Tag: family

The Real-Life Impact of HR

Posted on November 19th, by Lois Melbourne in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. No Comments

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.

 

Photo Credit

 

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.


Modern Day Fatherhood – Finding Balance Between a Successful Career & Hands-On Parenting

Posted on October 24th, by a Guest Contributor in On My Mind. 1 Comment

 

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. 


A Better Work-Life Balance Attracts Top Performing Parents & Millennials

Posted on October 8th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. 1 Comment

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+.

 

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Singlehood, Childlessness, and Career

Posted on September 10th, by Jennifer Payne in On My Mind. 5 comments

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

 


Daughter Dreams For Us All

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…A Working Mom’s Biggest Challenge?

Posted on July 16th, by Sophia Lidback in Work/Life Balance. 1 Comment

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.


Supermoms: Say No To Guilt

I was putting my 7 year old to bed when she turned around and said “you’re the best mum a daughter can ever have, I am so proud of you and want to grow up to become like you.” I hugged her and kissed her, told her how much I love her and how much I am proud of her too. That night I couldn’t sleep and kept thinking to myself that between being a career driven woman, and a mother (and a good one too, at least that’s what I think) whatever I am doing, it must be right.

Just how difficult is it to be a mom and have a full time job at the same time? Ask any working mom and she will say it isn’t easy. Balancing the two roles takes great talent, not to mention effort, to be able to switch between hats. Women are famous for their ability to multi task, and multiply this several times for women applying this skill to both a job and motherhood. We tend to go through guilt pangs every now and then, guilt that maybe we are not dedicating enough time to our children, that perhaps we will be seen as neglecting our jobs if we take those couple of hours to attend that sport event at school, etc…. We often do not stop for a moment, to take a deep breath and admire our resilience, stamina and our genuine efforts to keep both worlds seamlessly on track.

In an article published online in Time Health and Family in 2011, titled “Working Women Who Try to Be ‘Supermom’ May Be More Depressed”, the author makes reference to research that shows working mothers who think they are able to juggle between a career and motherhood effortlessly are in fact more depressed when compared to other women who really don’t overdo it.

Let’s stop here shall we?

Does trying to balance between our careers and our duties as moms mean we are overdoing it? I personally don’t think so. And by the way, which type of mom classifies as a ‘supermom’ anyway? The Merriam Webster dictionary defines the word ‘supermom’ as ‘a woman who performs the traditional duties of housekeeping and child-rearing while also having a full-time job’. According to this definition all working moms classify as one by default. The research goes on that apparently by embracing the fact that it is ok to ‘let things slide,’ working moms can happily combine both roles. On the face of it this makes sense, but there is a caveat, or at least that’s what I think: where do we working moms draw the line when ‘compromising’ on stuff at work before they are perceived as becoming slackers and their career growth suffers? And alternatively can working moms really let things slide when it comes to their children in any aspect related to their well-being, not just physically but equally important, emotionally?

Well I finished reading the article with one conclusion. The ‘supermom’ journey is filled with challenges, no doubt.  I’ve been one for 7 years now, and I experience them first-hand every day. It is not easy to juggle between a demanding job, meetings, overseas assignments, projects, play days, doctor appointments, violin rehearsals, school concerts, sport days etc…. yet I still do it. How do I manage? I really don’t know. I’m not perfect, but who said that being a perfectionist is the road to happiness? Has it been a rewarding journey so far? It’s a straight ‘yes’. The personal gratification that comes from watching our children grow to be healthy happy individuals without compromising on career aspirations or vice versa is worth every moment of it. Maybe we are overcomplicating this ‘supermom’ case. Maybe all we have to do is realize we are doing our best and self-appreciate that. Apparently our children do.

Being a supermom is a matter of personal choice. Those of us who walk into it knowing we must spend a great portion of our lives balancing the heavy weight we carry on our shoulders become mentally prepared to face the challenges. There are plenty of days when we feel proud of what we are accomplishing, times when we feel the load is too much, and many more moments when guilt that maybe we are not giving it our best shot overtakes us, but you know what? The truth is that we are super and we have deservedly earned the title.


A Career To Be Grateful For

Posted on May 2nd, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Wellness and Balance, Work/Life Balance. 2 comments

Being a stay at home mom has its perks – you don’t have to get dressed up, you can work out on your own schedule, and you don’t need to have the children’s lunch ready at 7 a.m. However, the most amazing and obvious benefit of being a stay at home mom is the opportunity to intimately know your children and to share all of the milestones of their young lives. No one can truly understand and love a child like their parent. Choosing to stay at home had its financial and career limiting consequences, but it’s a choice that I will never regret.

