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

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Girls' Night Out with Edward and Jacob

Six fortysomething friends and I went to see Eclipse, the third Twilight movie, last night. Since work and kids had prevented us from making it to the film's midnight premiere earlier in the week, we made a full night of the gathering by going to dinner before the movie and out for drinks afterward.

When I made the dinner reservation the hostess asked if we were
celebrating a special occasion. "Well, yes," I said. "After dinner we're going to see Eclipse."

The hostess's reply: "Oh, that is a special occasion!"

And she meant it. She wrote our "occasion" into the reservation
book and assigned as our waitress a fellow thirty- or fortysomething woman who is the leader of two Twilight-related chat groups on CafeMom. com. Here are the links to those groups:

Sophisticated Twilight Ladies: Are you tired of your kids or other people saying, "Aren't you a little old for Twilight?" Well, let's show them how many there are of us who are 30 years old and over. For crying out loud, Edward is over a hundred years old it's okay if we drool over him....

Twilight Temptresses: Find yourself wondering why your significant other doesn't sparkle? See a motorcycle and think of Jacob Black? .....

If you're Twilight-obsessed, which I make no secret about being, you might enjoy reading an article I wrote for (Yes, AARP, the organization for age-50+ people. Hey, 50 isn't that old anymore. Not that I'm 50, yet, but I'm closer to 50 now than, well, 39 ... By the way, if you are 50 and aren't yet a member of AARP, you really should join. It costs just $16 a year and provides great discounts on lots of products and services.)

Confessions of a Grown 'Twihard'

If you're not a Twilight fan, but you have an obsessed friend or relative and want to
understand what the fuss is about without having to actually read the books or watch the films, you might enjoy the aforementioned essay's companion article:

How to Talk to a Twilight Fan

As for Eclipse, my friends and I enjoyed the movie. How could we not? Some of us plan to see it again this week. But we're so upset (in fact, distraught) about having to wait until November 2011 (!!!) to see the movie adaptation of the final book, Breaking Dawn, which will be filmed and screened in two parts. Perhaps the break will enable us (me?) to develop other interests and stop obsessing!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tackling Hair Tangles in 7 Seconds

Since returning to the full-time workforce I haven't had a lot of time to blog. (Obviously. My last post was in April.) So instead of over-Einsteining what to write about, I'm just going to pop in from time to time when I have a useful tip or information to pass along. Hence, I'm writing about hair tangles.

If you have children with long, tangled hair, you might want to make the investment in a bottle of 7Seconds Condition Leave In Detangler by Unite Eurotherapy. I've tried many detanglers and conditioners on my twins, but nothing works like this spray—which is so named because, says its manufacturer, it "detangles in just seven seconds." (Oh, and Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives is apparently a fan.) My daughters no longer run screaming when it's time to brush their hair. The only downside: At about $22 a bottle, 7Seconds detangler is pricey, and since it's only sold at high-end salons, it can be a bit hard to find.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wanted by Daytime TV: A Mom in the Midst of Divorce

A popular, nationally-syndicated daytime TV show with a beloved hostess is looking to feature a woman who is in the process of getting divorced or is newly divorced. A producer emailed me today to ask for help in spreading the word. She writes:

We will follow one mom’s journey as she starts over, figures things out with children, finances, friendships, family and dating, and ultimately picks up the pieces. This is meant to inspire other moms going through divorce, show they aren’t alone in their struggles and that life eventually goes on and there is always a light at the end of the tunnel."

The program, which I've been asked not to name here, is
seeking newly divorced/divorcing moms who live within three hours of New York City. Is that you? If so, you can introduce yourself to the show by popping an email to ASAP with your name, phone number, self description and photo. Good luck.

Pictured: A model on a Samsung TV

Thursday, April 29, 2010

If you could hire one household helper ...

When my son was younger, he used to say that if he was rich, he'd buy me a butler. Why a butler and not a maid? I'm not sure, and he doesn't remember the reasoning behind his imagined gift. But I've often wondered, if I could have a household "servant," what kind of helper would I want?

A housekeeper? A gardener? A chauffeur? A personal secretary? A personal trainer? A handyman? A nanny?

Rich or not, many moms would by necessity select a nanny or some other reliable child care provider, for either full-time or occasional use. So in this fantasy game I'm not considering child care assistance to be a luxury, and I'm removing it from the choices.

After much consideration, I've decided that my fantasy household hire would be a chef. This talented chef (or cook, I don't care which) would shop for and prepare meals, snacks and beverages for my family of five people, each of whom wants individual attention paid to his or her particular dining needs. I love to eat, and I want to eat healthily, but the demands of feeding and cleaning up after a family have sapped my enthusiasm for cooking.

