December 16, 2014

Parenting Do-Overs for 2015

Do over.

Two words that all of us think about at one time in our lives. If I could have a do over, I would stress a lot less when my kids were in elementary school about their homework, friends, and activities. I would approach parenting without guilt for being a working mom and realize that I'm teaching my kids responsibility rather than shirking my parental duty when I asked them to make their own lunch for school.

When I saw this guest blog post on the topic of do overs, I wanted to share it with all of you who may still have time to approach the juggle of work and family with new insight. Work life balance is a lofty goal and over our lifetime, we all have something we would have done differently.

The author of this guest blog post is Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.

 

10 Parent Do-Overs For 2015
Including "Embrace the Mess"

by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
When my first daughter was six and my youngest was two, I came to a realization that helped me parent in a much different fashion. You see, I've always been a neat freak and I prefer structure and order in my home. Beds made, no dust, and I'm happy. No one told me I couldn't have that and kids too, but it wasn't long before I realized I would stress myself into a heart attack if I continued.
 
When you have kids, you should actually think of living in a barn because kids are hoarders; they're messy; they spill anything they carry; and they are curious and forgetful. They don't close doors, clean up toys, worry about mud, clean up art supplies or Cheerios. And, unless you pacify them with electronic gadgets (which don't stimulate their creative ingenuity as well as hands on manipulating things), your home will be full of rocks, leaves, sand and bugs.
Every parent I know who has a teenager or college-bound child reminisces about what they would do differently if they had a baby or small children now. Many of the things they say are enlightening and helpful when you are sure you're losing your mind with the little ones. I have come up with a list of ten things for parents to consider for 2015 as they continue raising their children.
I've found that hindsight gives you great insight, and if you hang in there a few more months, what drives you mad now will be gone with the next thing your child finds interesting. So, stay curious and take naps.
1. Play with your child every chance you get. Instead of putting them in front of the TV or iPad, get down on the floor and play with them. Your child's brain is developing at a speed you cannot understand. Every opportunity to play is an opportunity for your child to connect with you and their environment.

2. Work on your relationship with your spouse or partner.
Your child will be far better off if you keep your marriage intimate and close. They need your marriage more than they need you 24/7. Dads give children something moms cannot, and visa versa.

3. Power nap with your child. Instead of thinking about all the things you can get done at naptime, lay down and nap. Your power nap will give you more energy and clearer thinking, and both of those will benefit your child more than cleaning.

4. Forget the electronics until your child is in kindergarten.Coloring, gluing, and cutting are much more important for your child's motor and cognitive development than an electronic alphabet game. Being able to create new ideas with art supplies and blocks is not only a way for them to develop motor skills, but it also builds confidence and cognitive skills.

5. Go to the park any and all chances you get. Being outside and running, swinging, jumping, and observing is everything to your child. You playing with them helps them grow closer to you and the wonder of all they see. Talking on the phone or distracting yourself with work is not worth it when you are at the park with your child. Take the time...and be there.

6. Make lunches and cook with your child. Yes, it will be a mess, and yes, you will have to clean it up, but children who touch food and learn to make healthy food choices are also at an advantage as they grow older and become more independent.

7. Quit stressing over what is normal for your child. Kids grow at different rates and no two children are at the same height and weight at the same time. Relax. Use your intuition and parent sense to help guide you.

8. Your child is not going to go to prison because they won't share their toys. New parents make mountains out of molehills, and if their child is more stubborn or temperamental, they make the issue worse than it is. Staying structured with rules and following through with discipline is important, but don't stress over the little stuff.

9. Hug your child EVERY chance you get. Someday you will miss when they no longer want you to carry them, and they will grow out of wanting to sit in your lap during story time.

