My Birthday and Mother’s Day gifts did not come this year in beautiful boxes with lovely ribbons. They did not come in the form of a bouquet or in breathtaking flats of flowers carefully chosen by my family to lovingly plant in my garden. Nor in a carefully prepared meal of multiple fresh organic vegetables shipped in from out East, (am accused of being high- maintenance), prepared especially for me and served at my farm table fondly considered my home’s mission control. My gifts this year came in the form of startling realizations, “ah ha” moments, repeated theme questions from multiple mentees, and a chance meeting at 7-11. All compelling me to write this blog.
It started with a phone call home from my son, because sadly he did not come home for Mother’s Day this year. Do not shed a tear for me dear readers. That is because I completed my job. He left the nest.
Up until this moment I have shied away from writing a blog solely about my children, but alas the time has come. Yes, I have sprinkled them in here and there through anecdotes and references but never as the main event. That is because this is mainly a business blog, but you will ultimately see the connections. For those who know me personally this is by no means because my children took a back seat to my career, in fact it is just the opposite. They are my inspiration. The reason I have the strength to do all I do. The impetus behind all I have accomplished. You see ours has always been a story of survival of the fittest. Eat or be eaten. In retrospect my children are the wind in my sails. The energy that fuels my soul. My talisman enabling me to face another day, weather life’s storms, ebbs, flows and challenges.
They say it takes a village to raise a family, for us it took a small country. So this blog will not only be for parents. It is for anyone who dares to love, mentor, shape and mold a child, young adult or influence a life. This may ultimately be a story of happily ever after, but it was no fairy tale in the making. Ours is a story of steps, rotating family members, friends and neighbors. We needed to throw convention out the window to cross the finish line. It was by no means a graceful relay race; it was an obstacle course, a tough mudder at that, navigating all of the personalities. There was no baton to pass. It was more a struggle of wills carried out through passed backpacks and winter coats through car windows. Happy meals and sports equipment dropped over little league fences. Disputes, disagreements, negotiations, and resolutions conveyed via email and text. Nevertheless, we made it through!
We had three rules, 1. Be a good Person (Pay it Forward, Equity, Inclusion) 2. Do Your Homework (Accountability) 3. Make something of your life, case closed! The rest was up for interpretation. Making it out the other end was the top line, bottom line, end game, daily goal, and a struggle at that.
The phone call:
If your life is anything like mine from the time you give birth you will never have another sip of any liquid or bite into any form of solid food (even if you are thousands of miles away from home) that is not interrupted or without one of your family members having a burning desire to tell you something. This Friday night was no different. Feet up, finally relaxed, ready for that first sip of (very good) Cabernet, Boom! My son was ready to download his first week of work. Boy, I am lucky I answered the phone. He was calling to tell me with a voice full of pride that he joined the Women’s Initiative at work. I was speechless; something you might imagine does not come up often. He went on to explain that by example I taught him the importance of diverse teams and inclusion. This he felt joining the group was the best way to meet the managers that supported these Initiatives. Wow, I was blown away!
HE WAS LISTENING
I had a similar experience with my daughter weeks earlier; suddenly I was beginning to connect the dots. While conducting a lunch and learn at Love and Quiches Gourmet on the subject of Time Management, I looked out into the audience and my daughter was sitting in the front row. It was both shocking and daunting. Truth be told, I did not think she would even show up because it was not mandatory, I assumed she would take a pass. I had underestimated this young adult. Low and behold there she was, pen and paper in hand. The moment turned out to be magical. The lunch and learn progressed and every time I asked a question or for audience participation my daughter chimed in or raised her hand with the answer. Finally I had to say ENOUGH! Secretly, I was beaming.
“Ah Ha” Moment:
THEY WERE LISTENING
Over the years I have mentored countless scores of men and women. My mentees know I take calls at all hours. My heart and line are always open. I am always a text, e-mail or phone call away. What I realized that day is the impact this made on my children.
The whole time, THEY WERE LISTENING!
