The Return of the Working Mom

First of all, this blog title is an obvious misnomer. For all of my motherhood career, I have been a “working mom.” For the first seven years of parenting I worked full-time out of the home. But for the last five years, I have vacillated between working part-time for another company, freelancing, and building my own business. During those years, I also spent much of my time at home taking care of my kids. I was the primary parent, volunteering at school and with the PTA, serving as a kid-taxi to practices and events, and leading the charge for every doctor’s appointment, parent-teacher conference or kid-centered meeting. I loved it.

A few months ago, I started thinking about when I wanted to go back to work full-time. I always knew that I would go back eventually, I was just never sure what exactly that would look like for our family. I could take a full-time position with another company. I could invest in my own business and take it full-time. I could continue freelancing. I could cobble together a combo of several different options. While I loved the flexibility I had with my own business, I found myself exhausted by the grind of it all. I loved photography, working with clients and creating fun projects, but I wasn’t a huge fan of accounting, taxes, and the day-to-day of running a business. The part-time aspect was a struggle as well. I had enough work to take my business full-time, but not enough childcare to give myself the hours to get it all done. I was constantly working in bursts, having to take frequent breaks for my parenting duties, and I found that really difficult.

Also, as I learned soon after I left my last full-time job, a lot of my self-worth and confidence were tied to being a “working mom.” I found it challenging to be home more, especially as my kids got older and the duties shifted to a more “housewife” type role instead of a caretaking role. For me, it wasn’t fulfilling, and I found myself bored, tired and unmotivated. I have a strong pull to be financially independent, and knowing if something happened to my husband’s income, I couldn’t support the family, really stressed me out.

So a few months ago I started tentatively putting my name out into the universe when I’d see jobs that might be a good fit. Very soon after, the perfect job sort of just….appeared. I know that sounds incredibly annoying, especially if you’ve been in search of the perfect job for a long time. But keep in mind, I’ve been on a journey to find a job that fits with my life for years. It’s part of why I left my last full-time position and why I’ve spent the last few years happy, but still feeling like something was missing. In the words of a wise friend, “Isn’t it wonderful that you found a job that’s the best fit for your life RIGHT NOW?”

There have been some surprises since I began my new career adventure (I’m coordinating social media and website content for the cancer center that saved my dad’s life when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer), and oddly, most of them have been positive. I was prepared to be overwhelmed, anxious, and constantly searching for the elusive “working mom balance” that highlighted the years in my former career. However, so far, I’ve been incredibly fulfilled and I’m so happy going into work every day. I thought I would really miss not being able to be as flexible with the kids and not getting to hang at the pool during the summer. Instead, it’s been such a gift to be supported by other people in my life who have stepped up to help out. The kids are really happy too, and I think they are enjoying their newfound independence and time with their super-fun babysitter and family. I thought the commute would be a bummer, but I actually like having that buffer time between work and home, something that was sorely missed when I was working for myself. I would work right up to the minute the kids got into the car at school pickup, and I struggled a lot to turn off my work stress in front of them. Now, by the time I get home, I’ve usually had enough time to decompress and jump into parenting with a good attitude. I also have been really focusing on having as much quality time with my kids as possible, where as before I certainly felt like I was never fully in one place or another.

Granted, I am only six weeks into this new adventure, and I may TOTALLY eat my words once school starts for the kids and my busy season begins at work in the fall, but for now, I’m enjoying the change. It’s so important that we all give ourselves permission to change as our lives change. While a few years ago I never could have imagined wanting to work for anyone other than myself, I am finding it was the best choice for me right now. I’m sure things will continue to evolve, but for today, I’m just going to enjoy the ride.

Lucy in the Snow 2017

Snow Days and Chasing Slow

Lucy in the Snow 2017

The last few weeks have been short ones around here. We got back to a somewhat normal schedule after the holidays, just to be slammed with more days off of school for the kids than I can count.

Just kidding, I’ve counted. Twice.

Basically with the combination of national holidays and inservice/teacher learning days, we have four-day school weeks from now until mid-February. Which, let’s face it, isn’t ideal. Not only does this make my work schedule difficult, it is hard on the kids as well! It’s almost impossible for any of us to get into a groove when our schedule is all over the place.

When I’m faced with these types of working mom problems, I tend to get extremely over-stressed and anxious. I find myself making lists in my head of everything I won’t be able to do because I won’t have the time. I torture myself by looking at the social media feeds of my competitors and colleagues, seeing all their perfectly lit images and the work they have been doing, and instead of cheering them on, I feel resentful. I worry that I’m falling behind, yet again, and that I’ll never get ahead of the game. I decide that I’m destined to fail, resign myself to my bed with some fuzzy socks, ratty PJs and Netflix. Why bother even trying, right?

