October 07, 2015

Are Millennial Moms Cooler than I am?



I am talking to 34-year-old Shannon O'Reilly-Fearn while her twin daughters are asleep. She tells me by phone that she was completely overwhelmed when she found out she was having twins. Now, wants to help other mothers of multiples, which is why she founded her business TwinLove Concierge.

So far, Shannon has been running her two-year-old company for about a year and put every penny she has earned back into it. That doesn't concern her at all. The more we talk, I learn that Shannon is tech savvy and well networked. She knows just where to go online to talk to other mothers of multiples. She has even used social media to find young moms in other cities to help her expand her business and spread her concept -- classes and consultations for expecting mothers of twins, triplets and other multiples.

Not only is she networked, Shannon is fearless and wants to create a company with a mission to help others. She represents the mindset of millennial moms, one I admire. I have my talents, but Shannon is WAY cooler than me when it comes to understanding how to market her business online and where to go to find her target audience.

Watch out employers, Shannon is the manager you want on your team, finding niches and bringing innovative ideas to your organization. But the Shannons out there, moms born after 1980, don't want to work for you if they can be home with their kids earning income AND fit their lives and their work together on their own terms.

In her new book, Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need To Know To Build Brands and Drive Sales,  Maria Bailey, marketing expert and author, say there are an estimated 13 million millennial moms Millennialmoms_cover
in the U.S., only about a third of the 42 million millennial women, which means their true impact of millennial moms has yet to be felt.

 “To be competitive, businesses need these women who know how to build online relationships and understand the way millennials are communicating,” Bailey says.

In my Miami Herald column today, I delve into more of the ways millennial moms are different. To me, the most important way is mindset. These moms expect help from their spouse. They expect to balance work and family. They expect to earn income even while home with their kids. They expect to have online relationships with other moms and they expect to try new ideas out, even if the ideas don't work they way they originally expected.
If businesses want to hire and keep these talented women, they are going to need to do something different than they have done the last decade. They are going to need to go online to recruit these women, create enticing career paths, and engage with them on their unique terms. 
It's going to get interesting, but I see big changes ahead for the next generation of mothers in the workplace. It's about time!




September 21, 2015

Better boss, or pay raise?



One day, all three of my kids had the stomach flu. It was the same day I needed to turn in a article to appear in our Business Monday section. Being late would mean more work for my editor.But he didn't hesitate when I told him what was going on in my home. "Don't worry," he said. "Just do what you need to do at home." I ended up turning the story in on time. And, I think my editor knew I would. But having him say that to me made me appreciate where I worked and for whom I worked. 

We all know a boss can make or break your ability to balance work and family. He or she can also make or break whether you like your job. 

A new study produced by HR consulting firm Randstad U.S. shows that workers in the U.S. would trade salary increases for a better boss. More than a quarter of respondents (28%) to the survey said they would rather have a better boss manage them than have a $5,000 raise. 

Because most of us spend more of our valuable waking hours at work than anywhere else, having a boss who respects your life outside of work is worth more than $5,000 as far as I'm concerned.

Jim Link, chief HR officer for Randstad North America. "41% of employees don't believe their employees help them achieve work-life balance and 39% don't feel their managers encourage them to utilize vacation time. Therefore, bosses who proactively encourage workers to unplug, unwind and truly leave work behind to enjoy time off will be looked upon as workplace heroes."

Just last week a friend called me, exasperated. Her boss had called a mandatory staff meeting at 7:30 a.m. (An awful time for parents of young children) At the meeting, her boss rambled without a set agenda and no real point. "I love what I do but I can't take working for this woman anymore," my friend said. 

How do you deal with a horrible boss? How do you know when it's time to quit? For me, it's time when you absolutely dread going to work. Here are more Telltale Signs It's Time To Quit Your Job.

Yes, there are ways to handle a bad boss. As Forbes points out: "However fixed in their ways your boss may be, you can always learn ways to better manage him or her."  Of course, it is not easy and the process might not seem worth the effort.

So when you put it out there...better boss, or pay raise? I'd take the better boss. How about you?


