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Entries in work/life balance (10)


{Book Review} Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All

It's a discussion we have often here at Salt & Nectar. How do moms of all types (and dads) find more balance at work and at home?

Authors and working moms Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober tackle this eternal debate in their book Getting to 50/50: How Working Couples Can Have It All. What struck me from the first chapter of this book is that both Meers and Strober approach this discussion with a really holistic vision. They spend a lot of time establishing that working parents who are happy at home and happy at work benefit everyone - the mom, the dad, the kids, the boss. 

From this vantage point, the emphasis is no longer on the moms and the changes they need to make. (Can I get an amen to that!?!) In fact, the authors address in great detail the importance of having an involved and active spouse who doesn't let mom to become the CEO of the house.

Of course, this suggestion isn't new. Many books talk about equal partnerships in marriage to create more peace and balance in a home. However, Meers and Strober go beyond advice with real tips and tricks to make your marriage 50/50 before baby and once the kids have arrived.

One particular insight affected me, which is surprising considering just how much time I've spent thinking and writing about this topic. The authors make the incredibly valid point that it's not enough to focus on your perceptions of your role as a mother or even what your husband sees as your role. What is also important is understanding how you perceive your spouse's role in the home and at work. 

The challenge is what wives and husbands believe about each other. 

I have spent so much time thinking about my role as a mother. It never occured to me that I need to have some honest self-reflection on how I viewed Nicholas's role as a father. Do I keep him from comforting because I think fathers are more for encouragement and motivation? Do I let him rough house instead of discipline because I see fathers as playmates?

I'm not sure of the answers but this book definitely helped me to ask the questions.

If you'd love to read an excerpt on why no one wins when mom feels guilty, click here

Getting to 50/50 Book Giveaway

We're giving away a copy of the Getting to 50/50. Simply leave a comment telling us what you do to get to 50/50 by this Friday, November 22nd at 12:00 PM PST. We'll pick a winner at random (must be within in U.S.) and send you the book!

All opinions expressed are our own. We were only provided a digital copy of the book for review purposes. 

~ Sarah Stewart Holland




The Secret to "Having It All"

Last week a friend from college messaged me from the frontline of a crisis. She struggling over whether to leave her job and stay home with her young daughter. Feeling pressure from every side, she told me she felt like she was missing precious moments of her daughter’s life but couldn’t make peace with the idea of staying home full-time.

Then, I told her the secret to “having it all.”

I know we’ve talked in the past about having it all. We’ve said it’s a destructive concept that perpetuates a fantasy - the fantasy of being perfectly fulfilled at work and at home. For hundreds of thousands of women all over the world, it is. For women struggling to keep their families above the poverty line and keep food on the table, I’m sure hearing this debate is more than a little insulting. So, so many women don’t have a choice in how or when they work - much less the time or energy to debate those who do have choices. 

I don’t ever want to imply my challenges are universal or even harder. However, the truth is many of us are lucky enough to have a choice. Unfortunately, in the midst of the battle, luck doesn’t seem like quite the right word for it. Norma Bombeck once famously said that becoming a mother is making the decision to let your heart walk around outside your body. If you’ve ever seen your child hurt or suffering, you know how true those words are. 

And yet, I feel like the challenge of modern motherhood isn’t just that your heart grows bigger and wider and more fragile to the pains of another person (or people) but that your brain stays just the same. How can you make room in one life for the two people you’ve become? The mother who wants to love and cherish and enjoy every precious moment of the life you’ve created and the women who still has interests, goals, and dreams. 

In my life and in the lives of so many of my friends, the answer is part-time or flexible work. 

Over the past three years, I have cobbled together a collection of part-time gigs, contract work, and consulting gigs that have helped me find a way to feel fulfilled both at home and at work. I work 10-30 hours a week. Most of this time is on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 to 2 pm when my boys are at preschool and Mommy’s Day Out. Beyond that I work when they are sleeping, playing happily, or (let’s be honest) watching the iPad. 

