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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A - Z Blogging Challenge, Part 1


I like participating in writing challenges. I do Secret Subject Swap, Use Your Words and Funny Friday every month, I contributed to Top Ten Tuesdays as long as they lasted, and to 6 words stories when ever I get invited, and last year I posted daily for #100HAPPYDAYS. 

Every day throughout the month of April a good 1,600 people and I are publishing a new fraction of this year's A - Z challenge. 

While we are totally free on how to use our letters throughout the alphabet, I decided to stick to a theme. I could have done "actors I like": Anne Hathaway, Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood or "cities I have visited": Athens, Boston, Cape Town,.. 

Here is what I am going to do instead - because why keep it simple when it can be tough?

Every day I am using the letter of the day to talk about elements of being a (part-time) working mom. It is no "how to" and no checklist - just snippets of my unique personal experience.



Aviation

Working for the aviation industry has always been a dream of mine. I love the international, busy atmosphere at airports. Even when I'm not flying anywhere myself, I like to people-watch at departure and arrival gates, trying to figure out who these people are, where they are coming from, where they are going, and why they are crying happy or sad tears.  

For a short but intense two years I had the opportunity – and the access card – to go beyond customs and security and walk along the gates to the „line maintenance“ which is basically the pit stop for airplanes.  I learned tons about airworthiness, procedures, checks, and how to avoid AOG (aircraft on ground), and I met some wonderful people. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I was too busy hiring about 200 people during my employment.






Alpha People 

Rejoining the workforce after a year long maternity leave, I experienced that Alpha males feel much less threatened by part-time working moms than by career women – for obvious reasons I guess.  The little mommy is just here to escape the diapers and make some pocket money, haha.

Alpha bitches can’t be fooled that easily, though. They can sense that working mommies have a low tolerance for BS and are not afraid to act on it.





  • How about you? Do you like airports? 
  • Have you ever worked for the aviation industry? Missed a flight?
  • Are you an alpha person? Like them, hate them? 

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Balancing Act

Throughout this A-Z challenge I will go into specific elements that made and are making accommodating corporate and domestic duties tough for me. 

And I am lucky to have some factors that actually make it easier for  me than for other working mothers.  

  • I only have one kid. 
  • My parents live close by. As in a 20 minutes’ stroller walk or 5 minutes’ drive close by. 
  • In summer 2012 a daycare with after school program opened ist doors – it’s within walking distance to and from school and home.
  • My husband is supportive on many levels. 
  • I don't have to work for financial reasons


Burnout

The first two to three years (more when there are more babies) are exhausting, and I can totally get how some Moms are reaching their limits.  When I get to the letter N like NO NAPS, I will tell you about a time I was actually thinking about checking myself into Mom rehab.  Still – and I am no expert – I think before you burn out, there is an  element of lacking recognition.  As for me, looking at my precious son, no matter how tired and overwhelmed I am feeling, always makes me feel proud, grateful and happy. No half-hearted „nice job“ coming from anybody at the office can beat that. 


Being behind

If you’ve got to set priorities, some „things to do“ go way down to the bottom of your list. 

BK (which in my world is usually Burger King, but in this case it stands for Before Kids) I would stay at the office as long as it took, so the next day would not bite me in the ass. Meaning I tried to get done at least those things that would otherwise blow up in my face if I didn’t. 

As a working Mom your list is even longer, and your days are fuller, but at a certain time of day you’ve got to leave the office and pick up your kid(s). If you’re anything like me, you can forget about doing stuff for the office at home „once dinner and bed time are over“. Because, exhausted.  



What I’m saying is: better learn to forget about „being on top of things“ and accept that you can’t get everything done. Just can’t.

It's a matter of putting the big rocks in first.





  • How happy are you with your balance? 
  • Ever felt like losing it? 
  • How do you prevent your jar from overflowing?

