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Choosing a Path

forkintheroadWhen I started this blog, I was at that metaphorical “fork in the road”. My kids were in school full time, I knew I wanted to do something that would flex my creative and intellectual mind, but what was that elusive perfect pathway. I didn’t want to go back to work full-time, my kids are still relatively young, but I needed to give myself something that I could say I was accomplishing. So, what do you do when you come upon that fork? You know you want to go in some direction but you’re not sure which one.

My theory is to hang out in the intersection for a little while. You don’t want to idle there, though. You need to be active, keep revving your engines, get a feel for the road, an understanding of your options.  If you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to do, make a list of all the things you are interested in, then throw them out there and see what sticks. That’s what I did with this blog.

I liked the idea of designing a blog. I liked writing. I liked the psychological journey of self-discovery. I liked creating self-help workbooks. I liked using humor. I liked writing about the creative things I do with my kids. So, I put all of those things together within this blog.  I then spent the last few months getting feedback on what resonated with my readers and tuning into what parts of this blog I liked doing the most and which area I thought I could turn into a viable pathway for myself. And that has turned out to be sharing my thoughts on how to raise a more creative child.

So, it’s always good to hang out in the intersection for awhile, but at some point, if you want to move forward, you need to narrow your road ahead and choose a path. You may find that once you’re down the road, the path you have selected isn’t quite right for you. That’s o.k., just turn around, go back to the intersection and choose something different, but you need to keep making active decisions and taking actions that keep moving you forward.

I will keep working on this blog because it is here where I will be able to share my business ideas as I move down my selected path, and I always have to have somewhere to share my daily-life rambles. However, I have also started on a new journey, my chosen path to help raise awareness on how important it is to help your child build their creative mind. In 2010, Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary shared the results of her study of 300,000 Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) scores of children and adults. She found that over the last two decades, as we’ve entered this new electronic age, the measure of creativity in our children has been spiraling downward. Kim says, “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant.  It is the scores of younger children in America – from kindergarten through sixth grade – for whom the decline is most serious.”

blogpicThe good news is that all children are born with some degree of creativity. When parents become educated about creativity, they can help their children preserve their natural inclination to it. Research has shown that creativity can be nourished and taught and that creativity training can have a strong effect. Real improvement doesn’t happen overnight, but when creativity is fostered through a child’s everyday process of home or school, brain function improves.  It is to this end, that I created a new blog called “www.RAISECREATIVEKIDZ.com”.  In that space, I will share more research on creativity in general, and supply ideas and activities to help you nourish your own children’s creativity.

This is the path I have chosen to explore. I hope you will visit me there, as well as, keep on coming here to this blog for my perspective on being a mom in general – the good, the bad, the funny, the sad – and maybe pick up a tip here or there to help you choose your own path.

http://www.raisecreativekidz.com  Research shows children’s creativity is declining at an alarming rate. Luckily, as parents, there is much we can do.

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Good Packaging Isn’t Just For Products

Last night I received an email from a past co-worker’s wife, Cherry. She is a fascinating woman, as a former US Army Aviation Officer and now a mother of three, she has capitalized on her unique background to become an aspiring political thriller author, having written her first manuscript and started on her second. To that end, she has put together a blog in an effort to draw some attention to her novel. As I was giving her marketing advice on the contents of her blog, it got me thinking about everyone’s favorite topic, or maybe just mine – thematic marketing.

Most of my corporate background has been in packaging and presentation, so, now it’s kind of the way I view everything. Companies spend millions of dollars coming up with the right way to display their products in an effort to be attractive to the consumer. And it’s not just about how good something looks, it has to make the consumer think about the product, relate to the product, and ultimately want the product. I used to tell this story when I worked for JPMorgan: When Folgers Coffee was coming up with a new marketing campaign back in the eighties, they hired a firm to do research on consumers to uncover what it was that got people thinking and wanting coffee. They discovered it was the smell of coffee that made people think of family, comfort, home, holidays. So, they changed their advertising theme from “Folgers Crystals…coffee rich enough to be served in America’s finest restaurants”, to  a student returning home from college, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee awakening his parents and alerting them to their son’s arrival – “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.”

Advertising has evolved over the years to take advantage of what we know about how the human brain really works, and companies use that to capitalize on the consumers innate desires. Everything associated with a product, the commercial, the jingle, the packaging, the spokesperson, where’s it’s placed in the store, every decision is made around the central goal of what emotional, physical, psychological reaction the company is trying to extract from the consumer upon any interaction with that product.   It’s all tied together.

