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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Big night for a working mom and her preschooler

Tonight my youngest child graduates from preschool. It is bittersweet for me. I made it past the tough years of juggling diapers, sleepless nights, teething, potty training and news deadlines. I have juggled interviews while bathing infants and even while nursing. In many ways, life has become easier. But today, I feel sad that the baby years are behind me. I am proud of many articles I have written in the past 10 years, while raising three kids. But that can't possibly compare with the pride I feel seeing my youngest graduate preschool tonight and knowing he knows I am there for him.

Contest for small businesses

How is your small company staying competitive with the big guys? I have found a few that offer their employees some awesome benefits. If you think you've got some of the best work/life initiatives in South Florida, tell me at

Thursday, May 25, 2006

An admirable working mom

Geisha Williams, 44, is a working mothers who has made some accomplishments we should all thank her for. She is the the Florida Power & Light executive who directs the restoration process after hurricanes. She has overseen some improvements to the power system this year that hopefully will allow our electric poles to better withstand intense hurricane activity.
Here are a few interesting facts about her from an article that appeared in The Miami Herald by John Dorschner.
* She thrives in an overwhelmingly male atmosphere. When she goes to a national convention of her power company peers, she might be one of three females in a room of 100.
* She's a working mom with two daughters, 10 and 6. Husband Jay is a lawyer. When a hurricane comes, child care is left to relatives.
* While many customers have criticized the maintenance of poles and lines - much of which is her responsibility - her efforts in storm restoration has helped FPL win two national industry awards.
* She doesn't pass the buck. Even at the worst of Wilma, when reporters were pounding her in teleconferences about why 98 percent of houses went dark, she took every question head on.
It's nice to know there is someone dedicated to her career who cares about making our community more liveable.

Britney Spears, a bad mom?

Today, I'm going to weigh in on the Britney Spears "Worst mother in the world" controversy. I was eating pizza at a restaurant with my kids Friday night when the TV in the place was showing the clip of Britney almost dropping her child. She was being stalked by a crowd of photographers and seemed to slip. My daughter wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
I thought back to the time I had just returned home from work and my editor called on the phone. I put my 3 month old daughter in her bouncy seat on the counter while I answered my editor's questions. Next thing I knew, she had bounced her self right onto the floor. She seemed fine, once the crying subsided, but I convinced myself I was the worst mom ever. I had put my job before my child's safety. If dozens of cameras were zooming in on me, what would the viewing audience think? The truth is, most parents of newborns, especially those with kids close in age, will confess some horror moment when they dropped a child, had the kid facing the wrong way in the car seat, or had some other moment they are less than proud of. I say, give Britney a break.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Employer can help with summer camp search

Who knew? Many employers like Target, Sprint, Comcast and the IRS offer employees help with their summer child care search. The service falls under their Employee Assistance Plan (EAP). Typically these EAPs help with health care or mental health issues. But there's a work/life program too. This program give employees access to researchers who write down your family's needs -- hours that you need your children occupied, transportation issues, amount you can afford -- and they give you, the working parent, all kinds of information on summer care options. I'm told by two work-life providers, Ceridian and ComPsych, that companies of all sizes have EAPs but many fail to publicize this service to employees. So, if you still are scrambling to find summer childcare while you earn a paycheck, you may want to seek out some research help from your employer.

Monday, May 22, 2006

New Generation has different work/life views

Ana Veciana-Suarez, a columnist here at The Miami Herald, had a great article this weekend on the new generation's take on work/life balance. She asserts that recent grads aren't interested in a joyless countdown to retirement.
Writes Veciana Suarez about the new grads: "Money, they're telling us, isn't always the best inducement. It's nice to have only if you have time to enjoy it. And security - well, quite frankly, they've seen none. This is a generation interested in options (and I don't necessarily mean the stock kind), flexibility and a life not consumed by work-work-work-and-little-else."
I think her conversation with one recent grad in a dentist office could pretty much be heard in many households in South Florida were new grads reside. Veciana-Suarez says armed with a degree in business, his particular grad says he is in the market for a job.
"Not any job, mind you, but the right job, one that would fit in with his social life, which means no weekend hours - the girlfriend lives on the other coast - and few, if any, long workdays. Something or other about pick-up basketball games with friends," Veciana-Suarez writes.
I have heard law partners complain about this attitude in their young associates. I have heard managers talk about this attitude in their new hires. It's not too hard to figure out. The new generation wants a life outside of work. And, they expect the workplace to accommodate them.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Get to the point