For you see, my children were raised amongst a backdrop of mentoring advice. For every one of you out there that I have talked off the ledge while making a pot of meatballs, whose resume I have reviewed while proofing a college essay, or mock interview I have conducted while making a paper mache volcano (with real lava I might add).
MY CHILDREN WERE LISTENING.
My son still to this day thinks I could not hear him in the back seat while I was driving carpool when he would say to his friends. “Ask my mom, she knows stuff.”
So full circle, why is this story so important and how does it tie into raising children and ultimately business success? Doesn’t mentoring really start in childhood? Isn’t mentoring crucial to personal development and building confidence which is vital to success? Look at the impact it has had on my children’s success. Think of the lives YOU can impact by becoming a mentor!
Who are your childhood mentors? Who has helped shape your career? Who have you helped influence and pushed up the corporate ladder?
The questions and the recurring theme:
If I were to do a retrospective; a greatest hits album of sorts, of mentoring conversations or most frequently asked questions and recurring themes, the two that instantly come to mind are, drum roll please…
Will I be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?
Will it be alright in the end?
After all, these are the same two questions I have been pondering myself since I gave birth 26 years ago. Patience please, I will circle back in the end, promise.
A Chance Meeting, The catalyst for writing this blog (A true story):
As you all know I am a collector of people. An attractor of odd happenstances. A relisher of consideration if life is made up of coincidence or sheer will! As I often say, I do not write my blogs, my blogs write me. They come to life through a series of circumstances, conversations, meetings and happenings compelling me to put pen to paper. This blog is no different.
From the time my children were toddlers, my calendar has been filled to the brim and my to do list wants to fight back and say “are you kidding me?” Instead of my hotel loyalty program sending me a congratulations letter each year they should have been apologizing, and sending my family a fruit basket! You can be rest assured I was always forgetting, running out of, or leaving something to the very, I mean very last minute. 7-Eleven became an oasis in the storm. It was where we went for the forgotten milk. The last ingredient for the cookies we were baking for class. Where I comforted an inconsolable child with Slurpies and other unsavory items I would not allow at home. Hate to admit, it was where dinner was served for back to back games and nights on the field!
As we all know the more things change the more they stay the same. Two weeks ago when I finally cleared my schedule to visit my son’s his new apartment in Philly, (more excited than you could possibly imagine), the week leading to the visit was overflowing to the brim with meetings, clients, workshops, you know the drill. I found myself at 10 PM the night before unpacked, on the way home from a sales dinner with nothing to bring as a house warming gift. Then I saw a sign, or actually THE sign, 7-Eleven. Not sure what I thought I would find inside but again there are no coincidences!
As I opened the door there in the aisles was a beautiful woman in a business suit, milk carton in hand, with two adorable children in tow. My life flashed before my eyes and suddenly I knew what I would give. I taught my kids to give first for if you pay it forward you will always be successful. That is true in life and in business.
I tapped this woman on the shoulder, handed her my card, told her of my children, life, balance (or lack thereof), and that I was going to tell my story in a blog for her and as a gift for my son.
Much to my delight I received this e-mail the very next morning.
Nice meeting you at 7-11 last night and reminding me there is no such thing as balance and I will survive motherhood ha ha.
Please do let me know when you write your blog would love to read it.
My son thought it was cool but was a little less juiced as you could imagine after 23 years of similar stories and happenstance. He was hoping for a flat screen.
So, what is the net long term effect of nights on the road, running out of milk and serving cornflakes with orange juice? Will your children be permanently scarred from screamed lullabies due to frustration, cold pizza for breakfast or heaven forbid Pork Fried Rice? Can you truly make the right choice between a board meeting and a track meet? Did the world come to an end because I missed a business opportunity or two or let my kids turn in assignment late because being together for whatever reason that day was the better option?
There actually was no long term net effect.
This week I will make my pilgrimage to see my youngest child graduate, a miss-matched army in tow. My job is done, my heart is full, and I could not be more proud.
So, what is the answer to those two burning questions my inquisitive readers?
