Monday, March 20, 2017

The Mom’s Code – Judging Moms (Part One of Five)

Everyone makes assumptions. One time I yelled at my child for not making it to the wastebasket as she puked in the mall. Another mom gave me ‘the frown’ or what I call the ‘shame on you’ shake of the head. I wanted to yell, “Don’t shake your head at me unless you understand what kind of day I’m having. Help me clean up the vomit or keep my three-year-old from walking in it. Those are the only parts I have open in this moment of chaos.

The Moms's Code Tenet 5: "Stand Up to "Mom Tormentors"

Moms need a community to share, laugh and cry together :) Learn more about The Moms Code and the tenets of being a Mom. 



Lots of people are convinced that there is one best approach to raising children. There are experts who offer advice. Many of them are ‘real experts’ with big degrees to back up their advice. They often write about stuff I refer to as parenting fads. Then there are other experts that offer opinions and advice packaged as helpful tips and hints. From this universe of advice, some moms buy into the fad of the moment and get on a soapbox about certain things. I call these moms – mom shamers. 

When I went back to Connecticut from Seoul for the second summer, a new trend was raging in the area I lived in. Everywhere I looked there were yoga bags, Trader Joe and Whole Food bags. At beaches, kids playgrounds, grocery stores and malls. I was accustomed to the designer bag culture of Seoul, where designer bags indicated status, taste and sophistication. Here, only one friend, Audrey, held firm and continued to rotate her mainly new designer bags weekly. I asked her, “What’s with all the Whole Foods bags?” 

She said, “The Whole Foods bags are an advertisement. The moms think this shows that they are great moms. So having a kid’s birthday party has officially moved from one stop at Costco to boutique shopping at Whole Foods so that all the food and drinks are organic, except the cake of course. That has to come from a known bakery. Then itunes cards as party favors!”

Another friend, Brooke, chimed in, “The obsession with organic food and nutrition is unbelievable. I carry my workout clothes in my reusable grocery bag! Taylor brings her lunch or field trip supplies in them. We don’t even use water bottles anymore. We send everything in a reusable water bottle. The amount of judging is crazy so everyone has jumped on. I’m not saying that using a Hydroflax or eating organic food isn’t a good idea but it’s gotten out of hand.”

One of my favorite, very direct friends, Lanie, said, “It’s a soapbox shit show. The magpies are out in full force. Sewing all their mouths shut would be a full time job so I’ve given up.”

All summer I felt the pressure to drive to the next town to get all the right foods from Whole Foods and Trader Joes for my kids. And they do have some awesome food! But my kids secretly pressured me to get take-out from the diner so they could have chicken nuggets and fries. They also wanted Kraft Mac and Cheese, not Annies, and goldfish, not cheddar bunnies. They took a militant stand on popsicles. They wanted the yellow box. I backed down and filled the freezer with their icy treats.

I won on milk, eggs, fruit and most of the meat. And I carried my reusable bags with pride to the pool and on errands. I was a checked-in mom.

The Mom's Code Tenet 10: Stop Trying to Appear Perfect

Proud parents just like you are looking for a new, fun (and educational) picture book series for your children.  Find the award-winning Fujimini Adventure book series by clicking here.  


When I went back to Seoul, I told our ajummah Mrs. Cho we were going to eat a more healthy diet brimming with organic food. I made the pronouncement expecting a battle. She was thrilled. “I know good place. Everything fresh and best. Mrs. Cho know best. I go too.” She was clapping so I was immediately suspicious I had unwittingly made a grave error.

Mrs. Cho kept talking, “Great market across bridge. Many fruit, vegetable, fish, meat. Only cash. No credit card.” The next day, with lots of cash, my little girl Claire, Mrs. Cho, and I headed across the bridge. The warehouse was huge, with a great deal of activity. Trucks and vans making and taking deliveries, men in uniforms hosing off the pavement. Mrs. Cho darted through the parking lot with authority, carrying my little girl on her back in a sack. I followed closely into a warehouse filled with so much fresh food it was an assault on my senses.

