Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daycare Drama (dupe from AngryAsthmaMama)

I'm switching the little boys' daycare this week. The one they've been in was B's third, but he's in 1st grade now -- and this is the only daycare the two little guys have ever known. So you can imagine how grueling a decision this has been.

The place was really nice for the first few months we were there. I should have known, when the director who showed me the place departed on our first day there, (departed *for good*, I should add) that the outlook might not have been good. And now, four directors later, I can say that it was, at times, very good. But right now, it sucks.

After the last director left, the new one, Miss R. came in very quickly. Rob and I call her "Miss America" because she literally comes to work with pageant hair and full makeup - including eyelashes. She's built like a beauty queen, too, and loves to wear tasteful, expensive-looking, very fitted clothing to show it off.Miss R looks very professional, but she - like the rest of the staff - is very young, with no children of her own. She's concerned with things like ratios, and classroom supplies. She loves the cute kids, but hasn't an inkling what it's like to leave your children with strangers every day.

So, needless to say, she's part of the problem. She hires young staff, doesn't announce when they leave, doesn't announce when new staff joins, and doesn't communicate well with parents. When I talk to her about concerns I have, I often feel like there's a language barrier or something. I can practically see everything I say fly right over her perfectly styled head.

Turnover is a problem, too. Half the time, someone I've never met is handing my kids to me at the end of the day. There's only one teacher who's been there as long as we have.

That's the background. Here are the actuals:

1. Frequently, when I drop Ig off, his room is over ratio. Now, if this place didn't already push state limits, it probably wouldn't be such a big deal. But on a GOOD day, there are two very young women with 14 2.5 year old. I can barely manage 1 two-year old. But seven? So if there are 16 kids in there, I will wait until kids and teachers are shuffled appropriately and I can feel safe leaving my son. The waiting makes Ig uneasy and me late for work. And it's an ongoing issue.

2. When I pick up, the boys will sometimes be together in one room, with a teacher I barely know watching tiny little Ig with a bunch of older 4YOs. Which wouldn't be so bad if the teacher was actually watching and if Ig weren't so tiny and immature for his age.

3. On 3 separate occasions, Ig has come home with no pullup and no undies. Funny the first time, downright concerning by the third. He doesn't have tear-away pullup. He has to take offf his pants and undies to do this. Which means he's got to be alone in the bathroom for close to five minutes to accomplish this task. And did I mention that he slipped in the bathroom and had to get stitches a few months ago?4

. Ozzy had an asthma flare last week. I would have kept him home if I had any flexibility at work, but I coudln't. So I nebbed him up and sent him to daycare with an alubterol MDI. I filled out all the forms for him to get the meds....and he didn't. They forgot to give him his 4 o'clock dose. They. Forgot. To. Give. Him. Asthma. Meds.

...and that was the final straw.

So I'm moving them away from their friends to a nearby center. The new place is about half the size and family-owned. It's clean. And Ig's room has 8 boys and two *mature* caregivers. Ozzy's room has three teachers; one of them is the owner.

I feel good about the move, but it's a LOT more a time when no one has a LOT more money for everything. And it's disruptive to all of us.

I wish this wasn't a necessary step, but I don't think our current childcare situation is repairable. Miss America takes responsibilty for nothing. She blamed Ig for the diaper removal. While her business manager admitted to forgetting Ozzy's medicine, she lied to corporate -- and essentially blamed Ozzy for lying about the missed dosed! She blamed the teachers for Ig's stitches and the business manager for the ratio issues. I can't work with someone who can't own their mistakes. Doesn't she realize that her staff is reflection of herself? That if she were on "The Apprentice," the Donald would have sacked her ass?

Hopefully, the kids and I will be happier at the new center. Ig's been very clingy at drop-off lately - a new behavior for him, probably sympomatic of the chaos he has to deal with once I leave.As my co-worker so aptly put it, "It's OK to *miss* your kids while you're at work, but you can't *worry* about them."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Running Seems Right

Last year, I started running. I did this because, a full year after having son #3, I still looked like I'd *just had* son number three. I had signed up for a Curves membership, did my three workouts religiously (despite the fact that I was the youngest member by a good 30 years), and still had people - women! - asking me if I was pregnant.

So I started running.

I began training with a girlfriend, who was also trying to lose weight. A mutual friend was hosting a charity 5K a few months later, so we made that a goal.

For me, who had never run further than the end of the driveway, it was a challenge. I had to start slow: 2 minutes walking, one minute running. 3 minutes walking, 2 minutes running, and so on.

