Blog Posts by Lylah M. Alphonse

  • How much does your commute cost you?

    Reuters/Yahoo! NewsReuters/Yahoo! NewsI was re-doing our budget for the umpteenth time the other night when I noticed that we spend more on gas right now than we do on food.

    Once I stopped hyperventilating, I did the math again. And again. With gas hovering around $4 a gallon, my 80-mile round-trip commute costs me about $15 a day. My husband makes the same trip (at different times), which means that we pay about $150 a week just for gas for both of us to get to work. Our food budget, for our family of seven, is about $100 a week.

    Insert expletive here.

    I clip coupons, I buy in bulk, I cook from scratch, I only grocery shop for perishables and to replenish the pantry, I combine errands to save on gas. There has got to be another way to save gas and/or money (and/or my sanity).

    Flextime. Telecommuting. Teleworking. The holy grails of the working mom, the mighty tools of work-life balance -- now they're fiscally and environmentally responsible, too!

    If my company enouraged teleworking, employees

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  • Why I didn't change my name when I got married

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesI didn't change my name when I got married.

    There are many reasons: I was in my 30s by the time I walked down the aisle. I owned my home and car and other things outright, and changing my name on all of those legal documents would have been a huge hassle. I already had established my career, with a reputation and bylines and even a book -- I'd been writing and editing under my "own" name for half my life at that point, and in print journalism, where your clips are your currency, changing my name would have been akin to starting over from scratch.

    But, most of all, I kept my name because it was my name -- replacing it with my husband's made me feel like I was faking it, somehow.

    When we were filling out the application for our marriage license in our tiny town hall in liberal Massachusetts, I teased my husband, telling him, "This is your last chance to keep your name, you know." The sweet, older lady behind the counter looked like she might keel over from shock, and I

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  • The best gift a working mom can get

    AppleAppleMy home office is tucked into a little alcove near our master bedroom, a gap between my closet and my husband's, just wide enough for a small desk pushed up against the window. My dinosaur of a computer takes up most of the space under the desk (seriously, the computer is older than three out of our five children - my Palm Pilot has more memory), and my behemoth of a monitor eats up most of the desktop. When I need to scan or print something, I have to rearrange components and put the printer on the floor.

    I used to have a proper home office, back when we first bought the house, before our youngest two were born. That room became the nursery. I moved my large desk into a corner of the guest room and took over most of the closet with my file cabinets and, um, crap; then we turned the guest room into our oldest daughter's bedroom, and I downsized my workspace in order to cram it into that alcove.

    I spend a couple or four hours there every night after the little kids are in bed - which

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  • The "step" doesn't make you less of a working mom

    Julia Roberts in the 1998 movie Julia Roberts in the 1998 movie People who know me well often say that I grew up taking care of other people's children. I started babysitting when I was about 11, and mothered - or smothered, as the case may be - my brothers well before that. I worked as a nanny for years during college and ran a playgroup for toddlers when I was in my early 20s. So it wasn't much of a surprise that when I got married, it was to a man who already had three kids of his own.

    Contrary to popular belief (think Snow White, think Julia Roberts in Stepmom, think pretty much any soap opera or sitcom) step motherhood has been neither traumatic nor dramatic for me. The kids were very young when I came into their lives - just 5, 3, and 1 year old - and on my wedding day, four years later, I exchanged vows with them as well as with their dad.

    Interestingly enough, life as a Working Step Mom was different than life as a Working Mom, for me. After all, they were somebody else's children, right? Wouldn't their "real parent" handle all

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  • Q&A: Donna Novitsky, CEO of Big Tent

    [Ed. note: If you've got the entrepreneurial bug, Lylah's interview with Donna Novitsky is a must read. Check out her advice to women who want to start their own businesses.]

    Donna NovitskyDonna NovitskyDonna Novitsky has gone from a career in Industrial Engineering to honing her marketing skills at an enterprise software startup that she helped build from nothing to $100 million in revenue. From there, she joined the venture world before becoming an entrepreneur and the CEO of Big Tent, a company that provides free online technology and facilitates the organization of real-world communities.

    Novitsky lives in the San Francisco area with her husband and their two children, ages 9 and 10. In addition to her work with Big Tent, she teaches at the School of Engineering at Stanford University, is a former board member of the Children's Discovery Museum of San Jose, and volunteers extensively at her children's school.

