Sitting on the Fence

jumpA lawyer friend of mine was in the middle of a trial when she had her first child. (That sounds pretty dramatic – she didn’t actually give birth in the courtroom!) She knew this was likely to happen, so she had a colleague second-chairing and ready to take over the next day when court resumed. She had her baby, was released from the hospital – and got back into court as soon as she could. Even though she was only there as an observer at this point, she needed to be there, needed to see her work through. The minute her maternity leave ended, she was back at her desk, happily drafting briefs.

Another lawyer friend also loved her job as a litigator. She thrived in the high-intensity environment and was very successful. However, when she had her first child, she took her maternity leave – and then quit her job as soon as her leave was up. She had always planned to be a stay at home mom, and the time away from work with her newborn confirmed this choice for her.

I admire the women who can be this certain –”I have to be at work” or “I have to be at home.” I am not those women. I am a fence-sitter, not ambivalent, but strongly pulled in both directions. I love what I do and have a feeling I’ll always need something to work on, but I also love being with my son and the routine of toddler-caring that I get to engage in with him on sick days or snow days.

Lately, I’ve been having a pretty difficult time at work. New boss, new expectations, some objectively unreasonable situations arising (for real — reasonable people who I know would be perfectly honest with me no matter what agree.) All of this is making me question my fence-sitting position. As we anticipate the increased daycare costs that a second child will bring, I wonder – is it time to jump off the fence into SAHM-ville? What is the formula for work effort, work stress, work costs (wardrobe, meals since I suck at brown-bagging, commuting, daycare) balanced by work fulfillment balanced by staying-at-home costs (activities, loss of income) balanced by stay at home fulfillment?

At what point do I say “f this” and jump into some combination of staying at home and working part time in a field I love or launching a venture of my own? Certainly, there is some empirical decision-making that can (must) enter the picture – our minimum household budget, my husband’s income and income potential, etc. But there are so many intangibles that I have no idea how to address.

If you’ve been on this fence, how do you know what the right path is for you and your family? What decision-making strategies have led you to the choices you’ve made?


Steps to Patience: Endurance

keep_calm“Where do you find calm? Where do you find endurance? Where do we draw the line between being “uncomplaining” and being authentic? How can we find tolerance for those around us? Where do we find self-possession in the face of want or high anticipation? What is the source of diligence?

According to the Internet, Thomas Carlyle said “Endurance is patience concentrated.” Endurance is often praised, particularly in this day of the “weekend warrior” who trains for marathons in her spare time between juggling kids and a job. The more you can do, the longer you can do it, the farther you can go…somehow, the better you are.

And maybe that’s why I can’t enjoy running — I don’t have the concentrated patience to get through the distance.

But some times that call for patience really call for endurance. For us to live through, to let time progress and bring what it will. For things to develop, outside of our control. That endurance can be difficult.

But maybe we can take a lesson from those crazy-awesome marathon runners here. A Runners World article tells runners who want to boost their endurance to consider some or all of these tips:

  • Take one step at a time
  • Run loops of the same 800-meter length until you build up to your desired distance
  • Run long and slow
  • Make every workout count
  • Do simple exercises that will make small but meaningful changes to your run
  • Run longer tempo runs — runs that are timed to a particular cadence
  • Run long and fast

Take one step at a time. Exactly what you need to do to endure a wait for information or for an event to arrive. There may be some things related — or even unrelated — to that day you are waiting for that you can do in advance. Address these tasks one at a time. If you are anticipating an event or information that will open up a whole new world of decisions, and it’s making you anxious that you can’t address that world yet…remember to take it one step at a time.

If you are heading into something that you need to be prepared for, part of the time of endurance could be practicing your role in whatever way makes sense for the occasion.

Run long and slow — look ahead to that destination, but let your body and your mind become okay with getting there less quickly than you might have expected or wished. If you get news that sets your timeline back, remember…long and slow.

Make every moment count.

Approach your life with simplicity, and see what simple changes in your life you can make to help your capacity for endurance. Cutting out stimulants like caffeine, taking the time to regularly practice yoga, etc.

What else can you do to increase endurance?

Steps to Patience: Sources of Calm


Where do you find calm? Where do you find endurance? Where do we draw the line between being “uncomplaining” and being authentic? How can we find tolerance for those around us? Where do we find self-possession in the face of want or high anticipation? What is the source of diligence?”

A moment of calm in the park

These are our questions from yesterday.

If patience is finding calm during the waiting time, where does that calm come from?

In an interview with NPR, Allan Lokos, author of Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, noted:

We can learn what [exercising patience is] like by stopping and taking a moment to just become more aware of what is going on within us; specifically, the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that arise. And they’re constantly arising, one after another. They arise, and they die away. When we cling to them, that’s when trouble can begin.

During your time of impatience (maybe you’re having one now! I know I am!), stop.

What are you feeling? A sense of physical urgency? Fear? Tension in your face and body?

What of those can you release? Bodily tension can be focused on, acknowledged, and released. Fear can be examined, and often reasoned with.  Once you are aware of what feelings and sensations you are experiencing, consider:

-deep breathing

-taking a whiff of an essential oil like jasmine or lavender, thought to bring relaxation. Some people prefer mint or other scents. If you are going to be experiencing a long journey of patience, consider creating a relationship between a scent and a feeling of relaxation. Lie on your back, sink into the floor, and breathe in a scent. Play relaxing music, and bring your mind to relaxing thoughts, even if those thoughts are brief and fleeting. Regularly doing this can create a connection between the scent and the feeling you get during the exercise such that just smelling the scent brings the feeling of relaxation. It worked for Pavolv’s dog, right?


