January 20, 2016

5 ways to fit mentorship into your work life balance

When I saw a TV interview with Lydia Muniz from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami, something she said repulsed me. She told interviewer Helen Ferre that Miami is dead last out of 51 metro areas when it comes to its volunteer rate. Dead last.

Growing up in South Florida, I'm the first to admit that we tend to be self absorbed in the Sunshine State. We also consider ourselves very busy people with little time or money to donate to help others. 

I get it, people are busy. We work long hours.  We carry our smartphones on us all the time and can't get away from work calls and email. We have wives. We have kids. We have hobbies we want to pursue. Mentoring a child just doesn't seem like it should be something we sacrifice our free time to do.

But here's an interesting tidbit: 

A study by Wharton’s Cassie Mogilner, published in the Harvard Business Review, found spending time helping others left participants feeling as if they have more time, not less. Mogilner’s research shows that spending as few as 10 minutes helping others can make people not only feel less time-constrained but also feel capable, confident and useful.

If that's not motivation here's another tidbit:

Children who are mentored maintain better attitudes toward schools and are less likely to use drugs or start drinking, according to Mentoring.org, a nonprofit charged with expanding youth mentoring relationships.


With that as our motivation, we should be able to figure out how to mentor a child without it taking too much of our time. January is National Mentoring Month so this happens to be a great time to consider it. 
 
Natalie and Kriss 4.2015 II
(Natalie Parker, on left, mentors Kriss Reyes, right, in her workplace, The DoubleTree Hotel in downtown Miami)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Here are some ways to fit mentoring into your schedule:
 
1. Have the children come to you. Big Brothers Big Sisters has a School to Work program that will bring students to your workplace once a month for four hours. The only requirement is that you have at least 10 volunteers.
 
2. Find a school near your office and pop in during your lunch hour or before work. Many schools encourage this type of mentoring as long as you are cleared by the county as a volunteer. 
 
3. Mentor as a couple or family. Forming a relationship with an at-risk youth can be easy when you include him or her in what you already are doing such as going to the beach, a football game or the park.
 
4. Mentor by phone. Some college students ( and high school seniors) are desperate for career advice. Young professional organization often are able to pair you with these type of students who are at risk for giving up. One of two phone calls and support as needed can set a young person on the right path.
 
5. Mentor occasionally by speaking on career day or at an afterschool club meeting. Schools are desperate to find speakers who are good role models. Organizations like Women of Tomorrow and Girl Power Rocks can facilitate this type of mentorship.
 
 I hope you will join me in making a difference in a young person's life!
 

SOME YOUTH MENTORING ORGANIZATIONS

▪ Stand Up for Kids (standupforkids.org)

▪ Big Brothers Big Sisters (bbbsmiami.org)

▪ Girl Power Rocks (girlpowerrocks.org)

▪ Honey Shine Mentoring Program (honeyshine.org)

▪ Women of Tomorrow (womenoftomorrow.org)

▪ Take Stock in Children (takestockinchildren.org)

 

Read more on this topic in today's Miami Herald.

 

January 19, 2016

Why are we afraid to take vacation?

Poolside


Ah, the thought of being on a lounge chair right now, reading a good novel and sipping on a margarita. Heaven!

But it looks like I might not have a lot of company in dreaming about a lazy day poolside. For some crazy reason, year after year, people leave paid vacation days on the table. Yes. You read that right. American workers are not taking PAID vacation days.

This morning, I woke up to read this perplexing finding: Approximately two in five Americans did not take a single vacation day in 2015, according to a recent Skift survey. Around 17 percent said they took less than five vacation days.
 
What is going on? Everyone is wired and tired, but we're not taking time off, and even we we do, we're still doing work. We deserve work life balance but we just won't let ourselves relax. 
 
The Skift survey found Americans living in rural areas were the largest group taking no vacations and women took less time off than men, though not by much.
 
The numbers force us to ask ourselves what's going on.
 
Are we afraid that we won't have a job when we get back? Yes, many of us are afraid.
 
Should bosses make using paid vacation days mandatory? They should but they probably won't.
 
