April 12, 2016

Mompreneur? How to launch a product and pull off work life balance

Today my guest blogger is a Latina mother, Priska Diaz, who came to America at 17 from Peru, not knowing a word of English. She worked three jobs to put herself through college, and then earned a  master’s degree in packaging design from Pratt. 

When she had her first child, Priska attempted to breastfeed and after a week was told to supplement with bottle feeding. From there, an idea grew!  Priska walked the floors and streets (and eyed the ceiling) while her newborn son screamed with gas after bottle-feeding. Her infant so became colicky, she spent years redesigning the baby bottle, using the principle of a syringe so there is not a drop of air inside, and a patented nipple to avoid breast confusion. The result? A million sold, and they are just hitting Babies R Us this month.

I asked Priska to tell us what it's like to secure funding, launch a product, raise children, and keep your sanity. Here is her story:

 

Cropped

After waiting together for the bus at the corner with my son Carlton, now 8, and Adriana, 7, and reviewing in my head the schedule for getting two kids to and from school/doctors appointments/playdates, I run to Home Depot to prepare for the afternoon.

My chaotic life: Grabbing liquid nails, screws, six-inch planks of MDF, I run home to use my tiny electric handheld saw to turn the lot into a radiator shelf, painted white to match the kitchen. I also make a pit stop at the Stop N Shop to buy frozen pizza dough and corn starch.

Today’s after school activities: making pizza dough, and homemade Play Doh using corn starch, and of course, making a big mess on the kitchen table. I assign the kids tasks while I run to my laptop to communicate with the Babies R Us buyer, do my invoicing and process orders. I love arts and crafts. I came to New York from Peru when I was 17 and spoke no English, worked three jobs to put myself through college and got a masters in packaging design from Pratt, spending six years on assorted “craft” projects.

The idea: At 32, when I had my son Carlton, I got out the Krazy Glue, rubber bands, and plastic bits and created my first Bare Baby Bottle prototype, giving birth to Bittylab shortly after. Unmedicated childbirth was easier than balancing work and children.  But my business life would not work without the chaos nearby, without being able to wear my workout clothes all day and nap on the sofa between craft projects and dinner.

Carlton’s colic inspired the business. The pediatrician told me he was dehydrated and undernourished and I’d have to supplement breastfeeding with a bottle. Then he cried, and cried as colic became a daily (and nightly) norm. I thought about how syringes don’t let in any air, and used that as my guiding principle to create the Bare Bottle, which lets a baby draw in milk in the only completely airless suction process on the market. Then I redesigned the nipple so that a baby has to latch on like he does on the breast. Because having suffered through his nipple confusion, and preference for a bottle, I wanted to find a solution.

The first step: I showed up at the biggest retailer in the baby category and met with the senior buyer who, after seeing how Bare worked, raved about the bottle’s uniqueness and innovation. She encouraged us (my husband and I) to get it into production. ASAP. It took three and a half years to develop a working prototype. Molders in the US turned us down. In 2010, when Carlton was three and my daughter Adriana was two, Bittylab became my full-time job. I filed patents and did the ABC trade show. The prototype attracted a lot of attention. Between 2011 and 2016, we had 15 meetings with Babies “R” Us who understood the bottle and loved it.

Funding: A small business loan from Community Capital allowed us to place the order so Bare bottles made it to 185 Babies “R” Us stores in February 2016, meeting the deadline. 

 

Fastforward: Now I ship to 200 Babies R Us stores (hence the weekly conversations with the buyer), but am still on the corner at 3 p.m. waiting for that school bus. Launching a product took seven years of perseverance and belief in myself when a lot of male product engineers scoffed.

Learn as you go: We wanted to keep the warehouse in NY, and tried DIY distribution. When the first 20-foot container showed up in our Elmsford office we realized we didn’t have the necessary tools and equipment for a fast unload and I ended up climbing into the truck tossing boxes to my husband, which he put away one at a time inside “The Lab,” as I call our office. It was overwhelming and literally backbreaking. That’s when we found a California warehouse equipped to palletize and shrink-wrap and ship the boxes wholesale.

