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With the Winter Solstice today, and Christmas and Kwanzaa just around the corner, it’s time for the annual “Last Minute Scramble for the Right Gift.” You know that race, right? It’s the one where you start randomly tossing things into your cart, adding wrapping paper and tape as you sprint for the check-out along with about 2/3 of the rest of the residents of Texas, all the while hoping you can match up the things you bought with the people on your list.
If I’ve caught you before you jump into the fray this weekend (yes, Christmas IS Wednesday!), I have a much more civilized suggestion when it comes to gifts for the women in your life. And it started with a relaxing wander through one of my favorite Austin bookstores.
I was wandering through Book People the other day, and as usual, there were about a dozen books I just can’t wait to read. My budget only allowed me to pick one, so I snapped pictures of the others so I can add them to my “to-buy” list. And then I started seeing books that would be perfect for other people in my life. Before I knew it, my shopping was done and I was sitting in the cafe sipping a cup of spicy herbal tea.
If you’re still looking for gifts for some special women, I have some suggestions that might just be perfect. And they won’t require a single visit to the mall or a big box store.
When it comes to reaching people with your message, social media is king (or perhaps, queen) these days. But unlike traditional advertising, social media’s strength doesn’t come from pushing words or images out at people. It comes from engagement, from providing information or entertainment that pulls people in and gets them to share. That difference, it turns out, makes all the difference in the world.
This book is a perfect choice for a woman with story to tell or a product or service to share in today’s electronically-driven world.
One of the greatest challenges in life can be figuring out what step to take next. If you know someone who’s heading for big things, this book might be the perfect choice to put under the tree. The authors describe it as an “An introspective fill-in-the-blank that helps readers reflect on their past, evaluate the present, and dream for the future.” I call it an amazing tool I wish I’d found sooner.
I bought a copy of this one myself, to get ready for MomCom 2014, so I can figure out where I want to go, and which speakers or workshops might help me fill in some blanks. But it would be a great gift for any woman (or man) who is trying to fit their past and present into a dream for the future.
How many of us live lives filled with secrets and shame, wearing masks to cover up everything inside? That was the world author Glennon Melton lived in, until she found her voice and decided to share her struggles, her pain and her discoveries with the world. And we’re all better for it.
If you’ve read her blog, Momastery, you’ve experienced some of her wisdom and probably shared some tears and laughter along the way. But trust me, the book is even better. Buy it for women who feel strongly and dream big. (By the way, Glennon is speaking at MomCom in January!)
Pema Chödrön, one of my favorite writers, has a wonderful view of all of us. According to Chödrön, there are three natural gifts we all possess: “…natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. Everyone, everywhere, all over the globe, has these qualities and can call on them to help themselves and others.”
The problem is the bad habits we hold on to. Those habits keep us stuck in anger, addiction and depression. But this slim volume is one of the best tools I have found to step out of those old ruts and onto a new road. Slip this book into a stocking for someone who is ready for a new start in 2014.
Buying a book for someone who struggles with perfection? Consider The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown. Or maybe The Beauty of Different by Karen Walrond or The Working Mom Manifesto by Heather Schuck (both Karen and MomCom 2014 speakers! Can you tell I’m excited? The truth is, it’s just sinking in that I’m going to meet so many amazing authors!)
For women with looking for creative inspiration, you might want to buy The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by renown choreographer Twyla Tarp. Or maybe Creating Time: Using Creativity to Reinvent the Clock and Reclaim Your Life By Marney K. Makridakis and Marci Shimoff (my current read…and it’s amazing!)
If someone you know has asked for help organizing their home (or their life), The Clutter Diet: The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life by Lorie Marrero is the book you’ll want to grab. (And yes, yet ANOTHER MomCom 2014 speaker!)
And in case you’re looking for some just-for-fun books to round out your shopping, might I recommend How to Live on Mars: A Trusty Guidebook to Surviving and Thriving on the Red Planet By Robert Zubrin, a light-hearted look at life off earth from a man who knows what he’s talking about (Dr. Zubrin has a doctorate in nuclear engineering and a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics.) You know, after a full day of kids, partners and jobs, a relaxing stay on Mars might be just the ticket!
So what are your favorite holiday shopping tricks to avoid the crowds and the mall? Do you have a secret you’re willing to share? We would love to hear!
Happy Holidays Merry Christmas Habari Gani
(PS…I couldn’t end this post without mentioning at least one more gift that doesn’t require a trip to the mall…a MomCom 2014 ticket! Just sayin’ !)