Will you be able to maintain balance while working and raising a family?
Probably not, I never did. You will make choices, some good, and some bad. Through those choices you will ALL grow and learn, after all, isn’t that the point of this blog.
Balance is like one of those jig saw puzzles we all have stored high up on a closet shelf. When you finally do take it down that boring rainy day and decide to put it together as a family activity, inevitably there is a piece or two missing. Nevertheless, you have spent so much time working on it you just squint your eyes and make it work. Mentally you refuse to see what is missing. That’s how you make it out the other end! Each day you show up fully and do the best you can.That might not make you balanced but it makes you whole.
Dear 7-Eleven mom and countless others reading this blog.
Will it be alright in the end?
That depends on your definition.
I say ABSOLUTELY!
About the Author: Joan Axelrod Siegelwax is the Executive Vice President of Love & Quiches Gourmet, and the Founder and President of Powerful Possibilities Coaching. In her role at Love and Quiches Gourmet she leads the Human Resources Department with the primary goal of increasing employee engagement, accountability, retention and improved corporate culture. Through creation of Powerful Possibilities Coaching, she has made these skills available to a larger audience through Transformational Executive Coaching, specializing in personal growth, organizational development, career coaching, leadership development, managing transitions, executive presence, personal branding, personal empowerment, life balance, organization and productivity.
Achieving successful work-life balance can very often seem like mission impossible. Busy work schedules often dictate lives of most people so much so that your personal time gets affected and can become limited. For many of us we don’t even realise that we are not finding the time for ourselves and this can have an impact on us, mentally and within your overall health.
You are probably thinking that it is easier said than done, which is correct. We all have different lives, schedules and responsibilities – from the young professional working extra hours to secure the promotion, to becoming a senior manager who has mouths to feed and KPI’s to secure. Nevertheless we can all try and dedicate some valuable ‘me’ time for ourselves in order to see some great improvements when it comes to our work-life balance.
Incorporating any one of these seven tips listed below will bring you a step closer to achieving a healthy work life balance you so desire:
Introduce Skype meetings
Important business meetings can require a lot of travel, which could equate to multiple days away from home and the office. Today’s technology has made it possible for you to reach clients that are states and even countries away, all from the comfort of your home or office. Skype and conference calls are both ideal ways to communicating with clients, whilst saving you and your business time and hassle of travelling.
If a business trip is a must then using Skype would allow you keeping in touch with your colleagues back in the office and maintaining office relationships. Even more you will also find Skype reducing your business’s travel costs, meaning the money could then be invested elsewhere.
Treat yourself regularly
Treating yourself regularly is really important for your sanity and health. Choosing to do something you enjoy will make you feel more grounded and relaxed. Allow yourself a 30 minute window each day where you do something for yourself. Things you truly enjoy, such as read a book, have a bath or cook a nice meal.
If you are a busy city worker, go into the local salon and treat yourself to an express facial. Alternatively you could always have a girl’s night in a nice restaurant or have a date night with your partner. These easy things will definitely make you feel happier and more relaxed.
Work from home
If you have a lunchtime client meeting you must attend, consider traveling to the venue from your home, as commuting directly will be help you cut down on travel costs. Another benefit of the many innovative technologies we have today is the ability to share documents and other information online. This allows you the great opportunity of working from home, yet still be connected to your office. Therefore, by utilizing this tool, you can cut down on the days you have to go into the office. This will also help you out on days when you are not able to make it into the office due to weather or child care, and will become a perfect solution to being able to access all your documents.
Set realistic expectations
It is a good idea to set your expectations for your life reasonably. For example, it is a realistic goal to aim to climb the ladder at work, become a good cook and keep your home running efficiently. However, it is not realistic to be working 70 + hours a week, whilst becoming a gourmet chef and keeping your home spotless – it just won’t happen. Therefore, to avoid becoming discouraged, it is smart to set manageable goals and not expecting yourself accomplishing superhuman tasks.