WRONG. Because I don’t have to live fast in order to find success, and the whole idea of hustle equating happiness just doesn’t resonate for me anymore. When my kids have a day off school, I enjoy being with them. I like stepping away from the computer and being present as we throw snowballs at each others heads or read books. I don’t feel lazy when I’m in my PJs with them until 11 a.m. I feel happy. Joyful, even!

Tate in the Snow 2017

So why I am I torturing myself? When they were babies and I worked out of the home full time, I felt guilty for missing all these moments. When I started my own business and they were in preschool, I felt guilty because I couldn’t work as much as I wanted to. Now I’m feeling guilty when they have days off elementary school. I keep waiting for the next phase of life, when things slow down, but I’m starting to think that’s NEVER gonna happen. There will always be something pulling me in one direction while another is pushing me the opposite way.

This year I am planning to focus more on being present, but also on listening to my inner self when it comes to my schedule and work. I am finding doubling down on hustle when it comes to work isn’t always resulting in success. Instead, when I focus on doing what feels right in all facets of my life (working, creating, mothering, reading, meditating, eating chocolate, whatever) the success seems to follow. Recently I was fortunate enough to be asked to read the new, beautiful book Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner, which really speaks to this topic. Erin chronicles her journey from a fast life, to a slow life and back again…and her conclusions aren’t what I expected. Instead of being a book about slowing down your life, this book was more about the question of why do we believe we have to have any particular sort of life for it to be a happy one? I related so much to her journey, and it made me think twice about my goals. Do I want a fast life? Do I want to be a minimalist? Do I want to disconnect from the internet and live in a yurt? Do I want to move to New York City and take my kids to school on the subway? Do I want neither? Both?

Chasing Slow

Do I have to decide?

Maybe we can just be balancing along the middle…sometimes wanting to throw out everything we own because the clutter is strangling us and other times buying a shirt on sale just because it looked cute online. Who knows? But for now, I can only be where I am. And I am a mom of two kids who are growing into grown-ups faster than I can fathom, so if they have a day off school, I’m probably needed on the front lines of the snowball fight. Afterward, when they are sipping on hot cocoa and fighting over marshmallows, I’ll likely sneak away for a little editing session or to answer a few emails. I’m not perfect, but luckily, no one is.

Lucy in the Snow 2017

If you’re looking for more info on this topic, the podcast “The Lively Show” is an amazing listen. I recommend starting with this episode!

Instagram, Algorithms and Social Media Stress

Since it’s a Monday morning, I figured we should start out the week with a light topic….like how Instagram is ruining EVERYTHING!!!

Instagram Changes

Okay, seriously, I’m kidding. Everyone take a deep breath, we can get through this together.

Remember when social media was simple? Ah, the good ole’ days, when you could follow someone on social media because you wanted to see what they were up to. And then, like magic, you could see what they were up to! But then came the Facebook algorithm and the whole internet lost their collective minds. No longer could we see the posts of our friends or companies we followed, now Facebook was deciding what we get to see! For small businesses like mine, it was the beginning of the end of my Facebook strategy.

I’ve talked before about how Instagram is my favorite social media platform (while Snapchat is closing in….) and it still is. But Instagram is about to change how the app works in a pretty dramatic way. If you’re totally confused and wondering what I’m talking about, this New York Times article lays it all out for you:

The photo-sharing service plans to begin testing an algorithm-based personalized feed for users, similar to one already used by its parent company, Facebook. That means it would shift away from the strictly reverse chronological order that the service has used since it began in 2010. Instead, Instagram will place the photos and videos it thinks you will most want to see from the people you follow toward the top of your feed, regardless of the time those posts were originally shared.

Sound familiar ? Instagram is now owned by Facebook, and while we all use these social media platforms for free, they are still companies that need to make money somehow. I get that, and I totally understand why they are changing. Technology evolves faster than we humans, though, so I also understand all of the freaking out. We liked how things were, and we don’t want them to change. I’ve worked really hard to grow my Instagram following, and have more than doubled in the past six months, so to know that all that hard work is now being compromised isn’t a good feeling. However….

I’m learning more and more that real social media reach isn’t about having a zillion followers, it’s about engagement. Sure, I don’t have the following of some photographers or writers, but I engage with the community I do have. I think 10 engaged and excited followers that are participating in your conversations are worth 1,000 followers who never like or comment. It’s about COMMUNITY, not POPULARITY.

