Silver Lining: An Appreciate for Community

Being on bedrest gives a woman plenty of time to think. Admittedly, a bit too much. But above all else, the journey so far (on Day 9 of hospital bedrest today! Baby due in 102 days but only 17 more days until we make our first milestone of 28 weeks!) has had a true silver lining sparkling - it has given me an opportunity to sit back and appreciate the community we have found out here. 

We found out we were pregnant again the morning we moved into our rental in Palo Alto back in June. I had a sneaking suspicion, and took a test that morning, waiting until the movers had left and house was unpacked to tell Grant that evening. We were both pretty surprised (Mamas: this is what happens when you cut out nightfeedings!) and excited- but admittedly a bit terrified as we were in a brand new town with all of our friends who had helped us through our pregnancy with Grace back in D.C. and this meant finding all new doctors.

Overwhelmed by the move coupled with raging pregnancy hormones, I had a much more difficult time adjusting to life in Silicon Valley than we anticipated - most of my high school and college friends were living up in San Francisco without children, and we didn't really know anyone in Palo Alto and were facing a very difficult time finding a church or any sense of community. A guy friend of mine from college mentioned his wife met a bunch of her mom-friends on Nextdoor for playdates, so I figured I would give it a whirl posting a desperate:

"First time SAHM of 9 month old girl, just moved to the neighborhood looking to meet other moms"

Fortunately, my message was replied to by a beautiful and brilliant mom who invited me to meet up with her weekly summer playdates at a local park. The thrill was like being asked out on a first date! Grace & I each tried on about 15 outfits trying to figure out what peninsula moms wear to the park (shorts and tank tops- it was HOT!) and packed our stroller with every imaginable goodie. We must have looked homeless. 

Well instantly upon meeting I knew I had found someone special. Let's call her "Mrs. R" as I haven't asked to blog about her, was so warm and inviting, introducing me to a dozen incredible mamas as we chased after our crazy kids who were taking over every inch of the playground. While conversation are always abbreviated when I have a wiggly Graceface in my arms, every woman I met was the rare combination of interested and interesting. Many had also given up careers they loved to tackle the challenges of motherhood, and sympathized with the struggle. Without hesitation, the group took me in and I began looking forward to Tuesday playdates and Mrs. R and I were scheduling regular outings with our little ones and husbands in tow.

When September came around, the group transitioned to Mother's Together at Menlo Presbyterian on Tuesday mornings, an opportunity for moms to gather in fellowship and prayer while our little ones were taken care of in the nursery. The first week I walked in, I was stunned-- it was like a sorority, high in energy with 120 women hugging and chatting.  I had no idea how much I had been missing having an adult conversation without Grace counting my teeth with her little fingers or pulling my hair, but after the first week I instantly felt at home. The women were SO nice - I had to pinch myself to ensure I wasn't dreaming - and introduced themselves immediately seeing I was new. As we went around the table in the coming weeks reflecting on thoughtful questions and getting to know each other, I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I had been given an opportunity to join this community- each week I felt like I was learning so much from these peers on how to handle this chapter of motherhood. The Lord works in mysterious ways.

Last Wednesday when we found out I would be admitted and I would be here until the baby came or at least we hit 28 weeks, one of my first thoughts was how upset I was to be missing our weekly MT meetings. Desperate for a nanny and still limited on mom-resources here in the Bay Area- I sent a panicked email out to my MT small group asking for suggestions for sitters, nannies, etc. who could help my mom and Grant with Grace over the next few weeks. Instantly, my inbox was flooded with names and numbers and well wishes. These women, juggling kids of their own, were offering to take Grace for a few hours each week, send meals to Grant and help out in just about any imaginable way- I couldn't believe it! I was floored- most of them barely knew me, yet were so selfless and so quick to action, true models of Christianity. 

To help out, we will call her Mrs. L, even invited Grace to come join her nanny and daughter twice a week - and it has been the greatest for my mom to have a break (M/W/F are her bad days with her MS, the day after shots) - something that has helped our family exponentially as I am delighted Grace is having playdates and a chance to interact with other kids, and a chance for my mom to get a break. Imagine my surprise when I also found out that she went out of her way to take her dog to daycare because she didn't want Grace to be uncomfortable around him. Can you believe that sort of kindness and thoughtfulness- mind you, this is also while she is managing a house remodel and planning a big birthday party for her husband this weekend!? I couldn't believe it! Mrs. S, pregnant herself and one of the most creative and vivacious spirits I've ever had a blessing to meet, had the group put together an INCREDIBLE care package for me (it needs a name grander than "care package"- it was the most impressive thing I have ever seen) with notes from all of these women with inspiring words and treats from manicure sets to knitting kits and books that will help me pass the time. I was stunned with gratitude.

