Ask Southern: Keeping It Real

Dear SSS,

Does your evening system with your husband ever not work?  Or does it always go like clockwork?

Sincerely,

Keeping It Real

 

Keeping It Real,

Thank you for thinking it might go like clockwork. It doesn’t … we are humans and life happens and the thing we do really well (98% of the time) is we roll with it.  The division of nights is more to give the other one a pass to just be for a few minutes by themselves.  However, this week is a great example of the realness of our lives.  Monday our 2 year-old who is potty-training had a potty event right before bath that required both of us to tag team and even though it was just my night, Mr. Style pitched in.  On Wednesday, Mr. Style and I were both late getting home and we had to eat dinner late which pushed back bath time and we both tag-teamed, because we were scrambling.  Thursday night, Mr. Style had a work related phone call at bath time, so I got them started.  The message of our routine, really is that of communication and an understanding that we both need a few minutes of time for ourselves in our chaotic week.  We are a team.

The other message is that we choose a positive attitude.  We make a point to say, “Thank You,” to show our appreciation for the other one.  And each non-clockwork event is an “opportunity” vs. a “problem”.  When we find ourselves feeling negative about the opportunities of being busy working parents, we focus on the two beautiful children we prayed so hard to have.

Sincerely,

SSS

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Ask Southern: Melasma

I recently have run into several people who have asked me about how I treated my post-baby Melasma.

Never fear, I have tried a lot of things and can help you find a treatment for you.  I am listing them in order of most expensive to least expensive.

Peels: I tried some at home peels, but the biggest bang for my buck came from the Vi Peel.  I waited two years post delivery and decided I had to try something more intense and it was the Vi Peel.  I did 3 of these about 6 months apart and it was worth every penny.  The caveat, be prepared for your skin to turn really red and itchy and it will flake away for about a week.  However, what comes back is a dewy, glowy and less spotted you.  Other things to remember, you need to invest in a gentle cleanser (like Cera-Ve found at the drug store) and some serious moisturizer and sunscreen.  I like Elta MDs UV Clear sunscreen (I use this daily) and their moisturizer (I use a pea size drop of this every night and used it as my moisturizer for the day for a month post peel).

Microdermabrasion:  About once a quarter, I like to get a microdermabrasion to just get all the dead skin off.  I follow with a moisturizer rich in hyaluronic acid to really hydrate my face.  I find this helps reduce the appearance of the uneven skin tone.

Clarisonic Facial Brush: I think anything similar to this would work, but I find this really helps brighten my skin.  I also found I could switch to a gentler more moisturizing cleanser, because this will still get my skin clean.

Other At Home Treatments:  After Baby #2, I found her being a winter baby and the liberal use of sunscreen helped keep the Melasma at bay.  I didn’t have to get another Vi Peel (Mr. Style appreciated that)  So now, I use Peter Thomas Roth’s Unwrinkle Pads for flare ups –otherwise I just use them as a weekly keep the monsters away treatment.  Every make up line and most skin care lines have some type of uneven skin tone treatment.  I tried Clinique, Ole Henrikson, Smashbox, and Dior.  I found that although they do help slowly, they really dried me out and I don’t want to flake during the day.  What I did learn was to apply at night and use a moisturizing wash with a gentle exfoliator each morning to rebrighten and avoid flaking.

I have posted all of these on my Pinterest site.  Don’t forget to send your Ask Southern questions to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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Ask SSS: Equally Confused

Dear Style,

 

How can women claim credit for “teamwork” – in response to the economic assertion in this article that successful teams credit men more than women:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/upshot/when-teamwork-doesnt-work-for-women.html?


Equally Confused

 

Dear Equally Confused,

I believe that there are parts of the country and/or business sectors where for the most part women are treated equally.  I always want to make sure we consider a couple of things when we talk about equality.  First, duration of experience should exclude any time off or medical leave (i.e. maternity/paternity leave, FMLA, etc…)

With that said, I definitely find a ceiling that is shifting but still exists in healthcare leadership for women, and I think it’s unintentional.  I really think the men don’t realize it.  In healthcare, there is a lot of golf.  I actually do play, but just like I would rather play with my friends and people I have more in common with but it the links are where real networking happens in healthcare.  The guys play together and then they become more friendly so when it’s time for promotion and Dick and Jane both worked on the same project, they are more likely to promote Dick … even if Dick didn’t pull his weight (because we aren’t in school and we don’t grade each other on participation).

