We’re all in this camp together.

Got young kids and a stack of camp guides staring you in the face? So does Meagan Mulloy, who shares this  awesome look at the no-fun-to-solve riddle that is the summer schedule. Thanks for the repeat appearance on MotherBoard, Meagan – we love your funny and honest pieces!

It’s late February. I just finished cleaning up from our eighth and final Valentines celebration.  As I pack away the heart-shaped stickers and doilies, an overwhelming feeling of panic creeps up… the summer schedule.

Fellow moms, I know you feel me. It started with the release of the camp guide in late January. Ok, I lied. It started in early January just anticipating the release of the summer camp guide. The detailed reference guide from our local paper seems to taunt me every time I walk by, “You’d better get your act together. Time’s running out.”

The anxiety quietly grows as you hear rumblings that Mrs. Smith has registered her boys for sports camp and it’s nearly sold out. Or when you run into Mrs. Jones to find out only two spots remain in the Wednesday slot at sunshine camp.

It is both a blessing and a curse to have so many options for our little ones throughout the summer months. The built-in childcare and routine that school affords is temporarily on hold. And camp coordination, comparison and information gathering can be entirely overwhelming. No one, and I mean no one, seems to follow the same schedule. Couple that with coordination of work schedules, babysitters, nannies and daycare and you’ve got yourself a college level math equation.

My mind is racing as I try and review the options. They could do nature camp, but there are only spots for new members pending last year’s sign-ups. They won’t have camp the second Tuesday of each month, so be sure to come up with alternative care. Or they could do the farm camp. But it’s only offered for two weeks in July. Oh wait- there is that ONE camp that covers all your bases. You just have to commit your mortgage for the summer. Otherwise, good to go. And then of course you find the second camp that covers all your bases, but they’ve decided to release registration in late March meaning you are in some trouble if you wait and don’t get a spot.

I’m not quite ready for summer. But my kids are. 

As I tried to explain the challenge of the summer schedule to my dear husband, printed monthly calendars laid out in front of us, his head nearly exploded.  There were so many moving parts we ended up erupting laughter at our desks. This is summer, for goodness sake. The very word suggests ease, relaxation and fun— but the planning is nothing of the sort.

I liken summer scheduling to a game of Tetris. There is a sense of panic in the final stages of the game where the blocks are stacking higher and new pieces are coming faster. You had better get those pieces lined up before you miss your spot and the whole schedule combusts. Then you’re back to ground zero. And that is not a place you want to be in early April, mommas. We all know you’ve just jumped to another level of difficulty if you do get there. You had better get your game face on.

I got a message from a Mom a few weeks ago. She was also struggling to figure it out, and wondering what camps we had decided on in hopes of coordinating our young ones. We exchanged some messages, me relenting that I had not yet solved our puzzle. Her simple text brought me such comfort “I completely understand. All the juggling working moms have to deal with. Thanks for letting me pick your brain.”

A couple days later another mom messaged. “Thank God the camp schedule fits my work schedule this year.” Girl, don’t we know what a good feeling that is.

And another, “I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do.”

The reality is, many of us are currently in the midst of this mostly silent struggle of summer scheduling.copy-of-automotive

Our family has still to date not figured out our schedule, and I do feel the weight of those Tetris blocks coming down. But the messages from these moms were like those perfect Tetris pieces that slowed things down for a bit and relieved the pressure. Hellooo. There are so many moms in this camp. We are in great company. We are all trying to fit a whole bunch of little tiny pieces perfectly together. And while one game might combust, another one is waiting with a fresh foundation.

This challenge will too soon pass. For now, take a breath and know that we’re all in this camp together.

Happy Birthday, dear MotherBoard.

One year ago, I did something that absolutely terrified me. I took a little idea that had been rattling around in my brain for years, wrote it down, and shared it. And then shared it some more. And then found myself on a stage at Accelerate NEO pitching my idea to a room filled with 400-plus smart, engaged Clevelanders. Accelerate is a civic pitch contest hosted by The Cleveland Leadership Center and it ended up being an experience that would help me redefine who I am, how I might give back to this city I love, and how I might help others do the same.

Jess on stage
There I am, looking confident {and feeling terrified} at Accelerate 2016.

My idea was MotherBoard, a place where nonprofits and small businesses can engage with moms who want to opt back into the workforce or find careers that allow for more space and flexibility in their lives as they navigate working parenthood. MotherBoard is a community of women who don’t simply admire the problems that can come with working motherhood but, instead, set out to find ways to be empowered by the challenge of it all.

