Diary of a breastfeeding mom

A-Force has mangled my body, put an end to my freedom, and brought chaos into my day-to-day life like I have never known before.

I have mommy thumb. I have mommy brain. I am so uncomfortable in my skin. Almost all of my clothes fit -- regular, nursing, and maternity -- and none of them look right.

A-Force only drinks breast milk. Before I gave birth, I thought, how difficult could breastfeeding be? Pop in a boob, let ‘er rip, and go on our merry way, right?

Wrong. Breastfeeding is grueling. Every two or three hours, day and night, the baby has to eat. You can’t really do anything else while she’s eating, unless you want to let her fall off and have breast milk spray everywhere, leaving a sticky film where it dries.

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What does it feel like after giving birth?

It feels like you got hit in the vagina by a truck!

Giving birth was hard, but the epidural made it a walk in the park compared to the recovery period, when you’re shredded down there, and they just give you ADVIL for the pain.

I was lucky, though. My parents and parents in-law provided food for the first month. They helped us build the nursery, gave us advice, and babysat. They even helped us give A-Force her first bath.

A-Force is not our daughter’s real name. I used a rapper name generator to create a nickname for her, because I am protective. She is the most important thing I have ever done in my life.

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Career planning while pregnant

I’m 39 weeks pregnant, which means my baby is full-term and could be tearing its way out of me any day now.

My body is large, slow, and weak, but my mind is sprinting at a mile a minute. How can I best protect my daughter? What will the first 100 days be like? How will I make money? When will I have my next child?

I have the privilege (or misfortune, depending on who you ask) of working gig-based law jobs, which means that 1) I’m not taking a costly step off some hierarchical ladder in order to take time off, and 2) I can pretty much go back to doing what I was doing when I’m ready. I also passed the ALTA language exam in French before I stopped working, which means that I will be eligible to do legal work in French at a higher pay rate when I return.

I don’t know exactly when that will be, though. I also don’t know how I’ll feel about taking care of an infant. What I do know is that I am a very careful person who is deeply invested in my children’s well-being, and that I don’t expect anyone to try as hard as I will to do a good job raising them.

A quick and dirty rule of thumb for whether or not a daycare is good is that if you can afford a daycare that meets or exceeds what would otherwise be provided at home, then it is a good option. I can easily estimate the financials, but the actual standard of care that I am able to provide has yet to be determined. So, like many things, we’ll have to figure the situation out as it unfolds.

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Losing my autonomy

I’m eight months pregnant and just beginning to understand on a visceral level how I am losing my autonomy.

My pregnancy was well planned out. At the age of 30, I knew that I was going to try to get pregnant around the age of 31. So, I tried to do all the things that I didn’t think I’d be able to do after I had a child.

Gabriel and I traveled. To Iceland, Germany, Switzerland, Dubai, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. I got drunk with friends, fell asleep with my makeup on, and washed it off in the morning before heading to bottomless brunch. I read books on frivolous topics and put phthalate-rich perfume directly on my skin. I ordered Thai food for delivery and spent hours binge-watching movies and serial television in bed.

After a while, it wasn’t all that fun. I didn’t have a problem cutting down as I prepared to get pregnant.

Purposeful indulgence is the same as working very hard, in that way. Doing it for long enough makes it routine and it loses its distinguishing qualities, whether they are positive or negative. After it’s all over, you forget about how most of it felt -- you just remember that it happened, and feel a moment of emotion. Then on to the next.

But maybe those memories will sustain me through parenthood. When I’m drowning in a river of dirty diapers and laundry and being sonically assaulted by my baby’s cries, I’ll be able to recall walking along the glacier-fueled waterfalls in Iceland and know that I had my time. Long dinners with red wine in Hong Kong. Afternoon tea in the Middle East. Time and space to be alone...

I prepared for all the things I wouldn’t be able to do, but I did not know enough to prepare for the loss of autonomy over my body and mind.

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Three ways to maintain your brand through parenthood

Three ways to maintain your brand through parenthood

Angelina Jolie’s brand has always been about adventure. By choosing to play roles including hacker, drug-addicted model, mental hospital patient, car thief, and assassin, she firmly established herself in the public mind as more than just a female love interest.

