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10 posts from May 2009

May 28, 2009

I'm loving Michelle Obama's candor

    As a working mother, I'm constantly scrambling to get everything done, rushing here and rushing there and always feeling like I'm never  pulling off work-life balance perfectly. But I have to admit, when it comes to work and family, Michelle Obama has it nailed. I'm not saying that she's the perfect mom, I'm saying that she's honest about the highs and lows of being a modern-day mother.

Michelle-o As the New York Times points out in its article,On the Home Front, A Twist of Candor,  Michelle doesn't mince words. When asked by a little boy about whether she still cooks with all those professionals on her staff, she answered: “I’m just fine with other people cooking. Their food is really good.”

This section from the NYT made me admire Michelle in a whole new way:

"Since she arrived in the White House four months ago, Obamahas told People magazine that her marriage isn’t perfect. She has told young women that she wonders whether she is doing what’s best for her children as she balances her work and motherhood.

She has confessed that her daughters have fallen down on the job in terms of dog walking, despite her prodding. And on her first day of strenuous digging in the White House garden, with cameras rolling and reporters scribbling, she was the first to pipe up with a half-joking and half-plaintive, “Are we done yet?”

I feel a bond with Michelle because she carries around the guilt that nags at most mothers as we strive to do the best for our kids.

The NYT writes: “There isn’t a day that goes by,” Mrs. Obama told a panel of young women at Howard University earlier this year, “that I don’t wonder or worry about whether I’m doing the right thing for myself, for my family, for my girls.”

She’s letting people know: It’s O.K. to say that working motherhood is a challenge; it’s O.K. to say that I don’t have all the answers,” said Ms. Hardy, a working mother who heads Howard University’s Institute for Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Innovation. “I didn’t expect her to be that real.”

   I already relate completely to Michelle. Now, comes the kicker for me, the part of life with kids where Michelle totally sums up my thoughts.

“I got up at 5:15 a.m. in the morning to walk my puppy,” Mrs. Obama acknowledged ruefully to a group of Congressional spouses last month. “Even though the kids are supposed to do a lot of the work, I’m still up at 5:15 a.m. taking my dog out. So for everyone who has a child asking for a puppy, you have to want the dog.”

 As I walk my dog every morning, wondering how I ever let my kids convince me to become a pet owner, I'll feel a new bond with the first lady. I'm just wondering, if she personally scoops up the poop. I'm betting she does.

May 26, 2009

I found my job on Twitter

       I must admit, I enjoy Twitter. It's time-consuming, distracting and loads of fun. I can keep up with Ryan Seacrest in celebrityville or my co-worker in my state capitol. But I absolutely LOVE that people are finding jobs through Twitter.

      This article on jobs.AOL  is a great example: "If it weren't for Jen Harris' followers on Twitter, she would not have been notified of another job opportunity, only moments after getting laid off from Idaho-based MPC computers in October.

     As Harris packed up her desk she sent out a tweet that read: "just been laid off from MPC."

     "By the time I left the parking lot, I had a job offer."

    I've had a lot of discussion lately with people who think social media is a waste of time. But more and more in this strange time of job insecurity, I'm starting to realize that having an online community to network with is critical.

    So which camp are you in? Do you think there is value in Twitter? Or, do you feel you have enough on your plate without getting sucked into the world of social networking?

May 22, 2009

Mom so distracted she leaves child in car?

   What a day it was yesterday for one South Florida mom! She went to work at 9 a.m. at a pet hospital, most likely rushing to get there on time like most moms do, and left her 1 1/2 year old child strapped in the back seat on the steamy hot day.

    When dad came to take mom to lunch six hours later, he discovered his son in the family’s silver Toyota Tundra, restrained in his car seat in the back and called 911. But by then, the inside of the truck was broiling hot and the boy was lifeless.

      Unfortunately, this is not the first news story about this type of incident. How could the mom do that? Some will ask. Some will judge. Some will cry for the little boy. A friend of the woman told WSVN news that the woman is good mom who made a horrible mistake. (Here's a link to the video). 