The more concerning scenario that I also have found in healthcare is managers who take credit for their employees work.  We have a lot of hierarchy in healthcare systems and each physician practice has a manager that reports to a director or senior manager who then reports to a Chief something or other.  Oftentimes, the person between the practice manager and the Chief takes credit for the managers’ success, even though they really didn’t help. I am pretty sure this theme isn’t unique to healthcare.  The idea of bosses taking credit for success of their employees, but what I find is as women we are more apt to dole out credit when being praised than men … so it compounds the unintentional credit with the intentional deception of credit.

You have to find ways to log constructive feedback when team projects aren’t really team. I also think if you have the opportunity in an employee satisfaction survey to point out that when there seems to be an unintentional promotion of men over women, someone needs to hold the organization accountable and give the situation a hard second look.

Additionally, make sure you find polite ways to get credit. My favorite way (which is a little passive-aggressive) is to send the boss an e-mail and cc their boss thanking them for the opportunity to do a project or if you implemented some changes that had some great success send an e-mail letting them know how proud you are of your team and what you did to achieve that.  Creating a paper trail of your success helps develop that path to promotion or recognition.

Sincerely,

SSS

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Ask Southern: Saving Money as a Busy Working Mom

I have had several of you ask questions about how we save money or how we shop, and I have a steadfast rule – it has to be easy and quick or I am not going to do it.  I just don’t have time.  So here are the easy things we do.

  1. Ebates  – This is a NO brainer.  You get cash back for stores you are already going to shop at.  They had 10% cash back at Ralph Lauren yesterday and I combined this with the sale they were having and already pre-ordered the kids Easter outfits in addition to saving $75 and getting Free Shipping, I am getting 10% back of what I spent.  You just go to Ebates and then follow the link to your store of choice.  Amazon, Target,Gap, Nordstrom, and 1,800 more stores are participating.
  2. Ibotta – I use this for grocery shopping.  I have the app on my cell phone, and after I make my grocery list, I check to see if anything I am buying has a cash rebate.  To unlock it sometimes they play a short video other times you answer a question.  It takes a total of 5 minutes. My grocery store is a preferred partner, so I loaded my loyalty card number and it knows what I purchased.  It also works at Target and some of the drug stores (you just have to take a photo of your receipt.)  You get $10 just for signing up and can cash out after $20.00.
  3. Target
    • Red Card  – If you shop at Target, you need a Red Card. It saves you 5% on Everything and you don’t need to keep receipts for returns.
    • Cartwheel – The super savvy go through their shopping list and search for items on it. I do this half the time, and the other half I use the app to scan my items as I am loading them on the belt to check out. I save about $100 (not counting the additional 5% from my Red Card).
    • Pay attention to the signs in the store – I watch for when the diapers are buy 2 get a gift card for $10+. If you are savvy, you can combine that with their $20 off $100 baby coupon.  When I first had Baby #2, I would buy 4 big boxes – get $20 for a future purchase and save $20 plus my 5% Red Card. This is the closest I will ever get to couponing.
  4. Credit Card Rewards – Don’t be afraid of them, if you can pay it off. Pottery Barn has a new to the area coupon they send out that is usually 10% off any purchase. (If you didn’t get one, just ask at the store and they will honor it)  They offer 10% back in rewards on their card.  When we moved and wanted new furniture, we opened a card and used our 10% off coupon and then spent enough to get 4 free barstools and linens for our dining room table.  We immediately paid it off so we didn’t have interest, but got a great deal.  The Disney Credit Card is the same thing – if you open it and put your trip on it you can earn enough cash back to pay for your meals.

For more ideas, check out my article on finding money with two little ones here.

