5 Tips for Working From Home Without Childcare

If you’re considering working from home without putting your kids in childcare, these tips can help you feel and be more productive throughout the day.

When parents who work outside the home think of work life balance, they often imagine working from home as the gold standard. Parents with the work-from-home fantasy imagine keeping their babies out of daycare (and saving serious cash), loading the dishwasher between returning emails and fulfilling the roles and tasks of working parents and stay at home parents simultaneously.
While working from home does have some amazing benefits, most parents who do so understand that it can be incredibly challenging, particularly if choice or circumstance means that they have babies or young kids with them throughout their workday.
If you’re considering working from home without putting your kids in childcare, or are already doing so, check out the tips below to help you feel and be more productive throughout the day.

1 | Create a daily routine

When you work from home with your kids having a consistent routine is vital. By choosing intentionally when you’ll focus singularly on your child and when you’ll focus singularly on your work, you can avoid the pitfall of never being able to give 100 percent to either. Many working parents plan a busy, high energy morning with their young child in order to ensure a long nap and a peaceful afternoon. Many parents who work from home also report blocking a few evening hours, after their partner gets home of the kids go to bed to round out their eight hour workday.

2 | Time your tasks

It can be incredibly difficult to start a task that you know you won’t be able to finish in one sitting. When you work from home with your kids, it’s likely that your day will be filled with far more 15 minute chunks of time than 60-minute chucks of time. Start taking notes on just how long your regular tasks take so that you can maximize every five-, 10- or, 15-minute block of time you have.

3 | Create a physical workspace

When you have little ones at home, your workspace may be more mobile than a traditional office. While you might find yourself toting you laptop back and forth from the kitchen to the playroom all day long, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a space that is dedicated to your work. Consider creating an office where you can store your work materials and retreat during naptime for some serious concentration.

4 | Snag cheap childcare

If you’re working from home without childcare, having a major deadline or conference call coming up can be stressful. Before this happens, locate and lock down your affordable drop in child care location. Perhaps there’s a parent down the street who is interested in providing drop in care on select dates or a grandparent who never minds a visit from their grandchild. If you don’t have someone in mind who can provide care when you need it most, consider looking into drop-in childcare centers or gyms that have care you utilize while working from the lobby.

5 | Share your daily schedule with your boss

While you don’t have to share the details of your childcare arrangement with your boss, letting them in on a few key points throughout your day can alleviate some serious stress. If your boss or colleagues know that you’re always putting the baby down for their nap at 12:30 or picking up your big kid at 3:30, they’ll likely do their best to schedule meetings at different times.
Good luck to all the working-from-home parents this week!

Finding Time to Create the Lives We Want

How are we filling up our lives and what’s the why behind it?

A few weeks back, a friend and I were sharing our experiences about fitting exercise into our already-full lives as working parents. At one point she said, “I know you’re able to fit in exercise and a lot more into your life. It makes me believe it can be done. I think I need to get better about managing my time.”

I hear (and say) this line often. When we parents are overwhelmed, need to take on a new project, or fit in some more stuff into our lives, we call our beloved friend – time management. Yes, it’s ultimately about how we manage our time, but not just in terms of getting more efficient or productive. It’s also how much we understand about who we are and what matters to us. How are we filling up our lives and what’s the why behind it? Ultimately, it’s about what kind of life we want to live and the impact we want to create for our families and in the world.

First and foremost, it’s about being very clear about what’s important to me at this point in my life. This changes over time as my needs evolve. The relationships I have with my kids, my husband, my work, the greater world, and, most importantly, myself have changed. It’s asking myself, “What do I need in my life and how much is enough? Can I let go of (or outsource) some so what I have on my plate is the right use of my time?”

My marriage is incredibly important, yet spending time on the couch every night once the kids are in bed isn’t my highest priority. Do I miss those days of spending a lot of time together? Yes, absolutely. However, I’m okay with my kids staying up late so we can spend more time with the kiddos together. My house often stays messy and that’s a choice we both make to have time to exercise, work on our projects, and spend more time with the kids at night. Again, I dream of having that brochure-ready home and I know many, many parents have homes that look like hotels, but I’m not willing to make the tradeoffs at this point and, on most days, I feel fine about it.

It’s also being managing my energy. There are activities and people that fill up my energy bank and there are others that completely deplete me, then there are some that are neutral. It’s been useful to be aware of where my energy level is so that I know how to optimize. Exercise and nature are two of those energy-boosting activities so, a couple times a week, we put both the kids in the stroller and head out for a long walk after dinner (the preschooler loves the idea of a night hike to a coffee shop to get an apple or croissant while making pretend soup with the sand and sticks on the way). We all get exercise and my husband and I get to connect on our walk back while both the kids sleep peacefully in the fresh air.

A couple months back my son and I spent an entire Sunday afternoon with lots of paint. He did his pre-school version of exploration and nurtured his creativity while I got to do my version and, as a bonus, create a piece of art for our living room.