     The authorities will decide whether to press charges.       

     And while we try to make sense of this sad incident, maybe it is the wake-up call for frazzled parents. I'm convinced incidents like this are happening because we have way too much on our minds. We're too distracted. We're thinking about a million things at once, listening to the radio, talking on our cell phones,Twiterring, transporting our children, worrying about work and finances and job security.... maybe even texting while we're driving. I can see how this mom could have been "forgotten" about her son in the back seat, at least for a few minutes.

     But you would think in six hours the woman would have thought about her little one and wondered how his day was going.  Or, was she again overwhelmed at work, distracted....?

     This problem is increasing.  ''On average, one child dies every 10 days in this country [in such incidents],'' Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars (www.kidsandcars.org) told The Miami Herald.

      Her organization is pushing for passage of a bill in Congress that would require all carseats be equipped with a ''rear seatbelt reminder'' to prevent children from being left unattended in a car.

      It's hard to believe moms would need such a reminder. But the truth is they do. More so each day. We have reminders on our phones and computers, clearly we need them in our cars, too! Distraction is an epidemic.

     Do you ever get so distracted while driving that you could leave your child in the back seat? Do you think this mom should be charged with a crime?

May 19, 2009

Obsessed workers take their laptops to bed

        I think American workers are work obsessed. But here comes a survey out of the UK that shows workers there just might be more work obsessed or tech obsessed than we are here.

     A survey by CREDANT Technologies of 300 city workers in London uncovered a staggering number are taking their laptops to bed, much to their partners annoyance. 

     How bad is this obsession? The survey discovered that of those people who do work in bed, 57% do so for between 2 and 6 hours every week, little wonder that the survey also found that the majority of their bed companions found their partners' obsession with their mobiles "a very annoying habit". A staggering 8% of people admitted that they spend more time on their mobile devices during the evening than talking to their partners! (I bet that number is higher in the United States)

    Blame the wireless connection for damaging bedtime romance.  Most people are connected to the Internet, while in bed  via a wireless network (87%). However, CREDANT says some sense of romance still exists. When asked "What is the last thing you do before going to sleep" it is reassuring to learn that, for 96% of the people questioned, it is kiss their partners goodnight. The other 4%, (71% of which are male), confess to completing work and checking their emails. (Check out the cartoon below provided by Credent, data protection specialists)

     Confess, do you take your laptop to bed? I've put limits on myself...I only get as close as the nightstand.   


May 18, 2009

What not to say to a working mom

     This is the time of year when stress kicks into high gear for working mothers. The end of the school year frenzy begins (as noted on The Juggle)...there's band concerts, field trips, graduation parties, class parties, baseball playoffs, recitals, etc. All that needs to fit in with our kids' school schedule and work demands. The celebrations are fun and they mean a lot to the kids. But keeping our jobs is important, too.

     Tread carefully when you blurt things out to a working mother. As Sam Wilson writes on her Women24 blog: "We working mothers live close to breaking point, and it doesn't take much to send us over the edge." 

     One of the features I love about Diversity Inc is its lists of what not to say to a female executive, Latin executive, black executive, younger co-worker, etc. So, I've compiled my own list of 10 things NEVER to say to a working mother (particularly this time of year).

  1. What is your child bringing to the end-of-year class party? (by the way it's tomorrow)
  2. Is your child going to that amazing summer camp again this year? Did you know sign-up was last week?
  3. Did I mention our camp doesn't have aftercare?
  4. Want to carpool to the school for the class field trip to Epcot? Drop off is 5 a.m. pick up is 9 p.m. I'll pick up, okay?
  5. Is your child ready for the recital? Mine has been practicing for weeks.
  6. What do you do for a living that you can't get away for just a few hours?
  7. You just missed your kid's solo.
  8. I just figured you'd be working and couldn't make it.
  9. I'm sure little Johnny won't even realize you're not there.
  10. You look tired.