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Compromise

And because you can’t do it all (see letter B below), you’ll have to compromise. Just like working part-time is a compromise of its own. It’s the closest thing you can do to having it all, being a stay at home Mom and having a „career“. 

But let’s be honest for a minute here. You never feel like you’re doing any of the two right. Also you don’t fit in in either „group“.  

When there’s a day trip, story time or activities on the playground, it’s taking place on one of your working days. 

When you are off work, you are running around doing chores so you’re ready for the next office day: groceries, laundry, hair and doctor appointments. 

And when little guy wants to play you can be sure it’s time to make dinner. 

It’s a compromise. 

Commute

According to Google Maps, the airport is 41.5 km = a 33 minutes’ drive away.  On a Sunday morning that may be true. When I started working at the airport, I worked Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, because that’s when daycare spots were available. 

Monday mornings and Friday nights are the worst time to be on the freeway in either direction, but especially towards Northern Zurich. 

I will go into that when the letter J as in (Traffic) Jam is due.  For now let me just tell you that over the course of two years there was no detour I haven’t taken in order to decrease time being stuck in traffic. 

Oh, and the increase in quality of life when I started working for hubby's firm which is a 10 minutes' walk away from home… 

Caffeine & Chocolate

This is a no brainer. You need it, and lots of it. My main source was and still is Coke Zero. Downside is, you need to pee. A lot. Which can cause trouble when you’re stuck in traffic. 


PS: Did you know that Chocolate is a veggie?





  • Do you feel like you're compromising all the time? 
  • How is your commute?
  • Are your kids allowed to talk to you before you've had your coffee?
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Daycare

When I applied for the airline job I had to come up with options on how to take care of Colin, and quickly. Our local daycare at the time was laughing at me. „I’m afraid I can’t help you“ the lady said. „Our baby group is full, and by the time a space opens up, he may be old enough for the toddler group, for which the waiting list is long, too.“ Boooo :-(

On to the next one. The house was old, somber and uninviting. So were to toys and  furniture. The ladies who worked there seemed nice, but everything they told us about their daily routine made me think „let’s get outta he’e!“ It all seemed so „functional“. 
This wasn’t what I had in mind. I was not going to take the job if it meant leaving C at this place. 

Fortnuately I heard about a daycare center on the premises of the airport, and coincidence had it that there was an open house. When we arrived the sun was shining, and they were singing a song about sunshine, and I think I made up my mind that very moment. It was so cute! What followed only confirmed the excellent first impression I had.  

Everything was bright, airy, colorful and friendly. Everything and everybody! And the best thing? They had a spot available. It was Mon/Wed/Fri, but what the h***. I was gonna suck it up and commute on those days if it meant C could spend his days here!

And boy, did he love spending his days there! It made my going back to work earlier than expected so much easier. 

There were lots of wonderful kids from all over the world, they had time for free play, outdoor activities but also structured age-appropriate learning. 



Meals were being delivered so the ladies could spend their time with the kids. They were talking about colors, planets, rockets and other things, and of course there were songs and crafts according to seasonal events. 



Many parents, as it turned out, worked for the airline and other aviation companies. Opening hours were from 7am - 6:30pm which was convenient. 

When I decided to quit the airline job, giving notice for this daycare was the hardest part. For quite some time I felt terrible about yanking him out of this wonderful world.  

Delegation

I’m not big at it. There are many things that need to be done exactly the way I want them, and I’d rather do them myself. Being a working Mom certainly forced me to lower my expectations. 
So the husband sends C to school without wearing a hat. He may not get pneumonia after all. The assistant may schedule a meeting for 8am even though I told her my earliest availability is 8:30, and frankly 9 would be much better. There is a decline button for a reason!

Deadlines 

I believe in getting things done on time. Especially in Human Resources there is not much wiggle room. Employment contracts begin on the first of a month if I’m ready or not. People need proposals, information and papers before.  If payroll doesn’t get their info on time, said newly hired people won’t get paid, and you don’t want to be the one who is responsible. So you may end up getting stuff done on your day off.