10. Never parent with guilt. Sometimes you have to be firm and that means teaching your child there are consequences for their actions. But, yelling or screaming at your child should never be done, and they are very forgiving; so always apologize. 
No one tells us how to parent, and kids don't come with an instruction manual. So, it is wisdom of hindsight that helps new parents feel comforted during the rough times...and there will be rough times. Kids get sick, they don't sleep, they like bugs and messes and spill water, milk and anything liquid. Love them anyway. 

December 09, 2014

How to cut holiday stress

 

Holiday_stress_medium

 

This morning,  I woke up early thinking about what teachers I need to buy gifts and which of my business contacts I should send holiday cards. Already, the season has become stressful.

Lately, my inbox is stuffed with emails that provide practical ways to make the holidays more joyful and less stressful. I have compiled what I consider the best tips and decided to share them with you. Let's hope all of us can get through the holiday season feeling joyful, grateful and as relaxed as possible.

Here are two tips from Glass Hammer that I found helpful:

Give with Your Heart
Many people find that gift shopping is the single most problematic “chore” associated with the holidays. If gift-giving is part of your holiday tradition, here’s an easy way to make it less burdensome. Close your eyes and think about each person for a moment. What pops into your mind? Try to come up with a gift that’s personal and from your heart–something that’s thoughtful and fits the person. Non-material gifts are sometimes the best and most memorable of all. For example: a hand-drawn card with a message, or a short video of you reciting 10 reasons you appreciate this person. Gifts from the heart increase feelings of joy, in you and in the recipient.

Make a Holiday Spreadsheet
You’re organized at work, so use those same smarts to prepare for the onslaught of holiday chores and appointments. Make a list of everything that needs to be done so you minimize anxiety and the feeling that there’s just too much to do and not enough time. This could include card writing, party organizing, shopping, cooking, work deadlines, travel/lodging arrangements, and family/friend communications. Schedule your to-dos on specific days so they don’t pile up close to the holiday. Once you start ticking off tasks one by one, you won’t feel so agitated as the holidays approach.

This tip is from Working Mother and I plan to follow it:

Create Holiday Boundaries

The reality is that during this time of the year there will mostly likely be more demands on your time than what you can give. If we try to meet all these demands, or others expectations it sets us up for feeling not “good enough” or like we have failed in some way. The key is to set boundaries and be confident in saying “no.” 

 

This tip is from Julie Cole is one of the founding mompreneurs of Mabel's Labels Inc (mabel.ca). You can find her on Twitter @juliecole, as well as her company @mabelhood:

Don't be a martyr

You may say you love entertaining and doing it all yourself, but if you find that you’re barking orders at your husband and getting grumpy with the kids, I’ve got news for you – you’re not having fun anymore. There is no “Holiday Martyr Hall of Fame” so you might as well ask your relatives to each bring a veggie dish or dessert. Heck, I delegate the actual turkey out to a family member!

• Put those kids to work. There is no reason for you to do it all. Have your kids set the table, for example. I know the settings won’t be perfect, but get over it. Kids should contribute and the holidays are about being together, not perfection. The more relaxed you are, the more fun everyone will have.

• If you MUST do everything yourself, stress can be reduced by doing things in advance – have the table set the week before, prepare and freeze suitable food. Keep things simple and easy to prepare. 

 

Here's are two tips from my pal Luly B who never fails to come up with great advice for us working moms.

Accept help.

 Say "yes" to the guests that are asking if they can do anything to help. Delegate tasks like picking up ice on their way to the get-together, bringing dessert or even setting the table. Similar to the work environment, determine what ONLY you can do and delegate everything else as much as possible...you'll thank me later for that reminder!

Caution against making it all Pinterest-worthy. 

At a recent speaking engagement, a participant confessed to me that she wished she could be a "Pinterest Mom." She was feeling the pressure of making the homemade cupcakes and cute crafts for her kindergartner. The challenge is that if that's not who you are and you don't enjoy any of that, it will show...I promise. So if you're not a Pinterest-y kind of person, Thanksgiving isn't the time to try. Stick with the regular ol' selfies or family shots instead.

