How I’d Fare as a Pioneer Woman

  
Touring an old homestead up in the Sierras, the thought came to me, as it often had before, that I don’t know if I’d have survived as a pioneer woman. There are things I love, like indoor plumbing, electric stoves, and minivans that make my life incredibly convenient. And there are things I hate, like being cold and having to build a fire to stay warm, pumping water from a well, having to churn my own butter, and forcing my kids to use homemade toothpaste that lead me to believe the pioneering life isn’t something I would have survived.   

I am in awe of women who held it together in the wilderness, in the dark, in the cold; who raised families through so much work and dedication and fortitude. As I pondered what my fate would have been like as one of these women, the thought occurred to me that, as women, we just do it. 

In simple terms, I would have just done it. There are few times life goes as planned, and there are few days that womanhood or motherhood doesn’t throw something at us that that we weren’t anticipating. Expectations always come and go and reality is always there to confront us, daily, weekly, yearly….

I often have people say, “I don’t know how you work full time with three kids. You must be exhausted.” My reply is always, “You just do it.” That’s what life  has presented me with and its not exactly optional. Life presents each of us with unique challenges and circumstances and we don’t have the choice to say, “Never mind, I’ll choose another life instead.”  There are circumstances that are unavoidable and roads that must be traveled, and so we dig in and do it. The only option is to do it. 

Maybe your challenge isn’t stocking firewood to keep your family warm through a bleak winter. Maybe it’s not scrubbing homemade clothes on a washboard with raw fingers and homemade soap. Maybe your challenge is a sick child, or an exhausting schedule, or a failing marriage or a chronic illness…. But you do it. 

Day after day and step after step, we continue. Because we’re up to the challenge of whatever life throws at us. Because we have a strength to endure, even when faced with what may seem impossible. Because we’re motivated by love and would go to the ends of the earth in a heartbeat for those we care for. 

  
So there’s a pioneering woman in all of us. A woman who does it. And I know how I’d fare on my homestead. Through the cooking and the cleaning and the washing and the uncertainty and the darkness and the solitude and the quiet, I’d do it. I’d survive in that life. Because we’re strong. There’s the same spirit of dedication and survival in each of us that spurned on these amazing women of the past. It makes me proud to be a woman! 

   

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World Breastfeeding Week 2015 Focuses on Working Mothers

 Breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Being a working mom is definitely not easy. I’ve been a breastfeeding working mom for many, many years (not all for the same child), so supporting other working moms who breastfeed is an issue that is, quite literally, very close to my heart.  I’m completely overjoyed that WABA has made breastfeeding in the workplace the focus of the 2015 World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 – 7), with their “Let’s Make it Work!” tag line. 
There are many reasons moms return to work while still breastfeeding: some love their careers, some need to support their families, some have flexibility, others don’t. 

In the United States, most working moms return to work 6-12 weeks postpartum. With breastfeeding newly established, and the breastfeeding relationship ever-evolving, it’s no surprise that many moms give up on breastfeeding soon after returning to their jobs. 

We can all agree that breastfeeding moms who return to work should have the support, encouragement and accommodation necessary to continue to breastfeed and express milk for their babies (or toddlers!) if they choose to while working. World Breastfeeding Week exists to support, educate and inform individuals, social organizations, employers, governments and policy-makers about the importance of supporting the rights of breastfeeding mothers everywhere. 

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week 2015, I’ll be publishing a series of posts this week about my own experiences as a working mom while nursing my little ones. It’s at times a trial, often an adventure, frequently exhausting, but ultimately rewarding. 

I’d love to hear other moms’ experiences with going back to work while still nursing too. Encouragement goes a long way! 
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What Every New Working Mom Should Know

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I just went back to work after baby number three. You would think it would get easier by the third time, but it doesn’t. I’ve spent most of each of my maternity leaves trying to cobble together a plan that would allow me to stay at home for at least the first year, but no such opportunities ever presented themselves (and I do have a really nice career), so I went back to work at twelve weeks post-baby each time.

Being a three-time veteran of the working mom return to work has given me a little perspective, and I wanted to share some of the insights I’ve managed to glean over the years for any new moms who find themselves emotional and feeling overwhelmed in this position for the first time.

Being emotional is okay. 

In fact, it’s more than okay, it’s normal.  When I went back to work after my first son was born, I spent the majority of the first week sobbing at my desk with my phone set to “do not disturb.” It was rough. You’re full of wildly fluctuating hormones, exhausted to the point of near-delirium, and are most likely still months away from fitting back into your pre-pregnancy work-wear (which, let’s be honest, isn’t exactly a mood-booster). Allow yourself to process whatever emotions you’re feeling. Give yourself the space and the freedom to be human. Be honest with how you’re feeling. Putting up walls will just take up more energy, and you don’t have any of that to spare.

Other moms can relate.

Hopefully you have some other working moms in your life you can talk to and bond with. I’ve often been surprised at how eager other working moms are to encourage and support one another. So reach out to other moms you work with and network with. If you don’t have support around you, check out online groups and forums for working moms.  A little encouragement goes a long way, and knowing you’re not the only one struggling with that heart-ripped-out-of-your-chest feeling when you miss your baby is wonderfully comforting.

Your relationship with your baby won’t suffer. 

Really. Believe me on this one. It’s true. Despite the fact you may be gone more than 8 hours a day, you’ll still have so many precious moments with your baby. You’ll always be mom. You’ll always be a valuable, necessary and cherished source of comfort and love. You’ll be able to carve out a lot of time together and those moments with be incredibly rich with purpose and intentionality.

Your sleep cycle will adjust. 

Somewhat. You’ll never again sleep like you did before having kids. But the exhaustion dissipates eventually and your routine falls into a new pattern. You’ll get by – even if there are days you just don’t know how you’ll keep awake. Rest while you can and be gracious to yourself when you go back to work.

Ease into the transition if you can. 

This isn’t always possible, and that’s okay. But if you’re able to, try negotiating with your employer to work reduced hours, temporarily move to part-time, or explore work-from-home options while you ease back into your work schedule. When you present it as a temporary arrangement your boss is more likely to agree. If you feel like you’re doing too much too fast, it’s absolutely worth it to explore options for additional flexibility in your work schedule.

Working moms are valuable.

Hopefully you work in an office where women are championed and encouraged, and not some backwards bastion of sexism. Women have valuable contributions to make to the workforce and working moms are no exception. My philosophy has always been that although I might need days off for sick kids and doctors appointments and extra breaks to pump breastmilk, being a working mom makes me more committed to my work. I’m not going  to leave my precious babies all day to show up and do a half-assed job; I’m going to contribute something valuable so that I can show my kids that my work was truly significant in addition to enabling me to bring home a paycheck.

You can do it!

There will be obstacles to overcome: exhaustion, showing up late because baby had meltdown, breastmilk soaking your shirt in an important meeting….Know you can do it. Working moms are strong! YOU are strong!!!

So, stay strong, mama! You’ve got this. All us working moms are cheering you on. It doesn’t get easier – but you’ll make it good.

What’s your best advice for a new mom heading back to work?
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