Being a stay at home mom however does not mean that you must put your brain or skills on hold. Especially in today’s modern world where there are countless ways for you to expand your horizons. And that’s exactly what I did. After driving many, many miles to practices, games, lessons and recitals, making sure that the homework was done and dinner was prepared, I spent countless late nights looking on the computer for ideas to sharpen my skills, and technology is what I came to love.

I am a problem solver. I love when I am given a challenge; know how to fix it, and how to fix it better. It started with setting up my own home wifi network. To most of my friends and co-workers, it’s probably no big deal, but in the stay at home mom arena – I was “big stuff”. Everyone wanted to know, “ how did I know how to do that?” Before I knew it, I was helping my neighbor, her friend, and then their elderly parents. And so began my journey, I became even more motivated to challenge myself. From school sports teams to the theatre department, the needs, as well as the expertise grew. I taught myself HTML, CSS, and how to create a Joomla site.

With each growing project a new skill such as Photoshop and Gimp emerged. I began to get noticed and was offered a position by my local principal in the Career Tech Department. The launching pad was perfect, it allowed me to further develop my skills and opened my eyes to the world of other opportunities out there. With my newly minted resume, an opportunity presented itself. The Global HR consulting firm, Exaserv, was looking for a Product Manager and the job description fit me perfectly. Some of the main requirements were organizational skills and the ability to prioritize, and all those years of being a stay at home mom had definitely helped to hone those skills. Not to mention my developed computer expertise!

It’s been over a year now since I’ve been back in the workforce and I have loved every day of employment. I am constantly learning and growing in my new role and enjoy all the “doors” that are opening for me. Staying at home to raise my children was the best decision I ever made, but taking that time to also sharpen my skills has given me the opportunity to go back to work and grow my career. It’s an experience for which I will forever be grateful.

About the author: 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.


Why Working Moms Should Embrace Technology

Posted on November 27th, by Maggie Tomas in Wellness and Balance. 1 Comment

I was late in the game with technology.  While my friends and family were readily downloading apps and taking adorable vintage photos with Instagram, it took me years to embrace the smartphone. I also was slow to get excited by the DVR I nowadays swear by. How else can I have Elmo on hand for my 3-year-old and Modern Family ready and waiting for me when I have a free 30 minutes to spare?

I held firm to my stance that I wasn’t a tech girl and would much prefer to write down my schedule and leave email at work. . . blah, blah, blah.  That changed the day I actually succumbed and decided on a smartphone when upgrade time  rolled around. I declared my choice was solely based on the ability to take cute pictures of my daughters but secretly I wanted in on the club and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  I told my husband a week later that the iPhone changed my life.  He smirked and had an “I told you so” look.

I am now leaning on technology more and more because as a working mom of 2 toddlers I will take all the help I can get.  Here are a few reasons why I encourage all of my mom clients to jump on the tech train and never look back:

  1. Branding:  Get involved online and build your presence this way by participating in LinkedIn, tweeting great articles and writing engaging blog posts. Nothing will shave time off of in-person networking like a great online presence.
  2. Ease Workday Load:  Family dinner is important to me.  I leave at 4:45 unless I have a class to teach. Period.  The only way this is possible for me is because I can pull out my laptop and get 2 hours of work done after my girls are cozily sleeping in bed.
  3. Scheduling: No need to waste time calling my husband to see if we can meet friends for dinner, volunteer with the youth group or schedule a play date on Saturday. I can simply check his calendar, compare it to mine and I have my answer. Total time saver. I have friends who take it a step further and register with an online family organizer and swear by it.  Remember the Milk and Cozi are 2 highly recommended apps.
  4. Connecting/Sharing:  My family lives in California.  I live in the Midwest.  Thank God for programs like Skype, Facebook and Instagram that enable me to quickly get a dose of home updates so I can then attend to my other responsibilities.  The connect

    ing aspect of technology is also helpful for moms who work at large corporations.  Many Fortune 500 companies have “mom boards” where employees can share tips ranging from best nursing locations in the building to offering up used baby goods.

  5. Kid Friendly: Those of us who have waited for food to arrive at a restaurant with a toddler, spent 2 plus hours on a flight with an 18 month old, or taken a preschooler to the DMV for a license renewal – all while armed with a smart phone or iPad – know the value in technology. It allows us to get through a boring task without a tantrum while our child is entertained with an educational game. I’m not encouraging letting your iPad babysit your child, but I am the first to admit that it is useful in certain scenarios.

