I grew up in a household full of animals. At any given time, we had rabbits (Funny story: we thought we had two sisters…we did not. We went from 2 rabbits to 26 in a month!), guinea pigs, fish, dogs, cats, hamsters. Even a frog! I even “rescued” a butterfly, who stayed my constant companion for its short life and refused to fly away. Caring for and enjoying animals was a natural part of my childhood and I couldn’t wait to share that with my own children.
Right now, we have a bull dog, Ivy, and a whole slew of fish in a giant tank in the boys’ room (I believe their names range from Blackie, Big Fish, Baby Fish, to the Brothers). The host of lessons and teachable moments with these animals as part of our family are endless. With any animal, the opportunity is there to teach:
1. Responsibility: Teaching your children to be responsible for another life in all its many facets has countless rewards. Not only do they learn to contribute to the care and wellbeing of others, but they also learn to respect what you do as their parent. As they play “mommy” to their pets, they put someone before themselves, they clean, they work hard. It can be a lightbulb moment in communicating family roles and the necessity of everyone’s contribution to the greater good.
2. Care/Empathy: Teaching your children to recognize the needs of another being and to empathize in a way that prompts action and care is an invaluable life lesson. I truly believe that having a heart for others is a learned skill that comes from seeing that same love and devotion in action in the people surrounding you and from being in an environment that demands and challenges you to consider others before yourself. I want my children to have servant hearts. Caring for their pets is a helpful first step in molding that character trait.
With our specific family pets, we can highlight some specific teachable moments.
With our dog, Ivy (p.s. That is NOT Ivy…I admit to having only really lame images of her! I will work on that.)
1. Respect for Animals/Awareness for their Natural Cues: We spend a lot of time talking about what Ivy is doing and why, and most importantly, what that means for us. Is she resting and should we leave her be? Is she jumping and wants to play? Did she growl and what does that mean? Teaching children that pets are animals and not toys, and to have a healthy respect and awareness for the natural cues they give us as to whether or not they should be approached gives them the tools to make the best decisions for their safety.
2. Loyalty: Take this one with a grain of salt, since Ivy isn’t loyal to anyone except my husband (see above reference to lame pictures), but that relationship is truly something to behold. Those two are so stinkin’ in love with each other. The sun rises and sets on my husband and that example of true friendship and loyalty is especially important to little boys in my humble opinion. A boy and his dog. Is there anything sweeter?
3. Routine: Need I say more? We are all hoping to maximize every opportunity to teach our children how to follow and appreciate a good routine.
4. Obedience: Yeah, this one pretty much speaks for itself too. Watching the relationship develop between hearing a “command,” acting on it and the resulting positive reinforcement is a great example for any child.
5. Ask Permission: Here’s another safety one. The boys have been taught that because of #1, we must never approach any animal, especially a dog, from behind or without asking the owner first if it is ok if they pet it. Upon receiving permission, they have been taught to put out their hand and let a dog sniff first, and pet second. Respect.
With our fish, of countless aforementioned names (p.s. That is also not me or our fish tank – seriously, who takes a picture of their own fish tank? Not this photog.)
1. Counting: We count our fish in every way possible. By color, by size, by family. Count, count, count. How many fish are eating? How many fish are hiding in the cave? I use every opportunity in that fish tank to get them thinking.
2. Security: They go to sleep at naps and night time with the tank light on. They find an incredible restfulness and sense of security by watching the peaceful underwater environment ebb and flow. It quiets their spirits and develops their imaginations. They feel content and safe knowing their fishies are “watching over them.”
3. Socialization: We talk at length about the personalities of our different fish. We have fish that are friends with each other and are inseparable. We have super shy fish that hide and we speak encouragements to them to help them feel more a part of the group. We have the food stealers and the bottom feeders. The schools and the loners. We are learning, albeit on a much smaller scale, to identify emotions and personality through action.
4. Life and Death: Fish come and go pretty frequently. The boys are still a bit young to understand what’s happening when we flush a fishy, but I’ll continue to talk them through what happened and why, and I’m sure at some point, when they have a better understanding, it will be a teachable moment that it is ok to feel sad and miss someone who leaves, but that we keep on keepin’ on.
