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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

 

Helping Those in Transition

The target market for my book Mastering the Mommy Track is working mothers with young kids, and those who are unemployed or underemployed. The national unemployment rate rose slightly in January, from 7.8 to 7.9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The unemployment rate has been in that range since September 2012.

Unemployed parents face great stress because of the need to provide for their kids. If you know a Mom (or Dad) who is in a transitional stage, here are some ways you can reach out to help them:

  1. Lend an ear. Invite your friend out for a coffee, a chance to hear what they’re dealing with. They might need a shoulder to cry on or would welcome time away from the computer searching for job leads or new clients.
  2. Recommend local resources. If you know of local services they would benefit from, speak up. If their unemployment is a long length of time, they may have to find a lower cost family health insurance plan, assistance services or even go on food stamps.
  3. Offer a playdate. If your child is the same age as your friend’s, offer to watch him or her for an afternoon so your friend can have some much-needed free time to decompress.
  4. Babysit for an evening. Offer to babysit your friend’s kid(s) so she can go out on a date with her spouse. They don’t have disposable income, so a night out would be a treat for them.
  5. Cook some meals. Drop off some meals for your friend so she does not have to cook for a few nights. This will alleviate her stress level just a bit. She will appreciate it (Who can refuse a hot dinner at one’s doorstep?).

Philadelphia’s Career Wardrobe is one of 74 groups nationwide competing for $250,000 and recognition on The Huffington Post through the JobRaising Challenge. The competition runs from January 21 through March 1, and winners will be determined by how much money and awareness they can raise in that amount of time.

If Career Wardrobe wins The Job Raising Challenge, they pledge to replicate their innovative model of social enterprise and social change by expanding their services into a new community. A few years ago, I donated suits to this charity and realize the great need for their services. Philly had a staggering unemployment rate of 8.7 percent in December 2012.

Extended unemployment can wreak havoc on a family—unfortunately, some couples don’t survive the bumps when faced with drastic cuts. Financial worries are a main reason couples split up.

Reach out to those locally who need your help—consider these ways to assist your neighbor or friend in transition.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

A Caribbean Trip To Remember

On New Year’s Eve, the four of us boarded an airplane from Philadelphia for Nassau, the Bahamas. It was a long-awaited trip—it had been quite some time since all four of us flew on an airplane together. We met up with Jason’s family from the West Coast there for one night, and the next day flew to San Salvador, a remote Bahamas island.

Yes, a whole week with my husband’s family. Some of you may cringe at the idea of spending a vacation with your spouse’s family. You should reconsider this. Our trip was a success and thoroughly enjoyable—not just because of the beautiful weather, water and island beauty.

The girls and I got a chance to get to know his family better (since they are on the West Coast, we do not see them often). We all took plenty of pictures and have memories to look back on.

The girls have taken many trips to Long Beach Island but have never experienced a beach like San Salvador. Now that they are older, they have the ability to absorb such a trip. The waves were not rough most days, so we got them in the water and they loved it. When they were not in the water, they were usually running on the sand.

Another advantage of traveling with family is that you can split the cost of the time-share or house, car rental and food. Traveling with a few kids is expensive. Do the math. If you travel as a group, your vacation expense might be half of what you would spend if you traveled alone as a family.

It’s good to have a buddy system as well if you are on a remote island. Jason’s cousin has a place in San Salvador, so she transported us around the island of only 500 inhabitants. There are no street signs on San Salvador so it is difficult for many tourists to get around and not get lost. One way to figure out your location is to follow the telephone poles. There is no hospital on the island so if you had a medical emergency, it would be a problem.

Before I got married, every year I traveled with a girlfriend or two out of the country. The travel bug hit me again on this trip, and I hope we can take many vacations out of the country with the kids in years to come.

If you’re on the fence about taking a trip out of the country with young kids, consider going as an extended family—either with your side or your spouse’s. There are cost advantages but most importantly, the chance to spend quality time with family you don’t see often.

I have my eye on traveling again next January to a warm but less primitive location—the perfect time to get away if you live in the Northeast.

Today Kaitlyn asked me, “When are we going back to the Bahamas” I laughed and said, “It’s going to be awhile.” Happy she had this experience to remember.

