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14 posts from October 2008

October 30, 2008

Finding low-cost child care

  Great piece on The Today Show this morning on finding cost-effective child care -- a hot topic in this economy. As we all know good, inexpensive child care is hard to find. It can be particularly difficult right now because working parents are discovering their wages are stagnant and hours are longer, but child care still costs the same. The average cost of child care per year: $5,500.

     Some suggestions: Nanny sharing. This is one I participate in with my neighbor. It works out great for both of us and saves us money. The nanny watches all of our children at the same time. There's another option, too -- Some families are sharing nannies who split their time between two households. There are websites out there to find parents in your area willing to nanny share. Google nanny share.

   Another idea: babysitting co-ops, larger groups of parents who take turns babysitting for other families. And, there are babysitting services such as Sittercity.com that will provide people who can help with logistics, walking your child to school in the morning or chauffeuring her to dance class. This route might be less expensive than hiring a full-time nanny.

   Of course bringing babies to work also is an option for some. (Might be worth asking about at your workplace)

    You might also want to check out nannynetwork.com.  A recent nanny convention (who knew there was such a thing) revealed nannies are declaring specialties such as working with multiples, kids with Autism, or newborns. These niche nannies get paid up to 50 percent more than traditional nannies so use them only if necessary.

   Are your child care costs going up? Beyond government-funded child care, have you discovered other low-cost options? What do you think of nanny sharing?

October 29, 2008

Recovering work/life balance

Specer_2        While on a cruise, Miami attorney Spencer Aronfeld looked around at some of his older fellow passengers and had a revelation. “I started to wonder how I ever am going to retire.”

   Aronfeld, a personal injury lawyer has been a solo practioner for 17 years, filing every motion, answering every phone call and arguing every case himself. “When I was not there, my business shut down,” he said.

        But more than that, Aronfeld, 43, realized that mid-career he had a successful law practice but no work/life balance. “I was killing myself, working 12-14 hours a day and it was never enough. I had a wife and two kids that I never saw. It was a miserable existence.”

      So, Aronfeld decided to make BIG changes. He brought in an advisor to help. First, the advisor coached Aronfeld to hire two lawyers to pitch in with cases. Next, he encouraged Aronfeld to scrutinize new cases more carefully, looking for quality rather than quantity. He also helped Aronfeld put in systems to run his practice in a more organized way and avoid constant interruptions. Staff gets in earlier and knows how to open and close the office. It’s paid off.


    “Now I’m not working on weekends and I’m planning my day so that I know at certain times I'm returning phone calls.” Aronfeld says.  In addition to spending more time with his daughter and son, 9 and 6, he says his business is running more smoothely. Another bonus: “I’m not so exhausted all the time.” Aronfeld says he actually can see retirement in his future. "I'm trying to plan at 43 so I can get there at 63."

     I admire the way Aronfeld has reclaimed his work/life balance. What have you done (or not done) to improve the quality of your life at work and home?

October 28, 2008

Is work/life balance dead?

    You really want to make it home to trick or treat with your kids but your boss wants you to stay at work and get the client an answer to his question -- NOW! Before you might have put your foot down but in this environment, you just suck it up. Right?

     Are workers so fearful for their jobs that they are giving up all hope of reclaiming their personal time?  I'm afraid such things as flexible work arrangements, telecommuting and working from offices closer to home are a thing of the past as workers and employers worry about surviving in this free-fall economy. Companies are in a panic mode. So are workers.

    Expert John Challenger says: "Holding on to your job right now is more important for many than getting more work/life balance.This is not the right time to be negotiating those sorts of things.''

    On their blog, Womenomics, ABC News' Claire Shipman and the BBC's Katty Kay are more optimistic that working mothers have leverage saying : " In order to deal with a looming labor and talent shortage they (companies) need to keep talented, highly educated women and the only to do that is come up with ways that allow women to stay in the marketplace.

    But in Lisa Belkin's New York Times article, she writes: "Looking back at how far the work/life conversation has come in the last five years leads to looking forward and wondering where things will head from here. The economy, of course, will be the determining factor."

