Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I am not alone

With extra free time on my hands this summer, I've actually been able to read a few books just for fun. But, instead of reaching for the mystery or classic novel that I've enjoyed in the past, this summer I have been reading what is often called 'mom lit.'

'Mom lit' is a novel written about a mom and some dilemma she faces. There isn't really a formula to genre, it is just a novel where the main character is a mom. So why am I drawn to these books? I guess I just like to know that I am not alone. While some of these books have somewhat outlandish plots that I will never face, they are typically laced with observations on day-to-day life with kids.

In addition to finding solace in novels, I've also spent a lot of time over the last few years seeking out other moms. On several occasions I've invited over a friend from the kids' school for a playdate with the hope of a decent conversation with another mom. It just makes my daily trials seem less stressful when I know others face the same challenges.

By the way, if you want to pick up some 'mom lit,' you can find a good list of books at www.momlit.com. The site is by 'mom lit' author Stephanie Lehmann and she includes her thoughts on why so many are drawn to the genre. A few I've enjoyed:
- 'I don't know how she does it' by Alison Pearson
-'Babyville' by Jane Green
-'Piece of work' by Laura Zigman
-'The yummy mummy' by Polly Williams
-'Amanda Bright @ home' by Danielle Crittendon
-'Shopaholic and baby' by Sophie Kinsella
-'Goodnight nobody' by Jennifer Weiner
-'Class mothers' by Katherine Stewart

Sunday, July 27, 2008

When I am not around

I've read a great deal recently on the growing trend of homeschooling. I've even met several families in my community that homeschool their kids, which suprised me as the community is known for its' excellent public school system.

While I know that many families have well thought out reasons for homeschooling, I know that it is something that I would never consider. In addition to the fact that I wouldn't have the patience or diligence to master and deliver the entire K-12 curriculum, I feel strongly that other people play a key role in my kids growth and development.

I know some years they will have teachers that I do not agree with, but they will also have some teachers that may impact their lives. In fact, part of the reason I have felt limited 'guilt' about working is that my kids have had the opportunity to spend time and develop relationships with some wonderful caregivers.

Last night we had some friends over, including our old babysitter Laura. She watched the kids for almost four years. My daughter started going to her when she was just a few months old, so she will always be a special part of our lives. The kids haven't seen Laura in awhile but last night they they sat and talked with her, convinced her to join them at the swings and had a great time playing with her and her kids. I just feel good knowing that its not just me and my husband that are influencing them and teaching them about the world. I think they will lead fuller lives because they have some experiences when I am not around.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Talking to your kids

I was just skimming through some articles about family friendly work and a few offered some advice on returning to work after maternity leave. I think about the thousands of parents who must return to a rigid, traditional work schedule after having a baby. I know many people who have faced the dilemma. A job that requires 45-50 hours per week at a minium, an hour commute each way, a rigid 8-5 schedule with threats of job loss if you are late too often. Only one week of vacation time each year and maybe just 2 or 3 sick days. Even if you love what you do, it is hard to manage a family under such work conditions.

While my work offers me all of the flexible I need, I really didn't plan for it. The work I do which I enjoy just happens to offer flexiblity. This fact does not escape me now, but it was far from my mind as I considered my career options when I was young.

In fact, in the more than 30 years it took me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, not one person suggested I consider my family plans when making career decisions. And I am not sure why. If you plan to have children, you must consider how your career meshes with parenthood.

It is something I now address in the courses I teach. But, I think it is a topic that deserves attention earlier in life. I talk to my kids about work all of the time. Maybe I over do it with them, but if my kids had to leave a baby for a rigid job they didn't enjoy, I would feel like I failed them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Temp Jobs

Many stay-at-home parents have found temporary employment as a solution to some of their concerns about leaving the workforce. Temporary work can serve many purposes including keeping your skills sharp, keeping yourself marketable by avoiding a gap in your resume, and supplementing your income.

If you have young children you might be able to work a temp job by trading babysitting with another parent, or doing it over the summer when you can hire a high school or college student to babysit. If your kids are in school, you could take a temp job during the school year.

If you have left a professional career, the challenge is finding the right kind of opportunities. You might be able to uncover some opportunities through networking with former colleagues. But, if you go to a traditional temp agency, you might only be able to find temp jobs that pay minimum wage and require you to spend hours filing or typing up someone else's work.

But now it might be a little easier to find a professional temporary opporutnity. New companies are springing up around the country that target moms specifically, read about some of them in this recent CNN article.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why blog?

This morning's paper featured a story about a 20 year old college student who committed to blog about his life every two hours for a year. You can find Nathan at www.livelifestory.com. I checked out the site and sure enough, every two hours there is a post, even through the night. And it isn't anything too exciting either. I read a few posts about him having lunch, feeling tired and deciding what to do with his day. Yet, he has thousands of loyal readers.

In the 'mommy blogosphere' there are lots of regular bloggers who have devoted readers. Most notably is Heather Armstrong at www.dooce.com whose blog is so popular that her husband quit his job to manage the site's advertising revenue which now supports her entire family.

