servants, secretaries and retail workers don't count. We contribute greatly to this city but with the way we are being pushed out it is clear we are not valued as doing so.

I have 60 days to find something. I will be sure to provide updates on my search and provide resources for anyone struggling to find housing in NYC as well.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Can We Afford To Have It All?

I've found that most of the articles I've read regarding the work life balance that families need so that both parents can thrive in the work place centers around those that are highly educated and are already established in their careers. When you have an MBA from an elite university or have worked and established yourself within a Fortune 500 company one may have more leverage with requesting things like a flexible schedule or paid maternity leave. So, what about everyone else? What about the Millennials that have not gone to college or recently graduated from school and have not gained valuable work experience? What about those of us that work in positions or industries with a sink or swim mentality instilling the fear that we can be easily replaced?

Not all families have two parents in the household, not all families have parents that can afford nannies or full time daycare so that both parents can work long hours and travel for work. Many families work in industries such as healthcare or retail where the hours are inflexible and the wages are low. How do we lean in? Is it fair to penalize or condemn those of us that are not fortunate enough to have the same choices and possibilities as someone like Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer? Is it fair to expect that those of us with a household income below $80,000 should not procreate at all?

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that there are women like Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg in the positions of power that they are in that can make decisions that benefit families, help to foster an environment where moms and dads are able to thrive and contribute the way they did before becoming parents. I am glad the “lean in” debate has received the attention that it has so that it may create a dialogue at other companies with regard to favorable policies for families that would extend to all employees, not only those that are in a position of authority.

Most other first world countries have more favorable policies for working families than the U.S. Yes, the cost of providing paid leave can be costly but the cost of having to replace workers or face the risk of losing quality workers must be an incentive for employers to provide paid leave for new moms and dads. If some of the most successful companies can see the value in retaining their workforce why can't other companies do the same?

It is clear not all families are the same, which create unique challenges across the board. Whether it’s the woman who has found success in corporate America but earns less than her male counterparts or the dad that cannot get the flexible schedule he needs to be home more with his family or the single mom that works her butt off but still needs to rely on government assistance to barely make ends meet; families are in dire need of support in this country and we need favorable policies that will help us continue to thrive and grow as a nation. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Love & Marriage

It would be nice to be able to call my boyfriend my husband. I wouldn't have to deal with the confused look on people’s faces when they try to figure out if he’s the “same guy” as my son’s father. I wouldn't have to deal with people asking me if our son was an accident or not. Or how much money he gives me or if he hits me (yes, I was asked this my a former coworker I barely knew), unless I came to work with bruises on my body or seemed to have been in emotional distress I don’t get what would warrant a question like that.

If I could introduce him as my husband, people would accept that we are in love, planned our pregnancy and are happy and together. If I could refer to him as my husband I wouldn't have to feel the judgment passing over me by my much older, conservative coworkers. I won’t feel half as defensive when my friends talk about their plans to have children after marriage and the age of 35 because they "don't want to be someone's baby mama". It may sound a little nice to call him my fiancĂ©e, as other people have taken the liberty of calling him (I have corrected them of course) but the truth is we're not even engaged.

Being Black, Latina, in my twenties and from Brooklyn with a child out of wedlock tends to invite a ton of stereotypes. I get it. I've heard many of them. Although I know I should not allow other’s views of me define who I am and how I live my life, I can’t help but to feel as if I am some sort stereotype of the so called typical unwed mother and I HATE that.

I am a college graduate, I work full time, pay my own bills and do not rely on government assistance. I am not looking for someone to take care of me, but I want to make sure I’m in a union where we can take care of each other, where I won’t be the one left to pick up the slack and have not only the housework on my shoulders but the majority of financial responsibilities as well. My boyfriend and I are in love but there are so many other aspects to marriage and love may not be the answer to everything.

Do we want to live in an apartment or a house? Rent or buy? What kind of retirement do we want to have, how much financial support are we willing to provide to our son when he goes to college? Can we afford more children? These are all questions I have and to be frank, I don’t have the answers to them. I’m not saying I need to know exactly what will happen in the future because I don’t think anyone can ever know or be fully prepared, but it is important to know you are both moving in the same direction.

I could be one of those people that say “if it ain't broke, don’t fix it”, or “we don’t need a piece of paper to validate our love”, but I do want to get married and not just because it would be more socially acceptable. It would be nice to have more financial stability, to put our money together and save. The truth is, the money isn't there right now and sadly, many divorces end due to financial hardships and the chance of divorce decreases with age.

