Friday March 7, 2014
For the first 45 minutes of reading Brigid Schulte's book Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time, I was engrossed. I did nothing but read and take notes. I soon learned that I was using a strategy that she uncovers in her exhaustive reporting on the time pressure that working moms and dads across the country feel in juggling home and work responsibilities: pulsing. That's 30, 45, 60 or 90 minutes of intensely focusing on one activity, for maximal productivity.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
But soon enough, the phone rang and interrupted my reverie. Then I remembered I had forgotten to send an email to my daughter's Odyssey of the Mind team, which I coach. And the spell was broken. Such is the life of a working mom, or any modern worker, really, with time chopped up into confetti by the many demands placed on us.
Schulte, a Washington Post staff writer, takes a journey from time confetti to time serenity in Overwhelmed, a painstakingly researched investigation of the overload that many families face. In the vein of Katrina Alcorn's book Maxed Out, she combines memoir with facts, figures and stories about other people and organizations. It's a compelling read, and powerful indictment of our busy-for-the-sake-of-it society.
If you read the book, please let me know what you think!
Friday February 28, 2014
"The grass is greener" doesn't hold just for working moms and stay-at-home moms eyeing each others' stain-free grownup outfits and leisurely walks home from school with envy. It's true for kids as well.
Photo credit: Getty Images
The other day I was herding a group of children out of an elementary school classroom after an enrichment meeting, dropping off some at the on-site after care and leading the others for pickup by their stay-at-home parents at the school's front door. One little girl looked wistfully at the kids joining the after care activities and said she wished she could go to after school care. "But my mom doesn't work," she concluded sadly.
Maybe we working moms aren't the only ones getting guilt from our children or our internal voices. Instead of guilt from missing our kids' soccer practices or not baking cookies after school, stay-at-home moms may feel bad about family finances, not keeping the house clean enough or the like. Neither of these guilt-ridden perspectives should take hold, in my opinion. We make the best choice for our family and ourselves, and then live with the consequences. If fallout becomes more than we bargained for, we make different choices.
Each person has a different yardstick to measure her worth as a parent, and it works best when you're the one doing the judging. We each have our own list of things that make us a good mom: hopefully the ones that count. The more I've been a mother, the more I refine that list and fit it to my values and my family's values.
What's your recipe for being a good parent? Is it getting home for family dinner most nights? Or traveling for work only twice a month? Perhaps it's not measured by numbers, but knowing that you're the one that your daughter confides in when troubled, or seeks out for a hug when upset. It's a deeply personal question, and one that we should answer for ourselves -- not based on what the others think.
Wednesday February 26, 2014
The nightly tussle over the homework is a familiar scene in many a household. You know the drill. The kid resists sitting down at the beautifully organized homework center. The parent gently reminds while cooking dinner and simultaneously taking a work call. The kid drags his heels. The parent develops a splitting headache and loses his or her cool entirely.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Sound familiar? If not, you're probably one of those parents whose children independently complete their homework the instant the door slams shut behind them after school, then ask if they can help set the table. Yes, we all hate you.
For the rest of us, there comes a time when we ask, "Whose homework is it anyway?" It's easy to get caught up in what the teacher thinks of our parenting and to expect perfection from our children in the to-do lists we create for them. The homework is really their business. While we have an obligation as parents to carve out time in the schedule for homework and give them a quiet place to do it, they're the ones who benefit from completing homework problems - or suffer when they neglect the obligation.
For working parents, there's the extra challenge of creating a consistent homework routine when children are in aftercare or with a babysitter. How do you balancing your responsibility as a parent to facilitate homework with the reality that it's ultimately the kids' obligation?
Tuesday February 18, 2014
Do you ever wonder, "Is it me?" when you run into a roadblock at work? Academic Joan Williams is here to tell you that it's not all in your head. A new book What Works for Women at Work, written with her daughter Rachel Dempsey, dissects the four ways that gender bias undermines working women, and gives a range of options for fighting back.
Photo credit: Getty Images
For an article for Working Mother on the book, I spoke with nearly a dozen high-ranking executive women, all of whom had experienced one or more of the four barriers. Fortunately, they all had overcome them -- giving hope to us all that with some savvy, we can also surmount these obstacles. Hint: becoming defensive and bitter doesn't help.
How have you found that being a women -- and a mother -- has held you back at work? What strategies have you found to climb the career ladder successfully?