Tag Archives: work-life balance

10 Other Kinds of March Madness for Parents Who Don’t Care About Basketball

1. OVER-SCHEDULED. March is the only month of the current school year with no holidays, so every single parent workshop, conference, field trip and fundraiser is jammed in. Carpal tunnel syndrome develops from signing an unprecedented number of permission slips.

2. OUT OF TIME. For those of us working parents who just blew their wad of vacation days on February recess, you best clock overtime this month to bank some days off when the kids are out of school in April for spring break. Good luck making that math work as you already put in for multiple half-days in March to cover all of the school’s events.

3. OUT LIKE A LAMB? Winter on the East Coast was brutal this year. Painfully cold and caked in filthy ice that sat on our streets for months. The first day of spring is today, March 20th. Forecast: snow.

4. BUT WEATHER BE DAMNED! March is when we sign up for summer camp! April is too late! Because the prices go up!

5. EVEN MORE OVER-SCHEDULED. Birthday parties – all weekend, every weekend. You never got the memo that June was the designated sexy time for procreators.

6. SLEEP-DEPRIVED. Daylight Savings Time aka That Which Will Undo Any Success You Have Had Putting Your Kids to Bed.

7. RISKING SCURVY? You’re dying for any seasonal produce that isn’t squash. So you spend $8 on strawberries, they’re not that good, but you want more, then realize this is not sustainable for the planet or your wallet.

8. OUTGROWN. Nothing fits. The kids have suddenly grown three feet over the course of the winter. So you have to find a way to clothe them until it’s warm enough to break out the spring hand-me-downs. You try to make the “Mom’s belted t-shirt” look work for your pre-schooler.

9. OVERWHELMED. With the state tests and participatory school budgeting deadlines approaching next month, your social media feeds are buzzing with opportunities for you to weigh in on this and opt out on that. This is important stuff and you follow your convictions, but not before becoming equally annoyed and saddened by the horrible spelling in the comments by similarly impassioned parents.

10. OUTDATED. You have officially run out of excuses for why your December holiday decorations are still up.

And your reward for getting through the March madness to April? Taxes.

 

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Closing the Loop

Getting this post in just under the wire – an hour and a half before the calendar flips to September. I couldn’t let an entire month go by without a post. That’s not responsible self-promotion.

It’s been a hectic month. One which forced me to adopt a new catchphrase: “Close the loop.”

As a lifelong procrastinator, I am forever reluctant to finish (and start). I am rarely impulsive, which can be a good thing; I don’t make rash decisions, I “sleep on it” whenever I can afford to and I listen more than I talk. Over-analysis has often led to paralysis, though. I am so busy trying to see a thing from all angles that I don’t actually make a move. Perhaps this is why I knew better than to take up chess.

So back to what August was – hectic. Work was kind of all over the place – developing shows, producing an independent film, overseeing post-production on a few commercial projects. All good things, but not if you have shingles.

Wait, what?

Shingles. Like chicken pox for grown-ups, except you want to die because the pain is searing and unrelenting. And the only thing that takes the edge off is some heavy narcotics, and that is not an option for me, as a parent.

So yeah, how does one get shingles? Well, first you have had to have had chicken pox as a kid. Check. Then, you need to have an overwhelming amount of pent up stress and anxiety that can only manifest physically, because you aren’t finding the proper outlets for release. Asking for more help, working out, being more social – all good outlets for release, but for me, the only way to stem the tide of debilitating stress is to close that f*cking loop. Get ‘er done, as Coach Taylor would say.

Make a decision, move on.
Call the person back, immediately.
Don’t spend more than 24 hours re-working a treatment.
Make the follow-up meeting for as soon as possible, as opposed “when everyone’s schedules have eased up.” Girl, you know better to think that will ever happen.

Having shingles woke me the hell up. NOTHING is worth getting so worked up about; not my kids’ constant fighting, or going over-budget on someone else’s passion project or looking at the upcoming school year like a basted together patchwork quilt of after-school childcare, extra-cirricular activities and no fewer than 3 babysitters. It’s all so messy, and it won’t kill me…unless I let it. It’s figured out so far – not for forever, and it won’t kill me. I must move on.

I’ve had so little patience at home the last few months; having shingles forced me to throw down that namaste gauntlet and literally “peace out.” I mean, the itching and pain would actually increase as I felt myself reacting to my son’s ridiculous rebellion or my daughter’s frequent, seemingly unwarranted, mood swings. I remember something a former boss taught his staff: “You can’t control others’ actions, but you can control your reactions.” And I’ve been working damn hard to dial down my reaction, stay in the calm zone, and close the loop. Be done. So much mental energy is spent when you don’t allow yourself to just be done. I can’t afford that; I need that brainspace for the creative work that is my lifeblood. It’s very hard to brainstorm and write when your mind is cycling through steps of all the production-related or home administrative tasks that I fail to delegate (working on it!) and it is so overwhelming that you can’t even start, let alone finish. I’m done subscribing to that practice.

And so we are done with August. Two weeks of horrific shingles pain has passed, though my forehead still bears faint red marks. (Oh yeah, did I mention that the shingles were ON MY FACE??!). The film is in the can. We ended the summer with a week of spectacular weather on vacation in the Poconos. School starts, and some professional adventures, which I hope to share soon, are on deck. I still have a lot of work to do on the whole procrastination issue; it’s hard to break a habit that was cultivated at such a young age. But at least I identified a mantra that puts me in the right head to take it on.

Close the loop.

Sitting still in the fast lane is an accurate description of how I roll these days.

Sitting still in the fast lane is an accurate description of how I roll these days.

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Who Am I? Halloween Edition

This Halloween I dressed up as a working parent.