A Small Gesture of Kindness

Yesterday, outside of Whole Foods a man was selling a newspaper to help the homeless. I gave him the suggested donation of a dollar and got the newspaper One Step Away, a local paper produced by the homeless for the community. One of the articles was on a film company offering second chances to those in recovery from homelessness. This paper is a fantastic resource more people should support.

I have seen one homeless woman at my local church for more than a year now. Every Saturday I take the girls to my local Catholic church; it has been part of our routine since they were babies. I often spot this homeless woman in a back pew. It breaks my heart whenever I see her.

Yesterday, I walked past her to get some bulletins for the kids to draw on–I gave her a five-dollar bill and an unopened water bottle. She tried to push the money away but I left it next to her.

As I sat through the service, I glanced back once or twice to see her. She had her head down and coughed off and on. I remember the last time I spotted her—it was a cold day and I was pushing Kaitlyn in the stroller. She was walking north on Broad Street with a chair in tow.

So at church yesterday, I passed by the woman again to take the girls to the bathroom. I handed her two granola bars I had packed for the girls. This time, she did not push my hand away and gave me the biggest smile, a grateful smile.

The weekly mass is part of her routine, as it is mine. We have spoken briefly in the past. I say to her, “You take care of yourself.” She has said to me, “Don’t give up.” When I do not see her for a month or two, I have wondered how she was doing. Was she safe? Was she cold or hungry? Was she mentally ill?

As I drove home last night with the girls, I spotted her eating the granola bar, waiting for the light to turn green to cross the street. I do not know where she was headed, but I hoped she would be safe and warm.

Next week, when I see her in church I will bring more granola bars and water. Sometimes even a small kind gesture can make a difference in someone’s life.

Five Things I’m Grateful for This Year

As the year winds down to a close, I’m counting my blessings. I’ve been meaning to write a blog for a while, so here it is. It’s been an exciting year, with my book published in September. As you know, I am not shy with posting media mentions.

I made a quick list of items I am thankful for. Here they are:

Health: Fortunately, everyone is healthy in the Jay and Flynn families. My parents and brothers survived Hurricane Sandy (parents had some downed trees; brothers had longer commutes in the NYC area)—but nothing catastrophic. Do you appreciate your good health? Don’t take it for granted. Appreciate your weekly activities like playing with the kids at the park or driving them to birthday parties. Your health is your greatest asset.

Family: My girls are really good kids. They are both doing well in school and adore their teachers. Kaitlyn has proven herself to be quite the artist and can draw figures better than I can. She is always asking me how to spell new words. Emma is now three—we are still working on the potty training but will get there in due time. Jason loves the company he works for.

Clients: I secured some new clients this year and look forward to winning more business in 2013. The entrepreneurial side of me won’t die, so I will continue to seek new contract work next year.

Book Reviews: I’m promoting my book to save the cost of an outside publicist. Garnered positive reviews from Small Business Trends, Huffington Post, The ASJA Monthly, Midwest Book Review, and more. Thrilled that Mastering the Mommy Track is being well received.

New Opportunities: I was accepted into the American Society of Journalists and Authors; will be moderating a panel on the book tour at their annual conference in April. Did a local book signing at Barnes & Noble in Marlton and will be scheduling some new signings in 2013. NY Mom’s World chose me as their keynote speaker for their Bonanza event in Westchester, NY last month—enjoyed connecting with other Moms there.

Last week, I got #22 on Circle of Moms Top 25 Book Author Moms – 2012; the website Circle of Moms has 6 million members. It was a fierce competition—I asked everyone to vote for me because I knew it would be close!

What are you thankful for this year? Try to slow down and enjoy the special moments as they happen. I’ll try to blog more frequently in 2013. Happy holidays!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Virtual Book Tour

My virtual book tour is shaping up. I don’t have events arranged in different cities, so a virtual tour will have to do for now. Starting on September 14, bloggers and journalists will be covering my book–posting an excerpt or Q&A, running a guest blog from me, doing a book review or hosting a giveaway.

Here’s the schedule for those of you interested in following it.

