Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I was at a social event this evening and I met someone who I had helped yet had never met. A few months ago, I was at the gym talking with a friend about my search for a new childcare arrangement. Another woman nearby mentioned that her daughter had just moved to the area and was also looking for a new childcare arrangement. So I sent her a list that I had, which she then shared with her daughter. Her daughter, who I met tonight, ended up hiring a nanny from my list.

This just reminds me that you can’t have enough friends when you have kids. I’ve mentioned this again and again, I know. But it really is worth your while to help others. Besides just being the right thing to do, if you are helpful to others, they will likely be helpful to you. I often forward on messages from other parents looking for help with something. Whether you are looking for a babysitter or a new doctor, recommendations from friends are key to making your life easier as a parent.

A new site I came across recently allows you to start your own local networking group if you want to meet other parents in your area. Check out Maybe you can expand your network!

Monday, August 27, 2007


One issue that isn’t often mentioned in the work/family debate is the matter of finances. I’ve read many articles and discussions about whether or not parents (particularly moms) should work and most lack any acknowledgement of the financial impact of staying-at-home. However, many parents don’t get to choose if they work or stay home, they must work in order to provide for their families.

Financial need can create a significant barrier to finding a family friendly work arrangement. If you need to work to provide the basics for your family, or to live the kind of lifestyle you desire, the amount of money you need to make is an important consideration in your pursuit of family friendly work.

Obviously cutting back your work hours has the most significant financial implication. Further, while you can still progress in your career while working part-time, your progress will likely slow, as will your income growth.

One tactic to find a more family friendly work arrangement is to reconsider your financial priorities. Often, I hear parents say they can’t cut back their hours because they can’t take a cut in pay. I think that part of finding a family friendly work arrangement is taking a close look at your spending.

Often just small cuts in your spending can lead to big savings. It is what David Bach calls the Latte Factor (as in spending on small things such as coffee adds up quickly, read about it here). So as you consider your work arrangement and your priorities, you must also consider your spending and your finances.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Learning and Technology

Evolving technology is key in advancing family friendly work opportunities. Obviously, technology makes it easy to work remotely and also supports communication when working a flexible schedule.

Technology has also made it easier to advance your skills, leading to more family friendly opportunities. For example, as I mentioned earlier this week, if you want to start your own business, you can learn what you need to learn mostly through online resources and networking. More colleges and universities are offing distance learning opportunities so you can get an advanced degree that might allow you to pursue a professional position that is more suitable for a flexible work arrangement.

And a more recent development that allows skill building with the use of technology is the virtual conference. Traditional conferences have always been a great way to learn new things in a short period of time. However, they often involve travel and expensive hotel rooms. Further, it is often challenging to abandon your life for a few days or a week to attend a conference, particularly if you are a working parent.

Virtual conferences happen online. They are very much like traditional conferences, offering many sessions at different times. But, you can log-in and participate in the sessions from your own home. Many virtual conferences also record their sessions so you can listen to a presentation an at alternative time if you have a conflict with the scheduled time.

I just signed on to present at my first virtual conference. The Momference, which is full of resources and advice for moms, will run October 1-6th and will take place online and over the telephone. Check it out here!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back to School

While my kids are just in pre-school, it is still back to school week for us. While it is only part-time, it still is not easy. There have been some tears (for all of us) and after only three days, I still walk out with that tugging feeling in my chest. You know the one, where you question every decision you have made about your work and your family. While they would be going to pre-school now even if I didn’t work, the school day would be shorter.

I know I have made the right decision. My kids are getting a fantastic early education. They are making friends and most likely having more fun that if they were home with me. They certainly are eating better. And I am making money to support them and also finding personal fulfillment.

But it is still hard to do. Everyone is tired at night, including me. I remind myself that many are not as fortunate to have the flexibility that I do. I was really missing them yesterday so I picked them up an hour early, and worked later after they went to bed to catch up on what I missed. Did I mention it is not easy?

