Category Archives: Work

Working Mom

All mamas are working mamas. The ones who stay at home, the ones who work full-time, the ones who do a little bit of each!  Once you have a baby, your whole life is work. Except for when you are sleeping. Then you are Not Working. Instead, you’re Recovering.  Until you’re not because a Tiny Tot woke you up!  Heh.

I can truthfully say that when I went back to work, Critter’s current sleep shenanigans were 100% not compatible with working, and yet! I still did it!  And continue to do it!

I guess I don’t really know what I was expecting when the clock struck 12 weeks and my maternity leave ended.  But here is a selfie of me to commemorate the experience.

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This selfie, like all selfies that are halfway put-together, is meant to portray that I Totally Have It Together.

Truth be told, it took me more than a week to take a picture of myself with my hair down, make-up on and adult clothes on.

Apparently we call this…The 5th Trimester.  AKA The One Where You Have To Rejoin The Real World And Act Like Everything Is Normal Even Though You’re Still Really Just Trying To Survive.

That being said, my first month back was truly wonderful.  Three days after Critter was born, I thought Oh my God, I have to go back to work.  Only 11 more weeks of this.  And then I was completely horrified because I always thought I would be one of those moms who worked because they had to.  I was so so so wrong.  I need to work.

And it has been so nice that when Marcus gets home from work and he asks me how my day has been, I have stuff to say!  Not that I didn’t have anything to say when I was on maternity leave.  But I have my own stuff to say now.  Instead of briefing him on whether or not the Dancing Dolls finally brought down the Prancing Tigerettes. Which is nice.

To get out the door is sort of a production.  I must shepherd Critter, his diaper bag, his clean diapers, my purse, my lunch, and my pumping supplies (which occupy an entire rollerboard duffel bag…omg why) out the door.  I have put less effort into packing for some vacations.

I must wake up at 4:40 AM so that Marcus and I can both get through our entire morning routine before Critter rousts and joins the fray (and so that if he does roust early, we can both still make it to work on-time).

Just call it yet another dimension of the human experience that we get to explore.

On the days where I’m not at Work Proper?  More work!  Critter and I eat and change diapers and play and walk and sing songs and go to mom group and baby yoga and wash diapers. Sometimes he naps.  Sometimes I do housework (yi).  I work out.  Sometimes I nap too.

And on all of the days there is cooking and cleaning and at the end of all of it, sleep recovery. Sleep.

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RTW

Three months ago, I was enjoying what I had aptly titled My Last Day Of Freedom Ever.

I worked out. I ran some errands. I did some final cleaning.  I went out to lunch with Mom at Bacio which is where early labor started.  I napped.  And that was it.

My labor was 36 hours from start to finish with 31 of those at the hospital.  I had an epidural that stopped working on half of my body after like…20 hours so that was pretty exciting.  I pushed for two hours and Critter was pretty hell-bent on never coming out, but then he did.  There you have it, birth story in a bottle.  Save the Kleenex for another time.

I remember taking a freezing walk with Critter around our neighborhood in early February and thinking to myself that when we finally had green grass and were starting to see leaves on the trees, we would have made it.  It is well and truly Spring now.

I have a baby who is happy as hell 90% of the time and Extremely Ticked for the other 10%.  His night sleep continues to improve but of course I don’t think we’ll know what it’s like to truly feel rested for another few months.  He is starting to recognize the three songs I have been singing to him each day for the last two months and is So Jazzed About Those.  He is The Happiest with Marcus and I, but still seems to feel that we respond too slowly for his liking at least 50% of the time.  In short, we have nothing figured out.  But I do have approximately 50 pictures on my iPhone of Critter napping on me.  So that’s something! 

For the last 12 weeks, with very very few exceptions, I have lived through Groundhog Day and have done The Exact Same Thing 24/7 without interruption.  It has absolutely been the most important, difficult work of my life.  It has also been the most bewilderingly monotonous work of my life.  Weeks have crept-flown by at an alarming rate and suddenly here we are.

Today, I am going back to work.  I never really understood what people meant when they said “I’m a better mother because I work.”  I think I get it now.  I need to wear adult clothes, and my hair down, and make-up, and talk to other people about Things That Have Nothing To Do With My Child.  I need to think critically.  About stuff.

It will be so strange to go back to a place where everything from my “old” life has stayed the same, while everything about my life today is different.  And yet this same-different will be good.  It is time. 