Work life balance:  I schedule all my business appointments from 9 to 3 as much as possible. We’ve just sold $1 million in retail sales. The goal is one million units.  As Bittylab grows, I plan to hire talent that can take the business to the next level, at the same time it will give me more time to spend with my kids and family.  

 

Bare_BRU

 

March 14, 2016

My Birthday Work Life Balance Lesson

 

 

                                                Cake2

 

Today is my 51st birthday and I'm officially in the "Over 50" age bracket. That could be a little depressing but instead of looking at what's behind me, I'm looking at what's ahead. 

Fortunately, I read something this morning that inspired me in my quest for work life balance in a stage of life that depends less on taking care of my children (two who are now in college) and more about finding the right fulfillment from work and life. 

Life coach Martina E. Faulkner says two little words can make a big difference in how we live our lives. Do you want to know those two words?

Get ready because they are simple and complicated at the same time....

“What if..?”

For example, you can ask yourself, "What if I could..." or What if I did..."

Instead of feeling frantic, overwhelmed or unfulfilled ...What if we ask ourselves "What if?"

What if I wrote the book? What if I published it? or What if I took on a new position at work? What if I asked my boss for flexibility?

Martina says “What if..?” is a simple little phrase that belies its greatness. It is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to manifest the greatest joys or undermine even the most assured confidence. It all depends on how you use it. 

What if I let go of the sad feeling I have that I don't have toddlers to tuck in bed at night and embrace the fact that I can talk to my kids about my work challenges or hear their thoughts about who should be President?

What if I allow myself to feel less stressed about the constant stream of information coming at me from every direction and make more effort to work productively and pursue new outside interests?

There are so many ways to strike a better balance if we ask ourselves "What if.."

I look forward to all the possibilities that those two words bring. Happy Birthday to Me!

February 09, 2016

Will I Ever Stop Dealing with Mommy Guilt?

                        

 

                                      Guilt

 

I have become a clingy mother who just can't seem to shake mommy guilt.

Now that I have two children in college, I see the work life balancing act from a different perspective. It's almost like I need to spend time with my youngest son who is still in high school more than he needs to spend time with me. I savor the school events that with my older children used to seem like an interference with my work day. 

Later this week, my son will play his first high school lacrosse game. It was supposed to be an evening game. I had planned to attend a women's business event in the afternoon and make it to the game right on time. Of course, it's the best laid plans that go astray. I just received an email that they moved my son's game two hours earlier. 

My husband has agreed to skip lunch and leave work early to go to the game. But here I am feeling extreme mommy guilt. Will he remember that I missed his first ever high school sports game? Or will he remember all the class parties and awards ceremonies that I attended for many years of his life?

For some reason, moms carry around huge guilt when we have a work family conflict. While dads experience the conflict, too, they tend to shrug it off more easily than mothers do. 

Last week I participated in the Successful Mompreneurs Women's Summit, a two-day webinar produced by Jenenne Macklin with great tips from women entrepreneurs. Of course, the topic of mommy guilt came up over and over. Mommy guilt is the reason many of us working mothers weigh more than we should (we feel too guilty to  make time to go the gym). It's the reason many of us walk around exhausted (better to sacrifice sleep than time with our kids). And, it's the reason many of us are burning ourselves out as we try to build our businesses -- or simply earn a living.

The conclusion during the webinar was that it's impossible to completely avoid mommy guilt. It goes alongside the phrase "working mother" like jelly goes alongside peanut butter. But it is possible to evaluate why you feel the way you do and course correct if necessary. We need to separate the unproductive feelings of guilt from the kind that help us improve.

As a mother for 20 years, I know the reality is presence matters. It just does. So, when we have hard choices to make, I think each of us have to do the math in our heads to determine if we are there for our children more than we are not there. If the equation comes out favorable, we have to tell ourselves that our kids won't be scarred for life if we can't make it to everything.