Whenever people start talking about working moms, you know the subject of sharing the workload at home will come up. As in…”I work all day, and somehow the laundry is still my job?” Despite the progress we’ve made towards gender equality at work, stats still show that women in a two-career couple shoulder the bulk of the household and childcare chores.
But just when it seems like we’re not making any progress on the home front, a story comes along that gives us all a glimmer of hope. A story of real, honest-to-goodness, two parent partnership!
I am told I travel a lot for work. I travel every other week, usually for a couple of days- maybe this is a lot, I am not sure. Either way, I’d venture to say that’s more than the average working mom. Working mother travel is predictable in the sense that at some point, either before, during or after my trip I can always plan on someone asking:
“So who is watching your kids when you are away?”
The question comes from women. It comes from men. It comes from peers. It comes from fellow working mothers. I am no longer surprised by this question, in fact, I expect it. When I answer, simply saying the kids are home with their dad, I see the look in their eyes. It is disbelief, it is surprise, it is pity, all of the above.
Every. Single. Time.
What is unfortunate about these reactions are that so many people still assume that just because I am the mother (and I am traveling) that I must be leaving my kids with my mother, or mother-in-law, or sister, or some other very capable female. Not usually considered is the possibility that my husband is not only running the show, but in a very competent way. This is truly disappointing.
The real success of my working mother life has always been about partnership. For our family, we have always “made working work” by depending upon one another and thinking about our work and parent commitments as equally important- to each other.
For example, on the mornings I travel, it is not uncommon for my departure to occur before anyone is even out of bed. This means my husband Scott has to ready our three kids, drop them at daycare and school, and still get to his job on time (which is early).
The real success of my
working mother life has
always been about partnership.
Additionally, in the evenings when I am away, he has to manage multiple pickups, volleyball practices, prepare dinner, take care of homework responsibilities, and prepare everyone for the next day. By anyone’s standards, male or female, this is a ton of work!
Our partnership works because I reciprocate by taking on the majority of drop offs, pickups, practices, and play dates on days when I am working from home. Very truthfully, if Scott and I had more of a traditional marriage, whereby the majority of household AND parenting responsibilities fell upon only me, the professional roles I have enjoyed in the past and today simply would not be possible. Both my career options and development of those options would have been limited. Because I have this true partner in life whom has been helping along the way, my career has grown and blossomed. I have a true partner and because of that, I am a much happier individual.
Working mothers…ask yourself: Do you have a real partner? If the answer is anything other than “yes”- what are you going to do about it?
Jennifer Barbin is the Co-Founder of Proud Working Mom. A site dedicated to supporting other working mothers. It’s not just a website, it’s a movement! This was an excerpt from her new book Guilt Be Gone, now available on Amazon or on Proudworkingmom.com.
So here’s the question of the day: how vulnerable are you?
Actually, it’s a few questions…
How do you define vulnerability?
How scary is it for you to be vulnerable?
What would you need in your life to be more open and vulnerable?
And finally, has MomCom helped you along that road?
In case you missed our last MomCom conference, here’s Trish’s opening speech. Consider this a start to the conversation…now we would love to hear your thoughts!
Let me start this off with a giggle…a how NOT to network video I found.
Networking. It started out as a simple idea. In this increasingly disconnected and mobile society, why not build a web of trusted professionals, experts and social connections to help each other with advice, services and referrals? Everyone would benefit, and we would be able to recreate the trusted circles of decades long gone by.
But somewhere along the way, it went horribly wrong…it became a game of “what can you do for me?” Articles and books popped up advising people on how to spot the “valuable” people at events and gatherings (ala “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.)” Advice was offered on how to dispose of business cards from “useless” people as soon as possible, and how to perfect and deliver your elevator pitch to everyone you meet.
Suddenly, networking became a dirty word…a code for self-promotion and building up business leads.
I hate to say this, but networking has been ruined by the American male model of business. Well, not entirely by them, but the big push to “use” people through the network model came from the corporate idea that people are useful (or not) depending on what they can do for me. (I am not guy-bashing here. Or America bashing. It’s a cultural reality. And by the way, men in other cultures don’t work this way….anyone trying to discuss business without spending a significant time socializing first would be considered quite rude in a number of countries.)
Networking isn’t about using people…
or seeing them as a means to an end.
It’s about building connections
that help us all.
And while a lot of American women bought into the corporate model, women have also had a different approach that came way before the term for formal networking was coined. It was called connecting. Meeting people. Making friends. Getting to know people. (Can we all launch into a chorus of “Getting to Know You” now? Yeah, I’m a theatre geek, too! But I did warn you this was the Broadway version!)