Week 39 Update

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Here I am, still pregnant, y’all.  Critter’s due date is this Friday and I am 75% OMG CHILD IT IS TIME TO ENTER THIS WORLD and 25% We Must Cherish All Of This Peace And Quiet Because It Is The Last Peace And Quiet We Will Ever Have!  It’s a weird feeling that I have been trying to deal with by engaging in recreational sleep as much as possible.

If you follow me on Twitter/Instagram then you already know of the epic feat that I completed last week.  If you don’t, now you will.

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As you can see, my toenails are red, and they are that way because I painted them myself.  Yes friends, at 38 weeks and 5 days, I made the impossible possible.  It was easily the biggest accomplishment of my week.  If you are thinking wow it is so great that Kat can still see her feet please know that I cannot.  I actually had to angle my iPhone over my stomach in order to even be able to catch a peek of the finished product.

I know we haven’t spent any time discussing maternity leave, my return to work, or childcare arrangements, so today is the lucky day for that.

  • Earlier in my pregnancy, Meredith sent me information about a website called Mindful Return. I believe it was founded by a former classmate of hers, and is built to assist women (and their employers) so that they can successfully prepare professionally for maternity leave and have a successful return to the workplace as well.  I did not end up participating in the courses offered, but found the information on the blog to be deadly useful.  I would tell anyone who is expecting (and is planning to continue working) to use this resource, and if it’s right for you, to take the eCourse as well!
  • Maternity leave!  Right now, my current plan is to continue to work up until Critter is born.  I have literally no idea as to what I would do if I was at home all day waiting for labor to maybe or maybe not begin.  Once my leave begins, I will take the full 12 weeks.
  • Returning to work!  When I return to work, I will be going back to work three days a week.  I am so jazzed.  I am so lucky that this is an opportunity that exists for me, that I can continue professionally at a company I enjoy working for, in a job I enjoy doing, with co-workers that I like.  I feel like over the past six years, I have worked very hard to achieve what I have and I am glad that I get to keep that, you know?  This also guarantees that three days per week, I will be talking with other adults about things that have nothing to do with children.
  • Staying at home!  On the other side of the coin, when my maternity leave is over, I will get to stay home with Critter two days per week.  This is such a blessing.  I have no illusions that this will be easier than going to work, but I have always felt very strongly about staying home with children.  I know that everyone chooses different things for different reasons, but I am glad that I will get to spend those days and hours with Critter.
  • Childcare! All of this is possible because of our childcare situation.  My mother will be watching Critter one day per week, my mother-in-law will be watching Critter one day per week, and Marcus (a working dad!) is going to be a stay-at-home-dad one day per week.  More blessing in our lives.  We are so so so fortunate that when I am at work, Critter will be spending time with some of the other people in its life who love it the most.

At this point, all that is left to do is for us to sit back and wait.  Will there be a Week 40 update?  Who can know.  For all that I had this feeling of foreboding about a month ago that Critter was just going to shoot out, now I am feeling oddly confident that Critter will be 100% late.  As always, stay tuned.

Free HRCI Recertification Credits

If you haven’t figured it out from the title of the post, it’s a really exciting week on The Blog, people.

I got an e-mail today from the HR Certification Institute.  Apparently they wrote an eBook that is available for free here.

Titled The Rise of HR, it’s composed of 73 essays by HR thought leaders.  Yes, seriously, I just invoked the phrase, “thought leaders.”  I’ve flipped through a few of the essays already and it seems to be fairly interesting.

The real kicker, besides the fact that you can read the book for free, is that if you read it, you can receive three business credits toward recertification of your HRCI designation.

Y’all know that I am always working to find free ways to get recertification credits, so that’s a pretty great deal in my opinion.

Happy reading!

More credentials and some continuing education.

Like I said in my February Goals, I have been working to get my professional development ducks in a row.  I want to be clear: you were fairly warned before that this may be one of the most boring posts in the history of the blog.  BUT, if you are an HR professional with designations, you probably actually will appreciate this post.

Last year, as I was getting ready to take my SPHR exam (which is one of the HR professional designations offered through the HR Certification Institute (HRCI)), the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) announced that they were creating their own set of HR designations to be launched at the beginning of 2015.  I didn’t really concern myself with any of it at the time because mostly I was really just concentrating on taking and passing my SPHR exam.

The way that all of this shook out is that HR professionals with existing and active designations as of December 31, 2014 were able to directly bridge those to obtain the new SHRM designations.  HR professionals with PHR, SPHR, etc. designations will be able to do this through the SHRM website through the entirety of 2015.