Working mothers (and fathers) just have to let some things go without feeling guilty. We just do. So, I will go to my business event and I will make it to many other of my son's lacrosse games during the four years ahead. I can't pretend I won't feel mommy guilt for missing his first game, but I have a plan for dealing with it. I will explain to my son that my guilt is a sign I truly care about being there for him. And, I will back that sentiment with my future actions.

How do you find solutions to the work family conflicts that make you feel guilty? Do you think mommy guilt is an inevitable part of being a working mother? 

 

December 22, 2015

What I Love About Adele's Views on Motherhood

Adele

 

 

 

I just read Adele's interview in Time Magazine and it made me love the woman for more than her incredible voice. I absolutely adore what she had to say about work life balance and her views on motherhood and staying focused. 

Here are some of my favorite lines in the interview. I modified the questions a bit to make her answers clearer:

Why do so many people respond to Adele songs?

Adele: “The fact that I’m not shy or embarrassed to be falling apart. Everyone falls apart, I think. A lot of people try to be brave and not shed a tear. Sometimes when you know someone else feels as s— as you do, or approaches things in a certain way just like you do, it makes you feel better about yourself. Even though my music is melancholy, there’s also joy in that. I hope I do bring joy to people’s lives, and not just sadness, but I think there’s there’s a comfort in it. But I honestly don’t know. If I knew, I would bottle it, and sell it to everyone else.”

What's motherhood like (her son Angelo is 3) while balancing a demanding promotional schedule?

Adele:  “The other day I was saying, ‘Oh God, I’m finding this really hard again with a kid. I have no time for myself because in between doing this, all my spare time is with him. But then I realized, he’s been keeping me totally cool and calm about the whole thing.”

Has motherhood changed your outlook?

Adele: “He makes me so proud of myself, and he makes me like myself so much. And I’ve always liked myself. I’ve never not liked myself. I don’t have hangups like that. But I’m so proud of myself that I made him in my belly. Cooked him in my belly and then he came out of me! This human who’s suddenly walking around and doing his own thing. I can’t wait to know who his best friends are going to be, who his girlfriend or his boyfriend is going to be or what movies he likes… Whatever my kid wants to do or be I will always support him no matter what.”

What's life like outside of work?

Adele: "It’s as normal a life as I can have. I think people would be pretty surprised. When I’m not doing a photoshoot, it’s just me, my boyfriend and the baby. I think it’s really important that you don’t get f—ed up by everything,” she says. “It’s important so you stay in touch with yourself. If you lose touch with yourself, no one’s going to want to talk to you or listen to anything you’re f—ing doing. They’ll just point at you and laugh. At you, not with you.”

What do you want for your son?

Adele: “I’m very self-conscious that I have a kid, and I don’t want him being one of those dickheads, who grows up being, like, ‘Driver, driver!'” She snaps her fingers. “I have no clean clothes! Well, have you washed them? I really don’t want him growing up like that. I’m very conscious of it.”

Do you want fame for your son?

Adele: If my kid decides that when he’s old enough to make his own decision that he wants to be known for being my kid, I’ll be annoyed, but I won’t stop him. I’ll be like, ‘It’s your choice now.’

Why did you cut out social media use to write your album?

Adele: "How am I supposed to write a real record if I’m waiting for half a million likes on a f—ing photo? That ain’t real.”

What about acting in the future?

Adele: "I have no interest in acting for the foreseeable future, at all, especially while I’m doing my music, because I can’t give my all into two things..."

 

To me, Adele's answers speak volumes about how she stays focused and down to earth and the value she places on being a good mom. Do you feel like Adele does that being a parent helps you keep life and work in perspective?

 

November 05, 2015

Is there a such thing as work life balance?

Maryam

 

At least once a week, someone will tell me they don't believe in work life balance. This week it was Maryam Banikarim, global chief marketing officer of Hyatt Hotels Corp., a risk taking, change maker with two teenagers at home.

When I began my conversation with Maryam, one of the first things she said to me was:  "I don't believe in work life balance."