 

This one comes from Harlan Spiva at the San Jose Examiner

Show Gratitute

Make a short gratitude list. It doesn't have to be deep, contemplative, or profound. Perhaps start with time away from work and with those you love. Think of the resources you now have compared to years past. If others have a significant positive impact on the season, be grateful for the skills they possess and use to make it so.

Try making an effort to show genuine gratitude through conversation, notes, small gifts, and by sharing positive experiences with others. By simply recognizing the efforts of others, you have an opportunity for a significant impact. Especially celebrate those who create something for you to enjoy. They put much of themselves into it.

Lastly, this one is from the Carol Blog called Five Things To Do Less of This Holiday Season:

Let Go of Complaining.

When we lack personal boundaries and insight to what we really want, we often feel we have to make decisions to please others.This might look like agreeing to host family dinner if we don’t want to, baking six dozen cookies for your kids’ classroom celebrations or shopping with a friend at a busy mall. When we make decisions that dishonor our choices, we feel powerless. As a by-product, we start complaining about things we’re doing that we never wanted to do to in the first place!

 

I hope these tips help you. I know I'm going to try as many as possible. If you have any tips you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!

December 05, 2014

Stressed out over who to tip this holiday season? Let me help

Next week I have an appointment to get my dog groomed. Already, I'm thinking about whether I need to give the groomer a larger than normal tip for the holidays. Deciding who to tip and how much is one of the most stressful parts of the holiday for me. 

I figured it was a good time to go back to a Miami Herald article I wrote several years ago where I created a guide to holiday tipping. Reading it over, I decided it was packed with such great info, I had to repost it. Keep it mind it was originally written more than five years ago but I think most of the suggested tips are still appropriate today.

Tips on tipping: A guide to holiday gratuities

You're grooving to the tunes at your holiday party and the D.J. plays the song you requested. Hand him a dollar bill.

 

You're having your hair put in an up-do for your company's holiday party. Slip your stylist 20 percent of the bill.

Your housekeeper is looking for a show of appreciation for Christmas. Give her at least a week's pay.

Yes, it's that time of year when you open your hearts -- and your wallets to shell out tips. Make an etiquette blunder and it could cost you embarrassment. Tip too much and it could cost you a fortune. But tipping for a one-time service is different from showing appreciation for those you can't live without -- such as the maid, nanny or dog groomer.

"There's nothing set in stone that says you have to give a certain amount," said Jacqueline Whitmore, owner of the Protocol School of Palm Beach. "Everyone has a different budget and there are a lot of factors that go into it."

Tipping is that rare occasion when you give away money. And yet most people don't have a clue. No one wants to commit a faux pas when it comes to doling out end-of-the-year cash encouragement to the person who keeps your house bug-free, your lawn looking good or your pool sparkling.

So what's an appropriate holiday tip?

An amount equal to a one-time service -- about $15 to $20 for the exterminator, the pool cleaner and the lawn service, according to Whitmore, a protocol expert. She says sometimes a gift might be the better route -- two tickets to a sporting event just might be your ticket to a cleaner pool.

Sometimes it may seem sticking a fistful of cash in someone's hand may offend them.

Bob Hale, the security/concierge at the Biltmore II condominiums in Coral Gables, Fla., says initially he was bothered when residents gave him cash for taking luggage up to their condo. He formerly had been a grocery-store manager and had to make the adjustment to a service profession. Now, eight years later, he says he's thrilled when he gets a little something extra to pocket.

Hale says people usually slip him anywhere from $25 to $40 as a holiday bonus -- in excess of the money the building collects for a holiday fund that's divided among building personnel.

Then there's the crowd that blatantly asks for tips: the waiter who tacks gratuity onto the tab, the masseur who attaches a small envelope to the bill, the personal trainer who sends a holiday card just begging for a bonus. In those cases, tipping remains discretionary, a reflection of the service you received, say etiquette mavens.