So on January 5, I logged onto the SHRM website, did the SHRM-SCP “pathway” through their e-Learning curriculum and obtained my SHRM-SCP designation.  Which means that now I am an SPHR and a SHRM-SCP.  All in the course of one year!  Watch me Lean In and Thrive!

From a cost/time perspective I am extremely thankful for this because being able to bridge this designation saved me approximately $450 in exam fees and another $870 (yes, seriously) to purchase the SHRM learning system for their new credential.  Related/unrelated: I do not need to spend another 100 or so hours of my life studying for the next big test.  Phew.

As with all professional designations, there are continuing education requirements.  And as we all know, to obtain continuing education credits, you can either pay for them or you can track down free offerings.  My big February project is to get everything in order so that I can complete all of the re-certification credits/Professional Development Credits (PDCs) I need for both credentials for free over the next three years.  When I told Marcus about this, he was a little bit surprised that I was working on this so soon.  Sure, it’s a little bit early, but we all know I’m an early bird.

If you’re in the same boat that I am, some of the resources I’ve found so far for free HRCI-approved credit hours are:

  • BizLibrary – These are held live on a weekly basis at 1:00 PM CST.
  • ApplicantPro
  • Ascentis – These are held live and then stored as On Demand sessions.
  • Drive Thru HR – These 30 minute, On Demand webinar sessions can be mixed and matched to create full credit hours worth of instruction.  What’s even better about this, is the fact that you can listen to them one at a time and build your hours from there.

SHRM is currently The Resource for free PDCs.

  • Upcoming webcasts are here.
  • Archived webcasts are here.

I’m sure that there are more resources out there that I have yet to discover, but this seems to be more than enough information to keep me busy for the time being.

On the odd chance that any of you are also HR professionals working through any number of continuing education credits, please share your favorite resources in the comments!

Weekend projects.

I just feel like writing tonight.  That is all.

This weekend, we went to a surprise birthday party for a sorority sister.  We attended a wedding for another sorority sister – I think it was  our 10th this year.  Some of my favorite friends on earth were home and we got to spend time together and that was heart filling.  Marcus’ family does an annual fish fry, so of course we went to that dinner as well.

I didn’t end up actioning any plans for Sunday during the day, and I am so glad that I made that choice because it was just the loveliest day.  The weather was gorgeous and it gave me some time to open the windows and Take Care Of Things like batch cooking and whatnot.  Considering that we didn’t eat a proper meal together at home this weekend, I spent a remarkable amount of time in the kitchen.

At work, we take turns bringing birthday treats for one another.  The person I am bringing treats for likes chocolate covered pretzels so I tried my hand at making them and fancy-ing them up a bit.

Pretzels

There were basic chocolate-covered pretzels (everyone loves a classic) and then I also rolled them in sprinkles, M&Ms and Oreos.  In case you’re wondering what the rest of the recipe is, I used two bags of semi-sweet chocolate chips, a bulk container of pretzel rods and the toppings.  Once I had dipped and rolled the pretzels, I placed them on tin foil-lined cookie sheets and stuck them in the freezer to set.  Voila.

I also did some low-grade declutter.  I always have a “giveaway bag” in my closet but this weekend it was time to escalate the situation.

Declutter

Amongst the unnecessary things I discovered, a suit two sizes too big that I bought probably five years ago when I was just starting my post-college job search.  It was brown.  I know, I don’t know what I was thinking either.  Yes, I am concerned that I had absolutely no clue I owned this ensemble.  I also said sayonara to the eight polo shirts I bought in college.  Does anyone else remember wearing them two at a time and how uncomfortable it was to try and stuff yourself into two fitted polo shirts at once?  Because I do.  I was very proud of my collection, but again, they haven’t been worn in at least five years.

Mostly, I just find myself wondering how I managed to overlook all of these things for so long.  I’m sure that my next round of decluttering will bring similar surprises.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Did I mention that my closet really feels like it can “breathe” now?  Because there’s also that little side benefit.  I relocated what feels like a closet worth of hangers to the laundry room and suddenly, it’s like I have an entirely new space.

Taking the SPHR Test

I haven’t mentioned it a great deal on the blog since I announced in March that I had registered for the test, but I took the SPHR test yesterday and I passed it!  For those members of the group who have no idea of what an SPHR is, it’s the Senior Professional in Human Resources certification.  It’s not required to practice Human Resources (which is what I do), but it is professionally helpful.

Y’all know that I like to throw a rope to people who do not want to reinvent the wheel, I thought I would write down what, exactly, I did to study.

