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Is that block you keep stumbling over …you?

stop getting in your own way

We all do it. We know we do. But why? Some people say it’s a fear of success. Some say it’s about past failures. But whatever the cause, more often than we care to admit, we are our own worst critics. We place our own stummbling blocks in our paths. And we sabotage success.  And odds are, we aren’t even aware we’re doing it.

So here’s a little exercise. Today, get three sheets of paper, and write down three goals you are working towards. Or three goals you would like to accomplish, even if you haven’t started the work yet.  Write one goal at the top of each piece of paper.

And then starting today, take one paper each day, and spend as much time as it takes writing down the reasons you haven’t made more progress.  Be brutally honest.  Write until you can’t think of any more reasons why it’s still a goal and not an accomplishment.  Forget spelling or grammar. Forget pretty writing. And especially forget to censor yourself. This is just for you, so be honest.

After you’ve done all three, take a look at your lists and start to identify which obstacles are yours. Which are in your control? Which ones are coming from your head (or heart or soul or history…)  Highlight those items.

Now cross off every reason that isn’t highlighted.  Forget about those for now. You have just created your own to-do list to make your dreams come true.  Now use it!

Once you do, you will discover something amazing will happen. Those other barriers — the ones not in your control — will start to disappear, too. Why? Because you have changed.

Sure it’s just a Tuesday. But you might want to mark this Tuesday on your calendar. Because this is the day you started making dreams into reality.

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Why it Might be Time for Back to School …for You, too

mom with baby at computerIt started with stumbling on an article on Working Mother’s website about moms returning to college, often while working and raising a family…which led to Mary Davis’ website The College Mom (you gotta love their motto… “You may be a mother, but college doesn’t have to be.”) and I knew I had found the topic for this post. It’s one near and dear to my heart…I had two pregnancies during grad school, and headed back to class each time with baby in tow in a Snugly.

There are lots of reasons why you might want to add college classes or a degree program to your life. Maybe you have a degree or two, but your interests or things in your field have changed. Or maybe you never got around to finishing the degrees you wanted to before the kids came along. Or maybe you just want a open a new chapter in your life (Remember Trish’s “What’s next?” challenge at MomCom? Could it be a few more letters after your name?)

Working mothers returning to college? The concept seems, well, kinda nuts. But if you’ve ever dreamed about it (though you probably dismissed it before you woke up), you should know it’s not as far-fetched as it might seem.

— Renée Bacher, Working Mother

For many, the choice is purely practical. “In today’s economy and job market, many working moms see going back to school as a necessary step to greater pay and career advancement”, says Davis,  mom of three. Others are ready to fulfil a lifetime dream, or to make a brand new dream come true.  But no matter what the reason, more and more moms are heading back to college to make a difference in their lives, and in the process, the lives of their families.

So how to they do it?

The boon in accredited online colleges and universities has helped, says WorkingMother author Renée Bacher. According to Bacher, more than 60% of online college students are women, most of them over 25. But when it comes right down to it, sheer determination is the common denominator. Her article offers profiles of three women who did it, and earned that walk to receive a new college degree.

Oh, and my story? I was blessed to be in college in Utah, where married students, pregnant students and moms in classes were the rule rather than the exception. But even so, there’s something especially memorable about nursing a baby while taking notes in a “Politics of the Middle East” lecture, all the while thinking about what time you have to pick up your toddler at preschool! But hey, we’re women. Somehow we do it.

Note: The College Mom website hasn’t had a new post in awhile, but what’s there is still a great resource for any mom in college or considering enrolling.

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Is it that we don’t lean in…or that the men are leaning on the door?

woman locked outThere’s been a lot of talk about how women need to lean in to achieve their goals in life. We need to lean in to be heard at work, to get that promotion or to land that big office and even bigger salary. Or so say some people. Mostly women.

And that’s bothering me. A few weeks ago, we wrote about the Mommy Wars. You know, the way moms judge other moms for making different decisions about childcare or household rules or lifestyle.  We know that kind of in-fighting among women doesn’t do any of us any good. We’re all doing our best to care for our kids, right?

So the more I look at these articles and books saying that women aren’t reaching their potential in business or government because they don’t lean in feels more like the mommy wars than a helpful hand. Once again, it’s women telling other women that they don’t try hard enough. That they’re making the wrong choices.

It’s framed as helpful, but for the millions of women who are struggling to survive in their careers, battling to be heard, to move up, it can easily come as a put-down.  They’re being told that their failure to reach the upper echelons is not because of the existing powers that be…it’s because they didn’t try hard enough. And that’s neither helpful, nor accurate.

Harvard Business Review came to the same conclusion in an article about women and business leadership awhile back….

