Unplugging has Helped My Family Re-connect

Over the last year, I made an important decision after leaving a full time job where I used to get home close to 8 pm, shovel some food into my mouth – talk to my kids and husband for a few minutes, and then zip back online to write, catch up on emails and surf Facebook. I quit that job back in August and since that time, while I spend a good part of my day online, I’ve found more time for my family and it’s actually made everyone a whole lot happier.
In fact, yesterday, as I accompanied my daughter into Manhattan for a workshop she’s taking at FIT, she revealed that she used to hate that I got home from work so late and was online all the time. Sure, she’s glued to her iPhone for several hours a day, but in that moment, she and I had a very real conversation. My 14 year old and me and she told me how happy she was that I am now a work at home mom.
In addition to not having to commute into the city several times a week, I also have opted out of attending dozens of conferences throughout the year. Sure, if I were more visible I could potentially sign more clients, but at what cost? Is it worth it to me to get to speak on a panel and then miss my son pitch a flawless baseball game? I think not. Granted – I did miss him pitching today because I had to attend a Weight Watchers meeting, but I did make it to his second game and saw him hit a triple, so all was forgiven.
They say it’s tough being a new mom and having to juggle work and family. But what they don’t tell you is that the guilt part gets harder as they get older. I am now at a stage in my life where I am watching my daughter discover her true passion and I have to tell you, I am so proud. I’m also thrilled to know that if she wants to become a fashion designer, that I can help connect her to door opening opportunities that could put her on the road to success. Am I a stage mom? Absolutely not. But I know that despite the fact that I have my own personal and professional goals, my husband and kids comes first and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than hanging on the couch with them.
So while my peers hop on planes, trains and automobiles to attend conferences, business trips and getaways, I’ll be staying put for now. Sure, I’d gladly go on a business trip when it’s for an important client or a great professional opportunity but otherwise, I’d rather spend the night in my own bed sleeping next to my spouse and two cats.
Does that mean I am not driven or passionate enough to achieve my own career goals? Not at all. Success comes along when you least expect it and sometimes, it’s all about timing. And right now, it’s time for my kids to be in the spotlight.
So if you don’t see me getting involved in online conversations as often as I used to – it’s because my family and I are watching another episode of “Long Island Medium” or “Say Yes to the Dress.” It might not be Oscar worthy entertainment fare but I don’t care. I’m hanging out with my kids and that suits me just fine.

The Acceptance Letter

IMG_3553.jpgNot too long ago, I remember sitting in our sunroom when my daughter, who was then a third grader came bounding in, announcing that the letters had arrived letting kids now if they had been accepted into a gifted program for kids entering the fourth grade. I was sure she was going to make it and never expected that she wouldn’t get in, but much to our disappointment, a letter never arrived and she was crushed.
Over the next two years, our daughter felt excluded by friends who had made the program and on occasion, made her feel as if she wasn’t as smart as them. To make matters worse, the birthday party invitation lists that she was always on, suddenly started drying up. One by one, the kids in the gifted class just removed her from their party lists — or maybe their moms omitted her name because she was no longer on the class list. Either way, the rejection stung and my daughter was determined to prove everyone wrong. She also joined the softball team so that she could make new friends. During that trying time, the diversion of a new sport was just the medicine she needed to heal the wounds of rejection.
When she was in middle school, our daughter soared academically while she continued to pursue her interest in softball. That is, until the fateful week where she tried out for the school team. Sadly, she didn’t make it. The sport that had opened the door for her to find new friends had now shut her out and she felt defeated yet again.
Despite these setbacks, she also made the Junior Honor Society, completely rocked her torah portion at her Bat Mitzvah and most importantly, pursued her love of art. We were always amazed by her work (and not just because we were her mom and dad) and some of her paintings were even featured in the city library. This year, she even designed a wedding dress that literally blew us away and after showing the drawing to Henry Roth, a wedding dress designer, he invited her to assist him and his sister at a trunk show at Kleinfelds. Since she is obsessed with Say Yes to the Dress, our high spirited daughter instinctually knew what would look best on the brides to be and managed to help sell six dresses in six hours!
Fast forward to this week. Over the years, we had heard about a visual arts program at our local high school that was tough to get into but our daughter was determined to make the program. With two rejections under her belt, we cautioned her not to be discouraged if she didn’t get in. If she truly loved art then she could pursue it even if they didn’t accept her. She continued to work diligently on some amazing pieces of artwork that she submitted as part of the application process.
The day the audition arrived, she was all nerves. When she came home, she told us she thought she had done pretty well with the still life portion of the assignment, but was concerned her freestyle work was not good enough to make the cut. Two weeks passed and finally a letter arrived in the mail. And this time, it was an acceptance letter. We were so thrilled for her that we even captured her reaction on video and trust me when I tell you, nothing beats capturing the excitement and emotion of a child who pursues her passion and achieves a dream.
I have never been more proud of my daughter than at this very moment. While she has experienced rejection early on, she finally got the chance to experience what it feels like to achieve a goal she set out for herself since she was a young girl. The world is her oyster and we are just so thrilled to know that she’s going to get the chance to be formally trained in a field that she truly loves with all her heart and soul.
And that fellow Role Mommies and Role Daddies is the stuff that dreams are made of. There is nothing better in life than watching your child succeed while cheering them on every step of the way.

