Not-So-New Mother Finding Balance

The response to my essay in the Sunday New York Times has been astonishing. The biggest learning is that we all crave a more nuanced approach to how women (and men) integrate their work and family obligations.

(Byron Eggenschwiler)

(Byron Eggenschwiler)

We were all strangers that spring of 1996. Our only connection was that we had all recently given birth at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., and, as recommended by our doctors, had signed up for the New Mother training class. Once a week, we sat in a circle sharing our concerns as a nurse educator led the discussion. It was like those consciousness-raising sessions from the 1960s. But, unlike our mothers who had gathered to secure their place in the world, we gathered to figure out how to be mothers in spite of it.

 

Read the full essay here.

Back on the Fast Track

It was an honor to interview three amazing women I profiled for a recent San Jose Mercury News article. Alison Cormack, Mary Page Platerink, and Kriste Michelini collectively debunk the myth that you can’t step back from your career to focus on your family and then return to great success. They also show us how they carved their own authentic path to a “having it all”.

Mary Page Platerink (Photo by Karl Mondon)

Mary Page Platerink (Photo by Karl Mondon)

A woman spends years building her career. Then family becomes her new priority, so she steps out of her high-powered job to raise children. What happens when she wants to get back in the game? Since Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg launched the “Lean In” movement in 2013, much attention has been paid to figuring out how to keep mothers in the workforce, but many have already left and are trying to get back in. There’s not one route for all. As these three Bay Area executive women demonstrate, you can reignite your professional life — and even take it in a wildly different, equally or more successful direction — even after taking years off from work. Here they share their stories and their advice.

Read the full article here.

New Beginnings Also Mean Endings

William the Graduate

William the Graduate

This essay originally appeared in Palo Alto Patch. I am reposting it in honor of all of the parents who are sending their beloveds off to college this month. Yes, one year later, and it is easier, much easier, but still bittersweet.

It’s graduation week around town. We’re hearing lots of speeches about new beginnings, following your dreams, and choosing roads less traveled. Students are told repeatedly “it’s all ahead of you.” But for those of us with children in cap and gown, it’s not all about the future. For us, it’s also about the past. Continue reading

Staying The Course

Dear Friends,

My essay on “those” moments in a long-term marriage is being considered for an anthology on life transitions. The publisher is trying a new thing and has added a social media component to the process. In order to be considered for the anthology, the essay needs to win a certain number of “Likes” on Facebook. I hope you will read it and, if you are so inclined, “like” it. If you are really inspired, please also consider sharing it with your extended community. 

Thanks for your help and support.

He picked up my kayak and pulled it to safety too...

He picked up my kayak and pulled it to safety too…

Staying the Course

By Lisen Stromberg

I didn’t think we would do it. We’d been blustering at each other all day, surfacing old wounds, adding a few new ones just for good measure. It might have seemed like typical power-struggling between a long-married couple, but somehow the cuts felt deeper this time, more definitive, more dangerous. So when my husband called out from the kitchen, “Time to kayak,” my instinct was to say no. But perhaps old habits do die hard because it can only have been habit that had me grabbing my oar and heading to the water; it certainly wasn’t him.

For the past decade, we’d spent the month of July in a small summering community called Annisquam. It’s about an hour north of Boston, far from our home in California. For the first half of the month, the children and I would settle into a hazy routine of sailing camp, tennis matches, and idle afternoons swimming and sunning at the beach. Then, during the last two weeks of July, my husband would come and stay. On those evenings when the tide was right, he and I kayaked together along the coves and inlets around the bay near our beloved summer home.

During the winters in soggy California, we longed for those seemingly innocuous excursions. The picturesque coastline, the stolen moments alone, the chance to talk through the deeper issues.  While our oars dipped in and out, we discussed careers, money, children, family, friends, life. It seemed, each year, big decisions were made out there on that generally placid water. Summer kayaking had become our own marital catharsis.