I stood on that Accelerate stage one year ago this week, so worried that my idea would sound trivial. Wondering if it would resonate with other moms or – dare I dream – resonate with anyone who understood the joys and struggles of finding the elusive “life balance.”

The thing is, it DID resonate. I meet moms almost daily who want to talk about their paths, their struggles, their successes. I believe we have tapped into a part of our workforce that can lead and execute with strength and compassion, if we can just help ease a bit of the burden of working parenthood. It’s about small changes, common ground, and a desire to be stellar moms and stellar employees.

We are still figuring out what MotherBoard really is. Because I am a working mom, I spend a lot of my time doing just what my job title describes: working and parenting. Sometimes that means MotherBoard takes a spot on the backburner for a bit. But MotherBoard, and the idea of women helping women, is my passion and my purpose. Our MotherBoard team is excited to roll out some new blogs and new ideas in the coming months and see what year two holds. We are also always looking for new ideas and new writers so drop me a line if you want to chat more.

So, happy birthday to us and to all of you who have followed our journey. Cheers to year two and to always doing the things that terrify you most of all.

PS Want to check out Accelerate? Tickets available at the door for tomorrow’s event!


Not So Calm, But Mostly Bright.

MB note: Loving this post from MotherBoard blogger Lindsay Watson for its honest look at the holiday madness. A must-read for those of us who have struggled with the family photo (true confession: I have only managed holiday cards for one of my nine seasons as a mom)… for those who are lucky enough to have a mom or best pal to back us up when it’s just too much… and for those who know that the real magic is in the little moments. 

Last year, I decided to send out an unconventional holiday card to all our friends and family.  It began as a failure, and ended up being one of my all-time favorites- and not for the obvious reasons.

To me, prepping for a family photo shoot mimics much of what life is like.  You pick the location, plan and coordinate as much as possible, put some candy in your pocket to sweeten up potential sour moments, and then hope for the best.  Last year’s family photo shoot was a “memorable” experience to say the least.  With 3 kids, ages 10, 7, and 2- I was well aware that my odds for the perfect “holiday picture” were stacked against me.  But still we tried.  And from the moment my 2-year old daughter saw that camera, I knew I was going to lose.  Refusing to give up, my husband and I tried every imaginable parenting tool to no avail.  It got so bad at one point, we all just began to laugh.  And later when the proofs arrived, they were just as disastrous as you can imagine. Each picture was a child psychologist’s dream as it depicted the entire dissection of a full blown 2- year old tantrum and how this family handled it.  And as I anticipated, not one picture displayed my dream of 3 delightful and coordinated children along with their adoring and smitten parents.  But upon closer inspection, one proof caught my eye.  It was ridiculously flawed, and profound all at the same time.  As I stared at it, I saw more than just mishap on each of those faces – I saw the essence of family and how we handle the chaos of the holiday season.  In short, that picture represented all that is magical about this time of year.

During the holidays, I definitely feel additional stressors related to being a mom, let alone a working mom.  However, my household reflects what many current studies suggest.  The household chores are divided more evenly than in decades past, but still much of the “magic-making” task is delegated upon my shoulders.  I usually spend my last wakeful hours either online shopping, decorating, RSVP’ing to a multitude of holiday parties, or on Pinterest saving a variety of holiday crafts and recipes which are never completed.  However, I think most would agree that added holiday stress isn’t exclusive to just women.  Men feel it too, but author, Leslie Bella, says that men and women differ in their expression of it.  In her work, “The Christmas Imperative: Leisure, Family and Women’s Work,” Leslie states that, at this time of year, women experience an intense “family making” urge to create timeless rituals and lasting traditions.  Furthermore, a study by The American Psychological Association says that of the general population that reports increased stress at the holidays, women experience on average 11% MORE stress than those male counterparts.  But why?  Is it self-imposed?  Rather than attempt to answer that complicated question, I prefer to tell a story.

Continue reading “Not So Calm, But Mostly Bright.”

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

Meagan M shares her thoughts on asking for what you want… and how it might even make you a better employee.

We are so happy to welcome Meagan Mulloy to the MotherBoard blog! Meagan is a public relations executive, mom of two and wife to Mike. She is the only brunette in her family of gingers, right down to their golden retriever pup, Teddy.  An extreme planner with an affinity for family, community, wine and an intense spin/cycle class, she is creatively and passionately navigating through the challenges of motherhood as a professional. Nicknamed “Mighty One” by her dad, she is a resilient mama always trying to live up to that title. 