Gary Matzner of Miami ponders how much he should stick in the white envelope that his newspaper delivery person has inserted into his paper.

"I've never seen the guy, but I don't want my newspaper to end up in the bushes every morning," Matzner says.

Mike Acosta, assistant home delivery manager for The Miami Herald, says the envelopes are sent out from the carriers, not from the company. He says subscribers should take into consideration the service they've received and tip accordingly.

"Has your paper been delivered on time? Has it been placed in a dry location? Was it stopped when you went on vacation? Anywhere from $15 to $20 is considered generous. The average is about $10," Acosta said.

Linda DeMartino remembers how guests marveled over the delectables at her dinner party and admired the silver platters they appeared on. But she wasn't sure whether the whopping food bill included extra money for the servers. She now asks the caterer ahead of time for a suggested range. DeMartino says she usually gives the lead server 5 to 8 percent more than the others.

"You don't need to tip if it's a good caterer because I pay my staff well. Gratuity is not required but graciously accepted," said Elizabeth Silverman, owner of Catering by Lovables in Coral Gables. "If you feel the server has done an exceptional job and helped make your event a grand success, you may want to tip."

Silverman said general guidelines are $10 to $25 per staff member paid directly to them.

Partygoers face awkward tipping moments as well.

Anyone who's been to a company holiday party with an open bar has wondered what to do when the bartender mixes a martini or pours a glass of wine and hands it to you. Tip or assume the company is tipping?

Etiquette gurus say it depends on whether there's a tip jar out. If there is, stuff it with a dollar or two.

And when you pick up your car from the valet, shell out $1 to $2 or more if it's a fancy establishment. However, experts say you should tip on the front end if you plan to leave early and request your car be placed where it can be retrieved quickly.

Ada Holian of Coral Gables, Fla., struggles with another holiday dilemma. She remembers when she selected a giant Christmas tree from the lot, and watched as a teenage worker lugged it out for her. She wondered whether a $3 to $5 tip was sufficient.

"Although all our employees are paid, tipping is a nice gesture," said Capt. Paul Boutin, manager of the tree lot run by the Coral Gables Firefighters Benevolent Association. "We have about 40 high school boys and some college students trying to make some extra money for the holidays. Usually people give a dollar or two, but if it's a larger tree they give anywhere from $5 to $20."

Don't forget those service providers who make you look good for your holiday party and all year round -- your hair dresser, manicurist, colorist.

Julie Hallman, a hairstylist at Salon Savvy in Plantation, Fla., said most of her clients are long-time customers who consider her a friend. She gets holiday tips of $25 in cash or gift certificates.

"It's really a personal thing," Hallman said. "It's a way for people to show their appreciation for service."

During the year, she said, people should tip 20 percent of the bill for a hair cut or color.

"It shows that you are pleased with the outcome," she said.

Is tipping the owner of a salon or any service business appropriate?

That depends on whom you ask. Whitmore says she's asked a variety of owners and has come to this conclusion: "If you go to a salon and see the prices and realize the owner charges more, don't tip because he or she has accounted for the fact that they will not get tips. But if he or she is not charging more than the others, tip that person at least 15 percent."

Having flowers, furniture or food delivered during the season?

Manny Gonzalez, creator of the Original Tipping Page at www.tipping.org, says give about $2 to the pizza delivery guy, from $5 to $10 per person to the furniture delivery people and $2 to $5 to the floral delivery person.

During the bustling season lines can get long at local restaurants, especially in South Florida as snowbirds flock to popular establishments.

Mark Brennen, author of "Tipping for Success" (Brenmark House, $12), says it's not how much you tip but how you conduct yourself that can help you get in. He applies that to getting a reservation in popular restaurants to catching a taxi on a crowded street, even to airline, hotel, or rental-car bookings and upgrades.

"To get in a situation you would normally be shut out of you can't throw money into someone's hands," Brennen said. "It could be demeaning. You give the tip afterward when there's a good-faith implied bargain between the patron and the service professional."