A household chef. That's my pick. What's yours?


Monday, April 19, 2010

24 hours left to get a free copy of "Courageous Parents, Confident Kids"

Courageous Parents, Confident Kids came out today, and the 30,000-odd people who signed up for the free digital download were emailed the special link today. Editor Amy Tiemann says visitors to can receive the download (it's a PDF, so you don't need a Kindle or similar reader) until the offer expires tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 20, at midnight.

Thank you to Jennifer Ford of for a thumbs up review of my chapter, The Courage to be Your Own Parenting "Expert." Writes Jennifer: "There is an excellent chapter on becoming your own parenting expert and breaking-free from feeling guilty for not following the What to Expect books by the letter ..."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Get Your Free Download of Courageous Parents, Confident Kids

I just received a copy of Courageous Parents, Confident Kids: Letting Go So You Both Can Grow. I wrote a chapter for the book ("The Courage To Become Your Own Parenting 'Expert'") and am super impressed by the company I keep. The book, which will be sold as both a paperback ($15.95) and downloadable e-book, comes out on April 19. It looks great and is already starting to get buzz. (Here's a review from the blog Child Perspective: Real Parenting Solutions.) Amy Tiemann, mastermind behind the project, has already been invited to guest blog on the Today show's mom blog. I'm allowed to send a free digital download of the book to anyone who signs up before Monday the 19th. If you'd like a copy, send an email to and say "Sign me up!"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lice Happens, and you can hire a nitpicker when it does

A few weeks ago my friend M.J. Eckert emailed our book group to announce that she would be quitting her job at a private school (walking away from discounted tuition for her child) to become a full-time nit-picker. Yup, nit-picker, as in lice!

"I love ridding the world of head lice," wrote M.J., a registered nurse who has spent years as both a school and summer camp nurse. "It involves all the things I love about being a nurse: technical stuff (yes, there is an art to nit-picking), helping people through a stressful time, educating, hand-holding. I know this is the right move."

M.J.'s crusade against hair critters started a couple of years ago, when she and her neighbor, Nancy Fields, started a side business they named Lice Happens. (Their motto: Lice Happens: No Shame. No Blame.) Due to their passion, lively personalities and professionalism, M.J. and Nancy's business caught the attention of The Washington Post. As a result of that article (and perhaps the great picture that ran with it—take a look) and other media coverage, the women began spending most of their nights and weekends driving around the D.C. metro area on lice calls.

If lice ever make their way into your life, it's worth visiting the website for Lice Happens. Even if you don't live in the company's service area, M.J. and Nancy—and their expanding
team of nit-pickers—are happy to share their wisdom and know-how. Although they do sell pesticide-free products you can order for home delivery, the women stress that the key to delousing is a "meticulous combing" in which every strand is checked and, if necessary, picked of nits. M.J. (who is pictured above, wearing her super cool nit-nabbing specs) did send me four microscopically enlarged images of lice to use for this post. I selected the only one I could stand to look at.

May lice never grace your head, or the head or heads of your young, but if they do, don't despair. Lice Happens, and help is available.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Stay-at-Home Moms say Thanks for "The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide"

I wasn't paid much to write The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide. In fact, the money I earned was poured right back into marketing the book. (Although The Guide wasn't self-published, small publishers don't put a lot of effort or funds into promoting their titles.) My profits from the book have been personal. I'm still amazed by having actually written a book and I'm so appreciative of the many readers who written to me with their praise and thanks. It's corny to say, but it really is payment enough to know that the book is helping women. I hope that stay-at-home moms who happens upon this blog will be encouraged, and perhaps comforted, by the following notes.

(To protect the privacy of the women who emailed me I'm not posting their full names or identifying details.)

From Beth: I just finished your book and wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you.... I struggle with just about every topic mentioned in your book. I have read too many books to count to try to help me sort out my feelings of loneliness, boredom (even though there's always something to do), wanting to be by myself, and guilt as to why I even have these feelings in the first place (good mom syndrome).... Your book is THE ONLY BOOK I have read that actually helped, that actually made sense. So many books make jokes about the work/lives of stay-at-home moms and brush off seriously considering and validating many of the emotional struggles stay-at-home moms have. Other books focus solely on using religion or God as a main source to help you through. I needed something in between and your book did just that.... My working mom friends have no idea what I'm talking about (why I complain, so I usually don't), and while some of my stay-at-home friends have some similar struggles, not all those you mentioned.... Your book was/is amazing and I will highly recommend it to any other stay-at-home moms I know who are having struggles. I so appreciate your honesty and sincerity—I almost felt as though you were sitting in my living room chatting with me as a friend! 