“You’re so lucky.”

That’s the response I most often get when I tell fellow moms about my part-time role at a public relations firm— a job I genuinely enjoy.

Maybe I am a little bit lucky. But the reactions I get tend to make me believe that many of us feel like work is an all or nothing endeavor.

I get it. Because I felt like that.

After having my first child five years ago I was working in a full-time marketing role. Throughout my maternity leave, I was panicked. I had overwhelming feelings that I could not leave this needy baby for 60 hours a week (including commute). My daughter was small, and had lot of trouble feeding. I felt so attached I was unsure if I even had an appetite to be a professional again, but it didn’t matter— we could not afford for me to stay home.

So I did what I thought was the next best solution. On pins and needles, I worked up all my courage and asked my boss if I could work part-time. The answer was a resounding “no”.

I was devastated. The clock was ticking on my leave.

And then it dawned on me. I had really been thinking all about myself (and my baby), and not enough about my employer. My role was a large one— there’s no way I could have done what needed to be done as a part-time employee.

I went back to the drawing board. I called a colleague, who had happened to have a baby within weeks of me. No surprise, she was also feeling overwhelmed. Together, we decided to approach the organization about a job share.

We were terrified and doubting our value. But we leaned on each other for support and met our boss with our proposal. Continue reading “Don’t Be Afraid to Ask”

Cheese Nips for Dinner

We are happy to welcome back MotherBoard blogger and working mom of three Lindsay Watson to share her thoughts on how a simple “What’s for dinner, mom?” led to a big realization… and a lot of cheesy cracker goodness.

We all strive to be our best selves, but being human means we spend a good portion of our time flat on our face.  I’ve had my fair share of those days, and any other honest mom would surely say the same.  But those deplorable days are just as valuable as the good.  And one of my greatest examples of this lesson began with a box of Cheese Nips.

About a year ago, I had one of those weeks where the wheels all fell off the proverbial family bus at the same time.  Four out of five of us were sick, I had three overlapping deadlines at work, the boys had two last minute school projects, the toilet broke while my fix-it hubby was out of town, and there was a partridge in a disgruntled family tree. In the grand scheme of things, these weren’t tragedies by any stretch.  However the combination of all these things occurring all at once, made me feel as though an unshakeable black cloud was raining over me wherever I went.

By dinner time one night that week, I was close to  tears and had reached my mommy- threshold with three hours of servitude still to go.  As I looked at the clock, I then heard a little voice say, “Mama, what are you making us for dinner?” I finally snapped. Icheesenips proceeded to storm to the pantry and grabbed the first thing in sight: a box of Cheese Nips. I slammed it on the counter and shouted, “Cheese Nips!  Cheese Nips are for dinner.”  I turned and marched to the living room leaving three stunned children in my wake.  I flopped back into a chair, closed my eyes and attempted to rub my temples into an improved Zen state.  Nothing helped.  I was just done.  Continue reading “Cheese Nips for Dinner”

Two worlds (one mom)

Lindsay See Watson, PT, MPT, is a physical therapist, mother of three, wife, and writer. Her first essay for MotherBoard explores one of our favorite working motherhood concepts: the idea that being both a mom and a worker might actually make you better – at both. Help us welcome Lindsay to the MotherBoard blog and please share your questions and comments below!

I will admit that when I chose the field of Physical Therapy, I had more than career aspirations in mind. I wanted the best of both worlds- motherhood AND career. Like most other women, time somehow taught me these two worlds had to be separate and each would somehow suffer because of the other.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

With relentless effort, I pursued my Master of Physical Therapy, and equally committed to the growth of my family by having three beloved children.   Each day, I tried to learn more and hone my clinical skills while preserving enough energy to be a present mother that can wipe the majority of their tears, attend the occasional class party and wait at the end of the driveway when the bus arrives.  After years of painstakingly pursuing each dream, I finally realized they weren’t so far removed from each other.1

Like you, I’m sure, I’ve had more than one employer groan once they learned that I’m a mother of three.  “Oh really?  THREE kids?  That’s a lot of kids!”  I knew what they were thinking.  As they looked at me and weighed the pros and cons of my employment, they couldn’t hide their wonder if a childless counterpart would be better.  My considerable work experience and clinical skill was being mulled against whether I would be late over a forgotten book report, need time off for the kindergarten play, or would leave at a moment’s notice after one of my kids threw up on the playground. Continue reading “Two worlds (one mom)”

Feel Like a Fraud? You’re Not Alone

LSD Photo
Lisa Doane and her two children

MotherBoard is excited to introduce Lisa Doane, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Rocky River (www.drlisadoane.com). She will be lending her expertise to our community on the topics of women, stress, anxiety and coping. Lisa earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a certificate in Women’s Studies from Ohio University (Bobcats!) and her master’s and doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology at Kent State University.

Picture this: you have a huge presentation coming up. The pressure is high, and you’ve been working on this project for weeks. You know the material. You know your client. Others see you as cool and confident, and have trusted you with this important work. You dismiss their compliments—they are only saying nice things because they like you, not because you are competent. Inside, you are absolutely panicked. Freaking out. Sure that this is going to be the time when, finally, others discover that you really don’t know what you’re talking about. You are so afraid that you’ll make a fool of yourself, but you can’t ask for help because you should know how to do this by now. Asking questions will simply make obvious how little you really know.

Has this happened to you? I’ll bet it has—for some in fleeting moments, for others chronically. Psychologists have studied this experience since the late 70’s, and refer to this as the “impostor phenomenon”— it is characterized by persistent failure to internalize one’s own accomplishments (instead, we find external explanations for our successes that minimize our own contributions), paired with significant self-doubt and a persistent fear that you’ll be discovered as a phony (in spite of all those achievements).

This type of anxiety is one of the most common concerns I see in my private practice, especially among high-achieving, successful women. And although this is not a diagnosable psychological disorder, it can certainly have a negative impact on mental health, our work, and our relationships.   It can be particularly troublesome as we arrive at a midcareer point—we find that our self-confidence has failed to grow in pace with our professional responsibilities and roles, leaving us with a lingering sense of uncertainty and feeling like a fraud. Early in our careers, we expect to have some insecurity. We’re young, still learning. We are being mentored or trained, mistakes are anticipated and normalized as part of the learning curve. But as we gain experience, we may start to think that we should have it all together and, when we experience those same self-doubts, may interpret them as being catastrophic indicators that we are complete fakes who are not deserving of the responsibilities we have or accolades we’ve earned. If we feel like a fake, we must really be faking. Whew. Easy to see how this can be overwhelming. Continue reading “Feel Like a Fraud? You’re Not Alone”

The Summer of Dad

Boys and Dad

I should start this by giving credit where credit is due; my husband, Ian, is the main caregiver in our household.  It’s hard for me to acknowledge that, but it’s true. And he’s good at it.  If I’m being honest, I should also admit that he’s better at it than me.

Being a public school teacher has allowed my husband to care for our boys in ways that many parents wish they could.  He is home full time with them for holidays, spring breaks and summers. I remain in a constant state of gratitude for the gift of not panicking about summer camps, baby sitters or reduced work schedules when they are out of school.

Each year, the summer of Dad brings with it an exercise for me in releasing control and letting my husband run the household in the way that is best for him. We’re ten years into this, and I’ve come to notice a distinct cycle to our summer.


In the first weeks of summer, we see so much potential to accomplish a long list of dreams now that Ian is home full time. I am happy to be able to leave for work as early as I want and not be compromised by the bus being late or lunch boxes left behind. The weeks ahead seem full of possibility as I think of all the doctor and dentist appointments we can schedule that won’t require me to miss work.  Ian and the boys are also full of energy and dreaming up their summer plans. There’s a schedule, there are chores, and some years there’s even a binder with lesson plans and fun names of the week like “Make it Monday” where they build something and “Take a Trip Tuesday” where they go somewhere fun. And every summer, we are definitely going to make them math prodigies so that they go back to school a grade ahead.


There comes a point each summer when I realize I’ve been demoted. The boys want Dad.  All decisions come with “But Dad said we could!” I no longer have a say in the rules because Dad is in charge and the boys know how to work the system. But in the early stages of my demotion, I gladly hand over the torch and leave for work to enjoy my coffee and a quiet drive. I willingly play second fiddle and revel in a moment of less parenting pressure.


I’m not second fiddle material. By mid-summer, I start to get jealous as I sit at dinner and hear stories about their day. I fight the busy schedule by protesting that the boys should not be in two activities each. Why?  Because it doesn’t leave time for me. Because every day I come home from work and rush off to a baseball game or swim meet. I’m being cheated of a spontaneous summer because all the fun stuff happens while I’m at work. I’M FUN TOO YOU KNOW!!  No one seems to hear me.