Consumers are bombarded all day with all sorts of stimuli from all sorts of products throughout their day – the Hallmark commercial that makes you cry, the magazine ad that makes you actually feel “the sensation you get when you bite into a York Peppermint Patty”, or the smell of freshly-brewed coffee.  So, if you are looking to be portrayed as more than just a mom, what marketing techniques are you using to package yourself? Pop stars do it, actors do it, CEOs do it. They decide on an image that they want others to have about them and they package themselves in a way that will evoke that image when others think of them. They do it by the way they dress, where they are seen socially, what causes they volunteer for, what extra-curricular activities they participate in, what products they endorse.  Just like companies do with consumer products, it’s all tied together.

So, how can you do a better job at packaging yourself to influence how you want others to perceive you, or your new hobby or your new business endeavor? First, it starts with how do you want to see yourself. For everyone it’s different, for me, I want to always show that there’s more to me than the part that is a mother. So, at 7:15 in the morning, when I am down at the bus stop with my son and the only people I run into are the four other middle-schoolers at the bus-stop and the female bus driver, I still make sure I’ve taken the five minutes to throw on a pair of jeans, brush my hair, and apply some lipstick. I do it for myself. As rushed and almost out-of-control the mornings seem to be, just by demanding those few minutes for myself, I feel more in control and that I haven’t let the chaos of the situation change who I am.

When it comes to my new endeavor with this blog, I have put a lot of thought into how I wanted to package it as a reflection of the image I want portrayed of myself. I want to be seen as a business-minded woman, who is creative, intelligent, funny, empathetic, intuitive and fun. When I talk about the struggles of being a stay-at-home mom, I make sure to keep those thoughts light and humorous and not whiny. That’s not to say that I haven’t gone “whiny” with friends after  a few cocktails in the game of whose life sucks more, but that’s not who I am, nor who I want to portray myself to be. In the year I took to put the idea of this blog together, I redesigned its structure a dozen times. I kept asking myself, will the reader get what I’m trying to do here, did I lay it out in a way that defines my passion and draws people in, and I would tweak it as I tried to ultimately come up with the design that would give the reader the experience that I wanted to invoke.

Going back to my friend Cherry, the former Army Officer, my advice to her was that she has a great marketing story in her self with her background, which leads right into the product she has created based on that, so, she needs to capitalize on that to its fullest extent within her “packaging”.  Everything in her blog should be written with the intent that she is hoping to get people to want to read her story. Her story is a political thriller about a tough, skilled, yet sexy, former black-ops, now stay-at-home mom who finds herself having to prevent a terrorist attack.  The main character embodies many of Cherry’s own traits. As a novelist, not only are you selling your book, but you’re also selling yourself as the author. So, as I keep saying, everything needs to tie together. In marketing, we call it “touch points”. Every interaction a reader or potential publicist has with Cherry as an author, should be making them think of the product she has written, because with her background, she is her best marketing tool. Every time I write a post, I think to myself, did I tie my “story” back to the theme of my blog in some way, and I advised her to do the same.

I am throwing a “launch party” for my blog in a few weeks. Mostly because I’m always looking for a reason to have a party, but because I’m trying to build back my image of being a creative, business-minded, inspirational woman, I am using this party as another “touch point” in enhancing “my packaging”. Instead of it just being another girls’ cocktail party, I decided to invite a life coach to do a mini-interactive session. I also invited a few “expert guests” to stimulate interesting cocktail conversation, including a fashion stylist, a lifestyle nutritionist, and even a gynecologist who is an author. To me, it’s all about the packaging, and having my guests come away feeling that it was more than just a fun party, it was “an experience”.

So, good packaging isn’t just for products, it’s for people, too. As you continue on your journey of self-rediscovery, think about who you want to be, and how you want to portray yourself.  Then think of all the touch-points that you have at your disposal where you can actively influence not only other people’s perception but also your self-perception of that image you are trying to build or rebuild. It could be as simple as what you wear to the bus stop, or conversation topics for the next cocktail party you attend, or putting a business card together for your new project, or even what PTA committee you want to be a part of, or do you want to lead it.  If a company can reduce you to tears by showing you a make-believe story about a family member reading a mother’s day card, you certainly have the ability, using the same techniques, to sway public opinion about your own image or product. Many of my blog readers don’t know me personally, but just from stories I’ve told, the pictures I’ve posted, the feelings I have stirred in you, as well as the stories I haven’t shared, all tied together, have painted you a picture of the image I want you to see. Everyone has an idea of who they would like to be, who they believe they are and wish others could see, you just need to bring that out in yourself, package it up, and present it.  What’s your marketing plan for your new re-discovered sense-of-self?