We got a cart. Mrs. Cho was proud, saying, “Everything fresh. Everything Korean. All best food.” She put my little girl in the front of the cart and we set off. The vendors have stands and call out to people as they pass by.

We started in vegetables. A vendor motioned to us, holding up carrots. The carrots had dirt on them. Mrs. Cho translated, “So fresh, they not even washed yet. Out of ground today. See! Mrs. Cho know best!” We bought some dirty carrots and moved on. People followed us, trying to take pictures of my little girl, reaching out fingers to touch her cheek. We arrived at the potato section. Mrs. Cho said, “Man says so fresh there is worm in dirt. So fresh!”

I put on an impressed face, but I was thinking, Worms, yuck! Not a good selling point. The potatoes went in the cart. We paid the vendor at each stand, all cash. 

Next we went to the meats. A woman took her gloved hand out of the raw chicken and tried to touch my little girl’s face. I gave the carriage a shove. “Mrs. Cho, don’t let her touch her face! She could get salmonella!”

Mrs. Cho shook her head in disgust. “Salmon over there with fishies. This meat! Silly!” I pushed the carriage away from the grasping chicken fingers. I asked, “Can you get some meat, and I’ll wait over there?” 

Mrs. Cho haggled and discussed with different stands, bringing more fresh meat and produce over. She said, “You too fancy. No jewelry or shoes like that. They no bargain because you can pay. Bah! Know nothing!” She stomped off, pushing the cart as if it were a load of fairy dust.

The cart was full, and the kids weren’t going to eat much of what’s in it. Mrs. Cho said, “Okay, fish, then done.” The fish smell was overpowering and got stronger as we approached. When we turned a corner, I saw about one hundred feet of counter space with men clubbing fish! There was blood all over their white aprons, and the pounding sound was very loud. I felt like I was swimming in blood and guts. There were enormous tanks in back of the men containing every type of fish imaginable. The fish were swimming energetically, not understanding their predicament.


Mrs. Cho pointed. “Go! Pick some fish. They prepare for you.”
I looked at my little girl who was smiling and pointing at the massive tanks. “Hello, fishies. Mommy, I want to see the fishies.”

I said, “Mrs. Cho, I can’t pick a fish. They’ll take it out and club it to death.”


She said, “Where you think fish and meat come? Aaahhh! I do it. You go to car.”

I looked at my little girl again. “No, Mrs. Cho. No fish today. Please.” She pushed the cart, muttering, “She want fresh. This fresh! So silly!” 

When we got to the van, Mrs. Cho told the driver Mr. Park, “She so silly. Wants to save fishies.” Mr. Park smiled. “Yes, she wants to save everyone.”

I sent a text to my US friends, Nikki and Lanie, with a photo of the warehouse—

It’s a dog eat dog world out here in organic land

Lanie texted me back. “Loved your photo. I’d become a vegetarian but it’s too inconvenient.” 

I told her that it’s official—we are returning to our normal hybrid diet (half good, half judged as sub par by the soapbox moms). All organic and/or farm to table was too tough and sometimes disturbing.


The Mom's Code Tenet 4: Get Wired

Moms need a community to share, laugh and cry together :) Find all 10 tenets of being a Mom here. 


My phone rang a minute later. Lanie started venting immediately. “I’m so mad. My kids have played with our neighbor Melinda’s kids forever. Lately when my kids ask them to come by, they say they’re too busy. The weather was bad so I told Katie see if they wanted to bake some cookies and watch a movie. I say, “We’ve missed you,” to Melinda’s son when he comes over. He says, “My mom told us we could do better than playing with Jake and Katie. That we should aim higher. She wants us to play with the new kids from London.” Jake went and played with him as if nothing had changed. As if this was all normal and acceptable. She’s officially my new frenemy. She’s a climber and I don’t want anyone judging my kids.”

I assured Lanie that this is Melinda’s issue, not hers. In the end, kids pick their own friends and most of the time, it is the daughter or son of someone we don’t really like. I told Lanie that she has to call me when she sees Melinda next. I know she will call her out.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Journey to The Mom's Code; Part Five (of Five) Wouldn’t Trade it for the World

Written by:
Eileen Wacker

This is Part Five.