Let me know if I've missed any.

May 14, 2009

Balancing work, life and exercise

    After three kids, my belly isn't quite as toned as it used to be. Every New Year's I vow to do 100 sit-ups a day. By March, I vow to do 25. Today, I'm hoping to do one. When faced with deadlines, carpools or getting dinner on the table, exercise falls to the bottom of my to-do list.

   So, I turned to the experts for my column this week in The Miami Herald on balancing work and exercise. There are some great tips.

   Marta_041 One of the best suggestions came from Marta Montenegro, editor-in-chief of SOBeFiT Magazine, based in Miami.Marta told me to start my journey to becoming more fit by changing small habits...such as stretching when you first wake up and maybe doing a few sit-ups right away. That way,  it doesn't hang over your head all day. If exercise really is a priority, make it one, she says. Push it up on your to-do list. She reminded me I can incorporate my family into my exercise routine. Check out SOBeFit Magazine, it's filled with interesting articles on fitness. I particularly like what basketball star Alonso Mourning told the magazine about how he starts his day: “The moment I get out of bed each morning I stand up, bend down, and touch my toes.”

    I've decided I'm going to do a few sit-ups first thing in the morning, and take more walks at night with my kids and husband.  

     What you should know is that many health clubs are discounting right now and some even offer free classes for the unemployed - the two in South Florida that I know about are The Mind/Body Connection in Davie and the Downtown Athletic Club in Miami.

In response to my article, Wolf_Pinther  wrote: My gym happens to be the Downtown Athletic Club mentioned above – a great gym especially for professionals who live and/or work downtown. I make time to exercise 3 to 5 times a week. Personally, I enjoy having a gym outside of my work and home because it is my time to "detox" or relieve stress. It’s amazing the difference in how I feel after a good sweat after a hard day at work!

    Tatiana Montgomery responded to the article, too. She says she has come up with a CD to help people get motivated all over again to be healthier. It's filled with nutrition and exercise tips, she says. To find out more e-mail her at fitnesscuisine@gmail.com.

     Let me hear how you fit exercise/fitness into your busy schedule. I'm off to do a sit-up....

May 11, 2009

The Best Part of Mother's Day

I love Mother's Day and not just because I get attention from my family. For me, one of the most enjoyable parts of  Mother's Day is the fascinating stories that appear in newspapers and magazines pegged to the holiday.

Some of my favorites this year were Bridget Carey's article in The Miami Herald and MomsMiami.com: Tech Tools Helping Moms Stay Sane. It really made me think about how I can use technology more in my hectic life.

I also enjoyed Eileen Soler's piece in The Miami Herald on mom the role model, a pediatric nurse whose daughters became nurses, too: Nurse Inspires 4 Daughters to Follow in Her Footsteps.

If you missed it, I wrote an article on moms who are able to lift themselves up from poverty through financial education: Low-income Mothers Learn Financial Skills.

The Palm Beach Post did an excellent spread on moms who sacrifice for the next generation: This Mother's Day, Stories of Sacrifice.

From the Mother's Day surveys, here is one I found interesting:

One-Third of Working Moms Are Burned Out as They Struggle to Provide for Their Families in a Tough Economy, Finds CareerBuilder’s Annual Mother’s Day Survey

Quality time with family is the most important “to-do” on working moms’ lists this Mother’s Day. In fact, some working moms report struggling to find work/life balance as they take on additional hours and second jobs in tough financial times. Thirty percent of working moms, whose companies have had layoffs in the past 12 months, are working longer hours and 14 percent of working moms have taken on second jobs in the last year to help make ends meet.

From the blogs, these are a few that should get notice.

While you’re out perusing the Mother’s Day cards, consider this: The number of pregnancy discrimination charges received by the EEOC increased from 3,387 cases in 1992 to 5,587 cases in 2007 – a jump of 65 percent. According to figures released in March, the EEOC received a record 6,285 complaints of pregnancy discrimination in 2008 and officials say they expect pregnancy complaints to rise even more sharply this year.