I attended a great program this week aimed at helping business women network and better promote themselves by learning to be media savvy. The EBG law firm sponsored the program in Miami as part of their Women's Initiative. The speaker energized all of the 75 women in who attended. I thought I would pass along some of her tips.
Laine Conklin of CommCore Consulting Group, runs a media-training company with extensive experience working with influential women like Suze Orman, actress Lauren Hutton, and soccer star Mia Hamm.
Her message: When you want someone to really hear what you have to say -- a boss, a customer, a vendor -- think about the message, make your point, and don't dump unneccessary info on them. Laine's secret formula: Have a headline, back it up with facts and statistics and make me care. .
Here's the real eye-opener: Laine says studies show your visual presentation counts for 55 percent of your creditability, your vocal presentation counts for 38 percent and your verbal for 7 percent. The message here: It's really not what you say but whether you appear and sound creditable.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A getting through the day reward

I am rewarding myself right now with a piece of Godiva chocolate. I deserve it, I'm telling myself, for making it midway through, "one of those days."
Sick child crisis, sick parent crisis, deadline looming, rainy day traffic jams looming ....I deserve this piece of chocolate. It's part of a reward system I instilled years ago when my first child was born and I was just adjusting to the balancing act. If I could just make it through my 10-hour workday on virtually no sleep, I could go home to a chocolate bar and my newborn. It worked, I guess. Thank god for my fast metabolism.
So many new moms ask, "What's the key to balancing work and family?''
Today, the answer seems pretty simple -- chocolate!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Flexibility is smart management

Cynthia Miller is brilliant! That's my opinion and it should be yours too. Miller sends out a weekly e-mail on newsroom management. This week, she included a toast to all the mothers working in newsrooms.
Millers convincingly argues that it is critical that mothers work in newsrooms, both managing the staff and crafting the content. She says newsrooms must create a culture that retains working mothers. Her argument is new in the journalism profession. Entry level ranks are abundant with women but the profession has been slow to see women rise to the top.
Miller, whose e-mails go out to 9,500 newsroom managers, backs her argument for retaining mothers with some strong points.
* Creating a culture that works for working mothers makes it a better place for all who work there.
* Generally female management styles are more inclusive, a characteristic of a positive work environment.
* Women readers are the target audience for newspapers. It's a bottom line decision. Women make 80 percent of all purchasing decisions, and that's a number advertisers know well.

She has some great suggestions for how to keep moms from bolting, advice that can be used in any profession:
Make your newsroom results-oriented, and quit controlling peoples lives by requiring unnecessary face time. That doesn't mean the job doesn't get done, or that people get ridiculous arrangements. It's a business, and it is called work, after all. But when someone asks for flexibility, respond with "How?" not "Why?" All requests for flexibility should be followed with a detailed plan on how obligations will be met, a trial period with necessary adjustments and fair monitoring of results.

I think this suggestion by Miller is particularly good:
Create on-ramps for women who become mothers. If newsrooms could create special work programs to keep working mothers in the pipeline during the demanding baby years, woman who will have much to give back to the newsroom in years to come.

Miller also suggests promoting people with positive assumptions about other people. I think this is a brilliant way to look at hiring and promoting.
Her advice: Giving authority to managers that have positive assumptions about people will change the way the newsroom operates for the better, and that will go a long way in retaining the best people--men and women--the key to putting out a great product.
Isn't that the goal of most businesses?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Moms think their bosses approve

Fascinating facts released today in a new survey by Adecco Staffing North America: Just in time for Mother's Day, the study shows working moms feel they are doing a good job of balancing work and their personal lives.
· 68% of working mothers feel their bosses recognize they do a great job of balancing their roles of mother and employee.
· 33% of these women feel their colleagues think their role as a mother gives them more insight, the ability to juggle multiple priorities and better management skills.
· 4% feel their bosses think they are not as committed to their jobs because they have children.

I like this comment by Bernadette Kenny, SVP of Human Resources of Adecco Staffing North America: "Today’s women are choosing leadership roles acknowledging the challenges and responsibilities that come with it. And they’re succeeding!”

Of course, even though working moms have their sights set high, the survey also reveals they believe there are ways for companies to help more with balance.
Nearly half (49%) of the women surveyed said a more flexible work environment would allow them to be more adaptable as an employee and as a mother and 37% said their work environment would be more accommodating if they felt they were treated equally to working fathers at the same level or position.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Blogs - a passion or a chore?

This morning, I took my youngest son to kindergarten orientation. He is thrilled with the idea of going to the same school as his big brother and sister. I'm not so thrilled. For me, his going to kindergarten means five years have flown by and I have spent much of that time typing away at my computer. I love my job as a writer for The Miami Herald. I even am enjoying writing this blog. But the truth is, every hour at the computer is less time I'm interacting with my children.
This is one of those days, (we all have them) when I convince myself I am going to better manage my time. I'm going to try to work more efficiently to get more hours with my kids when they still want to spend time with me.

My co-worker offered me a time management tip she learned from a real estate professional: "The first hour of your workday, work the hardest. It will set the tone for the rest of the day and give you a sense of accomplishment.