The adventurous aspect of her brand developed in a radically new direction when she filmed Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia. After falling in love with the formerly war-torn country and adopting a native orphan, the iconoclastic sex symbol broadened her worldview and devoted part of her clout to furthering humanitarian causes and building a large family. 

Angelina Jolie is now 40 years old and still pushing boundaries in her career and personal life. The adventurer brand remains, but in a different form, in order to accommodate her new priorities and increasing responsibility. She managed the evolution of her brand brilliantly, letting go of parts that no longer made sense as she grew as a person, and retaining the ones that set her apart from the crowd in the first place. 

One of the scary parts about having kids is the idea of losing a part of yourself. This is not a reasonable fear because the reality is that we are losing parts of ourselves all the time. We grow up, and almost nothing is ours to keep throughout our lifetimes.

More often than not, however, our driving forces remain the same. Branding is about maintaining and communicating the core values that remain constant. This can be challenging when everything, inside and outside of us, is in flux due to personal development and parenthood.

Here are three key concepts that can help with brand evolution management through parenthood:

1. Hold on to your core values

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Keeping business going while having children

Keeping business going while having children

I knew I was pregnant weeks before it was confirmed by the test. I kept waking up at night with my body sweating and burning up with heat. Still, when I looked at the positive result in my hands, it was hard to believe.

I was thirty years old. I had been planning this for years, and I had factored in cushion time for conception. What actually happened was that I got pregnant on our first try, and the next phase of life was ON.

Everyone handles the competing demands of family and career differently. I knew that I wanted to be very involved with raising my children, but also that I had to keep pursuing my career.

My reason for this wasn’t purely financial; I don’t spend a lot of money, so I don’t need a lot. It was more about feeling valuable.

Feeling valuable just feels good. It’s not enough for me to contribute to my family. I want to contribute to the world, in a meaningful way, and be paid for my efforts. It feels so good to get better at things, and it feels even better to have an impact.

Aside from being emotionally rewarding, there’s something critical about being valuable that I want my kids to internalize: Constantly working on making yourself more valuable keeps you safe.

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Marketing success

Marketing success

Image is important for marketing, and no image sells better than that of success.

The simplest way to market success is to appear wealthy. People are naturally attracted to wealth because it is often in their self interest to connect with people who can access an abundance of resources. Never mind what actually happens if and when they do have the opportunity to connect -- the image of wealth continues to sell.

However, one need not have an incredible amount of wealth in order to market success, because success is not defined by wealth but by the accomplishment of a desired aim.

Despite the hardwired reaction that many people have when faced with wealth that is significantly greater than their own, people really do want different things.

For example, health, friendship, and freedom are just a handful of common desires.

Or in Mark Zuckerberg’s case, a better world for his daughter to live in.

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Everything changes, so will your brand

Everything changes, so will your brand

Lena Dunham’s caption for this Instagram photo of her taking a selfie at the gym includes the phrase, “It ain’t about the ass, it’s about the brain.”

This is not a statement that comes from a typical famous person, because it is implicit that they need to conform to specific physical standards in order to keep working.

Ms. Dunham, a self-described, “potbellied riot girl!”, made her mark, in part, by embracing her body, which is completely normal by American standards but an outlier in Hollywood. It works, and that is a big reason why her audience loves her.

So, for Ms. Dunham to post pictures of herself exercising and qualify it with statements that she is not doing it to lose weight, is completely understandable. She is making a gesture to insulate her brand from the possibility that her audience will perceive her new healthy habits as a threat to the brand that they initially fell in love with.

Change can be a risky move for a brand. At the same time, change is, as they say, the only constant.

There is a point, or many points, in people’s lives when they may look in the mirror and find it hard to recognize themselves.

Last week, I didn’t really recognize myself. I was writing down all the things that I like (as one does, ha ha ha), and the things on the list were so… basic. I read it over and over again with something like mild alarm.

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The best way to reduce stress

Entrepreneurs fund their businesses in a variety of ways. I’m funding my business, for the time being, by working in contract law.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been working for 10 hours a day on a contract assignment, not including lunch and dinner breaks. Getting there entails a 1.5 hour round trip commute. Every evening, I get home at 8:45 p.m., maybe watch an episode of something to wind down, then go to sleep.