Is it right for bosses to email you or call you when you're off the clock? No, it's not right. But it happens anyway.
 
Should you schedule your vacation time off now, at the beginning of the year to ensure it actually happens? Yes, you should.
 
Should you plan ahead so you don't have to work on vacation. Yes, you should. But will you?
 
The majority of people surveyed recently by travel service Expedia and its business-focused brand Egencia think their smartphone is the single most important travel tool. I understand that line of thinking if you want to use it for the camera function, or the map. However, if you plan to use it for staying connected to work, you will never really fully relax on your vacation. We can't' be afraid to power down.
 
Visualize the place right now that you feel most relaxed. Is is poolside or oceanside like me? Wherever it is, I hope you make it there in 2016! 
 
 

December 18, 2015

Close out the year the right way

List


Just about now, I find myself worrying a lot about what needs to get done and whether I made the most of 2015. I look at my goals and wishes for the year and I get mad at myself about what didn't get checked off the list.

But last night, I decided to approach the year end differently. I decided to look really hard at what I did get done this year -- big and small. It's a list I should have been keeping all along. 

On my list, I’ve decided to include the small accomplishments I might otherwise have considered no big deal. For example, this year, I combined my personal and work calendar and managed to create a clear picture of everything on my plate. I put reminders of important events on my mobile phone.  The system really helped keep me organized. Yet, I hadn’t given myself any credit for creating and following it.

This year, I had a few big work projects I wanted to launch and I didn't. Just as I began to feel disappointed in myself, I reexamined my year and my work life balance. I realized I pulled off some personal accomplishments I hadn't given myself credit for -- moving two children into their college dorms, transitioning my youngest child to high school, celebrating a 50th birthday. Careerwise, I also took on a few challenging writing projects.

Career goals and New Year’s resolutions are great to make each year, but when we fall short, we can’t beat ourselves up because day in and day out, most of us do more than we realize. (I even looked back at my daily to-do lists and reviewed all I had checked off.)

As you start to think about your resolutions for 2016, jot down your 2015 accomplishments at work and home. The small things count – challenges in your personal life that you powered through or changes you made that had a positive result. Taking pride in all you have done will help you realize all you are capable of achieving next calendar year. 

Using your holiday time off to recharge in the next few weeks counts as an accomplishment, too. Closing out the year right means moving into a more positive mindframe -- and giving ourselves the credit we deserve! 

October 13, 2015

It's the small work life balance victories that count

This morning I went to the grocery store at 7:30 a.m. That's a big deal for someone who hates mornings. I was surprised how good it felt to get something checked off my to do list so early in the day. The store was quiet and easy to navigate -- no wait at the deli or the check out line.

For me, that's a small victory in my struggle to get more done.

I don't know about you but I have a running to do list at all times. I have begun to keep it electronically on my mobile devices. Some days, I look at it and feel overwhelmed. I know I'm supposed to tackle items based on their priority level, but there is something really satisfying about a completing a task that just needs to get done.

So often, the discussion of work life balance centers on big issues-- disconnecting from the office, choosing between priorities, finding caregiving solutions and negotiating flexibility. These are important issues that affect how we fit our work and home lives together. They affect our career choices and our happiness. They are the reason people quit jobs, have fewer children, give up promotions and move closer to family. 

But sometimes work life balance is about a small change or tweak that brings harmony or zen to our overscheduled, busy lives. Maybe it's my imagination, but starting out today by feeling like I accomplished something has set my whole day in a positive direction. Sometimes, we just need to give ourselves a high five for the small fix or solution that eases our struggle to juggle the competing demands on our time.

Maybe we aim to reach the top of our organizations, maybe we don't. Maybe we want families, maybe we don't. Regardless, most of us want a life outside of our careers and we want to enjoy it. So let's celebrate the small victories on our path to happiness. Whatever you've done today to move in that direction, here's your high 5!

 

September 02, 2015

Always busy? It's time to reclaim your work life balance

Last night I couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned thinking about everything I needed to get done. While my husband snored, I grabbed my iPad and piled tasks on my digital to-do list. Now, I am starting my day tired and if anyone dares to ask me how life is going, I will respond: BUSY!

