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Raising The Federal Minimum Wage Key for Struggling Families

This holiday season, many Moms across the country find it hard to be festive when they are struggling to put meals on the table for their children or pay their utility bills.

A single mother of five may work long hours in a restaurant for meager pay and need assistance from a local food bank to help feed her kids. This is just one example of a low-wage worker who has not – like many other Americans – seen the “economic recovery” reported in the news media.

Between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of the income gains have gone to the top one percent of earners. The majority of new jobs created have paid low wages, and many middle-income jobs have been eliminated. Middle-class families saw about 30 percent of their wealth disappear over the past decade, while the cost of goods and services they rely on steadily increase.

In the 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

Raising the minimum wage nationwide would increase earnings for millions of workers, and boost businesses’ bottom lines nationwide. In fact, 25 million Americans would get a modest raise if Congress raised the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour—where it’s been held since 2007—to $10.10.

New research on the working poor in the US released by Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that despite the stereotype that low-wage workers are teenagers, 88 percent are not. The report shows that more than 35 percent of low-wage workers, or nine million of them, are parents. These six million mothers and three million father care for 15 million children, and these workers are the primary breadwinners in families that include spouses, aging parents, siblings, and other relatives.

Restaurants across the Philadelphia area continue to violate employee wage and tip laws – even following a multi-million dollar settlement by Chickie’s & Pete’s, the sports bar franchise.

In February, Chickie’s & Pete’s agreed to pay out about $8.5 million to compensate employees for failing to pay them minimum wage and improperly taking a portion of their tips, federal officials and the company announced.

Many restaurant owners think they can get away with stiffing their workers, and they often do. The industry-wide practice of not paying employees the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, not paying overtime for working more than 40 hours per week or taking a portion of their tips and distributing among owners or chefs is a violation of state and federal laws. It just stinks.

Perhaps the Chickie’s & Pete’s settlement will make restaurant owners reevaluate their employee compensation plans. It’s time for hard working Americans to be paid a higher minimum wage.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Encouraging Mom Friends

Sometimes an encouraging text or note can make someone else’s day.

Two weeks ago, a friend sent me a “You are doing a great job…” text and it brightened my day. It was especially nice to get that note over a weekend swamped with kid activities.

For many families, the weekends become a whirlwind of activities for their children: lessons, birthday parties, carnivals, festivals, etc. If you are a working parent, free time for yourself may be scarce or nonexistent. You may focus on your children’s interests and neglect your own hobbies or needs.

When was the last time you send a mom friend an uplifting note? It only takes a few minutes to send a text or email, and your pal will surely appreciate it.

Next time you find yourself spinning your wheels or tearing your hair out, take a moment to send a Mom friend complimenting her non-stop energy, well-mannered kids, or another aspect you’ve noticed about her.

Motherhood is a demanding job, regardless of if you are working full time, part time or stay-at-home.

Moms, support your fellow mom friends! Remember there are others out there who are facing the same challenges you are.

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The Sweetest Words

Back to school for my two girls. It has been a hectic week of drop-offs, pick-ups, client work, grocery shopping, homework review, and so forth. My first-grader started CCD yesterday after school. I am happy she is starting this program. It’s another activity to add to the schedule.

At a mailbox store yesterday, I joked with my four-year-old: “When I am older, you can help me out.”

She said the sweetest words to me an hour or so later: “Mom, I will love you when you are old.” This comment made me stop for a moment. It really touched me.

How often do you cruise through your day, rushing the kids out the door in the morning and racing to get them after school? Do you really listen to what they have to say or are you focused on getting them there and back on time?

Young kids can say profound statements. They will thank you for taking care of them. Try to slow down and listen to what they are trying to get across.

Life has its challenges such as job loss, a spouse’s illness, declining health of a parent… But when your child praises you for taking care of them, it lifts your spirit and carries you forward.

You want them to succeed, so you have to stay strong.

Stop comparing yourself to what your peers are doing on Facebook. It may appear as if your Facebook friends have perfect lives when you see photos of birthday parties, dinners out, lavish trips, etc.