Then, she added:  "I think we juggle lots of different things, and make different tradeoffs at different times in our lives so we never really have balance." Balance implies there is an equilibrium, she told me. "At different times something gives. I recognize family is important, but there are moments when I make a different decision because something is urgent at work."

In other words, Maryam believes what I do. That balance isn't about a moment in time but rather about the big picture in life. It's about fast forwarding to when you turn 100 and you ask yourself, "Was my life fulfilling?"

Yet, balance is something all of us chase. And we should.

For her new job with Hyatt, Maryam has relocated her family to Chicago. For now, her work and home lives both present a challenge, particularly with her son and daughter in high school. "Kids need different things at different times. When they get older, your presence is required in a different way," she explained to me and I agreed.

Maryam says in the first few months of her new job, she tried not to travel for work while her husband and children acclimated. "It's a challenge when you move your family for your work. You have to be empathetic to the people who are part of your journey."

Opportunities to make purposeful change at companies have always presented themselves to Maryam who says she uses this motto to guide her career decisions. "You only live once so I want to have left the world in a better place than I found it." 

Maryam made her recent leap into hospitality after working in the media industry, book publishing, consulting and sales. Her prior job was the chief marketing officer at Gannett Co.  She says jumping into a new industry is easier than one might think.  “You just have to have confidence your skills will translate."

Throughout her career, Maryam has held leadership roles and navigated through common challenges many women in executive positions face. Now as Hyatt’s CMO, she is responsible for bringing the company’s brands and experiences to life while initiating innovation around the guest experience and driving growth. Her main task has become differentiating Hyatt’s nine brands in the hospitality marketplace.

“When you come from the outside you look at things from a different lens. You might see different opportunities,” she said. “But it’s a combination of the view from outside, plus the expertise of those who know the business coming together that help you see a new path forward.”

Her secret to leadership: "You need to have people around you who have different backgrounds ... people who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions.”

As a leader, she has no qualms about voicing her opinions -- or taking risks.

Because she grew up in Iran during turbulent times, Maryam says she has a higher risk tolerance than most people and excels at ushering companies through purpose-driven change. For her, an ideal job is one where she can learn and have significant impact. She once told a former boss: “I will work hard while I’m here, but if there is nothing new to learn I will have to find another job.”

As a mother, Banikarim offers her teens this advice: “Pick something you care about, something you really want to do because you will end up spending a lot of time at work.” 

So do you agree with Maryam about work life balance? Do you think there are times when the scale needs to tip one way -- or the other  -- toward work and a personal life?  Can you be successful in your career and as a parent?

October 07, 2015

Are Millennial Moms Cooler than I am?

Shannon

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I am talking to 34-year-old Shannon O'Reilly-Fearn while her twin daughters are asleep. She tells me by phone that she was completely overwhelmed when she found out she was having twins. Now, wants to help other mothers of multiples, which is why she founded her business TwinLove Concierge.

So far, Shannon has been running her two-year-old company for about a year and put every penny she has earned back into it. That doesn't concern her at all. The more we talk, I learn that Shannon is tech savvy and well networked. She knows just where to go online to talk to other mothers of multiples. She has even used social media to find young moms in other cities to help her expand her business and spread her concept -- classes and consultations for expecting mothers of twins, triplets and other multiples.

Not only is she networked, Shannon is fearless and wants to create a company with a mission to help others. She represents the mindset of millennial moms, one I admire. I have my talents, but Shannon is WAY cooler than me when it comes to understanding how to market her business online and where to go to find her target audience.

Watch out employers, Shannon is the manager you want on your team, finding niches and bringing innovative ideas to your organization. But the Shannons out there, moms born after 1980, don't want to work for you if they can be home with their kids earning income AND fit their lives and their work together on their own terms.

In her new book, Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need To Know To Build Brands and Drive Sales,  Maria Bailey, marketing expert and author, say there are an estimated 13 million millennial moms Millennialmoms_cover
in the U.S., only about a third of the 42 million millennial women, which means their true impact of millennial moms has yet to be felt.