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Ask SSS: Fried and Frustrated

Dear Style –

I read a piece on LinkedIn recently that said women our age were sold a bill of goods. That “doing what you love” as an occupation is a millennial concept that is foreign to our parents, and delusional to our generation of workers, especially women trying to juggle life and family. We should go to work, then go home and do what we love in our free time. The article did note, however, that life seems to have moved away from 8 work hours, 8 hours of life, 8 hours of sleep and is now much more work, and less life/sleep.

So here’s the question:

You have the 2 kids, husband and full life of activities outside the office – but I wonder if you are like me and don’t have the passion you once did for your ‘day job.’ I worked hard for a decade in my preferred field, then moved to areas where that specialized service-type skill is not valued as highly but I could apply my experience and have a stable paycheck. 

My professional path is now defined more by ensuring the two little people at home (and husband) have food, shelter and clothes on their backs. Is it just me (and a shift in priorities)? Am I burned out and going through a “third of life” crisis? Or is it true – doing what you love just doesn’t pay the bills for most breadwinners?

Sincerely,

Deep fried and frustrated

 

Dear Deep Fried and Frustrated,

I don’t know that we have been sold a bill of goods, but I think that the truth is really somewhere between the Millennial idea that we should all just “Lean In” and the idea that we should be grateful for our paycheck and love our life outside of work.

First, I have a lot of old school beliefs that probably come from my dad’s strong work ethic.  I think we do have to do the job that pays the bills for our family, even if it isn’t exactly what we want.  I also think you have to earn your time at the bottom to work your way up not by “leaning in” when you aren’t in Silicon Valley (where 20 year olds hold CEO positions).  As an aside, those 20 year olds have grown up revolutionizing  how we use computers and live off ramen noodles until they are snatched up by a venture capitalist, so they are “earning” it just the same…

Second, I think the reality is that we have to find a balance of paying the bills and finding joy at work.  That can happen in a couple of different ways.  Here is what I mean:

  • If you truly dislike what you are doing but like the company, maybe you could look to see if there is another department or job that you could either apply for or build your skills to move to. If so, sit down with someone from that area and see what it would take to get you there.  A lot of companies offer training to assist employees.
  • Another way is to find ways to be creative at work. Obviously if you love to paint or cook and you are in a desk job, you might have to volunteer on a social committee or like the article said, start making it part of your non-work life.  However, sometimes those can grow into eventual jobs. For example, a good friend of mine quit her day job last year, because her side business of cooking healthy ready to heat meals is a full-time job.  And most of her old co-workers are her clients.
  • However, for those of us that find our current job isn’t a far stretch from what we like, the answer can be easier. I had a passion for Customer Service, and I ended up being the co-chair of a customer service team for my company, a health system.  Yes, it was extra work, but I really found value in it and I was given special training that I now incorporate in my consulting business.

It is fair to say we all go through a “fried and frustrated” stage on the flip side, I actually think this phase is what makes us appreciate it so much more when we get “there,” wherever that may be.  And to be honest, I think we should continue to go for the dream, but be mindful to love the journey it takes to get there.

Remember, perspective is everything—and that IS something you can control every day.

Sincerely,

SSS

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Dear SSS: Confused About a Pro-Working Mom Article

Dear SSS,

I read this article and something about it didn’t sit well with me despite the “don’t give up on your dreams” point.  Can I get your take?

http://www.fastcompany.com/3050962/second-shift/no-you-dont-have-to-give-up-your-professional-dreams-when-you-have-kids?cid=ps002secondshift&utm_source=ps+facebook&utm_medium=paidcm&utm_campaign=ps002secondshift

Confused

 

Dear Confused,

I think the article promised more than it delivered.  Although, I am so glad that Susan Tynan ignored those that told her she couldn’t be a mom and start her own company.  I think what you were looking for from the article (which I hope I provide in my blog) is more clarity about how you and your partner negotiate a shared schedule when you are both in demanding jobs.  I applaud Susan and her husband for having that open dialogue and support of each other.  I realize that not all of you have that.  I feel very blessed that Mr. Style wants me to have my career, too.  He is an active father.  For more on how we balance our evenings.