Brennen has strong feelings about end-of-year tips.

"I think you miss the boat when you wait once a year to give your doorman or your manicurist a tip. Take the opportunity during an off month like June or July and bring them a Starbuck coffee or a sandwich. It may be something modest but it says a lot. It sets you apart. You don't have to spend a lot of money to send the message to someone that they are important," he says.


Tipping guidelines

For those who provide a one-time service:

Bartender: 10 to 15 percent of total drink bill.

Shampoo tech: $1 to $2.

Hotel maid: $1 to $10, depending on how expensive your room is and how messy you are.

Taxi driver: 10 to 15 percent of the total fare.

Dog groomer: 15 percent of the bill, no less than $2 per dog.

For those providing an ongoing service:

Personal trainer: $50 or more.

Hairstylist: $25 or gift certificate.

Day-care worker: $15 to $25.

Custodian: $20 to $30.

Babysitter: Two nights pay or a gift.

Mail carrier: No more than $20.

Pest control, pool or lawn service: Equal to one-time service fee.

December 04, 2014

Laugh without guilt this holiday season


Schweddy Balls on Saturday Night Live - Photo courtesy NBC
 (Photo courtesy NBC)

 

 

I LOVE the Saturday Night Life Holiday Special. I look forward to it every year. For me, it's a sacred hour of laughter.

I sit there, refuse to be interrupted, and I crack up. My favorite skit is one about dangerous toys with Candice Bergen and Dan Aykroyd. It makes me laugh out loud every time I see it. I also love Alec Baldwin in "Schweddy Balls" sketch. Hilarious.

Watching this special has become a holiday ritual I share with my kids. They know I love it and they look forward to it too. We sit together and laugh out loud. Last night, I was tempted to browse email while I watched it. But I stopped myself. 

Why is it so hard to let ourselves laugh and play without feeling guilty?

Sometimes in the frenzy to buy gifts, attend parties and send out cards, we forget that laughing and playing is part of the holiday season. Rather than getting tangled up in holiday anxiety, I'm reminding myself to make time to just play!

You also might want to consider building a snowman, playing a board game, or watching your favorite holiday special.  The act of playing or laughing will help you manage holiday stress.

If you missed the SNL Holiday Special, I'm sure you can watch it on demand or watch the highlights online. You might have your own holiday movie or show that you look forward to watching every year. Prop up your feet, sink into the couch and don't feel guilty about taking leisure time. It's the best way to balance your body and mind.

 

November 26, 2014

How to bring your idea to reality

 

 

When I ushered in the new year, I came up with an idea for a book I wanted to write, a business I wanted to start and an app I wanted to launch. Now, I am eating a turkey feast and realizing I have not focused on turning any of them into reality.

This Thanksgiving, I’m going to step back, look at all I am grateful for, and ponder the ideas I had wanted to pursue in 2014. With one month left in the year, I plan to ask myself some tough questions about where I have gotten stuck and what I can do to move at least one idea into action.

A friend of mine says she, too, has stalled while trying to move an idea forward. She wants to add an ancillary service that could help her pet-sitting business become more profitable. But like me, she has become bogged down in the daily struggle of balancing work and family.

Recognizing we all need help bringing our ideas to reality, I have turned to experts to share their best methods for follow through. These tips appeared today in my Miami Herald column.

 

 

Missy #5

(Above: Anne Louise "Missy" Carricarte, author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting, at her appearance at the Miami Book Fair International)

▪ Do your research. Wifredo Fernandez has seen dozens of ideas come to fruition as co-founder of The LAB Miami and now as founding director of CREATE Miami, a venture incubator and accelerator at Miami Dade College. Fernandez tells entrepreneurs to propose their idea to at least 100 potential customers and even ask for feedback on how to improve on it.

