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Why I’m not ‘leaning in’ at work—for now

Quitting feels like cutting my safety net loose, but the plunge is exhilarating.

Why I’m not ‘leaning in’ at work—for now

I paged through Sheryl Sandberg's women-in-leadership missive, Lean In, while stuffed into a tin-can airplane winging south to Toronto, delivering me to my first, and only business trip. I'd left my husband and 2-year-old daughter behind in our small northwestern Ontario town, confident that they could survive without me.


The trip did absolutely nothing to bolster my career, nor did the book, but it was nice to get away for a weekend on my own.

I am—or rather, was—a reporter for a small community newspaper serving a town of roughly 6000 people. I started the job fresh out of a college photojournalism program, driving myself 2000 kilometres north in a station wagon, iMac lovingly buckled into the passenger seat, celebratory champagne buried beneath the suitcases and boxes.

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The plan I reminded myself of when I questioned why, exactly, I was subjecting myself to this drive and the utter remoteness of my home to be, was simple. I’d move north and work for a year, then head off to something exciting and adventurous, maybe a reporting job in the real north of Yellowknife or foray into perfecting my high-school Spanish skills in Nicaragua.

On my very first day at the paper, I nosed my station wagon into the rutted dirt parking lot and looked up at the red brick building to see a floppy-haired fellow bounding up the slumping stairs with a cardboard tray of coffee.

Reader, I married him.

Really, I did. I dated him; the world's worst-kept office secret. I had a panic attack when the delivery truck carrying two sofas arrived in the driveway of our rented home, understanding that I could no longer easily pack my possessions into a vehicle and flee. But I dug into the relationship, and into my job.

Ink and newsprint, as much a part of our relationship as love and fidelity.

Northwestern Ontario winters as bitterly drudging as they are, our daughter, Marigold, entered the world 14 months later. I spent 11 months home with her and despaired at leaving her in the care of a stranger when my parental leave ran out, but the day I walked back into my office and reclaimed my desk, my former job and former life as an independent adult wrapped itself around me like a well-worn blanket, comforting me with its familiarity.

Marigold thrived on a level of socialization I could not give her on my own, and I thrived on talking to adults, using the bathroom without an audience, existing somewhere with my own thoughts and my own life for a handful of hours every weekday.

Yet balancing motherhood and journalism challenged me. Matt was working 12-hour shifts; I had no choice but to work evenings and weekends, and our childcare was not always reliable. I toted Marigold along with me to the office and in the field, hiking her up on my hip with one hand while maneuvering a camera with the other, handing over stacks of Post-its she stuck all over the office walls, listening to interviews I'd taped and episodes of Curious George simultaneously.

Sometimes congratulatory images and articles spread across social media, lauding women who bring their children into work, in politics especially, and all I can think when I see them is, Wow I know how challenging that is, how is she possibly making government-level decisions while her kid is chewing on her blouse?

It wasn't all work with no joy, though. Our son came along three years and nine days after our daughter. I had every intention of circling back to my job a year after his birth. Then, a few months before my workplace due date beckoned, I changed my mind.

After eight years at the same job, eight years at the only job I have held as an adult, the only job I have held in my industry, the entirety of my fledgling career, really... I decided to lean out.

Eight years of my life I have remained in this place where I landed, and my job has been one of the biggest constants. It is the reason I settled here in the first place. Newspaper work is cyclical and I could easily mark eight years of seasons by the stories written in my notebook each week.

Quitting feels like cutting my safety net loose, but the plunge is exhilarating.

These days that go by, days when I'm not entirely sure I actually accomplished anything at all, days of pressing nut-free sandwiches into dinosaur shapes, of sweeping the same spot on the floor three times in six hours, of purchasing dry shampoo in bulk amounts and pondering when I showered last, of color-coding activities on a calendar that takes up at least half of our refrigerator door real estate—these days will not last forever. I know this.

I know this because these days are already a shifting sea, as baby becomes toddler and kindergartener becomes self-declared big kid.

Oh, sometimes I feel like I'm on running on a wheel, a hamster scampering relentlessly inside the cheapest cage sold at the store. Like if I stop moving, all the lights will turn off and everything will cease to exist. But if I'm going to run on that hamster wheel, I want to win Most Valuable Hamster.

Right now, I can't fathom stretching my attention and my resources even further by being an employee, by showing up day after day on someone else's schedule to meet someone else's needs. I have my own hamster wheel and I do not need another one.

Anything new I add to this life subtracts from something else, and that arithmetic cuts my family short and leaves me depleted. I'm not willing to do it.

I know that I like to work. I know that I want to work again when it isn't detrimental to my carefully fought for, seldom realized household balance. I know that I might have this choice taken away from me if something in this precarious balance shifts and we need to shore things up with added income.

So maybe I'm not leaning out. Maybe I'm leaning back, sheltering, instead of squaring my body against the wind and planting my feet. I'm not sure yet. But I don't need to know yet, either.

What I do know is this: I am not going to apologize for leaning out of my career, much as those who lean in should not apologize, either. The thing about leaning is that it isn't permanent. In, out, back, forward; the scales tip as we place and replace what matters and what does not. And we are the individual administrators of those values.

Leaning into the wind—into the bluster of a busy career, or into the tempest of parenting—is in fact the same action, no matter what is powering the gale.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics says that newborns, especially, do not need a bath every day. While parents should make sure the diaper region of a baby is clean, until a baby learns how to crawl around and truly get messy, a daily bath is unnecessary.

So, why do we feel like kids should bathe every day?

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