Remember you are just a human and it is not a crime to ask for help!
Be willing to alter your definition of success
Different stages of life call for different definitions of success. For example, if you have young children, you can feel successful if you get your kids off to day-care, get yourself to work on time and get at least a portion of your duties accomplished on any given day. However, if you don’t have children, of course you can expect more from yourself in regards to your job and your personal goals. In other words, your definition of success will likely change throughout various stages of your life, and that is okay.
Exercise on lunch break
According to John Ratey, Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, exercise is the best thing you could do for you brain in regards to learning, memory and mood. Since exercising also leads to a fit body, incorporating it into your working day just makes sense. If you are not lucky enough to have a gym in your office building then fear not. Most fitness suites offer express classes during lunch times that are high intensity workouts lasting 30 minutes. If you would rather prefer a low impact workout, then try going for a swim.
Getting up and moving, somewhere away from your computer, will give you some fresh air during a hectic day, allowing you to concentrate, which will lead to a more productive workday.
Make sure your career choice fits your strengths
For whatever reason, many people end up in a career that is completely wrong for them. A person who hates numbers ends up working at a bank, or a person who doesn’t care for children has a career as a teacher. This career choice just doesn’t make sense. Therefore, if you have ever felt like your career choice just doesn’t match your strengths or personality, do something about it and find a career that fits you better.
If it is impossible due to financial reasons, consider utilizing your personality and skills taking part in volunteering activities outside of work. Helping others will allow you utilizing your gifts and give you a sense of greater purpose as you will be giving back to others.
By following the seven tips listed above, you will be on your way to a healthier work-life balance. Be careful not to set your goals too high, just half an hour to an hour a day can really make a difference.
About the Author: As a young entrepreneur and business blogger, Lucinda Smith has developed a passion for helping small and medium sized businesses grow. She likes to particularly focus on using technology and software solutions to save businesses time and money. She also contributes to the DNS managed print services blog.
Do not look at the woman in front of you as having been out of the workforce. Instead, see her as formerly employed in one of the hardest occupations possible: parenting. She can handle stress and odd hours, all with very little sleep. She can multitask and think days, weeks and even years in advance. As an HR professional, there are things you can do to help her return to the workplace and capitalize on her unique set of needs.
Understand the Compromise
In a study published in the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, researchers found that compromise was a major theme in the decision of a parent to return to work. A parent returning to work has made a decision to balance her life between two huge priorities. Understand that she may be torn between being at home and being at work. She wants to do both, and well, but bilocation is still a fantasy. By keeping the job focus on achievement over time, a smart HR director can ease the pain of returning to work and increase employee retention.
Value the Employee
The same article states that one of the major factors for a parent to return to work is for a sense of value. It is important for any employee to feel valued, but may be more so for the returning parent. Awards, appreciation flowers or a heartfelt thank you note can bring out the best in a parent-turned-employee.
Remember that a mother coming back into the labor force post labor is not some lost soul who needs a place to be. She is an accomplished human being who can bring value to your company.
Go To Bat
Workplace flexibility is central to a parent’s decision and ability to return to the workforce, according to the Journal of Industrial Relations. Unfortunately, studies show there is often a dissonance between the policies of a company and the management’s actual practice. Having a work-at-home policy means nothing if that policy is never approved by management. Economies of time are central for success for both a business and a parent. A business manager needs enough man hours to complete a task but valued parent-workers needs time to pick up children from school and handle kid-related emergencies.
Sometimes it will be the HR director’s job to mediate this balance of time and responsibility. This may require conversations with managers, but it could also mean offering the parent-worker alternative job responsibilities. Researchers are finding that the stresses of being both a parent and a successful employee are opening up people returning to the workforce to the idea of changing career paths. Making this a possibility can be good for all parties involved.
About the Author: Ruth Harris has been a HR consultant in the Bay area for ten years. When she’s not at the office, she enjoys spending time with her kids and exploring the city of San Francisco.
What causes people to gravitate towards their career? We know that there are numerous factors including socio-economic status, location, age, academic inclination, mentors, and parental influence.
