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. 



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




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


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



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?”

March 31, 2013

Teens plan to rely on parents: Fitting money lessons into your work life balance



Have you ever been so busy and distracted that your teen asks you for money and you hand over a few bucks just to get them out of your hair?

I'm 100 percent guilty of this.

But that's about to change. I just saw a statistic that startled me: Nearly 60 percent of teens said they don't expect to be ready to financially support themselves by age 24 -- a far cry from the same survey by Junior Achievement two years ago, when 75 percent of teens felt the same.

Am I one of those parents who hasn't been making enough time to teach my kids to be financially responsible? Are you?


"Parents continue to be the No.1 influence on teens when it comes to money, so helping their teens set financial goals and take steps to meet them should pay off financially for both teens and their parents," said Don Civgin, president and chief executive officer of Allstate Financial.

AOL poses this question: Whose job is it to teach kids how to manage money -- teachers or parents?
For a while now, I've been on a rampage, arguing that high schools should require a mandatory class on personal finance. It may be the most important skill a teen learns and I can't understand why schools aren't teaching it. But the reality is, they aren't teaching it and even if they did, it likely will take both teachers and parents to put budgeting and managing money on our teens radars. 
April is financial literacy month and it is a good time for you and me to make time for money lessons. 
Here are the five financial lessons experts suggest we take the time to teach our teens before they head off into the world on their own. 



1. Credit. Teens need to know what it is, what responsibilities come with it, and how credit can increase cash flow but has to be paid back … with interest. (click here for more on how to teach your children about credit)

2. Credit Score. You will need to explain what it is and how the car you drive, the house you live in and the job  you have can all be affected by your credit score

3.  Loans. Explain good versus bad credit by pointing out important entries that have helped you establish a financial identity, such as your  mortgage or car loan.

4. Spending habits. Your kids “are going to be learning by watching you,”  says Sarah, founder of and co-author of “The Parents’ Guide to Raising CEO Kids. Use teachable moments to explain why you make certain spending decisions and the consequences of your spending mistakes.

5. Savings. Now that your child is a teenager, you will want to show them how to open a savings account. While your teen may be enthused about earning money from work, you also have to teach him or her not to spend it all, an important lesson in financial management. This will take a bank visit together. You will need to consider fees and requirements, location of the bank, and amount of interest paid on a savings account.


I often hear parents say it's  hard to choose between financial security and a decent work life balance. If we teach our kids good money management at an early age, I'm hoping some of those choices we parents confront will be less of an issue for our kids in the future.   

Readers, do you think parents are taking enough time to teach our kids about personal finance? If not, do you think the schools should step in and do it?

March 08, 2013

Work life balance is like a visit to the cafeteria




Not long ago, someone in one of the many work life groups I belong to posed this question:

What's your #1 work life tip?

There have been great responses, but today, someone posted a response that I absolutely LOVE and had to share with you. 

Sheryl Nicholson writes:


 Recognize Life is a Buffet Table of Choices and always ask "What's the price?" and be willing to pay for any choice you make.


To me, Sheryl's advice is profound. How many times have you heard people groan about work life balance being a myth. It's not a myth. It's possible. But it takes making choices that have a price attached. Sometimes that price of a choice is high and can cost you a marriage, a promotion, a larger family, a lifestyle or even retirement savings. 

Sheryl's comment speaks directly to what Penelope Trunk said in her blog post earlier this week. She was addressing Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's new ban of remote working at her company.

Penelope writes:

The message here (that Mayer is sending) is that if you want to work at a company where people are doing big and important things, you have to give up everything. It’s okay to say that. Telecommuting is for people who don’t want to give up everything for their company. Mayer doesn’t want to work with people like that.

The workforce divides into two halves: people who try very hard to decrease the conflict in their life between work and home, and people who try very hard to get to the top of the work world. You can’t do both

The reality of today’s workforce is that if you want to have a big job where you have prestige and money and power, you probably need a stay-at-home spouse. Or two full-time nannies. Which means most people don’t have the option to go on the fast track, because most people have not set their lives up this way.