The day begins anew at 6 a.m., with me sleepily lacing up my running shoes. I’m the worst runner ever, but I’m resigned to doing it because I don’t know how to manage my stress now that I’m trying to get pregnant and I can’t drink alcohol.

Running was the last resort option. I tried therapy, but it just doesn’t reduce stress for me. The last massage I got made me angry because I didn’t like the masseuse’s technique. And every time I try to do yoga, I end up wandering away in my mind, and then wandering away in real life.

So, I run. This is not a love letter to running. It’s hard work, and I like it because it makes me feel strong, but the stress reduction effect is minimal for me.

The most stressful part of my day is the commute. I take the N/Q and 4/5 subway lines to get to work. 

This past week was particularly bad. It started with the woman with a face tattoo sitting near me with her stubbly vagina exposed. Then, there was the person sitting directly across from me, hocking loogies onto the subway car floor. Don’t get me started with remarkable human being who decided to pick a fight with me one morning.

All entrepreneurs deal with stress. There wasn’t really anything I could do to reduce it significantly after the fact. Then it hit me -- the best way to deal with stress is to deal with it before it happens.

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How to deal with frenemies in business

“For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not. She would come up to me... and say something and walk away, and I would think, ‘Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?’” - Taylor Swift, 2014, Rolling Stone

You know the feeling. That sickening feeling when you realize that someone is putting you down in order to try to prop him or her self up.

Now, when I see it happening, my immediate reaction is to feel sorry for the person. Someone who resorts to that kind of behavior is not happy, confident, and kind.

In general, people don’t change much. And you can tell a lot about a person's destiny by looking at their actions in the present.

It would be a lot easier if you could just stop interacting with frenemies whenever you encounter them. However, a lot of times, it’s not that easy. 

We read about years-long rivalries amongst leaders in business all the time, like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who have been described as “the ultimate frenemies”. We read about entire nations operating as frenemies for decades.

Frenemies can affect the big picture and the long term. So, knowing how to deal with frenemies is important for business. You might run in the same industry circles. You might even have to partner up in order to accomplish something that both of you want (as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates eventually did). 

Here’s how to deal with a frenemy in business (as well as in life in general):

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How to market an ebook

"My toe is barely in the door, my foot is barely on the gas, I've got to press down harder."  - Kanye West, 2015, Vanity Fair

Connecting with people requires effort.

It’s not really cool to show that you put effort into anything. That’s why it’s called cool -- you don’t break a sweat.

I’ve been sweating more these days. Not only figuratively, but also physically, because I switched from antiperspirant to natural deodorant. 

This means that I can’t hide when I sweat from myself. I can’t deny when I’m not being cool, because my body sends the signals loud and clear. Right onto my clothing. 

There were two instances this week where I broke into a sweat while connecting with people. Neither instance had anything to do with marketing my ebook.

To be honest, I’ve been too cool about marketing my ebook. It hasn’t been making me sweat at all.

Book marketing is ratcheted up to the max when it’s hot. Tours, television appearances, and public speaking would make almost anyone sweat.

It is not cool to be cool about marketing.

So, I plan to dial up my book marketing strategy a bit for the paperback edition of my ebook that is coming out soon. I'll try some new things, and watch for the sweat.

If and when I write another book, I’ll know and be prepared to go even hotter from the start.

Is your marketing strategy hot or cool?

How to stay on-brand

I’m interested in lots of different things. I’m interested in business but also economics and philosophy and literature. I always like to rationalize that as helping me think about things better, or that these things are interdisciplinary. But maybe it’s just being a dilettante or procrastinating and not ever really getting focused. - Peter Thiel, 2014, The Washington Post

Let me just say how relieved I was to read that even Peter Thiel worries that he may be a dilettante. This is proof that no matter how far you go in life, you can always feel guilty for not being a super-specialist that is 100% devoted to one field.

It can be hard to stay in one predetermined area. Likewise, staying on-brand is hard.

Staying on-brand is important for branding, but not so important that it necessitates cutting off all exploration that doesn’t immediately fit with the brand. People like to explore, and the payoffs of doing so are not always obvious until a great opportunity arises.