 Let passion drive the idea: The pivotal shift from idea to reality happens once you find yourself unable to think about anything else but solving the problem. “The specific idea may change, but if you’re passionate and focused, your drive to solve the problem will push you to execute,” Fernandez says. 

 

▪ Believe in the idea. Most people fail in pushing forward an idea because the unexpected challenges become more than they think they can handle. If you want to be successful, “stage the day,” says Anne Louise “Missy” Carricarte, entrepreneur and author of Power Wishing: Visualization Technology for Manifesting. Take a moment before you step out of bed to think about what you want to accomplish and plan your intention for how it will happen.

▪ Continue with what works. With a month left in 2014, consider what you have done already to move an idea forward, rather than what remains unfinished. “That can shift the outcome,” Carricarte says. If you have moved an idea forward 10 percent, look at how you accomplished it, rather than at the 90 percent you haven’t achieved. “Build on what’s working,” she says.

▪ Tap your network. Whether an idea involves starting something new or building on something that exists, look at who you know that can help you convert it to reality. When Kim Weiss got an idea to package her photos of sunsets into a book, she enlisted her boyfriend to write the accompanying haikus and a publisher friend helped to get it into print. “There are people you surround yourself with who can help you realize your dream,” says the author of Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe and Gratitude. “Everyone has a network they can tap.”

▪ Stay strong, focused. Shark Tank fans know successfully converting an idea into a reality is a marathon, not a sprint. Real work life conflicts will arise, as will naysayers. “The only way to get over disappointment, frustration or distraction is to get to work on your idea,” says Janet Burrowayauthor of plays, poetry, children’s books, eight novels and two textbooks. “It’s easy to terrify yourself into inactivity.” Burroway believes the longer an idea rumbles around in your brain, the less likely you are to act on it. When she has an idea for a book, she says she puts anything that pops into her head down on paper. From there, she allows her creativity to expand.

▪ Do something now. Rather than wait for the next calendar year, or for when you have more time or money, “take some sort of action today towards making your idea happen,” says Dave Lorenzo, founder of Miami’s Valtimax Consulting. “Even if you proceed in the wrong direction and make a mistake, you can take quick corrective action.” As a business owner, Lorenzo says he carries a notebook and jots down ideas all the time. Some morph into newer ideas and go through twists and turns before he brings them to life. Remember, he says, “The idea is not dead until you decide it is.”

What stops you from moving forward with ideas? Money? Time? Fear? Do you see yourself taking the first step toward moving an idea to reality by year end?
 

November 24, 2014

Should I let my son come along on date night?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

November 18, 2014

Never bring your boss a work life balance problem

This morning, a male friend called me with a management issue. He wanted my thoughts on how to handle a situation with one of his female employees who is struggling with a work and family conflict. 

The problem is that each member of his staff takes a turn with a task that requires they stay late at the office one night a week. This one employee, a mom, has a young child at daycare and finds it impossible to rely on her husband or a family member to pick the child up when it is her turn to stay late.  She approached her boss and told him she couldn't continue to stay late once a week. 

"She's a good employee," my friend explained. "I don't want her to quit. But we are making everyone else take a turn at staying late."

My immediate response was to rattle off questions. 

First, why is this just this woman's problem? If there's a father in the picture, why isn't he working to find a solution, too?

Second, if she knows in advance she needs to stay late once a week, why can't she plan for it?

Last, and most important, why did she approach her boss with a problem, rather than a solution?

The number one rule in negotiation of a work life accommodation is bring a solution to the table.

I advised my friend to tell his employee to come back with a proposed solution to this dilemma. Then, she and her boss can negotiate from there.

If I were the frustrated mom, I might have asked my boss if there's a task I could take on early in the day in order to skip my turn on the late night rotation.

Long ago, I learned that bosses respond best to proposed solutions rather than problems. Because this woman's co-workers are single or have no kids, there is a possibility of resentment. As a manager, my friend needs to make sure whatever accommodation he makes for this working mom comes off as fair to all. 