Let’s Honor Mothers Every Day(Huffington Post)

Challenges facing women to balance work and family are exacerbated in a downturn, which calls for greater workplace flexibility. Simply put, the workplace should be as adaptable as working mothers have become. This is why I am working to pass the Working Families’ Flexibility Act — a bill I have sponsored with Sen. Edward Kennedy which would provide job protection for working parents who request flexible work schedules from their employers. Nearly 80 percent of workers say they would like to have more flexible work options and would use them if there were no negative consequences at work, according to the Families and Work Institute. However, close to 40 percent of workers surveyed believe they would be less likely to advance in their career is theyasked for flexibility..

Mother’s Day Gift? More Time…(Why Can’t We…You Tell Me:  Policies that Work for Americans Who Work)

This Mother’s Day our policy makers can give all mothers, especially working moms, a lasting gift - policies that make balancing work and family easier. More and more women are successfully balancing work and family - many because they have to, some because they want to.  In 1955 only 27 percent of mothers in the workforce had kids under the age of 18, today that number is over 70 percent.

If I missed an article you enjoyed, please share.

May 06, 2009

Moms to the financial rescue: work from home!

    Today in The Miami Herald, I wrote about moms who work from home, not just for flexibility, but because it's the best way right now to contribute to the family budget.

LesleyPyle05     I interviewed Lesley Spencer Pyle of Home Based Working Moms and asked her for some tips for those moms who either want to start a business from home or work for an employers. She also operatesHome-BasedWorkingMoms.com and HireMyMom.com.

Here are some tips from Lesley for starting a home business:

  •  Spend time thinking about your strengths, your experience, your interests and most importantly, your passions. What are you good at? What are you passionate about doing?
  •   Consider your previous work experience and skills.
  • Check out some books on home business ideas such as: 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women by Priscilla Huff or The Best Home Businesses for the 21st Century by Paul Edwards
  • Take some time to decide which type(s) of businesses listed best fit your unique personality, passions and experience.
  •  Once you’ve come up with at least one business idea that meets your needs, consider the viability of the business,  your competition, how you will differentiate yourself.
  •  Develop a business plan
  • Commit yourself to work at least 6-12 months with the possibility that you won't make much income until your business becomes somewhat established.

 Lesley cautions that it takes dedication and balance to start and grow your business without neglecting yourself, your faith or your family. As your business grows, it demands more time so it is important to have a plan. You may need to hire outside help for childcare, your housework and/or hire an assistant. It is important to keeptrack of where you are spending your time so that you keep your priorities in order. Bottom line is nothing should be as important as your faith and your family.

 Additional Resources:  www.sba.gov – SBA’s Small Business Planner and  www.SCORE.org – offers free business counseling

    Lesley also gave me 10 tips for avoiding scams if you decide to work from home for an employer:

1. Research the company and always check them out with the Better Business Bureau. Also check them out with RipOffReport.com and do a search online using the company name and any other information you have to see if you can find posts from others who have worked for or interacted with the company.

2. Ask for at least three references of people they have worked with. Call each person and ask about their experiences with the company.

3. Don’t be fooled by ads claiming you can make large amounts of money in short periods of time.

4. Before you invest in a business opportunity, get specific information (in writing) from the company.

5. Try to use your credit card instead of cash if you invest in a business opportunity. That way if you do want a refund, it may be easier to dispute the charges.

6. Be cautious of any employment opportunity that asks for money (such as money for “job” instructions, to test your printer, to see if you are qualified or for an application).

7. Research current scams on web sites such as ScamBusters and Safe From Scams.

8. Contact the National Fraud Information Center or (800) 876-7060 for information.

9. Report any scams or fraudulent companies to the Federal Trade Commission. Also contact your state’s Attorney General and the National Fraud Information Center, PO Box 65868, Washington, DC 20035 or (800) 876-7060.

