Sunday, July 1, 2012

This Website is Semi-Retired (Even Though I'm Not)

A fake date appears above so this post will sit at the top of this blog.
Original pub date: February 1, 2010

Hello! Thank you for visiting "Real Life Support for Moms," a sister website, so to speak, of the website for my book, The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide.

As some of my readers know, I returned to the "traditional" workforce last year. By "traditional" I mean a job for which I dress, leave the house, work a typical 9 to whenever day and, unlike during my eight years as a stay-at-home mom and freelance writer/editor, receive a regular paycheck. (Knock on wood.)

My transition from home back into the workforce has been possible because my children are now school age and I was incredibly lucky to not only have landed a job, but landed a job that allows me to work from home when necessary, such as when a child is sick or school is closed.

I'm amazed to have experienced life as an employed mom turned stay-at-home mom turned work-from-home mom turned employed mom again. Between us, the work I do now for pay outside of the home is so much easier than the work I did as a 24/7 stay-at-home mom.

So far, my new juggling act is working. However, between working, commuting, and caring for kids and home, I don't have much time to feed this website. So, as you can see from the scarcity of recent posts, I'm not feeding this website.

That said, the site is still here, and it still has lots of "real life support for moms." So go ahead and poke around. Please post comments if you're inclined. I can still be reached through the site if you want to get in touch. From time to time, when I'm inspired and have the time, I'll add new pearls of wisdom. Just know that if you pop by again, you might be welcomed by this same exact message.

Thank you again for visiting. All best, Melissa

P.S. Yes, that's me, "visiting" with a wax George Clooney. Why? No reason other than me wanting to include a fun picture with this post, we look so good together (kidding!), and if this is going to be the semi-permanent opening message on this website, why not add some star power to it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Atlantic: Why Women Still Can't Have it All

I'm among the "responders" invited by The Atlantic to write about the magazine's cover story, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All," by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a foreign policy expert and Princeton professor. 

My commentary (originally titled, by me, "How Does She Do It? I Wanna Know") is running under the headline "'Supermoms' Should Tell the Truth About Their Perfect Lives." (Look for the story with the Angelina Jolie photo.) 

Check out Slaughter's piece, and the accompanying panel discussion. Lots of passionate views.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

10 Simple Pleasures of Returning to the Workforce

A fake date appears above so this post will sit near the top of this blog.
Original pub date: January 29, 2010

After several years of stay-at-home motherhood and work-from-home freelancing I recently returned to the full-time, office-based workforce. (Hence my absence from posting on this site.) So far so good, at the job and on the home front. My three children are school-age now, and unlike in my past career, when leaving the office at 6 p.m. was considered skipping out early, my new job allows me to get home at a decent time.

Having been out of the traditional workforce, I'm finding joy in many aspects of work life I took for granted before I "stopped working" (yeah, right) in order to care for children. I'm listing my newfound pleasures here — while they're still a novelty and I'm appreciative and not jaded, exhausted or burned out from working 9 to 5.

1) The very nice building I work in has a very nice cafeteria. It's such a treat to eat lunch without having to shop for the groceries, prepare food for myself and other people, clean the kitchen, and do it all again 20 minutes later when someone decides he or she is still hungry, thirsty, bored ...

2) I can use the bathroom without someone walking in on me, screaming for me, or picking a fight with a sibling because I'm temporarily out of sight.

3) I enjoy having to get properly dressed in the morning. (Yes, I know a stay-at-home mom and work-from-home person can, and probably should, get herself properly dressed even if she's spending the entire day at home. But since I wasn't being seen much by the outside world, I didn't want to spend money on clothes for me. I also worried about ruining the few nice outfits I had that still fit.)

4) I'm able to concentrate on work without near constant interruptions.

5) I can have uninterrupted conversations with adults.

6) I like being able to spend time in a city (I work in Washington D.C.) as well as in the suburban, rurally beautiful (but sometimes isolating) area where I live.

7) When I commute by car, I appreciate the freedom to listen to my radio station. When I commute by train, I appreciate how public transportation frees me from my minivan and provides me with an efficient workout. (Climbing Metro station stairs and escalators while wearing a winter coat and carrying a heavy purse is exercise.)

8) I find that by having structure and variety to my day (i.e. work and home, not just all home, all the time), I'm tons more efficient.

9) Instead of my children and I being at each others' throats by evening, they're happy to see me when I arrive home and I look forward to spending time with them.

10) In this economy, I'm very thankful to have found a job. And after working so hard, for so many years, with little to no monetary recognition, it's really nice to receive a regular paycheck again.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Devoted Mother

My friend Beth is a divorced, remarried mother who happens to be gay.

However, according to her home state of Virginia, because Beth is gay, she's not divorced, she's not remarried and she's not even a mother.

In the eyes of the law in Virginia and much of the United States, Beth's eight-year live-in relationship with Donna was not and could not be a marriage. As such, Beth and Donna's painful break-up was not a divorce. And Beth's actual marriage to her current spouse, whom she wed in 2008 during the window of time that same-sex marriage was legal in California, doesn't exist. (California still recognizes the marriage even though new same-sex weddings are on hold while a challenge to the law moves through the courts.)

But worst of all, the law says that Beth is not a mother to the baby boy she and Donna adopted while they were together because, since Virginia allows single-parent adoption but not gay adoption, Donna is their son's only legal parent.

Regardless of what the law says about her as a parent, Beth loves her "non-son" unconditionally.