Pets aren’t for everyone. And as a mother of multiples, I’ll be the first to say that sometimes you just don’t have the resources to properly care for an animal while you can barely survive the day to day chaos of the kids. That’s perfectly ok. There are a million other just as effective ways to instill these different values and similar activities. If you are a pet owner, or foresee yourself becoming one in the future, keep these helpful tips in mind and use your pet not only as a new family member to love on, but also as a teachable moment for your children as they develop into sturdy, responsible contributing members of society.
Ah!! Look what I found! Ivy, in her cute stage, pre-husband obsession.
Make Learning Fun With Robots
In today’s world, technology is everywhere from our kitchens, to our offices, to our cars. We use smartphones every day not just for work, but also for play. Maybe you’re reading this article on your phone right now. Some moms are worried about the impact of such widespread technology on their kids’ education. They may be worried that all the cell phones, computers, and smart TVs in today’s environment are too distracting for young people.
However, technology is a real part of children’s future careers. It can help kids learn any subject, especially when robotics are involved. More and more mom blogs are discussing the intersection of learning and technology, it seems like it’s the blogger’s choice as long as it’s relevant to their children’s education.
There are even competitions sponsored by everyone from the government to colleges for children to really show off what they’ve learned. One example is the Robot Olympics and another one is the Robots 4 Us video challenge. No matter where you are, there’s a fun way for your kids to learn about STEM and STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math — in an educational, engaging way.
One great place to start is by watching some videos and making robots at home. These fun, futuristic tutorials help kids learn how to make all kinds of things, like a motorized coloring machine, and more.
If your kids really like at home projects and watching robotics videos, why not try an afterschool program or a summer camp. There are many options out there for any curious boy or girl of any age. One first step to take is to look up your state and school district on the Afterschool Alliance page to check out what’s available.
Today’s technological options might seem a bit too new to those of us in the older generation, but they’re really not so scary. Kids can have fun and learn skills at the same time. The economy of the future is becoming more and more focused on technology and STEM skills.
By getting your kids into robotics, whether it’s a summer camp, an after school program, or an at home project, you’re giving them a future edge not only in school, but in their career as well. And as a parent, you’ll also learn valuable skills for your own career, as well as having lots of good, clean, family fun.
Self Care Tips for Working Moms
Being a single working mom of twins and a teenager means I often put myself at the bottom of the to do list. Whether I’m playing chef, chauffeur, bandager of boo boos or homework advisor, the hat I put on least often is woman. As a married working mom, I practically forgot I was a beautiful woman and wife. As a single working mom, I struggle to embrace myself as a confident available woman. Focused mainly on carrying my family through the days, I forget that taking the time to focus on myself every once in awhile ultimately makes me a better parent. Here are some fun self care tips for working moms that could spark that little feisty woman you know is in there but haven’t seen in forever.
1. Boudoir Shoot: Yup. I’m certain a great many of you just went “Yeah, right. Thanks for nothing.” WAIT! Seriously…I know this is what I do for a living, and I’m not listing this one at the top of the list as a shameless plug. I’m listing it at the top of the list because of the why behind what I do as a photographer. Our tagline at Modern Femme Photography is “because you deserve to feel beautiful.” A boudoir shoot is a fabulous way to celebrate and embrace your unique journey as a woman, be pampered, but most importantly, be reminded that you are beautiful, just as you are. And because it’s important to practice what you preach, I hopped in front of the camera a couple of weeks ago as part of a two-session process I’ve planned to reclaim my confidence and self-worth as a newly single woman.
2. Support Group: We have a great online community growing at Working Moms United that gives support and encouragement at those low points where being a work mom chips away at your energy, self-esteem and willpower. It’s a wonderful resource for moms on-the-go who need a pep talk but can only pop online here and there or might not have available time to meet up with others. I’ve also recently joined a local church and have been attending their quarterly women’s brunches. They provide child care for a few hours while I sit and chat with other women, feel refreshed and feel supported in prayer as a woman of faith. I’ve also identified a few key accountability partners in my life. Girl friends with similar life circumstances who can serve as trusted encouragers and keep me on track.
