Next year in… your country.

Something really extraordinary happened at work today. In startup world. In the center of Jerusalem.

We had the pre-Passover הרמת כוסית, or company holiday toast. Our CEO spoke a few words, leading to how blown away he is by how the company is growing, both in team… and in the number of pregnant women.

Then he asked a question that’s been on my mind for nearly two years since I started there: **How do you manage to do it? Work full time, maintain your home, care for kids/manage pregnancy?**

As a woman, a mother, a full timer in the work force, it will never get old for me to hear an accomplished 60yo man wonder about this. Without a patronizing tone. Without cynicism. Pure wonder.

I was raised on a lot of equality talk – the power 80s, Take Your Daughter to Work Day, one day there could be a female president.

But nothing means as much or says as much as raising a glass at a company lunch where the CEO calls for blessing the pregnant team members, hiring even more women, and further supporting growing families.

On the eve of a paid maternity leave courtesy of a family-oriented country… it’s not something I take lightly.

Next year in… your country.

Not just a fairy tale: the Determined Mother, the Five-Year-Old, and the Princess Birthday Party

While I knew I couldn’t hold out forever, I didn’t think it would be this soon.

Bebe proudly declared: “I want a princess party this year!”

Always up for a challenge, I knew I could make this work –  make my daughter insanely happy at her 5-year birthday party while pass down and keep some of my values in tact.

So there’s be no glittery performer or makeup. Or passive preening. Or Disney references – well, some, but not too many. I went for the Kate Middleton approach – the glamorous but active-from-humbler-(eh)-roots princess.

Here’s the party activity menu:

#1 Design your own dress

I love these large rolls of thin material that the kindergartens here use to make everything. They can be bags, flags, costumes, capes – whatever you dream of, this relatively cheap thin cut-able material is yours for the making.

So that material, along with a ribbon, and some oil pastels, and the girls designed their fabric and then came over to be fitted. There was definitely some twirling.

#2 Dominate your castle

This was the best part – by consensus of the parents, siblings, and party guests. We made a castle from online shopping delivery boxes.

I basically weaved the boxes together and created a fortress looking castle; the cherry on top was the toiler paper rolls to be ‘turret’ style structures. When Bebe woke up the next morning to find it on the porch, she was ecstatic. When the kids walked in, it was the first thing they wanted to see because she had been talking about it all morning at her gan.

Inside the walls of the castle were coloring pictures and sidewalk chalk (and this is where a little bit of Elsa and Ana didn’t hurt).

Ok, ok, I’ll admit… when I Google-Image searched for coloring pages, I kept it as princess-feminist as I could. My daughter and her friends probably have no clue who Merida is, but at least they’ve colored in her face along with a bow and arrow.

And, yes. Elsa.

#3 Decorate your own treasure

Everyone got their own little wooden treasure box to paint/color/decorate with stickers to their heart’s content. At the end of the party, this was the take home gift along with a little rubber ring and bracelet to stick inside.

#4 Dance like crazy 

This was Bebe’s initiative – she wanted to play freeze dance. I didn’t realize how riled up a bunch of five year old girls could get, but they sure got into it. It’s been a long time since I was a five year old girl, ok?

#5 Devour your cupcake your way

I’ve seen some insanely intricate princess cakes on Pinterest in the past, but I opted instead for something more than eye candy – literal candy. In the form of DIY cupcake toppings. Everyone could choose from a bi-color palette of icing and a range of toppings, and then decorate their own chocolate cupcake before devouring it. As six girls sat around the table demolishing their cakes, all we parents could think was – has it ever been this quiet in the universe, ever?

Here’s why I get so tickled by kids over and over at these things: they end up making their own fun no matter what you plan. I had a scavenger hunt ready to go with clues (Find Snow White’s apple! Uncover Cinderella’s lost shoe! Where is Elsa’s glove?) and a few other back up activities, but after dancing their brains out, the girls found a bubble gun on the porch and ended up doing that for a good ten minutes.

All in all, I felt good about a princess party and maybe even princesses. Bebe had an excellent time.

And mom and daughter lived happily ever after… until next year.

Bebe update: five years

For the sweetest person I know,

I want for you strength. For you to recognize the right time and place.

To continue loving the little things, for not even knowing what is ‘little’.

I want for you to recognize your power.

I want for your love to never be bound.

For your creativity to go appreciated.

For you to never be afraid to experiment.

For you to always feel comfortable and light and invincible,

but when you don’t, for you at least to know that you will soon again.

Dear unborn baby.

Dear unborn baby,

I wanted to give you some reasons why I haven’t yet acknowledged you out loud or here or written you an encouraging letter about life on the outside or my hopes and dreams for you.

Haven’t been reflecting, haven’t been meditating, haven’t been exploring.

I wanted to do it elegantly, passionately, beautifully… but that’s not going to happen. Here are four reasons why:

1. Work life balance is more work than balance these days. I will regret this. I already do. This could be the last time for me, and it’s gone by in a blink. I wish I was stopping to smell roses. Excuses, excuses. We’ll bond more on maternity leave.

2. I’m not ready to admit it’s almost over. I usually end up opening up about it all towards the end. This time that’s been harder. For a few reasons. The one I listed above. The fact that it may be the last time I do this. If there’s something 90% mental about giving birth to a baby, then this is the thing that will probably shape it the most.

3. Hate to break it to you… but this ain’t my first rodeo. You’re being born to a world where you already have three overlords. You must have heard it by now, in stereo. One will steal the spotlight, one will smoosh you to pieces, and one will mess with you constantly. The reason I’m saying this is because that’s what it’s like for me, and I’m their mom. What will your super power be?

