Saturday, September 26, 2009
So here is my typical day:
6:30am: Up and convince a crabby 7 year old to get dressed on on the bus at 7am.
8:00am: Out the door with a less crabby, but also less focused 5 year old on the way to drop off at school. Getting ready routine has included a quick check of the e-mail.
8:30am-2:15pm: Try to jam an 8 hour work day into less than 6 hours. Teach classes, meet with students and colleauges, work on projects etc. Zip out the door at 2:15 even in mid-stream of something urgent. Occasionally get in a lunch with a friend or a colleauge.
2:30pm: Pick up 5 year old from kindergarten, race to bus stop to get 7 year old off bus at 2:45pm.
3pm-8pm: After school activities, clubs, meetings, dinner, homework and wrestle kids to bed. This is actually the most fun part of the day. Usually get at least an hour or so of fun with the kids.
8pm-11:30pm: Catch up on all of the work that I didn't get done during the day. Grading papers, working on projects, catching up on e-mail. Sometimes actually do some housework, but if you ever visit my house, you may not agree that I am successful.
This regular daily schedule is interrupted quite often with meetings and other commitments that disrupt the day and cause me to have to find time elsewhere to get stuff done. Actually writing it out doesn't seem that bad. I know many who have even more complicated schedules, and many who don't have the luxury of being able to get out of work in time to get kids off the bus. But, sometimes I feel trapped in a world of commitments. When I get to that point, I remind myself that this is the world I chose. And I've been able to work out my choices so I really do get the best of a home life and a professional life. And I just do it.
Friday, August 14, 2009
I didn't learn anything surprising. The usual depressing news that women still tend to take on a heavier domestic workload and those who take advantage of flexible work options sometimes don't get the same opportunities for advancement. But some good news such as the fact that companies who respect work/life issues tend to have more committed employees that work harder, and other news that should encourage companies to offer more flexible work options.
I also attended several sessions that examined factors that influence work satisfaction, or success in business. The research presented reminded me about the role that passion plays in creating happy, productive workers. It's not suprising that people who enjoy what they do work harder. But, they also tend to be more successful in finding balance in their lives. While there are certainly some people who may find their passion leads them to work too much, it is not always the case.
Passion for your work can positively impact you and your family in many ways. First, you feel good about working which helps eliminate the feelings of guilt that many parents face. Your kids also can see your enthusiasm and as a result, are less likely to resent your time away from them. If you are passionate about what you do, you are often able to work harder at it, giving you the ability to potentially work less or different work hours. At the very least, if you are passionate, you are more driven to figure out a way to make it work.
So when I am asked about finding family friendly work, I strongly recommend to first figure out your passion. Maybe you already know what it is, and just need to pursue it. If you don't, then the start for your search for family friendly work should start with some self-reflection to help identify what kind of work truly excites you. Whether you start your own business, or pursue the career of your dreams, passion for your work will help you find success. And most likely, find some work-life harmony too.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
At times I think about how nice it would be to really take some time off. Other times, I wish I was just working regular hours so I wouldn't always feel so far behind. But, most of the time, I really do just enjoy myself. Yes I am up a little early, but I can spend the afternoon playing with the kids in the pool. And maybe I need to work after they are in bed, but if I wasn't working, many times I might just sit and watch TV.
What is most important to me is that I have chosen my work arrangement. When I hear from others who are frustrated with their work arrangement, what I hear most often is that they feel as though they have no other choice.
The summer is slipping by quickly, I will get back to my regular work schedule when it does. Until then, I plan to enjoy my choice.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Read the excerpt below for the details:
"Do you need a flexible work arrangement?
For a TV segment, we’re looking for women who work fulltime in an office and are desperate to ask the boss for some kind of flexible work arrangement, but are concerned about asking, especially in this economy. If you’d be willing to share your story with our cameras, allow us to coach you on how to approach the boss, and then report the results, please tell us your situation. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org FLEX TIME REQUEST in the subject line—and include where you live and work, why you’re in need of a flexible arrangement, why you haven’t already asked, a bit about the culture of your company or department, and what kind of help you think you need. Please include your willingness to appear on TV. If you’re selected, we’ll work with you to approach the boss in the proper manner about this dual request—your flex time and our cameras."