This list could go on with relevant tips and suggestions on how turning to technology can actually ease a mom’s to-do list. There is one caveat though:

Technology can be a time zapper and a great way to lose focus of your #1  priority – your kids.

Something I have found that works for me and prevents me from answering my email on my smartphone while playing Candyland with my preschooler (which makes her feel like my last priority when all she wants is my undivided attention as she nabs the Queen Frostine card) is to put my phone and computer away until the kids are in bed. I often leave my smartphone in my purse when I come home from work and don’t take it out until they are tucked away sleeping.  This helps eliminate the chance of mom getting distracted and shows my girls that family time is first.

As with anything, balance is key but honestly, a life with technology and all the help it can provide, does ease many stressful situations and can make family planning much easier.

What types of technology do you find helps with your work/life balance?

Photo credit: iStockphoto

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, and  Brooks Institute, 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.

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Creating a Life That Works For The All of You

Posted on October 18th, by Maggie Tomas in Wellness and Balance. 1 Comment

For the first 30 years of my life I found it easy to describe myself.  That self could encompass any range of titles, labels, or feelings depending on my role in life, position or mood. In college I was a student-server-girlfriend-vegetarian for a year. When I started working in career coaching after grad school I was a listener-mentor-a single person-yogi novice.  All of these things were defined and controlled by me and I was comfortable balancing them all.

All of that flew out the window with motherhood.

The second the obstetrician placed my beautiful and loud (doctor’s first words were “she has lungs!”) daughter into my shaking arms, I was suddenly overcome with love and purpose.  But weeks and months later I was also unsure as to what do to with all of the parts of me that made me who I was prior to becoming mother to this amazing little girl.

Motherhood was something I yearned for and very much wanted.  I read books on parenting and felt very prepared and a bit overconfident for my new role – until I officially became a mother.  Suddenly, I was questioning myself on everything: cloth or disposable, cry it out or co-sleep, organic baby blender homemade creations or the jarred store bought variety, helicopter parent or tiger mom, and the list goes on and on.  Not only was I indecisive but I was so consumed with love for this little person that I thought in order to be the best mother possible I should give up everything that defined me pre-baby and focus on this new all important role of raising a human being.

This played out by turning me into a confused, sometimes bitter, and teetering between overt self-sacrificing/bewildered that I lost my “cool pre-baby” self.  For example, my personal priorities took a nosedive as I lamented this post-baby belly yet felt guilt-ridden at the thought of hitting the gym and leaving my newborn with a sitter.  Professionally, I tried to balance everything calmly and maintain these two separate roles effectively.  I had worked hard on my career but I also loved this little baby and didn’t want to miss all the milestones while I plugged away at my computer.  I tried to have conversations with mentors and supervisors and was basically given the advice of “this career is 60+ hours a week so find a way to make it work” or “I completely understand. I remember my wife struggling but ultimately she knew family was most important so she stayed home with the kids.”  All me

ssages implicit in their meanings and all sent me, the not-so-confident mom reeling and questioning my priorities.

In time I worked on creating a career that worked for me and all of my roles.  I said goodbye to the attitude of work first and focused on finding ways to prioritize.  Now, I encourage new moms and clients to think about being both women with a unique history and distinct passions and experiences as well as mothers in love with amazing children. Personally,  I now I try to weave both aspects into every decision I make and every encounter I face.  I no longer think that being a good mother means being only a mother.  I think about how I want my girls to know who their mom is in all of my flaws and idiosyncrasies.  I focus on teaching them the value of work ethic and the importance of loving what you do by modeling this for them.  After all my greatest achievement will be raising strong independent girls who will one day have fulfilling careers of their own – girls who have many roles, including mother, and who embrace their whole selves and will raise children who do the same.

New motherhood knocks you off your feet, not only with sleepless nights and mountains of dirty diapers and laundry but with a love and adoration that is consuming.  This all-consuming love for your child can take your breath away and ask you to question all that you thought was important pre-baby.  This is normal and often necessary in the bonding process.  It is imperative, however, to journey back to finding a new normal that does incorporate some of your pre-baby traits and passions.  For some that journey is easy and comfortable.  For others, like me, it can be riddled with confusion and guilt until one day you look at yourself and decide that you must find a way to be both.

What has worked for you?

Photo credit: iStockphoto

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, and  Brooks Institute, 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.

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