Click on the link to keep reading and to “like” it (THANK YOU!): https://www.facebook.com/notes/notes-words/staying-the-course-by-lisen-stromberg/10152681986595023

Everyday Women and Unsung Heroes: Happy Women’s History Month

In honor of International Women’s Day, I am reposting this essay. It  originally appeared on BlogHer on March 8, 2010. 

It’s March and that means it’s Women’s History Month. In schools across the country, children will be learning about Sacagawea and Cleopatra and Queen Elizabeth and the myriad other

My Unsung Hero

famous women who are lauded for their role in changing the course of history. They won’t, however, be reading about the everyday woman. The woman who cares for her children, works to support her family, volunteers in her community. The woman who is the backbone of this country and most others around the world. They will not be reading about my grandmother, Jeanette Stromberg. Continue reading

The New Face of Addiction

I spent months researching for this article in Diablo Magazine on the rise of prescription drug abuse amongst suburban teens. I interviewed mothers whose honor roll/athlete sons and daughters became slaves to their addictions. I interviewed teens who gave up their dreams of college and professional careers to live “one day at a time.” I was awed by their courage and willingness to speak out. They do not want any one else to go through what they have. And if you think it is “there,” think again. It is here, wherever your here is. Please read it, share it, and talk with others about it. Thank you.

It's A Pharmacy!

It’s A Pharmacy

You might recognize Ann Le Veille of Danville because so many of us are like her. She is a devoted mom who has focused almost all of her time on her family. She volunteered in her children’s schools, chauffeured her kids to their many activities, and was active in her church. Still in love with the man she’d married decades before, she thought she had the perfect life. And then her teenage daughter got hooked on prescription pain medications, and Le Veille realized nothing would ever be the same.

“Chelsea was a happy, social girl in elementary and middle school. Then she hit high school, and soon things began to change. The pressure to get top grades, to be popular, to be on the fast track for admission to a top college was overwhelming,” Le Veille says. So, she took her daughter to a doctor who prescribed Klonopin for Chelsea’s anxiety. Little did Le Veille know that would be the gateway drug to addiction.

The antianxiety medicine worked. Chelsea felt better, and things seemed to calm down. What Le Veille didn’t realize was that Chelsea liked the feeling of relief so much, she moved on to other pills, including Vicodin, Xanax, and finally, OxyContin. Soon, Chelsea’s grades were slipping, and she started hanging out with a new group of kids. “I knew something was wrong; I just didn’t understand what,” Le Veille says.

Within about six months, Le Veille’s daughter became so addicted, she would do anything for the next high. Chelsea stole pills from friends’ parents’ medicine cabinets and from anyone who had a prescription, and when those sources dried up, she turned to dealers to keep her buzzing. She got caught stealing jewelry from a store to pay for her habit. After many unsuccessful attempts to get Chelsea off pills, Le Veille and her husband felt forced to throw her out of the house. Their beloved daughter ended up on the streets.

“The drugs won,” says Le Veille. “The only way we could survive was if we went on without her. One of the worst days of my life was when I saw my ragged, barefoot daughter at a local gas station. She was living in the car of a friend, eating candy and potato chips to stay alive. I felt like I was in this movie of someone else’s life. I never dreamed it could happen to me.” Read more…
 

Soccer and My Daughter’s Concussion: What’s A Good Mother to Do?

This column first appeared on BlogHer.

At first, I didn’t even realize it had happened. My sixteen-year-old daughter was playing goalie for her premier soccer team at a college scouting tournament during Thanksgiving break this past November. As a player from the other team charged the goal, by daughter went in for the save. They both missed the ball and hit each other head-on. The other player fell down and then got up and brushed herself off. My daughter stumbled but didn’t fall. She then managed to capture the ball and save the goal. The hit was so fast, so seemingly inconsequential, I assumed it was just another mild collision between two competitive players. Little did I realize the concussion my daughter received that day would challenge us both in deep and unexpected ways.

Continue reading