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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

 

 

 

 

Self-Care Vital for Moms

When I wrote my book Mastering the Mommy Track, my daughters were ages 3 and 1, ages when “self-care” is often at the bottom of a mom’s to-do list. I thought it was important to explore the topic in a chapter, and posed the question “How do I find alone time?”

If you have a baby or toddler, how do you break away during the week or on the weekend? Some moms like to get their nails done or get a shoulder massage; others may find walks or runs helpful for releasing tension.

Working moms face the risk of burn-out if they do not take time out for themselves, if they always place their spouse’s or kids’ needs about their own.

Weekend breaks are an extra special treat if you can swing it. Can you break away to visit a friend in another city? I try to go to NYC twice a year and stay with a friend for the weekend. Since I lived there for ten years, I always enjoy returning.

This past weekend, I spent time in Baltimore to attend the wedding party of a friend and former coworker. I was thrilled to celebrate my friend’s nuptials with her and her spouse, family and close friends.

* Traveling does not have to be too expensive. I took the bus to Baltimore—it cost less than the train and I had a chance to do some reading. Stay with a friend to avoid the cost of a hotel—or if you have to book a hotel room, share the cost with other friends. If you need to get a room solo, use your credit card points.

* Explore a city you are not familiar with. If you get the chance to visit a city solo for a day or two, do it. I am not a big clothes shopper but in Fells Point, I did stumble upon a work outfit I had to buy—only $30 at 60 percent off. In addition, I ate a few mouth-watering oysters for only a dollar each that a restaurant was selling outside. You never know what you will stumble upon if you have some time to walk a city by yourself.

After a weekend in Baltimore, I was ready to return to the family late Sunday afternoon. The best part of being away for two days? Returning to your kids’ warm hugs as you walk in the door and hearing the words, “I missed you Mommy!”

A Milestone Achieved

Today was a big day – Kindergarten orientation for my daughter Kaitlyn. While I was filling out her paperwork, I got a bit misty eyed as she colored next to me. We’ve reached another milestone!

The five years have gone by fast, and have been busy. Here’s a partial rundown of what I’ve been doing:

  • Gave birth to two daughters
  • Juggled conference calls and deadlines with breast feedings
  • Hired babysitters
  • Took the girls to doctor and dentist appointments
  • Attended networking meetings
  • Prospected for new clients
  • Was accepted into American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA)
  • Wrote a book for working moms
  • Obtained certification from Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)
  • Applied to local charter schools for Kaitlyn
  • Booked media interviews for authors
  • Organized playdates and birthday parties
  • Drove the girls to visit their grandparents
  • Met with prospects, submitted proposals
  • Organized month-long virtual tour for myself
  • Arranged book signings

Today, I patted myself on the back for what I’ve accomplished so far. I love a flexible work schedule and am grateful to the clients who have given me business over the years.

Career moms face tough decisions: Work full or part time? Start a business or fold an existing one? Explore an entirely new field? It’s not always easy, but we put on a brave face and do what is best for our kids.

After the orientation and out of the school building, I put my sunglasses on and shed a few tears. Then I grabbed Kaitlyn’s hand and walked out of the schoolyard.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Books Make a Difference

Moms influence. Moms read books. In the May issue of Books Make A Difference magazine, mom bloggers discuss how blogs and books have made a difference in their lives.

In honor of Mother’s Day, the online magazine www.BooksMakeADifference.com will feature mom bloggers in its Turn the Page column. The blog-style article, with contributions from four different blogging moms, will be the jump-off point for an extensive blog-hopping conversation. I was invited to take part in the Books Make a Difference-sponsored bloghop.

So what difference do I hope my book about motherhood, and my blog posts, will have for other moms? Two years ago, I did research to find a self-help book for working moms with babies or toddlers who were recovering from the economic slowdown. That book did not exist … so I decided to write my own.

I was looking to hear from working moms who were struggling either at home or at work. I selected career moms who were willing to share their unique stories, and posed them questions about their tension between family and career. Through my research, I found that many were exhausted from working full time and managing their household, fearful of losing their job, working longer hours for the same pay, and so forth.