The other idea that didn’t sit well with me, is the idea of no longer being the primary caregiver and maybe I am just taking issue with the wording.  We for all purposes have a “nanny” and during the week, my daughter does spend more waking time with her than me, but I am still the mother and I still drive all the important caregiver decisions.  Don’t get me wrong, my nanny and I have a very open dialogue and we make a lot of decisions together, but she recognizes my place as the mother.  Just like any other working mom, someone is going to be spending more waking time with your children during the week than you are.

In the end, I think the bigger point is that we can have a career and a family, but it requires a team of support to do that.

SSS

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Ask Southern: Waiting for a Potential Employer

SSS:

Came so close – a great job, a great company and at the 1 yard line of the hiring slog, they move the goal posts. There is apparently another candidate that is great and they say they can’t decide between me and that other candidate. Another presentation/exercise is put in place. 
Long story short, I wasn’t the final choice. On the way out the door the HR manager says she is confident I am the kind of material their company wants, and if I see a position I am interested in – contact her directly and she will be my personal “talent manager.”
I have emailed her several times and called once, but received no response. Is this just HR policy getting in the way of communication or did I take that offer to guide me into the company through a different position a little too literally?

 Sincerely,

Waiting for the phone to Ring

 

Dear Waiting,

I don’t think you took the offer too literally.  Most people wouldn’t make such a personal offer, if they weren’t serious.  Most likely, it is a combination of factors.  They have a lot on their plate in addition to your interest, and they probably have to find time to introduce you to the manager with the opening you have applied for.  Especially with school starting back and the holiday, this can take some time.

I would suggest the following, wait two weeks from your last contact, and then follow-up with an e-mail that thanks them for their help and inquire about the status of the position and let them know you will follow-up in two weeks to see if there is anything else you can provide for them.  This gives them a pseudo-deadline and keeps you from being too pushy.

Best of luck,

SSS

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Ask Southern: Birthday Parties

Dear Southern,

My child attends day care and we have been part of the whole class invite to their birthday party.  If we have to attend all 20 kids parties and buy gifts, I am afraid that is a little much and time consuming.  How do you handle this?

Birthday Overwhelmed

 

Dear Birthday,

I can totally relate.  We follow a simple rule, we ask our child to name the children he considers his friends and we ask the teacher to verify the children he really plays with.  If the child doesn’t fall in that category, we politely decline the invitation.  This allows us to go to 4 or 5 parties versus 20; and these are the children we invite to his party.  In terms of gifts, I shop the bargain section at Target and keep a couple of things in my “gift box” in a storage closet. (Examples: bubbles, super hero and princess playing cards, coloring books with crayons, bouncy balls, etc…) I use these little items as rewards for my kids and combine a few as presents for others.  I also keep a shoe box with a mixture of cards for birthdays, get well, condolences, etc… to have on hand for last minute needs.

SSS

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Ask Southern: Busy Working Mom Dinners

I have received several requests for ideas for weeknight dinners and what we do.  So – here you go.  Also, all of these and more are on my Pinterest page.

  1. Sunday Night Prep Chicken – While I am cooking Sunday dinner I take 2 lbs of chicken (breasts, tenders, whatever floats your boat) and I put them in my 9×13 Pyrex dish that came with a lid and I either add some chicken stock to the bottom with some seasoning or I dump whatever salad dressing floats my boat on it and I bake them at 350 for 20 to 45 minutes depending on thickness. I then let them cool while we eat and put the lid on and Voila – chicken for Monday, Wednesday and maybe Thursday
    1. Boxed mixed Green Salad – I add fruit nuts and some cheese with the chicken
    2. Roast vegetables – our current favorite is roasting halved grape tomatoes with broccoli, then add feta and a dash of Italian vinaigrette
    3. Leftover sweet potatoes mashed and warmed with a drizzle of maple syrup
  2. Rotisserie chicken (I do this for the Sundays I didn’t have time to cook) – this makes great wraps
    1. I chop and mix with black beans,corn, rotel – you can use the mixture in tortillas on salads or on chips
    2. I also do the fruit lettuce wraps.
  3. Southwestern Turkey Burgers on the stove top. I add diced jalapeno and a dash of Worcestershire for some kick and cook with the lid on and serve on whole wheat buns with avocado and pepper jack cheese.
    1. I buy Alexia sweet potato fries and bake while I am prepping and cooking
  4. Ground turkey Asian Lettuce Wraps are also a huge hit. I double the recipe so we can have it twice and have lunch leftovers for Mr. Style.
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Improving the Suit: Maternity Style