Months later, I was barely making 2 miles, but the 5K was around the corner. I escalated my traning, and long story short, finished the 5k without walking a single step.

I've been running ever since, and I've found that if I keep races on my calendar, I always have a fitness goal. It's not so much about losing the weight anymore, it's about finishing a race. Somehow, that goal works better.

And where I used to be glued to the treadmill, running while watching old episodes of "Buffy" on DVD, I now run outside. I got a Zune for my anniversary, and I've crammed it full of the Misfits, Social Distortion, Still Little Fingers, old Red Hot Chili Peppers - all the driving music from my heyday.

I used to run at night. I'd skip dinner, but feed all three boys, and when they sat down to their meal, I'd hit the treadmill. But now I, who used to wake up at 8:50 and work in my home office in my PJs, I now wake up at 6 and head out for an AM run. I've found a nice route where I cut around a pond, and I've seen goldfinches and orioles and little bunnies in the morning sun.

For a working mother with 3 boys, ages 2, 4 and 6 (and 38!), this is my vacation.

Last summer, we rented a cottage on a lake in Ontario with the boys and my in-laws. Ig, the little one, who's always been a little tough, had 5th disease while we were there, and was just about intolerable. He was whiney and clingy, he wouldn't sleep and he wouldn't go to anyone but me. At the same time, the creative department at work had kidnapped a very high-profile project of mine, and I was forced to bring my laptop on the trip. (That was fun - I had to drive 15 minutes to get ONE BAR on my air card!!)

Every day, I'd put Ig down for a nap after lunch (didn't care whether he slept or not) and I would just run. I'd run as fast and as hard as I could, with all the energy and anger of a primal scream. It felt good. I took a dirt road through the woods, past wildflowers and hummingbirds, only a little nervous about bears and axe murderers. But it was what I needed. The perfect escape, the perfect release.

That's why I still run. I have a history of bad knees, a trick hip and I'm in desperate need of new sneakers, but I'll keep running for a while.

When the kids are older, maybe I'll start walking instead. Or dancing!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Does having frequently-sick children make me unemployable?

I've been thinking about this since last night. Does that fact that I have three children who are often sick make me unemployable? The guilty email I sent to my boss last night - explaining that I had to work from home today because (1) my toddler has Fifth Disease and (2) public schools are inexplicably closed and my Kindergartener has nowhere to go - made me feel like a pink slip was surely headed my way.

This is a struggle I've been grappling with for years now. My children get sick often, as I believe, most preschoolers do. It may be that I have more conflicts than other moms - my kids have some issues:

#1 son has Aspergers Syndrome and asthma (now controlled). He's had pneumonia or RSV 4 times. He's also had two minor surgeries - one for strabismus (both eyes), one for adenoids.
#2 son has asthma, controlled for the moment, but flares every few months.
#3 son has asthma and chronic ear infections. He's literally sick every two weeks. in addition to the regular medical visits, I have frequent sick visits and specialist visits, and with my older one, therapist visits and IEP meetings at the public school.

I should also add that I adore my kids. They're definitely my top priority - as they should be. I don't dose them with Tylenol and send them off to daycare or school so I can squeeze in a few hours at the office. If they're sick they stay home. I'm adamant about this for two reasons: first, because a secondary infection (or worsening of the first) can easily mean a trip to the ER for any of the "asthma boys", and secondly, because it's not fair to the other moms if Ig gives one of his friends a whopping case of Strep - because I was too selfish to keep him home.

That said, I give 150% or more to my work. I love online marketing, and I love being part of a company that appreciates me and the work I do. And when I work from home, I actually WORK FROM HOME. If it means planting my kids in front of the TV for a few hours at a time, then I've gotta do it. They're all pretty cooperative. And if it means I have so many interruptions that I have to duck into the home office when my husband gets home and work until the wee hours, then so be it. If I have work to get's getting done!

Admittedly, I was spoiled by my last position. I worked for a company that trusted me to do my job. I worked from home when I needed to, remaining reachable at all times via phone, email and IM. No one checked up on me minute to minute, but they knew my work would be done. The trust I had made me feel even more obligated to meet my goals and deadlines - even if I had to stay up til 2:00 am to do it.

That freedom (and the two best bosses a girl could hope for) earned my loyalty. I would have done anything for that company. Anything. I knew I was slightly underpaid for my work there, but I didn't care. I loved my job and I relished the reality that I could work from home if #1 son had a parent/teacher conference at elementary school.