 Are you busy, too?  By that, I mean are you juggling, cramming, rushing and feeling exhausted?

 We are all busy because that's life today. But maybe there's something else going on. Maybe we just haven’t figured out a better way to work and live.   

I just finished reading How To Thrive In A World of Too Much Busy by Tony Crabbe and found myself thinking differently about my struggle with work life balance and our society’s addiction to being busy.

Crabbe says we are busy because we're not making the tough choices. We choose skimming email rather than grappling with a complex project because it's the easy, busy activity. We steal attention from real relationships while we keep ourselves busy on social networks. Beating busy is simple, he says. It's about focusing on the things that matter.

 Here are some suggestion Crabbe gives to gain control over our lives and find a better work life balance. 

1. Say no to a request or ask permission to delay a deadline by using the word “because.” If you use "because" in your request, your argument will be seen as more rational and acceptable.

 

2. Be deliberate when you check email. Set specific times and do it in a focused way rather than grazing.

 

3. Identify at least one meeting that you can cancel or simply not attend.

 

4. Next time you are asked to do something, assess how much spare time you have and half it. Then assess how long you think the new task will take and double it.  Now you can make a better informed judgment whether to take it on.

 

5. Get better at making good choices. If we choose to fill our calendar with more, more, more, we are choosing not to have time to think -- and that isn't effective. Resist feeling you have to fill up all your time at work or home.

 

6. Make intentional choices. The primary driver for choosing activities at work and home should be internal "what do I want to achieve?"

 

7. Over-invest your time and attention in the 15 most important people in your life.

 

Here are some great questions to ask yourself:

What could I do less of to enjoy life more?

What is the “I’m too busy” excuse stopping me from doing?

What is one small step I could take to go from being frenetically busy to being happy?

 

Making behavior changes is hard. It’s much easier to walk around thinking we have to do more and convince ourselves we need to be more productive. By being busy, we actually get to feel productive while procrastinating.

Have you ever really thought about whether you are addicted to being busy? Have you ever stopped to look at whether you're getting it wrong?

Busy

August 26, 2015

How to Survive a Mommy Tsunami

Your babysitter quits because her class schedule has changed. Your boss tells you he needs to move up the due date on an project he wants finished. Your child calls you to tell you his bus didn't show up at the stop and he needs someone to pick him up. Of course all of these things happen simultaneously and it hits you like a giant mommy tsunami. Ugh!

Mommy tsunamis are common this time of year when school and business gear up at the same time, triggering new routines and bigger workloads.


Joanna_Schwartz__Forbes_089I wish I could say I came up with the phrase mommy tsunami myself, but I can't really take credit. I heard it used when Karen Rundle interviewed Joanna Schwartz, CEO of EarlyShares, for a WLRN Segment on Women in Business in the Sunshine Economy. EarlyShares is a major player in the “real estate crowdfunding” industry. This is how Joanna, mother of two daughters, described a mommy tsunami to Karen:

"A mommy tsunami usually comes a few times a year --  usually at beginning or end of the school year when there is some transition in the troop movement of our household. When it happens you just want to say, 'This is insane, what the heck am I doing?'  But it has happened enough times and you get through it. It doesn't last that long. You recognize it and say 'Okay I am in a mommy tsunami and it will last two or three weeks and I will power through it.' I talk to a lot moms who have similar positions and we all relate to that very much."

Today, Karen, who conducted the radio interview, told me she has just been hit with a mommy tsunami. As the mother of a young daughter, she  is dealing with a series of unfortunate events that has challenged her work life balance and that she is trying to power through. Having lived through many mommy tsunami's my advice to Karen was "hang in there!"

To me, mommy tsunami's make us realize that the romanticized version of what motherhood should be existed only in some alternate universe. The reality of modern motherhood can be stressful and exhausting.

When you are hit by a mommy tsunami, little things make a big difference. For example, flexibility is one of them. As Joanna explained to Karen, the real challenge for working mothers have is when they are trying to balance the not being (able to be ) in two places at once...when kids need time at school or need to go to the doctor and they are stuck chained to their desk. She believes companies need to understand that work and family are interconnected and "to extent that you support someone's  family life you are supporting someone being a terrific employee."