Click here to find part four.

There were many nights, that I lost sleep. I would stay up all night thinking about the mom stories. These realities—the loss of career dreams, the embracing of a new life as a mom, making new important mom friends and evolving with old friends who became moms like me. How we are the same and how we’ve changed. How, when the curtain is pulled back, there are messes everywhere. So we soldier on.

I wrote— a mom’s code!

The code incorporates the importance of laying it bare. Because we need to. It’s cleansing and a relief


Moms Code Tenet 6: Check your "Judgeyness" at the door

Proud parents just like you are looking for a new, fun (and educational) picture book series for your children.  Find the award-winning Fujimini Adventure book series by clicking here. 

Incorporates the notion that the end doesn’t justify the means when raising children. Because all the ‘means’ added together make up the fabric of my children’s character at the end of the childhood journey. 

Moms undermining other moms cuts at this, makes the load heavier. We have too much in common to tear each other apart.

My children didn’t come with warning labels. Open heart surgery, a different learner, one who keeps breaking bones, a non-sleeper, an irascible arguer. My children, as imperfect as they are, have stretched my heart and increased my ability to love and embrace life. 


Moms Code Tenet 8: Save your children -- when you have to

Moms need a community to share, laugh and cry together :) Learn more about The Moms Code and the tenets of being a Mom. 



Most of my powerful memories are moments of extreme joy or pain. A lot of the rest is white noise. I remembered one night, when I was lying in my son’s bed trying to get him to go to sleep. He grabbed my face with his hands so I was looking at him, “Mommy I need a tiger!” When I asked him what (in the world) would we do with a tiger, he said, “Name him Ripper and feed him bullies!” From the top bunk, his older brother said through closed eyes, “Unicorns and pink fairies have to go too.” I had been asked about 327 questions that day, fended off wars over a one armed doll, warded off a hunger strike because I served broccoli, and collected all the electronics they wanted to sneak into their beds. My daughter entered the doorway and asked, “Does Winnie the Pooh even know how to read? Does he have to do a reading journal? It’s not fair.” I smiled, thinking there is no place I’d rather be right now.

Sometimes my children say hilarious things, accomplish something remarkable, hug a sibling spontaneously or, believing no one is watching, run with beautiful abandon. 

So it’s worth some introspection, for all of us and for them. It’s worth telling the truth. It’s worth considering a mom’s code. Or else, we’re going to have to get a tiger named Ripper to eat the mom bullies or teach Winnie the Pooh to read.



Moms Code Tenet 1: Stop The Mama Drama



CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE OF MY NEW BLOG: JUDGING MOMS

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Journey to The Mom's Code; Part Four (of Five) Ripper the Tiger

Written by:
Eileen Wacker

I went to NYC to run a booth in a book fair. I met an old friend, Louisa, for dinner at a funky midtown restaurant after a grueling day of hosting the booth events and having an author reading. I sat at the table, early as always, waiting, wondering if a warm bath and room service in the hotel might have been a better choice. I can’t remember the last time I had a bubble bath without someone knocking at the door, or, climbing in. And for far too long, I did not order food for myself; I usually ate the leftover food off of my kids’ plates. But when I saw Louisa, I jumped up from my seat and we hugged each other tight.


Tenet 7: Nourish your soul with Girls' Night Outs

Moms need a community to share, laugh and cry together :) Learn more about The Moms Code and the tenets of being a Mom. 


It was a sacrifice for both of us to take a night away, but the time melted away with that one embrace. I said, “It’s been too long.” She agreed and said, “But look at me now. I’m chubby, a mess and late.” She had changed from the precise, timely, sensibly dressed, ambitious MBA I knew, but she was attractive, with a self-deprecating, stunning smile. I wasn’t surprised at how good she looked.  