     Even Belkin questions where things are headed: "The sorts of initiatives that make work more family friendly are also the newest, and it is likely that when cuts have to be made in companies, these kinds of programs will be the first to go." She asks, When we stabilize to some “new normal," how will the workplace continue to change?

     How do you think it will continue to change? Do you think the momentum of the last decade is about to be reversed? Is work/life balance dead? At least for now, I say yes.

October 27, 2008

The truth about work life balance

     One Saturday, my husband and I were with the kids at a Sesame Street show and he ran into one of his staffers who had given an elaborate excuse as to why he couldn't put in extra hours that day. The guy turned red when he say my husband (his boss) and realized his excuse has tripped him up. It's taken me a long time in my work/life balancing act but with some lectures from my husband, I finally learned the value in a simple "no." 
     On a blog post today, one author writes: "Was told today by the therapist that I reveal too much to people that I meet. We are trying to get me to work a little less and prioritize my personal life a little more, and I thought I was doing that when I told my manager yesterday that I refused to go into work because I needed to take care of myself. "He doesn't need to know that," she said. "Just 'no' works."
     The way I see it, you are the only one who cares about your work/life balance. Most people take a job in which they are supposed to work only 40 hours a week but actually are expected to put in a lot more. A new survey shows half of young people consider quitting because they do not have good work/life balance. Expert Stew Friedman from Harvard Business Online says: Unfortunately, while it might seem noble in the short run to sacrifice the needs you have to cultivate your mind, body, and spirit, over time it's a recipe for burnout.
      If you are called to work on a day off or asked to put in more hours...just say no and remember, refrain from feeling the need to explain why. Have you ever offered up a reason for needing time off, only to have it work against you? Do you think your boss would care about your need for time for yourself or family?

October 23, 2008

When you lose the "working" from working mom

    Brooke_2                     Today, I am crazed at work. I'm trying to jam a full day into a half day because the public schools let out early. Still, even in my crazed state, I enjoy trying to find the balance between work and family. Which is why last night I found myself fascinated by storyline for Brooke Shields' character in NBC's Lipstick Jungle. Last week, her character, Wendy, a high-powered movie studio executive, was fired from her job. This week, she tried to cope with being home and having time on her hands after years of spending most of her time at work. She whips up a huge stack of pancakes that no one but herself has time to eat. I know women who are going through this same adjustment after being laid off. What if I, like Wendy, found myself no longer a "working" mom? I think I would react just like Wendy -- shell shocked.

    I think Marissa Thalberg hits it head on with this comment on her Executive Mom blog. Thalberg tells  her own story of going from senior executive to not having a job at all when her company files Chapter 11. She writes: "It’s hard not to face it with a certain sense of incredulity that comes to those who have felt buffered by their talent and sense of company worth."

    Thalberg goes on to say, "I realize how much I love taking my daughter to school every morning…but then I realize how much I want to be taking her to school all dressed up and ready to go off with a sense of career purpose from there. I realize how much I do indeed define myself both by being a professional and by being a mother. I miss the stimulation, the challenge, even the pace and pressure of the insane amount needed to get done that I often would (and expect will again) bemoan. And, there is the small matter of our mortgage needing to be paid. I’m struck anew by the results of the very first survey we fielded, in which 70% of the women we asked said they work BOTH because they want to emotionally and need to financially. Being an "executive mom" isn’t just derived from a set of circumstances… it is more of an innate state of being, for many women, including me."

          So what if suddenly, you no longer were a "working mom." Would you enjoy the time off with your family (even for a brief time) or feel a desperate need to find a new job or career? Would you feel intimated trying to mingle more with stay-at-home mothers? Are you going through this experience right now?

October 21, 2008

The No Complaining Rule

      I've decided to take on the challenge posed in Jon Gordon's book, The No Complaining Rule. I'm going make it through an ENTIRE day without complaining. Do you think you could do it?