For many years, centuries it seems, it was common for children to follow in the footsteps of their parents—daughters following mothers, sons following fathers. Given how we used to learn things and the very nature of old class systems, that careers were family-centric is in no way surprising.
In recent times however, children are less likely to take similar career paths as their parents. In fact, according to recent findings from Ancestry.co.uk, just 7% of children today end up in the same job as their mother or father (as compared to 48% a century ago).
Indeed, from a career perspective, all sorts of things have influenced career gravitation for women, including the Suffrage movement, Title IX, and even technology.
According to Ancestry.com’s studies, children today are three times more likely to choose a different career from their parents.
So let me ask this question of HR Professionals. Was one of your parents an HR Professional, or the earlier derivations such as Personnel Manager or Payroll Administrator? If yes, how much of an influence was this on your own career choice?
In my entire career, I have only met one mother/daughter HR duo, and in reality, the mother was only the HR Professional for a few years before taking over the company from her father. How come there aren’t more mother/daughters like this?
I think it behooves us to ask:
- Are we promoting our career in a sustainable, attractive way?
- Are we happy in our career, and do we project happiness?
- What can we do to promote this field to our children?
Talk amongst yourselves.
About the author: Bonni Titgemeyer is the Managing Director of The Employers’ Choice Inc. She has been in human resources for 20+ years and works in the international HR arena. She is the recipient of the 2012 Toronto Star HR Professional of the Year Award. You can connect with Bonni on Twitter as @BonniToronto, often at the hashtag #TEPHR.
Looking for a life-impacting role for HR? Explore the opportunity you can use to save lives and life styles. I am talking about the life skills and balancing of life decisions of both your employees and their spouses.
My mom’s cousin lost her husband in the last year. In her grief and lack of education, she ignored the opportunity to keep her insurance and other benefits going. She has now had a stroke and may need brain surgery. I don’t want to go into the healthcare debate; I want you to think about the people and the impact a little education and/or policy changes could make.
What if her insurance and benefits could have continued automatically, paid out of her survivor benefits? This could at least have happened for a reasonable “grief” period, when there are so many decisions to make.
Let’s go beyond insurance and jump to life skills discussion. Want to increase family engagement? What about addressing the often ignored factors of estate planning and organizational skills? 85% of households have one spouse solely responsible for bills and paperwork. How can you help employees and their spouses, regardless of which one is the household operator, understand the critical necessity of cross training or at least strong organization of these processes. It can be touchy, but in many cases, it would be very welcome to have tools and discussion facilitated.
This issue is gender and socio-economically diverse. Think about it. Think about your mom, dad, sister, brother, grandparent, spouse. Who is going to be impacted by a tragedy compounded by complexity of new skill requirements, or financial messes that have never been shared?
You can make a difference.
Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is co-founder and former CEO of Aquire Solutions, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. After entering a bit of a sabbatical life phase, she is authoring a series of children’s books about career ambitions. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a speaker, author of industry articles, and an occasional blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.
Today’s dads are working hard to be “better” fathers than previous generations. No one is saying that that those generations of dads were not good fathers, times are simply changing and dads today are making it clear that they want to raise their children differently.
While dads are making family time a bigger priority than their fathers and grandfathers did, their dedication to a thriving professional career has not changed. Corporate culture, especially in larger companies, doesn’t always mesh with a dad’s desire for more family time. Because of this, many working dads are finding themselves struggling to juggle a work-life balance, as women have been doing for decades.
However, some companies are evolving with the times and improving their paternity leave programs as well as utilizing technology to allow for more work flexibility. This includes giving dads the ability to work from home, even if it’s only for a couple of hours a day so they can cut out of the office early to pick the kids up from school.
Of course another factor is that our wives are not the women their mothers were. With more women in the workforce, in fact 40% are now the family breadwinner, the home environment has changed and so must the delegation of household responsibilities. There is increased pressure on men to be more than just a paycheck and to play an equal parenting role.