I was speaking at a conference a few months ago and one of the speakers suggested that all SAHM's should have a blog if they ever want to return to work. No, she didn't promote blogging about how many diapers you've changed in order to secure your next job. Rather, she suggested you write a professional blog related to your chosen field to keep yourself up to date in that area.

While I started my blog in order to help promote my book, I've continued it because I enjoy it. I am drawn to issues related to family friendly work and I suspect my friends and family get tired of hearing about it. Through the blog, I have a chance to share the news, ideas and information I come across. Writing the blog also motivates me to stay on the look out for news and research relating to the topic, forcing me to stay up-to-date.

Is it worth my time? I think so. But for Nathan's goal of blogging every two hours he said "I worry that when it's all over I'll look back and think that I wasted a whole year of my life."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Working with your kids

While I have the kids home for the summer, I am not completely off work. I am teaching an online class and still have some consulting work I am doing. But, I am trying to do as much as I can without taking the kids to a sitter.

Yesterday I had quite a bit to get done. I didn't do any work at all over the holiday weekend and just needed to catch up on some things. I managed to get a lot done and still have a great day with the kids. I worked an hour or so in the morning while they ate breakfast and played in their playroom. I was able to get another hour or so in around nap time, and then a few hours in after my husband came home and took them swimming. Finally, after they were in bed I finished up a few more things. In between my work, we had lots of fun playing in the pool and in the yard (it was a beautiful day!). I think I accomplished more yesterday than I have in the past working in an office from 8-5. When I was working, I was working hard and getting a lot done in a short amount of time.

While not everyone has the complete flexibility I do, requesting an alternate schedule can give you the opportunity to work from home some. And you may be able to get some work done while the kids are around. When researching my book I spoke to a manager who negotiated a reduced workweek by making herself available to her employees by email and phone on her two off days. They knew they might hear some kids in the background on those two days, but she was able to meet her responsibilities with her kids around.

I've mentioned my colleague Carla Moquin and her work promoting policies to allow babies in the workplace. She has published her work in an e-book that is now available. While a baby in the office won't necessarily work in every situation, if you open your mind to it, you might be suprised how often it would work.

Friday, July 4, 2008

What you pick up along the way....

Last week, as I was working on preparing the time management seminar I will be presenting soon, I recalled one nugget of advice I received early in my career. Right out of college I worked in sales, which was a vocation I really wasn't cut out for. My boss told me that I should start my day with the task I dreaded the most. If you get that out of the way, you can enjoy the rest of the day. You are also more productive, because you don't spend your day worrying about how the task will go. Great advice which I have followed and appreciated.

So this afternoon at a 4th of July party that we attended at the home of the parents' of some friends of ours, I ran into that boss that shared the time management gem with me. I was standing by him at the drink cooler, and despite the 16 years since I last saw him, I recognized him immediately. I left that first job to return to graduate school, and then I kept going to school, leading to my current job as a college professor. And I still do my least favored tasks first.

It just reminds me that you can always learn something to keep moving forward in your career. And much of what you can learn is from those you work with. When I was considering returning to graduate school to work on a doctorate, a woman I worked with told me that being a professor is an ideal career if you are raising a family. Childless at the time, I didn't give her comment a second thought. But, she was right and I am glad I decided to make the move.

So pay attention to what those around you have to say. You never know what you might pick up that you can use.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Managing my Time

I am preparing a time management seminar that I will be conducting later this month for a group of employees at the college where I teach. While I am not necessarily a time management expert, I do think that I do a pretty good job of managing my time.

Except when it comes to some typical mom duties. Sometimes in my desparate attempt to be the good mom I think I should be, I waste a lot of time on things that aren't important. Take my soon to be 4 year old's upcoming birthday party. It is an important event, but I've found myself spending way too much time worrying about it.

For some reason my duaghter has decided that she wants to have a 'rock-n-roll' themed party. I'm not sure she knows what 'rock-n-roll' is, but I suspect her interest is related to a Hannah Montana birthday party she attended for an older friend a few months ago.

And so my search for 'rock-n-roll' party invitations and decorations has consumed much of my past week. I failed to plan far enough ahead to use the Internet to find the perfect invitation (unless I wanted to spend $30 for expedited shipping!). Instead, I spent hours searching local party supply and card stores for the perfect invites. Which of course I did not find. A few more hours searching online for graphics that allowed me to create my own cards finally solved my dilemma.

But instead of feeling joy in finally getting the invitations in the mail, I wondered, what is wrong with me? I mean I've lost many precious hours searching for these invitations, when she will probably forget by the party that she wanted the 'rock-n-roll' theme anyway. Further, she can't read! I could have found invitations that said 'come to my knitting party' and she would have been happy.

I know I am not the only mom that has this problem. My friend Sandi confessed to staying up until 2am the night before our kids' "Safety Town" graduation to make homemade cookies shaped like traffic lights for the graduation celebration. I teased her some, telling her she was making the rest of us look bad. She agreed, and suggested that perhaps she tries to overcompensate for time missed with her kids due to work.

Whatever the reason, I am sure to waste time again in the future on some mom responsibility that I just am not good at. But at least taking the time to make the effort makes me feel like I am doing my best. And there are certainly worse things I could spend my time doing.