On feeling sorry for yourself

It is completely unnerving to be told you can’t go about your everyday.

When I was 36 weeks pregnant, my doctor told me she didn’t want me to commute into the city for work for the rest of my pregnancy. It wasn’t the biggest shocker, as it was something she had alluded to twice prior, but I never expected her to actually enforce it. My husband and I now share a car (the Kat Mobile has gone to the great parking lot in the sky), and thus I relied on the commuter rail and Green Line to get to and from work everyday. On a good day, the commute was 65 minutes one way. On most days, the commute was 95 minutes one way. (Thus what happens when you work on Boston’s B Line.)

I was getting to work at 9am and hopefully getting home by 8:15pm. This was far better than my normal, which was work my job at the university from 9am – 5:30pm, then run to my other job at the newspaper and work until 11pm. My voluntary concession to the third trimester would be that I’d give my newspaper shifts up. That alone was enough to drive me up a tree. (Who knew I would miss taking coaches’ phone calls so much?)

Sure, even my amended schedule was tiring me out, but I imagined I just would keep doing this until I had my son. What choice did I have? Isn’t this what everyone does? I would work until five days prior to my due date just like I thought everyone else did.

Instead, I was given a few days notice and told that the day I turned 37 weeks, I was to trade in my commute for working remotely. I obliged, thinking it would last just a few days. I planned to walk into my next doctor’s appointment and say, “See? Nothing happened. This kid isn’t coming for another week or two. Let me go back to my work.”

I went back, and she said the opposite. Well, then.

In the mere six days since I had stopped my commute, I felt aimless and sorry for myself nearly every second of that time. Even though I’ve had my ups and downs with my full-time career path over the last three years (my spirit for the field of student affairs has its ebbs and flows, but I think a lot of those in the field are going through the same lately,) it guts me to not physically be in the student union I’ve called my work home for most of my entire working life. I even miss my little, tiny closet office – something one of my Deans said I can’t complain about until I’ve been in it 10 years, because that’s how long he was stuck in it. (Guess what – June 16 marks ten years of it being my office. I’ll register an honorary complaint on that day, even though I’ve learned to enjoy it.)

This whole situation found me sitting at home on Commencement Sunday feeling immensely left out and horribly depressed. I moped around my apartment, lacking the desire to do anything. I had missed Saturday’s pre-Commencement reception at my boss’ house. I had missed hearing the organ play and shake my entire office floor in the process. I had missed the one day a year I get to dress up in faux doctoral gear to work Commencement field crowd control. I couldn’t live tweet from the office’s Twitter account. You don’t really realize how much those things mean until you are sitting on the sidelines under orders not to be there.

I was miserable. I didn’t even want to write, and I had mounds of it to finish.

But then, at one point, it all clicked. My almost-one year old kitten Marv has a don’t-quit personality that mimics that of his namesake, legendary Buffalo Bills head coach Marv Levy. But instead of his typical spunk, he had followed me around that day with a long face that perfectly represented my mood.

I don’t know what it was, but I looked down at him and realized I couldn’t do this for the next 14 days or however long I have until my son makes his appearance. I only have so many days to be fully present in what I want and need to do until what I want and need to do completely changes. Wasting all of that time in wallow is a horrible, no good use of that time. I was letting down so many by doing so, most importantly myself.

Feeling sorry for yourself is a simple trap to get caught in, pregnant or not. It’s something I’ve let myself do too much over the years. You have to find a way out of it that works for you. Sometimes it just takes looking at your spunky kitten. Sometimes it takes a whole lot more. Whatever you need to do, do it.

A Non-Fashionable Girl Buys Maternity Clothes: A Store Guide

Don’t worry – I’ll never go all fashion blogger on you all. (I once tweeted, “In the tune of AC/DC: For those who can wear jeans to work, we salute you.” I think that settles how much I lack true fashion sense.) But I’m eight months pregnant and am still shocked at how few real takes there are on maternity clothes.

So I thought I would use my little corner of the net to take a break from what I usually blog about and give guidance to others in my shoes in the future. (And to the guys who read my blog: keep it in mind for your significant others down the line.)

I will warn you: buying maternity clothes is pricey. Very few retailers still sell them in stores, and those who do often exempt them from sales (I’m looking judgmentally at you, Macy’s.) So you may be stuck buying them online, where shipping is either very slow but cheap, or speedy but expensive.

A sample of the basic t-shirts Zulily sells. (Photo: Zulily)
A sample of the basics Zulily sells. (Photo: Zulily)

You may try out Target’s offerings to save money. However, if you are under five-foot-three (like five-foot-one me,) you will find very little. Their dresses are made for basketball centers and their pants go at least a foot beyond my actual foot. Their t-shirts are okay, but a little too v-necked and thin to wear in an office environment. I was not impressed. Old Navy’s offerings are also tailored towards those of the population who don’t need stepstools, so I haven’t been able to try too much from them.

Zulily was a big help for me early on, but their shipping times vary greatly, making it impractical once you reach your third trimester. They have so many things I would like to buy offered at a reasonable price, but at this point, waiting 14 days for delivery means I might wear the item just once before I have my child in May. But for basics at the beginning, I recommend them. (It is a site that you have to sign up for, and if you are interested, feel free to use my invite link. I get credit if you make a purchase.)

Pink Blush's mint crochet arm shirt. I love this thing (Photo: Pink Blush.)
Pink Blush’s mint crochet arm shirt. I love this thing (Photo: Pink Blush.)

The place I wish I had shopped more is Pink Blush. Though some of their items are a tad too casual for my use, plenty of them are beautifully made and able to be dressed up or down. Their crochet arm shirt is something I want one of in every color. I bought it in mint green, and currently it is my favorite place of clothing. I have one dress from them, and it is so soft and looks amazing. On the whole, maternity clothes can make you feel sub-par, but Pink Blush’s make you feel like you might just know what you’re doing. They are worth the somewhat more expensive price. (And if you are early on, you can order some of their clearance items on Zulily, but you will just have double or triple the shipping time.)

That elbow sleeved ruched dress from Motherhood Maternity.
That elbow sleeved ruched dress from Motherhood Maternity on me.

The mall maternity stores, Motherhood Maternity, Destination Maternity and A Pea in the Pod, have the same parent company and have similar pieces at different price points. It can be a frustrating realization. They are another good spot for basics, including their online-only elbow sleeve ruched dresses in a variety of colors and prints that are simple and wearable forever. I own this one – I should have bought three. (I might still. Their shipping is quick.) But overall as a brand, they seem not to have escaped the frump factor yet, and too much of their stuff has ill-fitting empire waists.

It’s important to note that what works for one person may not work for others. I have one friend who swore by a Motherhood Maternity outlet store she found, while another (also short like me) friend had a lot of success at Old Navy thanks to hemming and working in a more casual workplace. Sadly, a lot of maternity clothes offerings ignore those of us who have to work in a business environment, and focus on much more casual offerings. With workplaces becoming more and more casual, I don’t know if this will change.

Another note: screw the suggestions that “your maternity size is your normal size” that these stores will give you. For some of us, it’s not true. In some brands, my maternity size is smaller than my normal size because of my height and proportions. Look at each store’s size charts, try on what you can, and make the judgement call for yourself.

And when you get frustrated around seven months that you look dowdy and awful, just remember that a pre-pregnancy blazer and jewelry can go a long way towards making you feel better.

I promise I’ll read my email for coupons from now on.

Saturday was a first: I was coupon-shamed at Christmas Tree Shops.

The cashier looked at what I was buying and asked, “Are you on our email list?”

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well, do you not look at your email? Because these were on sale on Thursday with an email coupon.”

I sheepishly admitted I didn’t look at Thursday’s email.

“Well, maybe you should read your email more often then,” the cashier said in a sing-song tone, gesturing at me with the jar of paprika I was buying. “Do you want to sign up for our free plush Peep giveaway?”

“Oh no, it’s okay,” I answered, looking over at the lines of anxious people waiting to check out behind me and at every other register.

The cashier then shot me daggers with her eyes. “I would sign up for the giveaway. It’s a stuffed animal, for goodness sakes.”

She shoved a slip my way and I didn’t say a word. It seemed like there was no discussing this further. I scribbled down my name and phone number as she finally scanned my items. I slid the slip back to her.

“Are you going to check your email more often now?” she asked as she handed me my receipt.

“Yes, yes I am,” I answered, red in the face.

Needless to say, I spent the first 10 minutes of my Sunday morning reading all of my email, looking for coupons.

New Facebook Feature: Delete and block a group user from your phone

Many are all a buzz because Facebook added emoji-style like/dislike options, called “Reactions,” Wednesday. While finally being able to “sad face” a friend’s post about their having the flu is all well and good, I noticed a Facebook addition this week that is much more useful.

If you manage a Facebook group, one aggravation you may have had is that you could only delete posts from the group when moderating on your mobile device, and not ban the user from your group. You could only delete a post and ban the user while on your browser.

Well, not any more! Facebook’s iPhone app now gives admins the option to “delete post and block member.” It appears above the regular “delete” option.

The new options for deleting a post and banning a group member on Facebook mobile.

Now when I wake up in the middle of the night, turn to my phone and need to laser zap a porn post that has made it to the closed group of university freshman I administer, I can delete the post and get rid of the spam account who posted it. Thanks, Facebook!

For more of my tips on moderating closed Facebook groups, check out my guide.

Managing Closed Facebook Groups: Get ready to put your foot down

Though I know it’s not the best thing to do, the minute I wake up, I grab the phone from my nightstand. Not to check Twitter, not to look at scores, but instead, to look at Facebook. I go directly to the Facebook groups I manage, because who knows what hell hath broken in my six hours of slumber.

Facebook groups are one of the biggest reasons I think the platform remains popular – especially closed, invite-only groups. At my full-time job, I manage a few groups full of students at the university. Personally, I’m a member of a few, including one for my career coach’s clients, one for the communications and tech sector in higher education, one for the direct selling venture I horribly failed at (but at least I had pretty nails in the process) and a mothers group (because as a first-time mom come May, I need all the help I can get.)

These groups are powerful. In a closed group, there is a feeling that you can ask and share whatever you want because your fellow members are like-minded. In the student groups I manage, they look for roommates, ask for help navigating financial aid and grumble a ton about the lack of snow days. In the mothers group, many use it as a Google alternative, asking what to do if their three month old has a rash or what the best car seat is. (Holy smokes, are there opinions on car seats.)

But so much can go wrong in Facebook groups. Here are three tips for successfully moderating closed groups to maximize their potential.

Keeping the door wide open

A closed group is closed for a reason – the exclusivity is warranted because either the topics or the people involved. If you look at your requests panel and “approve all” without a vetting process, there might be point to having a closed group.

There are many closed groups (especially surrounding colleges and universities) who are targets for Facebook spam accounts…very obvious spam accounts. This is what I often see when I wake up and check Facebook on my phone:

Facebook group entry requests from Sock Bun and Christmas Carol

Christmas Carol? Sock Bun? I’ve seen people change their Facebook names to avoid being searchable, but something tells me these accounts aren’t that.

If I don’t try to weed out the spam accounts, they either post scams (looking for students to give their Social Security numbers or trying to rope them into work from home schemes), post pornography, or use the “in” to the group to start adding their fellow spammers.

A spammer gets into a closed Facebook group and starts trying to add his friends
A spammer gets into a closed Facebook group and starts trying to add his friends

Facebook often shuts down spam accounts before you even have the chance to approve them (the name in the black font above means that the account has been deleted.) If you see an account requesting access to your group, and the name is in black text and isn’t an active link to their account, they’ve been shut down. Just press the ignore button.

No matter how many requests you receive, don’t just approve all. Doing so proves the closed nature of the group pointless. You might as well make it open.

If the exclusive nature of the group is important to you, take your time to approve each person. For the groups I manage for a university, I run names through the university’s directory. If it doesn’t come up there, I look at the person’s profile and see if I can discern if they are actually a part of the institution. I also take a moment to scroll down and see what other Facebook groups they belong to. If it looks like they’ve joined every group under the sun, or every university “class of” group in the area (they’re a member of MIT’s, UMass Boston’s, Fisher’s, Emerson’s…), I’m weary. I message them to ask if they are affiliated with the school and why they want to be a part of the group.

Communicate and delete.

Don’t be afraid to use the message function to ask why someone wants in. It is a closed group, you are the admin, and that’s your prerogative as admin to do so. That’s not bad customer service towards them; that’s great customer service towards the other members of the group who are there for the right reasons.

If a member is already in the group, and starts using the group for the wrong reasons, take action. When I grab my phone right when I wake up, I’m really on the search for someone posting inappropriate material on one of the groups. And 80% of the time, that material is of the sexually explicit variety.

The minute I see something posted that belongs on Skinamax, I click on the grey down arrow on the right top of the post, scroll to “Delete and Remove User,” remove them and ban them permanently. (Don’t worry – I won’t post an example of that.) The porno posters never debate their removal, because most of them are spam accounts.

But who does debate their removal? Those who join spam groups with business opportunities and those with the intent of trolling. I respond to their frustrated Facebook messages to me with my clear reasoning: this group is for X purposes, and your actions run counter to those purposes. Stand by the group’s purpose in these interactions.

Set rules and remind your group of them.

It’s difficult to see groups run amuck by shameless promoters, especially in closed groups of clients of a service provider. For example, my career coach’s group had a few members who were there just to promote their own coaching business, and posted links to their own offerings daily. As I wrote this post, she made a great move: she clearly posted group guidelines.

Group guidelines are the way to go in every type of closed Facebook group. You can post brief versions in group descriptions, or post longer versions in the Files section. Make references to both on a regular basis, be it just reminding new members to review them, or highlighting particular sections of them once a week. For example, remind your group that you don’t want members personal messaging each other about their direct sales business or that if a threat is posted, it will have to be reported to authorities.

Managing a closed Facebook group is far from effortless, but the rewards of a well-managed one make it worth it. I’ve helped students through difficult circumstances in the ones I manage, and I’ve found communities of encouragement in those I belong to. If you enter the world of Facebook groups, be ready to invest your time and put your foot down.