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.
We are unwrapping some posts from the Women of HR archives for you this holiday season. Relax, enjoy and let us know if there is a favorite of yours you'd like to see unwrapped and run again.
Several weeks ago I sat next to a very nice older couple on a plane. I estimated their ages at as close to 80 which means they were probably born at some time in the 1930s and came of age in the 1950s.
In between watching Law and Order: SVU episodes on the airplane TV service, I was scribbling some notes on a legal pad as I reviewed some work materials I had brought along with me. This prompted the Mrs. to open up a fresh line of chit chat with me, as she, with a wide-eyed look on her face inquired,
“Do you work outside the home?”
I have to admit…I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question in my life. Nor, quite frankly, did it ever occur to me that anyone would think it even was a question to be phrased that way. I’ve heard “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked if I worked. And needless to say, explaining to this lovely woman precisely what Human Resources professionals do presented somewhat of a challenge.
But the conversation got me thinking about the varying perspectives we have of women in the workforce; viewpoints that are often glimpsed through a cultural or historical lens. It’s quite probable that a young woman coming of age in the post WWII era was content (perhaps) with her life and resigned to the fact that her role was to work ‘at home.’ A woman reaching the voting age in the 1950’s was but one generation removed from even having the right to vote. Thanks to the feminist movement, the Mrs. was able to head to the polling place and pull a lever to show that she did, indeed, “Like Ike.”
But it’s possible she doesn’t want to acknowledge or express any gratitude to feminists; that’s somewhat common. Whether first wave (primarily focused on suffrage and reproductive issues), second wave (primarily focused on equality) or third-wave (challenging and redefining ‘feminism’), feminists have often made men and women uncomfortable even while pushing for societal change that forever changed the lives of women:
- In 1848, the first women's rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. At the end of the convention, some radical resolutions were adopted – shockingly calling for equal treatment of women and men under the law and voting rights for women.
- In 1870, for the first time, the US Census counted “females engaged in each occupation.” At that time, women comprised 15% of the workforce.
- In 1920, the US Department of Labor formed “The Women's Bureau” which was tasked with collecting information about women in the workforce and ensuring safe working conditions. Later that year, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was signed into law, granting women the right to vote.
- Between the 1930s and 1950s, a number of business and school districts enacted “marriage bars” which allowed them to fire single women when they married and also allowed them to refuse to hire married women.
- In 1961, President Kennedy established the President's Commission on the Status of Women and in 1963 the Commission issued a report documenting substantial discrimination against women in the workplace. Specific recommendations were issued by the Commission including instituting fair hiring practices, offering paid
maternity leave, and ensuring access to affordable child care.
- In 1968, the US Supreme Court ruled that sex-segregated help wanted ads in newspapers were illegal.
I’ve thought of this conversation quite a bit lately. It’s entirely possible that this couple have no children or grandchildren. For surely if they do have grandchildren they've found that many (dare I say most?) young women fully intend to continue their post high-school education and work outside the home. While there are some people who yearn for a return to a society with strictly-defined gender rules based on religious reasons, I find it hard to believe that the majority of westerners don’t appreciate how the role of women has changed.
I, for one, tip my hat and raise my glass high to salute Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and all the other brave women who paved the way.
Now let me get back to work.
About the author: Robin Schooling likes gadgets, coffee, wine and football and insists upon surrounding herself with people who are curious and have a desire to try new things. After 20 plus years in HR, she is fully aware that HR is fun, frustrating, rewarding, maddening and important … and she loves most-every minute of it. You can keep up with Robin at her blog HRSchoolhouse.com and on the Twitter at @RobinSchooling.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I am not much of a soccer fan but I did watch the final match from the Euro Soccer 2012 championships between Italy and Spain. It was an amazing win for the Spanish side and a great loss for the Italian team.
Long after the match was over, and the dust had settled, what stayed with me, what lingered in my memory was the picture of the happy, smiling and extremely confident Spanish children brought into the pitch at the end of the game.
They wore with such pride, miniature versions of their father’s red jerseys and they pranced about in the open field and played in the confetti oblivious to the mammoth crowd on every side.
It was beautiful moment.
For the life of me, I could not tear my eyes away from these happy youngsters sharing in the victory and claiming their rightful share of the Glory. They practically took over the field with their ponytails and winning smiles. As I watched them, I wondered where the children of the other team were. What would they be thinking? Would they wonder why they were still in the stands and not on the pitch? Would they grasp the enormity of the loss and would they share in that loss to the same degree as their counterparts shared in the victory?
Daily occurrences mirror life and if we take note we can glean pearls of wisdom. . .
- What choices are we making?
- What are we passing down?
- What actions are we taking that might give future generation a heads up, an edge or an advantage?<
- What did you wish you had been given? Would you consider providing that gift?
- If we learned new skills and tried new activities, would it impact on those coming behind us positively? Would it encourage them to remain open to new knowledge and experiences?
- If we complained less and were more thankful in spite of present challenges, would we raise children with less of a sense of entitlement and more of a spirit of gratitude?
But I digress with all the rhetorical questions.
Bring your children to your field. Expose them as much as possible. Let them know and understand what it is that you do. Make them partakers of your victories and your losses. It will be an enriching experience for all concerned. Work and the home front do not have to be mutually exclusive . . . the Spanish team proved that.
Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations. George Bernard Shaw
Photo credit: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
About the author: Tamkara Adun is proud to be a woman of HR. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resources Management from the University of London. You can connect with Tamkara on twitter @tamkara
Defining balance can be tricky.
In my opinion finding balance between one’s work and the remainder of their life is very personal and varies from person to person. What may be a life that is in balance for one person could be a life ready to go off the rails for another. It all depends on our perspective on our life at work and our life outside of work.
Nonetheless, along my career and life journey I have found a few things that work for me in terms of balance that I think are worth sharing with others who may be struggling with the issue.
Seems like everyone everywhere is trying to find the right work-life balance. I have a very challenging job and a husband and three children. I am often looked to at work as a role model of someone who has found work-life balance even with a demanding job and family.
I often find myself embarrassed by that because unlike others, I am fortunate to have an incredible support system. My mother lives with us and does many things to help run the household. She gets the kids off to school (makes all the lunches), does our laundry, and cooks dinner every night. My husband, Shaun, is also a big contributor. Additionally, he works out of the home so he is available to run daily errands. Nonetheless, I have a very busy lifestyle and work hard to find “balance.”
There are however, a couple of key things I have learned about balance. Again, defining balance is unique to every individual. What balance means for me, can be entirely different than what it means to others. Additionally, I believe that finding balance isn’t a constant state. Sometimes, work has to take a priority and sometimes family life does. The key is to not let one always take precedence over the other, but to ebb and flow with the situation at the time.
Based on my particular circumstances, while I do not see myself as a role model of work-life balance, I have learned the following lessons along the way that do help and are worth sharing:
You don’t have to be perfect. There was a time that I thought I had to be the perfect leader, employee, wife and mother. No one is, or can be perfect. The earlier that you realize that, the better off you will be. When you expect perfection in all things from yourself, you are setting yourself up for constant failure.
Set your own boundaries. People will allow you to do whatever you allow yourself to do. No one is going to say, oh don’t take on that additional work, you have a family to care for. After awhile, they will come to expect from you whatever you have willingly done in the past. You have to set your own boundaries. Just as people will come to expect you to do everything that you always have, they will come accustomed to, and accepting of your boundaries.
Know your priorities. You have to decide what is important for you and what isn’t. I take my job very seriously. In the past, maybe too seriously. One of the best ways I have learned to set priorities is by asking myself a simple question, ” In five years, will it matter that I did or didn’t do this?” It is amazing how often the thing that you feel a strong obligation toward doing won’t even matter in five days.
Accept help. There are many people willing to help you out. Never turn down someone’s offer to help. This relates to number 1 above. Our drive to be perfect sometimes leads us to deny ourselves help. If someone offers to pick up your kids from school or drive them to practice, let them. You can always reciprocate in easier times.
Take time for yourself. If you spend all of your time taking care of others and things you will become resentful. Find something that you enjoy and that is just for you (exercise, reading, etc.) and make the time to fit it in. Taking care of yourself re-energizes you.
Above all, keep in mind that life is too short and goes by far too fast. We all need to earn a living but more importantly, we deserve to live life to the fullest. This requires a balance between doing the things we have to do and doing the things we want to do.
About the author: Lisa Emerson is the Vice President — Global Total Compensation at McDonald’s Corporation. In this capacity, she has responsibility for all aspects of compensation and benefits globally. Lisa and her husband Shaun created Tutto Persona to share their experiences and thoughts on work, family, and other odds & ends.
At Aquire, we start most meetings which are departmental or small groups with a moment of Positive Focus. It allows each of us to bring to the spotlight something that is working really well, or an individual or team which deserve a shout out for something they are doing really well.
This week I am adding a Leadership Moment into the manager’s meeting. So I added a slide to the agenda deck and went looking in the standard clip art for placeholder picture. I was sorely disappointed. I put in the word “leadership” as my search term. PowerPoint provided me with a much of shiny slick power photos. They were not about leadership they were about winning, dominating or being the one with the most expensive suit in the room.