 “To be competitive, businesses need these women who know how to build online relationships and understand the way millennials are communicating,” Bailey says.

In my Miami Herald column today, I delve into more of the ways millennial moms are different. To me, the most important way is mindset. These moms expect help from their spouse. They expect to balance work and family. They expect to earn income even while home with their kids. They expect to have online relationships with other moms and they expect to try new ideas out, even if the ideas don't work they way they originally expected.
 
If businesses want to hire and keep these talented women, they are going to need to do something different than they have done the last decade. They are going to need to go online to recruit these women, create enticing career paths, and engage with them on their unique terms. 
 
It's going to get interesting, but I see big changes ahead for the next generation of mothers in the workplace. It's about time!
 
 
 

 

 

 

August 26, 2015

How to Survive a Mommy Tsunami

Your babysitter quits because her class schedule has changed. Your boss tells you he needs to move up the due date on an project he wants finished. Your child calls you to tell you his bus didn't show up at the stop and he needs someone to pick him up. Of course all of these things happen simultaneously and it hits you like a giant mommy tsunami. Ugh!

Mommy tsunamis are common this time of year when school and business gear up at the same time, triggering new routines and bigger workloads.


Joanna_Schwartz__Forbes_089I wish I could say I came up with the phrase mommy tsunami myself, but I can't really take credit. I heard it used when Karen Rundle interviewed Joanna Schwartz, CEO of EarlyShares, for a WLRN Segment on Women in Business in the Sunshine Economy. EarlyShares is a major player in the “real estate crowdfunding” industry. This is how Joanna, mother of two daughters, described a mommy tsunami to Karen:

"A mommy tsunami usually comes a few times a year --  usually at beginning or end of the school year when there is some transition in the troop movement of our household. When it happens you just want to say, 'This is insane, what the heck am I doing?'  But it has happened enough times and you get through it. It doesn't last that long. You recognize it and say 'Okay I am in a mommy tsunami and it will last two or three weeks and I will power through it.' I talk to a lot moms who have similar positions and we all relate to that very much."

Today, Karen, who conducted the radio interview, told me she has just been hit with a mommy tsunami. As the mother of a young daughter, she  is dealing with a series of unfortunate events that has challenged her work life balance and that she is trying to power through. Having lived through many mommy tsunami's my advice to Karen was "hang in there!"

To me, mommy tsunami's make us realize that the romanticized version of what motherhood should be existed only in some alternate universe. The reality of modern motherhood can be stressful and exhausting.

When you are hit by a mommy tsunami, little things make a big difference. For example, flexibility is one of them. As Joanna explained to Karen, the real challenge for working mothers have is when they are trying to balance the not being (able to be ) in two places at once...when kids need time at school or need to go to the doctor and they are stuck chained to their desk. She believes companies need to understand that work and family are interconnected and "to extent that you support someone's  family life you are supporting someone being a terrific employee."

Along with flexibility (or an understanding boss)  you also need is a mommy network. When the mommy tsunami engulfs you, you need to tap your network to find someone to vent to, someone to pass along resources or someone who will take your turn picking up the carpool.

Lastly, you need to turn to your spouse and scream, HELP! As I wrote in my Miami Herald column today, when both parents work together to divvy up childcare responsibilities it makes balancing work and family much easier. The new school year and adjusting to a new routine can be stressful for parents and children. Today, more than 60 percent of two-parent households with children under age 18 have two working parents, according to Pew Research Center's 2013 Modern Parenthood Study. When dads exert the flexibility in their work schedules and pitch in with monitoring homework, driving to the pediatrician's office or attending a teacher conference it can make a huge difference in family harmony. 

As I noted in my article, many couples underestimate the sheer amount of coordination involved in modern parenthood — until their child is unprepared for a test or gets to football practice without his cleats. A little collaboration between parents can go a long way.