I said, “You’re so pretty. It’s just softer and whimsical now. You always look so happy on Facebook! Beautiful family. Busy, gorgeous kids.” The waiter, Benjamin was getting suspicious we would talk all night and never turn this table. But that all became white noise around us as we caught up. We ordered food and multiple rounds of wine and margaritas, making Benjamin feel like we weren’t so bad. We talked about the good old days, laughing at ourselves and savoring the great memories of our early twenties.

We talked about our careers and the inevitable U-turns after kids. We talked about husbands, children, challenges, and happiest moments. She told me a few stories about horrifying behaviors by moms in her daughter’s dance academy. Then after three glasses of wine, with a margarita in hand, at exactly 9:38, she leaned over, “I’m going to tell you my deepest, darkest, most shameful secret. It’s so horrible I don’t know if I can say the words out loud. If I do, they become true and I can never take them back.”

I said, “You don’t have to share any secret. Everyone has a right to their secrets.” She said, “I don’t know why but I want to tell you. I need to tell someone and you’re the right person.” She took a deep breath and a big gulp of her drink.

Tenet 3: Save her when she's drowning


Proud parents just like you are looking for a new, fun (and educational) picture book series for your children.  Find the award-winning Fujimini Adventure book series by clicking here. 



“So here it goes. After I had my two kids, I just couldn’t lose the weight easily. I could grab a handful of stomach flab. I was mortified. There it was day after day, a handful of chubbiness. I couldn’t stand it. I started to throw up my food. I think I got hooked because it was a lever I had control over and I had control over almost nothing with two little kids and a husband who just kept going with his usual routine. Nothing material was changing for him. He was still having nights out with the boys and work dinners while everything in my world was turned on its head.

I researched and tried to find the healthiest way to puke. I have it down to a science. I drink a big glass of liquid to ease the food. I usually drink milk as it coats the stomach. I lock the bathroom door and strip off my clothes in one second flat. I don’t want any splatters or smell on my clothes. I put a paper towel on the floor because sometimes pee runs down my leg when I force myself to throw up. Then I come out, redress and brush my teeth. Sometimes I quickly rinse my body in the shower if no one is waiting. I have it down to about ninety seconds.”

I grabbed her hand, “Doesn’t Jack notice? You guys seem tight.” She squeezed my hand. “No, Jack has absolutely no clue. He would freak. He might even ask his friends or his mom for advice. No thanks. I want to finish so you’ll know how pathetic I really am. One day, two years ago, my son, who was six at the time, walked in on me. I guess I didn’t catch the lock. I was standing naked, crouched over the toilet, with my two fingers poised to go in my mouth.

“He looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, are you okay? What are you doing?’ The look on his face was so innocent, so concerned.” She was crying now. “I told him I had cramps and I was just about to grab a quick shower. He accepted this without hesitation. Why would he even consider his mommy was a crazy, puking liar? Anyway, I dressed in a hurry and went out. I was disgusted with myself, beyond ashamed. I vowed to quit and I have for the most part. The only time I throw up is during the holidays. I want to fit in my clothes. So, I justify four or five times a year, for ninety seconds I am a pathetic individual because the tradeoff is worth it to me. People don’t really understand the sacrifice we make, physically having kids and then managing the incredible challenge of raising them.”

She was sobbing as she finished her story. I was crying too. Benjamin, our waiter came over concerned until we assured him we were okay. She said, “The reason I told you my story is that when I have days like this and I’m struggling to be a decent mom and then some dance mom is trying to run me out of the program because I don’t volunteer enough or want to spend an extra five hundred dollars on costumes, I wonder what it’s going to take for us to find our moral compass as moms, in the way we treat each other.”


Tenet 1: Stop the Mama Drama


Moms need a community to share, laugh and cry together :) Learn more about The Moms Code and the tenets of being a Mom. 



When I went back to my hotel room, I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up all night. I was wrestling with these stories, these realities– mine, Nikki’s and Louisa’s—the loss of career dreams, the embracing of a new life as a mom, making new important mom friends and evolving with old friends who became moms like me. How we are the same and how we’ve changed. How, when the curtain is pulled back, there are messes everywhere. How sometimes other moms pull us down. So we soldier on.