    So, how does she do it all? She credits her husband, John. "He is my huge support

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  • Managing the 'Second Shift'

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesUntil about a year ago, my husband and I worked opposite shifts and traded off with the kids in the middle of the day (usually in the parking lot of our company, where we both work, but sometimes at a nearby park). A lot of times I felt like I was going straight from one full-time job to another, since I was on my own with the kids until my husband got home around 3 a.m. Here are a few of the things I did to prepare myself for my "second shift" each day:

    1.) Consider your commute your "me" time. This is harder when you have kids in the car, of course, but at least part of your commute can be all yours. Catch up on the news, listen to books on tape, learn a new language -- or just turn off the tunes and enjoy the silence.

    2.) Carry portable stress relief with you. Dot some soothing Peace of Mind (from Origin's Sensory Therapy line) on your temples and feel the tension drain away. Stash a portable back massager in the car (or in your desk at work) to keep the stress from

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  • When do working moms find time to work out?

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesLike most women, the upcoming swimsuit season is giving me heart palpitations. Like most women who are juggling full-time work and full-time parenthood, I can't imagine when I'll find the time to get in shape.

    I used to be fantastically fit. But that was, like, a lifetime ago. Right now, I am a slug. Or, at least, I feel like I am a slug. Aside from bench-pressing about 20 percent of my body weight in toddler, I don't get much exercise.

    I want to -- I really want to. According to William J. Evans, director of the Nutrition, Metabolism, and Exercise Laboratory at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, "Regular aerobic exercise increases life expectancy by decreasing the risk of a host of chronic diseases." And I know I need to -- I'm in my mid-30s, those last few pounds of baby weight aren't going to melt off by themselves. I just can't figure out how to squeeze a work out into my already over-scheduled schedule.

    I commute 40 miles each way to my office, a

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  • Multitasking: It's how we "Do It All"

    My pants were too long.

    They got caught on the heel of my shoe at work, tripped me up on the stairs, and made me look like I was playing dress-up in some tall person's clothes. I needed to hem them, but couldn't find the time.

    So I finally made the time. I hemmed them at work. At my desk. While I was wearing them.

    Luckily, the pair I was wearing when inspiration/exasperation struck was pinstriped, and it's fairly easy to keep the hem level if you make sure the stripes line up. And, since I was wearing them while I worked on them, I didn't sew the cuffs together - this time. (Yeah, I don't have so much of the mad sewing skilz.)

    The results were fine. I was happy. So happy, in fact, that two days later I deliberately wore another pair of too-long pants and did it again.

    All moms know the real secret to success is multitasking. Hard work and determination, too, of course, but multitasking - that's the stuff, right there.

    We all multitask, almost all the time, almost without thinking

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  • The new superhero? Working moms

    Forget Barbie. Please, please forget Bratz. There's a new doll in town, and she's more than just a fashion icon: She's a superhero.

    Meet Super Mom.

    On the one hand: Can I tell you how hilarious this is? Check out the accessories! Two heads, so you can switch from calm to frazzled in a blink of an eye! An adorable baby that's half angel, half monster! A briefcase stuffed with work and toys! An extra-long To-Do list! A bag full of groceries! And it even comes in your choice of skin color, proving that no single ethnicity has a lock on the working mother. I don't see the working-mom guilt there in the blister-pack, but you could probably download some.

    On the other hand: It's depressing how scarily accurate this action figure is. Take a look at what it doesn't come with: A "satisfied" head. A "well-rested" head. Designer clothes. Manolos. Fistfuls of money. A stack of take-out menus. An understanding boss and/or a life partner and/or a housekeeper and/or a nanny (maybe those dolls are

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  • I'm sick, and I'm going to work anyway. Sound familiar?

    I'm sick. Again.

    Of course, I'm at work. Why do you ask?

    The other night, my husband remarked that, in the past few months, both he and I have been sick more frequently than ever before. But why? Sure, we're overworked, but not any more than we've always been. We've been eating more healthily, exercising more often - OK, that's a lie, he's been exercising, I've been, um… look over there! Something shiny!

    Really, though, we couldn't figure out why we were caught in this cycle of sinus headaches and hacking coughs. We feebly tossed around a few more ideas (is it the weather? Do we need vitamins?) while my husband reminded L. to cover her mouth when she sneezed and I wiped O.'s streaming nose for the umpteenth time, and then it hit us …


    This is the first year that any of our kids' have been in daycare. They're thriving and socializing and learning amazing new things. They're also coming into contact with amazing new germs that they bring home and generously

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