September 09, 2015

Balancing work, family and teaching on the side



My friend Jodi Laurence, a healthcare attorney, just started teaching health law at night. She smiles from ear to ear when she talks about her experience in the classroom.

Have you ever thought about teaching? I don't mean teaching full time. I mean teaching during your off hours...maybe at night or on the weekends...

Those who fit teaching it into their work life balance love it. They say they are getting a lot more out of it than money. 

I've been thinking about the rewards of teaching as a side gig ever since I met Aaron Olsen at a conference in Miami. Aaron lives in Chicago, works as chief talent officer at Aon and just wrote a book called Leading with Strategic Thinking.  He told me his book idea grow out of his experience teaching at night at Northwestern University. He also told me that he and his wife, a stay-at-home mom, take turns teaching one evening a week so that someone is always with the kids. I asked Aaron how he balances work, family and teaching and he shared his insight:

Aaron_olson-6215 croppedMe: What has been the most challenging part of juggling work and teaching?
Aaron: The challenge is really the time, as any hour spent in class or grading student work is time I could otherwise be spending at home. It takes some mental energy too, but thankfully the class I teach is directly related to my day job so it isn't switching gears that much.

Me: Do you feel as if you need employer buy in to have a side gig as a teacher?
Aaron: Yes, I went to my employer to get explicit permission when I was first approached by the university. We have a "no moonlighting" policy at work but this was seen as a case that was complimentary to what I do for the firm. In fact, they really liked the idea since it reinforced our company's brand as a thought leader in the field.

Me: Did your wife always teach or will this help her keep her foot in the door of the working world while raising kids?
Aaron: Jeanne does use her teaching as a way to stay active professionally. It helps her maintain her network and is also a way to keep current in her field.

Me: Do you and your wife intentionally take turns teaching? How does this affect your home life?
Aaron: We trade off class terms over the year - I teach in the winter and spring, she teaches in the fall. The classes we teach are in the evening, so one person is at home with the kids while the other is out. We've also gotten a sitter for one night a week so that we still get some time to ourselves or to stay on top of errends.


In the past few years, landing a side hustle at a local college or university has become easier with schools paring back on full-time faculty and using more adjuncts. Now, as the school year kicks in, a growing number of professionals are juggling side gigs as teachers to gain less obvious rewards. ( I wrote about the trend in my Miami Herald column today)



* A side hustle as a teacher actually helps some professionals excel further at their full-time jobs.

* Others find that by teaching something they are passionate about, they are happier in all aspects of life

* For a professional who wants a new challenge, being on a college campus with young people asking smart questions helps improve skills, expand networks and could even improve marketability.
* Knowing you teach a course, people at work are more likely to turn to you for advice on your expertise on a particular subject.
* Professionals find teaching keeps them current and student questions offer them insight.
Keep in mind that balancing work, home life, and a side job as a teacher can be tricky. Class time is just one component. Teachers must prepare a syllabus, lesson plans and a grading system. According to the American Association of University Professors, the typical equation for calculating preparation and grading time for a three-credit course is three hours for every one hour of class time. It’s safe to assume that adjuncts put in a good 135 hours during a semester. That's a lot of your free time so make sure you're up for it!
Those who do it say it's well worth sacrificing free time for the benefits they receive.


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?


August 31, 2015

Do you check email on weekends?


Last weekend, my husband was about to check his email when he hesitated. He wanted to see if anything major needed his attention at work. But then again, he really didn't. Instead of checking in, he spent the next hour enjoying our bicycle ride. Had he checked, I'm sure he would have been thinking about work while we were pedaling through the park. Still, I had to convince him that he had made the right call.

I think the days are gone when we make a clean break from work on Friday and return on Monday morning. Today, there are very few people in positions of responsibility who don't check their email on the weekends. That's not exactly a recipe for a good work life balance but it's a reality of the new "always on" world we live in. 

Almost every top executive surveyed by The Miami Herald for its CEO Roundtable feature admitted to checking email on the weekends. Some said they set aside allocated time for checking, while others check in on and off all weekend long. I fear the feeling that we must check in is only going to get worse. 

