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11 posts from August 2009

August 31, 2009

Some parents are too involved

Some parents are crossing the line. They are using the technology not only to help with work life balance, but to constantly tweet, text and send messages to their kids who are off at college.

Some extreme examples are pretty horrifying. If you missed ABC's 20/20 segment, it's a must see.  Here's the link to the segment.

The TV report focused on one of these extreme examples:  Mom, Robin, has a full time job working from home but still manages to keep hour-by-hour tabs on her two sons' lives while they are at college. She calls and e-mails and has a dedicated cell phone number just for them to call her. She monitors their bank accounts, checks their school assignments. She writes to-do lists for them, proof reads their papers on her lunch hour and even drives to campus to do their laundry, shop for their groceries and pick up the mess in their dorm rooms.

Robin's sons told 20/20 they are grateful. One even considers his mom something like a secretary. Mom says that description is fine with her. "That means I'm very organized. A secretary helps keep the boss stay focused and organized." Robin says habits are hard to break and she stays involved because she wants to stay close to her sons.

It's easy to dismiss her as crazy mom. But I do understand the desire to stay close to your kids. Aren't we all a little bit crazy?

A psychologist told 20/20 that parents these days are far too involved in their children's' lives. "They are sending message 'you are not capable of handling your own life.' " The Miami Herald reported that lots of parents at Florida colleges are cyberstalking their kids.The article reported that UF students communicate with their parents an average of 13 times a week via cellphone or e-mail, which is much, much more than previous generations.

   This morning I heard a radio interview on 105.9 with Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano. He said his mom texts his regularly and recently send him frantic messages when she heard some players on the team had swine flu. Fasano is a big, big boy. I wonder how many times a day mom texts him and whether he even reads them all.

   My kids are young enough that I can justify clinging just a little bit. But I have seen teens who can't make a decision on ANYTHING without texting mom first. 

    Do you think technology has it made it so easy to keep up with our kids that we don't know how to give them independence? Are we creating a nation of kids who expect more from their parents or just forming good relationships with our offspring?

College student

August 27, 2009

What I learned from Ted Kennedy

      Ted                                 The passing of Ted Kennedy made me reflect on an television interview I saw a few years ago with Maria Shriver and her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver ( I think it might have been on Ellen). What I took away from the interview was that the Kennedy commitment to work, family and giving back to society was ingrained in every family member from a young age. Every night, dinner table conversation at the Kennedy home focused around what family members had done to be charitable or civic minded.

       For the Kennedys, it wasn't enough to balance work and family. The mandate in this priviledged family was to squeeze some giving back time into their busy days. When I heard that Ted, had passed away, I thought about all he had done to try to make America a better place. Clearly, what you teach your children and the values you instill makes a difference in how they live their lives. Here's what Maria said at her mom's recent funeral...something similar to what would be said at Ted's funeral:  "If she were here today ... she would pound this podium ... and ask each of you what you have done today to better the world."

      Recently, I read an interview in Good Housekeeping called How to Raise Rock Stars with Denise Jonas, mother of the Jonas Brothers, the popular boy band.Like the Kennedys, mom preaches to her sons the need to give back.  She says her purpose in life is to raise good, decent, loving men.  Denise holds a hard line on manners to keep her sons grounded while they're surrounded by a world of glitz. She says her most important parenting principle, the one tenet she doesn't budge on. "Kevin and I aren't friends with our children. We're their parents. That's very important."

      As busy as I get, I've been thinking about these famous parents who instill manners and values in their kids. It may be time consuming and exhausting, but making the extra effort for the future generation seems well worth it. I think Ted Kennedy would agree.

August 25, 2009

Cell phones: a necessary back-to-school accessory?

       How did working parents survive before cell phones? Did they worry more than we do?

       As we fill our children's backpacks supplies, some may be wondering whether a wireless phone is a necessary back-to-school accessory.

     As a working parent, I love text messaging! With a quick text, I knew my two older kids had found the right school bus and were on their way home. With a quick text at lunchtime, I knew my daughter was feeling well enough (a few days after major surgery) to make it through her first day of school. Instant peace of mind!

      In the past two days since school began, I see kids calling their parents from their cells while walking home. I imagine the parent in their office, feeling relieved to hear the voice on the other end.

