Okay Working Parents, Let’s Triage This

Our society tells us that we must be perfect parents.  Both spouses are expected to work full time, shuttle the kids between after-school enrichment activities, help with homework, read bedtime stories, smile through it all, and then fall exhausted into an overwhelmed stupor called sleep each night.  Then we must rise at the crack of dawn to do it all over again.  Sound familiar?  Wait, that was life before COVID-19.    

One month into our state’s stay-at-home order, which happens to coincide with a cold and dreary Connecticut spring, I was ready to pull my hair out.  I still had to do all the above, much of it as a “Zoom cameraman,” AND teach elementary school, AND tend to the emotional needs of children who desperately miss their friends . . .  F**k that.  

Rather than yanking out large clumps of hair and going bald, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that it is impossible to do everything – those who say that they are on Facebook are LIARS – and I went into working-parent triage mode.     

Take care of the gunshot wounds first

Triage happens when you visit the emergency room—a sadly apt analogy these days.  Those who have gunshot wounds see the doctor right away; those who need a couple of stitches can wait for hours on a busy day.  Take care of life’s gunshot wounds now; the stitches can wait. 

Everyone will have a different calculus, but for most people the “gunshot wounds” are doing a good enough job at work to remain employed (if you’re lucky enough to be working these days). Taking care of your kids’ and—this is important—your own emotional needs is also at the top.  Submitting completed assignments to teachers in Google classroom is secondary, particularly if the process creates extra work for parents without a countervailing educational benefit for the student.  At the very bottom of the list is folding laundry. Your pet doesn’t care if your clothes are wrinkled.  If it makes life easier, eat all your meals off disposable dinnerware to cut down on chores.  In short, cut any and all non-essential corners that you can.  Lastly, I’d put obsessively watching the news at the bottom of the triage list—stay informed, but limit it, or you might curl yourself into a ball and stay in bed until there’s a vaccine.  

Keep happiness in the mix

During this time of sadness, depravation, and isolation, it’s easy to feel guilty about having fun.  Don’t. While we are in a time of mourning for sure, making ourselves and our families as happy as possible keeps us sane and allows us to endure this seemingly endless marathon. Keeping our spirits up will also allow us to be kind and supportive of our families, friends, and communities.  

I love being outdoors, so if it is a beautiful day outside, my kids and I go off the lesson plan and take a field trip to a nature trail, or we collect shells on the beach and I “teach” biology.  When the weather warms up, I look forward to boating and spending even more time outdoors.

The vacation may have been cancelled, but don’t cancel your time off

For spring break, we had planned to go to Disney World and had rented a beach condo and (of course) a boat in Florida. It was a long-awaited splurge after several difficult years.  Obviously, it didn’t happen.  Many families just cancelled their trips and slogged through April break working from home without doing anything fun as a consolation prize.  We still took time off, which has been a game-changer.  We took long drives and spent every possible moment in nature (albeit far from other people). We cooked ourselves decadent meals, watched movies, and tuned out work, school, and the news.  Life felt somewhat . . . normal.  Moments of normalcy are so rare now. Grab them whenever you can.

So, these are my two cents as a veteran far-from-perfect working parent.  Take care of yourselves, stay safe and healthy, and grab moments of joy when you can.  We’ll all get through this together.             

The Daily Daycare Dash

You’re stuck in traffic running way behind schedule.  Your palms start to sweat, your heart is pounding.  Is it because:

  • (a) You’re late for your best friend’s surprise birthday party—the surprise will be long over by the time you get there?
  • (b) You’re late for a flight at a busy international airport with massive security lines?
  • (c) You’re late for an important court hearing (you’re the lawyer or the litigant)? or
  • (d) You’re late for daycare pickup?

For most working parents, the correct answer is (d).  

  • Your best friend will forgive you; you’ll laugh about it together one day.  
  • I’ve cajoled my way to the front of TSA lines at airports—most fellow travelers and TSA agents will take pity on you in those circumstances.  
  • And, despite the formidable black robes, most judges will exercise leniency so long as you have a decent excuse and don’t make a habit of it.  

But daycare providers?  Forget it. They are merciless.  Many daycare contracts state that you will be charged $5 to $10 per minute  for late pickups, no exceptions.  And then there’s the guilt factor.  You walk in to find your sweetie-pie sitting in the director’s office looking forlorn.  “Mommy, did you forget me?”  

And, joy of joys, there’s an opportunity for working parents to experience this road-rage-and-parental-guilt-inducing stress Monday through Friday most weeks of the year. 

What’s a frazzled working parent to do?

For parents with long commutes, try finding a daycare close to your workplace.  That removes the traffic/commuting-time variable, although you may be forced to listen to the Paw Patrol theme song repeatedly while driving in traffic, which is its own form of torture.  

You can also hire one of your child’s daycare teachers, put her on the sign out list, and pay her to sign out your kid and play with him outside on days when you’re running late.  It will cost much less than $5 to $10 per minute.  

If you have family members near your daycare who are willing to help in a pinch, you truly are blessed—thank them profusely.  