Here is how some of South Florida's CEOs responded when asked if they check work email on weekends:

"I am always checking my emails and often use weekends as a time to catch up on any pending responses or issues I need to address. With a 24/7 hotel operation, I need to be available at all times." -- Julie Grimes, managing partner, Hilton Bentley Hotel

"I check email both days but not constantly. As a business owner, I believe that it is a moral obligation to be prepared for an employee or client emergency. However, if there is really an emergency, someone calls. This is clearly my own character flaw." - - Ann Machado, founder and president, Creative Staffing

"I do check emails over the weekend because my work and personal lives are very closely intertwined. However, I try to check it only at allocated times during the weekend so I’m not distracted during my family time." -- Nitin Motwani, managing principal, Miami Worldcenter Associates

"I like to be accessible to any business where I am an investor, operator or adviser 100 percent of the time, but my family comes first. Most things can wait, and we are not involved in life-or-death situations. I generally check emails any time my daughter is sleeping." -- Todd Oretsky, co-founder, Pipeline Brickell

Do you think it is possible to go the entire weekend without checking email? Is there a system you use to refrain from thinking about work 24/7 on the weekends?


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.

August 21, 2015

It's that time: Do you get back-to-school angst too?

Today, I'm running around like a crazy lady, trying to get my kids back to school supplies and battling the crowds of last minute shoppers. On top of that, I'm talking to parents for an upcoming article on how they tackle back to school. The whole thing has got me feeling a little nerve racked. Each year, as the first day arrives, I feel a little anxious about new routines for my children and myself. This year, my youngest starts high school, my oldest two are off to college and my whole routine will change.

I figure it is a good time to bring back a blog post I wrote in 2010 about working parents and back to school angst,and ways for working parents to avoid being over-scheduled. With a little planning, it is possible to find work life balance.

Wishing all of you a smooth and happy school year! 


(From August 2010)

This week I have a knot in my stomach. I get it every year around this time as I prepare the kids for back to school. Like most parents, I want the school year to go smoothly. I want their school schedules to blend well with my work schedule and work life balance to be possible. For parents, back to school can be just as stressful as it is for our kids.

As I scurry around, setting up carpools, buying school supplies and stocking up on lunch box snacks, I worry about what's to come and I mourn the end of summer. 

With the start of school, kids want to sign up for extracurricular activities. Then, it is up to us parents to get them where they need to go. Sometimes, we drive ourselves over the edge trying to make our work schedules mesh with their activities.

 Here are a few tips you can use when juggling your work schedule with your children's activities:

* Gage your flexibility at work. Your employer may be willing to make an arrangement with you, even if it's temporary, to allow you to get your kids to practices if you come in earlier. This usually involves a conversation in advance.

* Consider proximity. The more activities kids can do at school, the easier it is on working parents. Get a schedule of team try-ours from your child's school. Some day-care centers have started to offer dance or martial arts classes during the day.

*  Let your child choose. Children inevitably are more successful when they choose the activity rather than a parent.  "If it's something they really want to do, they are more likely to figure out on their own how to get where they need to be," says Mandee Heller Adler, a Hollywood college admissions consultant.

*  Find a carpool. This is when networking with other parents pays off. When asked, most working parents are thrilled to split driving duties.

* Do the activity with your child. Attorney Valerie Greenberg enrolled in martial arts classes with her two kids. She found it the best way to combine exercise for her with activity for them.

* Look into online activities. Your child might want to take cooking lessons by watching online videos at home.

* Enlist multiple children in the same activity. This may seem like a no-brainer but it may require some compromise.

* Ask about flexibility. If you plan to sign up for gymnastics or dance classes for your child, find out whether they have make-up opportunities for those times when your work schedules prohibits you from getting your child to their activity.

* Lose the guilt. "Parents don't have to be at every practice or show," says parenting expert Laura Gauld of greatparenting101.com. Sometimes, stepping back has its advantages, she says. "Someone else steps up and can turn out to be a good mentor for your child."