But it’s also that our generation has wanted to change and be more present in our children’s lives. To really know them and to be closely involved with shaping who our children become.
According to a Pew study, fathers in 1965 spent only 2.5 hours a week on child care, where today that number has jumped to about 7 hours. While that may not seem like much, evolution is a process and I believe that the generations of boys we are raising will do even more.
I had a great childhood and have enormous admiration, love and respect for my dad but have still strived to be a more involved father in the raising of my three children. And I hope that my sons will do even more than I’ve done for their kids.
Men are evolving. Each generation is told more and more that it’s okay to cry, to be vulnerable and to love. So when we hold our babies in our arms for the very first time – we do. All of those thoughts we had as kids “I wish my dad were here,” “I’ll do that when I’m a dad,” come flooding back and we make a conscious effort to be different. Some of those promises we keep and some falter under the pressures of careers and mortgages. But the point is that we get a little closer to being the dad that we wanted to be and hopefully, as we reflect on the dad we said we would be – and the dad we actually are – we continue to evolve.
Chris Duchesne is the VP of Care.com’s Global Employer Program, Workplace Solutions. He brings more than 15 years of experience in HR technology to Care.com, the largest online care destination in the world with 8 million members spanning 16 countries. A key member of the leadership team, he oversees the Global Workplace Solutions program that provides customized, cost-effective programs that make Care.com’s suite of services available to institutional and corporate clients, their employees and families. A father of three small children, Chris knows first-hand the challenges working parents face and brings that experience to his role.
The difficulty associated with maintaining a work-life balance certainly isn’t a new saga – in fact, it likely dates all the way back to the days of the caveman. That said it’s becoming a more prominent issue for the workforce and, consequently, a more significant focal point for those in HR. If employees are facing stress in one aspect of their life, be it work or personal, it’s likely impacting their other functions as well. And in a time when productivity and innovation mean the difference between being a leader or a laggard, most firms can’t afford not to acknowledge the challenges that most in the workforce are facing.
A recent Pew study found that 56% of working mothers and 50% of working fathers find balance their work with their family life is either somewhat or very challenging. Similarly, 40% of working mothers and 34% of working fathers always feel rushed. What do these statistics mean for HR? More than half the workforce is feeling the squeeze when it comes to time and flexibility.
But working parents may be more passive about their need for a positive work-life balance than those from Gen Y. Unlike their predecessors, Millennials are explicitly demanding flexibility. In fact, 69% believe that regular office attendance is unnecessary, according to a Cisco study. What’s more, according to findings from Bentley University’s Center for Women and Business, 75% of Millennials are unwilling to compromise on their family or personal values. As a result, young top performers are choosing work environments in which the benefits are less about pay and more about creativity, personal meaning and adaptability.
Nevertheless, as baby boomers retire in mass numbers, the two generations are very quickly taking over the entire workforce which means that hiring managers and executives have to take note.
Below is a quick run-down for auditing your firms’ current culture offerings in regard to work-life balance.
Use an anonymous survey to investigate the following aspects of your employees’ life:
- Stress levels and perceived causes (i.e., time, responsibilities, work load, etc.)
- Impact of stress on productivity
- Desired options for alleviating stress (i.e., increased time flexibility, telecommuting options, mandatory breaks/no-work activities, health promotion activities, etc.)
With the results of this survey, pinpoint the issues that your workforce is facing and subsequently engage an educated trial-and-error process for implementing successful work-life balance practices. Pursue a follow-up survey after 3-6 months to ensure that the changes being made are putting your organizational culture on the right track.
This type of proactive behavior results in a domino effect of positive impacts because in addition to improving the productivity of your workforce, there is also a direct recruiting benefit. Firms that adapt to the changing wants and needs of the workforce are naturally going to improve their employer brand, or their reputation among prospective employees. In time, this will not only increase candidates’ attraction to the firm, but it will attract those individuals with the best culture fit. What’s more, the sourcing process will be less complex, reducing both time to hire and cost to hire. While all of this takes time to develop, it’s a win-win for candidates and employers alike.
