Viva Whore-O-Ween!

It’s almost Whore-O-Ween; the time of year when women who might normally blush when wearing a plunging neckline show up at events wearing micro mini versions of Little Red Ridding Hood, police uniforms or even pizza. This weekend anything and everything that can be translated into a costume with hooker heels and a short skirt will be.

The super sexy costume phenomenon has been growing over the past several years. Adults are spending more and more on costumes each year. It’s hard to get a solid number but estimates for 2015 range from $250 million to $6.9 billion in the United States. No matter what the number, all you have to do is enter a costume shop to see that a lot of that money goes to sexy costumes for adult women. The walls are lined with prepackaged styles as well as tons of accessories to either make your own or add to the polyester cheapie number.

Haters are quick to see the trend as yet another sign that society is doomed and we’re all on the highway to hell. Personally, knowing the history of this type of costume, I see something much more positive. I see women who are grabbing at the chance to express their sexuality and break out of America’s repressive sexual roles on the one night of the year when as Lindsey Lohan said in Mean Girls, “You can dress like a slut and no other girls can say anything about it”.

Sexy costumes are nothing new. Look at any era with lots of societal repression and you will see a proliferation of costume balls where ladies (and gentlemen) pushed at the constraints of what was considered proper. In Victorian times masquerade balls were all the rage where a proper woman might dress like an geisha or peacock or if she’s really daring, wear pants.

The current wave of sexy costumes started following the sexual revolution of the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. Early adopters were those eager to shake off the rigid sexual norms of the 1950’s. It wasn’t until the sexual revolution spread from the coasts into middle America (at a snail’s pace), sometime in the 1980’s that the trend really grew. Fueled with the booming economy of that same era, Midwest moms now had the money and the inclination to throw on a mask and become their sluttier alter ego. I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely more powerful and outgoing at parties as Wonder Woman than I ever am as Karen. I think this expression of sexuality is fun and healthy, especially for one night.

Which brings up the other point about whore-o-ween costumes. If we wore them all the time they wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Only dressing erotically occasionally keeps it sexy. It’s partaking of the forbidden fruit and the rush of freedom that comes with it. If you follow fashion you will see that despite some insanely crazy sexy Halloween costumes this year, the true trend in fashion is very conservative. Look for lots of 70’s style turtlenecks this fall along with wide-leg pants and boxy dresses. Victorian style, high-necked lace blouses are a hot trend too.

I love this holiday and I love my costumes. This year I’m sexy Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz on Friday night (minus the hooker heels, because owww!) and Wonder Woman again this Saturday. I can’t wait to see how crazy my friends will get. The wilder the better. I applaud women who show a little chutzpah and defy societal “rules” of what you are allowed to wear based on your age, body type, marital status, and on and on. I say Viva Whore-o-ween! So this year, when you see more of your neighbor than you had planned because she shows up at your party in the tinniest fire-fighter uniform ever, give her a high-five for bravery and tell her she looks “smokin’ hot.”

(Note: I’ve only focused on adult women wearing sexy costumes for this post on purpose. Over-sexualized children’s costumes are not the same thing and I do not endorse them. If you are too young to fully understand sexuality then you are too young for a sexy costume.)

What’s your take on Whore-o-ween? What costume are you wearing this year? Is it daring for you? I’d love to hear from you. Join in the conversation in the comment section below.

Ways That You Can Value Your Work – Chick in Charge Part 2

In my post last week I looked at ways that women, especially those who work from home, often diminish the value of their work. Whether a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a home-business entrepreneur or a combination of both, millions of us do jobs that are undervalued by both ourselves and society.

While I looked at some of the reasons why in last Sunday’s post, I want to point out specific changes I have made in my life that remind me of the importance of my work. Most are not huge or expensive, but they remind me that my time, skills and goals are important to me and others.

Schedule

As I pointed out in my post “3 Things You May Not Have Considered About Working From Home“, your schedule becomes fluid and flexible without an office to report to. It’s both a blessing and a curse and some of the best advice I ever got about making it work for you was from a book about treating SAHM work like a real job. I wish I could remember the title, but I read it so many years ago that I can’t give this fabulous author credit. Her suggestion was that I look at my mom job as a split shift. Shift one was morning to after lunch and shift two was from late afternoon until bedtime. The break in the middle was nap time which is when so many mom’s would frantically clean and, in effect, never take a break; sometimes not even a lunch break. If you re-imagine your day to be work in two shifts, the break in the middle becomes more obvious and necessary. Long after my kids stopped napping they still had an hour or two of quiet time in their rooms every afternoon. This was important time for me to recharge my self and mentally prepare for my second shift. Using this time wisely made a huge difference in my energy and enthusiasm for the work that needed to be done every night.