Here’s how to manage your brand when it has exploratory tendencies:

1. Shut your mouth and go off-brand quietly

Branding and staying on-brand can be challenging when you are sort of an open book, like me. However, I do know when to lower the volume publicly about some things. Such as:

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How to fix a very big problem

What’s a very big problem? When your entire life becomes a problem.

It’s just life. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing, the kind you could do while falling asleep. Sometimes it’s raging through the unknown with the strength of ten humans and unworldly confidence. And sometimes you’re completely alone in the dark, hanging onto the edge of the cliff, barely aware of anything other than the progressive pain of your muscles tearing and the ridiculous flicker of hope that just won’t go away.

Entrepreneurship is picking a problem. Fixing it can become your life.

With entrepreneurship, it’s so important to have a firm grasp of your goals with regard to scale. You can select to have a lifestyle business, and to make no more money than required to get by. Or, you can go bigger, thereby making the problem bigger, and devote more of your life to it.

Whatever your ambitions, problems can hit you from every direction, and before you know it, you’ve slid into a situation where your entire life has become a problem.

Health issues hit you or your family out of nowhere, and you find yourself burning gigawatts of brainpower negotiating with medical staff and health insurance providers so that you can keep going on. Your living situation spirals into uncertainty, and you find yourself thinking about whether to fire or sue the superintendent, the real estate agent, the attorney, and the contractor.

You spend an hour at your bank trying to prove your own identity.

But the hardest problem of all is relationships.

Isn’t all of the above about relationships?

What happens when love enters the picture? Love so deeply tied to your identity, that you look in the mirror and you wonder if you will exit out of the chaos as the same person?

Will you ever be the person you imagined you’d grow up to be when you were a kid? When you read stacks of paperbacks, fell in love with heroes and heroines, and dreamt that you would be like them when you grew up -- did you have any idea what that really entailed?

I can’t go further. Yes, I can. But how?

It happens to all of us, from time to time. Our entire lives become a problem. This past week, it was my turn.

I figured out how to fix everything because I have a thought process that I use to solve problems, big and small, and it works.

Here it is, boiled down to a three step process:

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A way for JDs to fund their dreams

Sometimes, it’s not possible to start your own business while simultaneously working a day job.

It’s not because there is something wrong with you. It just is what it is: We get a limited amount of energy to use per day before we need to recharge.

Perhaps your situation is like mine: You want to build an independent business, and you don’t want to take on any funding. So, you need to make money, but having a regular day job gets in the way of pursuing your dreams because the amount of creative energy that you have per day is human.

Now I’m going to tell you where I’ve been for the past two months. I’ve been working as a contract attorney; specifically, in document review.

I did not have any prior experience practicing law. However, I was running out of money, and I happen to have a valid license to practice law in New York State. So, I figured I’d give it a shot.

Contract attorney work is not exactly the most sought-after role in the legal field, and it even carries a bit of stigma in some circles. This is because many contract attorney roles are often completely based in document review, which means that you are paid to categorize documents based on legal principles. You do not write briefs and motions. And you definitely do not go to court.

I don’t really know how to say this to you, but it’s one of the best jobs that I 've ever had.

Here are four reasons why:

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How to integrate quirks into a brand

I am uncomfortable with my relationship to pink.

This week, I had a moment of clarity while writing in my journal about wanting my ideas to be taken seriously. It was one of those zoom-out, oh crap! moments, where you stop everything you’re doing and feel utterly doomed.

I write in cursive in a pink journal. With a pink pen. In pink ink. And my nails are painted pink.

The business ideas that I get in my journal are sometimes so serious that my editor/husband, Gabriel, reads the blog posts that I get out of them and says, “It’s just too academic.” Which is code word for boring, which means no one wants to read that stuff!

Yet they come out in an environment that is basically designed to make a five year old girl happy. And I love writing them.

I allowed myself to create an environment that I like, and it ended being really, really pink.

I didn’t even realize how much I loved pink until I allowed myself to do what I like. Now, I am a little frightened by how much stuff around me is pink, because the discouraging truth is that things that are feminine and imaginative can be discounted based on appearance, and I do not want my ideas to be discounted. 

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Three things about being a woman in business

“I will make the money and you can raise the children,” I told my boyfriend during graduate school.