Experiencing this upward spiral of hiring benefits isn’t difficult, but it does require change. In essence, the essential components to this entire process are (1) acknowledging a problem faced by the parents and millennials in the workforce that is causing a noticeable shift in work culture demands and (2) accepting short-term costs for significant long-term gains.
About the Author: Greg Moran is the President and CEO of Chequed.com, an Employee Selection and Automated Reference Checking technology suite as well as a respected author on Human Capital Management with published works including Hire, Fire & The Walking Dead and Building the Talent Edge. Greg can be found blogging at disrupthr.com, on twitter @CEOofChequed and Google+.
I was recently flipping through the stations on TV and stumbled across the 1997 “chick flick” Picture Perfect. For those not familiar, this particular movie stars Jennifer Aniston as an aspiring ad agency professional who finds her career, despite her obvious talent, slightly hampered by the fact that she’s single. Her lack of attachment (no husband, kids, or mortgage) is the basis of her boss and the agency’s fear that she’ll develop relationships with key clients and then leave, taking those clients with her elsewhere, without a second thought. She feels so hampered that it prompts her to concoct a story with a fake fiancé and wedding plans to prove her “commitment to the firm;” her plans to settle down reaffirm that she is in no hurry to make a move anywhere else.
Now this movie is slightly dated and the world of work has certainly seen changes since its release, but I wonder if in some cases these types of fears still exist? One might argue not. If fact, Time Magazine’s recent cover story “The Childfree Life” discussed couples who choose to not have children, and the career opportunities that are often available to childless women that they may otherwise have to forgo. And one of our Women of HR contributors, Kimberly Patterson, recently explored the subject, and possible fallacy, of loyalty here.
However, despite these arguments, you have to wonder if the sort of mentality presented in Picture Perfect doesn’t actually still exist in some places and some companies. There are still many organziations where longevity and loyalty is rewarded, where service recognition programs are a key part of employee recognition strategies. I’m not claiming that all companies that recognize and reward loyalty think like this; I’m just wondering if in some corners of Corporate America, there are still executives and leadership teams who maintain these biases.
Having been single in the professional world for many years, I’ve felt both sides of this: the Time Magazine cited opportunities to travel, and the freedom to be a part of projects that may have been more difficult with commitments at home. But there have also been occasions where I’ve experienced Jennifer Aniston’s character’s feeling that I’m not quite the same as everyone else who is settled down with a family. I’ve never felt it hamper my career, but there are times (especially when company and charity events are centered on couples and/or families) that there has been a slight feeling of not quite belonging.
So I ask you…what do you think? Do these biases still exist? Are there places where women may be held back as a result of not being “settled down?” And if so, do these biases affect men the same way?
Futhermore, as HR professionals, should it not be partially our responsibility to ensure our companies are not excluding single and/or childless women (and men for that matter) from development and advancement opportunities?
I’d love to hear your comments below.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has 15 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I love to watch my little girls sleep. They are calm, full of possibility, and not asking me to change them for the 4th time that hour into another fairy, princess, or pirate costume. As I watch, I imagine what dramas, adventures, heartbreak, and careers (I am a career coach after all!) lie ahead for both of them and it’s hard to discern what my hopes are for them and what my actual expectations are.
My free-spirited head-strong 4. 5 year old has always had a mind of her own and her attitude taught me early on that she was her own girl, with a unique personality; wonderful, and not at all a clone of her mom. This helped me pull away the layers of hopes I had dreamt up when she was 20 weeks in utero and I found out a little girl was in our future. As she took on the world through her independence, I worked hard to stop putting my aspirations or assumptions of who she would become onto her tiny little shoulders. By the time my younger daughter was born I felt that I was doing a pretty decent job of embracing the individual personalities each girl would have. That being said, I still do catch myself making offhand comments about “when Josie is CEO of a company” or “when she opens her own restaurant.” After years of watching their personalities form, I come up with careers that I think they will definitely master. Of course, these career predictions change as fast as the whims of precocious preschoolers change. So what exactly do I hope for when it comes to the lives my girls create and why do I bother to write about it?