Her technique still serves me well. My days don’t break up quite so nicely, but I’ve learned to work with the rhythm of my days to get my work done and give myself necessary breaks. If you work from home and you’re a night owl, it is possible to keep working until one or two a.m. but the key then is to either sleep in or take a nap after your family’s morning routine. It is amazing how productive you can be when you allow yourself to follow your natural rhythm and schedule in breaks.

Another important and easy technique is putting your work on your family’s schedule. The power of this didn’t become obvious to me until I had an at-home job with a regular paycheck. As a university instructor I have frequent deadlines and online meetings I must attend. These obviously went on the family master schedule because they involved others and therefore were important. I’ve never missed one. Somehow I’ve always managed to arrange all the practices, field trips, dentist appointments, etc. around my paid work. So why couldn’t and wouldn’t I do the same for my unpaid work (or marginally paid, like writing). It’s just as important to me. If I want it to be my main source of income someday I need to allocate time and energy to it. So I’ve added writing and marketing time to my schedule. Once it’s on there it is much less likely to disappear under a lot of other tasks that might feel urgent at the time but don’t fit into my big picture.

Surroundings

Creating a work space that supports you is another way to value the work that you do. Too often when we work at home our “office” is carved out of left-over space, cluttered, or non existent. To do your optimum work you have needs. They will vary from person to person and if you are doing more than one job from home you may need different designated spaces for each type of work. Homemaking magazines love to feature clever and crafty kitchen spaces for mom to manage the family schedule, grocery lists, school information, etc. The convenience of the location might work great for some, but that room is too busy and chaotic for me. Not to mention that all office supplies within view in the kitchen are considered fair game. For me I need a space to spread out, where I won’t have to move things every time I need to cook, and where the pens and scissors I like will not constantly disappear.

When looking at the work space(s) that support you consider things like; amount of sunlight, proximity to fresh air, heat or air conditioning; view of the TV (whether necessary or a distraction); ability to close yourself away from interruptions or noise; and space for supplies (that won’t be pilfered). This is your office so decorate and organize it in a way that makes you want to use it. Paint is cheap, decorative folders are cheap but both can do a lot to make your space uniquely yours.

After a recent absolutely heavenly massage I decided to add the scent of essential oils to my home office. For less than twenty dollars I bought a diffuser and an oil blend designed to encourage brain activity. I don’t know if I’m having more brain activity but I’m loving the scent and the quiet little motor is fantastic white noise. The most important thing about the diffuser isn’t the cost or if it’s markedly increased my productivity, it’s the fact that I took the time and effort to get it. I made my work space a priority.

And I’m really just getting started. A she-shed is calling my name. (If you’re not sure what one is, search Pintrest.) What better way to give your work the space it deserves than a building dedicated solely to it.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take your work and your work spaces more seriously. If you get some ideas from this post I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know how you make your work and your work space reflect their value. When you value your work, others will too.

Yes, Jennifer Lawrence, YES!

OK, I’m a little over excited this morning but it’s not often that someone, especially someone famous with a HUGE audience, so succinctly expresses a point that is near and dear to me.

In case you haven’t heard Jennifer Lawrence published a letter on Lena Dunham’s new site, Lenny, in which she looks at the pay gap for women in Hollywood from her perspective. This could easily be a “poor me, I’m mega rich and getting ripped off” piece, but it isn’t. It’s the opposite and that’s why I love it.

First Jennifer Lawrence does point out that her problem may not be relatable because of the amount of money she makes. True, it’s on a different level, but at it’s core it is the same problem women are having who are on a more moderate pay scale. Second, she does not blame Sony pictures for her being paid less than her male costars. Instead she takes a hard look at herself and her own poor negotiating then questions if that is due to her gender. She makes some great points about wanting to be seen as nice and not bratty and giving up when negotiations got hard, not wanting to seem greedy or troublesome. YES! That’s where she nails it.

I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. – Jennifer Lawrence

How many of us, women, have done the same thing, over and over, day in and day out? We take less, ask for less, accept less because we don’t want to be seen as anything but nice. I have. I still do. It’s a hard habit to break but one that can be changed. The first step is naming the problem and noting our part in it.

The best thing about this article is that while she points out a problem that exists, she is also offering a solution that all women can work on to enact change. Why would Sony or anyone pay us more if we don’t ask for more, or demand it? We have to value ourselves, our work, more. This is exactly what the my post, “Make Yourself The CiC (Chick in Charge) of Your Life–Part 1” was all about. Believing in the value of our work is the problem and the solution, especially when our work is done at home, sometimes for no pay. If we don’t value our work we cannot expect others to.

Please take a minute to read the article in Lenny then ask yourself if this is you. Can you relate? Have you squelched your power and diminished your value in the name of being “nice”? I welcome your comments, ideas, opinions below. Let’s start a conversation about our value.