Sunday, May 10, 2009
The real treat, however, comes later this week when I escape for a girls weekend. Some friends and I are headed south for a few days of fun and sun. I am so looking forward to a few days of no work, no housework and no runnnig kids around.
Interestingly, a few moms I've talked to don't understand the girls weekend (or even worse, mom and dad only weekend). I've heard things like "oh, I could never leave my kids" or "I would just miss my kids too much."
Well, of course you miss your kids if you go away for the weekend. But, it isn't a reason not to go. And really, never leave your kids? Ever? Do you think your kids won't survive without you?
What many moms don't get is that a little break from the kids is rejeuvinating. Getting some time on your own is good for you. It makes you less stressed, and as a result, a better mom. Some of the moms who've told me they can't leave their kids are dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety as they try to please everyone. Ultimately they often end up losing patience with their kids, or becoming so stressed they make themselves sick. Both of which are a lot worse for your kids than a few days without you.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Time-off allowances would help those trying to raise a family significantly. Many who have family friendly work arrangements note that their ability to take time off helps them create harmony in their life. However, it is time to understand the public interest in allowing employees to take time off when needed.
I suspect that we will see the Swine Flu spreading more quickly in the U.S. as we don't have federally mandated time-off provisions. Many workers with the flu will report to work and share the flu with their co-workers. Why would they do such a thing? Because if they don't, they may lose their job. Or, at least they will often lose a day's wages which might make the difference on paying the rent this month. Many children with the flu will likely go to school because their parents must go to work and do not have another alternative.
I would hope that companies would see the benefit of offering paid time-off benefits to employees. But, when times are tight, companies cut back where they can and paid time-off is not required. If it were required of every employer, then one company would not be able to have a financial advantage over another by not providing time-off benefits.
The argument against providing paid time-off is that it would put many small businesses under to provide such a benefit. However, I see it as a cost to doing business. Further, by allowing your workers paid time-off, you can prevent them from coming to work when they are sick. If you can recover from an illness properly, you can be more productive at work. You will also prevent other workers from getting sick.
A few websites with some further discussion on the topic:
Center for American Progress
Thursday, April 9, 2009
While the community does have some after-school child care programs available, none are on site at the schools. I've heard from parents in other school districts about wonderful programs right in their child's school that provide structured activities, at a very reasonable cost and with much flexibility.
To make things worse, our district has just announced some decisions targeted at reducing costs. One such change involves student bussing to babysitters or day care centers. Since the school does not provide after-school care, many parents rely upon the bus to transport their child from the school to a babysitters home (often another parent in the school district) or to a day care center (all within the school district). Starting next year, our district will no longer bus a child to any location except their own home. The district states that this change will allow them to better 'maximize efficiency.'
It seems to me that this is just another decision that makes life more difficult for working parents. While after much thought I can see that they might be able to save a little bit of money, the headaches they are causing working parents are well beyond the small cost savings this provides. The district is looking to pass a new levy next year and my best guess is that this is an effort to make life so painful for some residents that they will pull out full support for the levy.
This is yet another example of evidence that while we have made some progress in the workplace, in general our communities are not friendly to working parents. I've been told by friends about PTA's that only meet during the day, teachers who are only available to meet with parents during school hours, and other signs of lack of flexibility to meet the needs of working parents.
While some communities have made great progress in providing support for working parents, it seems that some communities still count on a majority of parents (mostly moms) to stay at home in order to manage daily life.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Tonight the kids watched an episode while I rushed around putting away some laundry and organizing some things for tomorrow morning. As I was passing through the room I heard Mama Bear despairing about being so busy all of the time. She caught my ear and I decided to take a few minutes and sit down with the kids to watch the rest of the show.
The Bears seemed to be living our life. Mama Bear and Papa Bear were busy with work, PTA meetings, volunteer work and housekeeping. Brother Bear and Sister Bear were involved in karate, dance, swimming, soccer, baseball and other activites beyond school. (side note: apparently the Berenstain's weren't very creative with names).
As usual the Bears concluded the show by realizing how they were headed down the wrong path. As they became confused about where they were going next, and ultimately missed some activities because they were so busy they forgot to get their car repaired, the family finally decided they were doing too much. Grandma Bear, who was frustrated that she couldn't get on their calendar for dinner, pointed out to them that there is a difference between 'doing and over-doing.'