I hope Mastering the Mommy Track helps other moms who are faced with questions such as: My husband has been out of work for over a year, what should we do? I lost my main client, where do I go from here? How can I alleviate my stress level during this trying time?

Some of the women featured in my book are bloggers. How did I start blogging? I had to start blogging on working mother topics because I was writing a book on career mom issues. Every author today has to have a blog page just like every business needs to have a blog.

When inspiration about motherhood hits me, I try to blog about it. My first priority is paying clients and prospecting for new business.  However, I do push out a blog every month or so, with the goal of encouraging other moms to take care of themselves, seek help when needed and take control of their careers.

Moms, if you have experienced setbacks like those in Mastering the Mommy Track–dust yourself off and get back on your feet. Tomorrow is a new day, with fresh opportunities to pursue. We face challenges today our parents’ generation never had to face—record unemployment, terrorist attacks, and so forth.

Blogging has brought me in touch with a virtual and local community of other mom bloggers. We’re all in this together…

 

The Fragility of Life

Yesterday, I was mourning the loss of a friend’s sister who died of cancer at the age of 44. She was a member of the U.S. Air Force and a veteran of Desert Storm. I did not know her well but remember her vibrant personality.

Then I got news of the Boston Marathon tragedy. Emailed my cousin to see if she was and her friends were okay. “There are reports of another suspicious device in Harvard square, so we’re on lockdown. So terrifying,” she wrote.

When tragedy strikes close to home or far away, we can’t help but think about how fragile life is.

My girls are growing up and no longer “babies”—Kaitlyn will start Kindergarten in September. A part of me wishes I could always be with them to protect them from the troubles they will face like bullying and peer pressure.

Yesterday, I toured a summer camp in South Philly for Kaitlyn. She was on the wait list for two summer camps in the city but I didn’t want to take the chance and wait any longer. When I called the camp, the woman I spoke to said there were only ten spots left. That was the kick I needed to lock a spot down.

I asked how the age groups were separated and was assured the five- and six-year-olds would play in their own room. But — all campers take the bus together two days a week for the trips.

So I got the camp spot for Kaitlyn yesterday (sigh of relief). My kids are sweet, innocent and happy. I hope they always stay that way regardless of what curve balls life throws them.

As a parent, you hope and pray tragedy and illness never strike your family. Every day, just show how much you love and care for them. And then–let them go and send them out into the world..

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Persistence More Vital Than Ever

Today’s job marketplace is more competitive than ever before. If you are seeking a job or new clients, you know it is fierce out there—regardless of the field you work in.

I am always looking for new clients—it is something I have been doing for almost twelve years. My business comes from word of mouth and referrals, so I have had to do a lot of networking over the years.

Two of the lessons I have learned are:

1. Don’t get discouraged. When prospecting for new clients, I send out emails or make calls. Some reply, but many do not. You have to keep going. Do not lose focus or get sidetracked.

2. Don’t take it personally. Sometimes I get repeat business from past clients—that is always gratifying. Some former clients do not reply to my emails. I have learned not to take it personally. You cannot—otherwise you might feel glum that day.

Since the Fall, I have been pitching my book Mastering the Mommy Track to media outlets and bookstores. I just learned the other day that Sears is selling my book online: http://www.sears.com/unknown-mastering-the-mommy-track/p-SPM540272114P. This is exciting as Sears is a major retailer.

When seeking endorsements for my book, I sent emails to some high–profile mommy bloggers and authors. Many did not reply—maybe they did not want to support an unknown author, maybe my book did not fit with their brand. Who knows the reason why? Eventually, I got some nice endorsements.

I believe in my book, its message and want it to sell well. I am realistic, however, and realize I am not going to be the next EL James.

Bottom line: If you are selling a book or product that you believe in, do not get discouraged. You have to throw a lot of pitches out there—Have faith that some will break through. Keep going!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net