3. Learn Something New: Switching up the routine and enjoying something fresh and new can be a great way to recharge. Recently, I booked a makeup lesson with Dhalia Edwards of The Bride’s Corner. Dhalia is not only a dear friend of mine, but she’s incredibly talented both in her technique and her warm-hearted care of her clients. She patiently took 3 hours of her day to sift through my old, dated make up, repurpose old tools for new styles and teach me proper application techniques for everyday looks. Not only did I feel pampered and pretty when I left, but I felt rejuvenated and more confident in how to achieve a flawless look on my own.
4. Schedule Quiet Time: Spare minutes are a hot commodity for the working mom. Every second of every day feels tied to a never-ending to do list that typically revolves around everyone other than yourself. You need to make a choice to declare a bit of each day for yourself. Whether it’s 5 minutes, 20 minutes or the luxurious full hour, diligently schedule quiet time. Take the time to breathe in the quiet, write in a journal, pray, speak out gratitudes, do a few yoga stretches…whatever your peace may be. Do not allow yourself to skimp on this part of your day.
Remember, the first step towards being a better mom is being a better you. That better you needs some TLC! It may feel overwhelming or even scary to put any of these self care tips for workings moms into practice, but trust me, you’ll be glad that you did. Remember the positive, reclaim your beauty, refresh your soul and recharge!
Year-End Money Tips for Working Moms and Female Entrepreneurs
I don’t know about you but the end of the year brings two thoughts…well, three thoughts for me. One, CHRISTMAS!!!!! Two, fresh start on January 1st! And three, holy cow, what’s my money situation? Taxes are coming.
A big, big thank you to Kristen Robinson, SVP of Women and Young Investors at Fidelity Investments for taking the time to develop these year-end money tips for working moms and female entrepreneurs!
2 Tips for Female Business Owners / Entrepreneurs:
Keep Your Future in Mind with the Right Retirement Account for Your Needs
- Look into the different plans available to business owners, such as a 401(k) for Small Business, a self-employed 401(k), SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA. You may need to appoint a plan administrator- someone who takes care of administrative responsibilities and ensures the plan is operating according to the Plan Document. Learn more about these different types of accounts here.
- Contribute to your account. The deadline for depositing employer profit-sharing contributions for the current calendar year is generally the business’ tax-filing deadline, plus extensions (for unincorporated businesses, this date is usually April 15 of the following year, plus any extensions).
- If you own a business, have you considered how best to plan for the future? If you plan to keep it in the family, consider creating a structure that makes it easier to transfer the business’s assets to other family members, such as a family limited partnership or a family limited liability company.
- There are many options; your attorney or tax adviser can help you select one that is appropriate for you in light of your specific situation.
4 Tips for Single Moms:
Get Involved in Your Family’s Finances
- It’s important to have a full picture of the family financial situation. At minimum, know what accounts you have and with whom. That includes banks and investing accounts, life insurance, mortgages, and loans. Having a handle on this information is an important foundation as you plan for the future, and can bring greater peace of mind.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes! Yes! Yes! I am still getting a grip on my finances after the divorce. I realize now how little I knew before and how problematic that can be.)
Save for Retirement
- Retirement is not a destination but a journey, and it’s never too early – or too late – to start putting away savings for the future. Along the way, there are myriad opportunities to get off the path—and back on it. And at virtually any turn in the road, there are possibilities to speed up your progress.
- Make it a goal to save 15% or more of your income each year. If that’s not reachable today, make sure to make it a priority to carve out what you can. Even smaller amounts will add up over time.
- Aim to have no more than 50% of your take-home pay go toward your “must-have” expenses.
Try to Save Three to Six Months of Essential Expenses in an Emergency Fund.
Look for Growth Potential from your Investments
- Knowing your financial personality can help you determine the right mix of stocks, bonds and short-term investments that match how comfortable you are with risk, and have the growth potential to meet your life’s needs, be that when you want to retire or when you want to send kids to college.
- If you’re not sure where to start, read up online, or reach out to a professional. There’s never a fee to come into Fidelity to talk to a financial planner, but we do recommend you reevaluate twice a year. Just like you take care of your physical health by visiting the doctor and dentist, think of this as taking care of your financial health, which is vitally important as well.
Protect your Legacy
- In order to ensure that what you’ve accumulated is distributed to your children, family and causes you care about most, it is important to name beneficiaries and create a will and health care proxy. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to think about the ‘what it’s,’ but it’s important to be prepared for the unknown. Do you really want someone else making these decisions for you?