The family then sat down and decided what they really wanted to keep doing, and what activities they could live without. As I sat watching the show, I felt like I was being given a 'sign' or a reminder that I need to slow down. I say it all the time, 'we should try to be less busy.' But, then I go on and sign the kids up for the next activity, and I commit to the next committee myself. Maybe I should be listening to more to Grandma Bear.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I probably could find time. I pick my kids up from school each day at 3pm. But, because their school is also a day care center, I could pick them up later. In fact, I could pick them up at 6pm each day and have a lot more time to post in my blog and get ahead on some projects. However, right now the kids aren't involved in a lot of activities and so I can enjoy just hanging out with them. We don't have much more time like this, and since I do have the flexibility in my work to allow me to pick them up early now, I will continue to let some things slide.
I was involved in a program last week with our local YWCA which provided women leaders support in finding work/life balance. As part of the program, I facilitated a panel discussion with some successful female leaders who shared their experiences. One of the executives on the panel mentioned how her work and life balance strategies changed as she moved through the seasons of her life. The point of 'seasons of your life' came up several times in our discussion. The idea is that at different times in your life, you have different needs and opportunities for work/life balance. This executive, for example, currently has children in high school and her career is at a steady point. So she is now pursuing more personal interests. She discussed earlier seasons when she was more focused on her kids, or more focused on her career.
And so while I continue to work to promote more family friendly work opportunities, during this season of my life, I may not spend as much time as I did in the past (or will in the future) on some activities such as this blog. But seasons change, and my interests and free time will as well.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Today was very productive, although that is not a requirement for a free day. Sometimes an unproductive day is even more fun. Just playing games, reading, or catching some TV is a good way to enjoy a day. But I have a busy week ahead of me and getting some things done around the house today will make the week go a little easier.
We probably should make an effort to plan more free days. Sometimes I regret the fact that we even need to plan to get a free day. Our lives are generally over scheduled, over planned. But unlike many families I know, at least we do get our free days in.
Saturday, February 28, 2009
I received a call yesterday from Anita Bruzzese, a syndicated columnist and author who was working on a story related to the impact of the economy on jobs. She had recently spoken with a few people who were getting some additional time off from their employers who were trying to reduce costs. Many companies are looking to reduce work hours in order to avoid laying people off. Companies have found that by cutting hours, and thus reducing payroll costs, they can avoid the need to reduce staff levels. For example, a company could cut employees back to 4 days a week, or just ask each employee to work one day less each week.
In a time when companies are looking to cut costs from every angle, requesting a reduced work schedule could be a cost saving for your employer that is worth taking. If you can identify a way to work more efficiently or eliminate some unnecessary tasks, you could cut back a few hours each week to give you more time to manage your family. Obviously the cost saving for your employer translates to less money for you, but if you have more time to manage your life, you will likely find lots of opportunties to cut costs. It is worth considering.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
These friends, along with some other mom friends of mine, have been invaluable. In addition to the stress relief that getting together with good friends to relax provides, these ladies have been a tremendous support resource as I try to navigate parenthood along with my career.
First, they are always there if I need childcare in a pinch. There is always someone available to take the kids for an hour or two here and there. We also keep each other informed about different activities and events that are happening. Each time we get together someone brings a flyer about soccer sign-ups or an event at the school. Without them, I'm not sure if I would ever know what was going on in my community.
But even more important is the role that my good friends play in making my job as a mom stay realistic. I've talked to many other moms over the years who constantly feel guilty that they aren't the 'perfect mom.' Much of their angst is a result friends who are in constant competition for who is the best parent. They share stories of how brilliant their kids are, and make other moms feel badly because they may not be in the 'right' school or activity.
My friends, in contrast, often work to compete for being the 'worst' mom. It is all in fun, but we share stories of our worst moments, the junk food dinners that we've succumbed to, and the times we've watched TV instead of playing with our kids. Don't get me wrong, this is a group of extraordinary moms. They just don't take themselves too seriously. We laugh, and at the end of the night, we all realize we aren't doing that bad of a job. My job as a working mom is much easier because of my good friends.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
I knew my situation was not unique, but I didn't realize I was part of a movement, what Tina Brown has referred to as "The Gig Economy." I heard Ms. Brown discuss this new phenomena on NPR this week, and checked out her article about the topic on The Daily Beast.