I think for us at this time, it would be best for us not only to focus on being the best parents we can be for our son, but really take a step back and think about US. What do we want in life, where do we see ourselves in five or ten years instead of just “together”. What do we want out of life and what are we willing to do to achieve our goals? I don’t want to enter a union to divorce like many of my family members. Or remain in an unhappy marriage because it’s best for our son. I would rather cohabit and make a decision I feel fully comfortable with than become yet again, another statistic.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

You're On Your Own

It’s funny how much my family has changed from when I was a child to now. Growing up, I lived within walking distance of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, second and third cousins. We had sleepovers, dinners, and picked each other up from school. Holidays were fun and memorable. My son doesn't have that. I miss that part of growing up and I want my son to experience it as well.

Everyone has moved away, spends more time working or pretty much does their own thing (whatever that means). Holidays are smaller in size and shorter in length. We don’t get together “just because” and we don’t babysit for each other either. In fact, my grandmother has received criticism from family members for babysitting because it’s “not her responsibility”.

I wonder why all of a sudden my family seems to have this you’re on your own mentality. Or why we don’t seem to want to be around each other. Granted, many people have moved away but there are still a handful of family members in NYC that I only see a few times a year. I spent a lot of time with grandparents and was babysat by nearly everyone in my family. What has changed?

Is it because we are making more money and the consensus is we can afford our own nannies, daycare and after school care? Is it because there are huge economic differences between family members and now we don’t have much in common anymore? Or because fewer people are having children and the only real reason to get together or celebrate holidays is to bring the kids together? Could It be there is such a negative stigma around having children no one wants to be involved?

I think about these things because for right now, I do not plan on having more children in the immediate future. I want my son to grow up surrounded by family and other children outside of his daycare. Although we struggled financially growing up, I had a lot of fond memories and I am afraid he may not have the same experience I had. I know I can join or create a playgroup and meet up with local moms at the park which I’m not opposed to, but there is just nothing like spending time like family.

What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My life is ruined...or is it?

I remember my mother telling me on numerous occasions when I was younger that she wished she would have waited until she was older to have me. She wished she would have gone to college, had a good job, and traveled. I know she did not tell me these things to make me feel bad or unwanted, but to prevent me from making the same “mistake” she made and suffering as a result of it.

I have to admit, this did often make me feel pretty crappy. I mean, had my mom went to college, had more money and more time to pick a more suitable husband (which would mean I wouldn't be here) we would be so much better off, right? We would have lived in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood and took family vacations. We wouldn't have been repeatedly evicted, forcing us to cram into small apartments with other family members. She wouldn't have had to rely on welfare and food stamps to get by. I understood my mother's point perfectly, having a child young (she was 20) will ruin your life.

As I got older and became a sort of young mom myself at 26, I realized how challenging being a parent, especially in expensive New York could be. I was renting a small apartment, didn't have a clear path as to what I wanted career wise and had a ton of debt. Having a kid made saving and paying off debt harder and being able to pay for the continuing education classes to advance my career nearly impossible.

One thing I did realize when I became a mom was how much time I wasted after college in getting my act together. I found out I was pregnant about four years after I graduated from college. That was four years of my life I could have spent taking those continuing ed classes to advance my career and save money. I took for granted that I was still young and had time to figure things out and as a result I wasted five years at a dead end job and found myself in serious credit card debt. I only had myself to blame for not being happy. 

Had I not become a mom would I have more money? Yes. I would not have to worry about paying for insurance, daycare, food, clothes, medicine and toys. Had I not become a mom would I become focused on advancing my career and becoming debt free? Maybe, maybe not.

My life is harder, but better. My son has inspired me and motivated me to become the responsible, mature adult I want and know I can be. I want to be a good example to him, I want him to see me grow as a person, to see what hard work and success looks like so that he may take those life lessons with him as he grows. I don’t want him to grow up watching his parents fail, give up or make excuses. He will learn that in life there are always going to be struggles and hardships but that we have the power to make the change we want to see in our lives.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Working Mom

For me, going to work after my son was only three months old was not a choice, it was necessity. My boyfriend had been laid off and found work he wasn't necessarily happy with shortly before I gave birth, and we knew a dual income household was the only way to get by. There was so much pressure, so much to do. Bigger apartment, car and health insurance for our son. Every time I turned around something was going up whether it was our rent, utilities or medical expenses. I decided shortly after going back to work something had to change so I quit my job to work as a real estate agent.