And sure, you can take my word for the fact that I worked hard, or you can look at what I accomplished there. While I can't take sole credit, I can tell you that I helped that company reach these goals:

  • Best Place to Work in NJ - top 5 in 2005 and 2006
  • Deloitte Technology Fast 50 - 2005, 2006
  • Top Best Small and Medium Companies to Work for in America (2006)
  • Forbes Enterprise Award Winner
  • Impressive growth and publicity that led to a successful (if tragic for me) acquisition

As a client-side marketer, I don't think that's too shabby. Especially since I spent about 15% of my career there working out of my living room.

I'm very upfront about my needs in terms of flexibility with prospective employers. I'd like to think my track record speaks for itself.

With an impending (and worsening) recession and absurdly high gas prices, I'd like to think employers are going to start being more accepting of virtual days and other family- and wallet- friendly arrangements. I believe they're going to have to be, honestly.

I'd like to think I make a strong case for what moms can do. So here are my parting notes:

  • Moms - speak up. We need workplaces that support our needs as caregivers. This means you need to be clear about what you need in terms of flexibility.
  • Moms - step up. DO NOT take that flexibility for granted. Just because your workplace supports you doesn't mean your co-workers do. You need to work 10x smarter and harder to prove your worth in the office.
  • Employers - wake up. A working mom can be your best asset. We may need some special arrangements, but we'll be the most loyal, hardworking employees you've ever had. Give us a shot.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Do your own thing; believe in yourself. Then blog.

Why do I worry so much about The Other Bloggers? Why do I worry what people will think?

One of these days, I'm going to start trusting myself. Start trusting my own writing. My own BRAIN.

When I started this blog, I knew it could never be another Micro Persuasion, another Marketing Pilgrim, Diva Marketing or Social Days. I know I'm not Debbie Weil or Steph Agresta.

What I find is that I fall into the same trap I fell into when I was in in theatre - I don't trust my own talent. I don't believe that people will like me for who I am.

If I'm going to build my "personal brand," I probably need to have a little more confidence in who and what that brand is.


It's hard enough balancing work with mommyhood. There's so much more to me than that, all of which has been sidelined for the work/mommy thing. Singing, painting, tattoos and combat boots...I do need to find a place in my world for all that stuff. (Some of it more prominently...some a little more discreetly!)

But it's all part of Mom 2.0...I want it all to be part of me. I just need to figure out how to get it all in, and blog about it all along the way.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Good Friday

Tomorrow is the kind of day that inspired me to start yet another blog.

There are plenty of great blogs out there about social media, internet marketing, search engine marketing...but not so many about being a parent in the middle of it all.

At noon on Good Friday, I'm meeting with my two associates about kicking off a mess of bigass SEM campaigns. We're also going to be discussing how their plans for tracking and testing need to dovetail with my marketing plan.

Oh...but did I mention that my 6 year old has no school tomorrow? And that the TWO sets of plans I made for him tomorrow both fell through?

Did I further mention that my 2 year old has an ear infection, so my husband and I actually haven't gotten anything remotely resembling good night's sleep since....Saturday?

This is what I'm talkin' about, people. Balance is a challenge for most working parents, but for those of us who actually put the kids first (and trust me - not all of us do!) it's a neverending feat, trying to strike that balance between doing a great job and being a great mom. For those of us who "get it", every day is another chance to get it right.

I'm not one of those moms who doses their kids with Motrin when they're running 103 so I can drop them at daycare and squeeze a few hours of work in (at their expense).

I feel actual guilt when I'm the last mom at aftercare pickup.

And I actually shut my laptop from the moment I get home from work until the kids are in bed (unless things are really dire at work - which is pretty rare).

I wouldn't work anywhere where I couldn't work from home if my kids were sick. I've got three boys with asthma, one with Aspergers Syndrome as well. If I can't flex, I'm looking for another job. Period.

So tomorrow inspired me. This is what what "Mom 2.0" is all about.

Post SES Malaise

I've been at SES New York all week, and I am BEAT. I was going to drive in and hit the Oldtimer's session this morning, but tunnel traffic had a 40 minute backup at 9, when it should be clear, so I gave up and worked from home instead.

I took the bus in for the show every day this week, and I have to tell you, I'm *still* a little car-sick. I knew I had some motion sickness issues, but I didn't realize what a wuss I truly was until Tuesday night. I really can't handle travel by road, unless I'm driving!