          With cutbacks and layoffs, my work environment has been so downbeat lately. I'm tired of going home at the end of the day and bringing the negativity with me. So today, bolstered by some tips on Gordon's blog, I vowed to have a "positive only" day.

     Morning goes well but at lunchtime, it becomes a real effort to resist joining the whinefest when yet another co-worker yearns for a cup of coffee only to discover -- no cups. Normally, I would have jumped right in with my two cents about how pitiful things have become when my employer no longer can supply paper cups. But not today. "Bring your own cup," I suggest, "it's better for the environment." (How's that for positive?)

       By mid-afternoon, I am beyond frozen in my meat locker/office. Apparently, we still air condition the newsroom as if it was full of bodies. But in our post-layoff state, even the heater under my desk isn't powerful enough to keep me from shivering. "I'm frozen," I shout to my co-worker. Oops. I slipped. A complaint? I try to shake it off as a mere statement. That's when I realize, how much wasted energy I spend during the workday complaining.

       If you’re honest with yourself, you probably have to admit that you complain at work too. The Movin On Up blog points out: "It’s natural to want to talk to your co-workers about issues, frustrations and struggles – work related or otherwise. But complaining at work is a dangerous habit.

Here are a few reasons complaining is bad for your career:

    1. When you give in to the habit of complaining, it increases your stress level, pushing you into the downward spiral of negativity. Before you know it, you may be complaining about everything and your outlook on your job is bound to get worse.

    2.Wasting time complaining about how much you have to do merely demonstrates to your boss that you’re not focused, skilled at time management or capable of doing your work.

    3. Leaders don’t complain; they foster change

Do you think negativity has seeped into your worklife? How long do you think you could go at work without complaining?

October 20, 2008

Do you want: more money or time?

        Which is more valuable to you -- more free time or more money? That is a question that is getting more difficult for me to answer.  For several years, American workers have told the pollsters they are more motivated by time off than dollars and cents. Personally, I have turned down freelance assignment in the past because I just didn't want to give up my free time. But now, with our economy in the doldrums, I'm not so sure I would make that tradeoff.

       It surprised me today when I read an article about holiday bonuses. I know, it seems way to early to be thinking about the holidays, but apparently, some small businesses are going to give "time off" to employees rather than year-end bonuses.

    Susan Solovic, chief executive of SBTV.com, a small business Web portal said her company is running behind on its projections. So instead of bonuses, her staffers will get the week off between Christmas and New Year's Day. Solovic is convinced her staff would rather have time than a gift or money.

     Now, I'm sure Solovic's staffers will appreciate the time off. But let's be real. Most of us are downright scared about the economic future of this country. Ask any working mother and she will say she places huge value on her free time. But this holiday season, I say most workers want the cash. Do you agree?


October 16, 2008

National Boss Day makes me hurl

    I really want to hurl when I think about a jerk of a boss I had years ago. He was my first boss out of school and made an extra effort to intimidate me and put me down. It has never surprised me to hear that an employee's boss is the number one reason for leaving one's job.  It felt so good when a few years later that jerk of a boss was fired and had trouble finding another job.

   But today, we celebrate the good bosses. Today is National Boss Day. I know this may be hard to believe, but this day was created by a greeting card company. You are supposed to honor the hard work and the dedication of your supervisor, who has helped you in being a better worker while still having a personal life. Does this describe your boss -- someone who has your best interests at heart?

    A 2008 Yahoo survey,  found 43% of Americans don't like their boss's management styles, while 55% agree that "people don't leave companies, they leave managers." Fast Company's blog weighs in on National Boss Day and says 32% of employees say they defy orders from their bosses.

    But another survey found a more uplifting trend. Even with all the bellyaching workers do, an Adecco survey found that the vast majority (65 percent) of American workers think their boss looks out for them and their career goals. More American workers (29%) would call their boss a “friend” as compared to other categorizations including mentor, confidant, parent figure, enemy or rival.

