Sheryl Jesin


Small changes, big differences

For the last few months, I have been feeling a bit bogged down with housework.  I made a lot of excuses for myself: “It’s so hard to stay on top of the laundry with 4 people in the house”, “I like having a clean house but I don’t like cleaning”, or “It’s impossible to stay on top of housework with two little kids in the house”.

I was getting a bit worried, since I plan on returning to work in a couple months.  If I can’t stay on top of things while I’m at home full time, how in the world would things get done once I’m working?

I had heard about a home organization/cleaning program called Flylady and I decided to check it out.   If you want all the details on this program, check out the Flylady website.

I’ve been following the program for about 3 weeks now, and I’ve experience MAJOR changes in my life!  My house is much more organized, and I have more time to do things that I enjoy.

Here are a few things that I’ve implemented that have helped me a lot around the house:

  1. I turn on the dishwasher each night at 7pm and empty it after the kids are in bed and before I go to sleep.  I used to put it on before I go to bed and empty it in the morning while attempting to make breakfast and watch 2 kids at the same time.  It is SO NICE to wake up to an empty dishwasher that can easily be filled with dishes from breakfast.
  2. I have changed the way I do laundry.  We used to have a laundry basket in my closet for my clothes, in Jake’s closet for his clothes, and in Dylan’s room for the boys’ clothes.   I’d always have to gather dirty clothes from various places and then sort them, and THEN start doing laundry.   I hated doing that and always put laundry off, which led to a weekly Mt. Everest of dirty clothes.  Now, I have one basket that is divided into three compartments (white, light colors, and dark colors).  This basket sits in the hallway between our rooms.  Whenever anyone takes off their clothes, they sort them and put them directly into this one basket.  I take a look at this basket each morning and each evening and assess what needs to be washed.   This usually entails one load in the morning and perhaps another small load in the evening.  Laundry never piles up, and it never stresses me out anymore!
  3. I have done some serious de-cluttering in 15 minute intervals.  Getting rid of things we don’t need has made our house seem very spacious and makes tidying up a breeze!  The Flylady program makes de-cluttering easy.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, and everything can’t get done in 1 day.   However, 15 minutes each day can make a big difference.  I pick a different room each day and try to find 27 objects in the room that I can throw out or give away.  It is fun and it’s liberating to rid my house of things we don’t need.

I will keep you posted as I learn more about the Flylady program.

Do you have any time-saving housekeeping tips that have helped you?

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Handling criticism about breastfeeding

One of the reasons I went to my first La Leche League meeting when my son was 9 months old was because I wanted to meet other mothers who were still breastfeeding their babies.   Many mothers I knew started introducing formula and weaning their babies at 6 months and I knew that both Dylan and I weren’t ready to stop at a year.  It was great to go to the meeting and meet other like minded moms who recognized that the benefits of breastfeeding don’t stop when a baby has his or her first birthday!

It can be hard to breastfeed past a year in our society because it is unfortunately not common.   I know that I received some negative comments from family regarding breastfeeding past a year, and at the time I was unsure how to respond.

I have recently become a mentor for the Natural Parents Network and was asked to help a mom who was receiving negative comments about breastfeeding past a year.  Check out her question and my response, along with the responses of 2 other mentors here.

I suggested the following to her:

There are a number of different ways to handle the criticism. Different methods may work best for you depending on the situation or your mood. Some women find it helpful to diffuse negative remarks with humour. For example, if while nursing your son, someone asks you how long you plan on doing it for, you can say: “I will be done in about 10 minutes,” or “He probably won’t be nursing by the time he goes to college.” Other mothers find it helpful to educate their audience. For example, when questioned about breastfeeding your toddler, you can say that the World Health Organization suggests breastfeeding at least until the age of two. Or you can mention that breastfeeding past a year has numerous health benefits to both mom and child. Some moms, when questioned about breastfeeding, find it most effective to provide a short answer and change the topic. This can be done by saying: “It is a personal choice that I don’t want to discuss. So, all the snow we’ve been getting this year is crazy, isn’t it?”

How have you handled criticism about breastfeeding beyond infancy?


Supermom syndrome – at 35 wks pregnant?

A few weeks back I wrote a post about balance and how I attempt to juggle the many different aspects of my life.    My life can sometimes seem like a big balancing act and in the last few weeks that is what it has been – more of an “act” than reality.   

I’m almost 35 weeks pregnant, I work full time, and I have an almost 3 year old son.  I try to exercise, cook and eat healthy, and keep our house in order.  I’ve had a burst of energy in the last few weeks so I’ve been cleaning out closets, going out at night for dinner with friends, and even took a post partum doula training course this past weekend.   Let’s also add that the last few weeks at work have been really busy, trying to get things in before year-end.   No wonder I’ve been exhausted!