So let’s just admit that most of us are not on the fast-track. Stop bitching that people won’t let slow people on the fast track. Stop saying that it’s bad for family. It’s great for family. It means people will not continue operating under the delusion that you can be a hands-on parent and a top performer. People will make real choices and own those choices.

This is true for men and women. Today anyone can rise to the top if they give up their life to do it.

If you want to parent—really be there for your kids—then you need an alternative career track. You can telecommute, you can work part-time, you can freelance, you just can’t work with people who don’t need those same accommodations.

So today, people have choices, people have more control over their lives than ever, and people have good information to make intelligent decisions.


I think it's critical to take all information at your disposal and be realistic with yourself when you ask, "how much am I willing to pay?" for a choice you are about to make.  The balance "myth" comes when you underestimate the price and become surprised or disappointed at check out.

Have you ever felt you paid too high a price for a choice off the buffet? Do you think most of us are realistic about the cost of their choices?


November 21, 2012

What career advice would you give your kid?

Recently, at Media Day, a young Asian enterntainment reporter told high school students how disappointed her parents were in her career choice. She said they wanted her to be an engineer or scientist, a path more Asians take. She explained that her parents finally came around when they saw that she actually got a job in her field, and they realized she was happy.

Her story got me thinking....It's so hard to advise our kids on career paths today because industries are changing so rapidly. I am in the thick of guiding my daughter on what colleges she should apply to and how her career choice plays into that decision. It led to today's Miami Herald column.



Work/Life Balancing Act

Dear daughter, let me give you some career advice ...

Preparing for the New Economy requires a focus on developing skill sets rather than navigating rigid career paths.

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John Swartz is regional director of career services at Everest College.


            My daughter, a high school junior, wants to be a teacher. That doesn’t sit well with my husband, who worries about the state of education and the job outlook. He and I regularly debate whether we should encourage her to pursue this interest, or strongly steer her in another direction.

Today, coaching our kids about career paths is complicated. Many of my reporter and editor friends who witnessed an overhaul of the media world are highly opposed to their kids becoming journalists. Where parents of the past pushed their kids to follow in their footsteps, we want the generation of college-bound kids we raise to go where the jobs will be.

American workers’ experiences during the recession and the uncertainty of the global economy have made many of us more opinionated about what careers our kids pursue. We have witnessed job loss and burnout. We have seen highly educated professionals such as lawyers and bankers lose their jobs. And worse, we have seen college graduating classes face an overwhelmingly tough employment arena. While it’s true that a college degree usually guarantees better wages, the mantra of parents clearly has become: Can you land a decent-paying job with that degree?      

      As parents, we’re just beginning to understand that the next generation will have to navigate the workplace differently. Experts forecast that workers starting out now will switch careers — that’s careers, not jobs — an average of more than three times during their lives. Should parents, then, worry less about guiding our kids into careers and focus more on helping our kids identify skills to succeed in the new economy?

Whether my daughter becomes a teacher or an engineer, her success likely will come from a mastery of technology, languages and communications skills. Most importantly, she will need the mindset to be a problem solver, innovator, risk taker and self marketer. She will need to be prepared to continuously acquire new skills, a lesson my generation has learned the hard way.

“We are fooling ourselves to think young people will get a degree and spend the next 20 years at a single company or in a single industry,” says John Swartz, regional director of career services at Everest College, which has campuses in 30 cities including Miami. “They will have to be more focused on dealing with change. In this new world order, they have to follow the jobs in demand, acquire the right skills or at least transferable skills, and know that the skill set needed might change.”


October 03, 2012

Working parents speak out about homework overload

I am a parent who believes kids today get too much homework. Although I'm all for giving homework, I just believe in moderation.

For working parents, ensuring homework gets done is just another item on their to do list. When jobs demand longer hours, arriving from work to a second shift at home that includes hours of homework supervision is exhausting.  I wonder if teachers understand this?