If you feel a mommy tsunami about to hit, brace yourself. You will get through it. Like Joanna says, mommy tsunamis are inevitable. You will never be fully prepared. Balancing work and family can be overwhelming, but it also has payoffs that are well worth finding the endurance you will need to survive.

May 18, 2015

How being a working mother benefits your children

One day my daughter came home from school and told me she looks forward to the day she has a job she loves and can come through her front door telling her family about her great day at work. She said she knows she is going to be doing something that will benefit children and that she is sure it will be rewarding.

That was one of the best single moments of my life.

As a working mother, I have worried (like most moms do) about how my job might take away from my kids. This was particularly true when I worked long hours from the newsroom. In that moment when my daughter said that to me, I realized she had learned passion and drive from seeing me work.

An article yesterday in the New York Times gave new comfort to working mothers. The article notes new evidence is mounting that having a working mother has some economic, educational and social benefits for children of both sexes. "That is not to say that children do not also benefit when their parents spend more time with them — they do. But we make trade-offs in how we spend our time, and research shows that children of working parents also accrue benefits," .

As working mothers, the ways our kids benefit are huge.

This new study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries found daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes. Having a working mother didn’t influence the careers of sons, which researchers said was unsurprising because men were generally expected to work — but sons of working mothers did spend more time on childcare and housework.

Here are some mighty interesting statistics: daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, after controlling for demographic factors, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework.

 

So, we can lose the mommy guilt because kids will be just fine if their mothers work -- and they will even benefit from it.

I found this research especially interesting because it comes on the heels of an article I read last week that found mothers have become our daughters mentors. "A growing number of women managers and professionals today are mentoring their own daughters—sometimes in the same fields—as the young women build careers," wrote Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Few of today’s senior managers had their own mothers as professional role models.

I'm excited about the next generation and I feel great that my kids see mom and dad as role models who contribute to the household and the family income. Instead of feeling guilty for missing school events or feeding our kids fast food some nights and instead of feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of work life balance, let's focus on the advantages to our kids.

Julie Talenfeld, president of BoardroomPR in Plantation, Florida, invests a lot of time in building her public relations/marketing firm and pleasing clients. This often means attending evening events. Talenfeld says she often feels guilty but she also feels like she is a good role model for her daughter, currently a college student. 

For all those successful working mothers like Julie, it's time to pat ourselves on the back. We're inspiring the next generation -- whether or not we realize it.

J&J

(Publicist Julie Talenfeld and her daughter, Jacqueline)

 

May 11, 2015

Working Mothers' Biggest Challenges

One day last week, I was interviewing someone for an article while in the waiting room at my son's orthodontist. My son came out and was trying to get my attention. I was trying to signal that I needed a few more minutes of phone time. He was aggravated. I was aggravated. This is the kind of craziness that working mothers go through trying to achieve work life balance.

As working mothers our work life balance challenges are similar to those of fathers, but yet, so different.

In celebrating mothers this month, TheLadders.com sent me info on a survey they previously conducted to find out how working mothers feel about their work life balance. Want to know how they feel?

Overwhelmed and guilty.

Working mothers walk around with massive guilt --  Guilt that we are not spending enough time with our kids, coupled with guilt that our work may be suffering from not having our undivided attention 24 hours a day.

The Ladders surveyed 250 women and found balancing a career and a family is a huge struggle for 87% of of them, with 55% admitting that “excelling at both is overwhelming.”

On the phone with Nichole Barnes Marshall, I asked her about her work life challenges. Nichole is Global NicholeHead of Diversity and Inclusion for Aon, a job that has her traveling and connecting with thousands of Aon professionals. Nichole is also a married, working mother with three children ages, 4, 7 and 9. 

She told me her big challenge is prioritizing work in way that she can be operating at high performing level and be available to go to her kids activities like the recent school Cinco de Mayo festival.  "I wish I could be there for all the activities."

"The challenge for me is how I can be my best at work and be the best mother," she says. "I try to manage that by focusing on quality, not the quantity."

