A Tale of Two Selfies & An Unpodcast

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling hard to keep up with my life and feeling this knot of doom hanging over me about the holidays coming up and how am I going to do it all, be everything that everyone needs me to be, and have enough of me to put out all the fires that keep popping up. It was exhausting. I haven’t been sleeping well, and having a hard time keeping myself from eating all the bad things!

Since I started PiYo, my morning workouts have been where I work through those emotional leftovers from the day before, but for the past two weeks I could barely drag myself out of bed for them and I just didn’t feel that “ahhhhhhhhhh” moment afterwards. My success partner, Lacy, and I made a commitment to post our sweaty selfies as a way to be accountable to each other and our clients. Here’s mine from Wednesday…

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I took TEN and this was the best smile I could manage. I just wasn’t feeling it. I was too wrapped up in what I knew was coming in the rest of my day, and it wrecked my ability to make the most of my morning. I wasn’t wrong about my day, either. I have a recurring project that was assigned to me a couple of years ago that gives me a lot of anxiety because it’s pretty far outside of my strong skill set. I have begged and pleaded for reassignment with no luck. Meanwhile, it keeps growing and getting more complicated, and at one point on Wednesday I locked myself in my office, put my head down and cried like a baby because I felt like it would never end.

On Thursday, I didn’t even bother getting out of bed to work out. I was mentally and physically exhausted. I considered calling out, fantasized about quitting, and eventually dragged myself out the door and into the office. I listen to podcasts in the car, and happened to be listening to the Unpodcast that day. And Scott Stratten said something along the lines of “I don’t spend time working on my weaknesses. I think that just wastes time I could spend on getting great at my strengths.”

And I was like – WHOA. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing to myself. I’ve been feeling like there are so many things about me that I need to fix, that I need to work on, that I need to get better at, that I need to just manage, that I haven’t put any time into the things I’m GOOD at. No wonder I feel like crap about myself if all my energy is going into things I can barely scrape together and whose only role in my bigger plan is to eventually GO AWAY.

So I pushed the nightmare project off to the side, took care of the things that were on deadline, and spent the entire rest of my day on a project that I love and that I excel at. And you know what? It worked. It freaking worked! I rushed back from lunch to get back to it, and was almost late leaving for the day because I had to get one last thought down into my notes – which I brought home for the weekend because some of them can be reused for my coaching business.

When I got home, I had quality time with PJ and Paul, and I slept like a rock. I woke up this morning excited for my workout, and I nailed it. It was FUN again! Here’s today’s selfie:

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On the FIRST try too. So I guess what I’m trying to say is, not that I won’t ever try to learn a new skill or get better about something I’m not good at, but I’m definitely going to be more guarded with my time to make sure that these things don’t take over my life again. Life lessons from (un)marketers for the win!

7 Apps That Make My Life Easier

I confess, I’m something of a scatterbrain. I’m primarily an ideas person, and when it comes down to execution, I trip myself up on details all the time. Since I had PJ, I’ve been trying hard (really, really hard) to get myself trained to be better about managing my time and my environment because I don’t want him to grow up in chaos. I’m still a work in progress, (she says while sitting next to Mt. Laundry), but these are the apps that have helped me the most so far in this ongoing project that is my life!

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How To: Eat Clean(er) In Restaurants

Clean eating at home isn’t exactly easy, especially when you’re juggling a family and a busy schedule. But at least you have the advantage of controlling your ingredients and your environment. So if we ate at home for every meal, the path to healthy eating habits would be relatively smooth. But of course we live in the real world, and that means eating at other people’s homes and at restaurants sometimes too. The easy way out is to say “Oh, it’s a special occasion, and I’ll have whatever I want *just this once*.” But when *just this once* becomes every couple of days, it’s easy to get off track in a hurry.

So here are some of my survival strategies to be able to eat out and enjoy my time with family, friends, and colleagues without throwing away all my hard work and exercise:

Don’t Arrive Too Hungry

Just like grocery shopping, if you are starving when you walk into a restaurant, the unhealthy choices are more likely to jump out at you and you’re more likely to overeat in general. It’s also much easier to say “No thanks” to a bread basket if you aren’t entertaining a herd of rampaging wildebeests in your tummy (what? Just me and PJ?) Eat a high protein snack before you go and it’ll be easier to stay on track.

