June 19, 2015

Why paternity leave is the hot topic this Father's Day

Dadson

 


As we head into Father's Day weekend, the topic du jour is paternity leave.

We are hearing about who offers it, who doesn't, who takes it, who doesn't take it and why we should care about it. 

The bottom line is that when fathers take time off when their babies are born, they establish a lifelong bond, according to research. That's not to say fathers who don't take paternity leave don't bond. It's just that when they do take it, a pattern is established that's good for fathers, mothers and babies. It sets the tone from day one that dad will be involved in childcare.

One of the interesting trends we are seeing around paternity leave is even as national efforts are underway to promote more businesses to offer paternity leave, men are admitting they often are afraid to take it even if it's offered. They fear being stigmatized as someone who is less committed to work.

So basically, fathers are fighting two battles. One to get family-friendly policies approved. A second one to be able to use those policies without being penalized.

Both are worth the attention media outlets are giving them. Paternity leave is a family friendly benefit that fathers can claim for themselves. It moves the conversation about balancing work and family from being a "mother's issue" to being a father's issue, too)

This morning, I heard a report on paternity leave on NPR. I've seen articles in Fortune, in USA Today, in TIME.

Even celebrity entrepreneur Richard Branson has hyped the topic by announcing Virgin will give new fathers up to 12 months paid time off (if they qualify). 

 Lifehacker has drawn up a list of companies with the best paternity leave policies

I expect the conversation will continue well after Father's Day has come and gone. I hope it will continue because what's good for fathers is good for families.

Unfortunately, only about 14% of private employers in the US offer paid paternity leave, according to a 2014 survey by the Families and Work Institute. Right now, offering paid paternity leave is useful in the war for talent, but that's assuming fathers covet such a benefit and plan to use it. 

We have a long way to go to make fathers part of the work life conversation, but the discussion has begun and we are moving in the right direction.

Happy Father's Day!

 

June 04, 2015

Why high school graduation is tough on parents

 

                                    Grad

 

The day you become a parent your life changes. Everyone warns you this will happen and it's true. This experience is emotional in a way that feels odd and exciting at the same time.

Eighteen years later, a parent feel as emotional on high school graduation day as we do the day our first child came into our life -- maybe even more emotional. Regardless of how much we know it is coming, graduation day catches us off guard. Tonight, my oldest son, Jake, will walk across the stage and get his high school diploma and while he prepares for the pomp and circumstance with excitement, I face it with a strange, difficult to explain feeling.

I wonder if other parents feel as I do. I think part of it is bewilderment, the feeling that 18 years went by and I can't account for every day of those years. Part of it is fear, the feeling that I am getting older and entering a new phase in my life as my son is entering one in his and I don't know how it will play out. Part of it is excitement, the feeling that there is so much opportunity ahead for him, which I have learned from benefit of hindsight. Of course, part of it is pride, the feeling that I have shaped another human being and guided him to this day of accomplishment.

From having an older daughter, I know this life event is pivotal. Regardless of whether your son or daughter goes to college, high school graduation marks a change in the parent/child relationship. From this day on, you treat your teen differently,  You give him or her a little more independence and engage in conversations on a different level.

As a parent, there are so many adjustments as your children mature into adults and leaves home. It's not easy but you come to accept that you may not know where or how they are much of the time. They are out there living their own lives, and as a parent you can only hope for the best.

As I head into the auditorium tonight, I will look around the room and see the faces of little boys who played dodgeball in my backyard, now young men who shave, and drive, and like my son are leaving home to go make their way in the world.

Somehow, I feel as if watching them graduate will be happening in slow motion. I  honestly can't see the road ahead for any of us. But as strange as that is, it is also freeing. The responsibility for making sure my son's homework is done, he gets to his activities on time and he gets to bed at a decent hour is behind me. Tonight my son graduates, and in many ways, so do I. There's an interesting path ahead for both of us, and tonight we are one step closer to taking it.

May 28, 2015

10 Ways Working Parents Can Prepare For Summer

                                         Summer camp
  

 

 

Many summers, I would scramble to leave the newsroom by 4 p.m. to pick my kids up from summer camp. Still, I would be one of the last parents in the camp pickup line. When my kids complained, I wondered how other parents made their summer schedules work.