This journey has showed quite a few silver linings already, but best of all has to be how lucky my family is to have found community. I pray I have an opportunity to repay the kindness these women have bestowed upon me- from welcoming me to their group  to caring for me while I am here. God is good, I am #blessed.

 

 

Naptime Dinner Prep: 4 hour Slow Cooker Recipes from MomFuse

One of the biggest challenges I've been facing as an exhausted pregnant mama is getting a filling, hot homemade dinner on the table during the witching hours right before bath and bed time. 

When I have my wits about me, I can usually get the crockpot going so we will have a nice meal that evening, but all too often I find myself trying to figure out what to make during Grace's afternoon nap. A quick google search pulled up this Mom-fuse Blog Post on 4 Hour Slow Cooker recipes that has me salivating! I can chop in piece, throw it all in the pot, and enjoy the evening!

 

 

Maternity Leave and Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!'s CEO - Expecting Twins and Planning "Limited Time Off"

Techcrunch broke the news that Yahoo's! famed CEO Marissa Mayer is expecting twins... and planning on "limited time off" after the baby is born. While the controversy will undoubtedly flourish over the next few days, wanted to get your thoughts first. (BTW: Click the link- the URL is my favorite - "Marissa Mayer to Triple Monthly Active Children")

I am honestly torn. On one hand, after just delivering one daughter last August, I physically needed about 6 week to recover and actually be able to walk again (27 stitches!), not to mention get things figured out with sleep, showering, changing diapers, and staring incessantly at her beautiful little face.

On the other, I understand her drive to get back to work. She has shareholders counting on her and a pivotal company to lead. I had 10 weeks of paid leave back at Rally Health, yet part of me wanted to go back after 6 weeks- I actually continued on all major conference calls as my schedule with a newborn would allow and popped by the office a few times. Some of the biggest issues women face in the U.S. returning to work  are 1) finding a place to pump 2) child care 3) care for everything else- grocery shopping, cleaning the house, etc. Marissa Mayer is in the fortunate position to "Staff up" so I can see her making this work when she is physically able with wet nurses, 24/7 nannies, chefs, cleaners, etc. It takes a village, sometimes you just need to staff your own village.

While her decision will likely be judged as unfavorable to most, Marissa Mayer is a role model to so many women, this will undoubtedly be a debate we hear volumes about. It really goes both ways.

What do you think?

Survey on Childcare: Calling All Parents

Fabulous Moms & Dads-- 

With Baby Allen #2 due 2/1/16, I have been toying with the idea of a childcare start-up in a niche space and doing some very elementary market research on attitudes towards childcare with this quick survey- and would love your help in taking it!  

In brief, the concept is to bring an easy to book (online or in-app) child-care center to major retail areas (shopping malls, near co-working spaces, near places like Soul Cycle and other hot spots like restaurants and coffee shops etc) for occasional, part time, activity-based play-care. Like Uber or Opentable, you can find availability in the center (based on the age and needs of your little ones) and make a reservation at a moments notice - no more booking sitters way in advance or scrambling when the nanny is sick and you have an important lunch or want a day-date with your spouse on the weekends. Additionally with eventual plans for a national launch - if you're traveling in NYC, you can easily find an enriching childcare experience for your little one while you take in a Broadway matinee or enjoy an adult lunch in San Francisco while your wee one is playing nearby.

This 10 question survey shouldn't take you more than 5 minutes to take, and I would greatly appreciate your feedback as I explore the niche market. Feel free to share with other friends as the more answers, the better. In two weeks, I'll do a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XMRGT8D


Thanks in advance!

KKA

Kudos Netflix, on your Maternity & Paternity Policy - a lesson to all corporations, including Virgin

Yesterday, Netflix announced unlimited maternity and paternity leave and flexibility for employees during their child's first year -- WOW! (I actually wanted to write that first sentence in all caps as I am so impressed and it is such a big deal!)

Why is this such a big deal? Because it is not just about time off, in my opinion - the key to maternity/paternity leave is FLEXIBILITY. Depending on whether the mom had a traditional or C-section - physically they may take different amounts of time to heal, and then get into the groove of having a new roommate with whom she needs to cater to every single need.