Say No To Soda
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Regular soda is full of empty calories, and diet versions actually stimulate your appetite and craving for sugar. Stick to water and unsweetened teas for your main drink, and save your beverage calories for a glass of wine instead.

Skip The Salad

This may seem counterintuitive to a healthy eating strategy, but think about this – which of these three dishes is going to give you a bigger bang for your vegetable buck?

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The typical house salad at many restaurants may make you feel good when you order it, but is usually just a pile of lettuce with a couple of tomatoes and/or cucumbers and it’s not at all satisfying to eat. And a lot of entree salads are loaded with fatty fried chicken, and covered with high fat dressings and other unhealthy items. You’re better off ordering the pizza with lots of veggies (that are ironically not often included in the salads!) or another entree with some nutritional value than suffering through a boring plate of lettuce or thinking you were “good” because you ordered a salad and then binging on dessert….or so I’ve heard!

Read Like A Chef

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When you’re looking for a healthy entree, pay attention to the ingredients and also to how it’s prepared. Look for broiled, grilled and baked items, and stay away from smothered ones. Sauteed is a tricky one, because it CAN be done with a light touch, but most of the time it isn’t. You’ll probably be looking at a lot of unnecessary fat and oil with a sauteed dish. If you don’t understand a term and how it relates to fats used in cooking, ask your server or look it up.

Have What She’s Having

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Ok, I love this movie. And you don’t need to be quite as high maintenance as Sally, but she really is onto something with all her “on the side” orders. I always ask for dressings and sauces on the side, because they add flavor but also add a ton of fat and calories most of the time. So I dip my fork into the dressing or sauce before each bite to get the flavor, and rarely use more than a quarter of what they send out.

Divide & Conquer

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It’s no secret that restaurant portions are typically way outside the norm in their size and amount of calories involved. One good strategy to manage this is to take a good look at your plate before you take that first bite or Instagram photo, and decide where your stopping point is. I usually eat half of my plate and then stop for a couple of minutes to decide if I’m still hungry or if I’m talking the rest home for lunch. It’s easy to get caught up in conversation and finish a whole huge plate before you know it, so deciding where you stop before you start can be a big help.

These are my six favorite strategies for keeping on track away from home – what are yours? Leave them in the comments!

Defying the Gravity of SCOTUS

I firmly believe that there is a Broadway song for every occasion. That when what you feel is much too big for words alone, you need music and a powerhouse singer to get it out. That’s how I’ve been feeling all week.


[GLINDA]
Why couldn’t you have stayed calm, for once! Instead of flying off the handle — !

I hope you’re happy
I hope you’re happy now
I hope you’re happy how you’ve
Hurt your cause forever
I hope you think you’re clever!

I was taught, many years ago, that our court system is supposed to represent the interest of justice (saaaaaaay, do you think that’s why they’re called Justices?!)

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[ELPHABA]
I hope you’re happy
I hope you’re happy too
I hope you’re proud how you would
Grovel in submission
To feed your own ambition

[GLINDA & ELPHABA]
So though I can’t imagine how
I hope you’re happy
Right now

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Do you think this case was really about 4 specific prescriptions? Or about whether you pay for them pre-tax as part of your compensation or deducted premiums or post-tax in cash? Or is it about whether someone in a powerful decision making position has the right to make a religiously based judgment and pass it on down the line regardless of the faith or beliefs of the individuals in that line?

[GLINDA]
Elphie, listen to me. Just say you’re sorry!

You can still be with The Wizard
What you’ve worked and waited for
You can have all you ever wanted –

[ELPHABA]
I know
But I don’t want it – No!
I can’t want it anymore

It is not “beside the point” to note that the insurance plans in question here cover Viagra and Cialis without batting an eye. The relevant part there is that men are able to make decisions about their sexual health informed by their own needs and their doctor’s recommendations. But the sexual health of women is subject to higher scrutiny – that it’s a-ok for an employer to make a moral judgment before a woman even enters a doctor’s office about which medications are appropriate.

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Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by
The rules of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes
And leap…

It’s time to try defying gravity
I think I’ll try defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down

I have been alarmed many times in the past few years about legislation and proposed legislation regarding pregnant women – laws in Arizona would have legally defined pregnancy as beginning two weeks BEFORE conception. This is part of a medical definition, but making it a legal definition is a whole different ballgame.

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And don’t even get me started on “personhood” laws that could have landed me in jail while I was pregnant with PJ for ::gasp:: being in a liquor store with intent to purchase alcohol. Never mind that it was for a party, and I’m a good hostess who doesn’t expect other people not to drink on my account – if these “personhood” laws had been in effect, the store clerk would have been a mandated reporter and I would have had to prove that I was not planning to get wasted and harm my child.

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[GLINDA]
Can’t I make you understand
You’re having delusions of grandeur?

[ELPHABA]
I’m through accepting limits
Cuz someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try I’ll never know
Too long I’ve been afraid of
Losing love, I guess I’ve lost
Well if that’s love
It comes at much too high a cost

I’d sooner buy defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye, I’m defying gravity
And you can’t pull me down!

I don’t often write about feminist issues, partly because I see the kind of hate that is directed toward women who do, and partly because I know that my opinions on these subjects upset people that I care about and I try not to do that when I can help it. But here’s the thing – if more people like me, who care about women being full and equal members of society, not just capable of but trusted to make our own decisions start speaking up, maybe the point will come across.

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Glinda, come with me. Think of what we could do -together!

Unlimited
Together we’re unlimited
Together we’ll be the greatest team
There’s ever been – Glinda!
Dreams the way we planned ’em

[GLINDA]
If we work in tandem

[GLINDA & ELPHABA]
There’s no fight we cannot win
Just you and I, defying gravity
With you and I defying gravity

[ELPHABA]
They’ll never bring us down!

Well, are you coming?

It isn’t just career feminists, who study and write about these issues every day (and kudos to them for doing it, I wouldn’t be able to handle the stress!) who should be involved in this conversation, engaging with the anti-feminist movement. Everyone should add their voice. Do you think that 4 of the 20 most effective contraceptive methods are morally wrong? Start writing about it, share your point of view, and back it up with your research. You never know who will read it and be informed by it when they need to make a decision.

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[GLINDA decides to stay behind.]

Here’s where it gets tricky, though. Taking your opinion and writing it into legislation says “I don’t trust you to make the right decision about your health and your family.” It says that you feel your position is so weak that you need muscle to back it up. Or that you think women aren’t capable human beings who can evaluate their needs and their options as fully as men can.

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[GLINDA]
I hope you’re happy
I hope your happy now that your choosing this –

[ELPHABA]
You too–
I hope it brings you bliss

[GLINDA & ELPHABA]
I really hope you get it
And you don’t live to regret it
I hope you’re happy in the end
I hope you’re happy my friend

There is nothing wrong with having religion guide your life – many wonderful people do amazing, good things in the name of God. I support several organizations both personally and professionally that help support women who choose to continue an unplanned pregnancy. I think they do great work, and I am happy to see women thrive in situations that started out scary and uncertain – women like my own mom, who had me very young.

But there has to be a recognition of where personal beliefs end, and where public policy begins. For myself, I don’t need access to abortion services. And I don’t feel a need to get into a debate about what kind of circumstances are or aren’t acceptable for someone else to seek one, because you can play the exception game all day long and get nowhere. So how about this groundbreaking idea – recognize that women are fully capable human beings, who can evaluate their own needs and circumstances, seek out information on points they’re unsure about, accept the counsel of their support system, their doctor, and their conscience, and make a decision without the input of their congressional representation or their boss.

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[ELPHABA]
So if you care to find me
Look to the Western sky!
As someone told me lately
Everyone deserves the chance to fly
And if I’m flying solo
At least I’m flying free
To those who ground me
Take a message back from me!

I am extremely disappointed in the Supreme Court for ruling that employees have less individual autonomy than the corporations they work for. This Court has proved over and over (Citizens United, McCutcheon, Hobby Lobby) that it believes in the Golden Rule above all else – they who have the gold, make the rules.

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Where is the Justice in that for individuals so unfortunate to be the employed rather than the employer? Did I miss the section of the First Amendment that says “This is a weighted right – by accepting a paycheck, you agree to be governed by the $peech of your betters, and are now free to practice their religion as they see fit.”

Tell them how I am defying gravity
I’m flying high, defying gravity
And soon I’ll match them in renown

Lots of people responded to the outrage over this ruling by saying “Don’t like it? Don’t work there! Find someone who shares your own beliefs and work for them, or start your own company and make your own rules!” (Can you hear the hymns playing at the “start your own company” line?) My BFF Anne had a great point to make about this – should we really need to ask in an interview, along with job description, salary, and benefits questions, about the personal religious beliefs of the company owner? Has it really come to that? And will job applicants have court protection if asking those questions gets them into trouble of any kind?

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And starting a company is a great option – for everyone. All it takes is a great idea, right? Anyone can do it! No experience in sourcing, production, bookkeeping, marketing, law, finance, or customer service needed, just start your own business and then YOU can make decisions about your health care! Maybe you’ll even be lucky enough to find someone from that lower class species of Job Seeker to make decisions FOR in a week or two! And with all that money that will start rolling in the minute you let people know you are a Job Creator, you even get free speech in election years! Hot dog hot dog hot diggity dog!

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Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggety dog!

And nobody in all of Oz
No Wizard that there is or was
Is ever gonna bring me down!!

Or maybe, just maybe, employees are people too – with religious beliefs of their own, and the desire to participate in their own lives and society regardless of how much cash they have to contribute to election campaigns. They may even have ::stage whisper:: sex lives.

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Bringing up the other medical uses for birth control is important, but misses the main argument – that women’s bodies and medical decisions are held to different standards of scrutiny than men’s are. And that is what the executives at Hobby Lobby and the SCOTUS five got wrong.

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At least someone got it right.

[GLINDA]
I hope you’re happy

[CITIZENS OF OZ]
Look at her
She’s wicked
Get her!!

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All you need to do to see why I hesitated to post this are read the Facebook comments on any article on the case. I’ve referenced some of the tamer themes here, but there are plenty of worse ones out there if you care to see what people have to say about women who think like I do. Or you could read through the #YesAllWomen conversation. Hopefully, it makes you uncomfortable.

[ELPHABA]
Bring me down!

[CITIZENS OF OZ]
No one mourns the wicked
So we got to bring her –

[ELPHABA]
Ahhhh!

[CITIZENS OF OZ]
–Down!

But hopefully, it also makes you think.

An Open Letter to Matt Walsh, From A Working Mom

Hi Matt,

We’ve never met, but I’m a reader of your blog. I found you when your post about encountering a reader and a mom with a screaming child in a grocery store went viral. Our babies are the same age, 8 months. I love the way you write about your children, and especially your wife who I can tell you respect and appreciate very deeply. I think that if our kids were ever in a play group together and I had the opportunity to get to know “real Matt” as opposed to “blog Matt,” I would probably like you. But I wonder whether you would like me, or if you would despise me the way I feel that you do after some of your posts.

There are many ideas you’ve written about where we agree, some where we disagree but you’ve made me think about issues in a different way, and others where I just could not disagree more. Most of those have to do with how you view the role of women. I loved your first piece about stay at home moms, and your passionate defense against the asinine “But what do you do all day?” dismissal of that profession.

And then you wrote about chivalry. For the record, I always smile and say thank you to anyone who holds a door for me or any similar act of kindness. If it’s a two door situation, I will hold the next door for the person as well. So I am a fan of this kind of polite behavior and wish more people still did it, and will be teaching my son to demonstrate it. But going into a discussion of how men do this for women to prove that they can physically dominate us poor little girls but choose not to by serving us instead made me a little uneasy. If I thought for a second that the nice man holding the door for me at Wawa was doing it not to be a nice, decent human being but to say “Hey lady, I could beat you to a pulp right now if I wanted, but I don’t, so aren’t I great?” I would probably consider throwing my coffee at him – but that would be a waste of good coffee, and as parents of 8 month olds we know that just isn’t done, amiright?

Your second defense of SAHM’s was pretty good too, but took a few swipes at those of us who work that I didn’t feel were necessary.  The contemptuous reference to “outsourcing our Mom duties” was a bit annoying, but nothing I haven’t encountered before. By the way, this is my little one during some recent “outsourcing,” it’s actually one of my favorite pictures of him because he’s clearly having a great time!

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But the piece that finally drove me to write this, because quite honestly every time that I’ve sat down to write anything else since you published it I haven’t been able to, is about the gender pay gap. Specifically, that you don’t think it exists, or that if it does it’s all well and good because, hey, women don’t do the valuable work anyway (except at home). We’re waitresses and hair dressers (who like to be called stylists, by the way), not pilots and construction workers. We don’t have big, manly muscles to do real work. I could go on, but I got your idea – you’re apples, we’re oranges, and there’s no need for anyone to worry about how and why women make 77 cents for every dollar men do.

Here’s where you’re really going to despise me, Matt. I do worry about it, and think that it’s really irresponsible of someone like you with a large audience to get on your soapbox and say “Nothing to see here, folks, forget about it.” Let’s look at an apples to apples situation, and I will show you how working women, especially women with children, earn less than their male counterparts because of a system that is biased towards that happening.

You are correct that statistics show a leveling playing field for younger, college educated women to join the work force on an equal pay footing with their male classmates. Hooray for progress! But the problem starts showing up later down the road – men and women are perceived differently for exhibiting the same behaviors. Aggressive men are promoted, aggressive women are reprimanded. Men claim credit for their work within teams, women give more credit to group efforts – and when it comes to promotion time, guess who gets it?

And when you start having kids, the system kicks into overdrive. My husband and I work for different companies in the same industry. My company was very generous and understanding with my extended maternity leave to care for a preemie. My husband’s company pressured him to report back to work the very next day after the baby was born. When the baby is sick or our sitter cancels, I am the one to stay home most of the time. My husband does sometimes too, and would split that time with me more equally except that when he does take “baby time off,” he is expected to explain, not about what’s wrong with the baby, but why his wife can’t do it. Which puts me in an awkward position when there’s a sick baby situation of being both directly accountable to my own boss for any time I take off and indirectly accountable to a boss at a company I don’t even work for for any time my husband takes off. The kicker being that my husband still has vacation days left, so he gets paid either way, and I don’t because I used them all over maternity leave.

So just within my own household, there is a gender wage gap. I’m not talking about our different salaries for the different functions we fulfill in our industry, but about the cold, hard fact that my W2 is significantly lower than the previous year’s, and my husband’s is not, for no other reason than that I had a baby. I didn’t suddenly lose all of my skills, or change jobs, or give up any of my responsibilities, but my earnings fell off a cliff not just in relation to my childless self, but also in relation to my also-a-new-parent husband.

And just to be clear, I’m not saying I should be paid for hours that I didn’t work and don’t have vacation time to use. I am not saying that I resent any minute I’ve spent with my child instead of in my office, or that my husband does either. What I am saying is that the gender gap in the American work force is not a myth. It’s not a feminist plot to destroy society as we know it. It’s not a bunch of waitresses whining about how much more airline pilots make than they do.

I know your great disdain for government, and I am not a public policy expert to take you on in that sphere anyway. But how about things that businesses can do, without government intervention, to keep that playing field as level as it can be not just post-college, but throughout all of working life?

