Smart Women Speak: On Career & Motherhood

May 2, 2017

Photo by Chris Keels

This is my friend Candis. Candis is the founder, owner, and creator of The Jones MarketShe is also one of the warmest and kindest people I’ve ever known.

Q: What advice would you give to a young woman who wants to pursue both a fulfilling creative career and motherhood?

A: I would ask them to define what fulfilling means to them. I would tell them that there is nothing on this earth worth having that doesn’t come with sacrifice. Decide what fulfilling is and then decide what things you are willing to sacrifice to get there. If you know what those things are you will see your goals, you will be able to reassure yourself why you are giving up things. I was willing to sacrifice sleep, personal time, home cooked meals, a clean house and time with friends to pursue my creative career alongside motherhood. I was not willing to sacrifice being home with them in their formative years until their Dad could quit his job and be home with them. So I worked late late nights and weekends and every time my body felt frail and sick from the lack of sleep and self care, every time I felt like giving up I reminded myself of what fulfilling means to me and what I was willing to sacrifice. And I carried on.

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This is my friend Carrie. Carrie is a writer, director, and student at Studio 4 in NYC. Currently she is writing a film with James Franco. She is also one of my best friends. When I’m with her, I feel known and understood. I also probably feel a little sick, because she is constantly forcing me to do things I never would have done otherwise.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is trying to be a full time mother while also pursuing a career in the arts?

A: You can do it! You don’t have time or energy to do the things you think you should anymore – so just do what brings you life, what burns in your gut, no matter what others think. And prioritize. Cut out anything and everything that you don’t need or really really want. Your family, your passion, your spiritual life – those come first – those are what you and the rest of the world need you to focus on. We don’t need more people out there just floating along trying to look like they have it together, we need people with drive, with hope, and honest pursuit. We need people who are a total hot mess of life. We need people to wake us up, stir us, show us a broken stereotype that we are also capable of. I have so many people shocked that I’m both a mother of a toddler (and pregnant) and pursuing my crazy dreams. Many people love it, others don’t get it. Stand up for yourself. You have a backbone! You know what you want, who you are, who you love, what’s important – so just go for it. I’m not saying risk everything all the time – but know when risk is okay and take it. Even if other people don’t understand why- they don’t need to! Also: help other women. Do kid swaps or give script feedback, tell everyone about their art show or text them with encouragement. And stay determined. Rest when you need to but don’t you dare let go when you find something that sets you on fire. We all need to see it!

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This is Bethany. Bethany is one of those people who does a little bit of everything with great joy. The first time I met her I thought: please calm down. Now she’s one of my closest friends. Our shared interests include not making dinner and ordering complicated appetizers.

Q: What is something you’d tell someone who just left their career to stay home with their children?

A: Our society places value on the work that we do; all of our different jobs have literal and cultural capital. Being a stay home mom doesn’t rank high on either front. Let’s face it, there’s very little that’s sexy about staying home to care for kids. When I made the choice to leave my full time teaching career to stay home, I was pretty worried about how others would perceive me. For example: What will I contribute to dinner party conversations? Will I become…boring?

Listen, your work isn’t what makes you an interesting or engaging person. I had to stop telling myself my life had become boring. It hadn’t. Every day I have an opportunity to pay attention to the world and to my kids. Engage in it all. Be curious. Listen to podcasts. Pick up side hustles (I’ve done everything from cleaning houses to working in food trucks to teaching evening classes) and begin to see them as ways to learn about people and other types of work.
Staying home with my children has been hard and trying yet ultimately meaningful. It is a privilege to have the choice to do so and I’m learning to see this all as an opportunity to love and to learn.

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#smartwomenspeak on IG

Babies + Sleep

April 27, 2017

Every single week someone emails me about getting their kid to sleep. Not because I am some sort of baby sleep wizard, but because for some reason my posts on sleep training pop up when you make frantic google searches at 2am while your baby is still trying to burn the house down. The emails all sound pretty much the same. It is either a sad, desperate mom who is ready to sleep train their baby or a sad, desperate mom who is not ready but just wants to say I’m not sleeping and this is the worst.