For those of you who are interested, you can check out the first few chapters of Cherry’s novel, Smoke – Operation Black Diamond, at her blog www.cherrylaska.com.

People Pleaser Pitfalls

© Jacekplacek1977 | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos, http://www.stockfreeimages.com/

I have to say I’ve always been a people pleaser. Perhaps it was growing up as one of seven kids and my parents drilling into us “if you can’t play together, you’ll work together”.  So, in an effort to avoid weeding the garden, I always made that extra effort to get along with my siblings. But whether you were brought up that way or not, becoming a people pleaser just comes with the territory when you become a mother.  You get so used to feeding someone else, bathing them, changing them, walking them up and down the hallway in the middle of the night, just to get them to stop crying. Do that for a couple of years, combined with what’s probably in a woman’s DNA, and you get used to wanting to help others, wanting to make others happy. However,  there are pitfalls to being too much of a people pleaser. I know at times, I’m guilty of pushing it to the extreme and that’s when it can become a bit of a problem.

I’ve always been the type of person who wants to come across as a very engaged listener. People like to be heard. People like to be agreed with. It pleases them. If the discussion is about a topic that requires an opinion, and I have a strong one, then I will usually voice my side whether it makes the other person happy or not. But, if the discussion is just about day to day things, then I become a head nodder. I just like to agree. Cold out? Sure. Getting late? You bet.  As a people pleaser, I like to head nod even when I don’t really hear what the person has said which can lead to a classic pitfall.

I ran into an acquaintance at the gym about a year ago. It was a little noisy, she was talking about something, I was nodding. Then she asked me, “You’re ___ like me, right?” I couldn’t make out one of the words she said, but I went along with it and said, “Yup. Yeah, I am.” But then, you know when you walk away from a conversation and that’s when it comes to you, you’re able to fill in the blank. Well, as I walked out of the gym, I thought to myself, “I think I just agreed that I was Jewish.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m not an overly religious person either way, but if you’ve seen my post on how I decorate for the holidays, you would see that I am Catholic. I didn’t think much of it, I don’t run into this woman all that much anyway. But shortly thereafter, I saw her in a department store, and it happened to be the day before a Jewish holiday. I can barely keep my own holy days straight, so I wasn’t sure what this particular day represented in the Jewish faith. I panicked. I tried to skip the aisles she was in, avoid eye contact at all costs, make her think I didn’t see her. Because it just would have been an awkward conversation, ” No, I’m actually not going to temple tomorrow because even though when you asked me if I was Jewish and I said I was, I’m really not.” If I had only asked her to repeat herself when we first had the conversation, she wouldn’t have cared one way or the other what my response was, but now to fix the situation it would just be messy all the way around.

I successfully avoided her that time, but then a few months later, I ran into her again, in December of all months. Turned a corner, face to face, no chance of avoidance. The store, dripping with holiday decor, pretty much insured that there would be no way something wasn’t going to be mentioned. And sure enough… She talked about how she had just moved a town away and how over-the-top the Christmas decorations on everyone’s lawns were and how it was just annoying – she said, “You know how annoying it can be.” So, here’s my chance to set the record straight. Clear up the miscommunication once and for all. Secretly knowing, I myself had a giant blow-up Santa on my front porch, complete with eight, tiny reindeer. But, once again, I found myself nodding in agreement. We wished each other a Happy Chanukah and went on our way.

So, though it’s a nice attribute to want to make others happy or comfortable, there has to be limits. There has to be limits with our kids and there has to be limits with our peers. I have essentially converted religions for a mere acquaintance, albeit, it’s just for a fleeting few moments when I run into her a couple times a year, but still. Now, I try to be less quick with my head nods and ask people to repeat themselves before I respond if I’ve missed something that they said. It’s much better if you try to be true to yourself and not worry so much about pleasing others because you just end up digging yourself deeper and deeper into a hole. We’ve all had those moments where we are over-scheduled but someone asks you for a favor so you automatically say yes, without thinking about whether you’ll be able to get your own stuff done. I’m not saying don’t be helpful, we all want to treat people the way we would like to be treated ourselves, but you just have to make sure you don’t do it to a fault. Your friend will understand if you have to pass every once in awhile. As mothers, in order to avoid those people pleaser pitfalls, we just need to take a step back from automatically saying yes all the time, and actually think before answering. If we can do that, we can still please people, while hopefully staying true to ourselves.