We work in an era when the needs of the 21st Century workforce must be considered. In two-job families, men and women may both confront work life balance challenges. No one wants to lose his or her job over a child care issue. And, a good boss wants to keep a good employee. 

As I hung up with my friend, he said: "Let's see what she comes up with. I really want this to work out."

I pretty sure most bosses feel that way. 

 

November 14, 2014

Admitting you don't have work life balance

Today I had a conversation that I found refreshing.

Typically, I speak with women and men and ask them how they achieve work life balance. Usually they give me an answer about something specific they do such as "make alone time" or "work out during lunch" or "make my family a priority."

But today, when I ask Cheryl Scully, chief financial officer of AutoNation, about how she achieves work
life balance, her answer was simple and honest: "I'm not good at it," she admitted to me. 

Finally, someone who openly admits to be okay with working more than playing. 

Cheryl said she regularly works seven days a week. She recently began trying to take off Friday Cheryl-Scully-3405381-220 afternoons. Cheryl did say that she has more flexibility as a company officer than she had on her climb up the corporate ladder. She can leave the office for a few hours during the day when needed. But when she does, she usually stays late at night.

Cheryl is recently engaged and planning a wedding. Because she doesn't have children, she told me she is not the best person to speak about work life balance. Yet, to me, she is ideal. It's refreshing to hear someone openly say they lack work life balance. As she settles into married life, Cheryl may want to reclaim some of her personal time. But for now, she holds a prestigious position at a robust public company and has made pockets of time to tend to her personal needs. She has chosen to put time into a career and I respect her choices.

Balance is not only about work and family. It's about spending time in ways that you find fulfilling. If Cheryl enjoys work and puts a priority on that, more power to her. Rather than pretending she is trying to find balance, I like that she admits her scale is tipped in one direction. 

Often, people believe they need better work/life balance because someone else had told them they need it. Cheryl didn't seem the least bit stressed to me. In fact, she seemed really happy.

What are your thoughts on admitting to not having balance and being okay with it? Have you found yourself struggling too hard to achieve it when you could give in and enjoy how you're spending your time?

October 29, 2014

The High Cost of Caregiving

My friend called me this morning to vent. She just learned her mother has an illness that needs ongoing treatment. She's worried she can't balance her demanding job, her kids and now her sick mom.

I've been there and it isn't easy. 

My friend is considering asking for a leave from her job as an inhouse recruiter at a big company. It's a job that requires face time and has little flexibility.  "What do you think I should do?" she asked me.

"That's a difficult and very personal decision," I replied.

I told her that experts say proceed with caution when pursuing this work life balance path. A few months off can turn into much longer and have serious impact on your finances.

Met Life found that for someone over 50 who leaves work temporarily to care for a loved one, the average lifetime setback is $303,880, including lost wages and retirement benefits.The total estimated aggregate lost wages, pension, and Social Security benefits of these caregivers of parents is nearly $3 trillion.That's a huge number!

Should you need to lean out for a while, it's possible to keep damage to a minimum with these smart moves published in Money Magazine

1. Plan ahead when possible and re-do your budget by setting aside funds for essential expenses first.

2. Check federal and state leave laws regarding paid and unpaid leave.

3. If you need to quit—but wish to return—make the case ahead of time for a comeback. 

Chances are that almost all of us will face what my friend is experiencing. The number of people who provide personal care and/or financial assistance to a parent has tripled over the past 15 years. MetLife's study found daughters are more likely to provide basic care and sons are more likely to provide financial assistance. (No surprise there!) Both scenarios, though, come with their own costs.

If you've confronted this scenario, what would you advise my friend? What are steps you've taken to minimize the financial and emotional toll of caregiving?

October 27, 2014

How to be less forgetful

I-lost-my-keys-joke-of-the-day

 

 

You regularly rack your brain to remember a book a friend recommended. You were on you way home from work and you can't remember the errand you were supposed run.  You suddenly can’t recall the name of your kid’s teacher. Sound familiar?