Along with flexibility (or an understanding boss)  you also need is a mommy network. When the mommy tsunami engulfs you, you need to tap your network to find someone to vent to, someone to pass along resources or someone who will take your turn picking up the carpool.

Lastly, you need to turn to your spouse and scream, HELP! As I wrote in my Miami Herald column today, when both parents work together to divvy up childcare responsibilities it makes balancing work and family much easier. The new school year and adjusting to a new routine can be stressful for parents and children. Today, more than 60 percent of two-parent households with children under age 18 have two working parents, according to Pew Research Center's 2013 Modern Parenthood Study. When dads exert the flexibility in their work schedules and pitch in with monitoring homework, driving to the pediatrician's office or attending a teacher conference it can make a huge difference in family harmony. 

As I noted in my article, many couples underestimate the sheer amount of coordination involved in modern parenthood — until their child is unprepared for a test or gets to football practice without his cleats. A little collaboration between parents can go a long way.

If you feel a mommy tsunami about to hit, brace yourself. You will get through it. Like Joanna says, mommy tsunamis are inevitable. You will never be fully prepared. Balancing work and family can be overwhelming, but it also has payoffs that are well worth finding the endurance you will need to survive.

July 09, 2015

Too connected? Why you need vacation rules

                         Vacation

Earlier this week, I left a message on an accountant's voicemail asking him to call me about an article I am working on. He called me back within a few hours. Well into our conversation, he mentioned he was on vacation. It was at that point that I could hear his wife in the background and she was noticeably agitated. I suggested he call me back when he returned from vacation. When we hung up, I had a feeling he was in big trouble.

Staying connected to work may make traveling less stressful for you, but it can become annoying to people who are with you on vacation. One of my friends recently told me it was while on vacation that she realized her marriage had hit rock bottom. She couldn't get her husband off his phone long enough to do anything romantic.

My suggestion for anyone traveling with a friend, spouse, or partner is to set vacation rules. My husband and I realized years ago setting rules was key to a better vacation. I agree to let my husband check in with his office every morning. He spends about an hour on his laptop checking email and returning calls. I usually check my email less often while on vacation but I tend to do it in the late afternoons when everyone is unwinding before dinner. We each get about an hour a day without guilt. The rule also is that we leave our phones behind when we do a family activity.

Today it has become increasingly easy to integrate work and travel -- regardless of where you are vacationing. There are more hotels and cafes that offer Wi-Fi, and more mobile devices with the same functionality as desktop PCs. But that ease of connection makes being on the same page of your travel companion more important than ever. 

When the goal of a vacation is to reconnect with friends or family, it can be frustrating when your travel partner sends a different message. Your stressful interaction with work can affect those who are traveling with you. My neighbor says while on his vacation, it completely unnerved him to watch his wife's reaction to an incoming work-related email as she lounged by the pool. "We're supposed to be on vacation relaxing, and I can see that something at the office didn't go her way. It not only stresses her out, it stressed me out, too."

Companions who are with someone who resists disconnecting say they find themselves torn between bringing their vacation partner in the present and coming across as a nag. Most of us only have a week a year when we can spend solid uninterrupted time with our spouse or kids. Don't they deserve to experience us enjoying time with them?

The solution may be agreeing upfront on how, when and where work check-ins will fit into a vacation schedule. Logging on and sending emails before others awake or during rest periods in the hotel room may be palatable. Missing a mid-day, zip-line excursion or interrupting pool time to make a work call may not be okay. Setting vacation rules may require respect for your companion’s work demands and it may take compromise.

Some business owners and professionals say checking in briefly allows them to relax more. It prevents them from a stressful return to work. That's understandable. But remember, the goal is to use your vacation to come back to the office and your home life happier than before you left. If setting vacation rules ahead of time is what it takes to make that happen, why not give it try?

 

June 26, 2015

Are meetings killing your work life balance? How to hold a better meeting

                                      Meeting


Have you ever been sitting in a meeting thinking "This is such a waste of my time!"