(This is a great post about the algorithm change by Jasmine Star that is chock full of info!)

And so, I’m doing my best not to freak out about all the changes afoot. Yes, it will hurt small businesses. But as a blogger and an entrepreneur, the rules are always changing, and being adaptable is part of the game! If you’re looking for some ways to stay ahead of this thing (or if you’re just a recreational Instagrammer that wants to see your favorite posts) there are a few things you can do:

1. You can turn on “Post Notifications” – I’m sure you’ve seen this about 300 times in your feed by now, but by clicking on the three little dots in the upper right hand corner of a user’s photo, you can turn on post notifications and never miss a post by that person or brand. This is similar to what I’ve recommended with Facebook. However, at the moment this means that you will be receiving constant alerts and pop ups on your phone with notifications that people have posted a photo, which is no bueno for me! In the Facebook app, you can have the notifications turned on, but only popping up when you’re in the app. For Instagram, there is no way to do that, so it’s constant DING DING DING from my phone when I turn on post notifications. Soooo….that one doesn’t work for me, and I won’t be asking my followers to do that. But if you don’t mind the notifications, go for it! You definitely won’t miss a post! (My friend Cody wrote a fantastic post on this for her blog, if you want to learn more!)

2. Unfollow Accounts You Don’t Love – Are there certain accounts you never really even glance at, just scrolling by when you see their photos? Unfollow them! The less clutter in your feed, the less likely you’ll see images you don’t really want to.

3. Interact with Accounts You Do Love – The new algorithm is based on interaction, so if there are accounts you love seeing in your feed, let them know! Like, comment, and be a part of the community. The algorithm will see that and promote those posts to the top of your feed. If you’re a small business owner, make sure you’re engaging with your followers. Go to their pages and like/comment as well! The more you interact, the more likely your posts will stay at the top of their feeds as well.

4. Post Good Photos! –
This is a no-brainer, but make sure you’re posting quality images and captions if you want people to see them. The algorithm will be looking at images that are most pleasing to the eye, and those posts that have no captions will probably be bumped to the bottom.

Here’s the deal…Instagram isn’t trying to ruin our lives. Currently, according to their research, we only see about 30% of the photos in our feed. That means that 70% of what’s posted, we aren’t seeing anyway (unless we plan on scrolling through for hours on end). All they are trying to do is ensure that 30% is filled with our favorite posts. So let them know your favorites! And if you’re a blogger or small business owner, show your followers why you should be a favorite!

Instagram Changes

Then take a deep breath, chill and remember…it’s social media. It’s not the end of the world. And maybe get some ice cream. Ice cream always helps!

Elsewhere : The Kansas City Moms Blog

Ever wondered how I went from a mom who worked out of the home 50+ hours per week to a work-at-home mom with her own business? Well, I’m sharing the whole story over on the Kansas City Moms Blog:

But I still felt like something was missing. As my children grew, I found it was harder and harder to balance my high stress job with my parenting duties. My husband’s company became extremely successful, and he was less and less able to pick up the slack on the home front. We were all exhausted, and together, we decided a change had to be made.

You can read how it all came together over at Becoming a Mom Boss on the Kansas City Moms Blog!

You can also read my post on my complicated relationship with Facebook, and how I think we should all probably just move on over to Snapchat:

Ahhh, Facebook. I have a love/hate relationship with the king of social media platforms. Yes, it provides me with entertainment in those times when I just need a break from the insanity of life as a mother of small children. But sometimes it feels like a black hole from which I can never escape! One minute I’m commenting on my childhood friend’s new vacation photos, and before I know it, two hours have passed and I’m wondering what I’m doing with my life!

Read more at Is Facebook on Its Way Out? on the Kansas City Moms Blog.

Are there any other parenting topics you’d like to see me cover? Send me a note at megan@crazybananas.com or drop me a comment below!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

I had big plans for a beautiful, heartwarming blog post all about gratitude and love and the holiday season…but then, late last night, we discovered our family is being hit with pink eye, head lice and an ear infection simultaneously! Merry merry! Anyway, I am grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met and worked with this year, and for the flexibility that this job gives me to tend to hours of sheet washing, nit picking, eye drop distributing and urgent care waiting rooms.

Happy Holidays!
In all seriousness, before this self-employed life, situations like this were entirely more stressful. And without all of my amazing clients, friends and colleagues, I wouldn’t still be self-employed. The first year in business is a pretty big deal, and to have done well enough to simply keep going is a gift! So thank you! And I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

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