One of my resolutions for the Fall? Spend less time on Facebook. Focus on my client projects and caring for my family.

What comments have your children said to you lately that have touched your heart? Later on in life when you are older, you’ll want to remember these small expressions of love from them.

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Adjusting Kids to the Summer Schedule

Recently, I attended a blogger event in the city where I had the chance to catch up with some other Moms. One successful businesswoman and mother of three confided that it was often a challenge to get her kids out the door in the morning on time and without issues.

This seems to be a common work/life issue for Moms who drop their kids off to preschool or summer camp. The summertime can be especially challenging because kids are out of their routine of regular homework and earlier start times. Even if you are not having problems with getting the kids ready in the morning and out the door, it’s good to assess your situation.

Here are some ways you could save extra time:

  • Get them on the same bath schedule. I usually bathe my two at the same time. With the summer heat, one may want more baths than usual to cool down after a hot day. Try to get two in the tub at once.
  • Prepare lunch and snack schedules on Sunday. This is the perfect day to write out what you will need for the week. Many schools and camps offer pizza on certain days but the other days you have to pack lunches. What will you need each week for lunches, drinks and snacks? Mini store runs can eat up your time—try to do a bulk store run once a week.
  • Put them to bed at a reasonable time. During the summer, many kids want to stay up later and play outside if the weather is nice or watch TV. If the kids end up going to sleep too late, they will be overtired in the morning and you may have a tough time waking them up.
  • Know their schedule and what they need each day. Summertime means water play. How many of you have realized at 7pm that your kids need clean swimsuits and towels in the morning, so you had to do laundry immediately? Think ahead.

Everyone falls into their own routine as a parent. The above suggestions may help alleviate some bickering between siblings and your own stress over running late in the AM. Happy summer and stay cool!

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Class Trips and School Involvement

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of accompanying my six-year-old on her class trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. I was excited to go – not to see the animals – but to spend time with her before her Kindergarten year comes to a close.

It’s important to be an involved parent as your child progresses through the elementary school years. I want to be there for my kids when they experience life’s ups and downs, wins and defeats.

As we walked through the zoo yesterday, I took pictures of my daughter and her friends and few shots of the animals.

If you can take time off from work, go on the class trips. You will get a chance to get to know the other parents better, and see your child interacting with his or her classmates. Capture the moments on camera – when your child is older, he or she can look back through the photos and remember their experience at the time.

Are you part of your child’s school advisory committee or board? Support and involvement with the school is important, but the timing should be right.

Evaluate what you can take on by asking yourself some questions:

  • Can I allot the amount of time needed for this volunteer role? If you have kids in difference schools, it might make more sense to wait until the kids are at the same grade school and there is less shuttling around.
  • Will my job allow me flexibility to take on this role? If you are under pressure to find a job or new clients, you may want to hold off on a volunteer role and wait until your work situation is more secure.
  • What is your spouse or partner’s schedule like? If he or she is working late every night or travels long distance frequently, now may not be a good time to take on a new volunteer role.
  • Do you have family in the area who can babysit or an adequate support system? If you have immediate family in the area who can help with drop-offs, pick-ups or after school care, count your blessings.

If you find yourself taking on too many school responsibilities, you will end up feeling exhausted and stressed. It’s better to hold off on volunteering your time than to join a board or committee and then have to back out from lack of time or stress.

Enjoy class trips with your child or children – time is fleeting and you’ll want your kids to remember you as being involved.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Moms, Appreciate the Wins

As a work at home Mom (WAHM), it’s the little successes that get me excited. As a sole proprietor of a PR business, I work for authors and small businesses, developing press material and obtaining media exposure for them. I’m part of the ranks of millions of other Moms nationwide seeking to grow a business, maintain work/life balance and also be “on-call” when the kids have snow days, days off, etc.

This past week a high-profile business approved a press release I wrote, a newspaper ran coverage of a client’s event and I was invited to do a radio interview on “Real Life with Jennifer Till”. Those are some items I am thankful for.