The show wasn't bad. It did a good job of fortifying the basics for me. But I do think I'm ready for SMX advanced next year. Here's a solid example of things I already knew that I learned three or four more times during SES:

  • Match your landing pages to your search ads and keywords.
  • Microsites are good in B2B search.
  • Microsites are bad in B2B search.
  • Test a lot.
  • Short forms generally convert better than long ones.
  • Use analytics and keep tabs on your highest performing keywords, your CPA, etc.
  • Google STILL owns the lion's share of the search marketplace.
  • SEO is important.
  • Black Hat SEO is bad.
  • Jason Calacanis doesn't hate SEO, he is an SEO. (Really. He said so himself.)
  • Mahalo is good. (Says Jason)
  • Viral marketing is good for building buzz.
And yes, it really did feel that basic, that disparate, and occasionally, that biased. I did learn some new stuff, but not much. I was particularly annoyed by the "Igniting Viral" session, which lumped WOM is as viral. I don't think WOM and viral are the same. "Elf Yourself" is viral. Blogs and Twitter are WOM. Agreed?

The best part of the show for me was hooking up with former co-workers from DigitalGrit. More on this in a later post, but it was AWESOME seeing everyone again.

Friday, March 14, 2008

WEGO Health Gets It Right

Media and PR Pros take note: If you want to know how to play nice with bloggers, follow the example of WEGO Health.

Apart from flattering me by acknowledging my asthma blog as a "leading" site in the space a few months back, they just invited me to participate in a survey on how they might improve their site to serve me, the blogger, better.

So, of course, what they really wanted to know was how I could serve THEM better...but they did it right!

Not only did they ask about my blog and how much traffic I have, how "influential" I am within the health community (not at all), etc...they also asked what kind of content and opportunities they could provide to keep me interested. Would I like discussions with healthcare leaders on the topics that interest me? (Yes) Would I like them to syndicate my blog? (Yes) Would I like to learn more about building traffic for my blog (Hmmm, I may know how to do that. I may not actually DO it, but I'm pretty sure I make a living doing that stuff.) Would I like to contribute to one of their blogs, or actively moderate a community of thousands? (Not particularly, but flattered you asked.)T

The survey was maybe 5-10 minutes long, but what a great effort. It was sent with a personalized email - and I mean personalized - referenced my last blog posts, asked how the kids were and everything!

I'm telling you, folks - the people at WEGO Health are GOOD.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I can't tell you where I work new job is for a big, public company, and I can't tell you what it is.

Hey, so much the better. Now I can bitch about work.

Sick on my fourth day

How's that for an impressive start? I'm in the office for half a week when I come down with some horrific virus.

I felt fine when I woke up on Thursday, but by the time I got to the office, I had serious chills. During a conference call in the AM, I actually had to put my head down on my desk.

By lunch, I realized there was no way I would make it through the day. I headed home and slept through the afternoon, joining a brief conference call late in the afternoon.

Way to make a killer first impression, huh?

If I'm REALLY lucky, one of the kids will get sick for me next week...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A typical Aimee moment

On an average day, I don't stop moving until about 9:00 PM. Often, I'll crash out on the couch and fall asleep watching Law & Order (I'm addicted to the reruns).

I'll snooze for close to an hour or so, then rouse enough to drag my exhausted butt to the bedroom...

At which point I'll remember there's not only a wet wash that needs to go in the dryer, but a full load of dry things that need to be folded.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Weekend with Ig

Had such a great weekend with Ig (my 2 year old) while my big guys were up in Canada. He's so good when he's the "only child." If only I could figure out some way to avoid the screaming and tantrums when his brothers are home.

It was such a good weekend, in fact, I'm seriously bummed about going to work tomorrow -- even though it's my last week before starting the new gig. In a big way, I want to spend as much time with my co-workers as I can...I've worked with most of these people for nearly four years and loved just about every minute of it.

On the other hand, I don't want to go back and face the transitioning of projects, packing up my desk...and saying goodbye to everyone. This is going to be HARD.

I'll have a lot more to say about this during the week. Here's to hoping I actually get around to writing it.

Meanwhile, it's off to bed. I've got to head out early if I'm going to go into the city tomorrow. It'll be nice to enjoy one last day in my Park Avenue office. (Note that I've only spent *one other day* in my Park Avenue office.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Marketer, Mom and Confessed Geek

I'm not a person who does anything half-assed. I'm (almost) as passionate about my career in online marketing as I am about raising my three little boys. If I didn't love what I do, how could I possibly leave them to go to work every day?

I already have a blog about being the mom of three asthmatic kids. I spend plenty of time and energy venting on that topic.

What I need to write about here is the stuff I love in the online space, as well as the whole balance thing. I'm not sure how it will all mesh together...but we'll see. I'll try to make it work!!