And when, despite your best efforts and a few creative interpretations of how long that light was yellow, you arrive ten minutes late, do what your child does when she’s in trouble.  The sad eyes. The apology and explanation. The promise, “I’m usually so good about picking her up on time. This won’t keep happening.”   

Sometimes even daycare providers will relent.

Empowering Our Daughters

My eldest daughter is entering her teenage years.  She’s self-admittedly stubborn.  She marches to her own beat, and she doesn’t take crap from me or anyone else.  She has a biting, sardonic sense of humor.  She thinks Twilight is stupid.  I’m so proud of her.  

These days, I embarrass her.  I’m clueless about her tastes, what’s cool, what’s fashionable in her circles, and, pretty much, everything else.  I can’t force her to do anything. 

And I’m so proud of her. Even when I want to pull out my hair.

Because, one day, these qualities will help her grow into a strong, self-assured, independent young woman, who is confident in whatever path she chooses for herself.  And that’s exactly what I want for her.  

Recently, I asked if she wanted to get her boating license.  We’d had a blast on the water the prior summer, and the idea that, under Connecticut law, she’d be permitted to captain a 50’ yacht before she could drive a car appealed to her ironic sense of humor.  Or, maybe, just maybe, she loves the water, just like her mom.  

So she got up early on a Saturday morning to take the day-long class and exam, which she passed (phew!). Afterward, I asked how it went.

She smirked, “Now I know how to trailer a boat.  I can’t drive.  And we don’t own a trailer . . . or a boat.  But I can trailer one.”  

I laughed—that’s my girl—and explained how I’ve never used the “rule against perpetuities” as a lawyer, but had to learn it nevertheless for the bar exam.     

Boater’s Ed Before Driver’s Ed

Next, it was time for boater’s ed.  Captain Jeff, a grandfatherly, incredibly patient Coast Guard retiree, was tasked with teaching someone who had never even driven a car to drive and dock a boat. As he quizzed her, I was relieved to learn that she’d taken the class seriously and retained useful information from it.  

We practiced docking.  I did my best to keep my mouth shut and my face impassive, and she did great as her confidence grew.  Then, it was time to push the throttle forward for the first time.  

I watched the wake spread out behind us, and, as she felt the sheer power of the engine propel us forward, a huge grin spread across her face . . . just like her mom. 

Healthy, Hearty Cranberry Apple Oatmeal Cookies

We’re gripped in a polar vortex; it’s cold, dark and dreary outside- what’s a boater girl to do?  Rather than pining away for my boats, I’ll perfect some boat friendly recipes during the off season.  And, okay, maybe there’s just a little bit of pining happening as well, but . . . sigh . . . nothing I can’t manage.  

Here’s a recipe that my colleagues have been asking me to publish for quite some time (yes, Beth and the 18th floor, this one’s for you!)  This recipe takes oatmeal cookies to a whole new level (or so I’ve been told), and these are reasonably healthy so you won’t feel guilty about feeding them to the kids for breakfast.  What’s more, because they’re compact and portable, they are easy to grab on the way out of the house in the morning (or as a snack for a boat ride).  


  • 14 tablespoons of butter
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1¼ cups of dried cranberries
  • 1 medium-sized golden delicious apple
  • 3 cups of Quaker Oats, uncooked
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  The oven must be hotter than for typical oatmeal cookies so the extra moisture from the fresh apples evaporates.
  2. Beat the butter and sugars in a stand mixer until creamy.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  3.  Add the eggs and vanilla to the stand mixer and beat until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly using the stand mixer.
  6. Add the oats and mix them into the dough on slow speed.
  7. Core and peel the apple and cut it into ¼ inch squares.  I core and peel the apple using an apple peeler/corer device and then slice up the rings into smaller pieces (see below).
My apple peeler/corer device (though not with a golden delicious apple) and apples chopped to the correct size for these cookies

8. Add the apple pieces and cranberries to the dough and mix them in by hand.  Mix the cookie dough just enough to evenly distribute the fruit.  If you overmix it, the dough will become soggy from juice released by the apple slices, which makes for soggy cookies.

9. Drop tablespoons of cookie dough onto a nonstick baking sheet.  Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown and firm. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

The cookies should keep for about one week.  They also can be frozen and thawed as needed. Enjoy!

Like a Kid in a . . . Shoe Store (?)

It’s that crazy holiday season, when we’re all busy shopping for gifts, attending/hosting holiday parties, decorating, baking, and sending out cards . . . Phew!  I’ll keep this one short because who has time to read long blog entries (and, frankly, I don’t have time to write long blog entries).

My kids’ size Ugg slippers are still going strong after three years

If you’re looking to treat yourself (or to treat that woman who does it all) to a cozy pair of Uggs, here’s a great money saving tip that I learned from my friend Analis.  Buy the kid’s size equivalent.  For example, on Zappos, the Ugg Dakota slipper costs $70 for the kids’ version and $100 for the women’s version of the exact same shoe.  Just Google a kids’/women’s shoe conversion chart to figure out the kids’ equivalent of the adult shoe size.

This trick works for many of the high-end casual shoes, winter boots, and outdoors and hiking brands.  Just don’t buy her pink light-up Elsa sneakers, or you’ll end up sleeping under the tree.  Happy holidays, everyone!

Combine and Conquer Those Snow Days

Cooler weather inevitably leads to the dreaded snow day.  I’m not talking about those Nor’easters when everything shuts down and the whole family gets to curl up at home with hot chocolate and a roaring fire.  I’m talking about those days when school shuts down (or is delayed) for 2” of snow, you have a 9:00 AM meeting with a client, and your spouse has a meeting at the exact same time.  In other words, those days that send two-career families into a frantic frenzy of rescheduling, lining up child care, and arguing over whose meeting is more important—all before that first cup of coffee.

Here’s one trick that saved us time, money, and sanity.  We banded together with a small group of parents, and we switch off watching our collective group of kids when school is cancelled.  One parent watches all the kids while the other parents work, and on the next snow day, a different parent has kid duty.  Each parent misses one day of work for every six snow days, and because the kids play together, the parent who is on kid duty can usually work from home.  Plus, with six parents in the mix, it is unlikely that everyone will have an important 9:00 AM meeting.

Not only does this arrangement save our collective sanity, it also allows each parent to conserve his or her vacation time/PTO.   Snow days and sick kids used to eat up all my time off.  Now I can use my PTO for fun activities—such as vacation days or . . .  you guessed it, boating.

To give credit where credit is due, this plan is the brainchild of our friend who is a game theorist—thank you, Alex!

Semi-Takeout for Dinner

I prefer to serve home-cooked meals to my family, as opposed to take-out.  It’s generally healthier and it tastes better.  It’s also a huge money-saver.  Buying prepared foods on a regular basis will eat into your budget (no pun intended).

But—come on—no working parent has time to cook a balanced meal every night!  This is especially true when you know that you will walk in the door to the sights and sounds of hangry children.  That always turns cooking dinner into an episode of Chopped: “5 minutes remaining on the clock” . . . until the toddler melts down, which is much worse than taking a drubbing from top-rated chefs.

So, some evenings, I compromise and get semi-takeout. You can cook the protein at home and get take-out for the veggies and carbs.  This works especially well with Chinese food.  I’ll stop by my local Chinese take-out restaurant and order a large rice for $2.00 and a veggie side-dish.  Then all I need to do at home is make the main dish, and I don’t have to clean the rice cooker—another huge time-saver.

Chicken Satay

I made this dish in Seattle for our picnic on Lake Washington.  It’s easy to prepare in advance, and it tastes good either warm or cold.  It’s also a good go-to recipe for school pot-lucks or picnics.


  • 1½ pounds chicken breast tenders (you can also cut boneless, skinless chicken breasts into strips)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2½ tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • Juice from 1 large lime (or 2 small limes)
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Bamboo skewers are optional
  1. Combine all ingredients except the chicken in a plastic Ziploc bag and give it a good shake to mix everything up.
  2. Add the chicken, shake it again, and let it marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight. I seal the bag and put it in a rimmed baking sheet in the fridge so the marinade is evenly distributed, and just in case the bag starts to leak.
  3. If you are putting the chicken on bamboo skewers, soak them in cold water for at least 20 minutes. Then put the chicken strips onto the skewers.
  4. Preheat your broiler and broil the chicken until it is cooked through to an internal temperature of 165°F (approximately 7-10 minutes). Alternatively, you can cook these on the grill.


Time Saver: Outsource the Upkeep (Part 2)

Most two-career families can’t pay someone else to do everything for them.  We’d go broke.  I try to outsource strategically.  Shopping online for kids’ clothes, kitchen equipment, and gifts, instead of wasting a Saturday or Sunday running from store to store, is usually free. During the week, when I realize we need something, I note it in my iPhone.  Every so often, I order it all on Amazon instead of spending my weekend running to three different stores with a toddler in tow.

When deciding what to outsource, I do a quick time/cost/aggravation analysis.  We enjoy cooking so we don’t spend a lot of money eating out.   When I garden, however, I invariably contract poison ivy . . .   And cleaning the house?  A friend once said, “I could pay for marriage counseling, or I could pay for a housecleaner; I’d rather have a clean house.”  I’d have to agree on that one.

In any event, find out what works best for you, and don’t try to do everything yourself.

Money Saver: Give Yourself a Daycare Rebate

You’re paying for daycare or preschool no matter what.  Don’t compromise on the quality of instruction, atmosphere, or anything else that instills the confidence to drop off your child every morning.  All else being equal, however, choose a daycare that allows you to pay tuition on a credit card, and use a card that offers points, airline miles, or cash back.  You’ll receive a small, but not insignificant, rebate for all that moolah spent on childcare.  Of course, this works only if you pay off your credit card balance on time and in full at the end of each month to avoid interest and penalties, and provided that your daycare provider does not charge any extra fees for using a card.

If you are disciplined about paying off your card every month, charge everything you possibly can to your rewards card, and you could end up with a substantial rebate- enough to pay for a vacation or something else fun.