I hope they have choices. I hope they never have to stay in situations that aren’t working for them, that aren’t helping them grow, and thrive, and laugh, and play. I hope they work (I do, I can’t help it) but I also hope they have the choice to create the work schedule and environment that brings out their best and matches the priorities they hold at any given moment. So what does this mean for me, and how I mother them? How do I help them achieve a life full of choice? I’m not quite sure but I think it involves helping them develop a love of learning so they have the education to back up their goals. I am also pretty sure it involves showing them what love is and how it never means giving up who you are, what you like, or who your friends are. I want them to choose wisely if and when they do decide to marry.
I have read countless books geared towards us working mom set, and most of them are written from the perspective of a fairly privileged, educated woman who does have the choice to either work or not, be married or not, have more children or not, schedule housecleaners, nannies, gardeners, date night etc. or not. One of the themes that seems to come through is a hint of complaint about the fact that there just are too many choices. As if moms are paralyzed by choice and opportunity, a burden the generation before us didn’t have.
Can I be candid? To me this is nonsense. Instead of lamenting the various choices we have and the way it makes us feel afraid to move, how about buck up and spend some time figuring what you want and who you are, and have the courage to be that person and pursue that goal? Take choice by the horns and run with it. You want to work part-time to have more time with your family? Figure out a way to make it work. Talk to your employer, talk to other moms who do it, create a situation that makes it possible. You want to start your own business? There is no easier time then now. Truly it will only get harder. Trust me, I work with MBA students and I have heard every counter to this argument including “ I have a newborn” to which my response is, “Do you think it will be easier when you have a full schedule of t-ball and ballet classes to take your kids too?” You want a meaningful career that involves decision making? Pursue another degree, ask for management opportunities, apply for a new job, seek out a mentor that has that role. Take proactive steps so you are creating a life that includes endless choices and a plethora of paths to venture down.
I hope this for my daughters, I seek this for myself, and I encourage it of you.
About the author: Maggie Tomas works at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota as Associate Director and Career Coach in the Graduate Business Career Services office. Her background includes teaching and career counseling at the college level, namely at the University of St. Thomas, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), and Brooks Institute, a well-known film, photography, and design school where she served as Director of Career and Student Services. She is a contributing writer to several blogs and publications including Opus Magnum, Women of HR, and Job Dig.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Summer – it’s a time for the pool, barbeques and a laid back frame of mind, right? As a working mom, I cannot say that I agree. The school year is full of places to go, people to see, and projects to be completed, but at least it is not up to me to decide where and when my children should be. Day in and day out there is one constant, they go to school and I go to work.
Summer on the other hand is totally different. There is often too much pressure on working moms when it comes to summer vacation. Where should I send the kids? Will they be happy? Every week is different obstacle to be overcome. There is no regular schedule or organized transportation like the school bus picking them up, and sometimes it can actually add to my schedule. Am I being a bad mom by not allowing them to have a ‘true vacation’ – always making them get up early and go somewhere just so I can make ends meet and further my career?
As women, we naturally want to be the best moms we can be, and in large part that is trying to provide a healthy physical and emotional balance in the home. Our nurturing selves want to be there for kids in the summer – to take them to the beach, the park or the zoo; but we also want them to know that life is not always run on a schedule and taking it easy is also part of a balanced life.
I realize that there is much to be gained from a jam-packed summer of friends, activities, and both sleep away and day camps – I myself, spent many exciting weeks at various camps – basketball, tennis, Girls State – and I didn’t even have a working mom. And even though I understand and even appreciate the value, I sometimes I have to wonder… how many days are there left till school starts again??
Sophia Lidback is Product Manager at Exaserv, where her responsibilities include managing product development, writing and editing technical and functional user manuals and managing customer relations with respect to product implementation. Sophia is a wife and mother of 4.