I wrote— a Mom’s Code!  

The code incorporates the importance of laying it bare. Because we need to. It’s cleansing and a relief.

It incorporates the notion that the end doesn’t justify the means when raising children. Because all the ‘means’ added together make up the fabric of my children’s character at the end of the childhood journey.

When moms undermine other moms, it makes the load heavier. We have too much in common to tear each other apart.

My children didn’t come with warning labels. Open heart surgery, a different learner, one who keeps breaking bones, a non-sleeper, an irascible arguer. My children, as imperfect as they are, have stretched my heart and increased my ability to love and embrace life. I have become more honest about the fact that when you pull back the curtains at my house, there is usually a mess. And although I’ve searched under beds and behind couches, I can never seem to find time. I’m always running but still behind.

One night, I was lying in my son’s bed trying to get him to go to sleep. He grabbed my face with his hands so I was looking at him, “Mommy I need a tiger!”

When I asked him what (in the world) would we do with a tiger, he said, “Name him Ripper and feed him bullies!” From the top bunk, his older brother said through closed eyes, “Unicorns and pink fairies have to go too.” I had been asked about 327 questions that day, fended off wars over a one-armed doll, warded off a hunger strike because I served broccoli, and collected all the electronics they wanted to sneak into their beds.

My daughter entered the doorway and asked, “Does Winnie the Pooh even know how to read? Does he have to do a reading journal? It’s not fair.” She stomped out. I guess it was a rhetorical question. I smiled, thinking there is no place I’d rather be right now.

Sometimes my children say hilarious things, accomplish something remarkable, hug a sibling spontaneously or, believing no one is watching, run with beautiful abandon.


So, it’s worth some introspection, for all of us and for them, the ankle biters. It’s worth telling the truth. It’s worth considering a Mom’s Code. Or else, we’re going to have to get a tiger named Ripper to eat the mom bullies or teach Winnie the Pooh to keep a journal.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Journey to The Mom's Code; Part Three (of five) It's not all Facebook Fabulous


Written by:
Eileen Wacker

This is Part three.

TO FIND PART TWO, CLICK HERE.

The strangest feeling pushed its way into my soul. That it had to be me at home raising ‘them’, the four ankle biters. That I couldn’t leave this immense responsibility to anyone else - not even our greatest babysitter. Part of me wanted it to be me. I wanted to be thought of as a good mom. I wanted the damn ‘world’s greatest mom’ mug.

Tenet 8: Save your children -- when you have to

Moms need a community to share, laugh and cry together :) Learn more about The Moms Code and the tenets of being a Mom. 


My husband often reminded me how lucky I was to stay home, but I was very conflicted. I was down in a playpen arena fighting it out and he was in the luxury box after work, observing everything, ready to comment as the plays unfolded, if he was home, which was not a lot. I also felt the balance of power in our relationship shifting and I didn’t like it. All of a sudden his career took uncontested priority while a Little Tykes shopping cart bulldozed mine. Sometimes after work, he would walk into a kitchen of cheeriness, with a bubbly wife sharing all the news of the day; other times, he would enter a dangerous den with a chardonnay-holding tiger ready to pounce due to all the day’s cumulative injustices. I understood perfectly that play date politics, pick-up line transgressions and volunteer jobs at school turning into power plays, were not life changing issues, but as he learned the hard way, pointing that out over and over was not a good idea, especially if he did it with an eye roll.

I had not made time to meet other moms in our suburban town until school started. Luckily, the kids got into the adorable town nursery school. On the first day of school, I met the nicest group of moms and danced to my car, singing along to Pink, gleeful at having 2 ½ hours relatively free, with only one baby, who I planned to force naps upon so I had at least an hour alone! So, my two biggest kids went to nursery school, I had a baby at home, and was pregnant with the fourth. I enthusiastically planned play dates, put the kids in activities with other kids (whose moms I liked J), and threw kiddie holiday parties.



Tenet 7: Nourish your soul with Girls' Night Outs

Proud parents just like you are looking for a new, fun (and educational) picture book series for your children.  Find the award-winning Fujimini Adventure book series by clicking here. 