From a paternity standpoint, that also means the father often needs to overcompensate on household chores and keeping sanity in the household. Every errand, household chore and responsibility (paying all of those hospital bills- not to mention electricity, cable, and mortgage) ended up on my husbands plate - along with building baby gear, running the laundry and keeping mama fed! 

My Experience

Those first few weeks are a beautiful chaos, but to be honest, even though I had a really really really difficult delivery (thank you 9.5lb Gracen!) I felt physically recovered by 6 weeks, emotionally recovered by 8 and truly ready to engage mentally at work at 10 weeks when my paid maternity was up. I was ready to dive back in! 

This isn't the case for everyone though. 

That said, I was working for an amazing company, Rally Health, that generously gave me the flexibility to get my family on track - and often that meant coming into work at 10:30 after a pediatrician appointment, taking morning calls from my kitchen while figuring out pumping/breastfeeding, working from home when the nanny was sick or when Grace's kidney issue developed, taking a Friday off to sit at Children's Hospital with her- guilt free

The flexibility Rally Health allowed enabled me to give 110% at the office, without ever feeling like I was missing out at home. I wanted to be at work, building an incredible product to transform lives even though I missed Grace terribly by 2pm. Sure, I felt left out when my colleagues and friends were heading to happy hour after work and I was scrambling to get home to my baby who didn't quite recognize me yet. But I always felt supported in my new role as mom, as well as my existing role in the office. The key to that support, in my opinion, was gracious flexibility.

My Issue with Virgin's Policy

Richard Branson with his children

Richard Branson with his children

Back in June, Virgin Group announced that it's year-long maternity/paternity leave policy would be coming to the U.S. While in theory I think it is a phenomenal example of addressing the issue that the U.S. has the worst maternity policies out of any first world country, it still rubbed me the wrong way. 

Now that I have been a mom for an entire year - and have dipped a toe in everything from full-time employment when we lived back in D.C. to part-time contract work now here in California and a few weeks as a stay-at-home-mom, I just don't understand the 1 year policy. What Virgin failed to address is flexibility. 

If both my husband and I had this entire past year off, we probably would have killed each other :) Joking aside, it just seems unnecessary - and irresponsible. The adjustment after a 10 week maternity leave was a lot to handle getting back to the work place - having to dress like an adult, maintain a strict schedule with deliverables, and engage in adult conversation. While the policy is very generous, I cannot imagine how I would be able to go back full-time after a year off -- where we probably would have been vacationing even more than we do now!

Obviously each family is different, which is why I again will stress flexibility is key, for the first year. There are a lot of pediatrician appointments - but even with Grace's kidney diagnosis and frequent appointments and scans, I may have had overwhelming days, perhaps even weeks, but I cannot imagine stopping my life for a year, and then readjusting back to work cold-turkey. 

Conclusion:

In conclusion, Netflix, you are a gem! Keep paving the way both in the workplace and in programming. I am officially in awe. Let me know if you are hiring :)

 

Congratulations to Mark & Priscilla Zuckerberg... on their bravery, example, and most of all- their bundle of joy on the way!

In my experience, there are few acts more courageous and awe inspiring than sharing the difficult news of a miscarriage. I cannot imagine anything more difficult. Today, Mark Zuckerberg shared with the world that after three painful miscarriages, they are officially in the "safe zone" with their little girl.

Screen shot of the announcement made on Facebook

Screen shot of the announcement made on Facebook

Since first finding out (in December 2013) that we were pregnant with Grace, we have had the unfortunate privilege of learning about 27 miscarriages from our immediate friends and family. Few speak of how polarizing pregnancy can really be. Each couple handled the loss very differently - as to be expected. The one commonality we did witness was a sense of aloneness. It is rare for women to speak publicly about their miscarriages out of fear, guilt, or feeling of deficiency. Mr. & Mrs. Zuckerberg, I applaud you for doing so - it is a conversation that needs to happen - so families who are having a difficult time getting to term know they are not alone, and so that the greater community can best learn to support them.

According to the March of Dimes, as many as 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Half of all pregnancies? Who know! The conversation needs to increase in volume and support for all of the amazing families-to-be. Kudos and congratulations to Mark and Priscilla, we look forward to meeting your little girl and pray for a healthy rest of pregnancy and easy delivery!