It’s not perfect. For a long time, I was making just enough money to cover my student loans and money was tight. Sometimes I get overwhelmed. Sometimes my house is dirty and stays dirty for a little while. Sometimes there are work opportunities I miss and projects that get put on the back burner. 

But let me tell you what I am.


Very happy. I don’t feel guilty when I leave my kids to go work and I don’t feel guilty when I leave my work to go get my kids. For the most part, I feel like the two people who inhabit my body are working together instead of being at odds. The mom knows her kids are happy and she is happy raising them. The woman knows she is pursuing her own passions and growing a career that fulfills her. 

The only guilt I feel is that this is not an option for so many women (and men!) out there. Simply put. That sucks. Everyone should have the freedom to support their family and pursue a career that fulfills them without missing out on those little moments that make raising children a blessing and not just a burden. 

Because the truth is kids are resilient. They bend and shape and adapt to whatever we throw at them. 

Why shouldn’t our work be the same?

~ Sarah Stewart Holland 


Sarah's Favorite Things


How To Rest When You’re Terrible At Resting  

Let’s go ahead and get on the same page about this: I am not good at rest. The chalkboard in my kitchen has read ‘Slow Down’ for months now, not because it’s cute but because I need it.  I have warped ideas about how much I can (or should) accomplish in a given amount of time. I have a tendency to run in a low-grade panic mode for at least part of every day, shuffling and reshuffling my to-do list to find an optimal order that will allow maximum productivity. I will go and go and go until I’m literally nauseous with exhaustion. It’s pathetic.

It’s not my parents’ fault. I had an idyllic childhood on a farm with lots of free time and very few structured activities. I also grew up watching a mom with chronic, debilitating migraines set a beautiful example of how to use rest as a tool for healing, a weapon against despair, and even a fail-safe way to enjoy life. I lived that lesson with her, so you would think I’d be a natural. But, though I absorbed enough of her wisdom to have something to draw on later as I fumbled through the learning process on my own, I ended up having to learn mostly the hard way.

I blame a combination of personality (type A), culture (you’re wasting time if you’re not doing something), fear (of missing out, of failing somehow), and an assortment of common tendencies (people-pleasing, thinking more is the answer). Add it all together and you have what we call an uphill battle.

And now I find myself living this life I didn’t expect – mom to an infinitely complex kiddo with myriad medical and developmental challenges. How can I possibly choose rest when Collin needs so much of me, when there is always more I could be doing to improve his present and future? 

Because I struggle so much with opting out and being still, because I (like so many of us) face daily, unrelenting demands on my time and energy, the things I have managed to learn about rest are that much more valuable to me. Here is the precious handful of truths and tips I always come back to:

1. Rest Is Mandatory Medicine. 

If I were insulin dependent, I wouldn’t choose not to take my shot because I had a social commitment. When I needed medication for postpartum depression, it never crossed my mind to skip doses because I had too much to do around the house that week. That’s the same way our bodies (and minds and spirits) need rest. It’s how we heal and grow. Collin always has his biggest developmental jumps when we take a big break from therapies and he has time to just be.  The same thing happens with me – my energy and creativity and productivity always take a huge leap when I make room in my schedule for, well, nothing. Which brings me to the next truth…

2. I Can’t Rest When I Have Too Much Going On. 

I know it’s hard to believe, but this is the kind of lesson some people actually don’t know intuitively and have to learn. People like me. People who say, “But I don’t have time to rest today.” When I find myself saying this or other similarly ridiculous things, I know something is wrong. It doesn’t mean that there is no room in my day, it just means that I’m filling it with the wrong things. Because if rest is mandatory medicine and I can’t have it when I have too much going on, then…

3. That Means I Have To Say No To Lots Of Things.  

This is where it gets tough. It’s one thing to talk about the importance of rest and of making room for it, but it’s another thing altogether to decline a dinner invitation or opt out of a leadership position. It doesn’t feel good to forego play dates or let the house be a wreck for another day. I wish there was an easy way to decide which things to refuse and which to accept, but there just isn’t. And don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. Life is messy and people are imperfect. You can’t say no only to the things you’re not interested in and things that feel necessary almost never are. It’s hard at first, but just like anything it gets easier with practice. And here is a little tip as you’re learning…

4. I Just Say No. 

I don’t make excuses. I don’t try to explain. I don’t say that I’ll definitely come to the next thing. I just say that I won’t be there. And if I’m sorry that I won’t be there, I include that. There’s just no need for more: it only confuses the issue and makes it emotionally stressful. It doesn’t mean I don’t value the individual or the occasion. If the person whose invitation I’m declining is a friend, she’ll already know what’s going on in my life (or will find out right quick) and consequently will understand my answer. Though it’s true that people occasionally get their feelings hurt, it’s actually very rare and just provides a good opportunity to talk things out. The much more likely outcome is either that the host won’t think twice about your absence or they will wish they were home playing Bejeweled like you are.  Speaking of which…

5. I Have a Toolbox of Things to Help Me Rest. 

Remember: I’m not good at rest. So even after saying no and making room in my life, I can barely fight the almost physical urge to launch into some kind of productive project in my house. Not that organizing your closets is bad, but no matter what your personality, I don’t believe that all of your down time should be spent that way. Sometimes you just need to be still. Again, it’s hard at first. So find something to help you make your rest…restful. I knit or crochet or play piano. Read. Bake. Walk. Watch a British drama. Think mindless and satisfying. And finally…

6. After Extra Tough Times, I Take Extra Time to Recover

This has probably been one of the most important ones for maintaining my well-being long term. Sometimes seasons of life come in which rest is not an option – illnesses, crises.  This requires not only more rest time, but more intense rest time. When Collin was younger and his situation so much more tenuous, we called this ‘survival mode’. It was a fitting name. Now we call it ‘hunkering down’ or ‘laying low’. It’s simply referring to the fact that for a short while we scale back to the actual essentials – eating, bathing, sleeping, going to work – and devote the rest of our time and energy to getting mentally, emotionally, spiritually well again. That act of stopping ‘normal’ life allows us to reacquaint ourselves with capital-L-Life and spares us the countless and inevitable physical and emotional issues that surface when you try to barrel through hardship without stopping to catch your breath.

So there you have it: a lecture on rest from someone who is no good at resting. I hope it helps you to realize that even those of us most challenged in this area can learn to say no and to stop. In fact, it may be even more important for us.

~ Annie Kratzsch. You can read more of Annie's writing on her two blogs Collin the Champ and The Good Life.


Making room in my life for joy

There are a lot of things that bring me happiness. Lattes bring me happiness. A good book brings me happiness. HBO brings me happiness on a weekly basis. (Hello, Eric Northman!) There are also a lot of things that leave me feeling fulfilled. When someone connects with something I’ve written, I feel fulfilled. When I can help someone who is less fortunate then myself, I feel fulfilled. When I can share something that has made my life easier with someone else, I feel fulfilled. 

But as I say no in November (which is getting harder and harder), I'm trying to prioritize between things that make me happy and things that bring me joy. 

There are only a few things that bring me real and lasting joy.

Bliss. Delight. Felicity.

That feeling that starts deep down into the pit of your stomach and then blooms and spreads until you feel like every cell in your body is smiling.

I feel joy when Amos smiles and giggle with glee as I toss him into the air. 

I feel joy when Griffin runs to greet me in the morning with his tousled head of hair - still warm from the covers. “Good morning, mommy!” 

I feel joy when I look around the table on Sunday evenings and see my family smiling back at me over a delicious meal.  

I feel joy when my husband pulls me close at night and throws a heavy arm over my body. 

I feel joy when the warm sun shines on my face and I realize the people I love are safe, happy, and healthy and so am I.

Joy is not permanent. It can be fleeting and evasive. But when it is here - when you feel it wash over you - it is so, so sweet. 

And it is absolutely worth saying no for. 

~ Sarah Stewart Holland