    ONLY one-third (31%) of American workers would take their boss's job if offered to them right now. As Kenny notes: It takes real leadership on the part of bosses to maintain morale during these turbulent times.

     Do you want your boss's job? Is your boss a jerk that makes you want to hurl? Is he/she your ally who acknowledges that wants you to succeed and wants you have a life outside the office? Is he/she worthy of a gift, a card, a show of gratitude -- or is this holiday ridiculous?


    "More employees are beginning to view their bosses as allies (or friends), rather than mere paycheck providers, which is a win-win for both workers and employers alike," says Bernadette Kenny, chief career officer for Adecco USA.

    Do you view your boss as an ally? These days, I must admit that I do. But I sure wouldn't want my boss's job. Which leads us to the next survey finding....

October 15, 2008

Luxuries, necessities and the economic slump

   Over the last few days, I have had a least a dozen conversations with people about what they are cutting back on during this economic slump. I have a friend that cut out her vacation to Florida this winter. I have another who gave up her Saturday night babysitter and her cleaning service.  I spoke to a boss who cut back on dry cleaning and business owner who let go of his assistant. 

    By now, most people have changed their definition of necessities and  luxuries. Personally, I have cut back on the conveniences that helped with work/life balance --no more fast food or babysitters. But then there's a friend of mine, a single mom, who recently lost her job. As she blows through her savings, she's cutting back on things I consider necessities -- her house phone, her health insurance.

     Here's something else to think about: More than one in four working families -- a total of 42 million adults and children -- are low-income, earning too little to meet their basic needs. "Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short," a follow-up to the 2004 report "Working Hard, Falling Short," found that an additional 350,000 working families were low-income in 2006 compared to 2002.  Imagine what those families are giving up during this slump!

    Even as people find themselves out of work and faced with career choices, life coach Drazia Rubenstein said some of her clients now consider going to a life coach a luxury.

     I found an interesting study by Pew Research about consumer products we now consider necessities. The list has grown in the past decade. I have to wonder if the list of services has grown too.  Can you live without a tech helpline? Would you survive without a mechanic? Could you show up at your office if you gave up dry cleaning?   

     Are you rethinking what you consider a necessity? Has the volatility of the financial markets scared you enough to cut drastically or are you still making minor cutbacks in your lifestyle and budget?


October 13, 2008

Women are more stressed about money

     Are women more stressed in this time of financial turmoil? A new study says yes. I'm not convinced.

      A survey of more than 2,500 people released last week  by the American Psychological Association says economic stress is taking a greater health toll on women. The survey found that 80 percent of folks say the economy is a significant source of stress, up from 66 percent in April. Women, though, were more likely to report being stressed about money—83 percent of them compared with 78 percent of men. In her careers blog, Liz Wolgemuth says the reason is women usually have the burden of household decision making, men less money than men, and are quicker to feel a sense of powerlessness.

  Womenmoney Another survey found the same pattern:  A poll of 104 women from BettyConfidential.com found that half of the respondents are experiencing a general sense of fear and concern, while nearly 1 in 5 is suffering insomnia. One survey taker said: "I don't sleep more than four hours a night. I get headaches. I worry that my kids can't go to college, and my doctor now has me on anti-anxiety meds. (Thankfully, they are cheap!)"

On an appearance on CBS4/My 33, psychologist Kaia Calbeck women may be telling pollsters they are more stressed because they express themselves differently than men. Women tend to talk about concerns more than men. Men experiencing anxiety will say they are angry about the problem, where  women will say they are worried about a particular financial concern.

     But who really is more stressed? As Calbeck points out, men tend to experience stress over finances at greater level because typically they are the providers. I have to agree with her that men stress over money more than women, they just internalize it, which is much more harmful to their health.

     Regardless of gender, if you've got the blues in a big way, get help. Make a financial plan for riding out the crisis. Consider talking to a professional.  And, use stress as motivation to exercise. The On Women blog provides some more tips for managing money-related stress.

    Do you think women are more anxious about the economy? Do you feel that financial concerns affect genders differently?