I’ve been in denial regarding the extent of my tiredness and the emotional upheaval I’ve been feeling inside.   When people ask me how I feel (as they tend to ask quite often to a pregnant woman), I say I feel good and leave it at that.   I leave out the severe round ligament pain I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks that make it nearly impossible to roll over in bed, the tiredness I feel each night and the insomnia I experience at 3am, leading to more tiredness each morning.   I don’t mention the anxiety I’m starting to feel about having a newborn to take care of while also balancing the constant needs of a rambunctious 3 year old.  No one really wants to hear those things when they ask a pregnant woman how she feels.

Attempting to be supermom near the end of my third trimester really hasn’t done me any good.  I’ve been pretending that it’s no problem keeping the house in order, with laundry done, the dishwasher loaded and emptied each night and having healthy food in the house and on the table every day.  

I should have noticed the warning sign I had last week.  I developed a bad eye twitch  which was making me very nervous.   I managed to convince myself that I was developing pregnancy induced Bell’s Palsy, or pre-eclampsia, or perhaps both.   When I spoke to my midwife and discovered I had no other symptoms of either syndrome, I calmed myself down and realized that my twitch was likely a result of being overtired.   Or you could say it was a symptom of supermom syndrome.

I also had a reality check yesterday when we had a prenatal visit with our labor doula yesterday, and when she asked how I was feeling, I burst into tears and remained weepy for the extent of our appointment.   I’ve been stretched too thin during the last few weeks.   I don’t have anyone to blame other than myself – my husband certainly doesn’t care if I don’t wipe the kitchen counters one night and it doesn’t matter to my son whether or not we make the beds each morning.   My newborn won’t care if the garage is organized or not.  And my friends certainly will forgive me if I skip a girls’ night out.   I put the supermom and superwoman pressure on myself. 

So I’ve decided to cut myself some slack over the next 5 weeks or so, before baby is arrives.   The house doesn’t have to be perfect.   Non-urgent projects at work can wait.  We can order take out occasionally.  Dylan can watch Toy Story 2 so I get an hour and a half of peace.   I will take up my mother in law’s offer to bring us some food and watch Dylan one afternoon.   Laundry can pile up for a few days.   I can get into bed at 8pm at night.   I can even burst into tears now and then and not feel like a crazy hormonal person.   

Have any of you been plagued by the supermom syndrome lately?

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Being present

Dionna at Code Name: Mama had a great post today about how joyful it is when she is fully present with her son Kieran.

It got me thinking.  I spend so much of my day rushing around and preparing for what comes next that I often don’t take the time to be present and to enjoy the moment.  It really is a shame, because when I stop to think about my days, they generally are quite pleasant.   Each day comes and goes, whether I want it to or not, so I might as well enjoy the moments as they happen.

Here are some moments of a typical day and how I plan to be present during these moments:

  • Lying in bed in the morning just after I wake up – Typically Jake and Dylan are both beside me.  Generally I am thinking about how much time I have to get ready and what I need to do before I leave.   Instead, I can be grateful for the two wonderful people I have with me and give them both a big hug and kiss, and talk to them.
  • Driving to work – I tend to think about if I’m late and what I have to do at work.  Instead, I can take a moment to enjoy the peace and quiet of driving alone (without a toddler to entertain!).
  • Sitting at my desk at work – Usually I am thinking about upcoming tasks at work or what to make for dinner.   Instead I can enjoy the challenge of the task at hand and feel a sense of accomplishment when I have completed it and done a good job.
  • Making dinner after work – Generally I am thinking about what time it is, if Dylan is going to be in bed in time, if he’s getting cranky.   I’m also usually yelling to him across the room, checking what he is doing and trying to keep him entertained.   Instead, I can be grateful that we live in a wonderful country where my husband and I both have great, flexible jobs that allow us to be home in time for dinner with our son and provide us with sufficient funds that we never have to worry about putting food on the table.  I can enjoy the time I have with my son and perhaps engage him in what I’m doing and allow him to help me. 
  • Lying in bed with Dylan as he falls asleep – Typically I’m playing on my blackberry, responding to emails, messaging friends and surfing the web.  I’m also thinking about the cleaning, laundry and cooking I have to do before I go to sleep.  Instead, I can focus on the adorable child next to me who is peacefully drifting off to sleep.  I can enjoy the rest that I am getting lying beside him and the snuggles and cuddles from him. 