As I write this, my kids are off for President’s Day, the fifth day in a row since there were two snow days last week. It’s a pleasure to spend extra time with them when they have off from school, but this is not a job a client is paying me to do. Moms, wouldn’t it be great to be paid to watch your kids on snow days or to do the school drop-offs and pick-ups?

Moms (and some dads, too) do double duty as drivers, cooks, psychologists and more, clocking a 94-hour work week on average, according to Salary.com.

Based on the ten most laborious tasks noted by more than 6,000 mothers, Salary.com estimated it would cost $113,586 a year to replace them. That’s a meager $624 (0.5 percent) raise since the same study in 2012.

Kudos to my parent friends who juggle a career and kids successfully and keep both running smoothly. A Dad colleague of mine sent me a referral recently – a recent text from him was something like, “Can’t talk now. Have to pick kids up, help with homework, drive to gymnastics..” I had to laugh because that is my life.

Work from home Moms should relish small victories – hopefully, this will propel them toward greater wins. There are highs and lows to being a consultant or sole proprietor, but the flexibility is key if your spouse is working long hours or has a long commute.

Look on the bright side. Every rejection of a proposal will get you one step closer to a “Yes”. Just sending out proposals is a good sign – businesses are interested in your services. Try not to just think about the destination, but enjoy each step of the journey.

What are your victories this past week?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

New Article Addresses “Mommy-Track” Myth

An article in The Atlantic earlier last week jumped out at me, as it had the term “Mommy-Track” in the title. It brought up some important findings.

Researchers Matthias Krapf at the University of Zurich, Heinrich W. Ursprung at the University of Konstanz, and Christian Zimmermann at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis used a sample size of more than 10,000 economists and discovered that those with children aren’t less productive than those without. In addition, economist parents are slightly more productive than their peers without children, though there is not a significant statistical difference.

The study’s productivity measure was the number of research papers the economists published. This new paper will be presented at the Society of Labor Economists meeting in May.

These results are limited because they only examine economics, a white-collar and easily measured profession. Moms in other professions might see vastly different results. There should be studies done measuring other professions.

The Atlantic article also pointed out the wage gap between mothers and childless women: a University of New Mexico study found that women with kids earn up to 14 percent less than women without children.

This is where the “mommy track” comes into play: Some moms exit the workforce completely for a few years after having children and lose their experience and contacts to some extent. Or a mom might choose to work for a nonprofit instead of a large firm because she needs to leave at 5 p.m. each day to pick up the kids from school.

Of course, the more hidden explanation could be employer discrimination.

Advocacy group A Better Balance often sees women returning from maternity leave who are given less work or dead end assignments. “And this type of discrimination really drags down wages for women because they get off track, and even worse off and pushed out of the workforce,” Dina Bakst, head of the group, told NPR.

Many employers in today’s society judge workers who have kids—it is a sad fact. Hopefully, we won’t have to wait until the next decade to see a change. This new study of economists should give employers something to ponder before judging workers who have kids or deciding not to hire moms of young kids.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

WAHM Tips I Follow

I have been a work at home mom (WAHM) since 2008 when my first daughter was born. It’s really the best fit for me as I enjoy having my own roster of author and small business clients.

Across the U.S., Moms are forging their own career paths, juggling home duties with client responsibilities. There are 10.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, according to the Center for Women’s Business Research. No statistics exist on how many are run by stay-at-home moms, but I’m sure it is growing in numbers. I’ve met many Mom bloggers and businesswomen in the Philadelphia area alone.

As I mentioned in my book Mastering the Mommy Track, both of my girls stayed home with me the first eighteen months of their lives until they went to daycare. I scheduled conference calls, deadlines and meetings around their feedings. That’s a benefit for a WAHM—you can stay home with the babies and work when they nap and are asleep.