Becoming part of a mom group was life changing. Moms need other moms. The discussions I hated pre-kids were now very relevant. The women quickly became important to me. I trusted them. I was part of something meaningful. There was realness and honesty about something precious to all of us. Raising our beloved ankle biters.

These dinners were different from work dinners as we endlessly discussed our kids. We shared stories of successes and failures, struggles and wins, saving us countless hours on the Internet or in therapy. We aired our secrets and there was very little judgment. One mom confessed that her kids constantly threw gummed up cheerios at her head as she drove! Another said that her child ran and hid every time a play date ended and melted down as they left, causing scene after scene! Another confessed that her preschooler couldn't really read! We all had days filled with tiny people who sapped our energy then demanded we belt out Wheels on the Bus one more time.

We laughed about whether Mother’s Day is a ruse on moms or a real holiday. Bad buffets with grouchy children in dressy clothes, yelling dads and a long wait despite having a reservation were common themes. We agreed it would be more relaxing if the husband took the mad children to breakfast and let us sleep in. We would leave instructions to slide the cherished card under the closed bathroom door.


Tenet 2: Enough with the guilt


One working mom confessed, “Today Mackenzie was sick— again. I had to cancel my work trip to London and work from home. I sat at the doctors’ office for two hours, surrounded by kids with pink eye, only to hear, she should rest. I feel like someone threw me in a garbage can and rolled me down the road. My roots are showing, my nails are chipped, and Mackenzie cried in the background of an important call, because I bought TruMoo chocolate milk instead of Nesquik. And I’m using the drops because I might have pink eye. That’s why I look like I have a lazy, weepy eye tonight! Future partners can’t have pink eye!”

The weepy eye was like a traffic accident that I couldn’t look away from. We all backed up a bit, dreading getting conjunctivitis. I said,“I don’t know how you balance your big job, commuting to the city, and all Mackenzie’s stuff.”

CLICK HERE FOR PART FOUR: MOM SECRETS

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Journey to The Mom’s Code: Part Two (of Five) – “I’m free…free falling”

Written by Eileen Wacker

This is Part 2 (of 5)

CLICK HERE FOR PART 1

The day of my daughter’s surgery was the worst day of my life. We drove in silence, a silence so loud I could hear it. I was unable to make a single cheery remark. My cheerleader self was shaken to the core and I swiped the tears away before my little girl noticed. I watched her in the mirror as she stared off into space, out the window, clutching her little doll Sara, her favorite despite having painted-on hair.

When they came to take her for the surgery, I was overcome by fear that she would never come back out. She was so tiny as she lay on the movable bed. She was hungry. She was afraid. As the anesthesiologist went to place the mask over her mouth, she looked over at me with her liquid brown eyes, tears spilling down her cheeks. She waved and said softly, “Okay bye Mommy. Take care of Sara. Bye Daddy.” I was breathing underwater. All I could think was, “please let her make it. I will die if she dies. I would die for her right now. I would without hesitation give my life so she could live hers.”




Proud parents just like you are looking for a new, fun (and educational) picture book series for your children.  Find this award-winning book series by clicking here. 


My husband led me by my elbow to the waiting room where I sat and completed a five hundred-piece puzzle on the waiting room floor to avoid looking at the clock or any person. We had about four hours to wait before we would hear anything. The time crept by so slowly. My personal agony never subsided, only got stronger, as my thoughts ran down random worry alleyways. My husband stared at the wall stoically, and every hour on the hour, said, “this is good. It’s almost done. We’ll have good news at any minute.”

When the surgeon came out and told us the procedure was a success, I jumped into his arms and wept. He must see that a lot because he didn’t even flinch. When my little girl recovered enough to come home, I was terrified that she would break. It’s hard to keep an active child quiet and we had a two and a half year old son at home who wanted to play with her. But somehow the skies cleared and her bandages were removed; I consciously made myself let her the climb the ladder to the slide or pump her own tiny legs on the swings, even as I held my breath.