I was obsessed with work. So confident that it was all that I wanted to do. I figured that I could just keep working, whatever.

Fast-forward five years. My graduate school boyfriend and I are now married, and he makes more money than I ever have. I have had my heart broken so many times -- not once by him, but several times by my career.

Was it inevitable?

Here are three things that I know now about being a woman in business that I didn’t know when I was 25.

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Support for Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In

By now, you have heard about the death of David Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey and husband to Sheryl Sandberg. With no official cause of death cited in formal obituaries released by major publications, understandably, there are speculations about his cause of his death.

Sheryl is only 47 years old. There had to be thousands of women who wanted to be in her place just a few days ago. I doubt that any person wants to be where she is now.

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Staying focused as an entrepreneur

Yesterday, I had lunch with my parents, and we talked about buying real estate and the progression in my career. Part of what I do is create digital content, and part of it is marketing consulting, but my parents don’t really see a lot of it.

No one sees all of the work that an entrepreneur does, except for the people who are directly involved in all aspects of the role.

My mother definitely doesn’t see the whole picture. Yesterday, she remarked, “You used to work hard, but now, you are a little lazy.” My eyes bulged out of my head.

I can’t really blame her because I don’t really talk to her about what I am doing. 

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How much do you want to make money?

Being an entrepreneur means spending time in the red before getting into the black.

Since starting my own business six months ago, I’ve made enough money to stay afloat, but not enough for me to help support myself and the two babies that I would like to have.

When people reach their late twenties and early thirties, it becomes more obvious that the smartest people aren’t necessarily the people who make the most money. Often, it is the most fortuitously connected. Sometimes, it’s the hardworking. Rarely, it is the lucky.

The truth is that although each person’s circumstances are unique, the most important factor when it comes to having money is how much you want it in the first place. The pejorative way to refer to a high level of that rational desire is greed.

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Don't let emotions control your brand

Gabriel and I are hunting for our first apartment to purchase. I’d love to stay in Astoria, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

Astoria is so nice. I can walk around by myself at night and not feel scared. There are good grocery stores nearby and an amazing variety of restaurants. It just feels like a happy place.

There is another reason why I’m not in love with the idea of moving to Manhattan. A few years ago, I went to a chi-chi networking event, and a young investment banker sneered at me for not living in Manhattan. I was so surprised that anyone would behave that way that I honestly didn’t understand it, even as I left the event and burst into tears while walking towards the subway.

Feeling lost, I called a friend who happens to be a former top-tier investment banker, and told him what happened. “Where does he work?” he asked. I named the bank, and he immediately started snickering.

“If he works there, then he probably doesn't make that much money.”

Look, the moral of the story is not to snicker at the sneerer. However, it is helpful to point out that in the bigger scheme of things, for every person who is snobby because he or she lives in Manhattan, there is a billionaire with several homes around the world and a fleet of vehicles who has no idea that that person exists.

Still, something in me feels a little protective of myself when I check out apartments in the Upper East Side. I am middle class. I want everyone to feel that it’s okay not to have a ton of money, because it is.

My mom keeps reminding me that Manhattan real estate is the smarter investment even as I steer her towards properties in Queens and Brooklyn. All things considered, she is right, and making an intelligent decision does not mean that anything about me is changing.

Elegance is defined by Google as the quality of being pleasingly ingenious and simple. I love elegant solutions, and I can recognize one when I see one. There is one right in front of me as I consider apartments, and my emotions are having a knee-jerk reaction against it. They are screaming, I WANT TO STAY FAR, FAR AWAY, I WANT TO STAY IN MY HAPPY PLACE, ASTORIA OR BROOKLYN!

However, if I listen to the part of my mind and my brand that loves elegant solutions, I know that the correct decision is to make an investment that is lower in risk and higher in return.

Listening to emotions is important, but they must be used in a constructive way. That is, emotions should not be allowed to impede strong decision-making. For brands, and in general, this necessitates taking values into account, not impulses.

In this case, I can reconcile emotion with logic by reminding myself that no matter what happens in my life, I will always be middle class because my values are middle class, and that I will never, ever behave like that person at the networking event.

Do you think that the core values of your brand were affected by your circumstances while growing up?