Finally, it’s about planning – meticulous planning. The people and activities that matter are often on my calendar days, weeks, and often months in advance. The camping trips, dates with my husband, time with my close girlfriends, and self-care retreats are often marked in advance on calendars. I spend Friday afternoons planning my work and non-work week to make sure I’m spending my days in ways that matter.

Moments of serendipity are few, but knowing there are fun things to look forward to gives me double joy (anticipation plus the real event), and I can manage my energy more effectively around the things that fall into the “have to do” category (dishes, are you listening?).

Yes, I’d love to have a few more hours in my life every week. I’d love to have time where I can spend hours reading, going to a leisurely yoga class, volunteering, and having long conversations with people who matter. But, at this season in my life, I can still have these, of course in abbreviated chunks that are often interrupted by the kids. (“Mom, I need food even though this is your precious 10 minutes of reading time before bed,” or “Mom, can you please wipe my butt even though I know you’re trying to drink your bowl of soup?”) I’m not going to complain. I’m grateful for these rich, joyful, and magical hours that I have in my life.

Behold the Wonder of a Book Nook

A book nook can be fancy or simple, so long as it can transport you to the places in your book and escape real life for a little while.

After a school day, my boys need some quiet time on their own. We live in rural Arizona in a spread out ranch style house, so space isn’t the problem. They’re just magnetically drawn to each other and are very likely to start fussing and fighting.
My solution? Transforming the bedroom closet into a tiny reading space. Bean bag, battery powered push lights, plastic milk crate, and some throw pillows. My eight-year-old or his 12-year-old brother can climb in to read or just be away from everyone else for a little while.
A book nook can be fancy or simple, but the most important elements are these: privacy and comfort. You want to be able to transport yourself to the places in your book and escape real life for a little while.

via Pinterest

I love the simplicity here, and the functionality. You could set up as many of these little tents as you need to for the kids on hand, inside or out. And each kid still feels the delicious sense of being in her own world.
via The New York Times

This may not be the most practical, but without a doubt, this design by Japanese furniture designer Sakura Adachi is my favorite reading spot I’ve seen. Even better? There are sizes for adults, children, and even pets. Imagine your public library shelves with built-in spots for reading. This book nook may lack some privacy, but it is so well integrated you might not even see your child after a while.
via Houzz

With a home renovation, just a few square feet were captured to make this reading space in a hallway or landing area. That’s the beauty of a book nook – small spaces are preferable for feeling secure and cozy.
via Pinterest

This igloo-like construction doesn’t cost a penny and could easily be made with children. If your family drinks a lot of milk, you might be able to gather the supplies yourself. Otherwise, it could involve a little community outreach. The dome structure provides the isolation a book nook needs, though the jugs do take up a little more space than other materials.
via Archello

I love these reading pods for their vertical design and how they don’t take up floor space. They are used in a school here, but could certainly be utilized in a home with some structural support. Book nooks create an opportunity to think about space in different ways, and they don’t have to be a permanent structure.

Another simple way to create a discrete space is with sheer curtains. A few pillows suddenly seem isolated, special, otherworldly, and way more fun than sitting on the couch to read.
via Houzz

This is my life dream book nook. Doors that close. A mini library, space for books. A little funky, a little cool. When I get paid for that up-and-coming bestselling series, this will be on the top of the list.
Till then, I’ll enjoy the perfect reading chair I finally found.

When is "Good Enough" Better than Perfection?

Some people are perfectionists. I have never been accused of such a thing.

Some people are perfectionists. I have never been accused of such a thing. I’m very comfortable knowing there’s no such thing as perfect. “Good enough” works for me. Cooking, cleaning, writing, even driving. Mostly doing it right? No one gets hurt from meat that cooked a bit too long or the layer of dust on my baseboards.
When my mother taught me to sew, my disinterest in perfection was a big problem. Basically it drove her crazy. Why pin every few inches? That seemed like a waste of time when I could just hold things mostly straight. How many people actually look at the seam of your flannel pajama pants anyway?
Finally my mama gave up and sent me to sewing class with a local woman. Mrs. Tibor wasn’t mean (probably). However, she wouldn’t let me touch a machine until she’d approved my pinning. It was horrible! I worked on a complex red and black silky top for orchestra performances. For weeks I struggled with the fabric, especially since my teacher wouldn’t just let me go for it. I didn’t get the smug satisfaction of learning the right way to do it either – a new year started and I stopped lessons before ever finishing.
My ever-creative mother punished me as a senior in high school by forcing me to make a quilt. It was a log cabin pattern, with endless strips that required sewing tiny pieces into larger pieces into the whole. My crime? Staying out late – very, very late – on Halloween. There was a car accident, in my defense. Two flat tires. (Really.) And extreme cold and ice and I thought we might die. In the house I grew up in, those sorts of things didn’t matter. Being late did.
I suffered through the peach and green quilt, thinking I could avoid pinning. I could eyeball two inches and use one hand to pull the corners taut without any problem. Slowly the thing grew larger and larger. By the time I was ready for borders, I realized I’d have to pin or face certain doom. I finally did it, 100 yellow headed pins along one side of the king sized quilt.
I hated that quilt. I still hate it. It sits in the bottom of my linen closet. I want to get rid of it, more than you can imagine. For a while it gave me a sense of accomplishment. Last time I got it out during a cold snap, I took a careful look at the pattern. I saw how many seams were frayed or pulled apart, letting the white batting show through. All those rushed moments, trying to progress and get done with my sewing. They’d held for a while but now the truth was showing. This giant project that had consumed so many hours was falling apart.
I’m creeping up on age 40. There are things about myself I can’t avoid any longer. I will never have arms that don’t look 20 years older than me. I will never be an astronaut or date a rock star. I just have to accept that.
I’m trying to be more honest with myself as well. I’m not a perfectionist but I could work at it a bit more. Taking time to do something right isn’t a bad thing. “Good enough” is appropriate in some situations but not all of them. I certainly don’t want my doctor doing a good enough job operating on me – even if the outcome is basically the same.
I won’t be going back and fixing my big old quilt. But I am starting a small project, llama pajamas for the kid. If I was ambitious I’d start a company and take over the world. Instead, I’ll make one lopsided pair. He’ll be happy if they are a bit misshapen. Instead I’m going to try to execute as perfectly as possible. I’ll know that I gave it my all, even if no one else does. Every time he wears them, I’ll remind myself about not taking short cuts, of the virtue of actually trying my best.

The Project Management Tool You Can Use to Wrangle Your Family

Everything from crazy family mornings to chores and attitude problems can be addressed by stealing this corporate tool and applying it to the home.

How can families stay connected and calm in a fast-paced world of school, extracurricular activities, and household chores that beg to be completed? The answer writer Bruce Feiler is offering comes from an unexpected place: the world of project management as it relates to software development.
Agile is a method used in software development that has been gaining followers for years. Small teams work together on tasks to help reach a larger goal. The core elements of this system are dividing tasks into smaller parts and constantly evaluating what is working and what is not.
Feiler gave a TED Talk explaining how this approach works in everyday life with his family and how it helps him create the ultimate family meetings. Everything from crazy family mornings to chores and attitude problems can be addressed by stealing this corporate tool and applying it to the home.

Why do we need Agile?

Feiler cites a study by Ellen Galinsky from the Family and Works Institute to show that we need change in our families. The one thing kids in this study desperately wanted to alter in their parents was their stress levels.
The constant management of our children, homes, and careers leaves us feeling the burnout. I spend many days giving directives more than communicating love, and this happens when I am rushing to finish one task so I can immediately undertake another.
Feiler found that what can lead to less stress is when our kids become active participants in the running of their homes. Our processes are more efficient, our kids are empowered by helping, and communication between family members is stronger.

Combining Agile and family meetings

Feiler’s approach means families set up weekly meetings that last no longer than 20 minutes, ensuring a child of almost any age can stay engaged the entire time. These meetings address issues in the household and give children opportunities to constructively air out grievances. It’s a co-facilitated situation, and everyone has a voice.
If a major concern is that bedtimes are chaos, each person helps come up with possible solutions, breaking down bedtime so that everyone knows their role in helping solve the problem. Visuals are used, such as checklists or large boards, where everyone can see what their responsibilities are.
Agile leader, Martin Lapointe, utilizes a task board where kids can see what they need to do and move their tasks around the board to different columns as they are in progress or completed.
Here’s the important part: At the next meeting, the family discusses what worked, what didn’t, and what they need to deal with during the upcoming week. As opposed to parents making all the decisions, kids are able to offer input, and parents receive a look into their kids’ thought processes, as well as getting a more well-rounded view of how the household is running.
This approach lets kids know they are heard, keeps the family constantly adapting as things change, and teaches kids how to problem solve. It also helps them understand that a plan not working isn’t the end of the world. Maybe the bedtime story system a child presented at the last meeting was too complex and needs to be modified. Children see that recognizing when something fails isn’t the end of the world. They are given opportunities to adapt, a real-life skill that will serve them well.

Becoming a team

Just like businesses, families sometimes fall victim to a top-to-bottom set up. Parents (bosses), say what they want, and children (employees) are supposed to jump to make that happen.
This model often fails in the business world, and it can lead to unnecessary stress in a home. The children feel like they aren’t a part of the family vision, and parents feel like their vision isn’t being realized. The Agile approach offers more balance to the process.
Trusting kids to offer their views and help make positive changes teaches them to be independent and gives them a taste of both success and failure in a safe environment. Agile-loving families have been known to turn vacations and holidays into Agile events, splitting up jobs, making fast, real progress, and checking in to make changes.
Feiler’s daughters now decide on the rewards and punishments they will receive, and they hold each other and themselves accountable. This is what we want: kids who make decisions, adapt accordingly, and learn how to self-regulate.
Feiler, upon hearing about this approach from other parents, doubted it would work for his family. Their problems and stresses seemed too big for a 20-minute weekly meeting and a task board to solve them. He was pleased to find out he was wrong.
Feiler warns parents not to expect perfection from their kids just because they are now in on the process. They will still act up and need guidance, but they will develop skills that, as they are honed, help them attack large issues or assignments as problem solvers and thinkers.
Kids will learn teamwork and how to communicate with others effectively, and parents will have the pleasure of watching their kids cultivate a spirit of independence. Once families go Agile, many don’t go back.

How to Make Your To-Do List Work For You

“To-do” lists keep your dreams alive and keep your need to remember toilet paper and paper towels at the forefront of your mind.

My mother always had an 11 by 14 yellow legal pad within arm’s reach. She made lists constantly while she sat on the couch, catching her breath, while four young kids swirled around her. It must’ve been her way to gain some control on those out-of-control days.

Obvious things were always on her list:

  • Make supper
  • Do laundry
  • Go to butcher

But then there were some lofty short-term goals that appeared consistently:

  • Take a cake-decorating class
  • Learn Hebrew with Rabbi
  • Organize rec-room
  • Call Arlene!

Arlene was her roommate from nursing school. They always tried to stay in touch even though life seemed to get in the way.

My mother has been gone for seven years now and everyday it becomes increasingly clear to me just how well she handled it all. Four kids, a house, PTA, active in our synagogue, boy scouts, piano lessons, cooking every night, my father, her aging parents, these “to-do” lists became her therapist. They were her way of talking through what she wanted to do, what she needed to do, and what she hoped to do.

I make lists now on scraps of paper, backs of receipts, and junk mail envelopes. These are the lists I shove in my purse and/or promptly lose. But without a list, I will never remember we are totally out of paper towels or Trader Joe’s Chicken Taquitos. I will draw a complete blank at Target or the supermarket and stand there feeling as if I’ve totally lost my mind.

List making and organizational methods have changed a lot since my mother’s 1970’s legal pad. We have our phones always in our hands and, within the confines of my protective Otter Box (ever since my daughter whipped my unprotected phone at her pediatrician in a moment of toddler angst), my phone now holds a myriad of useful apps and accessories that make scribbles obsolete.

Apps like Todoist, Remember the Milk, GoogleKeep, Evernote, Trello, or Any.do make pen and paper unnecessary. You can also virtually share your notes with your husband or capable teenager. You can smugly smile with self-satisfaction as you cross items off your list with a swipe (and a smug smile feels good every now and then). No more searching at your desk for something it’s okay to write on or digging into your cavernous pocketbook that has everything in it but a pen and paper. About as tech savvy as I get is using the calendar feature on my phone, but it works, and I feel super-cool and organized when I do.

However, 95 percent of the time, I’m all about the pen and paper. I make my lists before I fall asleep. It’s a way to empty my head before the next day.

  • Send extra underwear to school
  • Mail check to dentist
  • New underwear – Lane Bryant?
  • Gift cards for teachers

I feel like I can sleep after actually seeing these tasks that have been floating around in my head on paper. Writing it down, whether on real paper or tapping it into a screen, the to-do list makes us feel part of it all. It makes us feel like we’ve got it together, even just in theory.

It’s also a way to become a bit more visionary about our lives. I have recurring things like:

  • Write my one-woman show
  • Illustrate my children’s book idea
  • Surprise my husband with replacement of his favorite worn out Beatles t-shirt
  • Plan trip to Dutch Wonderland
  • Take Miriam to Hayden Planetarium

My “to-do” list keeps my dreams alive and keeps my need to remember toilet paper and paper towels at the forefront of my mind.

I posted a picture of a recent “to-do” list on Facebook. It was met with complete understanding. A few supermarket items like peanut butter crackers and cat food were followed by the more existential:

  • Michael’s Arts & Crafts
  • Decorative shit to make me happy

Every one of my friends knew exactly what I meant. Just by writing it down and feeling that communal “eternal search for happiness” (said partly in jest and partly in all seriousness) made me feel better instantly.

The “to-do” list is a place to let loose. We are the bosses of our “to-do” lists, not the other way around. Put something silly or serious on yours. Whether it’s scribbled on that coffee stained napkin, or tapped into your favorite app on your phone or tablet, you will get it all done.

Using Minimalism to Teach Our Kids That Less Really Is More

Minimalism, to whatever degree you take it, can teach our kids important life lessons they can carry into their adult lives.

Marie Kondo started a minimalism craze with her book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Her method, which involves only keeping items that truly bring joy, has transformed messy homes and cluttered minds for many readers.

As someone who loves Kondo’s books, I was excited to get my hands on “Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism” by Fumio Sasaki. Reading it reignited my desire to stay true to simple, minimalist methods and to pass them on to my kids.

Some people shy away from the idea of minimalism because they view it as a system that demands deprivation instead of simplicity. However, minimalism doesn’t have a checklist of items that are or aren’t allowed. There are no specific requirements. It’s a movement that’s more about personal growth and conscientious living than it is about trying to win a prize for owning the least number of things.

While some people, like Sasaki, take it to the point of having one bowl and a single towel, with only a roll-out mat to sleep on, for most people embracing minimalism doesn’t go quite that far. Regardless of what it looks like for each individual, it can teach our kids important life lessons they can carry into their adult lives.

1 | Teaches want versus need

There is nothing wrong with desiring an item, but many kids and adults have lost the ability to actually distinguish between a want and a need. For those of us lucky enough to have the essentials covered, it’s easy to consider our wants necessary because food, shelter, and other basics are something we’ve never struggled to have. We start desiring more and calling it need.

Minimalism causes adherents to stop and think about if they actually need an item, or if their want is strong enough to justify its existence in their lives. There’s a pause and an acknowledgment that buying something will not offer us permanent happiness, so if we’re only grabbing an item for the quick high purchasing offers, it’s a bad idea. This is an essential lesson for kids, and one they should learn young.

2 | Achieves freedom by focusing on less

Minimalism is not just about physical items, though that is the best place to start purging. Minimalism is about getting rid of distractions, whether they are material distractions or mental distractions, that zap our energy. Worrying about money, storage, or organization takes away time and offers mental stress, something minimalism helps alleviate.

Teaching kids that things don’t have to be their masters frees them to let go of items that aren’t worth keeping. They don’t have to remain consumers.

Those who try minimalism may also analyze food and free time choices. It could lead to eating simpler meals and cutting out processed foods, focusing on less. Parents and kids may practice minimalism magic on their calendars, opting for less activities with a more meaningful focus.

Many find they are also more intentional about technology use, opting to set aside times to perform tasks online instead of letting it be an all-day interruption that simply takes up time. All of these changes offer the freedom of less.

3 | Opens us to experiences

Minimalism often opens up time for its adherents, and it also helps them value experiences over things. Experiences make us happier than material items anyway, according to a study from San Francisco State University. The short-lived thrill of a purchase fades, but memories of experiences bring us joy long after the experience is over, enriching our happiness.

Experiences don’t have to be exotic or expensive, though they can be. They simply need to offer a child memories he will enjoy looking back on that will last longer than that trendy toy he thought he wanted.

4 | Stops the comparison game

Minimalism is a journey of self-discovery, with the focus on making our lives work for us. In this way, comparisons are of no use. It doesn’t matter how much or how little those around us choose to consume. We exit the game where participants constantly compare their purchases and nice things to someone else’s.

This is a great lesson for kids because it’s easy for them to look around and assume they are supposed to have the same items other children do. By focusing on minimalism, we are teaching kids to develop self-control and think about how having less things, a more open schedule, and less stress helps them. They can then make choices that positively affect their lives without worrying about anyone else’s decisions.

5 | Helps the unorganized kid

We believe that giving our kids things is a way to show love, but for unorganized kids, it can be an overwhelming burden to carry. I know because I was one, and I’m now an unorganized adult who is helped tremendously by the practice of minimalism.

I needed to be a minimalist in the 1980s (when it wasn’t common) because I didn’t care for things, but I would have loved the mental clarity and lack of guilt that comes with being able to properly sort a few items.

Unorganized kids can be unburdened quickly if they learn how to prioritize their wants and needs, find a special place for the items they deem essential, and learn some basic skills for keeping things sorted. It builds confidence in kids who can otherwise snap under the pressure of handling more than they are capable of.

6 | Makes us grateful

Having less can truly make us more thankful for what we have. Having more doesn’t particularly make us grateful for it. If anything, having more can make kids expect more instead of being thankful for what they have.

Helping kids embrace minimalism in every aspect of their lives promotes being grateful for the big and little things in life. It can leave our kids happy with less instead of always thirsting for more.

Do's and Don't's for the Middle-Aged Retiree

Whether your find yourself in the position of middle-aged retirement by circumstance or by design, you’re going to need some guidance.

Just shy of three years ago, I quit my job. I quit with a vengeance. I burned bridges. I may have stomped my feet and slammed a door (or two). Don’t judge.

I quit on a Friday afternoon without the foggiest notion of what I, a then-48-year-old woman who had worked for 23 years and whose high school-age children no longer required daily maintenance, would do when Monday rolled around.

What happened, you might ask?

Did I (a) revel in my free time, thanking my lucky stars that I’d finally thrown off the yoke of the working world and wondering why I had ever been so stupid as to have a job, (b) hang around the Scarsdale train station during morning rush hour, stalking the commuters, ruing the day when I marched into my boss’s office and read her the riot act, or (c) implode.

The answer is none of the above.

It took a good long time to figure out my new existence in a way that didn’t threaten my sanity. So I would like to give you my hard-earned guidance: the do’s and don’ts of how to handle it if you too should find yourself in this supposedly-enviable situation.

1 | Don’t drag out annoying errands just to have something to do

Remember how, when you were working, you managed to fit all the necessary tasks of daily living into the tiny pockets of time left over from your job and your commute? For example, I’d rush like a madwoman to the supermarket for the components of some semblance of dinner, dash to the pharmacy for my daughter’s very expensive fluoride toothpaste, and then come home to fix the malfunctioning dishwasher, take my son to get his busted lip stitched, and polish the silver.

Now that you’re no longer working, there will be great appeal in spreading out all your obligations over the newly available time. You’ll put off going to the dry cleaner until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, just because you can! 

You’ll spend the first number of weeks grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, Mrs. Green’s, Balducci’s, and the local farmer’s market, and making gourmet dinners for your family. (This will go on until your son asks you one evening, with tears in his eyes, if you can go back to making the boxed macaroni and cheese.) 

You’ll announce to the other carpool moms that you are now “flexible,” available to fill in slots for the working moms “whenever,” and then find yourself inundated with commitments to drive six teenagers back and forth to school on a moment’s notice, five days a week.

Don’t fall into this trap. Have a little self-respect for goodness sake. You quit your job, you didn’t sign up for a 40-hour-a-week gig as a gal Friday for your family.

2 | Do write your memoir

Okay, I heard that groan from a mile away. You’re worried that you haven’t lived a memoir-worthy life. Believe me, I’m well aware of your limitations. You haven’t cured the common cold, climbed Mt. Everest blindfolded, or starred opposite Ryan Gosling in the remake of West Side Story. I wasn’t being entirely literal. When I quit my job, a friend convinced me to take a writing class. It happened to be a memoir class, and I too scoffed at the notion. In fact, like you, I don’t have a memoir to write.

But taking the class emboldened me to take other classes, to meet new people, to get out of the house, and to realize that there was a whole world of activities – pole dancing, bobsledding, competitive dog grooming – outside of the job I’d been a slave to for many years. So I don’t care what class you take, just take something. Sign up, pay your money so you won’t back out, and have an allotted time where you have to be somewhere other than sitting on your expanding butt on your couch. Which brings me to the next “Don’t.”

3 | Don’t buy a whole new wardrobe, get an expensive gym membership, and expect to lose ten pounds and fit into your old skinny jeans

Quitting your job has a lot of similarities to making New Year’s Resolutions. You’re suddenly faced with a blank slate and a feeling like you’ve been given a second chance to live a better life. The number one New Year’s Resolution? To lose weight and get in shape. I’m here to tell you, none of that will happen.

I quit my job in September of 2014. Feeling empowered but flabby, I, who had barely satisfied the 50-yard dash requirement in gym class in third grade, immediately downloaded an app to train to run a 5K. I was diligent and determined. By November, I signed up for a local 5K, wishing that it hadn’t been dubbed “the Turkey Trot,” which I secretly feared was named after me, and which made it sound comical when it was deadly serious. But I digress. I ran the 5K at a sort of respectable pace (at least I didn’t crawl for more than the last kilometer), triumphantly posting my finish-line photo on Facebook for all my friends to see and lavish praise on me.

Since that time, my only cardio workout consists of getting myself from the couch to my refrigerator. Instead of losing ten pounds, I’ve gained ten pounds.

Why do I tell you this story of epic failure? Because I don’t want you to feel badly about yourself if (when) this happens to you. Being home is hard. The temptation to sooth yourself with the truffle ricotta ravioli, the hearth-baked 27 grain bread, and the caramel mocha molten chocolate cake you now have time to stock the refrigerator with is great. So while you may get to buy some new clothes, think one size up, not one size down.

 
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4 | Don’t take piano lessons for the first time as an adult

If you’ve never played a musical instrument or last played said instrument in the sixth grade, now is not the time to start unless your goal is to irritate your spouse, children, and the kindly piano teacher with your inability to reliably find middle C, to count anything more complicated than a whole note in 4/4 time, and your repeated declaration that you “just want to learn enough chords to play Dust in the Wind.” It will never happen.

5 | Do listen to Ebony & Ivory and other bad 1980’s songs at earsplitting decibel levels and dance around your kitchen in your underwear

The music hasn’t improved since you were in high school, but hearing it played as loud as possible and letting loose with your old disco moves in the privacy of your own home will make you feel simultaneously young and ancient, to strangely positive effect.

6.  Don’t assume that the actual stay-at-home parents will welcome you because you no longer have a job

The key here is that you are the only one new to the sandbox. These moms and dads have been slaving away at domestic life full-time for many years and have already established when they take spin class, who they eat chopped salad with, and which children fraternize with little Tyler or little Wren. They were not waiting around for you to arrive on the scene as the newly-unemployed parent. They have lives!

This is not to say that you can’t break into the social scene, but you must take it slowly. This is especially true if you are long past the phase of life of playgroups or other child-centered activities, and are forced to navigate these waters as a full-fledged adult. Don’t despair, even the most anally-organized community of stay-at-home moms will sometimes need a fourth to sub in for tennis or mahjong.

7. Do learn to play games

Even though you heretofore eschewed them as silly.

8.  Do nap

Sometimes surrendering to blissful unconsciousness for an hour is the only way to get through a long day. You can always tell people you need your beauty rest, no one will argue with you.

9.  Do put together an updated resume, just in case this doesn’t pan out

There’s no shame in realizing, either quickly or down the road, that you preferred having a job. Depending on how long it’s been, you may need a new interview suit. Styles do change, you know. Put a smile on your face and get ready to explain what you’ve been doing with your time since you have been out of the workforce. I’d start by talking about that memoir you’ve been writing.

Six Things You Should Do For Yourself When Your Baby is Six Months Old

Congratulations! You’ve made it this far. Here are six things you can do to ensure you’re happy, healthy, and thriving, just like your baby.

The first few months with a new baby are often taxing and exhausting. Life has changed in a major way and, for a while, many moms find themselves living in survival mode. When the fog begins to lift and life begins to feel “normal” again, moms should take an intentional look at how they’re doing. Are they satisfied emotionally with their partner? How about socially with their friends? Do they feel healthy and strong? Are the choices they’ve made around work still working?

The six-month mark is a perfect time to realign your priorities and think through any challenges you might be experiencing. Check out the list below for six things every mom should do when her baby is six months old to ensure that she is happy, healthy, and thriving, just like her baby.

1 | Reconnect with friends

Some women have kids around the same time as their friends do. Maternity leaves might overlap and, while the late nights out might shift to early morning coffee dates, they don’t have trouble staying connected to their friends. If your friends don’t have kids, or you’ve been up to your ears in trying to figure out parenthood and haven’t had the time to hit send on that half-typed text, take a pause and make a commitment to reconnect with your friends.

While the golden standard is a night out with friends without the baby, a night in with ordered pizza and board games works too. If your friends are long distance, put a monthly call on both of your calendars and make it happen. While you might still be so tired that you’d rather crash as soon as the baby goes down, invest in your friendships now, when it’s tough, and you’ll be able to maintain them in the long run.

2 | Plan a night out with your spouse

Many parents may have already taken a date night once the six month mark rolls around. If you haven’t, make a point to choose a time to connect, get a babysitter, and go out. Even if your little one nurses through the evening or wails when he’s left with a stranger, find a way to wrangle your schedules (Would a lunch date work? How about a very late dinner?) to ensure that your baby is happy, and you and your spouse have the opportunity to chat without the lovely goos and gahs you’re used to hearing.

 
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3 | Reexamine your physical health and fitness goals

Having a baby is taxing on the body. At the six-month mark some women may feel strong and healthy while others may still be dealing with more weight then they’d like or with painful after-effects of birth. At the six-month mark, take the time to assess how you feel physically and make a plan to take any action you feel you need to take.

If you’re still experiencing pain from delivery, make a doctor’s appointment to talk about finding a solution. If you’re experiencing muscle weakness, consider checking in with a physical therapist to see if there are exercises you can be doing to help you feel stronger. If you’re feeling heavier than you’d like, think about making a plan to assess your nutrition. Your health matters and, after having a baby, there’s more to recovery then just weight loss. Paying attention to your health now will leave you happier and healthier in the long run.

4 | Take an honest look at your mental health

Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are extremely common conditions that many women don’t seek help for. Consider how you’ve been feeling since your baby came along and, if you or a trusted loved one thinks that something might not be quite right, reach out to your OBGYN or primary care doctor for a referral to a mental health professional. Taking charge of your mental health has the ability to shift how you feel about your entire parenting experience.   

5 | Reexamine your career goals

Perhaps when you had your baby you decided to stay home but now, six months out, you’re starting to miss working in your field. Or maybe you went back to work at six weeks and are finding it tougher and tougher to be away from your little one. At the six-month mark, you’ve spent enough time as a parent to begin to understand the interplay of work and family in your life and you may be ready to make some changes. Look at what’s working and what’s not and take any first steps you need to take to move in the direction that feels right to you.

6 | Look for tough spots and work to troubleshoot

Bringing a baby home often leads to a drastic redistribution of household duties. Sometimes, that redistribution works well but, other times, it leads to essential jobs just not getting done. Take a look at your everyday life, the chores you do each day, how you handle transportation and shopping, and what your routine looks like. Identify any spots that lead to reoccurring conflict or inconvenience and make a list of ways you can do things differently. Look at the family budget (the time budget and the money budget) and decide if it makes sense to redistribute within the family or to outsource. Perhaps a simple shake up in who does what, plus sacrificing eating out once a week to afford a monthly deep clean, leads to a smoother everyday experience.

Summer's Quest for Independence: You Might Be Surprised by All Your ASD Kid Can Do

Why not use the freedom of summer to tackle issues such as responsibility for household tasks or personal independence and growth?

Summer is a time of fun in the sun and relaxing by the pool, but for children on the autism spectrum, summer can also be a time to focus on things that are more difficult during the school year.
As the mother of a high-functioning autistic son, summer means teaching responsiblity. My son, Jackie, entered high school this past fall and his days were filled with homework and social issues. It became impossible to work on things like chores or personal hygiene. For other parents who have similar issues, why not use the freedom of summer to tackle issues such as responsibility for household tasks or personal independence and growth?
Here are my top five tips for encouraging responsibility in ASD teens. You might be surprised at the progress that can be made in a few short months.

1 | Chores

Most ASD kids hate the idea of chores. They don’t want to be bothered with mundane things such as taking out the trash or cleaning their rooms. I have discovered that there is always some kind of motivator that can be used. For us it’s cold hard cash, but if you are a parent opposed to paying for the cooperation of daily chores, a point system can work as well.
Positive reinforcement is always a good option. Make a chart that assigns points for each task. At the end of the week, the points can be added up and used for a reward. The rewards can be as simple as playing a game or a movie night at home. A prize bin can be made with small items that can be redeemed with the weekly points.
Make sure to have one special chore that is a freebie. By assigning one task that earns no points your child can feel that they are contributing to the family in a special way.
 
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2 | Grooming

Gaining independence can be difficult during the school year with all the stress of academics. Use the summertime to boost that self-esteem by encouraging better self-care.
If your child has a difficult time keeping clean, using soap, or knowing how to really clean properly, bring out the kiddie pool. An ASD child can learn how to clean better by practicing in their own back yard. Put on the swimsuit, bring in the floaty toys, and practice lathering up that hair. Make sure to praise your child for the accomplishment and reinforce how good it feels to be clean.
It may sound funny but the sensory overload of taking a bath or shower can really deter an ASD child from taking the time needed to clean. Make it fun and practice the routine an by fall they may be ready to get down to business in the bathroom.

3 | Money

Many ASD children have difficulty in learning the value of money. Now that there is more time and less stress, teach them about money to help create independence.
Take your child grocery shopping with a limited amount of money. Have him find items on a list and then head to the register. The first time I did this with my son, he came to the register with five gallons of milk and a jar of peanut butter. We talked about what was necessary for a week and reevaluated what he had in the cart. If you start with $20 and go over budget, you might talk about how to get by with less and how to make better shopping choices. Use real money so that your child can count the change and make sure that they are paying the right amount for their groceries.
If there is money left over, put it in a bank and add it to next week’s budget. With extra money on the next trip, they might decide to buy something special.

4 | Care of personal space

During the school year, I find myself constantly picking up after my son. I make his bed, bring him milk when he needs it, and tidy up his room daily. Summer is the time to foster a respect for personal space. The first time that I asked my son to make his bed he did it grudgingly, yet I was amazed at how well he could manage it and told him so. The next day, he surprised me by doing it on his own. Little by little we added in the organization of toy cars scattered his floor. We moved on to the stuffed animals and then to the desk.
Make it fun by challenging for the tasks to be completed in a certain amount of time. Try to beat each day’s time while still maintaining the integrity of the work. Comment on how nice it is to be in a clean space. Encouraging your child to get their own beverages or snacks and clean up after is also a good way to promote independence.
It’s important to keep it free from stress and to not push too hard. Take the small accomplishments and celebrate them.

5 |Make it tech-y

My son loves his computer and iPad. He also loves his phone but has a difficult time using it to actually call someone. It’s a social thing. He is nervous to talk on the phone or even to email someone. During the summer months, I encourage him to call his grandma or connect with friends via email and text.
Many ASD children even have a difficult time communicating on computer devices. If your child has a close friend, encourage that friend to call or text. Find time every week to make a phone call to a relative. It may seem like a strange thing to work on but they will probably need these skills as adults.
Since communication is difficult for ASD people in general, practicing with different modes such as text, telephone, and email can alleviate some of the anxiety. You can make it interesting by playing a game of gossip on the telephone. Contact several friends and family members to play. Have grandma call and say a phrase to pass on to the next person through a phone call or text. Continue passing on the phrase until the final person has been contacted and then see if the phrase is the same as it was in the beginning. Being creative at first will help make phone communication a less scary place.
Summer provides the free time to tackle some of the issues that we face as parents of children on the autism spectrum. Make it fun and as stress-free as possible. I have found that more can be accomplished through a positive attitude. Don’t worry if you can’t get everything marked off the list. Celebrate all the awesome accomplishments as they come and the amazing children who achieve them.