10. Don’t invest in any opportunity that you are not sure about.

I hope these tips help. Let me know how your work at home arrangement is going for you.

May 05, 2009

Depression stalks the legal profession

        I guess I sort of knew it was coming. For many years I wrote about lawyers for The Miami Herald. For the most part, they are a Type A bunch who work hard and make good money and don't really embrace work/life balance. But this has been a real tough time in the legal industry as huge accounts have disappeared overnight. Many lawyers now find themselves laid off, out of work with nothing to do, and struggling to come to terms with their new reality.

     Law.com reports that lawyer assistance programs for depression and substance abuse are reporting that laid-off attorneys,  struggling solo practitioners, third-year law students without jobs lined up and others have been reaching out for help more than ever before. Lawyers with pre-existing problems are being pushed over the edge by the added stress of the slow economy, they said. The pressure was underscored by the apparent suicide on Thursday of Kilpatrick Stockton attorney Mark Levy, who reportedly had been laid off from the firm.

    The National Law Journal says The Illinois Lawyers' Assistance Program had its busiest month on record in April. The organization, which helps attorneys deal with problems like depression and substance abuse, had 42 new referrals -- nearly twice the monthly average in 2008.

     To make matters worse, here come more lawyers. The nation's 200 accredited law schools will spit out 43,000 graduates next month. The upshot is a massive pile-up of attorneys looking for work in an environment that is pitting would-be attorneys against more experienced competitors. 

     Personally, I think it's admirable that lawyers are seeking help when they need it. After all,  that's what employee assistance programs are for. So how do you keep from being depressed when your industry is in turmoil? Do you think too many people are afraid to use employer-sponsored assistance programs? Do people fear their current or former employer somehow will find out?

May 04, 2009

Moms and Internet Addiction

      Confession time. Last week my husband was out of town. Of course I miss him when he's away. But I was super excited about going on my computer at night without feeling guilty about not paying him any attention. I cleaned out my Inbox and logged onto Facebook and basically surfed the Web well past midnight without even a tinge of guilt.

     I must admit I feel as much of an attachment to my computer and the Internet as I do to my kids. Pretty sad, huh? 

      Apparently, this attachment is even more intense with new moms. Lisa Belkin on her Motherlode blog points out an increase in the number of parents who are Internet addicts. In particular they are young mothers, feeling isolated and overwhelmed with a new baby, turning to the computer for community, companionship and escape. It certainly has created an explosion of mom blogs and mom websites. 

   Here's how Belkin defines addiction: Looking up from the screen and realizing more time has passed than you’d planned, and that you prefer to spend that time with people you don’t actually know in places that don’t actually exist, rather than take on the tasks, problems and obligations of real life. (Are you seeing yourself in this definition?)

    In an essay on Parenting.com, writer Rachel Mosteller says: “I was scrolling through family photos on my computer,” she writes of her moment of truth, “admiring my two beautiful babies, when I spotted a disturbing trend: My laptop was open in almost all of the pictures. There’s my daughter, at 8 months, playing at my feet while I typed away on the couch. There’s me and my son, a year later, with the laptop at my side as I held him in my arms.” 

As parents we worry about our children on the Internet – we limit their screen time, watch over their shoulders and concern ourselves with what they are doing online. But what exactly are we doing online and what's sending us there? 

Think you might be hooked? Mosteller has some great suggestions:

Try keeping a journal of how often you go online for a week. Then assess what you’re missing out on when you do it — sleep, family time, work?

Also note in your journal what was going on each time you decided to sit down at the computer. Was it right after a fight with your husband? Were you bored? Feeling insecure about work? By figuring out the triggers that send you seeking refuge online, Moore says, you can come up with alternative activities that help you deal. If you’re stressed, for example, you might take your baby out for a walk (or your hubbie).

    How long do you think you could go without logging on? Do you think you might be relying too much on the Internet to feel productive?