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October 8th, 2008

The Working Mother: New Formulas for Success

Events | Mommy Track_d

As one of Voce’s resident mom-bloggers (who doesn’t mind the moniker), I recently attended an event called Bay Area Working Motherhood “New Formulas for Success” in San Francisco, hosted by Mommy Track’d and Flexperience. My personal goal for the evening was to embrace the Mommy Track’d tagline – the working mother’s guide to managed chaos – and share my newfound wisdom with others who take care of their family and their jobs.

I happily carpooled with friends Robyn and Linsey, also fellow writers for Silicon Valley Moms Group, mostly because I didn’t want to hit the bar alone … er, I mean didn’t want to drive up and down the Peninsula alone. We knew the evening would be interesting because it coincided with the Vice Presidential debate between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin. Show organizers decided to air the debates during the opening cocktail hour, which made it hard to keep the cardinal rule of “no politics” during cocktail parties. Oh well. Side note: the local ABC news affiliate sent a camera crew to the event in hopes of getting a “working moms” perspective on the debates. Oddly enough, the reporter couldn’t find a Republican in the room (or at least a Republican who would go on record!) Can you say San Francisco?

Once it was established that most of the moms at the conference had the foresight to set their TiVos before leaving the house (yes, we are multitask-ers!), we heard from keynote speaker Lisa Belkin, columnist for The New York Times and host of Life’s Work with Lisa Belkin on XM SatelliteRadio. With humor and more humor, Lisa shared her experience shifting from a working woman to a working mom. Lisa’s career as a journalist challenged her to be a working-in-the-office mom, a working-in-the-home mom, and a working-wherever-the-story-takes-her mom.

I learned that regardless of career choice, most working parents share the same frustrations:

  • Thanks to technology, work is always looming.
  • There are constant demands from the workplace to give more and to do more, and working parents never feel like they are giving enough to anyone.
  • Our kids need greater protection than ever before.
  • Net-net: We are seeing more demands from work while we see increased demands at home … And on a good day, according to Lisa, “I’ve got sanity.”

While Lisa confirmed all of my fears and frustrations as a working mom, she also calmed my fears with words of comfort. Her advice is to look at each day and ignore the negatives (yes, my kid wore a dirty shirt to school on picture day and yes, I missed a deadline or two) and, instead, embrace the accomplishments.

With that, Lisa turned the microphone over to the impressive panel of working moms:

All of the women shared thoughts, ideas and experience of trying to find the work/life balance we all want, and here are some takeaways:

  • Balance is bunk: Just try to create a system that allows you to get it all done without going crazy… stop seeking perfection, because it doesn’t exist.
  • Keep priorities clear in your head and say “no” to the non-essentials: It’s okay to buy cookies for your kid’s classroom at Safeway, even if all the other moms are delivering home-baked goodies!
  • Set boundaries with your Blackberry: Make sure family time is exactly that. If you have a short amount of time with your kids each day, give them your undivided attention.
  • Do not confuse activity with results: Get your work done efficiently and focus on results, rather than face-time at the office or time on-line.
  • All working parents are online working after their kids go to bed: Okay, maybe not all of them, but it’s comforting to know I am not the only one!
  • Outsource where you can: I think this is passive-aggressive for “hire a nanny”… humph.

At the end of the day, it was refreshing to listen to a panel of powerful and accomplished women, who just happen to be moms.

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