“Rich or Poor, It’s Good to Have Money”

My grandma Dora (my dad’s mom) was quite a woman. She had a very strong personality and always spoke her mind. If you did something that she didn’t agree with, she made her opinions known loud and clear and some of her best zingers have lived on even since her passing more than a decade ago.
What struck me most about my grandma was that despite an incredibly tough life – she and my grandfather both worked and they lived in a cramped apartment in the Bronx with my dad and my uncle where they both slept on a fold out couch – Grandma and Grandpa managed to save for retirement and moved to Ft. Lauderdale when my brother and I were still quite young.
The Grandma Dora I remember most was the one who would wear a floral bathing suit and play mah jong with her friends. She and my great aunt Dinah were also inseparable during those years and would argue about everything under the sun even though they’d go to the ends of the earth for one another. And whenever we’d visit them, Grandma would always have her zingers.
In light of a recent article that’s been making waves among women this week – yes, the one about the Princeton alum who wrote a letter to fellow undergrads instructing them to find a husband at college, I bet my Grandma Dora would say she was on to something. According to my grandma, the road to happiness in marriage can be paved with a little cash. My personal favorite is this one:
“Rich or poor, it’s good to have money.”
Sure, my grandfather didn’t attend an Ivy League school, but grandma knew how hard they both struggled to make ends meet and she didn’t want that for her children or grandchildren. Is that honestly so bad?
When I first laid eyes on my husband, I was 23 years old and had finally gotten over a bad break up with a boyfriend I had been dating for more than five years. Grandma didn’t care for “that boy” that much because he wasn’t Jewish. In fact, every week, she would ask me on the phone: “Are you still dating that boy?” (Incidentally, “that boy” shared the same name as my brother). I would oftentimes respond, “yes I am” and the conversation would end as quickly as it started. But once that relationship was over, I finally met the man I was going to marry.
Here’s why…
The moment he walked in my front door, I noticed three things. He was cute. He was funny. And he was smart. In that order. While I didn’t ask to see his bank account, I did learn that he had graduated from Cornell so I knew this one was definitely a keeper. In fact, about a year later when I took him to a nursing home to meet my grandmother, she was a bit out of it at first until I shared that my future husband met one of her most important criterions: he was Jewish. When I revealed that nugget of information, suddenly she perked up, looked at me and said: “And he’s handsome too!”
It seems like these days, women constantly beat one another up for bad decisions – whether it’s about relationships, friendships, or work/life balance. We have become a generation who casts judgement upon anyone who isn’t doing what we think is right with their lives. But you know what? After being married nearly 17 years, I have to say that Grandma Dora was right. Rich or poor, it is good to have money!
Now don’t get me wrong, we are not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination but we both work hard in our chosen careers so that we can provide for our families, send our kids to camp, go on a few nice vacations and even have a romantic date night now and again. My husband and I both have advanced degrees so we can talk about important issues in the news and politics (which can get heated since we’re on opposing sides). We also like silly movies (my family has seen “Anchorman” at least 50 times), sports (excluding football — he has to find a friend for that one) and a whole lot more.
While I didn’t attend an Ivy League school, I did graduate with high honors and received a master’s degree in journalism at New York University. I consider myself smart, funny and cute (in that order) – just like my husband.
So for those of you who are up in arms that one woman was brutally honest with college students instructing them to find the man of their dreams in their chemistry or calculus class, I say, lighten up. There certainly is no magical formula to a successful marriage but finding a soulmate is hard work. And the way to find an ideal match is to seek out someone who can connect with you on many levels — from your intellect, to your looks to your bank account.
Smart, funny, cute. That’s my piece of advice for any young woman looking to find the perfect mate. Sure an Ivy League grad is great but make sure he meets those other requirements too because it’s no fun going through life with someone who can’t crack a joke.