It hasn’t proven as natural as we all thought for women to break into the leadership ranks of the corporate world. All the companies I work for have learned that gender balance is a result of highly proactive management pushing, not a complacent declaration that outsiders can succeed in the existing system by trying harder.

A more recent article in the Huffington Post carried on the same theme, by pointing out that in 2011, 57 % of all bachelor’s degrees went to women. And  in the U.S., women now hold 51 % of the PhDs, 47 % of law degrees and 45% of all business degrees at the Masters Degree level. And yes, despite all the leaning in all of this education represents,

…only 14% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, and fewer than one in 5 law firm partners are female.

So is it really fair to say that it’s our fault? Is it even helpful to suggest that it is? Especially when that blame is coming from another woman!

So what are we to do?

There’s nothing inherently wrong with leaning in to aim for the goals we want in life, whether it’s at work, at home or at your child’s school.  But we need to get the men who currently hold the power to understand the value of sharing that power with women.  We need to develop a language to articulate those benefits to the men holding the doors closed. Do we know how? Not yet. But it has to be done. We can’t simply storm the gates en masse and expect the walls to fall down…and the exceptional woman who does break through doesn’t really change it for the rest of us.

But  above all, we, as women, need to help other women enter those spaces still so male dominated. But we don’t do that by putting down and blaming. We do that by extending a hand. I have to wonder if Sheryl Sandberg is doing much of that.

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Imagine if you didn’t have a safe place to give birth….

Sera  and Syrian newborn baby

Sera greets a new Syrian baby

Today’s guest post comes to us from Sera Bonds, the Founder of Circle of Health International (COHI).  Her post really needs no introduction, except to say you will appreciate your own relatively peaceful start as a mom even more after reading her story.

“Remember those first days as a new mom? You were most likely exhausted, overwhelmed with all kinds of new feelings and requirements (diaper changing in the dark and with one hand, a super sore cooch or perhaps a c-sec scar with crazy big stitches or staples, huge leaky boobs). Family and friends want to come by and see, help you, but mostly they want to hold this new baby. The focus went quickly from you, which was the way most of us experience pregnancy, to the baby. In fact, we will meet people in those first months and they won’t even look us in the face, just right to the baby. Our own needs are now secondary, and are likely to stay that way, either consciously or otherwise, for a few years – at least.

I wonder how many of you also had the experience of forgetting to eat. Remember that? Remember how folks said, “Sleep when that baby sleeps,” and you were like, right, because a magical fairy is going to arrive while I am sweetly slumbering and do laundry, walk the dog, wash the dishes, cook for me, feed me, shower for me, etc. We put our own needs after that of our baby, our household, and all the rest. It’s a hard, hard time even for those of us with resources.

Remember those days?

Most of us reading this piece were in a mostly calm situation, albeit it felt crazy at moments. I mean to say that you weren’t fleeing from a war zone, your hospital wasn’t attacked while you were laboring or recovering because clinics are now being targeted by the fighters, and you weren’t living in a refugee camp someplace. Today, and yes, I mean today, there are more moms living in these kinds of situations than ever before. The Syrian crisis has escalated to a terrifying place that none of us involved in the response realistically envisioned, planned for, or could imagine. Moms and babies are hungry, and they need our help.

Circle of Health International/COHI is engaging in a campaign to raise funds during the month of Ramadan, ending August 8th, to purchase flour, cooking oil, and milk for these moms and their kids.

We all, as mothers, deserve to have the food we need to be able to care for our family, and babies everywhere deserve to have full, sweet, happy bellies.

I was a new mother of a two-month-old boy when missiles began falling in the neighborhood where my baby and I were living. We were lucky; we left immediately, heading to a part of the country that wasn’t under attack, where our midwife and her family took us in. They had room, and we did our best not to be a burden. That war lasted two months, and it claimed the lives of many including the daughters of one of COHI’s colleagues.

It was a month full of anxiety, trauma, and anger. I was safe, loved, and well-fed, and so was my baby. I was nursing, sleeping, doing endless loads of laundry, and I cannot imagine having had to do that while I was in the middle of those missiles that were falling, or the tanks that were roaming the streets. The women of Syria are living this kind of very dangerous reality today as I write these words, as you read them. Please help us to help them.

Thank you,

Sera Bonds
Founder, and Mother
COHI 

COHI was formed in 2004 with the stated goal of “Working with women and their communities in times of crisis and disaster to ensure access to quality reproductive, maternal, and newborn care.” Since then, Sera and the rest of COHI have worked to provide food, medical care and other necessities to moms nd babies in high risk areas around the globe. Circle of Health International is currently trying to raise money for flour, oil and milk for moms and babies in Syria and Jordan. Learn how you can help — and remember, every dollar of donations helps someone eat. 

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