So this is my dilemma for back to school. I’m sure you have one too, most parents do. For many, back to school time generates a desire to find a more family friendly work arrangement. There was an article on ABC’s website this week that provides some great tips for that pursuit, check it out here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Starting Out On Your Own

One way to create family friendly work is to start your own business. Doing so allows you to be the boss, and set your own schedule. You can determine when you work, and how much you work. You also have many options to do work on your own.

For example, you might want to become a direct seller and get started easily on your business venture as most direct sales companies provide lots of training and resources to their representatives. Check out the Direct Selling Association for information on becoming a direct seller and a directory of companies. If you choose this option, make sure you check out how many others are selling your product in your local area. You don’t want to enter a market that is already saturated.

If you have an idea for a business of your own, you’ll find there is a lot of help out there, particularly if you are a female. Look for local resources through your chamber of commerce, local colleges or universities or other non-profit organizations. Successful entrepreneurs are essential to local economies and therefore, there is typically a lot of local support available. Of course, there are also many resources available online. In fact, Jessica Hupp at Bootstrapper put together a list of the top 100 online resources for women entrepreneurs. Check it out here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Time Wasters

Time management is a must-have skill for working parents. The ability to organize your life and get everything accomplished that you need to each day allows you to spend the time you want with your family.

“Time wasters” create a huge barrier for many people in managing their time. Time wasters are useless activities such as watching TV and procrastinating that can quickly rob you of valuable time. My biggest time waster? E-mail! I have to admit that I am obsessed with checking my e-mail. If I am working at my computer, I probably check-in on my e-mail 4-5 times each hour. If I am not working, I still find time to stop by my computer every hour or two to check my e-mail. Why? I have no idea. I just feel the need to see what is new, if someone wants something for me, or if I’ve received a reply to any messages I’ve sent.

I haven’t actually tracked minutes, but I’m sure I am wasting a lot of time! I know I could cut back on checking e-mail and the world would not end. In fact, I was out of town for three days without e-mail access, and no tragedies occurred. So, I am going to continue working on cutting back.

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-hour Workweek” provides some advice on controlling your e-mail use on his blog here. I haven’t read Tim’s book yet, but it is on my list to read. From the excerpts and reviews I’ve read, looks like he has some great ideas on how to find serious work/life balance. Anyone read it yet?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Asking for Flexibility

Many parents have told me that their company doesn’t “offer” flexibility. But what amazes me is that most haven’t ever asked for a more flexible schedule. The reality is, most companies don’t offer flexible work options until they start hearing requests for it.

So if you want flexibility at work, you need to ask for it. However, have a plan before you get started. Many parents make the mistake of waiting until they are overstressed and almost ready to quit before they ask for more flexibility. If you have thought of a way you could get your work done while having more flexibility, you should propose your arrangement to your boss.

I suggest preparing a written proposal for your flexible work request. Before writing your proposal, consider how your proposed arrangement will benefit your employer. That is, in addition to increasing your motivation, loyalty and productivity, how else will your company benefit? Could your change in schedule help provide better service to your clients? Could your reduced hours or work-from-home save your company money?

A desperate plea for a change will likely only return a negative response. However, a well thought out proposal that tries to anticipate any concerns may help you get the first flexible work arrangement at your company. But first, you have to ask.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I Need a Wife

My apologies to any men that might be reading this, but I guess all I need is a wife. As pointed out in a recent story in the Boston Globe (here), wives tend to take on majority of household chores, giving men with wives (stay-at-home or working) fewer home obligations. As a result, men often can better manage work and family, because family responsibilities aren’t as time consuming.

Check out “Wifework” by Susan Maushart if you aren’t convinced that women do more around the house. While my husband Dave most likely does better than most, I still take on a bulk of the housework here. Some of the tip of scale toward me is by design. I work less (supposedly) and do have more time to do things around here. However, some is due to a difference in opinion about what needs done. For example, Dave doesn’t see the value of cleaning the bathrooms before guests come over.

Since I’m happily married to Dave, I doubt I’ll be getting a wife anytime soon. I’ve already lowered my standards on housework. I guess I just need to keep delegating more to Dave, or the kids.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Rethinking the Career Path

My career has not progressed as I thought it would. After I joined the ’real world’ following college, I assumed that I would work my way up the corporate ladder. At this point in my life (nearing 40!), I would be the manager of something with lots of people reporting to me, lots of responsibility.

Instead, I have a mish-mashed career, but one that I love! I do business consulting work on my own, teach college classes and write. I am not in a hierarchy, and am nowhere near a ladder. I work on lots of interesting projects, meet intriguing people and have constant change that I enjoy. I look forward to working and I’m sure that my kids can sense that, assuring me I’ve made the right choice. I don’t know that I would feel the same way had I stayed on the traditional career path.

Blogger Laura Vanderkam at the Huffington Post suggests that maybe we do need to re-think our career paths, particularly if we want a family (check it out here). She points out many successful career women such as mom of three Angela Braly who this summer become the only female CEO of a Fortune 50 company.

Braly is unique in that her children are school-aged. Other successful career women, such as Nancy Pelosi, only moved up the ladder after their children were grown. And so Vanderkam suggests that maybe we need to rethink the family/career path. Most women dive into their careers after college and only brake to think about a family once they’ve reached a high level position. At that point, they battle fertility and are often challenged to integrate a new baby into their successful career. And thus, many opt-out.

What if instead, young women focused on family right out of college, and raised their children as they climbed the ladder? Perhaps even taking breaks on the climb. I know I’ve thought about my decision to wait to have kids many times. If nothing else, I think I might have had a bit more energy to try to manage toddlers and a career ten years ago!

While there is nothing you or I can do differently at this point, it is an interesting thought to consider. Should we be encouraging young women to have a family first?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Summertime Work Blues

There is something about summer that just makes me not want to work. I have to really push myself to work on nice, sunny days. In fact, I usually cut back my work hours, taking my kids to the sitter’s only two days a week in the summer. I try to cut back my work obligations as much as possible and often do more work late at night.

I live in the Midwest, with its’ long, cold winters. I suppose this makes me treasure the nice days. I am curious if I would still have this problem if I lived in a warmer climate.

My kids aren’t in school yet, but I suspect that the trend of lazy summers will become even more important as they do move through their school years. I have a neighbor who works in the school system. She enjoyed her summers off while her daughters were in school. But, even now that her daughters are off to college, she still enjoys her summers off.

Thinking about my need to take it easy in the summer led me to think that a family friendly work arrangement could be one where you have seasonal variances in your work too. For example, my husband is an accountant and his busy season goes from January through April. Because the days are short, and there isn’t a lot to miss outdoors doing that period of time, he doesn’t really mind. He’d rather work 70+ hours each week during that time of the year, than work 50+ hours a week year round.

And today, I would rather play with the kids in the pool than sit in front of the computer any longer, so off I go!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Sick Day

Yesterday I woke up to a sick kid. High fever, wheezing, vomiting…the works. I spent the first few hours of the morning trying to get in touch with the doctor and getting everyone dressed so we could get to her office. Once we left the house, we ended up out several hours, between the doctor’s office, x-ray lab and pharmacy.

As I was driving home after 2pm, I realized a good chunk of our day was already gone. The good news is that I had already planned to be off for the day. I also thought about the fact that even if I wasn’t off, my work responsibilities are fairly easily shifted and I could have still taken the day off, working in the evening or another day instead.

I thought about parents who work a restricted schedule, who have to be at work at 8am every day even if they have a sick kid. I thought about the parents who would have had to use up a valuable sick day yesterday, or perhaps faced disciplinary action for missing another day at work. As if having a sick kid isn’t stressful enough, I imagined having to also worry about having problems at work because of the sick kid.

This is just one of many reasons that I value my family friendly work, and I would like to see more parents find it. My son, by the way, is feeling much better today.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Family Friendly is Good Business

I am doing some research this week for a project and have spent the last few days digging through studies looking for data to support the use of flexible work arrangements for businesses. Here are a few facts I found:

According to the 2002 National Study of the Changing Workforce, 73% of employees with high availability of flexible work arrangements reported a high likelihood that they would stay with their current employer for the next year. 39% of these employees reported, "high levels of loyalty and willingness to work harder than required to help their employers succeed."

According to the National Work Life Measurement Project, approximately one-third of managers indicated that their work group was more productive because it included employees who used flexible work arrangements

And some companies are reaping the rewards of the increased retention and productivity. Cisco’s tele-work program resulted in $195 million in increased productivity. Deloitte estimates they have saved 41.5 million in turnover costs since implementing flexible work options.

These are just a few of many statistics out there that demonstrate that flexible work is a good business decision for companies. So why aren’t more offering them?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Too Busy

A few weeks ago, my mom was watching the kids. They had been in to visit her at her office a few weeks earlier. She told the kids that her friends at work enjoyed meeting them and asked if they would like to come and visit again sometime. My four year-old Hank thought for a few moments, and then responded “well Nana I’m sorry, but we have a really busy summer planned. Maybe we can come see you sometime in the fall.”

I laughed at such a thoughtful response from a four year-old, but then I realized it was to some extent true. Which tells me that I need to slow down! Even though I try to limit our involvement in organized activities so they don’t feel overscheduled, they are picking up from me that we are always busy. I don’t remember the last time I woke up and didn’t have a ‘plan’ for how we were going to spend the day.

So, I am taking some time off this week and will reserve at least a few days to do nothing. When is the last time you had a day of “nothing”?

***Note: This post is part of the Blog Carnival hosted at the 4fabmoms blog, check out their blog here!***

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Helicopter Parents

You don’t want to be one! Helicopter parents are a relatively new phenomenon, mostly noticed in college settings (see full explanation of them here). Basically helicopter parents are known to hover around their kids, being overly involved in their lives.

I teach at a small college, but haven’t met any helicopter parents myself yet. However, I have heard stories from colleagues about parents calling them about their kids’ grades and demanding grade changes and other help for their kids.

Where are these parents coming from? Some suggest that technology such as the cell phone and e-mail has led parents to stay more connected to their kids. Because a kid can quickly call their mom or dad if they need advice on a decision, they make that call instead of making the decision on their own.

I just read an article by parenting expert Betsy Hart who suggests the growth in number of helicopter parents could be linked to parents who spend more time with their kids when they are young (see article). She is not suggesting that we don’t spend time with our kids, just that kids do need to learn to play independently. It really isn’t healthy for parents to hover over a child’s every move.

I have to agree with Betsy. I see many parents that don’t let their child make a move without them. These kids are usually the ones that have the most separation anxiety when they go to school. Also, I think parents that do something for themselves seem to be happier. Whether it is work, a hobby or even volunteer work, having a focus other than your child is good for you. Do you agree?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Re-Entry for Dads

Most that is written advising parents on returning to work after time home raising children is targeted at moms. While it is tough for at-home moms to return to work, companies are not surprised when they are faced with a female job candidate with a resume gap.

Men who choose to stay-at-home face bigger challenges. While women may earn some respect for their choice to stay-at-home, men are often stereotyped as lacking ambition and commitment to their career. (Read an article from MSNBC about some of the challenges here). As more men choose the stay-at-home route, acceptance of their decisions should improve. Until then, stay-at-home dads who want to return to work will have to make some additional efforts.

Men should take the same steps women take to stay in the loop in their careers during time at home. Continuing to do some contract work, keeping certifications up and volunteering can help keep skills sharp. Further, when ready to return to work, men should focus on companies that do have family friendly policies and practices. While negative stereotypes will likely still exist, they will face less bias targeting a family friendly company.