Catching up with the Ladies of “The Talk”

193845.jpegThere is something to be said for people who truly understand the power of social media. There are so many people I know who have no idea what a hashtag is, how to tweet and have even sworn off Facebook. But not me. I am completely and utterly hooked when I find myself engaging with celebrities, friends from all over the country and strangers from around the world.
Which leads me to my whirlwind trip last week to the set of “The Talk” on CBS. I have been fortunate enough to be working behind the scenes on the show helping to spread the word about the show, the fabulous hosts, and the laugh out loud moments that seem to spontaneously occur every day of the week. Last Wednesday’s show did not disappoint — I got the chance to welcome 16 bloggers to the show and together, we tweeted from the audience, laughed out loud with “Mike and Molly” star Billy Gardell and took home amazing prizes to help jump start our fitness routines.
Following the show, we were brought to the executive dining room at CBS where we first caught up with one another — I have met several of the bloggers and really adore them — they are so inspiring and accomplished in their own right and it’s always so nice to connect in person. Check out the incredibly inspiring Liz Dwyer with me below (thanks Liz!). I also met some new bloggers who were still learning the ropes and it was so great to be able to get to know them too and hear about what they hoped to accomplish through blogging.
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And then, the moment of truth arrived. We all took our seats and the ladies of “The Talk” walked into the dining room, grabbed their lunch and then spent the next hour and a half chatting about the show, their favorite guests, their family lives and so much more. I haven’t laughed so hard in quite a while — Sheryl Underwood is hilarious but can also bring you right back down to earth in an instant with her sharp wit and intellect. Sharon Osbourne is so lovely — sure she sometimes can curse like a sailor, but you know what? I love that she is so real. Aisha Tyler is also so funny and appreciative of all the support she’s received since joining the show. Sara Gilbert has totally blossomed as a co-host and Julie Chen, whom I’ve known since I first started booking CBS stars on “The Early Show,” is and will always be as humble and down to earth as the first time I ever met her.
After the ladies talked about how much fun they were having this season — just take a look at some of the recent comedy bits produced by “The Talk” and you will see why — the hosts and producers also shared how appreciative they were over the support they’ve received via social media. Sheryl Underwood loves seeing her comments on the show re-tweeted and both the executive producers and hosts attribute the show’s continued growth to the ongoing support of fans who get to interact in real time with the show.
Before we knew it, our time with the ladies was over, but not before Liz at Los Angelista snapped this pic of me with Sharon Osbourne. Love, love, love her!!!!
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Here’s a photo of all the fabulous bloggers who attended the luncheon — many thanks to all of them for taking time out of their busy schedules to spend a day with the ladies of “The Talk.”
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Check out all the amazing women who attended the luncheon and visit their blogs — I’m sure you will be just as impressed as I was!
Carley Knobloch — Digitwirl
Donna Schwartz Mills – Socal Mom
Liz Dwyer – Los Angelista
Yvonne Condes – MomsLA
Tara Gray and Brook Roberts – Gal Time
Morgan Shanahan – BlogHer
April Peveteux – Cafe Mom
Kimberly Clayton Blaine – The Go To Mom
Valerie Mitchell – Sweeps 4 Bloggers
Eva Glettner – Cool Mom Picks
Ana Flores – Spanglish Baby
Beth Blecherman – Tech Mama
Rosy Lopez – Daytripping Mom
Tisha Berg – Biz Mommy
Keuinta Dixon – Free and For Me