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Beware of “The Year of No”

While I was out last night with some friends, another mutual friend came up to us and when we asked her what she had been up to, she proclaimed that she was just coming off “a year of no”.  No volunteering. No PTA. No tennis groups. “Can you?” No. “Would you?” No. “Just one?” No. Having gone through a year of no myself, I have to say it can be really quite liberating. You hear that word so often from your children and so rarely have the opportunity to use it yourself, when it comes as an answer to a task request. Our kids are great at it: “Can you clean your room?” No. “Can you take out the garbage?” No. “Can you finish your homework?” No. “Can you turn off the t.v.?” No. But when we’re asked, “Can you make me something to eat?’ “Can you wash my favorite pants?” “Can you drive me to soccer practice?”, though we would like to say “no”, our answer usually is the obligatory “yes”. And when that overflows to volunteer activities, many times we get sucked into the same mode. “Can you help out at the book fair?” “Can you run the carpool?” “Can you head up the coat drive?” At first, you appreciate having something to do while the kids are at school. But pretty soon, if you’re not careful, when you say “yes” too often, you find yourself spending your time doing things that you’re not passionate about, albeit they’re all good causes.  Even if you wanted to try to come up with a way to discover what your inner passion would be, you have no time to explore it. Sometimes, when you go too far to the left with “Yes”, then you find yourself wanting to go far right with “No”, and that’s when you can find yourself experiencing the sabbatical called “The Year of No”.

If you’re the type of person who has trouble saying no, then perhaps the only way you can make yourself say it is to draw a firm line in the sand and just make “no” your blanket statement. That way you don’t even have to think about your answer, start to feel guilty and then perhaps change your mind. Usually when you have something personal on your plate that you know you have to spend time on, you get terrified of over-committing yourself. So then, you feel the only way to ensure you don’t say yes to too much is to go with “no” across the board. This is what happened to me a few years ago when we moved houses. I knew packing and unpacking and decorating and getting the kids assimilated into a new school, would take up much of my time, so that is when I entered my “year of no”.

Having time off from outside obligations and being able to just concentrate on your family, can be a good thing at times. But what no one tells you, which is what I want to tell you today, is that when you say “no” too often, after a while people stop asking. And initially you think that’s a good thing because it takes the pressure off, but the problem happens when you find yourself wanting to be finished with your “year of no”.  That’s when you may find out that maybe no one is around anymore. And that can be a lonely place to be. After my “year of no”, my friends stopped asking me to go out places, because they had come to expect my answer was going to be no. I didn’t get the emails to help out at the book fair. The coat drive ran fine without me.  The friend I was speaking with last night was going through the same thing coming off her “year of no”. She said, “Now that I’m ready to get back in the mix, no one is calling me anymore. I find that I’m having a hard time even finding someone to play tennis with.”

So, the moral of this story is though it’s perfectly o.k. and good for your state-of-mind to find a way to feel as comfortable saying “no” as you do to saying “yes”, be careful of making blanket statements of “no” for such a length of time that would make people start expecting that as your answer. You never want to pigeon-hole yourself in a way that it is hard to break back in when you’re ready to come back. So, mix it up a little. Pick one or two things within each of your social groups (friends, school community, town community), that you think you can fit into your schedule during your “hiatus”, and start off the year knowing that when those things come up, you will say “yes” to them. Schedule in time to check in with your friends, even if it is to comment on their Facebook page, or send a quick text, “Still trying to get my head above water, but looking forward to getting together next month.” Keep the lines of communication open and don’t let people forget about you. If you need a “Year of No” once in awhile, just turn it into a “Year of No, But With Some Specifically Designated and Well-thought Out Times of Yes”.  That way, when the pressure has eased, and you’re ready to jump back in, you don’t find the pool closed and have to struggle to reopen it again.

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Because Mrs. Obama Said To, That’s Why.