She points out that musicians and many lower income workers have worked 'gigs' for decades. Many have supported their families through working multiple jobs, temporary and otherwise, and jumping around from one thing to the next. But recently, higher paid professionals have been working in this less stable arrangement. In fact, a survey by The Daily Beast found that nearly 25% of those surveyed were working some type of alternate work arrangment involving temporary and parti-time jobs or 'gigs."
Some work gigs out of necessity. The difficult economy has led many to do what they need to to get by. But many, like me, select a career of gigs in order to have the control to manage work and family.
The downside of this work arrangement is of course the lack of certainty of where your next paycheck is gonig to come from. I was always concerned that I would run out of work opportuniteis. I spent quite a bit of time thinking creatively of where to find my next work opportunity. But I was lucky that there always seemed to be something to do. Further, when you are working gigs, you also don't have the luxury of some traditional work benefits such as healthcare insurance and retirement benefits.
So is The Gig Economy a temporary trend, or an indicator of our future? Is it a positive trend? For me, working gigs gave me the control over my schedule I needed to spend the time I wanted with my kids. But, if I didn't have a spouse to give me the security of a steady paycheck and health insurance, I'm not sure if it would have worked.
Friday, January 30, 2009
The law was passed in response to a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear case. In that ruling the Supreme Court rejected Ledbetter's claim of pay discrimination because they said she failed to file her complaint within six months of the first act of discrimination. Ms. Ledbetter did realize the pay disparity between her and her male counterparts until years after she had been promoted into management.
The new law basically states that the statute of limitation 'clock' renews every time someone receives a paycheck. As a result, If you learn about a pay disparity years after a promotion, as long as your last paycheck was within the past six months, you can still make a claim. Read more on Yahoo News.
This legislation is important because employers work hard to make sure employees are not aware of the salaries of their peers. Most companies don't want employees discussing their pay for many reasons such as a fear that employees will use this information to negotiate for better salaries. As a result, many women do not find out that they are paid less than their male peers until well after a promotion (that is, if they ever find out). This law provides more incentive for employers to pay fairly because the consequences of an act of discrimination do not fade as quickly.
For women looking for flexible work, it is important to remember that there should not be a penalty for working in a flexible work arrangement. That is, you should be paid for getting your work done. Flexible work should not be considered a "perk" that you get in lieu of fair compensation. If you cut back to part-time, your pay rate should be reduced proportionately. If you cut back your hours 20%, your pay should be reduced 20%. Further, if you stay in a full-time role, your pay should not be cut at all just because you work a flexible schedule. If you are doing the same job, you should receive the same pay.
Our rights are only protected under employment discrimination laws if we exercise them. If you feel that you may have been discriminated against in your pay or other condition of employment, learn about your rights from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I wish I could say that her employer finally 'got it' and figured out that allowing her to work from home was a good business decision. Because she doesn't have to rush to get her kids, she probably will actually be working more. And without office distractions, she will probably be working more efficiently most days. Not to mention the improved productivity that will most likely result because of her improved attitude toward her work. She already is less stressed and appreciates the new arrangement.
But, as happens so frequently, the company only offered her the telecommuting option after she told them she was planning to leave. Faced with losing her talents, the company finally determined they could allow her to work from home.
Being willing to leave is your last option in negotiating for flexibility. But if you want to ask for flexibility and are commited to your request, you have to be willing to leave. Now I am not suggesting that you start the negotiation with 'give it to me or I'll leave.' But, in your mind you must be so commited to your requested change that you will look for another opportunity if you must. If you start the negotiation then you must be wiling to see it through until the end.