So at any point during a typical day, I can either feel stressed and rushed worrying about what’s coming next, or I can be grateful and enjoy the blessings of each moment.   Looking back over a day, it is quite easy to be present and enjoy it more.  

What about your typical day?  Can you find a mundane moment that can become magical (or at least moderately enjoyable) by being present?


Ditch the guilt?

I recently wrote a blog post about the guilt I feel as a working mom.  Imagine my surprise when I came across an article in Friday’s Globe and Mail about the very same topic.  Leah McLaren’s article “Ditch the guilt, working moms:  The kids are alright” states that there is no need for moms to feel guilty for going back to work, because their kids will turn out just fine.

McLaren’s article has led to a flurry of comments, many from stay at home moms who are insulted by certain parts of the article, such as “Women who do nothing but parent may be more attentive, sure. Less able to make small talk at a cocktail parties, absolutely.”

I was a stay at home mom for 20 months when my son was born and I wouldn’t trade the time I had with him for anything.  Was I bored?  Not in the slightest! Did I think my brain was going to mush and that I was wasting my education?  No!  I found parenting my son to be an intensely demanding job that required a lot of thought, and my education and career had prepared me well for such hard work.   Did I think that I was suddenly incapable of making small talk at a party? Certainly not!  I still enjoyed keeping up with current events and personal interests while at home with Dylan, and both of these provided me with a variety of topics to discuss at parties.

Another part of McLaren’s article that I disagree with is as follows:

Sure, your three-year-old would prefer it if you sat on the floor playing Lego with him all day, but he’d also prefer to eat nothing but Froot Loops. That’s the thing about three-year-olds: They don’t actually know what’s good for them. And they certainly don’t know what’s good for you.

Sorry Leah, but you are wrong again.   My son actually enjoys a wide variety of foods, and has never tasted a Fruit Loop in his life.  Even if he had one, I am certain he wouldn’t eat them all day long.  From birth, I have respected and validated his needs regarding food – he was exclusively breastfed on demand for 6 months, and was then given complimentary, healthy, whole foods.   As a result, he is able to regulate his food intake and knows when he is full.  He actually does know what is good for him.  Furthermore, he even does know when something is good for me.  The moments we spend together playing lego on the floor, or hide and seek, or falling asleep together for a nap or at night may often be his idea, but they bring us both joy.

The working mom vs stay at home mom debate can never come to an end because it is so intensely personal.   There is no one choice that is right for everyone.  Each woman is entitled to create her own balance regarding work.  While working moms shouldn’t be made to feel bad for leaving their kids, stay at home moms shouldn’t be ridiculed for wasting their education.  We are lucky to live at a time and in a society where women are free to do as they please with regards to work.   Let’s support each other!


Mommy guilt

I have a pretty good working arrangement for a lawyer.  I have a full-time job that allows me to work from home 2 days a week and be in the office 3 days a week.  I work flex hours (7:30-3:50).  I have lots of vacation days, sick days and personal days.  I never have to work evenings or weekends.   If I need to leave an hour or two early one day for an appointment or if I need extra days at home, it’s never a problem.  I feel fortunate to have found such a family-friendly work environment, and I know that most other female lawyers don’t get to spend as much time with their kids as I do. 

On the days I am at work, Dylan is in a wonderful, warm, nurturing home day care, with 6 kids and 2 or 3 caregivers.   He receives a lot of attention and love.   When I pick him up from daycare he is always happy, smiling and having fun. 

Yet I still feel mommy guilt!  While I do have a lot of time with Dylan, it feels like it is never enough.  When I am leaving for work in the morning Dylan sometimes says to me:  mommy, where are you going?  I respond and say: I am going to work today.  He then says:  why do you have to work?  And I respond:  to make money.  And he says:  why do you need to make money?  I am often stumped by this question.  Why am I making money?  Do we NEED the extra money that I make?   Would our lives be better if I was home full time?  Is the extra money worth the hassles we go through to get ready in the morning and get Dylan off to daycare?  Is it worth the struggles when Dylan is sick and can’t go to daycare and we scramble to find someone to watch him?  Is it worth missing all the hugs, kisses, cuddles and laughs that we could have been having while I am working?

I miss this smile while I am at work!

Sometimes in the morning when we are getting ready for the day, Dylan will say to me:  mommy don’t go to work.  Stay home with me.  I don’t want to go to daycare.  It tugs on my heartstrings and brings on the mommy guilt with a vengence!   

I am looking forward to my upcoming maternity leave that will start in December and all the extra time it will give me with Dylan (and of course baby #2).  Until then…I go to work and Dylan goes to daycare…and the mommy guilt continues!

How do you manage your mommy guilt?