I have been both of these moms and I get it. The whole thing is hard and confusing and everyone just wants to do the right thing. My only real advice is this: give yourself grace along with an occasional babysitter so you can drive to the Panera parking lot and nap.

A few weeks ago I came up on the sixth anniversary of my blog launch, a fancy way of saying that six years ago I started sharing my very boring stories on pregnancy with my grandma and seven other readers while I waited for my first baby to be born. As the years have passed, much has changed. The Internet has gotten louder about parenting (blogs, Pinterest, Instagram). As for me, I have had two more kids and as a result, have become a lot quieter.

That said, I would love to have something to send to these dear, tired parents before my time as a mother to babies fades into nostalgia. As of today, in the year of our Lord 2017, I have gotten three very different babies to sleep and lived to tell the tale. For you moms who are doing that 2am Google, the rest of this post is for you.

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I am going to keep this simple because I am a simple person with a simple brain who does not like instructions with more than five bullet points. Once I tried to assemble a crib by myself and after 45 minutes of profanity, threw all the tools into a pile and told Austin if he didn’t do it, the baby could sleep in the laundry basket for all I cared.

So, you want your baby to sleep.

I am not going to tell you how to make that happen because you already know how. I know this because if you are desperate enough to read a blog post by a random mom about her kids sleeping, you’ve already read all the books and articles and forums on the correlations between college test scores and sleep trained babies. I am going to tell you what this ultimately comes down to which is: is it okay to let my baby cry? 

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is yes, but isn’t it so terrible? No one tells you that someday you will have to let your precious, darling baby cry on purpose like an abandoned puppy left at the pound. But I guess that’s because if someone told you all the worst parts of parenting, you might need a Xanax-and-tonic to digest. The first time I did it, I waited until my son was 14 months old. The next time I waited six months because I knew waiting longer would make things much worse.

I have deleted most of my blog posts on parenting, but the sleep ones remain because I am still close enough to sleep training babies to remember how much it helped when another mom told me it’s okay to let them cry. So let me say it again: It’s okay when you’re ready and they’re ready and everyone is ready to have a Beyonce grade night of sleep. Just remember the old latin proverb that says if you sleep train a 5-month-old and potty train a 2-year-old in the same week you will die.

Lastly, I want to say that there is a difference between newborn sleeplessness and a six month old who wants to throw a 2am rager at the milk bar. If you are stuck in the former, may god bless you with coffee and an 1800s style night nurse who brings you a hot towel and then tucks you into bed for 12 hours (but probably just the first thing).    +

Happy sleeping, friend. Someday it will all be a memory.

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PS: Parenting manuals are the worst, but if you really do need a suggestion on methods, etc–this is my sleeping Bible. May the force be with you.

Weekend Links

April 7, 2017

 

1. Every few weeks someone emails me about baby led weaning. A great resource here.

2. Did anyone else watch Big Little Lies and wonder about those houses?? A look inside here.

3. One of my favorite authors just came out with a new book. Anyone else going to read?

4. How to breastfeed appropriately (made me laugh).

5. This pulled my heartstrings. Often on my mind!

6. My new favorite song from my friend Liz (Pink Feathers!). Volume UP and on repeat.

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Have a great weekend!

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Hope + Help For Syria

April 5, 2017

Yesterday morning, as many as 100 people were killed in a chemical attack in the Idlib province of Syria, southwest of Aleppo. Many of the dead are children.

Right now, Preemptive Love is responding to victims of the attack to provide things like medical care and help for families who were evacuated.

A wonderful and hope-filled chance to give here. Any donation, no matter how small, is helpful and needed. This organization is trusted and vetted non-profit making a huge difference across the globe.

There is no such thing as other people’s children.

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Book Review: Fates and Furies + Perfect Little World

March 26, 2017

Hello readers! Two book reviews for you today. One was fine, the other was one of the best books I’ve ever read. Surprise!

Their reviews below. As always, they are spoiler free.

Sidebar: I also recently started All The Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood and loved it so much (gripping story, great writing), but couldn’t finish it because the content was making it hard for me to sleep at night (child abuse). But if you can stomach it (or don’t have young children the same ages), I definitely recommend. I still keeping wondering what happened!

Happy reading! And thank you to those who recommended these books! Suggestions always welcome.

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1. Fates and Furies.

If You’re Looking For: Literary fiction

If You Like: I don’t know what to compare this to. It’s like a mix of Gone Girl, Margaret Atwood, and a long, beautiful poem.

My Review:  I stopped and started this book over a dozen times until a friend encouraged me to keep going as the perspective shifts from one character to another halfway through the book (think: Gone Girl, but then stop thinking Gone Girl). And so I pushed through, partly because I trust this friend and her taste in books, and partly because I did enjoy the first part. I was simply unsure of where it was going and how it could possibly keep up the rhythm and tone without becoming boring. And I’m so glad I did. This novel unfolds and reveals itself slowly, making it all worth the wait in the second half. Even more striking is the language itself. Lauren has a way with words that may be hard to accept (at first), but soon becomes so perfect and real and right. (And if you are a writer yourself–will make you want to throw your whole manuscript in the garbage). The subjects of this novel are well worn; marriage, career, broken childhoods–but Lauren Groff makes them new and compelling. Here’s my advice if you start this book: keep going, keep going, keep going. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. 5/5. No wait, 6/5. Outstanding.

Their Review: “[Fates and Furies] is a stunning 360-degree view of a complex relationship… There’s almost nothing that [Groff is] not interested in and her skill set is breathtaking…It’s an incredibly ambitious work, she writes like her hands are on fire.” Richard Russo, NPR’s Morning Edition

Quoted: She was so tired of the old way of telling stories, all those too-worn narrative paths, the familiar plot thickets, the fat social novels. She needed something messier, something sharper, something like a bomb going off.

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2. Perfect Little World.

If You’re Looking For: Fiction

If You Like: Utopian novels

My Review: I was very excited about the premise and first few chapters of this book, but ultimately found it less than thrilling by the end without understanding why. Fortunately the internet has blessed us with lots of opinions on Goodreads, and I found Joshua R.’s review a great summation of my exact feelings (see below). I understand this is a cop out, sharing someone else’s review of a book you’re supposed to be reviewing yourself, but I am very tired and grouchy and have little desire to discuss this book in any other fashion. As an aside, if I ever publish a book that ends up on Goodreads, I will never, ever read the reviews. How horrifying! I will say this about Perfect Little World: Anytime I finish a book instead of tossing it into the “return to library” pile, I know it deserves at least three stars for holding my attention over sleep, snacking, or Netflix. And really this book had all the makings of a great read. Utopian millennial cult premise with a Wes Anderson writing vibe? Sign me up! But then see Joshua’s review below. 3.5/5 stars.

Their Review:  “A perfect little premise with a cursory, yet at times enjoyable, execution. I was excited about this book, a crazy experiment where 10 children are raised by 19 adults in a communal-like home. The book’s first pages outlines the complicated tree of adults and children. This should have been the first clue that this book would have to embrace brevity over depth, given that it is just over 300 pages.

The book starts out the first 150 pages following “Izzy” and sometimes Doctor Preston Grind who is in charge of the family experiment. While the background is nice, it left only 150 pages to discuss 18 other characters and the actual premise of the book, which is the family experiment.

Once you get into the family experiment, there are twists and turns that are enjoyable. However, I was confused which character was what, and nor did I care because they are introduced with very little detail. Maybe the idea is that all the characters get muddled together to make it feel more like a community to the reader. That’s a positive outlook anyway. From my perspective though, by the time I got to the climax(es) that takes place during the experiment, I felt like I neither knew most of the characters nor cared too much what was happening to them.

Overall, it’s a decent, but perhaps overly simplistic, read. Expect to get to know two characters in some detail. But don’t expand a grand adventure into the premise of the book.” – Joshua R. on Goodreads

“Charming. . . . Wilson pulls off his sweet-and-tart tone. . . . The novel delights in the project’s Willy Wonkaesque sense of antic chaos.” – Washington Post

Quoted: It amazed Izzy the way the children rushed through so many complicated emotions without space between each one. Everything rose so quickly to the surface and then subsided, like firecrackers, and what had originally been so jarring to her, their unguarded emotion, now filled her with great comfort, that anything, no matter what it was, would eventually give way to something else.

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