So I looked at another word and found what I was looking for (more on that in a minute). Then I thought I would see what popped up if I used the word “follow.“ There was not a single picture of the back of the heads of the people in power positions in the best suits. Not that I really expected that image (but it would have been clever). No, the term “follow” provided lots of good arrows and cartoons of people fo
rming a line. It was adequate.
So then I searched on the word “help.” This is where I found pictures I needed for leadership. Leadership isn’t about being the rich and beautiful in my book. Leadership is about painting the vision that is achievable by the people you need; and convincing them you will help them achieve the vision.
Being a manager is hard, you get disappointed by people that don’t say what they mean or don’t do what they commit to do doing. Sometimes people leave the company and leave you holding the bag. Sometimes people are not who they pretend to be and can damage the team.
But being a manager can be highly rewarding when you get the buy-in from the team. When you help someone get over a challenge they were really struggling with in the past. When your team excels at what they are doing. When you know you have made a difference for your employees, your customers or your company. When your employees appreciate you for the hard work you do too.
Being a manager is hard enough already, let’s make sure they understand the real meaning of leadership and it will help them achieve and make life a lot easier for everybody.
Why does work feel so stressful all the time?
I feel like every single time I have lunch with a co-worker or friend from work (or friends at other companies), there’s always this exasperated *sigh* when we sit down.
Then there’s this awkward laugh before asking, “So, how’s work?” Then there’s a good 10-20 minutes of talking about all the craziness of work.
“I’m over worked.” “They’ve given me more responsibility. I’m drowning.”
The list goes on and personally, I always find myself trying to figure out how to keep myself organized between employee relations issues, performance management, driver safety, disability, employee separations, culture & inclusion strategy and implementation. Of course there’s always the “and other job duties as assigned.” There was a point when I would keep myself up at night trying to figure out how I’d get everything done. In fact, it’s Tuesday night and I still haven’t finished my Monday to-do list.
I swear I’ve spent the last four, almost five, years trying to figure out how to keep myself organized. It’s a crazy, moving world we live in where things are constantly changing and it’s hard to keep and stay on top of things. I found the perfect notebook where I keep my to-do lists. It has a calendar on the bottom of each page AND there’s even a fancy spot for “hot items.”
No matter the job we work in – HR or not, we all have to stay organized. And dorkily (yes, I know that is not a word) enough I am really curious what you all do to stay organized.
Photo credit iStockPhoto
In life, there are certain stereotypes that just don’t end. One is that a woman’s place is in the home.
And for working women like me, there is still the expectation in many homes that we are somehow primarily responsible for the cleaning, cooking, taking care of any home needs, etc.
I’ve gone through the feminist feelings that men are ultimately as responsible for household duties as women are, but it doesn’t get through to most women because we are actually raised to believe this is our contribution. I take pride in having a clean home, one in which my family enjoys living and loving. I like knowing that I am the caregiver who ensures the kiddos go off to school in clean clothes and eat meals that are rarely processed foods. Sure the family helps too, but I view it as my role in the home to lead even though I also work outside the home.
Regardless if you are a working woman or man who has household responsibilities, it’s important to understand that there is a need to use organizational skills to make the tasks easier to maintain and not get overwhelmed. There are not enough hours in the day to keep a spotless house, cook nutritious and delicious meals, spend quality time with family and give 8-12 hours a day at a job. It’s impossible to do all these things successfully long term unless you determine tasks that can be managed in a non-traditional way.
In the last ten to fifteen years, women have been enlisting the help of personal assistants, house cleaners, dog walkers and the like in order to free up time to spend with family when they are not working. Now, as iPads and smartphones are becoming more of a staple, there are countless apps and advances in technology to help manage chores that used to be done from home.
Embracing Technology To Manage The Home
- Appliances that can be started via smartphone are the future. Spring 2012 will bring Samsung adding wi-fi options into their appliances. For example, Samsung’s latest washer/ dryer concept can be started and managed directly from your phone. LG has a robot vacuum that can be enabled via smartphone.
- iPhone apps like Chore Hero can help distribute chores among family members so that each person knows what needs to be done. Apps like HomeSmarts can help you manage all the things that need to take place in your household.
- Use GroceryPal app on Android to track and manage all grocery needs. iPhone and iPad have similar applications.
What methods do you use to help manage your household? As a working woman, do you feel obligated to take on the lion’s share of the household responsibilities?
I used to think I needed to find passion in work.
There are things I feel passionate about – such as creating a work environment where employees feel like they can bring their full selves to work and be engaged to do their best work. But as far as feeling passionate every single day?