And the traditionally female approach turns networking as we know it now on its head. Watch a group of women at an event like MomCom. They ask each other’s names. They share information about themselves AND they ask questions about the others. Some of it is business information, to be sure. But with very few exceptions, it’s not about selling their service or product. It’s about building a connection, and getting to know who’s sitting across from them.
And then, (and I have seen this time and time again), someone will ASK for a business card. Others at the table who have been part of the conversation will ask too. And the woman asking, will offer hers, too, along with an invitation to talk more at another time, to meet or make a call sometime after the event.
At that point — miracle of miracles (without the Fiddler), REAL networking STARTS to happen. Business cards tucked away, the conversation continues. It might be about business topics or about the event or about family. Most of the time, it’s a mix. It’s people getting to know people. Sharing. Seeing beyond the title on the card or the possible “usefulness” of the person.
Don’t get me wrong. Business happens. Professional relationships are often established at events like the Texas Conference for Women or MomCom or a women’s professional meetup. But it happens more in context of whole people meeting whole people.
So here’s a challenge to you, ladies. Let’s take back networking, and get it off the dirty word list. Let’s go back to building connections instead of building lists of prospects, and leave the elevator pitch, well, in the elevator.
If you’re not sure how to start, or what genuine win-win networking looks like, invest in events like MomCom and experience the difference. Then take that back to your business or professional gatherings. Just remember that networking isn’t about using people…or seeing them as a means to an end. Take it back and make it about people instead.
We work hard. And then we work harder. And yet, we seem to be missing the mark. But the truth is, it’s usually not about how hard we work.
Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, our feelings of being off track or unsuccessful are because we’ve lost sight of why we’re doing the work we do.
It could be running a business, raising a family, managing a charity, or working your way up the corporate ladder. It really doesn’t matter what. What matters is why.
Finding (or really, rediscovering) the reason you started on the path can be the boost you need to take the next step in your career, your business, your family or your life.
But we women aren’t very good at allowing ourselves the time and the space to do that kind of soul-searching. We’re too busy caring for everyone else, checking off pages of to-do lists and trying to keep up with society’s ever-changing definition of what we women should be doing.
Taking the time to journal, to read, to go for a walk, to dance or sing or paint, to think without interruption or to attend an inspiring conference might feel selfish. We may even claim that we’re fine without them, as we muddle along, working harder and harder and feeling less and less successful.
But in truth, those very things you have been trained to think of as selfish or indulgent could be exactly what you need to find your way to a happier, more successful life at home and at work.
Is your life, your happiness, worth an investment in yourself? We think so. No, that’s not right. We KNOW it is.
Consider this your personal, engraved invitation. It’s time to take care of you!
Buy a brand new journal and fill the blank pages with your ideas. Find a book that speaks to you and give yourself the gift of time to savour it. Run for the sheer joy of experiencing the power of your own body. Dance in your garden, sing in the forest, or paint by the lake. Come to MomCom 2014 and invest in your dreams. Reclaim your passion. Find your power. Rediscover your “why” and with it, your “how.”
Join us on a journey to the rest of your life. We would love to hear where the road takes you!
The world is your oyster. Go harvest your pearl.
– Advice from Katie Mehnert’s father
One of the best things about MomCom Life is the women you get to meet, whether it’s in person, online, or on the phone.
And that was especially true when I got to chat recently with runner, mom, networker and Director of Safety and Operational Risk at British Petroleum, Katie Mehnert.
I was a little nervous going into the conversation. After all, her website Pace 2 Finish features a smartly dressed Mehnert wearing (gasp!) high heels! I’m not even sure I could find my heels in my closet most days.
But I was excited, too. I wanted to find out how she has time to work as a corporate director, find her high heels, and still find the time (and energy!) to be a wife, marathon runner and mom to a three-year old daughter.
So I dove right in….
Katie, I am impressed (and just a little intimidated) looking at all the things you’re juggling. Can you let us in on your secret?
Oh, no! I hate hearing that! The last thing I want to do is intimidate other women. What I want to do is to encourage women.
My secret? I think it all comes down to the idea of pacing, like in a marathon. A marathon isn’t a race for speed. It’s not a competition against other people. And it doesn’t all have to happen right now. It’s about doing my own personal best.
That’s why I like using marathons as a metaphor for life. When you run a marathon, you have to pace yourself, so you have enough energy to reach the finish line. You can’t run for speed, or you’ll hit a wall. You have to focus. It’s the same in life. You need to focus and pace yourself.
A lot of women think success is all about doing things fast, doing it all now. But I’ve learned it’s really about making choices, and letting some things go when you have to. It’s about mastering the power of “no”, and using it. We women can get too caught up in the idea of perfection. But in the real world, letting go of that need to always get an A+ will actually get you further. Doing something at 80% or even 50% is probably better than trying to go for perfection…because perfection doesn’t exist.