A month later, I had lunch with my boss to discuss my return. He was selling me hard to come back. I felt immensely flattered and wanted. His big plans were indeed big, including a business development role with lots of international travel. He said, “You are one step away from being an HR leader for one of our smaller businesses. You are one of our highest potential females. How long have you been back in the U.S.? We need to put that global brain of yours back to work.” My boss assumed I would work out the balance issues with my husband. That I would put my work wings back on and show up, ready to fly. I thanked him for his support and said, “’ll come back after the holidays. I’m so excited.” I meant it at the time. I even shook on it. I danced to my car with the song, “I’m free, free falling” echoing in my head.





Moms need a community to share, laugh and cry together :) Learn more about The Moms Code and the tenets of being a Mom.


It didn't work out that way. I was nauseous and my lower back was aching so I stopped at the pharmacy and got a home pregnancy kit. The decision that being a stay-at-home mom was best for our family was made the moment I peed on the stick. As much as I was thrilled when I saw the double line, I saw the career me flying away into the clouds. I pictured my boss saying, “I had big plans for her. She had promise. Too bad we lost her.”

I switched from a hard pounding working mom, clinging to career hopes, into a full time stay-at-home mom, buried under the insatiable needs of two, three, then four tiny people. And their needs were immense. Of course my husband didn’t want to be left out so he lumped his needs in as well and then got us a puppy. I was lured in by their little, teeny-sized clothes (babies’, not husband’s or puppy’s) and then held captive by their innocent faces as they slept. I never sat for a second and I’m not even sure I exhaled often.


I experienced so many moments of profound love and joy, but sometimes, when I wasn’t paying attention, a profound tidal wave of loss would set in as I missed the work me. And somehow, I started to transfer all my hopes and dreams onto the ankle biters.

CLICK HERE FOR PART 3: Mom want to be FACEBOOK FABULOUS 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Journey to The Mom’s Code: Part One (of Five) – Ankle Biters

Written by:
Eileen Wacker

We face one of the great issues of our time. We grew and cultivated millions of achievement-oriented females then set them loose on parenting. Schools, friendship circles, sports, activity groups—entire communities—have highly trained operatives completely focused on raising perfect children. Being a perfect mom is a career pursued by women, trained to attack projects and execute any game plan with a laser focus. We are an army of mom warriors who are battle ready and motivated on behalf of our ‘ankle biters’ (as my Australian friend calls them). 

I should know. I’m one of them. A warrior, not an ankle biter.

Unlike the corporate world I’m a product of, the accepted code of conduct or workplace rules are vague, and if there were ever a situation where the ends might justify the means, it would be for the good of my child. My best defense is to fight alongside my mom friends. They have my back in this enormous arena filled with challenging children, supposedly unappreciated husbands, and other moms who sometimes act like jackals wearing designer scarves. And, the doors to the arena are sealed shut. There is no getting out, no giving up. Because the ankle biters are worth it. They are treasures; they are everything.


The Mom's Code Tenet 5: Stand up to "Mom Tormentors"


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Before I became a working mom, I knew there would be balance issues and sacrifices. But no one told me I would be a sleep-deprived zombie whose new designer logo was a permanent drool mark on my left shoulder. Other women wore the same drool logo on their business suits, looking equally exhausted. One day a colleague whispered to me, “I’m wearing this jacket because I can’t zip up my skirts or button my pants. No one told me abut this.” Working moms in big demanding jobs have a lot in common. We worked so hard, overcoming endless obstacles to attain our positions. We nodded to each other in the office corridor, acknowledging that having balance was nothing more than an urban myth, and, a good night’s sleep was likely eighteen years away.



I had quick conversations with friends in the hallway because I didn’t want to appear unprofessional, talking about personal things at work. I had always talked about personal stuff before I was a mom, but it felt as if every moment I spent at the office had to be used wisely. I had to control my work hours. I could not risk an unhappy babysitter or nanny. At about 5:30-6, the working moms looked frantic because we shared the same thought. “Shit! I need to get home for the nanny or to pick up my kid at daycare.” My second job was waiting for me at home. My kids deserved that small, dedicated window every night. Bath time, story and song time, a dinner they would actually eat, endless laundry, midnight grocery runs and the inevitable tantrum were part of the nightly routine. 