From Aimee: I just ordered your book from This morning I was scrolling around the Mamazina website and saw your interview from last year. I almost cried reading your words. I so relate.... I, too, can describe those initial weeks and even months [after leaving my career to be a stay-at-home mom] as pure bliss.... But after a few months, productivity turned to monotony, and the loss of my identity became stifling. Yet, I have never stopped smiling and saying, "Great!" when people ask, "How is it to be HOME?" Any other response would signal failure... It's been a difficult year, full of rewards and challenges, just like any other job.

From Jill: I found The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide one night when, after a particularly long week, I Googled "mind numbing stay-at-home mom" .... I feel so much better knowing that many other mothers are going through the same trials and tribulations. It's usually hard to get moms to be honest. Most just say what a blessing it is, but many don't say it's so hard sometimes, and you don't enjoy everyday, and that's OK!!! I've felt everything you talked about in your book and identified with so many (like the lady whose degrees mock her or the lady who feels like she's in the movie Groundhog Day as she lives the same day over and over). I've felt the same as almost every mom in your book and I can't tell you how happy I am with your honesty on each subject. What a great book!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Knitting more than baby booties

Jane Pauley, formerly of NBC's Today show, was on NBC's Today show yesterday to talk about "Your Life Calling," a series of reports she's doing in partnership with AARP, the nation's largest membership organization for people age 50 and over. Pauley is exploring how people are "reinventing" themselves later in life—sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity—in order to change the way they live or work or both.

In her first segment, Pauley features a woman who left a lucrative career as a health care executive because she wanted to pursue her love of knitting.
Through a wonderful opportunity, I've been able to assist with the "Your Life Calling" project. I interviewed the knitter—Betsy Lee McCarthy—and wrote the articles that accompany the video report. (To read those pieces and watch the Jane Pauley segment, go to To learn more about knitting and McCarthy, who is now a well-known knitting teacher and author, visit

Even though I'm not yet age-50+, I can relate to the project and the concept of personal reinvention; I suspect that many woman who are mothers can relate as well. Motherhood often requires a woman to reinvent the way she lives and works. We often need to "knit" together a work-family lifestyle that may involve leaving the workforce, scaling back a bit from it or staying in with the help of a partner or child care provider. Looking at my own situation I've gone from being an incredibly career-oriented person to becoming a stay-at-home mother turned work-from-home mom and now—
knock on wood—a full-time "employed mom." (I say employed because all mothers are "working mothers.") Each scenario required both knitting and reinvention.

The ability to
"reinvent" is a good skill to have. Do you feel you've reinvented who you are—by choice or necessity or both—due to becoming a mom?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Courageous Parents, Confident Kids

The book I recently wrote a chapter for—Courageous Parents, Confident Kids: Letting Go So You Both Can Grow—will be published on April 19. Editor Amy Tiemann, the brains behind this project, just revealed the cover, which I'm sharing at left.

A paperback edition will be sold through Amazon, and for a limited time the book will be available via a free "e-book."

If you'd like to be included in the free e-book distribution,
register with Real Life Support for Moms by sending a "Sign Me Up!" email to CP [at] (I'm not printing the actual @ address to protect against spammers.) I'll email you a link to Courageous Parents, Confident Kids as soon as the book is released.

Here's an overview of what's in the book:

Introduction by the Editor, Amy Tiemann, Ph.D., author of Mojo Mom: Nurturing Your Self While Raising a Family.

Part 1: The Courage to Invest in Your Own Development

The Transformative Power of Self-care by Renee Peterson Trudeau, life coach and author of The Mother's Guide to Self-Renewal.

Tools for Career Reinvention by Kella Hatcher and Maryanne Perrin, founders of Balancing Professionals.

Part 2: Developing Your Own Courageous Parenting Style

The Courage to Let Our Kids Solve Their Own Problems by Maya Frost, international lifestyle design expert and author of The New Global Student.

The Courage to Become Your Own Parenting “Expert” by Melissa Stanton, author of The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide. Visit Melissa at

The Power of Personal Significance for Kids of All Ages by Amy McCready, parent educator and founder of Positive Parenting Solutions.

I’m Worried I Worry Too Much, But How Do I Stop? by Jamie Woolf, leadership expert and author of Mom-In-Chief.