We also need to take care of ourselves first (which women don’t do!) [An aside…why are we so bad at this?]
People are surprised to find out that I don’t believe in multitasking. But you don’t run a marathon and do something else at the same time. You just run. It’s the same at work or with your kids or your husband. One thing at a time.
And what about the other people in your life?
We have to make sure the circle of people around us are the right people to support us. I did a post on the five people who are closest to you, and how important it is to have standards when you decide who’s in the inner circle. Many people don’t get that.
To me, picking your spouse is probably the most important decision you can make in life. And I have to say, my husband is amazing. He’s an attorney, so he has his own career goals but he’s always there for me and our daughter. Choosing him has made a huge difference in my life. He and my close friends and mentors, my “Personal Board of Directors,” make it possible for me to do what I do.
You work in what has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether women need to “lean in” to fit into the male model of business, or the model needs to change to incorporate women’s leadership styles. Which do you see as most critical right now?
Let me first say that I love Sheryl Sandberg . But I learned from a mentor of mine that women need to “lean out” as much as they need to “lean in.” Otherwise, it can quickly get overwhelming. I used to try to keep up, to compete with other people, but that didn’t work out. I hit a wall, and had to learn to pick and choose and say no when priorities clashed.
The first thing we need to do now is to stop whining. It’s time to stop over-analyzing what doesn’t work. And what’s been done wrong. The fact is, we have defined the problem to death.
The problem is not that women don’t know how to lead. Or that women are powerless. Women DO know how to lead! Moms know how to lead…they have to take care of their family and their household, and that requires all kinds of leadership skills. But we have dozens of books out there telling women they don’t know how to lead, or that they don’t have enough personal power. We need to stop that.
That’s one of the reasons for my blog. I am here to say “I am doing it, and damn it, you can do it too! ”
So what do we need?
What we all need are good male and female role models to pull other women up. We need to stop being women who compete instead of women who complete. The power is here! We women have no idea how much power we have. We get hung up over battling each other, and forget that the power of two is better than one!!
You need to build your tribe, and forget the games that too many women play. It doesn’t work, but it does give men the ammunition to label us and dismiss us instead of bringing us into the game.
I also think we need to understand that women can’t move forward without men…they got there first, let’s face it! We need them on our side if we’re going to change things. We can’t rush in and demand it. It won’t work.
I’m lucky that I have a boss who has created space for me to be a great career woman and a great mom. He’s one of those men who support bringing strong women up through the ranks. And I was lucky to have a strong female role model who pulled me up, too. That kind of support makes all the difference. We need to pick bosses and mentors who can do those things for us. And yes, we can make that choice.
I was intrigued by your post that advised women to “connect, create, share and show up.” Can you tell me how you came up with that combination?
Women and men….we’re living in a flatter world. Competition is isn’t the main thing. Now it’s about connecting, and trusting people to share. And sharing ourselves…getting vulnerable. Create something original. Let people see that you can offer something rare. Then show up and do something.
Your bio says that at age 5, you wanted to be President. If your daughter asked why there haven’t been any women Presidents, what would you tell her?
I would tell her that they were waiting for her. for her generation. I think it will happen in her generation, maybe sooner. We women bring different traits to the political table that are needed. I don’t have any interest in getting involved in anything in Washington now — I feel too disenfranchised in too many ways.
But I think it can be changed. It might take my daughter’s generation to do it. That kind of change used to be called war…it took that kind of action to change a government. But I think that with women in power, it can be more of a transformation. Look at the women who were there in the recent budget crisis in Washington. They were the ones there in the last hours, working to make it happen. We bring a collaborative approach, and that’s what’s needed now to bring the changes the government needs.
What one tool, device or lifehack is absolutely indispensable to you?
My personal board of directors. I don’t know all the answers. The knowledge is in the room, in a trusted group of people. I couldn’t do it without them.
What is your favorite way to de-stress?
The spa or a good run…one where I can think . It can be the slowest run or walk ever. It’s not about the speed. It never is.
What one piece of advice would you give to a young woman just starting her career?
Find your space. You got this, baby. Don’t question it.
Katie also told me how much she’s looking forward to MomCom 2014. “We need one of these in every city in the country!” We couldn’t agree more! Thank you, Katie Mehnert. I can’t wait to meet you at MomCom 2014 next month!
Katie Mehnert lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, three-year old daughter and a large labrodoodle. You can reach her on Twitter at @katiemehnert .