It does to me.

I feel like I have too much on my brain in my struggle for work life balance. Increasingly, I find I have to write even simple things to remember down them. And still....

Fear not: most forgetfulness isn’t anything serious, says Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, founder and chief medical officer of NeurExpand Brain Center in Luterville, MD and co-author of The Memory Cure.

Here are surprising things that impact your memory in not-so-good ways, according to an article in Time Magazine.

1. Thyroid. “People with high or low thyroid levels—which are very common in women—may have difficulty with memory and concentration,” he says. Ask your doctor for a simple thyroid test to determine if it’s the culprit behind your memory problems.

2. Hot flashes. “The more hot flashes a woman experiences during menopause, the worse her ability to remember names and stories,” says Dr. Fotuhi. “Fortunately, hot flashes don’t damage the brain in any way. Memory improves once the hot flashes subside.” 

3. Lack of Sleep. “Individuals with sleep deprivation a. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doc if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.nd sleep disorders not only suffer from impaired memory but also daytime fatigue, impaired attention, and reduced reaction time.” The standard recommendation of eight hours of sleep a night doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.

4. Stress. Do you worry  -- a lot? Worrying can affect your memory, several studies show. Prolonged periods of everyday stress increase cortisol levels in the brain, which causes our brain cells to lose synapses (the bridges that connect our brain cells to one another), and make it more difficult to create and retrieve memories. Researchers found that repeated stress reduced receptors in the part of the brain that’s connected to thought processes.  Finding ways to relieve stress may help. 

5. Pharmaceuticals. Check your medicine cabinet: many common prescription drugs can make you feel forgetful. Don’t stop taking your (potentially life-saving) medications, but talk to your doctor if you believe any drug you’re on may be messing with your memory.

Here are things that can help with memory:

1. Green Tea. How much green tea has not yet been determined, Dr. Fotuhi says in Time Magazine. He recommends combining green tea with other healthy habits such as exercise for greatest memory improvement benefits.

2. Exercise.  Dr. Fotuhi recommends 45 minutes of aerobic exercise four days a week for the best memory boost.

3. Vitamin B12.  In addition to fatigue, loss of appetite, constipation, and weight loss, a B12 deficiency can also lead to memory problems. Your doctor can give you a blood test that determines whether you should be taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

4. Keep lists. Getting things off your brain and on to paper makes a huge difference in what I'm able to remember. Paula Rizzo is a master in helping people create lists that help them remember things. Her new book,  “Listful Thinking: Using Lists to be More Productive, Highly Successful and Less Stressed” is will be coming out in January and it's on my to do list to buy it.

5. Visualization. Need to memorize a list of terms or names? You'll have a better chance of being able to recall them if the words are associated with an image, according to The Huffington Post. For example, if you have to remember a meeting at 4:30 p.m., try remembering your favorite quartet (The Beatles?) and a 30th birthday cake. It may sound silly, but you'll be grateful when you're right on time.

6. Label. Franklin Roosevelt was known to have a memory that would put most of us to shame -- he could remember the name of someone he met just once, months ago, seemingly without difficulty. His secret? Roosevelt was able to remember the names of everyone on his staff (and everyone he met) by visualizing their names written across their foreheads after being introduced to them. This technique is even more effective when the name is imagined being written in your favorite color marker, CNN claims.

7. Pay attention. Perhaps the best (and arguably most difficult) memory boost of all is simply paying attention to the task, conversation or experience at hand. Distraction makes our memories weaker, and consequently we are more prone to forget things.

I'm confessing that over the weekend, I said "nice to meet you" to the mother of my son's friend. She sounded annoyed and told me we've met before. Being forgetful is so embarrassing!

Do you think we're getting more forgetful as a society? Do you think it has something to do with all the information coming at us? What's something you've forgotten recently and do you have any tricks for ensuring you don't forget the small stuff?