At the end of a meeting the other day, we were setting up a time to reconvene. When 5pm on October 31 was identified as a time where all other parties were available, I unabashedly piped up that I wouldn’t be attending. I had made Halloween commitments to my kids.

Cat in the Hat would beg to differ about my stance as granola bar qualifying as a "treat."

Cat in the Hat would beg to differ about my stance as a granola bar qualifying as a “treat.”

I seriously didn’t feel bad about saying this. First of all, 5pm is a horrible time to have a meeting. Nobody wants to sit down and get started on something at that hour, after working a full day. But that’s a rant for another post.

What changed my unapologetic tune to one of annoyance was when someone at the meeting, a woman, laughingly said: “Oh all the moms in my office told me they’re leaving early that day.”

Really? No dads were leaving early? Because I know several, including my husband, who took off at 3 to be home in time for our neighborhood’s Halloween parade, in which our kids were marching.

It is not a parade unless there is anarchy about who gets to hold the banner.

It is not a parade unless there is anarchy about who gets to hold the banner.

And do you have to be a PARENT anyway to partake in Halloween festivities that may cause you to cut your workday short? Because a former colleague, a married guy without children, ALWAYS takes off from work that day. He just loves manning the door and dispensing treats to the wee ones.

Cinderella unleashed.

Cinderella unleashed.

No, the meeting wasn’t changed to accommodate my life. Such an expectation is laughable, apparently. And look, it IS hard to find a good meeting time among 5 people in 3 different time zones. I get it.

My family always comes first. And that should be the case for anyone, whether they define family by the spouses, children, pets, church groups, softball teams they hold dear.

So why do I take such offense at being lumped in with a group of moms leaving work early on Halloween?

I guess it’s because the reason I was leaving early wasn’t because I reproduced. It was because I had a life event (that happened to revolve around my offspring). And I twinge at the times when the mom label eclipses all else. Why can’t it co-exist with everything else I am? Why does motherhood have to attach itself to all the other parts of me? “Work-out-of-the-home” mom is what I am. “Stay-at-home” mom is what others are. Can’t we cleave the motherhood from the rest of us in the lexicon of how we describe ourselves?

Yes, I made a choice to be a parent. And I’m not trying to “have it all.” Trust me. But must everything have the “mom” filter when it comes to women of a certain age? Like, does EVERYTHING have to be couched in whether you’ve reproduced or not?

And I’m not just talking about those of us with kids. I’m sure child-free women are annoyed that they need to clarify the definition of themselves in the context of parenthood.

So if all the moms are leaving early, EVERYONE should be allowed to leave early, without having to subscribe to some classification. Life is life. With kids or without.

When work-life hands you pumpkins...well, it's just messy.

When work-life hands you pumpkins…well, it’s just messy.

How has life intersected with your work? And did you feel you had to apologize for it?

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Life, at Work

Here’s the deal.

The fairytale formerly known as “work-life balance” is dead.  We need to depart from referencing any kind of “balance.”  Eff balancing. Like we’re supposed to be perfectly balanced, never off-center, never experiencing extreme joy or heartbreak, always even keel, always compensating for shifts in the scales?  Nobody alive is able to pull that off.  And if they were, can you imagine how BORING they would be?

Enter phrases like “work-life fit” or “work-life integration.”  Anne-Marie Slaughter has ignited fiery dialogues on the topic with her “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” piece for the Atlantic this past June.  I had the opportunity to see her and Stewart Friedman, the founding director of the Wharton School’s Leadership Program and Wharton’s Work/Life Integration Project, speak on the subject at a recent conference and it woke me up to the fact that this is not solely parents’ battle.  It’s something we should all be campaigning for – flexibility in the workplace that allows us to be whole human beings with interests that enrich our lives and ultimately make us more productive, more loyal, healthier (read: FEWER SICK DAYS) employees.  So c’mon, companies.  Get on board.

Charlotte in my office when childcare coverage fell through.

At times, I have what I call a condensed day.  I power through in 6 hours what the company expects of me in 8.  And then I have meetings for the remaining 2.  It kills me.

We have some groundwork ahead of us.  It’s a reason why I joined our company’s Culture Committee – to lobby for DISCUSSION, at least, about the POSSIBILITY, at least, of implementing time shift options to our work days to accommodate the variety of pursuits we, as humans, have (other than improving our company’s bottom line, of course).  For parents, it would be a coup not to have to report to an office for all 40+ hours of the week, yet still be able to deliver on the demands of a full-time job.  But for those of us training for triathalons, getting a degree, volunteering, studying another language, the ability to do those things alongside our careers is also huge.  Work and life are not mutually exclusive.

So, I would like to come clean with things I have done for my life, at work:

1. Washed sippy cups I’ve discovered in my bag
2. Made doctors’ appointments
3. Taken a lunch hour to go to said doctors’ appointments
4. Looked in on my kid at after-school via webcam
5. Called my mom for a report on how ballet class was going for my kindergartner
6. Ordered diapers
7. Emailed my husband grocery lists
8. Reserved a bike in spin class (ok, I haven’t done this since 2007, before my daughter was born, but I have every intention of getting back in that saddle, or at least Googling spin class locations…unless spin isn’t a thing anymore)
9. Ran to Old Navy for socks to tide the kids over til laundry day
10. Proofread my posts (c’mon – how sharp could I be in the wee hours of the morning or evening that bookend my workday?  I need to be on point if I’m going to catch any f*ck-ups typos)

I know I’ll be writing lots more on the topic of work-life integration (yes, I have an opinion on Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s short maternity leave, but it’s not what you think!) and I hope to engage more people in the campaign for work-life smushing, to borrow a term from the kids down the shore.

Until then, what kind of LIFE stuff do you deal with at WORK?  And for stay-at-home parents, how are you integrating the parts of your day that are kid-centric with those that are YOU-centric?

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