The WHY behind the WHAT

So it’s been obvious that I sorta skipped town on this blog a while ago and that’s because I made the possibly insane decision to go back to work.

I know, I didn’t think it would happen either.

This mom is now a working mom. Yes, that’s right – she who didn’t think she could ever make a living in the cruel mistress that is New York somehow got scrappy – and got hired.

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I’m back at work and spare time is escaping me. Baby girl is now 9 months old and keeps growing, learning and developing every day so my goal is to continue writing about the experience as much as I can. I’m … back?! But first, what precipitated this turn of events?

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The Montessori approach

Sensory based learning is important. I always knew I was never gonna be that mom who bought her kids all the plastic light up, noise making nonsense. And not just because I think it’s tacky (that too) but because I think it is over stimulating and doesn’t really aid in learning.

After all, babies learn through play. It stands to follow that if they play with things that are loud, noisy and do the thinking for them, they won’t learn to problem solve by themselves.

MontessoriToday’s world is more fast-paced than ever. Think you have trouble keeping up? Just imagine how many distractions there are in a given day for young babies and kids.

When it comes to encouraging development and play, I personally think it’s best to try to avoid overload as long as possible. This means no loud noises, no light up Vegas-style toys, and no screen time. Think that’s strict? Read about why even Apple founder Steve Jobs was a low-tech parent.

Given my natural inclination to be low-tech, from the get-go I gravitated naturally to the Montessori approach. Montessori stresses a sensory based approach to learning. Babies are best left to explore the environment around them through touching, feeling, tasting, hearing, seeing. Using the five senses to understand the world. Learning cause and effect by touching and moving everyday objects and building a relationship with the world around you.

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A look back at pregnancy learnings

Now that I’ve been on the other side of pregnancy for a while (almost 8 months to be exact), I’ve learned a few things for next time (assuming there is a next time…). I was always skeptical of the marketing hype around pregnancy. And so much hype there is! It’s bonkers the things so-called ‘experts’ will say to sell you a product or two.

So, for what it’s worth, here’s what 9 months of my laid-back, cut-through-the-hype pregnancy taught me. Take it all with a grain of salt…

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Why I (don’t) love New York

New-York-is-Killing-Me

So, people ask me all the time what I think about New York. I always answer with a sort of neutral “hmm, it’s ok, I guess.” Because it is. It’s just ok. 

I moved here at 8 months pregnant. The only New York I know is that of being heavily pregnant and then, a new mom.

I don’t know the New York of starry-eyed dream chasing, climbing the career ladder, seeking your fortune, attending fantastic parties, making lifelong friends, the New York that allows you to find yourself and inspires your soul to grow.

This is not my New York.

My New York could be Houston or Cleveland or Celakovice, Czech Republic or anywhere really. I know I won’t be here forever, and this is a pit stop between here and the next thing.

That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it though. It just means you won’t find me at gallery openings, rooftop parties at dawn or in high-powered business meetings. Instead, I’m more likely to be pushing a stroller around a park and singing ‘Wheels on the bus’ to a slightly bemused 7-month old.

Sounds lame, maybe, but it’s an interesting way to experience a new city, in and of itself. You end up seeing a whole other side to a city and speaking with people you never would have spoken to otherwise. Because lots of people like babies, including posh old ladies, homeless people, hardened lawyers, people who can’t speak English, builders, teen girls, everyone. You end up having a dialogue with a vast cross-section of society. THIS is my New York.

I recently met another mom who had also moved here from abroad while pregnant and our conversation went something like this:

Her: How do you like it here?

Me: I kinda hate it. It’s terrible. Right city, wrong time. My life-timing is all off. But, hey, you have to stay positive and see the good in everything, right? So I’ll say it’s ok.

Her: I’m so relieved to hear you say that! I feel the exact same way but haven’t met anyone else who understands it.

Yep. I get it. Because this is why: As someone who’s moved here with kids, you have no narrative here. There’s no logical progression of a life before kids into a life after kids. There’s no ‘roots’ that give way to this new space in your life. It’s like you’re just beamed down to this crowded, smoggy, stressed-out place and have to scramble to set up a life that works for you and everyone else. And in this city, that’s not easy.

As a New York interloper mom, you:

  • Have no family or community support
  • Have lots of expenses. From groceries to baby swim classes to daycare to babysitting – everything is about 5x what it costs anywhere else. Even cooking from scratch can often be more expensive than ordering take-out food
  • Generally don’t have too much incentive to work because unless you’re a high-powered high earning executive, your take-home pay after taxes is the same (or possibly even less) as what it costs for someone to look after your child
  • If you do choose to work, it’s generally just to keep a foot on the career ladder and future-proof yourself in the job market for when your baby goes to school. Grim, but them’s the breaks
  • Working hours are intense – 60 hours/week is not unusual. Some would say that’s a ‘light load’. New York is not really set up for work-life balance. That said, business does move fast so if you’re savvy you may be able to set up a freelance business and create your own schedule
  • The subway is kind of a nightmare to navigate with a small child. Few elevators, very crowded, often filthy
  • The weather is extreme, boiling hot in summer and bitterly cold and dry in winter
  • The highest rent in the USA for the littlest possible space. You constantly feel like you’re living on top of everyone and running out of space for everything. If you tell anyone in any other city what you’re paying for rent, they’ll look at you like you’re a crazy person. Let’s just say that we could have a 5 bedroom house on 2 acres with a pool in Texas for what we pay for a 1 bedroom apartment here…
  • Everyone around you is always rushing and always spending. It’s like a hamster wheel that never stops and it’s exhausting

These things are the facts. But – you’ve got to stay positive. You can observe all this stuff, look at it, and leave it there. It doesn’t really have anything to do with you. You don’t have to participate in this madness, just watch it and let it go.