Beth adapted her career in order to be her son's primary caregiver. When she and Donna broke up, Beth fought to have a shared custody agreement (albeit a non-binding one) and bought a home near her ex's so the child wouldn't have to change schools. She now maintains a commuter marriage with her California-based spouse so she can remain in Virginia as a parent to a child the state says is not legally hers
and, as such, has no legal rights to or obligation toward.

The danger of the situation is that Beth is unable to, among other things, claim her child as a dependent, provide health insurance to him under an employer plan, authorize medical care. Beth can also lose her child, and he her, if Donna decides to sever their
again, non-binding parenting agreement or move to Timbuktu. (I'm not saying she would actually do either.)
It doesn't seem right that a deadbeat dad who conceives and abandons a child has more legal parenting rights than Beth does and that, according to the law, all that's really required to be part of a legal parenting couple is to be heterosexual.

If love and a personal, unwavering commitment is what makes a person a parent, Beth is a super parent. She won't abandon her child, even if the law says she can.

I'm sharing Beth's story here because she just wrote a thoughtful essay
"Same Sex Divorce: Another Reason for Marriage Equality" for Please read it if you have time.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Why You Can't Get Anything Done

Have you ever asked yourself, “Do I Have ADHD?”

It’s a thought that crosses the minds of many stay-at-home moms. Why?

Because they think about the number of chores they need to do but don’t get to, or the projects they start but don’t finish, or the tasks they actually do but don’t do well.

“I don’t have a job. I’m home all day,” you may tell yourself. As such, you think you should be able to complete a simple task like sorting through the bags of hand-me-downs your neighbor dropped off. But you can’t get to it. Or you actually do start working through the clothes, but by day’s end your bedroom is filled with piles of clothing, which your kids then find and jump in. Since you now have to sort all over again, you herd the clothes into a large pile for dealing with on another day.

When your husband sees the mess and asks, “Why did you start sorting the clothes if you weren’t going to finish it?” or “What’s so hard about sorting clothes?” you either get really angry or you can’t answer, because you can’t think of a good reason why you didn’t finish the job. You hadn’t left the house all day, except to drive the three-year-old to and from preschool, and later to meet your kindergartner at the bus stop. You haven’t even made dinner, because you’ve been so busy sorting the clothes. What happened?

What happened is that instead of accomplishing a big task, you’ve performed dozens of tiny, uninspiring, seemingly meaningless tasks and chores and errands, each of which took a little bit of time but, when added together, consumed the entire day.

For instance, imagine you’re at your computer, trying to pay bills online while your toddler is entertaining herself nearby with toys. About five minutes into the banking your child approaches you with a runny nose:

  • You get up from your chair to get a tissue.
  • You return to your child and wipe her nose.
  • You see that your child’s shirt is messy, as are your fingers.
  • You remove the child’s shirt.
  • You go to the kitchen sink to wash your hands.
  • The sink has dishes in it, so you rinse the dishes to put them in the dishwasher.
  • But the dishwasher is full of clean dishes. So you empty the dishwasher and then fill it with dishes from the sink.
  • You tell your child to play with her toys while you go upstairs and get her another shirt.
  • On the way, you toss the shirt into the laundry room.
  • Passing the bathroom, you realize you actually need to use the bathroom. You do, and you use up the toilet paper.
  • You go to the hall closet and get more toilet paper.
  • You return to the bathroom to replace the roll.
  • The bathroom trash is full, so you grab the bag and replace it with another.
  • You go to your child’s room to find a new shirt.
  • While there, you see that a sippy cup, full of milk, is in her bed, and that she’s left a wet overnight diaper on the floor.
  • You put the diaper in the trash bag you’re carrying. (Wow, that was efficient!)
  • You make your daughter’s bed and gather the sippy cup.
  • On the way back downstairs you pass the laundry room and realize you should do a load of wash.
  • You open the washing machine to discover there’s a wet load inside.
  • You start to put those wet clothes into the dryer but the dryer is full.
  • You pull the clean clothes out of the dryer and put them in a basket.
  • You put the wet clothes in the dryer.
  • You put the dirty clothes in the washing machine and start a wash.
  • Since you don’t have time now to sort the clean clothes, you leave the basket of clean laundry on top of the dryer.
  • Back in the kitchen, you put the sippy cup into the dishwasher.
  • You try to shove the bathroom trash into the kitchen garbage but the pail is full.
  • You take all the trash to the garbage cans in the garage.
  • You come back into the house and put another bag in the kitchen trash container.
  • You find your child.
  • Her nose is running again, she has gotten into the bills and papers you were working with, she needs a diaper change and it’s lunchtime.

How much time did it take to wipe that child’s nose? Fifteen minutes? Twenty minutes? A half hour?

Imagine variations on this scenario playing out dozens of times a day. Imagine that same scene, except with additional offspring in the house. You’re not incompetent, and you don’t have ADHD. You have children!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happily Ever After? The Fallen Princesses

I saw this picture in a magazine. I think is says so much about the fantasy—the fairy tale—versus the reality of love, marriage and motherhood. I'm pretty sure most women who have a spouse and children can relate to Snow White's post-Happily Ever After life in this shot. Not that every day is like this, but even the most charming Prince Charming isn't charming all the time. And a frazzled, sleep-deprived Princess is no treat either. The photograph is part of a series by photographer Dina Goldstein called "Fallen Princesses." You can check out the original image, and the even less enchanted lives of Cinderella, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty and others, at

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