4. Maybe there’s been plenty of bonding after all. I’m not much of a complainer. And the past year has been up and down and inside out. Priorities busted, losing myself. But you’ve been in there the whole time. You know everything. You’ve felt it with me, for better or worse. Way too much caffeine. Then no caffeine. Panic. Anger. Stress. Laughter. Success. Joy. More laughter, so hard, I may have peed a little. That’s on you, baby.

By the way, I took you all the way to Australia. Before you had eyeballs. Ok?

It would seem this letter was more for me than you. To convince myself that for a fourth time, I won’t really be screwing it up.

Right, baby?

See you on the fun side.

Nettles update: two years

Nettles,

It feels like there has never been any life without you in it. You are a puzzle piece that simply fit right in.

But there is nothing simple or obvious about you. “Third child” is a phrase I’ve tried to stop saying in the last few months – it doesn’t do you justice to label you, and I’m consciously aware of it even when I say very labeling things.

You’ve proven how different every child is, truly. In the last few months, abba and ima moved to the bedroom downstairs, making the upstairs a mainly child bedroom-zone. Every night, you go to bed as a bundle next to your brother and sister, and just about every night, you make your way out of the bed, through the heavy bomb shelter door, out into the pitch black hall, down the stairs, and into our room like it ain’t no thang. The first few times I was shocked. No peep on your part. You just did it. And it was just another lesson in how different every child is.

You have a goal and nothing stops you. Height doesn’t stop you. Kitchen tables are your ladder. Chairs can be dragged just about any distance in order to unlock the front door.

The earth is your free-range carpet.

Nettles, it’s coming. The inevitable. And I won’t say ‘you have no idea’ – you have some idea – but… yeah, you have no idea.

I don’t think you’re ready to be a big sister, but we never are the first time, are we? You’ve got great examples and I think you know that… you adore your brother and sister, even as you’re annoying the hell out of them. I can only hope they will give you guidance or inspire you or you’ve learned something from the last two years of being cared for so well.

 

Happy International Women’s Day to me.

Here’s how I found out today is International Women’s Day: My classy huz.

International Women's Day

And I suppose I was in a celebratory mood since all I ate before noon was a yogurt mixed with Fiber 1, which the marketing world tells me is the most feminine thing I can do. Girls be regular, amirite?

For some reason I agreed to a conference call for the same time I promised my kids the park, so if you’ve ever been there, you know this episode of Working Mom Sitcom fairly well:

  • I’m straining to hear about a new website feature in one ear.
  • I’m negotiating animal cracker terms between two hungry girls.
  • I’m handing a near-empty water bottle to a kid that’s not mine because ‘only keeping track of your own brood’ is for weaklings.
  • I’m thinking ‘soon there will be an action item for me and I’d love to agree to it knowing what it is.’
  • I’m being summoned post-scooter accident… my eldest is bawling like he’s birthed three humans and knows that level of pain.
  • I agree to an action item AND know what it is! Ten points!
  • I’ve run out of time with the animal cracker negotiation because toddler is now inconsolable doing The Clock on the park floor. (I totally get you, Serial Season 2 Episode 9.)

Half an hour later, rounded up kids, car, dinner, emails and – yadda yadda yadda – I’m covered in human shit.

Is that a nice way to describe my nearly two-year-old’s leaky poop?

So there’s all that hardcore scrubbing, me and her, some more kids, laundry. And – ‘Honey, I’m home!’

(When’s International Men’s Day?)

Oh, P.S. – I broke a nail.

Actually, make that two.

The pregnant working mother perseveres in the face of conf–erence.

Credit: The Real Jerusalem Streets

Credit: The Real Jerusalem Streets

A little while ago, I was approached to speak at a marketing conference for end-of-February in the new Hub Etzion shared workspace.

I was in the middle of other conference insanity, but January Liz was all like, shrug whatevs let’s do it so I agreed. Knowing fully that in another month I’d be presenting a marketing talk about audiences to an entire room of marketers – eight months pregnant.

So obviously last week, end-of-February Liz was like oh crap. I’m eight months pregnant. is that an excuse?!

It’s not. Not for me, not right now. So I’m glad I pulled through and didn’t go the route that comes naturally – opening with a stereotypical female apology, explaining that I need some slack cut considering I’m creating a human, bla bla.

I thought about it. I kept it in my back pocket while developing my talk. But by the time I was on the drive to the conference I knew I wouldn’t go there.

The last time I spoke at a conference, it was when I was pregnant with my second. Interesting, right? It was the beginning, I felt horrible, and was trying to hide it still. So no one actually knew. But I knew I had to pull through.

I’m lucky to live in a culture – especially the Israel -> startup -> Jerusalem scene – where mom-friendly is fairly normal, where even if things aren’t totally ideal, pregnant women aren’t a shock to see presenting at (or organizing) conferences.

I owe some of that to some of the most family-friendly bosses I’ve had in my career here. Including the CEO of my current company, who routinely encourages expansive working motherhood.

Considering I’m about to upgrade from a couple to a bunch (a gaggle? a murder?) of daughters, I’m going to give myself a pat on the back for spending the last year and a half attempting to figure out this whole nursing working mother/pregnant working mother thing.

By the way, BlueCon 2016 was a great morning spent with peers (thanks to BlueThread Marketing), and Hub Etzion (founded by women!) is a lovely beginning to something positive and encouraging growing in Gush Etzion.