In my Miami Herald column today, I let readers have their say about homework insanity. By the way, parents, besides Google, here's a book that can help you when you're trying to help your kids with homework: The Parent’s Homework Dictionary

Column on homework overload brings flood of responses

A column about homework overload on kids and their parents drew a flood of response.

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Debbie Regent, 48, center, assists her children Haley, 10, left, and Brooke, 14, with their homework at their kitchen table.
        Debbie Regent, 48, center, assists her children Haley, 10, left, and Brooke, 14, with their homework at their kitchen table.    

            After putting in much more than her eight hours at the office, Julie Price returns home for a long night of supervising her daughter’s homework — a process that often lasts for hours. “It’s exhausting,” she says.

She’s not the only parent with this routine. Reader response came flooding in from all over the country after my recent column on whether homework is preparing the next generation for the workplace of the future. The message: Excessive student homework has become an overwhelming burden on working parents.

Price, a single mom in Coconut Creek, says she and other parents are confronting the perfect storm of work-life challenges — increased work demands and longer hours resulting from pared back office staffs, competitive pressure on students to achieve more and school budget cuts that have forced more learning to be done at home.      

“We’ve overstretched and overtaxed the family unit,” Price says.

In my prior column, Debbie Regent, a mother of two in Weston, said homework stress is ruining her home life. After a day of work, she arrives home to several hours of homework supervision. “There is a value to reinforcing what you learned that day through homework. There is not value in torturing a kid with five pages of math problems when they have other classes with homework assignments as well.”

Parents wrote to tell me their home lives have turned into a burdensome flow of homework, tests and projects. Nagging about homework and kids’ stress over it looms over the evenings and weekends, infringing on family time. In some households, it has even led to marital discourse, short tempers and a child’s need for anxiety medication.

Other parents wrote to say they had to quit jobs, change work schedules, even sacrifice career advancement to deal with the homework insanity. A mother of triplets says she left her job as a receptionist when she and her husband decided even dividing and conquering wasn’t enough to get all the homework done at night and allow their girls to participate in sports.

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September 21, 2012

How to Copy Working Mother's 100 Best Companies

Have you ever wondered, "Why doesn't my employer get it?"

The good news is that some employers do get the concept that a business can turn a profit while still making life more manageable for working parents.

WMCoverOctoberNovember2012Working Mother just came out with its list of the 100 Best Companies and they are offering some very cool benefits. Some of those benefits, guaranteed to help with work life balance, are easy to replicate, even by small employers.

Check this out: AOL’s New York City office recently gave employee parents a break by babysitting their kids for an entire Saturday. That's an easy perk for a small business to offer.

Here's another cool program: At First Horizon National Corp. they have a Working Parents Network: “It gives those of us who are caring for others the chance to exchange ideas, share photos and cry on each other’s shoulders,” a member says.

The “top” companies on the Working Mother best list offered paid maternity leave, telecommuting options and on-site lactation rooms. This year, the winners have shown their commitment in new ways like elder care referral and legal assistance to help busy parents manage their responsibilities. Those two perks aren't expensive to offer and mean a lot to those who need them. 

Some of the best companies even offered back-up child care, adoption assistance, health screenings and smoking cessation programs. Twenty-three percent had on-site nap rooms. Does that make you jealous, or maybe a bit sleepy?

Many on the list, such as Valassis Communications, offered flexible work hours. I see that as a family-friendly benefit an employer of any size could provide to its workers. 

Valassis also offers child care reimbursement, a complimentary car seat for newborns, college care packages and convenience services like on-site fitness centers, family rooms and dry cleaning services. It also offers an adoption assistance program,  up to $5,000 toward the adoption of a child.

The interest in fitness to help with work life balance is increasing. At Abbott,  at least 75% of employees are enrolled in the LiveLifeWell initiative, which features 12-week exercise challenges and 10,000-steps-per-day walking competitions. I bet even a small business could engage its employees in an exercise challenge.

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Here is a full list of Working Mother's 2012 100 Best Companies and some key statistics on their performance.

What one “family” benefit would you most like to have at your office?

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