Since the exam is expensive ($525 for non-members of SHRM), I wanted to keep study costs in-line as much as I could.  That might sound counter-intuitive because studying is the investment you make to pass the exam.  But the reality is that the SHRM Learning System runs north of $500 as do many of the prep classes.  That can make your total investment in the process range anywhere from $1000-$1500.  I just couldn’t commit to that.

Materials I Used

I believe the total cost of the materials I purchased for this exam was $150.  If I had to take the test again, I would absolutely recommend the purchases that I made.

The Official PHR and SPHR Certification Guide by Raymond B. Weinberg

This is the official HRCI booklet on the test.  Most of the information within is pointless, but for the cost (I think it was $20 or so), it’s worth it for the 125 question sample test.

SPHR Exam Practice Questions by Mometrix

Many people were fast to tell me that what would be so critical in my studies was running through practice tests.  This book contains two full practice tests (175 questions) with answers and explanations.

PHR/SPHR Professional in Human Resources Certification Study Guide, Fourth Edition by Sandra Reed and Anne M. Bogardus

This book is pretty much your choice for studying if you aren’t going to invest in the SHRM Learning System or prep classes.  It has something like 600 pages with chapters split up by body of knowledge segments.  There is a practice quiz at the end of each section with 20 questions as well as a 70 question pre-test at the beginning.  It also comes with software that allows you access to another full practice test, 320 “learning mode” questions (you can retrieve explanations for your right/wrong answers) and a set of electronic flashcards.

TCHRA Preparation Course Materials

I did not take the TCHRA class, but I did inherit some old study materials from a friend that had taken the class and passed the exam.  They had many positive things to say about this method.  What this essentially ended up being for me (since I did not take the class) is another book with practice quizzes and helpful bonus notes in the margins.  I did not register for a prep course for several reasons: They are expensive, and I did not want to give away a night of my week.  That being said, based on these materials, if you are at all a prep class person, it seems that this one would be well worth your money.

How I Studied

I want to say that I started studying mid/late January and my testing date was June 20, which means that I had roughly 21 weeks to work through all of the materials I listed above.  I studied for at least five hours each week, which brings our initial time investment to 105 hours of work.

After taking the practice test at the beginning of the Reed-Bogardus book, I set out to read that and take notes from cover to cover.  The entire process took approximately 12 weeks.  The highest I ever scored on a practice quiz in this book was 80% and most of my quizzes hit the 60% mark.

Once I had completed that, I took the practice test in The Official PHR and SPHR Certification Guide.  Approximately 50% of the questions were on concepts I had never seen before, so that was shocking and amazing all at once.  Also, I felt really stupid since I had just read 600 pages and apparently learned nothing.

From there, I moved onto the TCHRA materials and read through those in their entirety.  Since the practice quizzes had already been marked up, I made Marcus read them to me as we drove Up North.  By the time I was done reviewing all of these materials, another seven weeks had passed, bringing us to the 19 week mark.

The last two weeks of studying were a little bit overwhelming because at this point, I was still very aware of what I did not know.  This is when I took both of the practice tests from the Mometrix book.  I’d take one, score it, take notes on my incorrect answers (and the questions I’d outright guessed on) and then move onto the next.  I got 67% on both of these practice tests.  I reviewed the notebook and a half of notes I had taken on the Reed-Bogardus book.  I reviewed some of the key sections from the TCHRA materials.  The two days prior to the test, I finally fired up the software from the Reed-Bogardus book and ran through the 320 test questions in learning mode so that I could practice test taking and get immediate feedback on the questions I did not know or understand.

The Exam

Why was all of this test taking valuable?  Because hand to God, on exam day, there were probably 20 questions of 175 that I actually felt confident about answering.  The rest of them ranged from I sort of know what this might be to Outright Cryptic.  Taking the number of practice tests that I did not only succeeded in demoralizing me (67% is not a number to look forward to), it helped me to Stay Calm when I was bombarded with questions about things I had never ever seen before.

The three minutes I had to wait while the computer tabulated my score (you get a Pass-Did Not Pass) were the longest ever, and when I learned that I had passed, I was truly shocked.  Obviously, I was really thankful as well.

Summary

There was nothing easy about the SPHR test.  There was nothing easy about the preparation/studying process.  I am really glad that I took the time to get this certification now, because based on the amount of time it consumed, this would be an extremely hard project to work on if I was trying to balance work-husband-children-life.  I am really glad that yesterday I got to clear off the left side of our dining room table which has been covered with books and notebooks for the last five-ish months.  Also?  I am extremely proud of myself.