Unfortunately with the economy as a whole not doing so well, many companies are cutting back and unemployment rates are up. Your willingness to leave does not have as much leverage if you are easily replaced. But now is the time to begin planning your strategy if you want flexible work. The time to ask may not be just yet, but starting to work to build your business case for flexibiity will get you moving in the right direction.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Her response to the recognition: "I don't feel like a hero. When you have five kids and you get through each day, it's heroic. You don't have time to think, you either do or you don't and I am a doer. "
So imagine, comparing wrestling an armed criminal to managing a typical day with five kids. Well, I only have two kids, but some days I feel the same. They say that the skills you develop as a mom can help you. I always thought that meant you can apply what you learn as a mom to the workplace and be a better employee, but perhaps it just means that being a mom will make you be a better person.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The website founders, Terry & Bradi, have put together an impressively comprehensive website. According to the ladies, "My Work Butterfly is a social networking community designed to help return-to-the-workforce moms find their ideal job - their paradise - and to guide those seeking work / life flexibility. This niche social networking site aims to connect savvy moms on this journey by sharing advice, support and ultimately, solutions."
The website includes opportunities for discussion, lots of advice and resources, and an impressive job posting board. Check it out!
Saturday, January 10, 2009
The main objection to the law is that it applies to not only new childrens clothes and toys, but also to clothes and toys that are re-sold. That includes kids' resales, garage sales, eBay and consignment shops, which will all be required to comply with the law.
While I haven't read the full regulations, those who have believe that this law will make it difficult for parents to sell their kids' stuff on eBay, at consignnment shops or via any formal channel. While the law does not prohibit such sales, it does require costly saftey testing which will likely make it unprofitable to resell kids' items.
The implicaiton for parents could be significant. First, many rely upon the opporutnity to resell their kids' things as a stream of extra income. Second, many parents rely upon resale to allow them to buy the clothes and toys at affordable prices.
Particularly in a time of economic challenges, the ability to both buy and sell kids's stuff is important. Further, in a time when we are focused on being "green," the idea that more stuff will be thrown out instead of used again is quite unwelcome.
Learn more about the law at http://www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html.
Learn what you can do to save kids' resale opportunities at: http://savekidsresale.squarespace.com/
Sunday, January 4, 2009
This is another reason why I am glad to be working. We would be broke if I was at home full-time. Not just becuse of my loss of income, but also because of the time available to spend money. Working keeps me too busy to think about things I "think" I need. Instead, I minimize time spent shopping and as a result, minimize my spending.
As many families face tough financial times, the new year is a good chance to review spending habits. Here are a few ideas on cutting back:
- Think Used. In a time that we are all trying to recycle more, why not consider buying more used items? From cars to clothes- you can find pretty much anything used these days. One of my best dressed friends finds many of her clothes at a consignment shop. I often find books for my kids at library book sales. You can find kids clothes at garage sales and special kids re-sale events.
- Look for the deals. Take some time to read through store fliers and clip coupons to find the better prices. We have a friend who treats grocery shopping like a deal finding challenge. Each week he makes his list and then reads the grocery fliers to see who has the best deals on his needs. He also puts his pre-teen daughters to work clipping coupons and organizing their shopping. They usually have to hit 2 or more grocery stores, but he estimates that they save $50-100 a week on their grocery bills.
- Pack your lunch. Eating lunch out, even if it is just fast-food, can add up quickly. Packing your lunch just a couple of days each week can save you hundreds each month.
- Borrow instead of buy. How many times have you thought you needed something, only to spend the money and realize you don't? For example, my mom was thinking about buying a portable CD player to listen to audio books while she worked around the house. Instead of buying one, I suggested she borrow mine for a few weeks to see if she liked it. She found out that she never really used it and saved herself from an unnecessary expense. The library is also a good source of savings. You can borrow books, DVD's, CD's and sometimes even toys. The kids get the variety they want without you purchasing items that would eventually be set aside anyway.
- Go to the store with a list. Browsing while shopping leads to poor decicions. Make your list of what you need and stick to it. I just made this mistake today. I had a gift certificate to use and went to the store to buy a new sweater for work. I found myself checking out the jewelry and of course found something I couldn't live with out. Had I stuck to the sweater department, I wouldn't have spent the extra money.
- Pay with cash. If you use cash instead of credit so you pay closer attention to how much you spend. You also don't spend money that you don't have. I have been doing this lately and it really does affect how you think about spending. I've put needless items back on the shelf at the grocery because I know I do not have enough cash with me.
These are just a few ideas. The key is to be consciences of what you are spending. You would be suprised at how much money you can save if you just pay attention and make an effort.