The opportunity for money was there, it just required a lot of time, more than I felt comfortable with. I spent my days and sometimes nights hustling around Brooklyn and Manhattan, taking phone calls and e-mails 24/7, working an unpredictable schedule that was often very chaotic. I knew if I kept at it, I could be really good, and the opportunity to work for myself and earn my own money was great. There was just one thing; I felt really sad about not being home enough with my son.

I couldn't help but feel something wasn't right about this scenario. I was lucky enough to have a family member care for him until he was one so I knew he was in great hands. I just knew that I wanted to be the one at home caring for him. I wanted to be able to be there when he woke up in the morning, feed him his dinner and put him to bed at night. I wanted to have days off so that we could spend time together to make up for my days at work. I knew something had to change, so I got a job in the same industry in an administrative role with a set salary, good schedule and benefits.

Do I make as much as much as I would like? No. Am I being challenged, pushed to my limits (in a good way) or working to my full mental capacity? No. But I can say I do have the security of working for a great company, decent benefits and the work-life balance I felt I needed. I will admit, I can do more and want to do more, I just need to work within what my boyfriend and I feel is best for us and our family. We both decided it would be best if he spent more time working and I spent more time at home.

The pressure is there to have it all. Go after what you want in the work place, expect more from our husbands and partners and earn more. Our lives will be more fulfilling and we will set an excellent example for both our daughters and sons. My story is different than Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer. I wasn't working as an executive with a Fortune 500 company when I became pregnant, I was at the bottom. I’m sure if I were in the position they were in, I’d have more to fight for, more of a reason to keep climbing up and not give up. I won’t call my leaving my commissioned based position as giving up, but I didn't see myself as losing anything by not sticking with it and going back to the world of being an admin either.

I think as much as we support the Sandberg’s or the Mayer’s, we should be supportive of the SAHM or the mom that works her butt off outside of the home without much to show for it. I think this discussion about “leaning in” and having it all is really a discussion about choices, and making the right choices for our families and not giving in to pressure from those on the outside. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Young Mom?

I have the best son in the whole world. He has made me love in ways I never knew were possible and tested my patience beyond what I thought were its limits. Most importantly, he has challenged me to become a better person, not only for him, but for myself. He has made me grow up.

I say he has made me grow up because I was a 25 year old college graduate with a decent, but dead end job without a clear direction as to where I was going in life. I was working in an industry where there were many layoffs in late 2007 and 2008 and was honestly happy to still have a job. I kept telling myself I was still young, years away from getting married or having a family with plenty of time to pursue a graduate degree or switch careers.  When I got pregnant a few months shy of my 26th birthday all the time I kept telling myself I had suddenly disappeared.

Most of my family members starting or expanding their families were older than me, had careers, more money and owned their homes. My friends in my age group lived at home with their parents and didn't have to worry about raising and supporting a family. Despite the fact I was not going to continue to have the “ideal” 20's like my friends and struggle more financially than my older family members, I felt my partner and I could do this. We both worked full-time, we lived in a cheap apartment by NYC standards and would probably struggle for a couple of years max until we caught up to the crowd. Then when the “are you keeping it?” and “you’re too young” comments started rolling in, I started to doubt myself. Could I do this? Am I really too young?

I will admit, the past two years have been rough. I made a couple of career blunders that left us broke, didn't realize the difficulty in finding quality childcare at an affordable price, and we’re still living in our small apartment. I started to feel ashamed for not having the house, car and money people in their 30's normally have established. I started to feel as if I no longer had anything in common with my friends because when I do have free time (which is rarely ever) I couldn't afford the weekend getaways or expensive dinners they were accustomed to.

I recently read an article on www.parenting.com titled “5 Reason I Love Being an Early Mama” by Michelle Horton, which I found to be incredibly refreshing. I think (in my experience) the focus of those around me is on delaying children as much as possible until everything is perfect. But you know what? Can anyone ever be fully prepared as parents? No matter how much money, how much research you've done, how much life experience you have, being a parent is something you really can’t claim to be good at until you've lived and experienced it. There are both pros and cons on both sides of the fence but your commitment to being a wonderful, loving parent cannot and should not be measured on how much money a person has or how big their house is.

There are many things that money can buy and in some ways would make life easier. There are also many things money can’t buy like our play dates at the park, hugs and kisses and cuddling up for story time. My son brings so much joy to my life and I honestly can’t imagine my life without him. My unwavering commitment and desire to raise him into a respectable, productive member of society is my priority and I have faith he will be just that.   The decision to stop focusing on what I don’t have and more on what I do have has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Please feel free to share your experiences or comments with me. Thanks for stopping by!