I'm going to take that advice. Here I am writing on the blog at the start of my workday. Through some reporting this week, I have been enlightened on the passion that blogging has become for most people, even those who do it as part of their jobs. The trick, they tell me, is to blog effectively. I enjoyed learning about how other bloggers are dealing with the time demands. Read about it in my Miami Herald column.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Balancing Work and Caregiving

As woman, I'm adept at taking care of others -- my spouse, my kids, friends, my dog, my grandmother. However, in the last few months, I have been totally unprepared for the time demands of taking care of an ill parent.
During the last few months, my mother has been in and out of hospitals as doctors struggle to determine whether she has Alzheimer's Disease or other forms of dementia. The phone calls from my stepfather come at all hours as he struggles to care for her in their home. This has taken a toll on my work and family life and somedays, I am overwhelmed by the calls I must make to doctors and insurance companies. I now understand the balancing act that so many in the sandwich generation are facing.
It's conservatively estimated that America's family caregivers total between 35-40 million, a number that is expected to rise to 50 million by the year 2020. I finally understand the frustration of employees I have written about who are handling caregiving duties and trying to hold jobs. I am surprised that more workplaces aren't offering support of some sort to their employee caregivers.
So far, I have found little information at work or in the community to guide me. The studies show the chronic stress and anxiety associated with caregiving takes its toll in the workplace and at home. Unfortunatley, I now can can attest to that.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Do you own your own business?

Friday, May 05, 2006

A hiptip for you

Working parents tend to struggle with keeping organized and on top of things. I love this hipmom tip that appeared in South Florida Parenting Magazine in a column by Cari Waldman: Whenever you are given a moment, find five things to throw away. The half-empty shampoo bottles you swiped from your hotel stay ; the carryout menus you never order from. Wherever you are, pull over the wastebasket. Within days your inner space will become less cluttered.

This works! I just tossed my husband's year-old magazines. My inner and outer space feels better already!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

What's a mom worth

Are you wondering what a mom should be paid for her work as a mom? Through conversations with 400 moms, has put a dollar figure on the 10 jobs that make up a mom's job description. A stay -at-home mom would earn $134,121 a year if paid for all her work, according to the study by the Waltham, Mass.-based compensation experts.
A mother, like me, who works outside the home ,too, would earn an extra $85,876 annually on top of her actual wages for the work she does at home, the study says. I used's tool where you can calculate what you should be paid, based on how many children you have, where you live and the tasks you perform throughout the week. With three kids, I should be earning an extra $82,251 for my "mom" tasks as housekeeper, cook, laundry machine operator, facilities manager, CEO, van driver and psychologist(my daughter boosts my pay in this category).

Here are some fun-filled facts from the survey that working moms can appreciate:
* The study shows that in a week, the extra 2 hours that working moms devote to their two jobs results in 2 fewer hours of sleep.
* The biggest difference appears to be in the "mom job" of day care center teacher, with stay at home moms reporting an average of 15.7 hours per week and working moms reporting 7.2 hours spent on this "mom job".
* Often, working moms skip lunch, come in early, and give up exercise in order to save time to be with their kids for homework and other activities.
* Moms work an average of 90 hours a week whether they are a working mom or a stay at home mom.

Too bad that "mom paycheck'' the site produces isn't real. We who find our "mom jobs" rewarding wouldn't mind our wallets getting a bit fatter too.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Blog or die?

Blog or die is the actual subhead of a book I am reading called Naked Conversations, How Blogs Are Changing the Way Businesses talk with customers. For me, it has been a crash-course in blogging. I now am exploring how blogging affects work/life balance. Since I began a blog, I have added extra responsibility to my workday.
I've been told, the most successful bloggers invest significant hours of their lives into blogging. I'm guessing there's a cost, a toll on your personal lives. If you have an experience with this, please share the details.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Who are you afraid to work for?

Yesterday I lunched with a male and female manager from the same accounting firm. Keep in mind, accounting only now is beginning to make headway in helping their staff have balanced lives. The three of us at lunch debated bosses and how much they affect our work/life balance. We decided that the gender of the boss plays less of a role in their take on work/life balance than their status as a parent. Yes, there are exceptions, but we concluded that bosses who are parents tend to understand the desire for a life outside work and the competing demands on time.
Yes it is generalizing, but both this working mother and I confessed our biggest fear in the workplace would be a female boss with no kids. However I admit, I have never worked for one.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Being a boss without being a bitch

I just read Caitlin Friedman and Kimberly Yorio's new book The Girls Guide to Being a Boss (without being a bitch). While some have labeled it chic-lit, I found it a good read. Some of it is just common sense. But there are some morsels of wisdom.
* The biggest mistake female bosses make is trying to be liked.
* When you are a boss, everyone's personal problems are your problems.
* An abusive boss is more likely to be a woman than a man.
* If you determine you lack certain skills then tackle the deficiencies head-on: take a class, read a manual, get some training. The easiest way to be confident is to be competent.

I particularly liked the book's final note in which the authors' included a quote from Madeleine Albright on the importance of helping other women succeed: "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help out other women."