Make Yourself The CiC (Chick in Charge) of Your Life–Part 1

When I worked in an office I always thought job titles were kind of a joke. I can’t say I stressed out too much over what mine was as long as I was doing work I liked and it came with a paycheck, you could call me whatever you wanted. When I became a stay-at-home mom I decided to give myself the title Chick in Charge. I wanted to have business cards made so I could put them in the fish bowls on deli counters and win a free sandwich.  It started as a joke, but the more I thought about it the less silly it became. If I wanted to be taken seriously in all the work I do I needed to take myself seriously.

This past week two writers had me thinking again about the work I do, all my jobs, and how I see myself in those roles. First the wonderful and wise Kristen Lamb posted an article “Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers—Channeling Your Inner “Bad Girl” to Reach Your Dreams.” In it she encouraged female writers to take on some male traits and take their writing careers more seriously. She made some fantastic points and reminded me that this is a process I am working through right now. I’m proud to say I’ve definitely made some of the moves she suggests in the post. The second post was by the writer February Grace. Her post “The Worth In All Our Words” addresses the question of when we should call ourselves writers and how this can be debated even within the writing community. Both posts brought up my own ideas about what constitutes “work” and how that work is valued by myself and others. This is such a huge and important topic that I want to address it over two weeks (possibly more).

This week I’ll look at ways we diminish our work as women and how we can give it more power in our lives and in the world. Next week I’ll talk about specific ways you can be more in charge of all areas of work in your life.

So, let’s start with my jobs. I’m a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), a writer and an adjunct instructor for a university. All are equally important jobs even though only one has a paycheck. There have been times in the past sixteen years when mom was my only job. Those were important times for me because I felt like I was making a huge contribution to our family and society but that wasn’t the message I was getting. Unpaid hours spent doing repetitious work can feel as if it has no value and mothering is a job that only becomes obvious if it isn’t done. To make matters worse, it is definitely diminished and written off as women’s work, something uninteresting to the menfolk and not worth discussing in mixed company. This is when my idea for my title Chick in Charge was born. Sure I wanted free food but I also wanted the acknowledgement that I worked. It helped, having a title, but I still wanted the world to give me something that I wasn’t giving myself–credit, worth, value.

Skip forward to today. I truly do have three jobs and I know I am not unique among women. Millions of us take on jobs to add to our family income. I write but I have friends who sell different product lines or make items that they sell online through Etsy or Ebay. Most of us are not making huge sums of money but that’s just one of the reasons we don’t take our work seriously enough. Just like mothering our work is often written off as trivial or unimportant by both ourselves and others. We buy into the erroneous idea that you have to be on the level of Beyonce or Oprah before your work can take priority and be valued. But here’s the catch, Beyonce and Oprah started out like everyone else. They were very small potatoes at one point in time but what they didn’t do was believe that what they had to offer the world was of little value. They believed in the value of their work.

It’s taken me a long time, but that’s where I am (or at least that’s the direction I am heading) and the first thing that had to happen is I had to decide I truly was the Chick in Charge of my life. I needed to run my life with all the seriousness and intention and passion of any CEO. I needed to set some goals and then put things in place to reach for those goals. I also needed to create my own employee rewards program where I celebrated each milestone and goal reached in a way that was meaningful to me.

Key to this whole process was to trust myself, my instincts, when it came to what I wanted to achieve. The world wants to tell you what goals you should set–junior should be reading by age X, your first book should sell X number of copies in the first month, you’re only a successful writer when the NY Times or USA Today says you are. The problem is these goals are set by people who do not know your kid or your business. Maybe your kid is a wiz at music but reading just isn’t coming as quickly. If you follow your knowledge as CiC you will know when he or she is ready to read or potty train or whatever. You will also know when you have succeeded in your business because you sold X number more than last month or you finished writing a particularly hard piece.

The other thing you have to have is a view of the big picture. You need to know where you are heading (in general) so you, and sometimes only you, will know that you are making progress. I guarantee that Beyonce and Oprah and all super successful women saw themselves in a big picture long before they were actually there. I have my big picture. I know my kids will survive high school (and I will too) and go on to live happy lives doing things they love. I know I will write more books and continue to gain more readers who tell me how much they enjoy reading my work. I also know I will be taking some fantastic vacations and doing things that recharge my batteries and keep me excited about my goals. Self-care is definitely part of being a CiC.

Which is what I will address next week. I’ve put some systems in place and changed a few things in my world. None of it was earth-shattering or huge to others, but it was all important to me. It was all to acknowledge my worth and value as the chick in charge of my own life.

Are you a CiC? When and how did you take charge of valuing all your work? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.