For working parents, summer can be one of the most challenging and expensive times of the year. The free and low-cost day camps usually fill up quickly. Most camps end at around 3 or 4 p.m., and aftercare programs charge an additional fee — if they are available at all. This week, I tackled the topic in my Miami Herald column about planning ahead for summer

I also asked Linda McKnight for her thoughts. As a working parent, founder of TheChildCareSquare.com and a former owner of a child care center, Linda has a lot to say on the topic of putting steps in place to ensure a smooth summer while balancing work and family.

Here are her 10 tips for preparing for summer season:  

1.     Start early – Summer camps have limited space and fill up quickly. These days there are a myriad of resources for finding summer camp options. Camp guides are offered by local parenting magazines, the YMCA as well as local county Parks & Rec Depts. Guides are generally available by March and April. Be sure to be on the look out for the printed guides at your local libraries or check websites for online versions. Additionally, a quick google search for “Summer Camp” in your city will produce even more options.

2.     Do your due diligence – When enrolling your child in a summer camp program you want to give the same attention to due diligence that you would when enrolling your child in a school year program. To check on licensing status visit the Florida Dept of Children and Families at www.myflfamilies.com. To further assess the quality of summer programs you are considering, remember to look for reviews on review sites like Yelp, Yahoo Local Listings and even the BBB. For a comprehensive checklist on how to check out a child care program visit http://thechildcaresquare.com/doing_your_research.php

3.     Include your child in the decision – A week or more in a program that your child dislikes can be an eternity for both your child – and you. Make sure to interview your child as to the kinds of things they are interested in participating in this summer and have your child weigh in on picking which programs to sign up with.

4.     Try to enroll with a friend – Even the most gregarious children can experience angst when faced with a new situation and new people. The transition to a new environment can often go off without a hitch when there is a buddy in toe.

5.     Mitigate separation anxiety – Children who experience separation anxiety or are shy can find the short stay in a new environment uncomfortable at best. The best remedy for separation anxiety is information, information, and more information. Keep your child completely in the loop as to where the camp is, what they will be doing while at camp and how long they will be there etc. If possible, pay a pre-first-day visit to the facility so your child can meet the staff ahead of time. Visit the program’s website and Facebook page and any other social media sites to see pictures of some of the activities and the children having fun.

6.     Fees and Discounts - Be sure to inquire about additional fees or even discounts. The base tuition may be what you are quoted when you inquire about a program, but there may also be additional fees for special activities, events or field trips that are planned.

7.     The right clothes can make or break the experience - Be sure your child is dressed appropriately. Summer activities often involve water, mud, sand, watermelon and/or pie eating contests and more, hence, expect messiness. One of my best tips for parents is to visit your local second hand store and buy 6 or 8 outfits that are “camp only” clothes. This relieves everyone from worrying about stained-beyond-salvage situations. And don’t forget about appropriate shoes. Shoes with laces or buckles are out. Sandals can be a tripping hazard. So if sandals are worn they should be in good condition and fit well. And finally, use a Sharpie to label everything with your child’s last name.

8.     Stay up on communication – After you decide on a program, make sure you are signed up on any email list that the program uses to communicate with parents. Also be sure to join any social media they participate in so you can stay abreast of any and all new development that will affect your child’s participation.

9.     Read the fine print – Generally there is plenty of paperwork that goes along with signing your child up for any camp program. Be sure to carefully review program details for items like extra registration or insurance fees, closure days that are out of the ordinary or maybe special fieldtrips that you may want to participate in.

10.  Consider traffic patterns - When evaluating summer camp programs, they will likely be located outside of your normal routes. Summer traffic patterns can be different than when school is in session and can cause extended time on the road.

Summer can be a nice break for working parents -- no homework to supervise or lunches to pack. A little planning can make it even better!

 

 

May 18, 2015

How being a working mother benefits your children

One day my daughter came home from school and told me she looks forward to the day she has a job she loves and can come through her front door telling her family about her great day at work. She said she knows she is going to be doing something that will benefit children and that she is sure it will be rewarding.

That was one of the best single moments of my life.

As a working mother, I have worried (like most moms do) about how my job might take away from my kids. This was particularly true when I worked long hours from the newsroom. In that moment when my daughter said that to me, I realized she had learned passion and drive from seeing me work.

An article yesterday in the New York Times gave new comfort to working mothers. The article notes new evidence is mounting that having a working mother has some economic, educational and social benefits for children of both sexes. "That is not to say that children do not also benefit when their parents spend more time with them — they do. But we make trade-offs in how we spend our time, and research shows that children of working parents also accrue benefits," .

As working mothers, the ways our kids benefit are huge.

This new study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries found daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes. Having a working mother didn’t influence the careers of sons, which researchers said was unsurprising because men were generally expected to work — but sons of working mothers did spend more time on childcare and housework.

Here are some mighty interesting statistics: daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, after controlling for demographic factors, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework.

 

So, we can lose the mommy guilt because kids will be just fine if their mothers work -- and they will even benefit from it.

I found this research especially interesting because it comes on the heels of an article I read last week that found mothers have become our daughters mentors. "A growing number of women managers and professionals today are mentoring their own daughters—sometimes in the same fields—as the young women build careers," wrote Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Few of today’s senior managers had their own mothers as professional role models.

I'm excited about the next generation and I feel great that my kids see mom and dad as role models who contribute to the household and the family income. Instead of feeling guilty for missing school events or feeding our kids fast food some nights and instead of feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of work life balance, let's focus on the advantages to our kids.

Julie Talenfeld, president of BoardroomPR in Plantation, Florida, invests a lot of time in building her public relations/marketing firm and pleasing clients. This often means attending evening events. Talenfeld says she often feels guilty but she also feels like she is a good role model for her daughter, currently a college student. 

For all those successful working mothers like Julie, it's time to pat ourselves on the back. We're inspiring the next generation -- whether or not we realize it.

J&J

(Publicist Julie Talenfeld and her daughter, Jacqueline)

 

May 11, 2015

Working Mothers' Biggest Challenges

One day last week, I was interviewing someone for an article while in the waiting room at my son's orthodontist. My son came out and was trying to get my attention. I was trying to signal that I needed a few more minutes of phone time. He was aggravated. I was aggravated. This is the kind of craziness that working mothers go through trying to achieve work life balance.

As working mothers our work life balance challenges are similar to those of fathers, but yet, so different.

In celebrating mothers this month, TheLadders.com sent me info on a survey they previously conducted to find out how working mothers feel about their work life balance. Want to know how they feel?

Overwhelmed and guilty.

Working mothers walk around with massive guilt --  Guilt that we are not spending enough time with our kids, coupled with guilt that our work may be suffering from not having our undivided attention 24 hours a day.

The Ladders surveyed 250 women and found balancing a career and a family is a huge struggle for 87% of of them, with 55% admitting that “excelling at both is overwhelming.”

On the phone with Nichole Barnes Marshall, I asked her about her work life challenges. Nichole is Global NicholeHead of Diversity and Inclusion for Aon, a job that has her traveling and connecting with thousands of Aon professionals. Nichole is also a married, working mother with three children ages, 4, 7 and 9. 

She told me her big challenge is prioritizing work in way that she can be operating at high performing level and be available to go to her kids activities like the recent school Cinco de Mayo festival.  "I wish I could be there for all the activities."

"The challenge for me is how I can be my best at work and be the best mother," she says. "I try to manage that by focusing on quality, not the quantity."

Nichole, like many other mothers, works to contribute to the household income but also enjoys her work. "I’m getting lot of satisfaction out of what I do, which makes  it (the balancing act) worthwhile. But, that doesn’t take away the twange when I get sad eyes from my kids for leaving for another business trip."

Not only do us working mothers feel challenged by and guilty about work conflicts causing us to miss events in our kids' lives, most of us feel guilty about any detail of our kids' lives that falls through the cracks.

I found myself nodding in agreement with every word of this op-ed piece in the New York Times titled Mom: The Designated Worrier.

Here's the gist of it:

Sociologists sometimes call the management of familial duties “worry work,” and the person who does it the “designated worrier,” because you need large reserves of emotional energy to stay on top of it all. I wish I could say that fathers and mothers worry in equal measure. But they don’t.

While fathers are helping more with household work and child care, women still keep track of the kind of nonroutine details of taking care of children — when they have to go to the doctor, when they need a permission slip for school, what they will eat for dinner."

So, in addition to our job demands there is tons of pressure on mothers to be the right kind of mother who keeps all the details straight and our families organized. That's our big challenge.

No wonder we walk around worried, overwhelmed and feeling guilty!

To all you sleep deprived, overwhelmed working mothers, you are awesome.  Lose the guilt, stop worrying and realize that whether or not you miss an event or forget to sign a permission slip, your children still love you.

 

 

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May 09, 2015

Moms who work on Mother's Day

20150507_073417_resized-1

(Molita Cunningham and three of her children)

 

On Mother's Day, when the most of us mothers are celebrating, some mothers are working.

Molita Cunningham is one of them. She's a 56-year-old home healthcare worker who puts in 12 hour shifts as often as she can get them. Cunningham needs every penny she makes because as a home care worker she earns about $10 an hour( and that's after 30 years into her career). Her shifts are unpredictable so when she has work, she takes it.

Molita's children are less than pleased that she won't be spending Mother's Day with them ( 3 of 6 still live at home).  "They put on a sad face and say 'Mom, you're never home. You're always working' and I tell them it's just me paying the bills and struggling,'' Molita says.

Molita works for an home care agency that contracts with hospice. Sometimes, she gets hired for private clients. She rarely turns down a job. That means she can't always be there for her kids. "There are a lot of things I don’t attend -- my son’s track meet, my daughter's dance recital, things at school. The kids complain that I'm always working. "

Molita actually is one of the workers who are outspoken about raising the wages of home care workers. Despite being one of America’s fastest growing jobs, home care workers are living below the poverty level, getting paid an average of just $13,000 a year. Almost 50 percent of home care workers rely on some form of public assistance in order to make ends meet. Women, who make up 89 percent of workers in the industry, bear the brunt of these low wages. They typically do not receive expenses such gas or benefits such as health insurance. And, their jobs are unpredictable -- some assignments only last a few hours. 

Molita has spoken out at several rallies for higher wages for home care worker who pushing for $15 an hour. "That's still not a lot but at least I could breathe better. I'm a single mother and there are things my kids need. It's hurtful when I can’t provide for them for my children."  A new report from the National Women’s Law Center substantiates the challenges these moms are facing.

On Mother's Day, Molita will spend the day with an elderly woman whose family lives overseas. She will cook for the woman and care for her until late in the evening. Molita says caring for the elderly is  hard work. "You have to bathe them, feed them, dress them, help with oral care....you have to be caring and compassionate to wipe feces off of a stranger. Not everyone can do that."

Molita hasn’t spent Mother’s Day with her kids in years. It’s a feeling that she remembers from her own childhood - her mother was a home care worker and she remembers not being able to spend time with her on Mother’s Day. Molita says some clients will allow her to bring her children with her on holidays or with them if they go to church.

Even with the challenges, Molita says of her work as a home care attendant: “The work I do is demanding, and it keeps me from my family more than I would like, but it’s essential. I love this work and I intend to keep doing it.”

Happy Mother's Day to Molita and to all the mothers who are working at restaurants, in hospitals, as home health workers and any other job that requires they be away from their families on this special day.  For those who do their best to balance work and family, you are all amazing people! 

 

May 07, 2015

Sheryl Sandberg, her husband's death, and her new work life balance

                                         Sheryl:dave

 

What a week it has been for Sheryl Sandberg. The news of her husband's death stunned the world. 

The official report said Dave Goldberg,  chief executive of SurveyMonkey, died from head trauma and blood loss after apparently slipping off a treadmill while vacationing with family and friends in Mexico. He was 47.

Sheryl has handled the hand she was dealt in a way that has moved many of us.

As the author of Lean In, COO of Facebook and someone who has credited her husband and his household contributions, for her ability to find some semblance of work life balance, Sheryl certainly will have some readjustment. Mostly likely, Sheryl has help at home (a nanny/housekeeper). Most high powered women do. But there are things only a parent can do and Sheryl will have to figure it all out. Single moms know that travel, late night work functions and work obligations become much more difficult when there is only one parent in the picture. As a single mother, it becomes more of a challenge to Lean In, even more so when the world is watching how you handle the rebalancing act and when you're dealing with grief.

If you haven't seen Sheryl's post on Facebook, I think all of you will find it inspirational. 

Sheryl writes:

I want to thank all of our friends and family for the outpouring of love over the past few days. It has been extraordinary - and each story you have shared will help keep Dave alive in our hearts and memories.

I met Dave nearly 20 years ago when I first moved to LA. He became my best friend. He showed me the internet for the first time, planned fun outings, took me to temple for the Jewish holidays, introduced me to much cooler music than I had ever heard.

We had 11 truly joyful years of the deepest love, happiest marriage, and truest partnership that I could imagine... He gave me the experience of being deeply understood, truly supported and completely and utterly loved – and I will carry that with me always. Most importantly, he gave me the two most amazing children in the world.

Dave was my rock. When I got upset, he stayed calm. When I was worried, he said it would be ok. When I wasn’t sure what to do, he figured it out. He was completely dedicated to his children in every way – and their strength these past few days is the best sign I could have that Dave is still here with us in spirit.

Dave and I did not get nearly enough time together. But as heartbroken as I am today, I am equally grateful. Even in these last few days of completely unexpected hell – the darkest and saddest moments of my life – I know how lucky I have been. If the day I walked down that aisle with Dave someone had told me that this would happen – that he would be taken from us all in just 11 years – I would still have walked down that aisle. Because 11 years of being Dave Goldberg’s wife, and 10 years of being a parent with him is perhaps more luck and more happiness than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful for every minute we had.

As we put the love of my life to rest today, we buried only his body. His spirit, his soul, his amazing ability to give is still with us. It lives on in the stories people are sharing of how he touched their lives, in the love that is visible in the eyes of our family and friends, in the spirit and resilience of our children. Things will never be the same – but the world is better for the years my beloved husband lived.

 

What advice do you have for Sheryl now that she's a single mother? Do you think her adjustment is easier because she has no money concerns or is it more difficult because she lives such a public life and will have her every move scrutinized?

 

 

March 27, 2015

Working parents: your boss may be judging you

Image
(Katharine Zaleski)

If people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their boss. How do you become a boss that workers refuse to leave?


The answer looks obvious from recent online discussion: Refrain from judging employees with an outside life.


In an apology letter to working mothers that set off a firestorm of online buzz, the president of an Internet startup gave a harsh account of how workers with family responsibilities are unfairly judged by their bosses.


As a manager at The Huffington Post and then The Washington Post in her mid-20s, Katharine Zaleski admits that she judged other mothers or said nothing while she saw others do the same.


“I secretly rolled my eyes at a mother who couldn’t make it to last-minute drinks with me and my team,” she wrote in a letter that appeared in Fortune. “I questioned her ‘commitment’ even though she arrived two hours earlier to work than me and my hungover colleagues the next day. I didn’t disagree when another female editor said we should hurry up and fire another woman before she ‘got pregnant.’


In a move that goes on in many workplaces, Zaleski said she scheduled last-minute meetings at 4:30 p.m. all of the time. “It didn’t dawn on me that parents might need to pick up their kids at daycare,” she said.

Zaleski said she didn’t realize how horrible she had been until she gave birth to her own daughter. She now runs PowerToFly, a company that matches women who want to work from home with jobs in the tech field.

We all know that Zaleski isn't the only boss who has harshly judged a working mother -- or father. It can be easy to dismiss a working parent as uncommitted, a worker with elder care responsibilities as distracted, or a younger employee who wants to train for a marathon as lacking work ethic. It can be easy to call super early morning or schedule evening dinners with clients that can happen during the regular workday.

But you don’t need to be in a person’s shoes to be a boss who creates a workplace where employees thrive. A good boss thinks about the bigger picture and realizes people have lives outside of work -- and that allowing them to do both well makes them more committed to their jobs!

I find myself offering encouragement almost weekly to a working mother or father who feels judged by a boss for asking for flex time or wanting to leave by 5 to make it to their son’s soccer game. Their most common complaint: my boss will penalize me.

A report from Bright Horizons Family Solutions, an employer benefit child-care and early education company, reveals many employees - male and female - feel they can’t be open with their boss about family obligations. As more fathers want to be equal partners in parenting, they still feel they can’t express that to their boss, especially non-parents. Bright Horizons found about a third of working dads have faked sick to be more involved with their family, and one in four have lied to meet a family obligation, according to the report.


That could change.

As millennials become managers, many do think differently about work/life needs. They want to be more involved in thier children's lives and may make it easier for thier staffers to balance work and family without being judged.

If you feel like your boss or co- worker is judging you for having a life outside of work, it might be time to speak up. Communicate your accomplishments and the ways you show your commitment to your job. It's unfortunate to think that some managers don't see the value that working parents bring to a workplace.

Have you felt judged by a manager for having personal responsibilities or interests outside of work? How did you handle it?


November 24, 2014

Should I let my son come along on date night?

As my kids get older, I feel more grateful when they want to spend time with me. With one in college and the other leaving next year, I'm clinging to my 13-year-old because I know the time he wants to spend with me is dwindling. 

So, this weekend, instead of date night on Saturday evening, my husband and I took our son out with us. By coincidence (or not) he sat right between us at the movies and then between us at the counter at a sushi restaurant. The seat choice was his both times.

My husband and I looked at each other, smiled, and decided to say nothing to him about it.

We probably wouldn't have responded that way with our two older children. Until now, we have guarded our alone time. In our struggle for work life balance, date night is an important ritual in protecting our relationship. Now, all of a sudden, we find ourselves torn on sticking to this ritual. We realize we have lots of together time ahead and less time to spend with our son, especially while he still wants to hang out with us. 

With our son munching on popcorn in between us, we find ourselves coveting him and yet already seeing the inevitability unfold. Tomorrow my daughter will return home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday. While balancing work and family is easier now, I never imagined when she was first born the sense of loss that I would feel each time she returns to school. 

As your children grow up, you realize that the time will come sooner than imagined when you are compelled to release all that you have held fast to for so many years. And with the benefit of hindsight, you understand your world continues to shift.

Holding fast to date night every week, once a critical component of my work life balance, seems less neccessary. Suddenly, my husband and I see no harm in letting our youngest sit between us or venturing out with him in tow because now we can see our future table for two much more clearly than we ever thought possible.

Do you agree with our parenting decision to let our son come out with us on date night? Have you changed any of your parenting rules with your youngest child?

 

August 27, 2014

Work Life Balance When Your Child Leaves For College

I just have experienced work life balance in a whole new way. I took my daughter to college hundreds of miles away from home.

The reality of this life event is something for which a parent never can fully prepare. It is bittersweet realization: I have one less child to cook for, one less lunch to pack for school and one less schedule of activities to coordinate.

As I kissed my daughter goodbye, I reminisced about the night I got stuck working really late at the office and cried because my babysitter had put her to bed before I had returned home. I felt guilty and crushed that I had missed an entire day of my infant’s young life. If only I knew then that work life balance was less about one day and more about the next 18 years.

The truth is I enjoy the chaos that has ruled my life as I have juggled writing deadlines with chauffeuring her to soccer practice, sleepovers and movies with friends. It was through that chaos that I built a bond with her that will only strengthen as it evolves.

Now, I face a new reality: My daughter becoming independent doesn’t just mean that I suddenly have more free time. It means that my entire home life has shifted in ways I had not anticipated. Walking past her quiet bedroom, the change is a tough adjustment. But watching her explore her passions in life is going to be exciting.

With two children still at home, I am savoring the daily chores that I used to consider annoyances. I am packing lunches with a new appreciation and giving homework help with more enthusiasm. Suddenly, I see a future where my balancing act gets easier and my mom duties less needed. I’m not sure I will ever be prepared for that life transition. For now, I’m trying my best to shake off the feeling that my chest is a bit heavier and my house a bit emptier.