*Know the expectations. While elite youth sports teams are popular, they require travel and mandatory practices. It's best to check into requirements before signing up for a major commitment.




August 18, 2015

A life-changing, must-read book

Recently while on vacation, I browsed in one of Portland's largest bookstores called Powell's. On the shelf of best sellers, I saw a title that intrigued me. The book is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I found it odd that a book with that title would be on the best sellers list. I remembered that one of my favorite bloggers, Penelope Trunk, had written a post about the book. How could I resist buying it!

I spent the plane ride home devouring the book. By the time I landed, I was energized and ready to purge the clutter in my home. What's unique about this book written by Marie Kondo is that it recommends a single-shot, all out purge of anything that doesn't bring you joy to wear or inspiration to own. Kondo believes reducing the amount of stuff in our homes makes us feel more energetic and can even lead to weight loss and lifestyle change. She also believes when you clear clutter, you can find what you are truly passionate about.

Kondo gives a great example: When one of her clients de-cluttered her bookcase, the IT professional saw the remaining books on her shelf that inspired her were about x and realized what she really wanted to do. She spent a year preparing and then quit her job and started a childcare company.

Over the last few days, I have filled about a dozen garbage bags with stuff from my closet, drawers and shelves. I haven't finished. As part of the process, I rearranged the order of items in my closet to create a system that helps me get out the door faster. I already feel different.

I admit, I'm a saver. But there really is something rewarding about discarding and then organizing all at once. It is unbelievably helpful to see clearly what you need in life and what you don't, once you get into the right mindset.

For all of us, the goal in purging our clutter is less stress looking for things and more time with people who make us happy. Thanks to Kondo, I have a new recipe for work life balance: Get rid of stuff I don’t use, need or that doesn’t bring me joy and surround myself with what makes me happy such as a new project at work or an old pair of shoes.

We hang on to stuff because we have an attachment to the past or anxiety about the future, according to Kondo. She explains that by figuring out what we need now, at this moment, we will gain confidence in our decisions and be able to achieve much more at home and work. We will be closer to work life balance.

Who knew there was so much to be gained from tidying up?



 (Just the beginning of my tidying spree!)




August 12, 2015

The virtues of quality time

After 10 days of climbing mountains, riding bicycles and wading in tidal pools, I'm back from vacationing with my family and trying to resettle into reality. What I will miss most is the quality time I had with my three children and my husband. 

Often I hear working parents debate quality versus quantity in time spent with family. Frankly, both are hard to come by when I'm running kids to sports practices, trying to whip up something somewhat healthy for dinner and worrying about making a work deadline. My conversations with my children and husband are along the lines of "How was your day?" or "How much homework do you have tonight?" I reluctantly admit that sometimes, I don't hear their answers, preoccupied by a phone call or email that need to be returned.

There is something about being in a different environment and a vacation-state-of-mind that opens the door not just for conversation, but also for listening. On vacation in Oregon, miles away from boyfriends, video games and a wifi signal, I asked my children questions and I not only heard their answers, I responded with additional questions that encouraged them to share more.

Studies have shown links between quality parent time and positive outcomes for children. I see positive outcomes for parents, too. I feel energized by having strengthened my relationships with my family. Typically at home, my daughter is running off to her boyfriend's home or my son is playing video games. There is something uplifting about quality time together outside of the normal routine where conversation goes deeper than the daily small talk.

I realize that going on vacation is a privilege some families can't afford. However, there are ways to build stronger bonds without traveling miles. For example, a picnic in the park or a visit to the museum with no where to be afterward could set the stage for the same kind of give and take conversation. Away from my daily worries, I was reminded how much I enjoy my family's company and just how valuable quality time is in our busy world. As I return to my Inbox and unfinished assignments, I am more conscious of the benefits of making quality time with people I care about and why we should all fight hard for work life balance.

What do you do to make quality time with your loved ones? Do you find ways to fit quality time into your work life balance?


July 09, 2015

Too connected? Why you need vacation rules


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?