  • What is your experience with daycare?
  • Is it easy for you to delegate?
  • How do you cope with deadlines?
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Eva, my lovely direct superior

When I interviewed for the airline job, I first had to meet with 5 people on 2 separate days.  Then I was told I needed to wait until Eva was back from Africa as I would most probably be working for her. Africa? „Yeah, she’s volunteering for some organisation, working with lions“. 
I already liked her. 


Taking care of office advent calendar
The „interview“ with her was almost like having coffee with an old friend. 
„So my colleagues already saw you, Ch & K were nice, but did R & S give you a hard time?“ Haha, you bet. 

She told me about the work and the people and more importantly that a year from now I needed to work more hours than I was applying for. 
Oh? 
„That’s when I wanna go back to Africa for 2 months. I’ll need you to take care of things here.“ 
Sure. 

Baking ladies at Christmas outing
She was always busy running around taking care of her countless departments and trusted me to do my part, but when I needed her advice she was there and listened. Even though we used each other as sounding boards and occasionally vented, she was technically my boss and gave me constructive feedback in a good way. 

Then she switched departments, and her successor and I, well, things weren't the same. 

In the meantime she has left the airline, too. We’re still in touch and go out for dinner from time to time.


Kentucky Saloon

Expectations 

I’ve encountered various degrees of expectations. 

Skeptics let me know non-verbally that they were watching me, and sooner or later I’d slip. 

Open-minded folks accepted, even embraced my only being at work on certain days and actually memorized my son’s name. 

And then there were my own expectations to be super professional about being a working Mom. I didn’t want to be one of those ladies who redeemed the kid-bonus. 

I tried very hard to be at the office at 8am*, in business attire*, I focussed on my work,  didn’t have any baby photos on my desk, left just early enough so I wouldn’t be the last Mommy to pick up C at daycare - but later than the minimalists at the office. I felt I had to prove the world (myself) that it could be done. 

*If you read this and don’t have children: It sounds easier than it is. Once we’re through the alphabet, you’ll understand.

Energy


Never enough. I don’t know how other people do it, especially with two or three (let alone seven) children.  Can you say exhaustion?

  • What expectations have you met at work?
  • Where do you get your energy from?

Leave me a comment, I love hearing from you!

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Freedom & Flexibility

„You’re working part-time? That’s wonderful. That way you’ve got yourself some freedom and flexibility!“ people keep telling me.
  

Well, sure:

  • I had the flexibility to work my days around C’s naps – if / when there were any. I didn't have the flexibility to postpone diaper changes, though. Because, well, shit happens unscheduled.
  • The company had the flexibility to make me come in on additional days – cause I was not doing anything anyway. If was not game, at least I had the freedom to work from home in my PJs
  • I don’t have to take time off work for doctor appointments – that’s what my other days are for
  • I have the flexibility to do laundry in the afternoon when I didn’t do it in the morning
  • I have the flexibility to serve frozen food when my errands took longer
  • I had the freedom to watch an important afternoon game during soccer world cup – oh, wait, some of my colleagues who were at the office actually got to watch it in the meeting room. There goes my freedom. My soccer time was unpaid.

Sarcastic, you say?
  
OK, I’ll try again:
  • I have the flexibility to go to the mall on less busy days
  • Now that C is older my freedom as in me-time has increased
  • I have the freedom only to cook what I like, so we eat lots of pizza, pasta, enchilladas and cake
  


Fun
Probably the best aspect of being a part-time working Mom. I get to have more fun. 
I especially did before C started Kindergarten and we could just pick up and leave for the city or the park. Nowadays we have to limit these days to school vacationOr right after school.
  • What do you consider your flexibility?
  • What is your favorite fun thing to do with your kid(s)?

Leave me a comment, I love hearing from you!



There will only be four posts that are being updated as I go, with the most current letter on top so you don't have to scroll: