March 31, 2014

Gwyneth Paltrow ignites outrage from working mothers

G and kids

So after all these years, moms still don't understand we're all in this work life balance struggle together. 

All moms, I repeat, all moms, live with stress, worry, guilt and self doubt when they try to be the best moms they can be and hold a job.

The latest to stir up controversy: Gwyneth Paltrow who struck a nerve when in an interview with E! News, the 41-year-old talked about needing a break from acting so she could spend more time with her children, Apple, 9, and Moses,7, 

"It’s much harder for me,” she said. “I feel like I set it up in a way that makes it difficult because … for me, like if I miss a school run, they are like, ‘Where were you?’ I don’t like to be the lead so I don’t [have] to work every day, you know, I have little things that I like and obviously I want it to be good and challenging and interesting and be with good people and that kind of thing.”

She also pointed out that things are more difficult for her than other moms, because of the demanding nature and unpredictable schedule of her acting career.

“I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set,” Paltrow said.

Ouch! That stung working moms like Mackenzie Dawson who responded with an open letter to Gwyneth in the New York Post. Here's an excerpt from her well written letter:

Dear Gwyneth,

I really enjoyed your recent comments to E! about how easy an office job is for parents, compared to the grueling circumstances of being on a movie set. “I think it’s different when you have an office job, because it’s routine and, you know, you can do all the stuff in the morning and then you come home in the evening,” you said. “When you’re shooting a movie, they’re like, ‘We need you to go to Wisconsin for two weeks,’ and then you work 14 hours a day, and that part of it is very difficult. I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.”

As a mother of a toddler, I couldn’t agree more!

“Thank God I don’t make millions filming one movie per year” is what I say to myself pretty much every morning as I wait on a windy Metro-North platform, about to begin my 45-minute commute into the city. Whenever things get rough, all I have to do is keep reminding myself of that fact. It is my mantra.

And I know all my fellow working-mom friends feel the same. Am I right, ladies?

We’re always gabbing about how easy it is to balance work and home life. Whenever I meet with them at one of our weekly get-togethers — a breeze to schedule, because reliable baby sitters often roam my neighborhood in packs, holding up signs peddling their services — we have a competition to see who has it easier. Is it the female breadwinners who work around the clock to make sure their mortgages get paid, lying awake at night, wracked with anxiety over the idea of losing their jobs? Or is it the mothers who get mommy-tracked and denied promotions? What about the moms with “regular” 9-to-5 jobs, who are penalized when their kids are sick and they don’t have backup child care?

Those women are living the dream, I tell you!

To both women I say: No one balances work and family without feeling some pain.

Being a working mom is a challenge, regardless of what career you pursue or job you hold.

I can personally argue that any time you spend away from your kids for work, you will be racked with guilt and self doubt over something you miss out on. I get it Gwyneth, missing the daily routine of your kids' lives for a period of time can be emotionally difficult.

The difference, Gwyneth, is the logistics of work life balance are easier for you. You can hire good child care to handle the logistics while you're gone. Can you really compare your struggles as a Hollywood actress to those with desk jobs or even that of a low wage single mothers who juggle work and family? These women live day to day with guilt, and self doubt and fear that they won't be able to pay the bills if their child gets sick and they need a day off work.

So, Gwyneth and Mackenzie and all other working mothers, let's all recognize that most of us want success in our careers and to "be there" for our kids when they need us. Let's rally behind policies that will make it easier for all working mothers to juggle work and family. It's not us vs. them. It's just us! 


February 12, 2014

Too busy for love? Romance boosters to last long after Valentine's Day


  Maya Ezratti, Rewarding Relationships IMG 6898

(Below is an edited version of my column from today's Miami Herald)

Jeremy Wilson spends long days courting customers and building his South Florida software business. He arrives home with Bluetooth in ear, smartphone in hand, and engaged in conversation about cost structure or competitive advantages. Married for 19 years, Wilson said he typically eats a quick dinner with his wife and logs on to tackle email: “I just need to focus on my business right now.”

With more dual earning couples and today intense work demands, sustaining romantic relationships takes awareness and intention.  Most couples remember to express their love on Valentine’s Day, but experts say there are plenty of ways to keep the passion alive all year.

• Ditch the excuses: To rekindle romantic love in a relationship, start by taking responsibility. “Working hard, being tired, that’s not an excuse,” says Maya Ezratti, a Miami relationship expert (pictured above) and founder of Rewarding Relationships, a dating and relationship counseling firm. “If you don’t’ have five minutes for your partner, your husband or wife, then who are you giving all your love in life to?” Ezratti finds an increasing number of people are complaining about a love partner, male or female, present at home but still connected to work. Some will argue that it’s the new norm. That, too, is not an excuse.

•  Show more affection: Work demands make it easy to overlook being affectionate at home. But maintaining passion can be as easy as holding your partner’s hand. “A touch goes a long way,” Ezratti says. She suggests making an effort to kiss your spouse when you walk in the door after work. Or, if you’re the one home first, acknowledge the other person’s entrance in a loving way. “You both should look forward to coming home after work.” Making an effort to show emotional affection helps, too. Ezratti says your partner should feel you have his or her back at home and work: “The reality is one person’s career is not more important. I don’t care if he is the CEO and she’s a nurse or the other way around. Part of being romantic is to help facilitate each other in being successful.”

• Communicate differently: When infatuation wears off, avoiding couple burnout requires letting your life partner know when you need more attention or excitement. “Sometimes, when one person is working too much, it doesn’t occur to them that it’s impacting the relationship. You have to sit and have a chat, and tell them what you feel can be done to fix the relationship,” says Ernest Quansah, president of Relationship Advice for Success, a relationship counseling firm in British Columbia. “But that doesn’t make it OK to neglect a relationship.”

• Mix it up: Bringing back freshness in a relationship takes creativity. Even date night can get old if you’re always renting a movie or going to the same restaurant. Jennifer Sneeden, founder of Boca Marriage Counseling, recommends breaking out of the routine and trying new ways to spend time together — going dancing, taking an exercise class or eating pizza in the back yard. Watching romantic movies might be another option. A study by researchers at University of Rochester found that viewing five films a month, with relationships as their main focus, and discussing them afterward, can get couples through rocky patches and could even cut the divorce rate in half. They concluded many couples have relationship skills, but they needed reminders like those in romantic films like Love Story or The Way We Were, to put skills into practice. Quansah says men need to realize that women want their husbands to be their best friends. “When she goes out with you, she wants to laugh and have fun. If that happens, she’s yours forever.”

Increase Intimacy. Given most people’s hectic schedules, the intimacy once enjoyed may now be just tired sex, if it’s happening at all. One in every four married or cohabitating Americans claim they're so sleep-deprived that they're often too tired to have sex, according to a study by the National Sleep Foundation. Larisa Wainer, relationship specialist with the Morris Psychological Group in New Jersey, says it may sound boring but she recommends couples schedule sex on the calendar. “The fact that sex is spontaneous is a myth,” Wainer says. She urges couple to agree on how many times a week they will have sex and try to stick to the plan. “If it hasn’t happened yet, let the other person know you’re looking forward to it happening.” To build desire, dole out more compliments. “Aim for five compliments each day,” Sneeden says. “The first few times it may feel phony or forced but it will turn the tide of the relationship.”

• Find new ways to flirt. If the sparks are fading, heat them up by making your partner feel desirable. Try flirty text messages to build excitement for a later sexual encounter or romantic evening together. Emails work, too. Miami atttorney Patricia Redmond says she and her husband swap about 25 emails a day to stay connected. The content may be about new case law or upcoming adventure travel, “but they always include XOXO,” she says. Redmond and her husband, attorney Jerry Markowitz, are married 28 years and both practice corporate bankruptcy law at different firms. They are planning an upcoming trip to Hawaii in May for a legal conference and fun. Their recent emails start with “aloha.” “It’s easy to get into a routine so we build excitement for our time away together,” Redmond says.

(Patricia and Jerry)

• Use apps. Of course, in today’s high tech world, there are Apps to help. The Tell My Wife I Love Her habit has become one of the most popular on, an app that helps people track personal goals. Quanash says old fashioned romancing works too. He charms his woman by cooking a signature dish and naming it for her.

The bottom line is to keep romance alive, “Your partner must know that he or she is a priority in your life, not just an item on a to-do list,” says Wainer.

So, do you find it a challenge to keep romance alive? Do you find yourself making your career a priority at times?


January 31, 2014

How Heather Faces Her Fear

Today, my guest blogger is Heather Von St. James. I received this email from Heather and wanted to share it with all of you:



My name Heather and I am an 8-year survivor of mesothelioma – a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure. When I was diagnosed at the age of 36, I had just given birth to my little girl and was told I had 15 months to live. After undergoing a risky surgery, which required the removal of my left lung, I beat the odds and created Lung Leavin’ Day as a way to commemorate this day that changed my life forever.

Lung Leavin’ Day is now used to encourage others to face their fears! One important thing cancer taught me is the importance of acknowledging these apprehensions that prevent us from living life to the fullest extent. Each year on February 2, friends and family gather at my house for a bonfire where we write our fears on plates and smash them into the fire.

This year, we are asking you to face your fears and raise awareness of this event by virtually participating in Lung Leavin’ Day! I have created an interactive page that tells the full story of this special day, and allows all of you to face your fears and virtually smash them. The website can be found here: Lungleavinday


November 11, 2013

Female veterans struggle for work life balance

Female veterans face a different journey than men when it comes to healing the wounds of war. For those who are mothers, it takes a lot of readjustment back to home life. Imagine, for months or years you just worry about work and staying alive and then you return to home life where kids aren't used to your presence and you're not used to having to balance competing demands. 

I found this Parade Magazine story fascinating and wanted to share it with all of you. Happy Veteren's Day!


Stacy Keyte, with son Caleb, now 9, returned home from Iraq in 2006.(Richard Foulser for Parade)


Women Vets: A Battle All Their Own

 (Parade Magazine)


While female service members confront the same problems as male veterans, they also face distinct struggles as women. Meet two brave women on their emotional journey from the front lines back home.


When Stacy Keyte was deployed to Iraq in 2005, her life as a young wife and mother had just begun to take shape. She had a 15-month-old son, Caleb, a happy boy who loved dancing around the living room with his mom; and Keyte and her husband, Charles, both members of the Texas Army National Guard, had started looking for a new home. But the day after closing on a house in Waxahachie, Tex., Charles was called up, too, to train other guardsmen to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Putting their family life on hold, the young parents entrusted Caleb to his father's best friend's mother as they went off separately to serve their country.


Keyte belonged to a military that was in the process of dismantling the barriers faced by women. Today 357,000 serve in the nation's armed forces, making up 16 percent of its strength. Over the past decade, more than 280,000 women have been deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We simply could not have accomplished the mission without them," says Pentagon spokesman Nathan Christensen.  


Stationed near Tikrit, Keyte handed out mail, organized awards ceremonies, and prepared hometown news releases. It wasn't technically combat, but that didn't keep her safe. Within a few hours of her arrival, Keyte was walking from the bathroom to her living quarters when incoming artillery shook the ground around her. The attack was followed by two weeks of sustained rocket assaults on the base, with few places to take shelter. "I always felt like a sitting duck," she says. "You just didn't know where it would land if it came in."


For any young soldier, these attacks would have been stressful. What complicated Keyte's experience was that she didn't always feel respected by the men around her. "We were definitely considered the weaker gender and they had no problems with saying that," says Keyte, now 32. "There was one noncommissioned officer who would not hesitate to tell me, 'You should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.'


When she returned from Iraq, Keyte realized how much had changed in 16 months. "I came home to boxes and an almost-3-year-old I didn't know anymore," she says. Caleb didn't understand his mother's disappearance and developed self-destructive tantrums and other behavioral problems. One night they went out for dinner and the host asked if Caleb needed a high chair or a booster seat. Keyte, who had missed many of his early milestones, didn't know. "I felt so guilty," she says. "You have so many expectations as a first-time mom, and sometimes life gets in the way."


Keyte also suffered from the inevitable psychic wounds of battle. "I didn't want to answer the phone," she says. "I didn't want to talk, because that took a lot of emotions." When a friend tried to hug her, she had such a strong startle response that she slapped away the woman's arm. "I was trying to make myself a hermit and stay inside my little shell," she says.


There's no foolproof formula for a successful homecoming from the battlefield. For Keyte, healing came from assisting other vets. In 2011 she became an outreach coordinator for Grace After Fire, a Texas-based nonprofit that runs peer support groups for women veterans and helps them find the resources they need. "There's nothing more rewarding than to watch these women come out of their shells," she says.


 Read more


September 27, 2013

A mom is always a mom

No matter how powerful you become in life, no matter how old you are or far from home you travel, mom is still mom. Adele Sandberg reminded me of that when I interviewed her earlier this week before a live audience to kick off the 2013 Book Festival at the David Posnack JCC. Adele is the mother of Sheryl Sandberg, the high powered COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. Sheryl's book has sold over 1 million copies. She has been on the cover of Time Magazine and on almost every major talk show and news program to discuss the message of her book: gender equality in the workplace.

Yet, when Adele talked about the criticism of the book before it was even published, she spoke like a mother defending her young child(those bad people dared to say something nasty about my daughter!)  And, when she boasted a bit about the book's success and her daughter's work to encourage young women to reach for their dreams, she spoke like a proud mom. It was really quite endearing and put work and life into perspective -- for most of us, our parents are our supporters, no matter how old we get.

If you meet Adele and hear her speak, you immediately understand why Sheryl has become so accomplished. The program opened Tuesday night with an appearance from Sheryl via video. In it, she called her mother her inspiration. I can only hope my daughter refers to me that way one day.

Here's the article I wrote, which summed up the evening.

Sandberg’s parents reinforce ‘Lean In’ message


The Sandbergs, Adele, right, and Joel, left, pose with Debbie Hochman, center, director of cultural arts and adult program at the David Posnack JCC, in Davie, Tuesday, at their Jewish Book Festival. The Sandbergs are parents of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, who wrote the popular book Lean In. MARICE COHN BAND / MIAMI HERALD STAFF


As Sheryl Sandberg sweeps the world on her book tour for Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, reaction in every global market has been significant, her mother, Adele Sandberg, told a crowd of more than 250 people at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie Tuesday night.

Sandberg, who lives in Miami Beach and traveled on the tour with her daughter to several U.S. cities, Korea and Japan, said she believes the reason for the book’s success is that the message of female empowerment is universal. “Gender stereotypes persist all over the world. Women are so hungry for an equal chance, even in the most undeveloped countries,” she said. “Wherever Sheryl spoke, the venue was too small.”

In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, encourages women to make their voices heard at the workplace. She writes that she has been called bossy, a term that rarely, if ever, is applied to men in business. “Every country that Sheryl goes to, the word ‘bossy’ exists is in their language, and when Sheryl learns that word and says it in their native language there’s a huge reaction,” Adele told the audience, offering advice to parents: “Don’t call your daughters’ bossy, say ‘my daughter has executive leadership skills.’ ”

Sheryl opened the event Tuesday night, a kickoff of the 2013 Jewish Book Festival, via video calling South Florida “my community,” her mother “my inspiration,” and the lack of equality in leadership at companies worldwide a problem that “hurts all of us.”

Adele called it a risky career move for her daughter to write a book about women in business and said it took courage. Writing this book is Sheryl’s effort to lean in, Adele said. “It’s an important message, and she’s happy for the conversation, negative or positive.” She called the book, which has sold more than a million copies, “a wake-up call.”

“We must pay attention to gender stereotypes and what they are doing in our workplaces and our homes.”

Adele also addressed negotiation style, noting that men can tell their boss they deserve a raise while women who try it are called boastful. Now, she says, women are using Sheryl to fortify their negotiations, “They say Sheryl Sandberg would be disappointed in me if I didn’t ask for a raise,” adding, “Sheryl has CEOs complaining that she is costing them money.”

In the seven months since the book’s debut, the Lean In movement has flourished. There are approximately 250 corporate partners with the Lean In Foundation (large corporations such as Coca Cola, Amazon, Target and small businesses and non-profits). There are 9,000 Lean In circles in 50 states and 50 countries. The book has been translated into 11 languages — with another 19 languages in the process of being translated. Adele noted that as part of the book tour, Sheryl has taken her message to young girls, too, organizing meetings at disadvantaged high schools in cities on the tour where she encourages the girls “to reach for their dreams.”

In response to an audience inquiry, Adele, a former teacher and community activist, addressed the tension between working women and those who stay home to raise their kids. “Sheryl says we have to respect each other’s choices, we have to put a stop to the resentment or guilt and work together.”

At the conclusion, Joel Sandberg joined his wife on stage to share his perspective on Lean In and his thoughts on reaction from men. “The book educated me a lot, even though I have a wife and two daughters who are great achievers. I think men who have the most interest are those with daughters or managers who are concerned with losing talented women.”

Debbie Hochman, director of Cultural Arts at David Posnack Jewish Community Center, said the discussion around Lean In appealed to the audience of all ages. “We saw this as an opportunity to bring the community together to around a topic people are talking about and they can relate to.” Hochman said Adele drove the book’s message home. “You can see that she’s a mom who is proud of what her daughter is doing.”



August 21, 2013

There is help for working moms (and dads)

The start of the school year is hectic in my home. Judging by the conversations in the school supply aisle of Target this week, I'm not alone. But I know lots of working moms (and dads) who are making their work life balance easier this year by outsourcing responsiblities.

Today, in my Miami Herald column, I wrote about this trend. I'm convinced, there will be even more services catering to working parents in the next few years.


There’s help for busy moms who can’t do it all

Customers Zora Guzman and Mateo use the Moms Helping Moms shuttle.
Customers Zora Guzman and Mateo use the Moms Helping Moms shuttle. 



Just after breakfast, a van pulls up at the Lopez home in Coral Springs. Thirteen-year-old Emily gets in and heads off to middle school, saving mom, Diana, from delaying her 1 ½-hour commute to her job in Miami. The same shuttle picks Emily up after school and takes her to ballet class. Some afternoons, it picks up her older sister at home and takes her to be tutored in math or takes her home from school if she stays late for a club meeting.

Lopez, an international private banker whose husband works in Miami too, says hiring a transportation service has been the only way she can keep a regular work schedule, be home for dinner and have her children participate in after-school activities. “I believe in the theory that it takes a village to raise a child,” Lopez says. “But these days, we’re hiring the village.”

Working parents today are paying others to do things for our children that our parents did themselves — drive our kids to school, help them with homework, cook for our families and take them to baseball practice. The services are needed because things have changed dramatically for working mothers in the last few decades. For starters, there are simply many more moms in the labor force. The participation rate has skyrocketed to more than 70 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Family economics have change dramatically, too. As the number of women in the workforce swelled, so, too, did their contribution to family income. A record 40 percent of all households with children include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11 percent in 1960. With mothers contributing more, managing a household becomes a simple equation of trading money for time.

It can be an expensive exchange — financially and emotionally — and not everyone can afford it.

“It’s a struggle working moms go through,” Lopez says. “We ask ourselves, ‘Am I passing off something I should be doing myself?’ But then, we have to be realistic.”

Moms Helping Moms, the northwest Broward County shuttle service used by the Lopez family, gets $60 to $80 per child per week for roundtrip carpooling within five miles — more for greater distances. Founder Sharron Gay says she launched her business three years ago. As a mom who commuted an hour to work, she saw the need. “Life is too short to feel guilty or overwhelmed. We’re here to make your life easier,” the website boasts.

Gay’s five vans, driven only by moms, shuttle kids to school, activities, orthodontist appointments and sports practices. They even pick up sick children from school and bring them home. Gay says she offers the service moms want — assuring them that the bus won’t leave until the child enters the home safely. “We do things the way moms would,” she says. Gay says her service is profitable and she has plans to add more vans and new geographic areas by 2014.

Others see opportunity, too. Fueled by demand from working parents, a burgeoning cottage industry handling chores for working parents is flourishing. There are reading specialists who get $40 to $50 an hour to assist students individually at their homes on reading and writing. There are businesses that will bring dinner to hungry kids waiting for mom and dad to get home from work.

Ryan Sturgis, a partner in Delivery Dudes, says his business picks up meals from local restaurants and delivers them to Broward County homes. It has seven geographic locations (plans to add more) and charges a $5 delivery fee.

“We get a lot of moms who call on their way home from work. We tell them we can be there with dinner within 45 minutes.”

Some parents turn their world upside down to manage responsibilities before finally accepting that they can’t do it all. Eventually, they discover outsourcing a necessary expense to keep their jobs, reduce stress or get ahead in the workplace.

Miami mother Gabrielle D’Alemberte, makes a priority of the things she feels a mother should do, such as attending school functions and tucking her daughter into bed. But the single mom says she couldn’t continue to work as a trial attorney if she didn’t outsource some tasks at work and home. She has hired someone to pick her daughter up from the bus stop and take her to ballet lessons. In the past, she has hired a company to deliver meals to her home and she’s employed someone to go over her daughter’s homework and review for tests.

D’Alemberte specializes in litigation against large international resorts and often travels for work.

“I could not have had the job and profession I’ve chosen without the help I have gotten in bringing up my wonderful 13 year old,” she says. “Knowing I can’t do it all makes it easier to hire people to help.”

In a twist on outsourcing, working parents also are automating. Whitney Zimet, who ran a community coupon site for five years, hired math and Spanish tutors for her two kids. She even searched for a service to pack healthy lunch box meals. But Zimet turns to technology for relief from some tasks — using Amazon to get home delivery of required reading materials, ongoing school supplies and birthday gifts. She uses auto-delivery for kids’ vitamins and household products. .

It used to be a real point of pride for women who stayed home to take care of every aspect of their families’ lives, she says. Now women are in the workforce, used to thinking practically and doling out tasks to solve problems, and scrutinizing the value of an expense, she says. “Most of us are aware of what needs Mom’s attention, but we’re also looking at what can make our life easier."


June 03, 2013

More women are breadwinners. Now what?

There's been lots of hoopla over the last week about the increase of working mothers who bring home a fatter paycheck than their husband. It started when Pew Research Center released findings that mothers are now the sole or primary provider in 40% of households with children, up from just 11% in 1960.

That's a big shift in household dynamics!

What exactly does that mean? More women are out-earning their husbands but has that really changed anything at home or at work? I think it means that most of us are struggling even harder to find sanity in our lives, to balance our personal and professional commitments and stay sane.  That work life balance struggle can put a giant strain on our home lives -- if we let it.

Pew found the public is conflicted about whether this increase in female breadwinners is a good thing, applauding the economic benefits, but also voicing concerns about the impact on children and marriage. 

However, it has become more expected for married women to join the work force. The employment rate of married mothers with children has increased from 37% in 1968 to 65% in 2011. Yes, most mothers today work. 

The thing is as a nation, we're not so sure this is a good thing. About three-quarters of adults (74%) say the increasing number of women working for pay has made it harder for parents to raise children, and half say that it has made it harder for marriages to be successful. Couples in which the wife earns more report less satisfaction with their marriage and higher rates of divorce. 

At the same time, two-thirds say it has made it easier for families to earn enough money to live comfortably. 

Here's where the problem lies: If moms are making an increasing contributions to the family income, men must make increasing contributions to the family sanity -- that means pitching in at home with the kids. Most men get this. But not all men, and certainly not all bosses. The researchers found that when women earn more, they also tend to do more work around the house. How long can this continue?

What's the next step for our nation's families? Will the roles at home change? Will workplaces become more accommodating? Will we see the trend reverse? Let's hear your thoughts!

May 10, 2013

What moms really want for mother's day...Our kids attention

For Mother's Day, I want my kids' attention. I want them to do an activity with me -- plant flowers, ride bikes, go for a run, read a book. 

Lately, "Cats in the Cradle" my husband's favorite song, has begun playing in my head. When my children were younger, I would return home from work and they race toward me with open arms. My son used to immediately tug on my pant legs to be picked up.

But now that my two older children are teens, they're racing toward their friends, filling their calendars with social activities that don't include hanging out with parents.  I know it's normal. I know it's all good. But I also know that anything they could buy me for Mother's Day isn't as meaningful as giving me their time and attention.

For all those moms out there struggling to balance work and families, err on the side of spending more time with your kids. Many experienced moms will tell you raising children to young adults zips by fast. But it doesn't really hit home until, like me, you're a year away from a child leaving for college. 

Over this last week, my Inbox has been flooded with press releases for products to buy mom. People will spend an average of $40 each on mom. But what we really want can't be bought. says Most moms are hoping for Mother’s Day gifts this year that are from the heart. Its Mother’s Day poll results reveals handmade, sentimental gifts are most popular. 

I know most of us moms would trade a gift for special time with our kids. And in the end, as we do our daily juggling act, we might want to remember, our kids -- old or young -- probably feel that way too.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are moms! 


February 07, 2013

Working Mom Takes a Risk to Improve her Work Life Balance

One day, Luly B., a working mom, looked at her life and her business and decided she needed to make a change. I admire that. It's easy to get in a rut but it takes guts to restructure your work or home life to bring more balance to your situation. I'm thrilled to have Luly as my guest blogger today to share her experience.

Here's her story:


LulyB_headshotFor more than 15 years, Lourdes Balepogi – or as she’s affectionately known, Luly B – has consulted, coached and connected her way to the top of her profession. She is the president of Chispa Marketing, her Miami-based boutique marketing firm. She recently launched Luly B., Inc. in an effort to empower women entrepreneurs to have it all. She’s an expert speaker, consultant and strategist with a contagious energy that will undoubtedly leave you inspired to act.



I did it. I took the plunge. Followed my passion. No fear. No pride. Just plain and simple, I decided to make a dream come true.

My dream?

To share my expertise and experiences not only as a marketing expert of 15 years, but also my journey as a mom entrepreneur. The guilt. The excitement. The turmoil of choice and priorities. The obstacles that we can turn into opportunities.

Like millions of moms in the U.S., I left a career in “Corporate America” to find balance as a mom. Six years ago, I had a six month old, a 2 1/2 year old and a fledgling boutique marketing firm in Miami with large-scale clients including the country’s largest college and one of the world’s largest wine festivals.

Unfortunately, balance was the last thing I was getting for many years. You see, so many women have begun and continue to begin businesses (we are now opening businesses at twice the rate of men) but have trouble knowing our value, negotiating, and scaling our businesses – myself included.

I struggled with guilt, self-doubt, and fear. Eventually, I learned my lessons and continued to grow the company. Last summer, though, I made the very bold decision to restructure my business. I made my employees contractors who would work virtually, hired a few other contractors, closed my office, and kept only my large-scale clients.

Because I had another idea; a growing passion.

The reason I restructured my business was simple, but it felt profound. I realized that many mom entrepreneurs were experiencing the same things as I was. The guilt; the day-to-day struggles, and most frequently, the chase toward that elusive ideal of “balance.”

And having made the bold decision to drastically change my business, I was ready to move on to my next journey - so I launched my second company, Luly B, Inc. where I empower mom entrepreneurs to have it all!

And I’m so glad I made that decision.

Finally, I feel like I am beginning to have some sanity in my life. You see, rather than getting stuck on the word "balance" and trying to be it all, I focused on what made ME happy so I could have it all – in marriage, with my children, and in business.

We need to stop putting so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and just focus on being happy. We are going to have to make tough decisions, compromises, and prioritize constantly. But at the end of the day, it's all worth it. Being an entrepreneur in our country is an amazing opportunity and I wouldn't change it for anything in the world. So screw the balance! Balance is BS. It’s about being genuine, bold, and centered.

It’s about what makes YOU happy.

Click here to see my infographic 

February 06, 2013

On the 20th Anniversary FMLA push forward on unfinished business

Can you imagine having a baby, wanting a few weeks off and losing your job if you take them?

Until 20 years ago, women had no right to maternity leave. Men had no right to medical leave.

Thanks to women like Ellen Bravo of Family Values @ Work and Judith Lichtman and Debra Ness of The National Partnership for Women & Families, women and men at big employers don't have to worry their jobs will be gone if they need time off for these type of family needs. Yes, I'm aware that over the two decades, some workers have abused FMLA. But when I look at all the people who have used FMLA to be better family members and better employees, I consider it beneficial to all and a critical component of work life balance.

Happy Anniversary to FMLA and may efforts succeed to expand the federal law to be even more inclusive!

(Photo below: Ellen Bravo joins in Milwaukee's Labor Day March) 

Ellen Bravo Labor Day March 2000

Twenty years after the Family Medical Leave Act became law, advocates say its time for expansion.

Wednesday, 02.06.13


When I gave birth to my daughter, I returned home with a squirmy little bundle and immediately felt overwhelmed. Though I was exhausted from changing diapers and waking for feedings, I was thankful that my job was secure.

In our struggle to balance our family lives and our work lives, one law has made a giant difference for me and 35 million other American workers — the Family Medical Leave Act.

This week, the FMLA celebrates its 20th year in existence. It’s been a godsend for those of us who want time to bond with our newborn, care for an aging parent or deal with a health emergency without the fear of losing our jobs.

But two decades after President Bill Clinton signed the FMLA into law, advocates say they still have unfinished business.

“It was meant to be a first step toward a family-friendly American workplace. But it is 20 years and we haven’t gotten to the second step,” says Judith Lichtman, senior advisor to the National Partnership for Women & Families and an original advocate for passage of FMLA.

In many ways, the FMLA has been even more helpful to working families than expected. The law initially was conceived to allow working mothers like me to take time off for childbirth and post-maternity.

But over 20 years, it has been used 100 million times by all types of workers — about 40 percent of them men.

The FMLA has provided time off for women who needed medical care during difficult pregnancies, fathers who took time to care for children fighting cancer, adult sons and daughters caring for frail parents and workers taking time to recover from their own serious illnesses.

The federal law says we can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if we work at a company with more than 50 employees, with a caveat that we must be employed there for a year. The big benefit is that our jobs are protected during that leave.

During the recession, the job security and the continuation of health insurance that FMLA guarantees proved particularly important.

DebbieWinkles_2012Debbie Winkles, senior VP/director of human resources at Great Florida Bank in Miami Lakes, (pictured to the left) used FMLA three years ago when she needed to care for her husband who was battling cancer. Today, Winkles has male and female bank employees who are using FMLA to care for their newborns or to cope with illness.

Her company has created an easy spreadsheet system to track its employees’ FMLA leave. “With today’s health issues, so many people diagnosed with cancer are having chemotherapy, and employees need medical leave for themselves or a family member.”


In Wisconsin, Jill Delie is using FMLA to manage a chronic disease by taking a few days off each month for doctors appointments. In Maine, Vivian Mikhail used FMLA to care for her daughter, Nadia, when the little girl was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that left her completely deaf. (photo below)

Vivian and Nadia 2

Just this week, a longtime friend of mine told me how fortunate she feels to be able to take FMLA to spend time with her mother who has incurable lung cancer. “I don’t want to lose my job, but I can’t imagine not being there for her when she needs me,” my friend sighed.

Yet for all the benefit, FMLA doesn’t guarantee wages while workers are on leave, a component advocates had planned as a second step. According to a Department of Labor study, 78 percent of workers who needed FMLA leave did not use it because they could not afford to take unpaid leave. Proposed federal legislation would expand eligibility and introduce a paid sick leave or a family-leave insurance program.

Read more....