Part 3: Real-world Safety Skills for All

Kidpower: Skills for Safety, Skills for Independence by Irene van der Zande, co-founder and Executive Director of Kidpower, Teenpower, Fullpower International.

How to Say Yes to Your Kids’ Online Activities by Linda Criddle, internet safety expert and creator of

Part 4: Finding Your Voice and Raising It for the Community

Becoming a Political Parent: PunditMom on Mothers Raising Their Voices Online by Joanne Bamberger, journalist and PunditMom blogger.

Building a Family-friendly America: Challenge and Progress Through the Eyes of by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, co-founder and Executive Director of

It Takes a Motherhood by Cooper Munroe and Emily McKhann, co-creators of the award-winning online community,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In praise of Parmalat

It's Day 6 of managing Snowmageddon 1 and Snowmageddon 2 here in the Baltimore-Washington area. Before we lose power (we haven't yet at all, knock on wood), I figured I'd sing the praises of "shelf-stable" milk. We keep the Parmalat brand of shelf-stable milk in our pantry at all times, as a back-up supply of fresh milk. When your house is surrounded by three feet of snow as mine is now, Parmalat is a lifesaver. Well, that's an overstatement. Paramalat is a coffee, cereal and kid beverage saver. We're big into milk in my family. We average a gallon a day.

Shelf-stable milk is, and I'm quoting from the Par
malat carton, "Ultra Pasteurized ... 100% real cow's milk." It's packaged and sold in a "Tetra Pak container" (similar to a juice box) that "protects the milk from any external contamination." The unopened package can be stored at room temperature for up to six months. Once opened, the milk needs to be refrigerated and consumed within seven days. Shelf-stable milk isn't common here in the U.S., with our giant supermarkets and reliable residential and commercial refrigeration, but it's the milk of choice in remote and less developed places. I relied on it when I was in Bora Bora.

Although there are other manufacturers of shelf-stable milk (Borden's among them), the stores in my area
carry only Parmalat. The milk comes in whole, 2 percent, 1 percent, fat-free, organic and even chocolate varieties. It's sold in either a one-quart carton or in a six-pack of individual serving cartons (again, similar to a juice box). The smaller size is great for a child's lunch box or for keeping in a diaper bag to fill a toddler's bottle. I love this stuff. It's super convenient and tasty. (It's a bit sweeter than traditional fresh milk.) The downside: Compared to fresh milk, Parmalat is pricey. A one-quart carton costs about $2.25.

I was surprised yesterday when m
y husband trudged in from a pre-storm (Part 2) excursion to the supermarket carrying a dozen cartons of Parmalat. While the dairy aisle in the store was a madhouse from the run on milk, no one was bothering with the Parmalat. It may be because people don't know about the wonders of shelf-stable milk, or they don't know where to find it in the store.

Tip: Parmalat is usually kept in the baking aisle. Oddly, it's usually not kept near the rice and soy milk products, which are also sold in shelf-stable packaging and are the milk of choice for people who can't or don't want to drink cow's milk.

A situation-specific benefit of Parmalat: Its sturdy, shelf-stable carton is probably tossable. If (when?) my neighbors and I become trapped by the snow and plow drifts, a Parmalat-equipped samaritan with a good arm could football throw cartons of the milk toward our houses. (Try doing that with a plastic gallon of milk.) Looking out my window, and seeing snow depths that would bury my seven-year-old twins to their eyeballs, I might just get to see how well a carton of Parmalat can fly.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A decade of change

I was recently describing to my 11-year-old son how, when I was pregnant with him, I rented a pair of pagers so if I went into labor and wasn't with my husband or couldn't reach him by phone, I could page him.

Of course if I were in such a situation today (won't be, but if ...) I'd just call my husband's cell phone, or email him, or send him a text, or I'd reach out to one of the dozens of other people I could contact in a split second to hunt him down or come by and help me.

Communications technology and daily life has changed so much in a decade. (Do people even use pagers anymore? Would a child today actually know how to use a rotary telephone?) In 2000, when the magazine I worked for set me up so I could log into the office from home on nights and weekends, it was a two-day undertaking that involved DSL lines, unreliable connections and lots of oversized computer equipment. Seven years later I wrote a book while sitting in a rural Maryland coffee shop with my laptop and a wireless modem.

The attached list, 50 Things That Changed Our Lives in the Aughts, was compiled by Jocelyn Noveck of The Associated Press. It's an interesting recap of the decade's technical and cultural advances (and regressions?), such as blogs, Facebook, GPS, Wikipedia, Twitter, YouTube, iPods, Apps, Reality TV. Most of the list can be shared with your kids.

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