In every life situation, even difficult ones, you can choose what you take from it. You can choose to take only the painful bits, or you can choose to look at every tough situation as a beautiful opportunity for your soul to grow. I know which I choose.

Can we talk about the weather please?!

Hi New York, can we talk for a sec about this weather please? Over a cup of cawfee even, because it’s so blisteringly cold out there that every little bit helps…frozennycThis is a real, actual, true photo of the river outside of my building…

When I was a kid, I remember seeing batter-powered warming socks at a sporting goods store and begging my father for them. Batteries! In socks! My childhood mind thought it was the best thing ever. We lived in California, so dad said no. Tell you what, I could really use those socks right about now.

New York is bitterly cold in winter and a hot humid mess in the summer where the baking sun beats down on you. Gross, gross, gross. To everything there is a season, from the freezer into the oven. It’s like this place is the embodiment of global warming.

Ok, ok so it’s really not that bad. It’s cold but honestly I’d built it up in my head to be worse before I moved here. Most days are only like -5C, which is cold but doable. Baby girl’s dad grew up in a place that was -40C in winter. Yes, MINUS FORTY. Now that’s insane.

The thing is, everyone here lives in a small apartment. That’s just New York life. So when ice-rain hits your window panes and the wind howls outside, you’re staying indoors in a very cosy 1,000 square feet entertaining an infant, finding yourself to be a creative genius because you can think of 25 games to play in one space, with one chest of toys, some tupperware and music. Boom, sofa pillows become a fort! Bowls and wooden spoons are a drum kit and we’re learning to crawl to Chaka Kahn.

Or, on less frigid days, you can opt to go outside for some fresh air, trudging to a soft play center or a library story hour or whatever, in the sludge, amongst the throngs of grumpy, miserable people getting splashed by cars and sliding on the ice. It’s just like the movies, I tell you.

new york slush

Friday Finds: Dove!

I was so unreasonably excited to recently learn that Dove has (FINALLY) launched its line of dry spray antiperspirants in the US. I cannot express how much I love this product:

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I used these in the UK and always smelled nice, even through sweaty, treacherous commutes on the Tube. I was so bummed to come back to the US, knowing my only option would be those crappy stick deodorant things that are cakey, gross and get all over your clothes.

But now, Dove just blew my whole world away by bringing these into the US market. I am unreasonably excited about this. Almost as excited as when I found out that some Duane Reade locations sell Vichy skincare products and Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (at about 5x the cost… but nevertheless). This is a new beauty favorite to add to the mix.

If you’re in the US, run don’t walk to your nearest drugstore. I promise these’ll change your life for the better.

Note: Dove hasn’t paid me to write this (I wish!). I just like this product unreasonably much.

Not enough hours in the day

past_times_and_toil_01In my mom’s group the other day, two women who had started back at work were having a conversation about transitioning back to the workplace:

“I get a good 10 hours of work done each day,” said Mom1.

“Oh, that’s amazing that you’re able to have such a reduced workload,” marvelled Mom2.

“I know,” said M1, “These 50 hour weeks are really great. I’ll eventually have to go up to 60 hours at some point, but am really enjoying being at 50 hours at the moment.”

“Absolutely, I know what you mean,” replied M2. “The pre-baby days when I did 80 hours a week are gone,” she said wistfully. “I just don’t know how some moms do 70 or 80 hours. Incredible, really…”

I jump in: “You do realize you’re having the most New York conversation EVER, right?” I say.

They laugh and nod.

“Yeah, so true,” said M1. “But really, 50 hours a week is such a breeze.”

I laugh nervously and do an awkward half-nod. Inside, a swan’s nervous legs paddle vigorously underneath the smooth surface that is my smiling face.

Fifty hours a week is relaxed? my panic-stricken mind thinks. I just cannot wrap my head around this.

“Yeah, but…don’t you ever think about having more of a life balance?” I ask them. “Like, can’t you get everything done between 9 and 5 and still be successful?”

They look at me slightly patronizingly, like I’ve just suggested that maybe if we all wish hard enough at the very same moment, we can bring about world peace.

“It’s just that I’m really committed to being the best version of myself, you know?” says M1, with M2 nodding vigorously behind her. “And you know, people who work 9 to 5, or 9 to 6 or whatever, well… they’re just doing a job... they’re not going anywhere further than that.” She cocks her head. “You know?”

I nod, because I do know. I do know that there’s a major disparity between how New Yorkers and non-New Yorkers live their lives. This is a parallel universe of long hours, big success and big money.

In Europe, people work to live. New Yorkers live to work. While Europeans take interesting holidays, New Yorkers brag about how few vacation days they’ve used in a year.

In some places, people like to do things like cook or decorate their homes or raise their children. In New York, everyone outsources this. Because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. 

Time is money and money is time. Money is anxiety and time is money is anxiety is time isn’t enough is anxiety where does that leave me? A fly on the wall of this crazy reality.