My youngest son came home from school today and boldly proclaimed, “That’s it!  I am no longer buying lunch at school.” Now, it’s not like he buys lunch that often, but it is nice not to have to smell chicken nuggets cooking first thing in the morning, at least every once in a while, so, this news was a little disappointing to hear.  But to take such a dramatic stance, I figured something big must have gone down.  Was there pushing in line? Had the cookies run out?  Did he drop his tray and cause a scene?  I waited with bated breath to hear…

“What’s gotten you so upset, pumpkin?” I cautiously broached the subject.  “Mrs. Obama!” he cried.  “Huh?  Come again, sweetie?”  I questioned, as this was not the direction I was expecting. “Mrs. Obama, I said,” he repeated looking at me as if I didn’t have a brain in my head. “Well, of course you were talking about the first lady of the United States ruining your lunch, baby doll. Just curious, as to how that came about.” “Well,” he said with a pout, “Mrs. Obama has said that whenever you buy lunch now, you have to take a fruit and a vegetable with it.” “Oh, O.K., now I see. So, what’s wrong with that? It is a good idea. But you know you can take it, try it, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to eat it.” ” Yes, you do,” he continued to complain. “She said you have to take a fruit and a vegetable AND you HAVE TO eat it.” I do have to say, I found a little comfort in the knowledge that the wife of the President was having just as much trouble as I was, getting my six-year-old son to eat healthy. But it did bring the dilemma of my children’s poor eating habits back into light once again. I try, believe me I do. I cook the vegetables, I buy the produce, but after half-a-dozen, heart-felt rounds of begging, I give up and forget about it for a while – apparently until someone in the oval office or a relation of such a person, makes me face the situation again – and let me tell you, as a mother, I don’t come out looking so good.

Not only do I have trouble getting them to eat what’s good for them, they also overload on the bad stuff.  I understand we do live in a world of excess now. Everything is super-sized. Even the squirrels in my yard have gone crazy with that. I took this picture of a certain squirrel, on my patio, carrying not one but three nuts in his mouth at one time – there are a plethora of jokes I could insert here but I’m sure you’ll appreciate my refraining from doing so. With my kids, they start off with asking for one cookie, but then they come back and ask for two more. But it doesn’t stop there, they follow you, from room to room, “just one more, just one more, just one more”. Eventually, I hate to say it, but you give in – just to get the voices to stop. I call it temporary insanity and it just might be. I know it’s not right. I’m in charge here – that’s the mantra that I chant to myself in the mirror every day. And as soon as I start believing that, we might actually get this problem solved.

We all remember, when we were younger, you ate what was given to you, brussel sprouts and all, and you weren’t allowed to get up until you were finished. If I had to go through that, why don’t my kids feel the same obligation? But I guess the answer to that question is a blog in itself.  So, I am still faced with the fact that the closest my kids get to eating vegetables is a potato, and as far as my household is concerned chicken nuggets could be designated as their own food group.  So, maybe, instead of once again allowing my children to make their own rules, I should instead use this opportunity that Mrs. Obama has so graciously given to us. Maybe the tact I should be taking is, when the First Lady of the United States of America tells you do something, you better do it.  She is married to the Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces, after all, so if she says you need to take a fruit and a vegetable AND you HAVE TO eat it, maybe, son, you better think twice about not doing it.

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A Homespun Labor Day Carnival

It’s 7:00a.m., Labor Day morning, and the kids come running downstairs excited for the holiday. Now, what I would find exciting is being able to sleep in on such a holiday. But from what I hear, that doesn’t come until the kids are much older. The questions abound, “What even is Labor Day, mommy?” “How are we going to celebrate it, Mommy?” Mustering up all of my energy having just been woken up I respond, “Labor Day celebrates people who work and it gives them the day off.” “Oh, like Daddy,” responds my youngest. And here we go again. “Well, Mommy works, too, honey,” I say with a forced smile on my face. “You do?” they all chime in with disbelief. “Doing laundry, and making meals, and cleaning up after the three of you, isn’t exactly playtime, now is it, little ones,” I say in a voice that sounds unusually like Johnny Dep’s psychologically depraved depiction of Willy Wonka. Now realization shows on their face. They’ve heard this before and it’s a road they are smart enough to know they don’t want to travel down again, so they quickly move onto their second question. “So, what are we going to do?” “Well, if we had a house in the Hamptons, I guess we would be celebrating it with a barbeque on the beach and watching the fireworks, but since this is not the case, I guess I’ll come up with something else.” As the kids get older, every holiday is a crapshoot. You never know what’s in vogue now until it comes upon you. Who knew this year would bring about such a keen interest in celebrating Labor Day. God knows what next year’s Groundhog Day may bring.

But, not wanting to disappoint my children, I climb out of bed and quickly get to work. And as always, I’m a theme thinker. Come up with a theme and everything else will fall into place. What can I pull together in a few hours that will be deemed big enough to celebrate the fact that daddy has off from work. I don’t remember Labor Day being any big deal when I schlepped into the city, working long days only to come home to crying babies – but I digress…

Let’s get back to the first step:  THEME. O.K. Labor Day makes you think of hometowns and parades, which makes you think of community get-togethers and American symbols like Apple Pie. When I think about Apple Pie and childhood fun, I think of pie-eating contests. Where can you find a pie-eating contest? At a carnival. Bingo. I have my theme. Now everything falls into place.

The next step is ACTIVITIES. I start to make a list of all the activities I can imagine at a carnival while I’m thinking of the items we have around the house that we can utilize for these activities.So, I know we have miniature golf, I know we have horse-shoes and lawn darts, I know we have ladder-ball. Then I hunt around in the basement, garage and playroom for items that can generate ideas for additional activities. I find Toss Across.  I find a magnetic fishing game.  A life-size, card-board, character cut-out for photo ops. I add those to the list of activities. Then I come across water balloons. What could we do with that. I guess in celebration of the fact that daddy “works” and mommy doesn’t, we could blindfold daddy and let the kids throw water balloons at him. That makes me smile. This is getting fun.

Now, I move onto AMBIANCE. What else could make this feel like a real carnival. Face painting. Tattoos.  A kissing booth. Tickets. Prizes.  I make a list of things to quickly run out and buy at the party store down the street. And I always like to have theme music for my parties. So, I download Carnival music onto my iPod. You also can’t forget thematic food. Ice Cream. Popcorn. Hot Dogs.

Once I have the party plan worked out, now it’s time to get the kids involved. I go over the plan with them and they all choose activities they want to help with. My daughter wants to do the face painting, as she is the artist in the family. My youngest son wants to be in charge of handing out the ice cream – which I didn’t realize, and good thing he pointed it out to me, would require us to add a mustache to the list of items to purchase, as ice cream vendors at carnivals always have mustaches, apparently. And my eldest son would run the kissing booth, but he would be allowed to determine if he wanted to give out a kiss or a high-five depending on who the ticket holder was, his mommy or his brother for example.  He was also very keen on helping with the water balloons to throw at daddy. But he smartly thought it best for us to keep that activity a surprise until it was time for it to happen. I love surprises.

We did our shopping, collected all of our items and then set up the activities around the back yard. With mustaches on, tickets in hand, and the sound of the carnival organ playing loudly on the sound system, our Homespun Labor Day Carnival was about to begin. The kids had a great time. They said it felt just like a real carnival. And the water balloon surprise activity was a big hit. The kids and I could have done that one all day. Luckily, daddy was a good sport about it.

You can turn any holiday into a last minute party. All you need is a theme, some imagination, and kids who just want to have fun.

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Part 1: LOST IN THE SAUCE: The Stay-at-Home-Mom’s Guide to Self-Rediscovery

Seven years ago I was a Vice-President at a prestigious investment firm, commuting into the city. I had two young children and was expecting a third. I knew who I was. My days were over-booked filled with meetings and projects during the day and night-time feedings in the evening. I would wake up early, go to sleep late. I was exhausted and stressed but fulfilled.

Being pregnant with my third child made me question the idea of being able to do-it-all.  I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions. So, I made that hard heart-felt decision of giving up my career and becoming a stay-at-home mom. I had attended a top women’s college, which made it even more difficult to give up my identity as a high-powered, career woman. Especially since I had gone to a prestigious women’s college whose students actually sent around a petition saying that Barbara Bush had not accomplished enough in life to warrant being our graduation speaker – after all, they claimed, she was only a wife and mother.

I was comforted in the fact that many of my friends were going through the same thing. Our conversations about our decision didn’t center around how easy it had been to come to the conclusion to stay at home. The conversations were more self-defensive and full of justifications – we were clearly not comfortable with our realization that we couldn’t do it all.