Friday, Sept.14: MetroKids MomSpeak — http://www.metrokids.com/Blogs/MomSpeak

Saturday, Sept. 15: Unconventional Librarian — http://unconventionallibrarian.com

Sunday, Sept. 16: Defeating the Squirrels — http://defeatingthesquirrels.blogspot.com

Monday, Sept. 17: Shannon Miller Lifestyle — www.shannonmillerlifestyle.com

Tuesday, Sept. 18: Whatever Works — http://whateverworks.typepad.com/

Wed., Sept. 19: Kids & Mental Health — http://kidsandmentalhealth.wordpress.com/

Thurs., Sept. 20: Girls Lunch Out — http://www.girlslunchout.com

Friday, Sept. 21: Math For Grownups —http://www.mathforgrownups.com/

Monday, Sept. 24: Say it Rah-shay — http://www.sayitrahshay.com/

Wed., Sept. 26: Mom-Blog — http://mom-blog.com/

Thurs., Sept. 27: Flexjobs.com — http://www.flexjobs.com/blog/

Friday, Sept. 28: Smart Spending Spot — http://smartspendingspot.com/

Monday, Oct. 1: Couponing 4 a Difference — http://couponing4adifference.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, Oct. 2: Homeroom At Home — http://homeroomathome.blog.com/

Wed., Oct. 3: Mridu Khullar Relph, Freelance Journalist — http://www.mridukhullar.com/journal/

Thurs., Oct. 4: Diapered Daze & Knights — http://diaperedknights.com/

Friday, Oct. 5: Living on the Cheap — http://livingonthecheap.com

Monday, Oct. 8: Land of Once Upon a Time — http://www.landofonceuponatime.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, Oct. 9: Michelle Rafter, business editor — http://michellerafter.com/

Thurs., Oct. 11: Fun Finds for Families — http://www.funfindsforfamilies.com/

Friday, Oct. 12: Yoke — http://2yoke.blogspot.com/

Wed., Oct. 17: MommaSaid.net — http://www.mommasaid.net/

Friday, Nov. 2: O’Boy Organic — http://www.oboyorganic.com

 

In addition, I’m doing a radio tour. I booked the following radio interviews for myself:

Sept. 11: WFIN-AM Toledo

Sept. 11: WAMV-AM Roanoke

Sept. 11: BEN FM In Studio Philadelphia

Sept. 14: WVNU-FM Cincinnati

Sept. 17: WSIU-FM NPR Harrisburg, IL

Sept. 18: WTBQ-AM Regional NY/NJ

Sept. 19: KJFF-AM St. Louis

Sept. 24: WDIS-AM Boston

Sept. 26: KDAZ-AM Albuquerque

Oct. 10: Cable Radio Network

Nov. 28: Baby and Toddler Instructions (http://www.toginet.com/)

More to come!

Working Moms Under Pressure

I’ve held off on blogging lately–I’m working, looking for new clients, networking, promoting my book. Getting my feet wet with media interviews.

This headline on today.com jumped out at me: “Moms are bearing the brunt of recession, study shows.” I just did an interview the other day with AdvisorOne and spoke about how working moms are feeling the pressure from their roles of breadwinner and caregiver. It’s this pressure on moms nationwide–and the economic downturn–that motivated me to write my non-fiction book.

I mentioned to AdvisorOne that many women were working with reduced salaries.

On average moms lost $175 per week more than dads, according to the new study that analyzed four sets of data from the Displaced Workers Supplement.

This 2010 survey included nearly 4,400 displaced workers who took an average of 17 weeks to find a new job. When the researchers broke down the data according to marital and parental status, they discovered that moms experienced a “motherhood penalty” while fathers got a “daddy bonus.”

Employers will choose a dad over a mom because they fear that moms won’t be as available or committed to the job, said study co-author Michelle Moroto, an assistant professor in the sociology department at the University of Alberta.

Moreto’s advice? For women who fear they might be in danger of suffering from the motherhood penalty when seeking work, don’t volunteer anything about your family in job applications and interviews.

I could not agree more with Moreto. Going forward, I will not be mentioning to prospects I have two young kids. In today’s economy, it’s a strike against you.

Do you think there is a “motherhood penalty”?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net