Something flips and I go on summer vacation in my mind. The house is so quiet.  No one is getting up early anymore. Does anyone want to get up and have coffee with Mommy?  No?  Ok, I’ll wait a while to see if anyone wakes up. The clock edges past the time I usually leave and I find myself unloading the dishwasher. Fifteen minutes past my usual departure time and I’m making pancakes for the sleeping bunch hoping the sound of pots and pans will wake someone up. I’ve adopted their slow speed because I want a summer too. My habitually early self has turned into a chronically late product of the summer of Dad.


There’s only so much one household can take. By early August we are all starting to feel the effects of the summer. The binders are collecting dust, and the dreams of making the boys math prodigies have been crushed as we realize we are probably sending them back to school dumber than they left.  We still need to get them to the dentist but memories of how busy the school year feels encourages us to sleep in just that much longer. I start craving companions that have some urgency in their day and have somewhere to go. The boys start complaining about me going to work because they see me leaving every day. They used to leave before me, but now the fact that Mom leaves and Dad doesn’t is front and center. I’m an outlier to the summer of Dad and I want to get back to normal so I fit in again. We’ve all surrendered to the summer as we realize we cannot sustain this unstructured lifestyle. When does school start?

The dynamic of my husband being the main caregiver for our children has become the foundation of our family. His willingness to get them off the bus every day, start their homework, put dinner on the table and care for them full time on breaks has given me opportunities to develop my career in ways that would not have been possible otherwise. My friend pointed out the other day that I have the privilege of not feeling guilty for working because of the type of partner I have. She’s totally right.

Having a reliable partner in the caregiving of our children is a non-negotiable for working moms. A spouse, a family member, a friend – regardless of who it is, it’s a piece of the puzzle that needs to be in place in order to make life work. There is also power in the women around us who are trying to balance their lives around parenting. Our hope here at MotherBoard is that we can cultivate another channel of support so that every woman has the ability to thrive both personally and professionally…and make it through the summer.

Boys on the lake



Women We Admire: 10 Minutes With Karen Katz

MotherBoard is launching our Moms We Admire series where we spend 10 minutes chatting with professional mothers to get a glimpse into their interesting and energizing lives.


In Cleveland, the Katz name is synonymous with food. Good food. Karen Katz and her husband, Chef Douglas Katz, are the power couple behind some of Cleveland’s most popular food experiences such as fire food and drink, Provenance and Provenance Cafe at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Fire Spice Company and the Katz Club Pop Up Diner. With her husband in the role of CEO/Partner/Chef/Proprietor of these establishments, Karen has been busy cultivating a new reputation for the Katz name as the Exhibit Designer for the Cleveland Children’s Museum.

“Shortly before I started college, a friend asked me what my dream job was,” Karen reminisced as we sipped coffee during the busy brunch rush at fire food and drink. “I knew right away.  I had always visualized myself creating an exhibit for the Natural History Museum. That was my dream job.” It’s no surprise then that Karen earned her degree in Anthropology before going on to earn another degree in Museum Planning Exhibition and Design.

In 1999, Karen landed her ultimate job redesigning exhibits for the Cleveland Children’s Museum. Shortly thereafter, Karen left to join her husband and help with the 2001 launch of fire food and drink.  Her skills were put to use managing design elements for the restaurant including the space, the branding and the menu. By 2003, the Katz family had doubled with the arrival of twins Abe and Amelia. “It wasn’t a question,” Karen explained, “I knew the best thing for myself and my family was to stay home full time while Doug put his energy into growing the restaurant.” Their partnership had now expanded beyond the restaurant to encompass their growing family. Continue reading “Women We Admire: 10 Minutes With Karen Katz”

A little later baby: When motherhood comes mid-career

A guest blog by Erika McLaughlin, a strategic communications consultant, community advocate, and mom to Andrew, six months.

There are certain realities a woman faces when she has a baby in her late 30s. While as a society we have come a long way in recognizing that women are having babies later in life, this is not nearly as widespread as we would like to believe. The latest data on the average age of women having their first child indicates age 26.3. Not exactly over the hill. I had my son, Andrew, 6 months ago when I was 38.

What comes with having a baby close to 40 are challenges and opportunities that differ in 1the experiences of a woman having her first child at 26, or in her 20s in general. Besides being referred to as old…or as they call it AMA (advanced maternal age) at every prenatal appointment, we are further along in our careers. Most of us have a more solid financial situation than in our younger years, tend to be more educated, and have often focused on careers, education, volunteerism, or other family obligations before making the decision to have a child.

So when we have children a bit later in life, what happens to the lives we led before baby came along?

Continue reading “A little later baby: When motherhood comes mid-career”