First, managers can make an effort to recognize aggression bias and stop penalizing women for behavior that is rewarded in men. Second, family leave policy shouldn’t only be acceptably used by mothers. Third, the bias against the long term unemployed is getting a lot of attention right now because of the people still struggling to find work after the recession, but it’s always been a factor for women who take years off to raise children. If employers who are consciously trying to overcome this bias now because of the recession apply that same consciousness to women returning to work, that could help close the gap as well. None of these things require legislation to happen, but they do require people to acknowledge the gender gap’s existence. Not just employers, but people. Until my husband can spend time at home with our son without getting questions about me from his boss, his coworkers, and others, and until I can think about what another baby would do to our, instead of my, earning potential, it’s flat out wrong to say that the gender gap doesn’t exist.

You may not ever see this, Matt, but if you do, I hope that I have returned the favor of the food for thought you have given me in your work. Be well, and keep loving that family of yours so fiercely, I look forward to seeing more of your adventures in parenting!

– Shanna

The Working Mom Guilt Pendulum

A week ago, I felt terrible because I had to call out of work after picking up some of PJ’s germs that kept me home the whole previous week taking care of him. Even though my company is very family friendly and my boss was nothing but kind and understanding about it, I still put myself on a massive guilt trip over the parts of my job I wasn’t getting done. So I coped by telling myself that I was being a good mom and in the big picture, that counts more, right?

Cue the pendulum swing…

Sunday night, PJ’s teeth were bothering him, and he woke me up early on Monday morning. Like, 4 am early. That was rough, but I figured I could deal. Until Monday night, when the “putting baby to bed” plan that started at 8:30 stretched on, and on, and on…until all of a sudden it’s 2 am and I’m collapsed in a puddle of tired on the nursery floor next to a baby that just won’t stop crying. And because his teeth hurt, every time I pick him up, I get bit.

At this point, I know that if I go past the 24 hour awake mark there is no way  I’m going to make it to work, and I can’t call out again because I have a big meeting with several people I won’t be able to reschedule easily if at all. So I went back to my room and was tired enough to pass out for a three hour nap and get up for work.

My husband can tell you, I paid for that nap all day long in feeling guilty – I was so sad that I couldn’t stick it out and cuddle the baby all night like he wanted and then be home to sleep during the day when he finally went down for a nap. And even with Paul telling me over and over that it was OK and PJ was fine,  I totally felt like one of those awful stock photos they use on the cover of every magazine article about working moms ever published. You know, the ones where a crying, neglected child wails while Mean Feminist Mommy takes a business call, types on a laptop, and is much more interested in her cup of coffee than her kid (although I can kind of sympathize with that last one if she’s as sleep deprived as I am).

Most days, I’m happy about being a working mom – I like my job, feel good about what I do, and who wouldn’t get an instant mood boost from coming home to this every day?

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But then, no matter how good I feel about what I’m doing, at some point I start to feel bad about what I’m not doing. There’s that pendulum, swing swing swing!

I feel much better today, not coincidentally because he slept last night. But I have a feeling this is just the first of many times where I’ll end up having to decide who needs me more, and then second, third, and fourth guess myself.

Tell me it gets easier, please! And yes, it’s ok to lie!

It’s Possible to Be Too Subtle

I’ve been back to work for two months now, and overall it’s been great. I feel like I’m going in a good direction, career wise, and I love getting pictures of PJ and seeing what he’s doing throughout the day.

The one consistent issue I’ve been having is with pumping. Some days it’s really difficult to carve out enough time to sit still and do it. And other days, well, I’m reminded that it’s very possible to be too subtle! From my first day back, I printed up a sign that simply read “Please Do Not Disturb – Please use other door.” (My office sits in a weird spot that lots of people use as a shortcut).

Then I will lock my door and use that Medela hands free band (that looked terrifying in the store but has since become my favorite accessory) and do my desk work while I make PJ’s lunch for the next day. And it never fails, at least once a day, someone will knock right on that Do Not Disturb sign – or worse, ignore the sign and go straight to rattling the handle!

So I made a new sign today:

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Hopefully this does the trick – a bit more direct than I wanted to get, but still better than having to yell through the door that I really, really can’t come take a look at that right now (thump thump thump). And will save my office neighbor from having to announce that for me to people who seem to be getting ready to camp out!

For my other working, nursing moms – how do you handle this?