I have received several Ask Southern questions about Maternity Wear in a Professional setting and post-baby clothing.

First, congratulations for all of you moms to be.  I loved being pregnant, but I also remember the tearful mornings of your pants not fitting and it is still the first trimester.  Yes, you are going to have to invest in some clothes.  However, I am going to talk you through both pre and post clothing and try to help you get good pieces that will get you through both and more than one baby.  Also, I have posted some of my favorites on my Pinterest site.

  • Bottoms – Can I wear my existing pants/skirt?
    1. Yes, if they will accommodate your widening hips. My pants that had some lycra in them worked, but they then became part of my maternity wardrobe and I had to retire them after I rediscovered my post baby hips. (My NYDJ black ponte pant was a favorite both pre and post baby)
    2. To keep wearing them invest in a belly band (They sell them at Target) or my favorite the Blanqi maternity tank (both allow you to wear your bottoms unfastened).  Yes, this means untucked tops
    3. I would still invest in at least two good pairs of pants in the next size up
      1. This will be your post-baby go to. And you will celebrate the day that they were too big.  (I had a pair of black and white check wide leg White House Black Market side zip pants that were designed to be a little loose and they were my favorite – They were comfortable and dressy)
      2. Budget Saver: Go to a consignment store to get great deals on nice clothes or shop ThredUp
    4. G yourself at least two pair of maternity pants.
  •  Blazers
    1. Wear them unbuttoned while pregnant – I did not see the use in buying a stretchy tent like jacket
    2. My favorite outfit was my NYDJ ponte knit pants with a black v neck ruched top and my cropped black and white blazer with colored heels and a great statement necklace
  • Tops
    1. What about my dress shirts?
      1. Let it Go (Save them for post baby and if breast-feeding – post that)
    2. What can I wear
      1. Knit Tops – but know that you are going to stretch them out. I like a cowl neck top that can go in the wash while pregnant and post baby and doesn’t need to be tucked in.  Look for ruched pieces as well to use early in pregnancy and post baby.  Again, go up a size in regular tops.  I found they fit better than maternity and give you post-baby options.
      2. Maternity Tops – Go for flattering empire waist tops. I liked things I could add a belt to.
  • Dresses
    1. Dresses are your new BFF (at least they were mine) – Look for empire waist pieces to use early on and post baby. Wrap Dresses can get you through all stages if you go up a size (I bought a black Old Navy wrap dress one size up).  I bought a black and white print empire waist dress at Kohl’s one size up in a stretchy fabric (I used a black cardigan belt over the elastic empire waist to dress it up and would pair with a long colored Ann Taylor cardigan to give it some interest and a pearl statement necklace)
    2. I did buy Maternity Dresses – Gap had and empire waist shirt dress that was a favorite, I bought a black knit dress
  • Post Baby Needs
    1. Belly Bandit (I wore this after both religiously for six weeks and only took it off to shower) – I got my hips back
    2. SPANX – or whatever similar brand you like – to help fit back in your clothes. I wore 2 at a time, because I always wear one
    3. If breast-feeding
      1. Pack a towel in your pump bag to avoid mess
      2. Pack wipes for cleaning up
    4. Keep a change of bra and top (in case a meeting happens)
    5. Scarves are your friends – they hide a multitude of sins
    6. All new moms – keep a spare outfit at work, I have found myself with snot of my sleeve or a yogurt handprint on my pants and Tide To Go is also a good thing to keep
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