      A mom asked me the other day, "What's the right age to buy a child a cell?" My answer: "The age they have some independence and you need peace of mind."

   According to a parenting blog, a 2007 poll by MSN/Zogby found that 47% of adults believed children should be in high school before owning a cell phone. A more recent survey in the U.K. pegged the average age of first-time cell phone owners at eight. The Center on Media and Child Health Web site states that 54 percent of 8- to 12-year-olds will have a cell phone in the next three years.

   Of course, you should know that the stories of kids sending out thousands of texts in one month aren't hype. Yes, like most parents, after learning the hard way, I had to change plans to unlimited texting. CNN.com offers some great tips to consider before buying your child a cell phone. 

    This year, my children's middle school made the parents and kids sign a cell phone contract, forbiding usage in classrooms. I'm assuming then, that most middle schoolers have cell phones in their backpacks. For kids who walk home alone or stay after school for activities, I say, it's an absolute must. Middle school seems about the right time. 

     What do you think is the right age to make a cell phone a back-to-school neccessity? 

August 24, 2009

Do you know how to say no?

Here we go...the start of a new school year. It's the time of year when organizations and activities kick into gear and working parents are making choices about what sign our kids up to to get involved in.

Yes, it's the time of year when those of us who haven't perfected the art of saying no find ourselves saying yes much too often. But this is the year when many of us need to be the best we can be in ourworkplaces, which means figuring out your priorities before saying yes to taking on another project or joining an organization.

I just read a blog post by Larry Edmonds at Examiner.com who urges parents to set an example for their kids. He writes: "We should teach our children, through our role modeling, that balance between work and family life is one of the most important things we have the ability to create."

At my son's class orientation, he asked me to volunteer to help in his classroom. I'm pondering his request because I have a lot I want to accomplish workwise. As a role model, I want to teach my kids to strive to be the best in their careers. But I also want my son to see that education is important to me. If I'm going to take on a new commitment, its going to be in the schools. Edmonds' blog post reminded me that finding balance is something you work at, over and over, learning as you go how and when to say yes and no.

If you haven't gotten in right in the past, now's your chance. Figure out your priorities for the year and ask yourself, "Am I maintaining a work-life balance that presents me as positive role model?" How do you think your kids, co-workers, spouse, would answer that question?

August 18, 2009

Be More Childlike In Your Career

Are we struggling with work life balance because we think too much like adults and should be embracing life like children? A recent e-mail from career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman, president of SurpassYourDreams made me think hard about my approach to life these days.

Deborah writes: "As a mother of a toddler son, I watch a lot of kid's shows. What strikes me about these shows is the positive messages that come across; messages of hope and encouragement.

Deborah asks: Why is it that as adults we lose hope when it comes to our careers?  Did career setbacks or the economy make negativity more prevalent than being positive?

Remember back to a time in your life when you believed that anything was possible? A time when you looked forward to the day and all you could do and learn. What happened to that belief? What happened to that person? Do you want that person back?

Next Deborah offers "childish" perspectives that could transform your career.

1. I Will Try, Try Again.

Kids fall down on a regular basis. My son falls 400 times a day. And, he gets up 400 times a day. He never gives himself a hard time for falling. He doesn't feel guilty about past falls. He just gets up and tries again. Life is about getting up again after falling. So is your career.

2. I Know It All Works Out.

In kid's shows, characters find themselves in sticky situations. They ask themselves, "What do I do now?" Then, they find the answer. They don't go backwards, ever. They go forward, and because they go forward, they build their confidence and self-esteem. The pathway forward may not also be in a straight line, or it might take a little longer, but they find their way out because they know they will.

3. I Will Ask For Help.

Kids are not afraid to ask for help. It's a way of life for them. They do so regularly and naturally and that's how they are able to reach their goals successfully. Kids don't expect to work out their difficulties alone. They know that alone they are not as effective.

4. I Will Have A Good Attitude.

No matter what happens, no matter how grim a situation looks, kids look at the bright side. If the bridge they need to cross falls down, they take another bridge. If the road is blocked, they find another road. They keep doing different things (with a smile) until something works. If they get afraid, it's short-lived, and they are on their way again.