But then once we got into the routine of not having to get up and somehow make ourselves look presentable enough to get on a train at seven in the morning after only a few hours of sleep the night before, things weren’t so bad. And as the babies turned to toddlers and pre-school came into play, we actually had some free-time. It meant we had time to accomplish some personal goals that we had been putting off – getting some exercise, perhaps even losing some weight, organizing the house, having lunch with friends. Life was good – at least for the moment.

Along with the toddler years, came the age of being able to get a full night’s sleep again, which meant more energy. Energy we needed to find an outlet for. I had been in marketing, which meant I was used to creative projects. This background led to homemade, laminated flashcard sets and personalized photo storybooks for the kids.  I also organized the kitchen cabinets and redecorated the kids’ rooms.

As the kids each came to the stage of wanting to have play dates with their new-found friends rather than playing pattycake with me, I needed to find broader outlets. I joined a volunteer group and started helping out at their schools. I found myself comparing these groups to the groups of people I used to work at the office with. The hardest thing about running a volunteer project is that when someone doesn’t do what they are assigned or show up to meetings, you can’t fire them. You are just supposed to smile and say you understand that everyone has their own priorities and that they are all “volunteers”.  And working on school committees had its on issues.  I was chair of an event for mother’s to enjoy an evening out. Our theme was supposed to be A Mystical Evening, complete with a fortune-teller for entertainment. That was until one of the mother’s went to the local newspaper and all but pronounced us as witches.  So after about a year of that, I took another good look at my life.

My days used to be full of important budget and personnel decisions, project completions and sales forecasts. Then it consisted of teaching my little life forms how to walk for the first time, how to talk, huge milestone moments that any parent could claim as big accomplishments. And now, I found it consisted of driving kids to play dates, doing dishes, cleaning the house, making doctor’s appointments, planning the family vacation.

The April I turned 40, I found a new significance that month to writing the word “homemaker” under the occupation category of our family tax return.  I found myself wondering who I had become.  I remember a conversation I had with a close friend of mine that was in a very similar situation. We talked about how the kids are barely home, they are starting to have “their own mini-lives”. Our husbands come home tired after a long day of work, or what we like to call having the luxury of being out of the house all day, and leave their dishes in the sink. When we recount our day, it consistently entails picking up toys, doing laundry and trying to get the marker off our child’s legs. I was feeling particularly anxious that day when we were having our talk. And I will always remember what she said, “I know exactly how you feel. It’s like you are lost in the sauce.”

She was right. I did feel like I was drowning in a big vat of family dinner tomato sauce. I felt like I had lost myself and no longer knew who I was. A personal daily goal of tackling a large pile of laundry was not a fulfilling one to me. So, this is where I decided to get on the road of self-rediscovery.  Not to rediscover who I used to be, but to discover who I wanted to be in this next stage of life and to take action towards that end.

Once I started to do that, I found that I was becoming happier and more content.  But I also found that so many of my friends still found themselves “lost in the sauce”, unable to figure out how to even take those first steps towards self-rediscovery. In my past career one of my focuses was coming up with manuals to help people take the first steps to investing towards their financial goals. Their financial goals were more like personal goals that they wanted to achieve – where they wanted to see themselves 5, 10, 20 years from now. Not too dissimilar to trying to help stay-at-home moms try to uncover what they want to achieve and how they want to see themselves in the future, and then helping them take the steps to get there.  So, that’s the basis of this part of my blog.

So, whether it’s getting back into a career, finding ways to achieve a life-long goal, or to even become a more fulfilled homemaker, the next few blog posts in this section will help start you on that path. We are all self-empowered strong women. We are naturally inherent caretakers. But now it’s time to take steps towards taking care of ourselves, too, because we are in charge of our own happiness and a happier, more fulfilled mom leads to happier children.  So, we shouldn’t feel bad about taking care of ourselves, because as they say during air flight emergency procedure instructions, place the oxygen mask over yourself first so that you are able to then place one on your child. As moms, if we can’t breath, we’re not going to be much help to anyone else.

For this journey, you will need a notebook. Label the notebook “My Road to Self-Rediscovery”. This portion of my blog works like a workbook. It doesn’t go from oldest to newest like a blog. You should follow it in order, just as it is sequentially numbered. Good luck!

To see how to navigate this blog, click on “What Is Mommysoffice?” in the TOP HEADER MENU.