Or, worse...have you ever been in a meeting when most of the participants are tapping away on their smart phones, not even paying attention to the person speaking?

In her new book, Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers, Sharlyn Lauby says employees spend between 21 and 28 hours a week in meetings and this number continues to rise in double-digit percentages. For those of us who want work life balance, much of our time spent in meetings is unproductive. 

So, what can be done about that?

Lauby Hi ResLauby, author of HR Bartender and  president of  ITM Group, Inc., a training company focused on talent engagement, outlines different types of meetings and how to run them effectively (She does an amazing job!). I pulled out some of her suggestions and presented them as questions .

  • What's the meeting really about? Lauby says the first rule of meetings is to understand why a meeting is being held and what role each person plays towards the meeting's success. People will attend meetings when they understand the reason for them. They will participate and engage if they feel they are a part of the agenda. 

 

  • Why am I at this meeting? People need to know the reason they're being asked to attend the meeting and the purpose of the meeting. (Is the purpose to convey information, reach a decision, get feedback?) They also need to know their role in the meeting's success and the objective that is trying to be achieved.

 

  • What kind of meeting is it? Is it a status meeting, a strategy meeting, a problem solving meeting, a brainstorming meeting, a networking meeting, a training meeting, a pitch meeting, a project meeting?  Each meeting has a different purpose and different rules. Status meetings should be focused on conveying information. When there is no information to share, the meeting should be cancelled. This truly demonstrates respect for participants and eliminates ineffective meetings.

 

  • Are the right people in the room? What a waste of time to hold a meeting when the right people aren't there! Going in, a manager needs to know if there a problem solver at the meeting or a decision maker. He needs to look at whether a meeting facilitator is needed and whether senior leadership should be present. Without the right people, a meeting could go on for what seems like forever or end without a solution. But inviting the people who don't need to be there wastes time as well. People can participate in the process without attending the meeting.

 

  • What's the solution or outcome? A business meeting can be completely ineffective if the solution arrived at is unattainable or the participants have no clue who is going to implement the action steps. Lauby says in thinking about the implementation plan, the group might want to consider breaking down the solution into smaller components or milestones. It becomes easier to monitor and evaluate results. She says at the end of any meeting, participants should be on the same page regarding the following three things: The actions that need to take place outside of the meeting, the individuals responsible for those actions, the timeframe for accomplishing the agreed upon actions. 
 
  • What makes a bad meeting? It's a bad meeting or time waster when the meeting leader is unprepared, meeting participants are unprepared, the wrong people are at the meeting, the participants take over the meeting or take it off track, and when the meeting runs much longer than necessary. Unfortunately, most of us have been at a bad meeting.

 

  • What makes a good meeting? Well-run meetings provide valuable information, help companies solve problems, and allow employees to make better decisions. Participants leave with everyone on the same page. 

Lauby told me as a manager, it should be your goal to have people leave your meeting and believe it was a good use of their time. "The biggest compliment a manager can get is when someone walks out and says, 'that was a great meeting,' Lauby says. "That should be your goal!"

 

0821IM_FrontCover

 

June 03, 2015

How to be healthier at work

                            Summer2


As I slipped on my shorts and t-shirts to brave the summer heat, I got mad at myself for indulging during the winter months. As I do most summers, I vowed again to be healthier. For the last few days, I am eating more fruits and vegetables and forcing myself to exercise at least every other day.

I'm sure I'm not that different than the rest of American workers who get a dose of reality when they peel their jackets and slacks off to celebrate the summer months and suddenly notice cellulite that we hadn't noticed a few months ago.  So what can we do about our exercise and eating habits when we work hard for a living? If you're like me, it's so easy to say, "I just don't have time for exercise."

Sue Blankenhagen_CeridianMy guest blogger today is Sue Blankenhagen, Wellness Program Specialist & Certified Wellness Coach with Ceridian LifeWorks ( I happen to be a work life blogger for Ceridian LifeWorks)

Sue notes that while we benefit from a healthier lifestyle, our employer benefits as much as we do.  Reserach shows employees who spent 30-60 minutes at lunch exercising boost their workplace performance by 15%, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Additionally, 60% said their time management skills and ability to meet deadlines improved on the days they exercised.

Here are some of Sue's suggestions for how we can become healthier and still have work life balance:

                        Summer

1. Get moving:

·         Take a brisk walk for just 30 minutes a day or choose the stairs over the elevator. Schedule and participate in “walking meetings.” If you are planning a face-to-face meeting with a colleague and you do not need access to a computer, plan to walk around your building while you meet.

·         Schedule and participate in “walking meetings.” If you are planning a face-to-face meeting with a colleague and you do not need access to a computer, plan to walk around your building while you meet.

·         Get your heart pumping by taking the stairs to another level. Walk laps on one of the floors or go outside and walk around the building perimeter or campus.

·         Taking a walk during the day with a co-worker while in a meeting or during a break - even if just for 15 minutes - will re-energize you and help to clear your head so you can remain focused and productive.

·         Try measuring your progress to help you stay motivated. Use a device to record the number of steps you take each day to help you keep track of your fitness goals.

                                     Desk
2. Fit exercise into your busy schedule while at work.

·         Sitting at a computer all day can strain the upper body causing back and shoulder pain. Use a standing desk, or purchase an adjustable platform to be able to use your laptop in a sitting or standing position.

·         Use an app on your phone, tablet or computer to remind yourself to get up from your chair and stretch during the day. While you are sitting, make a conscious effort to pull your shoulders back to encourage good posture, rather than remain hunched over your computer.

·         Give up your desk chair for an exercise ball. Sitting on an exercise ball will keep your back straight, force you to use your core muscles and serve as inspiration to stretch more often. You may also want to bring some light weights or stretch bands to work (keep them under your desk) so you can do arm exercises/curls while on phone meetings, behind closed doors.

·         Look for apps or YouTube videos with 5-10 minute workouts that can be done in the office, with no equipment.

·         Have sneakers and workout clothes at your desk or in your car, so you can take a walk or go to the gym right from work. Have a few travel-size toiletries at your desk to freshen up with after a lunchtime workout or walk. Or coordinate with co-workers to have a communal stash of toiletries in the ladies or men’s room, including spray deodorant, powder, wipes, hairspray, a blow dryer, etc.

·         Get your co-workers involved.  Create interoffice health and fitness challenges to spark some motivation and friendly competition amongst colleagues

                       Healthyfoods
 

3. Keep nutrition in mind.

·         Supply the office pantry and fridge, or your desk drawer, with healthy (yet still budget-conscious) snacks such as fruit, nuts, etc.

·         Offer healthier versions of treats as an alternative for celebrations.

·         Bring a water bottle or cup to work, and be sure to drink your water.

                                 Download
 

4. Look for ways to decompress mentally, not just physically. 

·         For stress relief, put up photos, bright fabric, or other visual items that make you smile and reduce your stress level.

·         Take a music break, or listen to music that you enjoy during the workday – making sure not to cause a distraction to your co-workers. If allowed, use ear buds to listen to your favorite music.

·         Find a restful spot for lunches or breaks, where you can take a few minutes to relax and recharge.

·         Practice random acts of kindness in the workplace. Send someone a thank you email, recognize them with employer-sponsored rewards programs, leave a healthy treat on someone’s desk – anything to brighten someone’s day. You never know when it will be your turn to be on the receiving end.

·         Smile more! The act of smiling, whether on the phone or when meeting others, can automatically put you in a happier state of mind. Who knows – your smile might make someone’s day.

For employers, Sue suggests considering providing resources, such as LifeWorks Employee Assistance and Wellness programs, to help employees struggling with their health on a more personal level. 

I just read an article on Examiner.com that suggest employers help us become healthier by blending healthy breaks into our work day rather than restricting our self-care to non-work hours. To me, that's the ultimate incentive. What are your thoughts? 

How involved do you want your employer to become in your health? Do you want your employer to help make exercise part of your work day,  or would you rather have your employer encourage you by giving you a flexible schedule that allows exercise and relaxation on your own time?

 

May 11, 2015

Working Mothers' Biggest Challenges

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

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

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

Overwhelmed and guilty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's the gist of it:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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