5. I'm Growing And Learning.

Kids don't give themselves a hard time when they make a mistake. They know they can't do everything. Frequently their limitations are frustrating, but they keep learning because they understand that success happens over time with hard work and practice.

Deborah asks: Which one of these can you apply to your career?

I would answer they all apply to me. Who would have thought there would so much career advice in a kids show? Maybe it's time to disect some of the lyrics from the Barney songs I haven't heard in years!

August 17, 2009

The Countdown to School

     Are you ready for school to start? Like most parents, I have mixed feelings about going back to a routine. But one thing is sure, I'm starting to feel a little anxious knowing this is the last week of sleeping in and letting my kids stay up late.

    My little one starts a new elementary school this year, which means a change for both of us. He seems to be completely OK with making new friends and learning his way around a new place. Maybe it's silly, but I'm worried whether he'll get a good teacher, whether I can walk him to his class the first day of school and whether he'll have a good school year. I'm now eligible for a bus route, so I'm worried my kids will be okay on the bus. I'm not a huge worrier, but the start of school always sets off at least a little anxiety for me. Is that true for most moms?

    By now, most parents are counting down and dreading getting up early, getting kids off to school, the complaining about homework, packing the lunchboxes and making decisions about activities. Personally, I'm looking forward to getting myself back on a normal work routine and writing without as many interruptions.

    But in the meantime, I still have a week with my kids and I'm going to enjoy a more relaxed schedule. Valerie Vazquez, a Broward school teacher, spent her summer building a blog called Palm Tree Playground  for South Florida parents who are looking for fun, educational, inexpensive activities to do with their kids. "I do it as a hobby. My dream is to share it with as many readers as possible because I know many parents just don't have the time to look for activities." So, if you have some time off this week and want to enjoy the local area with your kids before the routine starts up again,  read her blog for some great ideas.


August 10, 2009

Moms think dad makes parenting harder

        Single or Married, which mom has the better deal? Growing up, I was raised by a single mom who made strict rules and enforced them. No going barefoot. No staying up late on a school night. No outside activities on Sunday nights.

       Now that I'm raising my kids as a part of a couple, I see the pros and cons of single parenting. Pro: Dad can pick up a prescription on his way home or weigh in on a big decision. Con: Dad can be coaxed into letting kids break a mom rule. (very annoying!)

     A recent survey by Babytalk magazine found that many married women think it might sometimes be easier to raise kids alone. About 76 percent of married women surveyed by Babytalk magazine who liked the idea of not fighting with a parent about the best way to raise a child.  Other "pros"' cited in survey results include not having to work at maintaining a healthy marriage and not dealing with in-laws. (Those are valid points!) 

    Single moms told Babytalk they feel they have it easier in some ways.Almost two-thirds of the single moms surveyed thought it would be harder to be a parent with a man in the house. Katie Powalski of the Orlando Sentinel says she is a single mom who likes that no one is looking over her shoulder.

      Dadandchild                  Let's just say its hard to be a parent whether you're single or married. We're all struggling with the same issues: Do we let our kids have Facebook pages? Do we let them have sleepovers? Do we forbid them from playing sports if their grades start to drop? 

    Here's where I think having dad in the parenting equation makes a difference: work/life balance. When I think of how my mother struggled to work and raise her children, I know I have it easier. When it comes to being a mom and holding a job, whatever help my husband gives me makes my balancing act more doable. Dad may at times make parenting harder but he sure can making a working mother's life easier.



August 07, 2009

The Best Companies for Work Life in Florida

      Work life is good at 100 companies in Florida that made the list of the Best Companies to Work For in 2009, according to Florida Trend Magazine's August Issue. The magazine ranked companies based on their training, hiring, wellness and other benefit programs.

     Even during the recession, some companies understand that their people are their best assets. The best companies don't cut training when times get tough. "With fewer people we believe training is even more important to continue," Nan Callan of of ABB Concise in Coral Springs told the magazine.

     The magazine ranked companies by size as well as benefits - small, medium and large. How good the benefits are at small companies depends a lot on the boss. Air-Transport in Orlando matches each employee's 401k contributions dollar for dollar up to 5 percent of pay. It give employees no-cost disability and life insurance coverage and other benefits.

   At some of the best smaller companies, lunch is on the boss. Every Friday Jim Davidson at Davidson Realty in St. Augustine makes his employees lunch. Every Monday morning, the employees of Benefit Advisors in Ocala find fresh flowers at every work space.  

    One of the most valued perks is flexibility. At Hire Methods in Jacksonville, employees can work their hours when it's convenient for them. With more than 70 percent of America's children being raised by two working parents or a single working parent, "flexibility and freedom is one of the most important things you can give employees who are parents," says David Miller,CEO of Brightway Insurance in Jacksonville.

Congrats to the best companies to work for and keep up the good work! To see the full list, look below:

Best large companies, click here.

Best mid-size companies, click here

Best small companies, click here.  

August 05, 2009

Don't let balance stress you out

     Who isn't stress these days? Very few people I can think of live life stressfree. On that note, today, I welcome guest blogger Sherrie Bourg, an expert in stress and burnout. She is currently working on her fourth book, “The Dangers Lurking Above the Glass Ceiling: Anticipating, Recognizing, and Preventing Collapse Once You're on Top.” Bourg, is a partner in a forensic psychology practice in Fort Lauderdale. Below is her blog post:

   Dr. Sherrie Bourg Carter                             Recently, I’ve been hearing from a lot of women who are struggling with the whole work/life balance thing – and not for the reasons you might think.

    There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a balanced life. If you’re one of those lucky few who can achieve it, then by all means, balance! But most of us aren’t lucky in that way so the question becomes how much additional stress are you placing on yourself to capture this elusive balance everyone seems to be talking about? 

To find out, ask yourself these questions:
1) Do you view work/life balance as something you should accomplish every day, and if you don’t, you’ve failed?
2) Do you fret if your work prevents you from getting to some of the things you wanted to do on your life balance list (i.e., spending time with the family, catching a movie)?


      If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may be making something that is supposed to be stress-reducing (seeking balance) into something that is stress-inducing. So here’s my advice. Look at achieving work/life balance the same as you look at wanting to become a millionaire. Most of us would like to achieve that status, but the reality is that very few of us ever will achieve it. We just work hard every day with the goal of getting as close to it as possible, but we don’t beat ourselves up for not making the million. The same holds true for work/life balance. There’s nothing wrong with having it as a goal, but if you’re not realistic about it, it will only add to your stress.

       Recognize and appreciate your own excellence. And most importantly, remember that although balance is important, don’t feel that you have to squeeze your uniquely shaped peg into what unfortunately seems to be evolving into a one-size-fits-all hole known as work/life balance. Balance is self-defined; it’s what works for you and your family. If you allow it to be anything else, you’re only adding another thing to your “to-do” list. And really, isn’t that list full enough?
(You can find Bourg's blog at high-achievingwomen.com.)

August 04, 2009

Are women better managers? The debate heats up.

    A debate once again is raging over whether women are better managers than men. It was sparked by an interview in The New York Times with Carol Smith, senior vice president and chief brand officer for the Elle Group, a media company. Smith said "Hands down women are better."

    The Business of Management Blog calls Smith's conclusion "dumb and sexist." Blogger John Hollon declares that its much easier to rank male bosses on a good-to-bad scale because they seem to fall into such a ranking fairly easily.

    "That’s not the case with the women I’ve reported to," Hollon writes. "Although I had a great personal and professional connection with every one of them, their strengths and weaknesses always seemed to be very polarized. Or to put it another way, the things my female bosses were good at they were REALLY good at, while they things they weren’t so good at could drive you to despair. Each man or woman I have worked for has been good and bad at lots of different things, and it is silly (and sexist) to make a case for the managerial prowess of one gender over the other."

       Hollon concludes:  You simply can’t make a blanket judgment about the quality of managers by their gender.

      I agree with Hollon. I've had male and female bosses over the years. The worst boss I've ever had was a male and the best boss I've ever had was a male. But one thing I have noticed is that male bosses tend to take the time to mentor others. I'm not sure whether this is because the women have much more on their plates or there are other factors involved. Of course, this is a conclusion based on my limited personal experience.

     What are your thoughts? Do women make better managers? Do men make better mentors?