One day, I was worried about leaving work to take my little girl to Yale Hospital for an appointment. Since adopting her from China, she had endured three angioplasties and many other tests and procedures. I sat with a pediatric cardiologist to discuss our then 3-½ year old daughter. It was a follow-up to the latest angioplasty procedures that had not gone as well as we had hoped. I was in a power suit, leg jiggling up and down, phone—face down with the ringer off. This moment was all I wanted to focus on. The cardiologist told me that we needed to pursue a surgical solution or our daughter’s lungs would begin to atrophy. He looked at me earnestly. “Are you planning on taking leave?” His question took me completely by surprise. “I don't mean to pry. I’m just saying, it's a lot for a little girl and a family to absorb.” 

I looked at him silently, not able to absorb the words. He said, “What I’m asking is, are you going to quit your job? The next months are going to involve a huge time and emotional commitment. And you can’t really have a nanny taking her to the tests and pre-op appointments. Honestly, the stress will be off the charts.”

For a moment, the room went black and I felt like I was falling. The cardiologist kept talking about breaking open her chest and how they would likely have to stop her heart. I felt like he was reaching down my throat, squeezing all the air out of my lungs. I had not anticipated this conversation when I woke up this morning and ate a bowl of cheerios. White noise roared through my head. I felt my cells violently rearranging themselves. I walked to the parking garage clutching my wonderful little girl, swiping at tears I couldn’t control, trying to project calmness while feeling wildly out of control. As I drove home on the Parkway, the lanes started to merge together. I had this horrible sensation I was going to veer off the road and crash. I pulled onto the shoulder and tried to get myself under control.

I didn’t say a word about the panic attack to my husband. I knew he would demand I see a doctor, and like most of my mom friends, my only doctor was an OB GYN. We had a short talk later that night, as there was really very little to say. The doctor had basically prodded me, in the nicest way possible, to reset my priorities. 

The Mom's Code Tenet 8: Save your children when you have to



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I had not understood what prioritizing meant until then. Was my child my first priority? Well, yes of course she was, and there was a little brother at home too. Was my husband and our marriage my first priority? Well, of course. Was commitment to my job and delivering to my team a top priority? Well, of course. Could I manage all of these competing priorities with an ill child? No. So bottom line—my job went to the back of the queue on the car ride home. 

As soon as I arrived at work the next morning, I called the secretary to my boss, who was the head of the Human Resources function. She greeted me warmly, then asked, “Can I ask what this is about?” All I could manage was, “My little girl is really sick.” She said, “Come right up.” I took the elevator up and walked resignedly along wooden floors, the sound of my clicking heels silenced as I crossed over rich Oriental rugs. I arrived at a beautiful entry with an impressive office behind it. The secretary came around, gave me a hug, and said, “I’m so sorry about your little girl. Let me get the big boss for you.”

I stood, looking at my surroundings, fighting to keep my breathing under control. I was so stressed about the situation and deeply anxious about what I was about to do. I had worked incredibly hard to get the position I had and was on the ‘big guns’ radar. Another Fortune 500 made me an aggressive offer to take the Head of HR job, based in NYC. I mentally crossed that off the list. 

My boss came out, concern lining his face. I blurted out, “We’ve had three failed angioplasties, and now she has to have open heart surgery. I love this job, but I need to be with her. They are talking about percentage chances of her making it. I didn’t see this coming.” My tears embarrassed me. I cursed myself—I’m not a crier and never a crier at work. My boss pretended not to notice, “It’s okay. We’ll work it out. Whatever time off you need, you take. And promise me you’ll come back. You know you’re my rising star. I’ve got big plans for you.”

I walked back to my desk, packed my career ambitions in a box and walked out. I reassured everyone I’d be back in a few months and wondered if anyone picked up on the hollowness in my tone. 

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2: THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE