March 19, 2014

Do singles get taken advantage of in the workplace?

Are you the one who is asked to stay late? If so, are you the one without kids?

Singles in the workplace say they are the ones who bear the brunt of the workload. They are the ones who are considered most dependable and therefore asked to do more. It was eye opening for me to hear their point of view as I reported the article below for The Miami Herald.

Do  you feel the tension in your workplace between parents and non parents?

 

 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

 

Jennifer Verdeja, a massage therapist at a South Florida spa, talks excitedly about her job, until the conversation turns to the unfairness of her work schedule. “Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I should get the Saturday night shift every week.”

As businesses make more effort to accommodate working parents, the resentment from non-parents is mounting. Early results of a new study of 25,000 workers shows two-thirds of non-parents feel they carry an undue burden at the office and are expected to work longer hours than those with children.

The tension between non-parents and parents on job sites has been especially true in the private sector, according to Project 28-40, the largest ever British study of women in the workplace set to be released on April 2 by Opportunity Now, a UK workplace gender diversity campaign.

Sometimes the tension is subtle, exhibited in squabbles over who comes in on the weekend or gets holidays off. In other instances, clashes are overt, resulting in claims of discrimination that explode into lawsuits or force new policies.

Employers often unwittingly feed the conflict. While more than 70 percent of mothers are in the workplace, companies may forget that 42 million working households have no children under 18, according to 2012 U.S. Census data.

“The real problem is the structure of the organization,” says Donna Flagg, the author of Surviving Dreaded Conversations and founder of The Krysalis Group, a management consulting firm. She says managers often are terrified of someone throwing a discrimination claim at them and tend to tread carefully around pregnant workers or new parents. In doing so, they unwittingly create a double standard.

“There has to be an objective measure in place that applies rules equitably to everyone,” says Flagg. “Only a handful of companies have achieved it and most are a long way off.”

Sandra Rodriguez, a Miami market research professional, says she is often baffled by the accommodations working parents receive. “It’s as if they have a valid excuse for coming in late, leaving early and taking sick days.” A non- parent would be reprimanded for similar behavior, she says.

She also resents that the parents in her workplace receive more flexibility, and that she is expected to work more hours than coworkers who are married with kids.

“My personal time is less respected,” Rodriguez says. If there’s work to be completed after normal business hours, Rodriguez gets asked to stay late. “It’s like I don’t have anything important to do, so it doesn’t matter if they ask more of me.”

Alisha Forbes, a manager at a multinational firm who has no children, says she experiences similar expectations — and she resents it. “If we [non-parents] cannot stay late, contrary to the attitude that parents receive, there is pressure to come up with a valid reason to justify our unavailability.”

A 2008 British study showed that single women, in particular, were bearing the brunt of the new 'long hours' culture, with 40 per cent regularly putting in unpaid overtime — markedly more than single men of the same age (26 percent) and working mothers (17 percent.) Today, single women still argue that while the challenges faced by working mothers are being acknowledged, the extra burden being placed on childless women goes unnoticed.

Men without children have complaints, too. The notion that a “work-life balance” should apply only to working parents infuriates Stan D’alo, a South Florida customer service technician. D’alo found that when he wanted time off to participate in tae kwan do tournaments, his manager gave him a hard time. “They allow others flexibility because I’m dependable. I’m expected to make more sacrifices,” he says.

D’alo also resents that his parent colleagues try to use kids as leverage when asking for raises. “I have had people who work at lower positions whine that they should make more money than me because I have no children.”

Flagg said organizations still haven’t figured out how to allocate time off, dole out promotions and set rules around flexibility in a way that is fair for all. However, employers have come to realize that by making the lives of working parents manageable, these workers contribute more to the organization.

“There are responsibilities that having children requires and a reality to demands they place on you” she says. “But there’s a tension that is intensifying in workplaces. If it festers and is not addressed, it will gain energy and create a lot of ill feelings.”

Conversely, parents hold resentment too, the report shows. Only a third of the women (34%) believe that the opportunities to advance are equal between women who have children and those who do not.

Working mothers like Janna Montgomery, who has a special needs child and has used the Family Medical Leave Act, says single mothers are the ones that suffer most and, she believes, are automatically viewed as less committed.

In some ways, it’s a gender issue, she says. When a man has children, he gets promoted but a women has to work harder to just keep her job, she says.

Working parents also hold the widespread view that if they work flexibly, they will progress slower than their peers, regardless of contribution.

Leslie Smith, a partner in the Miami LAW office of Foley & Lardner, said firms like hers have begun focusing on making this a non issue. “Everyone has a perspective formed by specific instances or circumstances,” she said. “At law firms, attrition is a big issue.”

The goal has to be not only to keep lawyers, but to encourage them to work with each other. “We need collaboration and that means the working environment has to be attractive for all.”


 

 

 

November 18, 2013

Finding clarity during times of work life imbalance: A mommy lawyer's experience

How many of you have taken business phone calls when you're with your kids and had to figure out a way to mute background noise and come off as professional?

I have my hand raised. One day, Attorney Jennifer Westerlund and I were talking about the lengths working mothers go through to balance work and family and the crazy places where we have taken work calls while with our kids.  Jennifer has some pretty funny stories to tell. Recently, I received an email from Jennifer updating me on her career and her efforts to balance work and family.  The "balancing act" isn't easy and we all make compromises but I felt like all of you could relate so I asked Jennifer if I could share her email on my blog.

This weekend, I spoke on a panel to female college students at University of Miami. We talked a lot about compromises and opportunities for women. I wonder, especially after reading Jennifer's experience, if bigger firms and corporations realize that they need to help the talented women flooding into their businesses create balance. Will these organizations continue to let their dealmakers walk out the door? Do you feel the future for women is an entrepreneurs rather than leaders in the corporate environment? I'd love to hear your thoughts after reading Jennifer's balancing act.

 

Jennifer-Westerlund-328551-220

South Florida attorney Jennifer Westerlund

 

Cindy:

 

Hope all is well with you.  It has been a long time since I saw you last.  I just closed a large deal on Monday and I am reflecting on the craziness of the past couple of months and remembered the time I told you about doing deals from my closet floor…  No closet floor on this deal, (I was actually in my office) but mostly in NY, but the juggling act continues.

 

I am not sure if you know but I left my large, international law firm last February for private practice, to achieve better "balance" in my life (mainly to achieve some personal business goals that have been eluding me that I would not be able to achieve if I were working for a firm).  I continue to serve all of my clients, which is gratifying.  It is also extremely challenging, particularly as a corporate/M&A lawyer which is rare given the need for other disciplines. 

The deal I just closed was for my largest client (a billion dollar public company) which I have been representing for years.  The deal was a $325M acquisition of an industrial business from one of the largest companies in the world.  I did work with a couple of former colleagues from my prior law firm on some special issues not within my competency, but it was amazing that a sole female practitioner with an office outside of a major financial center had a front and center seat at the table next to basically 15 other men from the largest Wall Street firms in NY working day and night to close this deal.

It was like entering and exiting the twilight zone flying out to my former home of New York City and sitting at a table of high power executives from top flight firms and companies and working all night on seriously complex issues in tense negotiations, and then flying back to the chaos that is a suburban family with four kids under the age of 10 handling what I consider to be equally challenging and patience-testing issues like finding soccer cleats, sibling rivalry, homework etc. 

Actually, I am not sure which was more trying, but I do know that flying in and out for several days at a time really gave me perspective in seeing the two worlds independently of each other, as opposed to the norm which most of us professional women live with one foot in each simultaneously, where everything is jumbled.  I'm not sure if you have spoken to other women professionals who have had the same experience of achieving some sense of clarity during times of the ultimate imbalance (where you are either "on" or "off" with work/family due to traveling)?

There won't be another "Dealmaker" award for this transaction without a big firm's PR behind me, but I feel like I defied the odds a bit for women professionals who feel like they may have their feet stuck in the muddy waters of professional ambitions and undying dedication to family, afraid to leave the umbrella of a big organization and take a chance.  We can do it! 

 

Regards,

Jennifer Westerlund

jw@westerlundlaw.com



November 11, 2013

Female veterans struggle for work life balance

Female veterans face a different journey than men when it comes to healing the wounds of war. For those who are mothers, it takes a lot of readjustment back to home life. Imagine, for months or years you just worry about work and staying alive and then you return to home life where kids aren't used to your presence and you're not used to having to balance competing demands. 

I found this Parade Magazine story fascinating and wanted to share it with all of you. Happy Veteren's Day!

 

Women-vets-battle-all-their-own-ftr
Stacy Keyte, with son Caleb, now 9, returned home from Iraq in 2006.(Richard Foulser for Parade)

 

Women Vets: A Battle All Their Own

 (Parade Magazine)

 

While female service members confront the same problems as male veterans, they also face distinct struggles as women. Meet two brave women on their emotional journey from the front lines back home.

 

When Stacy Keyte was deployed to Iraq in 2005, her life as a young wife and mother had just begun to take shape. She had a 15-month-old son, Caleb, a happy boy who loved dancing around the living room with his mom; and Keyte and her husband, Charles, both members of the Texas Army National Guard, had started looking for a new home. But the day after closing on a house in Waxahachie, Tex., Charles was called up, too, to train other guardsmen to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Putting their family life on hold, the young parents entrusted Caleb to his father's best friend's mother as they went off separately to serve their country.

 

Keyte belonged to a military that was in the process of dismantling the barriers faced by women. Today 357,000 serve in the nation's armed forces, making up 16 percent of its strength. Over the past decade, more than 280,000 women have been deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We simply could not have accomplished the mission without them," says Pentagon spokesman Nathan Christensen.  

 

Stationed near Tikrit, Keyte handed out mail, organized awards ceremonies, and prepared hometown news releases. It wasn't technically combat, but that didn't keep her safe. Within a few hours of her arrival, Keyte was walking from the bathroom to her living quarters when incoming artillery shook the ground around her. The attack was followed by two weeks of sustained rocket assaults on the base, with few places to take shelter. "I always felt like a sitting duck," she says. "You just didn't know where it would land if it came in."

 

For any young soldier, these attacks would have been stressful. What complicated Keyte's experience was that she didn't always feel respected by the men around her. "We were definitely considered the weaker gender and they had no problems with saying that," says Keyte, now 32. "There was one noncommissioned officer who would not hesitate to tell me, 'You should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.'

 

When she returned from Iraq, Keyte realized how much had changed in 16 months. "I came home to boxes and an almost-3-year-old I didn't know anymore," she says. Caleb didn't understand his mother's disappearance and developed self-destructive tantrums and other behavioral problems. One night they went out for dinner and the host asked if Caleb needed a high chair or a booster seat. Keyte, who had missed many of his early milestones, didn't know. "I felt so guilty," she says. "You have so many expectations as a first-time mom, and sometimes life gets in the way."

 

Keyte also suffered from the inevitable psychic wounds of battle. "I didn't want to answer the phone," she says. "I didn't want to talk, because that took a lot of emotions." When a friend tried to hug her, she had such a strong startle response that she slapped away the woman's arm. "I was trying to make myself a hermit and stay inside my little shell," she says.

 

There's no foolproof formula for a successful homecoming from the battlefield. For Keyte, healing came from assisting other vets. In 2011 she became an outreach coordinator for Grace After Fire, a Texas-based nonprofit that runs peer support groups for women veterans and helps them find the resources they need. "There's nothing more rewarding than to watch these women come out of their shells," she says.

 

 Read more

 

September 10, 2013

Work life balance, time management and sex

Penelope Trunk, one of my favorite bloggers, often writes about what I'm thinking and might be too embarassed to say aloud.

Yesterday, Penelope hit on the topic of time management and sex. In her first marriage, she admits, she barely had sex, which is a mistake she vows not to have in her second marriage. So, she keeps tabs. But the problem she encounters is one that many women face. Our nights have become as busy as our days, particularly when we have children. 

For working moms who rush home from work to spend time with their families, the evening is the only time that we can finish things up. We talk to our kids, look over homework, put them to bed and then -- we retreat to our home offices or our laptops to get to whatever we didn't get to earlier. I do this ALL the time.

But for me and many other women, the evening also ia the only time my husband and I can spend time together.

Trunk writes that for her and her hubby, "It’s the time we talk about schedules, we watch TV shows on Netflix, and sometimes, if everything goes well, we have sex."

Now, this is where the problem lies. How many of you have had an argument with your husband about being on your computer at night and not paying him attention (and this includes sex)? Is your hand raised because mine is way up high!

Because of the ease in which we can log back into work from home, it's tempting to let our work creep into our evenings.

Penelope says calls sex "the hardest time mangement decision of my day." She writes: "sex and work and kids don’t go well together because the only time that’s left over for sex is the time when you are done taking care of kids and have to make up the lost work time. There’s a reason that you have a lull in your email during dinnertime and then it picks up after kids go to bed: it’s all the parents of the workforce fitting in family time. And not sex."

Not long ago, I was chatting with a woman who consults mom entrepreneurs. She told me she worries about the health of marriages because so many women are up at night clacking on their key boards -- and not having sex or even having a simple conversation with their spouse. ( Men, of course, do this too)

Maybe we all need to heed Penelope's warning, keep tabs, and think more consciously about time management and sex. Maybe we need to make time for our spouses because if we don't, sex often becomes the first to go, and marriage is soon to follow.

Thanks Penelope for the reminder!

August 21, 2013

There is help for working moms (and dads)

The start of the school year is hectic in my home. Judging by the conversations in the school supply aisle of Target this week, I'm not alone. But I know lots of working moms (and dads) who are making their work life balance easier this year by outsourcing responsiblities.

Today, in my Miami Herald column, I wrote about this trend. I'm convinced, there will be even more services catering to working parents in the next few years.

 

There’s help for busy moms who can’t do it all

 
 
Customers Zora Guzman and Mateo use the Moms Helping Moms shuttle.
Customers Zora Guzman and Mateo use the Moms Helping Moms shuttle. 

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

BALANCEGAL@GMAIL.COM

Just after breakfast, a van pulls up at the Lopez home in Coral Springs. Thirteen-year-old Emily gets in and heads off to middle school, saving mom, Diana, from delaying her 1 ½-hour commute to her job in Miami. The same shuttle picks Emily up after school and takes her to ballet class. Some afternoons, it picks up her older sister at home and takes her to be tutored in math or takes her home from school if she stays late for a club meeting.

Lopez, an international private banker whose husband works in Miami too, says hiring a transportation service has been the only way she can keep a regular work schedule, be home for dinner and have her children participate in after-school activities. “I believe in the theory that it takes a village to raise a child,” Lopez says. “But these days, we’re hiring the village.”

Working parents today are paying others to do things for our children that our parents did themselves — drive our kids to school, help them with homework, cook for our families and take them to baseball practice. The services are needed because things have changed dramatically for working mothers in the last few decades. For starters, there are simply many more moms in the labor force. The participation rate has skyrocketed to more than 70 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Family economics have change dramatically, too. As the number of women in the workforce swelled, so, too, did their contribution to family income. A record 40 percent of all households with children include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The share was just 11 percent in 1960. With mothers contributing more, managing a household becomes a simple equation of trading money for time.

It can be an expensive exchange — financially and emotionally — and not everyone can afford it.

“It’s a struggle working moms go through,” Lopez says. “We ask ourselves, ‘Am I passing off something I should be doing myself?’ But then, we have to be realistic.”

Moms Helping Moms, the northwest Broward County shuttle service used by the Lopez family, gets $60 to $80 per child per week for roundtrip carpooling within five miles — more for greater distances. Founder Sharron Gay says she launched her business three years ago. As a mom who commuted an hour to work, she saw the need. “Life is too short to feel guilty or overwhelmed. We’re here to make your life easier,” the website boasts.

Gay’s five vans, driven only by moms, shuttle kids to school, activities, orthodontist appointments and sports practices. They even pick up sick children from school and bring them home. Gay says she offers the service moms want — assuring them that the bus won’t leave until the child enters the home safely. “We do things the way moms would,” she says. Gay says her service is profitable and she has plans to add more vans and new geographic areas by 2014.

Others see opportunity, too. Fueled by demand from working parents, a burgeoning cottage industry handling chores for working parents is flourishing. There are reading specialists who get $40 to $50 an hour to assist students individually at their homes on reading and writing. There are businesses that will bring dinner to hungry kids waiting for mom and dad to get home from work.

Ryan Sturgis, a partner in Delivery Dudes, says his business picks up meals from local restaurants and delivers them to Broward County homes. It has seven geographic locations (plans to add more) and charges a $5 delivery fee.

“We get a lot of moms who call on their way home from work. We tell them we can be there with dinner within 45 minutes.”

Some parents turn their world upside down to manage responsibilities before finally accepting that they can’t do it all. Eventually, they discover outsourcing a necessary expense to keep their jobs, reduce stress or get ahead in the workplace.

Miami mother Gabrielle D’Alemberte, makes a priority of the things she feels a mother should do, such as attending school functions and tucking her daughter into bed. But the single mom says she couldn’t continue to work as a trial attorney if she didn’t outsource some tasks at work and home. She has hired someone to pick her daughter up from the bus stop and take her to ballet lessons. In the past, she has hired a company to deliver meals to her home and she’s employed someone to go over her daughter’s homework and review for tests.

D’Alemberte specializes in litigation against large international resorts and often travels for work.

“I could not have had the job and profession I’ve chosen without the help I have gotten in bringing up my wonderful 13 year old,” she says. “Knowing I can’t do it all makes it easier to hire people to help.”

In a twist on outsourcing, working parents also are automating. Whitney Zimet, who ran a community coupon site for five years, hired math and Spanish tutors for her two kids. She even searched for a service to pack healthy lunch box meals. But Zimet turns to technology for relief from some tasks — using Amazon to get home delivery of required reading materials, ongoing school supplies and birthday gifts. She uses auto-delivery for kids’ vitamins and household products. .

It used to be a real point of pride for women who stayed home to take care of every aspect of their families’ lives, she says. Now women are in the workforce, used to thinking practically and doling out tasks to solve problems, and scrutinizing the value of an expense, she says. “Most of us are aware of what needs Mom’s attention, but we’re also looking at what can make our life easier."

 

August 14, 2013

Working parents get back-to-school jitters, too

As Monday approaches, the first day of school, my stomach has butterflies. I'm nervous for the new routine, new class schedules, new teachers. Most of my friends are nervous too. I tried to capture the anxiety and solutions in my column today.

Let me know if you can relate!

 

Back to school stress hits parents, too

 
 
 
Chef Kareem Anguin is the executive chef at Oceanaire and a single father who is getting his daughter, Andrea, ready to start kindergarten.  The pair are photographed outside of Oceanaire  on Monday, August 12, 2013 and he plans to shift his work schedule this school year to be there to supervise his daughter's homework and walk her into school in the mornings.
Chef Kareem Anguin is the executive chef at Oceanaire and a single father who is getting his daughter, Andrea, ready to start kindergarten. The pair are photographed outside of Oceanaire on Monday, August 12, 2013 and he plans to shift his work schedule this school year to be there to supervise his daughter's homework and walk her into school in the mornings. 
CARL JUSTE / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

BY CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

BALANCEGAL@GMAIL.COM

A friend and I were poolside, our sons swimming and splashing. We should have been relaxed but instead, my friend, an elementary school teacher told me she felt anxious with the school year quickly approaching. This year, her son will go to middle school — a different building, a different schedule — and a big change in their routine.

As parents, we experience back-to-school anxiety, too. We want the school year to go smoothly. We want our kids’ school schedules to blend well with our work schedules and for our kids to thrive. As we scurry around setting up carpools, buying school supplies and stocking up on lunch-box snacks, we worry about what’s to come.

For some working parents, angst stems from new routines. It may be the first time our child will walk home alone from the bus stop or attend an aftercare program. “Routines are changing and there are a lot of decisions and that can be stressful,” says Maggie Macaulay, a parent educator and coach with Whole Hearted Parenting in Miramar.

WPLG news anchor Laurie Jennings says she’s feeling the jitters because she moved over the summer and her twin 7-year-old sons will go to a new school with a new earlier start and end time. While she now lives closer to work, she still will have to give up sleep if she wants to bring her boys to school in the mornings. And, she will have to take a vacation day if she ever wants to pick them up. She plans to rely on dad much more this year because his office is only five minutes from the boys’ school. Homework makes Jennings a little jittery, too. This school year, because of her shorter commute, she’s going to try to pop in at home a few nights a week for dinner and to supervise homework. “There’s nothing worse than coming home from work at 1 in morning and finding mistakes. It breaks your heart.”

For others parents, the jitters come from pressure to be involved in their child’s school and staying on top of assignments. They worry if they’re not involved enough, it will come at the expense of their child. But if they’re too involved it could come at the detriment of their career.

Vivian Conterio says she’s experiencing this nervousness as the start of school approaches. Her daughter, Gianna, will attend a new elementary school when the bell rings Monday morning, after moving from South Miami to Homestead over the summer. Conterio, who sat on the board of the PTA at her daughter’s previous school, wants to feel involved, but she doesn’t have as much free time this year because her work schedule as a marketing consultant has become more demanding. “The school is totally brand new to her and me. She’s nervous and I’m nervous, too. We both want to make friends and figure out ways to get involved.”

Macaulay says parents often get anxiety and guilt about volunteering. A lot of times they have an image of what an involved parent looks like and it’s not realistic, she says. “It sets them up to feel guilty.” She recommends each parent step back and consider how, where and when they are able to be involved in their children’s school in a way that’s doable.

As the first day approaches, some parents worry about balancing school routines and work schedules. Kareem Anguin, a single father and executive chef at The Oceanaire Seafood Room in Mary Brickell Village says he hired more help in the restaurant’s kitchen to allow him to be home earlier this school year. Anguin’s daughter, Andrea, will start kindergarten. They’re both excited about it. He plans to walk her into school in the morning and start his work day earlier to be able to arrive home by 7 p.m. to go over homework and put her to bed. “We’re going to try for perfect attendance,” he says. Anguin also plans to take a day off midweek to take his daughter to soccer practice and maybe ballet. “Those are two things she wants to do this year, so I’m going to sign her up for that. I want to keep her active so she’s busy, out of trouble and just as tired as me.”

For working parents like Katie Gilden, an accountant and Davie mother of a 7-, 5- and 3-year-old, it’s not just the balancing work and school schedules that cause her to feel anxious, afterschool activities weigh into the equation, too. “I try not to over schedule. Two activities each at the most, that’s my limit.” Gilden says getting the kids to school by 8 a.m., making sure they get their homework done and then getting them to activities can overwhelm working parents. She’s already begun preparing her boss, setting the groundwork to leave work earlier, run her kids to activities, and resume work from home later at night. “My office is paperless so I can work from home at night while the kids are doing homework next to me.”

Work life expert Cali Williams Yost recommends sitting down with your manager now, before school starts, and proposing a shift in schedule, rather than disappointing your kids or your boss. “Don’t focus on why you are proposing a change, emphasize how you will get your job done. That’s really all your manager cares about in the end.” If there’s initial hesitation, she suggests you offer to pilot the new schedule for one month. “Chances are it will be fine and continue.”

Parents whose kids are moving on to middle or high school this year may need to manage new schedules by giving them more independence — and that often brings high anxiety. Some parents plan to temper those jitters by relying on technology to stay connected — having their teen text when they are on the bus, arrive at school or get settled at home. They may even video chat after school. “Neither option takes much time, but these small ‘tweaks’ help parents know their child is OK so they can get back to work and focus,” Yost says.

Macaulay says one of the most effective ways parents can keep jitters in check is to tap into their village of helpers — arrange for carpools, organize so kids walk home with friends, or agree to stand at the bus stop with kids in the morning and have another parent do it in the afternoon. “A lot of back-to-school stress can be alleviated if parents can have each other’s back and support each other,” she says.

 

June 19, 2013

The new reality: Male caregivers for aging parents

As the nation celebrated Father's Day, I wanted to write a twist on the articles we read all the time about more men taking bigger roles in the lives of their children. Yes, men are struggling with work life balance and work and family conflict. However, I saw a trend in men taking care of their aging parents. Although I focused my column today on men taking their dads, plenty of men are caregivers for their mom, too. Expect to see more men needing accommodations at work to pull off this balancing act. 

 

 

Flexible work schedules help men who care for parents

John Shoendorf, a CPA, takes a walk with his dad, Harold, along the dock behind Harold's apartment in Coral Gables on June 10, 2013. PATRICK FARRELL / MIAMI HERALD STAFF

By Cindy Krischer Goodman

Juan Erman Gonzalez was showing his clothing patterns to a customer when his cellphone buzzed. It was his mother telling him that his father had another fender bender. Gonzalez excused himself to his agitated client and zipped off to persuade dad to give up driving.

That was three years ago.

Today, Gonzalez ‘s dad, 85, resides in an assisted-living facility. The younger Gonzalez and his brother, Guillermo, deliver him special meals, spends a few hours by his side and mows the lawn of the home Dad refuses to sell. Just when he thinks the care arrangements are working smoothly, something will change and require his attention.

Gonzalez says he’s lucky; as a freelance clothing pattern designer, he’s usually able to fit work around his caregiving schedule. “Sometimes I am able to work a complete week, sometimes not.”

Gonzalez is among an increasing number of men caring for aging parents — especially fathers — and experiencing the work/life conflicts this new dynamic brings. While men are less likely to help Dad in the shower or to get dressed, they are stepping in to hire and fire doctors, drive Pop to the grocery store and manage finances. “They are doing things they never expected to do for their dads,” says Gary Barg, CEO and editor in chief of Caregiver Media Group.

Because more male caregivers work full time, many report that overseeing Dad’s care has required they modify their work schedules, leave early, take time off or turn down overtime. According to a study published in 2009 by the National Alliance for Caregiving in collaboration with the AARP, one out of three caregivers — about 14.5 million — are men. “I think it’s clear that the demands on men as well as women are going to increase in terms of family care,” Barg said.

John Schoendorf, a Miami forensic accountant and only child whose mother died at 40, has been transitioning into the caregiver role for the past two years, and has become closer with his dad. “My father has comfortably brought me into the loop of his financial and medical world.”

Still, Shoendorf has had to change his late-night working habits and rearrange his work hours to go with his 86-year-old father, Harold, on doctors’ appointments. “I have had to remember family is more important than work. That’s harder to do sometimes than others.”

While male caregivers like Schoendorf deal with the same issues as their female counterparts, they also face distinctive challenges. They are more likely to use paid assistance for their loved ones’ personal care. They tend to travel farther or spend more time organizing care from a distance, and they are more hesitant to let a boss or co-worker know about their role as a caregiver, according to the AARP. In fact, men feel challenged by the perception that their need for time off or flexibility to care for Dad will be seen as a lack of commitment to their job.

“We try to get male caregivers to understand they have taken on a new job role,” Barg says. “They have become CEO of Caring for my Loved One Inc. and that takes a time commitment.”

Sons often find their new role is an emotional and logistical roller coaster. Carlos Ramirez, a Miami healthcare consultant, has been caring for his 80-year-old father since his sister recently died from breast cancer. His father, who suffers from diabetes, now relies on Ramirez to make medical decisions that recently included the amputation of a toe. “On a typical week, I’ll make him appointments, go with him on appointments and follow up with doctors.”

Ramirez often needs to exercise the flexibility his career as a consultant provides. “Some specialists only see patients certain days of the week or do procedures certain days.” He finds himself in an ongoing tussle over how much of his father’s care he can personally take on.

Experts say getting ahead of an aging father’s needs makes the balancing act easier — but often doesn’t happen. Men are more likely to ignore the mental or physical decline and believe a father who says he’s fine — until it reaches a crisis, says Amy Seigel, director of Advocare Care Management in South Florida. “When a father says he’s fine, a son goes back to his childhood and he is still that guy’s son.”

Seigel, who runs a geriatric care management company, often gets the call from a concerned son miles away from Dad when a situation spirals out of control. “They are panicked because they are at work and having trouble managing the medical and emotion needs of a parent who lives in another city or state.”

Recently, she heard from a New York surgeon who called in between operations. He had called to check on his dad in a hospital in South Florida but was disconnected several times. “I can’t keep leaving my job and getting on a plane because Dad fell in Florida,” he exasperatedly told Seigel.

Such struggles are what led Seigel to launch her South Florida business. “We become the eyes and ears for these adult children who need help with overseeing the medical, physical and mental health needs of a parent.”

Whether from a distance or nearby, Seigel says managing the care of an aging parent is an emotional period for adult children when roles change. “It’s a chance to mend any differences and build a bond. It can be a nice, rewarding experience.”

Gonzalez and his father have had a strained relationship for many years. But now, as he spends time with Dad and shares caretaking with his brother, he sees himself as a role model for his children, 26 and 19. “It’s important for me to show my children there’s respect for the elderly. Even though I have worked out a system of professional care, it doesn’t mean I drop my father off and abandon him. I’m showing my kids that you be there for family.”

Even with busy work schedules, caregivers can be there for a parent by calling at the same time every day, says Steven Huberman, dean of the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work. Huberman also advises reluctant male caregivers to use personal days, ask for flexibility and inquire about elder care benefits, particular if they become aware of their father’s deteriorating condition. “It may seem like a burden, but I recommend they savor the moment.”



 

June 13, 2013

Working fathers deserve some attention

I love this time of year. My inbox is flooded with emails about surveys, research and gift ideas for fathers. I think my favorite part of the inundation is knowing that at least once a year, working fathers issues are getting attention.

For example, one email I received addressed offered me the opportunity to interview Paternity Leave pioneer, Dr. Jerry Cammarata, Dean of Student Affairs at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harlem, who filed and won the first-ever Paternity Leave lawsuit against the NYC Board of Education in 1983.  Cammarata believes the Family Medical Leave Act must immediately be amended to allow every father in all 50 states to be  encouraged to take advantage of paternity leave. 

Another email wants to make me aware of new research on fathers. A University of Missouri researcher has found that fathers and mothers are happier when they share household and child-rearing responsibilities. Along those lines, there's an article link that made its way into my inbox. The article by the Associated Press is titled: The new dads: Diaper duty's just the start It says more men are doing more around the house, from packing school lunches and doing laundry to getting up in the middle of the night with a screaming infant.

Let's not forget to give divorced dads some attention. Huffington Post blogger Vicki Larson writes her viewpoint in this post:  Why Is No One Paying Attention To Divorced Dads?

An then there's, Break Media's  New Face of Fatherhood. An info-graphic that breaks down the results of a survey on dads. Key insights:  33 percent of Dads want to spend more time with their kids this Father’s Day.

And, if you're shopping for Father's Day, this link is sure to be a winner: 10 Worst Father's Day Gifts and What to Do Instead 

 

To all the hard working dads out there, Happy Father's Day!

 

 

May 20, 2013

How a spouse can doom your work life balance success

 

MarriageAmendmentinNorthCarolina

 

Sheryl Sandberg, the outspoken COO of Facebook, repeatedly has said one of the most important career moves you make is who you marry. I see that played out, over and over, sometimes in a positive way, and sometimes not. 

Just as lack of consensus around finances can doom a marriage, lack of support from your husband or wife can effectively sink a career. For decades, it's been wives who have supported their husbands careers -- emotionally and physically. But now that most couples are dual earners, the whole dynamics of career priority are changing in marriages. Men are being asked to do more at home as women do more at the office.

Earlier this week, NPR Morning Edition featured a stay-at-home dad for its "The Changing Lives of Women" series.  Jonathan Heisey-Groves and his wife, Dawn, a public health analyst, didn't exactly plan for Jonathan to be a stay-at-home parent to Egan, 5, and Zane, who's 4 months old. The Heisey-Groves were both working full time when he lost his job as a graphic designer.  Jonathan stayed home at first just to save money on child care. But then, Dawn got a promotion.

 "She took a position at her company that involved a lot of travel, last-minute work, late nights and so forth," he says. "And I have some understanding of how it feels to be in that position, so I try to be as supportive as I can."

You might not be married to a Jonathan, who is willing to give up his career to raise the kids, but are you married to someone who wants you to succeed in your job? Are you showing your spouse the physical and emotional support that he or she needs to succeed? 

Think about that before you answer....

A friend of mine complained for weeks that her husband was going to accept a promotion that involved more travel. For her, it meant she would need to leave work earlier to pick their kids up from after school care. But instead of talking it through, she informed him he can't take the promotion. Now they're both resentful. 

Monique Valcour, a professor of management at EDHEC Business School in France, has just published a great article on the Harvard Business Review blog called the Dual-Career Mojo that Makes Couples Thrive. She gives suggestions for how to be more supportive of each other's careers. They're so good I'm sharing them with you (edited a bit with my own comments added in) 

Communicate priorities: Talk early and often about what matters most to both of you. In other words, you want to avoid realizing too late (e.g., when you've already called a divorce lawyer) that there is a big gap between what you say you care about most and how you actually invest your time and energy.

Talk about work at home: Look for solutions together that will reduce career-related conflicts and maximize opportunities for career enrichment between the members of the couple. Valcour says,  "My husband and I routinely help each other decide how to approach issues we encounter in our careers by listening, asking questions, and offering a broader perspective."

Think like a team. This often means taking turns. Dual career couples who are movie actors often take turns being away on set and home with the kids. Valcour notes that many dual-career couples confer with each other before accepting travel commitments to ensure that both parents are never away at the same time. In  less successful dual-career partnerships, each partner's interest in the other's career is often more self-referential — as in, "How will my partner's work demands or rewards affect me?" as opposed to "How do we meet the demands and enjoy the rewards together?"

Ask for help. Your partner may be willing to let you sacrifice some family time to do what you need to do at work or to go back to school. This takes open communication and the ability to help the other person overcome guilt.

Be open to change.  Modern careers don't typically follow a predictable path; the road is ever-changing. That's where a spouse's support is critical. Let's say your business suddenly takes off or your boss offers you a promotion. That inevitably impacts your home life in a way your spouse might not have expected. Valcour notes that few people make it all the way through a career without experiencing an unexpected company event that affects their career prospects, a significant failure, an apparent success that turns out to be unsatisfactory, or a desire to make a significant change. As changes occur, remember the upside of dual career marriages. Having two careers takes the pressure off either person to be responsible for all of the material support of the family unit. Of course, both spouses have to believe that to be true.

Readers, has your spouse been a powerful resources in helping you work through career and life challenges? If not, in what ways has a lack of support created havoc in your personal and professional success?


May 08, 2013

Moms who save children's lives

Is there any work life balance for moms in medicine?

Linda Brodsky, an pediatric otolaryngologist, has received a grant from the American Medical Women’s Association to study the experiences, attitudes, and work habits of women physicians. She told me the health care system is not readily adapting to how men and women work differently. 

Being a physician is extremely difficult, particularly for moms, she says. "If you go into it, expect a tough road. Being overwhelmed is the nature of every day life as woman physician. To think otherwise is naïve or romanticized."

Yet, 13 percent of all physicians are women, and they are expected to be 50 percent of the doctor population by 2040. "Women are going into medicine despite barriers and challenges because they want to be part of an exciting field," Brodsky explains.

 Today, in my Miami Herald column, just in time for Mother's Day, I featured doctor moms and learned how they juggle saving children's lives and raising their own families.

Help at home is critical for doctor moms

By CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

The Deeter family is shown in the living room of their plantation home on Sunday, May 5, 2013. Dr. Kris Deeter gets help at home fro her mom and husband.            Gregory Castillo / Miami Herald Staff

 

By CINDY KRISCHER GOODMAN

For Kristina Deeter, a hard day at work could include resuscitating a toddler who nearly drowned, adjusting medication for a child who is struggling to tolerate a new heart or setting up a premature baby on life support.

Then, after an intense 12-hour shift, Deeter, a 41-year-old pediatric intensive care physician, will go home to her own children — and try not to be a hyper-sensitive mom. “My job makes me very aware that anything can happen,” she says. “I think that makes my relationships with my own kids more special.”

Many working parents — and mothers in particular — tread a delicate line between demanding careers and the needs of family. But for mothers in medicine, the stakes are particularly high.

 

“It’s a critical job and I can’t just run out the door if something happens at home,” says Deeter who is part of an 9-doctor team with Pediatric Critical Care of South Florida, which operates the pediatric intensive care unit at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood and North Naples Hospital in Southwest Florida. “I say I’m sorry to my kids and husband a lot. But when it’s really important, I’m there.”

To help her children understand why she works such long hours, Deeter has introduced her children to patients and even brought them with her to bereavement ceremonies.. “I don’t want them damaged by my job, but I do want them to have that compassion to help others.’’

As women have come up the ranks in the male-dominated field of medicine, they have changed the practice, taken a more nurturing approach to interacting with patients and families and made it more acceptable to openly talk about challenges of many years of schooling, training, a high-stress environment, long and unpredictable hours — and motherhood. Today, nearly 13 percent of physicians are female, compared with about 8 percent a decade ago, according to the American Medical Association.

Toba Niazi, 34, is the rarest of women in medicine: a neurosurgeon. Only 200 — about 7 percent of the nation’s roughly 3,300 board-certified neurosurgeons — are female. On a given day, Niazi might meticulously remove a tumor from a child’s brain or skillfully repair a baby’s spinal cord. She operates as part of the three-person department at Miami Children’s Hospital and serves as a voluntary faculty member at the University of Miami, which means she sees children who are pediatric neurology patients at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Niazi also is the mother of a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old. Pregnancy was difficult. She spent eight to 10 hours at a time on her feet in the operating room — without a bathroom break. Of course, motherhood is a challenge, too. “It’s hard to leave your 2-year-old when you’re going to work and say, ‘I’ll see you in 12 or 16 hours,’ especially when you leave them with a caretaker that is not family,” she says.

After long emotional days at work, Niazi says she wants to be the one to tuck her tots into bed at night. That doesn’t always happen.

Like many doctor moms, Niazi’s husband also is a physician, a stroke neurologist at Baptist Health South Florida. A full-time nanny cares for the kids during the day, but dad’s schedule allows him to be the parent at home at night when his wife is on call or works late. “He gets what I deal with and understands when I have a sick child I have to take care of and can’t come home,” Niazi explains. “I don’t think anyone else would tolerate it.”

Support at home is essential. So are the right workplace partnerships or teams who share responsibilities and support motherhood.

Positive outcomes are critical not just for moms in medicine, but for the nation at large. Amid a potential physician shortage, an increasing numbers of doctors — mostly women — are deciding to work part time or leave the profession.

Setting up a system that works can take some trial and error — and staying power.

“It’s a long road and at times during that road, you think ‘wow can I do this?’ It’s your passion that gets you through it,” Niazi explains.

Ana Russo, 33, says she can go from shuttling her child to school to keeping another child alive within the same hour. She’s a nurse who is on the frontline when a child with a traumatic injury arrives at Jackson Memorial Hospital Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

As a mother of two boys, 6 and 2, she says it’s almost impossible to not to relate to the heartache parents endure when their child is critically injured riding a bicycle, swimming in a pool or crossing the street. It has made her a much more cautious mother, maybe even overly cautious. She insists her kids wear elbow and knee pads and a helmet when they ride their bikes. “It’s hard to not keep my kids in a bubble with everything I see at work.”

Russo says some days, she gets emotionally attached to saving a young patient, feeling a sense of responsibility. As a mother herself, “you care for that child like your own.” Her days can stretch into night without an opportunity to check in at home during her 12-hour shift. “That’s why you have to have a good support system at home.” She relies on her husband and aunt to be there for homework, afterschool activities and dinner.

Lynn Meister, 52, worked full days and many nights as a pediatric hematologist/oncologist while raising two children, now in their 20s. She says she relied heavily on her husband for help at home and never once felt the personal sacrifices outweighed the rewards.

For years Meister would get asked, “’As a mother, how can you do that kind of work? Doesn’t it make you afraid?’ But I wasn’t afraid. I always felt like I had so much to offer because I am a mother.”

She, too, experienced the medical nightmare as a parent, when her then 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. That daughter now is an eight-year cancer survivor. Meister says the experience made the balancing act that much more important to her and led her to become an even better doctor.

Yet, Meister says her biggest battle was with imperfection, a common struggle among working mothers. “I felt like I never was doing quite as good a job as I could as a doctor or mother.” Today, she encourages other women to stick with medicine. “My son and daughter are fine adults, and if I can cure a child of cancer what can be better than that?”