Here are some guidelines I try to follow:

  • Work during your peak time. For me, this is the morning and early afternoon when I schedule media interviews, write and edit. I recently turned down an adjunct Communications role at a local university. I was flattered to be offered a teaching job, but the pay was not enough to give up my mornings three days a week for a semester.
  • Make sure you have signed contracts and upfront payment. I recently took on an assignment without payment upfront—the business owner wanted a release out right away, so I spent a part of my weekend writing the press release and sending it out to media. I usually don’t do this unless I receive payment first. Be careful you don’t get stiffed.
  • Be prepared to walk away. I have walked away from many assignments over the years. Time is money, so each offer should be reviewed closely. You can’t work for less than what you are worth. Long-term relationships are key. I check in with clients from time to time, which has led to more work over the years.
  • Be careful with phone calls when the kids are home. You don’t want to set calls with major clients when the kids are home. I try to set my calls in the morning and early afternoon. If I have a call before dinner, I will bring the girls over to neighbor’s house for 15 or 20 minutes so I can make the call without screaming in the background.
  • There’s always the evening to work. If can’t get it all done during the day, there’s always the evening after the kids have gone to sleep. Some of my assignments are deadline driven and I need to get edits done within a day. If I cannot get this done during the workday, it has to be done at night or on weekends. That’s how the publishing world works.

With technology today, WAHMs are able to build solid businesses, sometimes even from mobile devices at the playground. At the same time, they can manage the home front and accomplish the never-ending list of household chores that need to be done.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mom Power

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending a MomMixer at the XIX Restaurant at the Bellevue run by Whitney & Colleen of Mom Mixer Events. Mom bloggers from Philly, Jersey, NYC, Baltimore, DC and beyond attended.

Brands had fun activities planned at their tables – from cool toys to interact with, to makeovers, a photo booth, massages, a make-your-own perfume bar and more. I admire Whitney and Colleen for building a successful event business.

I always enjoy Mom blogger events because I have so much in common with these women. We are all entrepreneurial and risk-takers—creating brands, redefining brands, putting a product out there and hoping it is well received, and so forth.

I wrote a book Mastering the Mommy Track, which targets Moms with young kids or babies, those who are struggling with tough decisions: Do I pursue a business? Do I go back into the workforce? How can I stay positive when life is so challenging right now? Do I need to change gears or continue on the same path?

Life gets pretty hectic, so some of these Moms I only see once or twice a year. But it’s always good to catch up and hear what they are working on.

It is during the struggling times that you will need your true Mom friends the most. Your true friends will not judge you by the type of car you drive or the clothes you wear. They will stand by you when you hit a wall and are not sure which direction to turn.

Your true friends will understand that entrepreneurial women succeed and fail, and that failure is not always a bad thing but you have to get back up. You have to get back up even if it feels like the forces have aligned against you. And that is only the first step. Given these changing times, you may have to redefine your career.

I am grateful for the local Mom friends I have made, as we tough it out together and build our businesses and brands.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Back to School Time

If you have a child headed to school for the first time or back to school, are you ready? Did you purchase uniform items and school supplies or are you still tracking items down?

As the mother of a soon-to-be Kindergartner, we are set but still have over a week to go. I secured school uniform, gym uniform, dark shoes, sneakers and school supplies. I did this over a few weeks to prevent a last minute rush to the stores.

This process is new to me but I did learn a few things over the summer. Here are a few areas to consider before your youngster starts school:

  • Allow a few weeks time to get all supplies. You don’t want to be in a panic a few days before school starts. If shirts need insignias, allow for ample time. If you don’t get to a uniform store in time, you could end up being late on the insignias if there is a backlog of orders.
  • Realize you might not get all items at one location. I searched several stores and could not find navy blue sweatpants. Instead of spending more time searching, I ordered them online on hanes.com.
  • If you cannot find what you need, ask friends for help or turn to social media. A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she searched four stores but could not locate three subject, single spiral 9×12 notebooks, per the teacher’s request. You will likely get replies if you post on Facebook and have a network of parent friends.
  • Break homework into increments. If you receive a packet on Monday that is due on Friday, break it into sections. Don’t get stuck the night before in a crunch where your child is overloaded. My daughter had to complete a summer homework packet. I took the advice of my math professor Mom and divided total pages up by the number of weeks. Each week, Kaitlyn had to complete a set number of pages. This made the task a lot easier for her. It was a relief to have that off the table and to submit the assignment for her.

Moms, I wish you a successful school year for your kid(s)! It’s an exciting time!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net