-distracting yourself with a worthwhile, rewarding activity

What are your secrets to calm?

Steps to Patience: What is “patience?”

image AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike Some rights reserved by Jason Paluck

Today, I am considering what “patience” is, and what it is made of. We cannot aspire to attain something when we don’t know what that “something” is.

Turning to the Oxford-English Dictionary, we see these four versions:

“The calm, uncomplaining endurance of pain, affliction, inconvenience, etc.; the capacity for such endurance.”

“Forbearance or long-suffering under provocation; esp. tolerance of the faults or limitations of other people.”

“Calm, self-possessed waiting.”

“Constancy or diligence in work, exertion, or effort; perseverance.”

Depending on your individual circumstances, one or all of these could be the patience you are striving to achieve. The definitions lend themselves to creating criteria to pursue:  If you are trying to be patient about enduring a situation, you may want to cultivate calmness, endurance and “uncomplaining.” If you are dealing with difficult people around you, tolerance may be a goal. If you are trying to be patient for something that may arrive in the future, calmness and self-possession are your traits. The fourth definition is really another set of attributes: constancy, diligence, perseverance.

Where do you find calm? Where do you find endurance? Where do we draw the line between being “uncomplaining” and being authentic? How can we find tolerance for those around us? Where do we find self-possession in the face of want or high anticipation? What is the source of diligence?

Tomorow will bring us to those questions.

On Cultivating Patience

flickr user SteveSloj. Funny how growing impatiens takes patience!
flickr user SteveSloj. Funny how growing impatiens takes patience!

The dog was barking. The baby was heading toward the Christmas tree. The husband was speaking loudly on a work call. The work I had not yet finished was sitting in the back of my mind, sending guilt vibes.

Amidst the loud and the chaos, I stopped. Took a deep breath. Sighed. Felt content. Gently told the dog to hush, pulled the baby back from the tree, shut the office door. Reminded myself I had scheduled time for work later.

Of the many virtues I admire in others, patience is one of the attributes I would like to cultivate. Patience in the face of anticipation, patience in the face of stress, patience with others. We’ve all been on the receiving side of impatience, and it does not feel good to have it communicated to us that we are contributing to someone’s difficult time.

So I am tackling cultivation of patience. I have a project that I am working on that I wish I could just announce, but need to do some planning first. I have a medical visit that I am feeling anxious about and just want the results right now. I have some anxieties about getting through the holidays.

So to practice and learn patience, so that I can be present for those who need me, enjoy the now rather than wishing it away.

Ideas I have: daily meditation (Yoga Journal has a cool 28 Day Meditation Challenge), mindfulness exercises, physical exercise, eating well.

Let’s see where this goes!

Gift Guide: Le Bebe

Aunts, uncles, cousins — everyone wants to buy something for your baby with the holidays coming up, but there are a lot of options out there and it’s a little (okay, a lot) intimidating especially for those who haven’t been baby-toy-shopping in awhile. Even the most veteran parent can end up lost in the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us, subsisting only on purse-Cheerios. Herewith, then, is a brief gift guide for those shopping for members of the under-12-months-set. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments!

Gymboree's Baby Play is really more a gift for parents. Especially during that "why won't she just do something??" 0-4 months stage, this book is an invaluable source of fun games for all baby ages. Bonus: one of the games for 6 month olds is to wrap all of baby's toys in wrapping paper and let him open them. All done shopping!

In My Pond and the other Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich books are fun felt finger-puppet tales of adorable animals traveling through beautifully-drawn habitats. I won't give it away, but they all end in about the same way.

This snail is a ton of fun for small babies who like to mirror gaze and bigger babies who are ready to chase. Works best on short carpet or hardwood floors. Make sure to turn the sound off when you aren't playing, or be prepared to hear "Whee!" from somewhere in your house in the middle of the night when you are home alone.

Puzzles + hugging = win! with this cute Alex Jr. stuffed toy.

These stacking cups are BPA and phthatlate (I think that was my little guy’s first word!) free, and are fun in the bath or for mama-builds-Babyzilla-destroys playtime.

You’ll notice that none of the suggestions involve sticking an i-device into a drool-proof case. In my opinion, they’ll have enough screen exposure soon enough. And also, if the little guy is playing with my iPhone, how am I supposed to keep my high score in Bejeweled??

Pumping on the Fly

I am sitting in the airport, preparing for my first overnight business trip without The Boy. I am cozied up in a corner next to an outlet, at 5:15 am — with my hand under my sweater and a coat draped over me. You know, just like your normal frequent flier.

Obvs*, I’m pumping milk for The Boy. At 9 months, They say, we could wean or just give fewer bottles and make them formula. However, the pediatrician recommends nursing till 12 months and I do love the bonding experience. And — let’s be honest — the calorie burn.

So here I sit in my cute** hat, red open toe shoes, long dark jeans, heather-gray sweater, with my put-together carryon, feeling somewhat like a girl pretending to be on an important business trip…pumping breast milk at the airline gate.

I guess I could've looked more ridiculous!
Pro tip: don’t do it this way!

If you’re facing the same prospect, here’s my approach to pumping while traveling. There are others and probably better ones — would love to hear your tips!

  • Hydrate As you know, staying hydrated is important during travel and helps your milk supply. I’ve been drinking a lot of water over the last few days and am planning to stay hydrated as the trip continues.

More tips after the jump!
Continue reading Pumping on the Fly