Nein. I don’t come to work every day because I feel passionate about my work; rather I come to work every day because I have bills to pay and prefer to have a roof over my head. I am part of Gen Y which I suppose by association makes me lazy and want things handed to me on a silver spoon. I don’t really operate that way, but that is the stereotype.
Me? I need passion in my work. I work much harder and more diligently towards the things I feel passionate about. Does this mean I don’t do the things I feel “eh” about? No, I’d get fired. Here’s my realization. Take it for what it is worth:
- I will not love every job I have during my career
- I will not love every aspect of every job I have during my career
- Ultimately, we work to pay bills
If the goal in life was to feel a sense of passion for what we are doing, money would not be an issue and we’d all be out working towards causes we ARE passionate about. Or, doing the things we always said we wanted to do, but never wanted to take a chance to do and I am including myself in this statement.
Really, if we all just LOVED what we did, we wouldn’t be talking about work/life balance all the time. It would just be a part of life. Okay, maybe that is a bit of a stretch, but you understand where I am going there. I enjoy my job but saying I feel passionate about being a human punching bag most days is kind of a stretch.
Photo credit iStockphoto
The presentation was high energy, engaging, and offered common sense, real world approaches to leading past the obstacles we face on a day to day basis – obstacles the company faces, obstacles our employees face, and obstacles we as HR professionals face.
Some key approaches to work I took away from the presentation were focus on the purpose, take the job seriously but don’t take yourself so seriously and put 100% of your energy into the task at hand.
Focus on the purpose. Why does our company exist other than to make money? Surely there is a reason! To some employees a job is just a paycheck, but if we show them that the company has a higher purpose they will become more engaged and work with a sense of pride. Communicate that purpose on a regular basis, and from senior management on down be sure to display behaviors that support the purpose.
Take the job seriously but don’t take yourself so seriously. Working in the world of HR I know I have a tendency to take myself far too seriously. When I received feedback that there was a perception on the floor I thought I was better than everyone else, I realized that it had gotten to the point that I didn’t let my personality shine through.
If you find yourself in a similar situation take a step back and reassess. HR is a serious industry, one where we are expected to act with the utmost professionalism at all times. However, don’t let yourself become a robot. Employees will have an easier time coming to HR with concerns or suggestions if they feel they are talking to someone they can relate to.
Put 100% of your energy into the task at hand. What holds us back from being able to do that? As HR and business professionals we are constantly multi-tasking and going back and forth between different aspects of the job. Learn to practice effective time management skills, give tasks a priority level and then schedule time into your calendar to work on each one. Giving tasks the separate attention they deserve will ensure you are producing the best possible results and not just crossing something off of your to-do list.
By applying these simple approaches we are working towards further developing ourselves and leading our organizations into a bright future.
Photo credit iStockphoto
Although I once wrote a post denying the existence of the glass ceiling, it occurred to me recently that men do have one big career advantage: wives.
Oh, for one of those! Someone who shops, cleans, picks up the kids from school, checks their homework and has a nice dinner waiting for you when you come home from the office (even if it’s take out). Someone to cover your back at home so you can travel, attend late meetings, network after hours and generally be seen after 4 p.m..
Before you write me off as a sexist pig, I realize that the modern husband is a far cry from the typical diaper allergic husband of, say, the ’50s. And the modern wife isn’t necessarily a wife at all, and may not even be female. Nonetheless, there tends to be one person in any partnership who assumes the bulk of the household chores and childcare, even if both partners work. And for lack of a better word I’m going to call that person a ‘wife.’
I love spending time with my kids but I enjoy working, too. And I sometimes envy my husband when I have to shut down in the middle of an interesting thought to pick up the kids while he finishes his work in relative peace and quiet before coming home to a somewhat clean house, fed children and a home-cooked meal.
My husband, by the way, is very supportive and spends a lot of quality time with our kids. He is also a wonderful cook, will shop in a pinch and has been known to clean the kitchen. But typically I’m the one who leaves work early, provides primary childcare and logs back on after they go to bed to finish up my work.
That’s why when my husband recently asked me what I wanted for my birthday I said I wanted a wife for a day. That’s right, for one day I wanted to go to work in the morning, work until I was finished and come home to smiling children in pajamas. I wanted dinner on the table and a ‘get out of cleaning the kitchen’ card.
I thought about holding out for folded laundry but decided not to press my luck.
My husband listened to my birthday request in silence, thought about it for a moment then asked, ‘Just one day, right?’
So if you’re wondering how to show your appreciation for that special working mom in your life, why not consider trading places for a day. Man up and be a mom, so to speak. As an added bonus, it’s a great chance to get in touch with your inner wife.
P.S. I hope he doesn’t ask me to file our multi-country tax returns for his birthday.
Photo credit iStockphoto