Nichole, like many other mothers, works to contribute to the household income but also enjoys her work. "I’m getting lot of satisfaction out of what I do, which makes  it (the balancing act) worthwhile. But, that doesn’t take away the twange when I get sad eyes from my kids for leaving for another business trip."

Not only do us working mothers feel challenged by and guilty about work conflicts causing us to miss events in our kids' lives, most of us feel guilty about any detail of our kids' lives that falls through the cracks.

I found myself nodding in agreement with every word of this op-ed piece in the New York Times titled Mom: The Designated Worrier.

Here's the gist of it:

Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties “worry work,” and the person who does it the “designated worrier,” because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all. I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t.

While fathers are helping more with household work and child care, women still keep track of the kind of nonroutine details of taking care of children — when they have to go to the doctor, when they need a permission slip for school, what they will eat for dinner."

So, in addition to our job demands there is tons of pressure on mothers to be the right kind of mother who keeps all the details straight and our families organized. That's our big challenge.

No wonder we walk around worried, overwhelmed and feeling guilty!

To all you sleep deprived, overwhelmed working mothers, you are awesome.  Lose the guilt, stop worrying and realize that whether or not you miss an event or forget to sign a permission slip, your children still love you.

 

 

  File-224786337
 

 

 

May 09, 2015

Moms who work on Mother's Day

20150507_073417_resized-1

(Molita Cunningham and three of her children)

 

On Mother's Day, when the most of us mothers are celebrating, some mothers are working.

Molita Cunningham is one of them. She's a 56-year-old home healthcare worker who puts in 12 hour shifts as often as she can get them. Cunningham needs every penny she makes because as a home care worker she earns about $10 an hour( and that's after 30 years into her career). Her shifts are unpredictable so when she has work, she takes it.

Molita's children are less than pleased that she won't be spending Mother's Day with them ( 3 of 6 still live at home).  "They put on a sad face and say 'Mom, you're never home. You're always working' and I tell them it's just me paying the bills and struggling,'' Molita says.

Molita works for an home care agency that contracts with hospice. Sometimes, she gets hired for private clients. She rarely turns down a job. That means she can't always be there for her kids. "There are a lot of things I don’t attend -- my son’s track meet, my daughter's dance recital, things at school. The kids complain that I'm always working. "

Molita actually is one of the workers who are outspoken about raising the wages of home care workers. Despite being one of America’s fastest growing jobs, home care workers are living below the poverty level, getting paid an average of just $13,000 a year. Almost 50 percent of home care workers rely on some form of public assistance in order to make ends meet. Women, who make up 89 percent of workers in the industry, bear the brunt of these low wages. They typically do not receive expenses such gas or benefits such as health insurance. And, their jobs are unpredictable -- some assignments only last a few hours. 

Molita has spoken out at several rallies for higher wages for home care worker who pushing for $15 an hour. "That's still not a lot but at least I could breathe better. I'm a single mother and there are things my kids need. It's hurtful when I can’t provide for them for my children."  A new report from the National Women’s Law Center substantiates the challenges these moms are facing.

On Mother's Day, Molita will spend the day with an elderly woman whose family lives overseas. She will cook for the woman and care for her until late in the evening. Molita says caring for the elderly is  hard work. "You have to bathe them, feed them, dress them, help with oral care....you have to be caring and compassionate to wipe feces off of a stranger. Not everyone can do that."

Molita hasn’t spent Mother’s Day with her kids in years. It’s a feeling that she remembers from her own childhood - her mother was a home care worker and she remembers not being able to spend time with her on Mother’s Day. Molita says some clients will allow her to bring her children with her on holidays or with them if they go to church.

Even with the challenges, Molita says of her work as a home care attendant: “The work I do is demanding, and it keeps me from my family more than I would like, but it’s essential. I love this work and I intend to keep doing it.”

Happy Mother's Day to Molita and to all the mothers who are working at restaurants, in hospitals, as home health workers and any other job that requires they be away from their families on this special day.  For those who do their best to balance work and family, you are all amazing people!