An Inspirational Lunch with Debbie Phelps

Written by Role Mommy contributor, Danielle Feigenbaum
Recently I was fortunate enough to attend an intimate blogger lunch with my new hero, Debbie Phelps. During the past week I read her memoir, A Mother For All Seasons. Reading the book, I felt like she was sitting next to me, telling me her life story. I was blown away by this single mother who worked as a teacher and now as a principal, all while raising three elite swimmers. She has two daughters and a son whom you may have heard of… record-setting gold-medal winner Michael Phelps. As hard as it was, she drove those kids to swim practice and swim meets and supported them 100%. So much of her life was dedicated to her children’s dreams.
I wanted to know her secret, how did/does she do it? Her advice was simple, take things slow and enjoy life. How often do we say we should do that and then forget? Not anymore. I am determined to channel my inner Debbie Phelps and have more patience with my kids, help out in my community more and support my families’ dreams. My daughter, age eight, recently had a piano recital where she chose to play a difficult song and even though there were only about 50 people in the audience, I was a nervous wreck! I held my breath while she was up there at the grand piano and felt like I was going to throw up. How in the world does Ms. Phelps sit at the OLYMPICS and watch her son swim in front of billions of people, competing for gold?! It’s amazing.
Listening to her speak with such enthusiasm and a huge smile on her face was truly inspiring. As if all that wasn’t enough, Ms. Phelps also serves on the Century Council and is an Ambassador for Ask, Listen, Learn, which encourages kids to “Say ‘YES’ to a healthy lifestyle and ‘NO’ to underage drinking.”
Ask, Listen, Learn has an important message: kids and alcohol don’t mix. As unbelievable as it may seem, the average age of a person’s first alcoholic drink is eleven! It is never too early to talk to your “tween” about alcohol and Ask, Listen, Learn can help. According to the 2011 Monitoring the Future Study, nearly one third of 8th graders report they have tried alcohol once in their lifetime and 15% report they have been drunk. That is a pretty scary statistic. Through fun games for the kids to sound advice for parents and educators, Ask, Listen, Learn is a wonderful resource.
We as parents need to be good role models by drinking responsibly and not supplying underage children with alcohol!
I feel lucky to have met Ms. Phelps, her daughter Hilary as well as members of the Century Council. Even though my children are still young, this information will be very helpful in the years to come. I admire Ms. Phelps for taking time out of her busy schedule (getting ready for her trip to London!) to bring attention to this important cause.
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Happy Mother’s Day from Role Mommy

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In honor of Mother’s Day, we’ve got some links to some incredible essays about moms – and two of my personal favorites (my own mom and my grandma) are a part of this list! If you’ve written a tribute to your own mom, we want to hear it! Comment on this post with a link to your blog or share an anecdote here about the special Role Mommy in your life!
iStock_000015498270XSmall.jpgA Tribute to Moms…
A Tribute to My Grandma by Beth Feldman
Like Mother, Like Daughter? by Beth Feldman
Walking as Healing by Jeanne Muchnick
Remembering Mom by Dayle Herstik
My BFF by Lenore Stoller
Being a Parentless Parent by Allison Gilbert
And one more incredible anecdote from Melanie Notkin, author of Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers, and All Women Who Love Kids
“The day my nephew was born, I promised him I’d love him twice as much. My mother had died many years before he was born and I immediately felt like it wasn’t fair to him, to have one less woman in his life to love him unconditionally. I try to give him, and now his sisters, more love, more time, more inspiration… and yes maybe a few more gifts since my mother can’t be here to give it to them. She would have loved her grandchildren more than I can even imagine.
My mother had had a heart attack at age 42 (my age now). Her cardiologist brought her back to life, and in her mind, gave her more priceless time with my brother and me. So for the next decade, until she passed away, she sent a gift to her doctor’s children on their every birthday. She had never met those kids, but was so grateful for the time their father had given her and her own children to be together, that she became their Fairy GodAuntie, sprinkling a little Auntie magic on their lives. Now, with Savvy Auntie, I think how fortunate I am to have been inspired by my mother, a woman who knew that loving and celebrating children not-your-own is a gift. And every time I look into my nephew’s and nieces’ big brown eyes, I know she’s proud.” – Melanie Notkin
Add your link to your Mom tribute below or comment now! Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful Mother’s Day!!!