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Monday, July 31, 2006

A must-read for parents

Flying home from the D.C. area this weekend, I picked up a copy of the Washington Post. In its Sunday magazine,was one of the best articles I've read in a long time on parenting. The article titled Are You A Toxic Parent? is sure to spark strong opinions. The author, Marc Fisher says toxic parents is his term for those parents of teens who other parents love to blame for the wayward behaviors of their own kids. Fisher discoverd cliques among parents are every bit as strong and divisive as those among kids. His point is hard to dispute. Our society has become quick to blame kids troubles on their parents working or being too permissive. Yet, some parents are too permissive. This assertion in the article really hit home: "Few parents realize until they are deep into the battle to keep their kids safe that the enemy is often other parents."
I'm not sure that I'm the norm, but I fear the teenage years. I've already bumped up against parents who are more permissive than I am about what's permitted in their homes and my kids haven't even approached the teen years where drinking and smoking are temptions. Fisher's article gave me, a working mother of three, a lot to think about. Let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Women gaining little ground

I am horrified but not surprised at a report released yesterday by Catalyst, a non-profit organization that benefits women. Catalyst tracked the number of women in top jobs of Fortune 500 companies over the last decade. It found women continue to be severely underrepresented in top corporate leadership positions. The study found that most large U.S. companies have failed to make progress in advancing women and especially women of color.
If this rate of progress continues, it could take 40 years for women to achieve parity with men in corporate officer positions, the study found.
In my homestate of Florida, only 13 percent of top management at Fortune 500 companies are women. That's 27 women out of 208 top jobs at Florida's large public companies. Darden Restaurants, Publix Supermarkets, Office Depot and Ryder Systems had at least four women in top executive jobs.
The 2005 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners of the Fortune 500 found that in the last three years, average growth in the percentage of corporate officer positions held by women fell dramatically to 0.23 percentage points per year, the lowest yearly gain in the past ten years. Ilene Lang, president of Catalyst, called the survey: ‘‘a wake-up call to business leaders."
Here are some national companies that have great track records and are worthy of our patronage. These companies had 25 percent or more women corporate officers over the last ten years:
Avon Products, Nordstrom, Merck & Co., Pitney Bowes, The Gap, PacifiCare Health Systems.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

19 minutes a day with our kids

I was listening to the Paul and Young Ron show on the radio this morning and they mentioned a new study that reveals working parents spend an average of only 19 minutes a day with our kids. I believe it was Paul that admitted that may be true, even though he's home in the afternoon, which is unusual for most working dads. He says he kids do all kinds of activities afterschool. True, for many of us.
I tracked down the study, which actually ran on the yahoo newswire. The study says the Office for National Statistics looked at nearly 4,950 people over age 16 in Britain to find out what they do all day. The wire report says "the startling research shows the devastating impact that working full-timehas on children who hardly see their parents."
The time use study found working parents spend only 19 minutes a day with their kids, a further 16 mintues are spent looking after their children while doing something else such as grocery shopping.
Reading this study, and the wire report, I'm fuming. I wonder how much time stay-at-home parents spent with their children. I bet they spend the bulk of their time with their kids doing something else like grocery shopping or talking on the telephone. What about working dads who coach little league teams? They are doing something else while spending time with their kids. According to the study, that would be secondary time and wouldn't count as time spent with his kids. In my mind, how much actual time you spend with your kids isn't as much as an issue as how you spend that time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

What working moms want

The results are in for the Working Mother Media's survey on what moms want. The survey results indicate it’s not the companies that are making life hard for working mothers. It’s school schedules, the lack of affordable daycare and the lack of support in the community.
Still, I have to wonder about some of the survey results.
For example, the survey found 75% of working moms feel their bosses ARE supportive of their family needs. Can that be accurate? I wonder if that can be with all the complaints I hear from working moms who are denied flexibility or part time work. The survey also found two-thirds of the women who asked for changes at work, got them. I guess they don't live in South Florida. Also, I have trouble believing this survey result on the cost of childcare. The survey found on average, working mothers spent $700 a month on childcare. I haven't spend less than $1,200 in my 10 years as a working mom.
Here's a finding I can accept: Most working mothers would like to volunteer at their school more, but 66% say their school’s volunteer schedule makes it difficult for working mothers to pitch in. Although I have learned to adapt my schedule to volunteer, too many working moms don't have the flexibility I do. As more working moms volunteer, I hope more PTA meetings will take place in the evenings.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Celebrities struggle too

Uma Thurman is in the spotlight these days, promoting her new movie, my Super Ex-Girlfriend. The barrage of press coverage on Uma has given me some strong reasons to become a fan. She has been candid about her struggles with work/life balance in the wake of a divorce from actor Ethan Hawke. Thurman, 36, is a single mom to Maya, 8, and Levon, 4. In a recent interview with USA weekend, Thurman said: Balancing home and work is "tumultuous and difficult." Because she loves acting, Thurman decided to keep working. Her compromise for now is to read only scripts that will shoot close to home in New York, which was the case for "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," which just opened in theaters. So many working moms can relate to her efforts at compromise.
I love this comment by Thurman in a interview with Parade Magazine: "I have learned that every working mom is a superwoman. For most of the world, it's really a necessity. The stay-at-home mom is over not just because of women's liberation but because of men's libration from wanting to be the breadwinners." I don't think she meant over as in completely over. I believe she meant that working moms have made it easier on their spouses who previously had shouldered the burden of supporting their families.
Almost every working mom, myself included, can relate to this quote from Thurman: "I'm not a quitter. I'm a super quitter. I'm dying to quit all the time. But I do put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Laptops and vacation?

My husband and I are having our annual disagreement. The topic: laptops and vacation. My philosophy is prepare for vacation by leaving a voicemail and an out of office message on your e-mail. Try to wrap up everything before you leave, then take off and relax. My husband insists that if he brings his laptop on vacation and checks his e-mail each morning, he'll be more relaxed. This annoys me. To me, just thinking about work and seeing what's going on while you are gone is stressful. I try to convince my husband that once a year, he deserves a week without thinking about work.
Clearly, this is a source of contention for many couples. Every individual has their own philosophy about vacation/work. Survey after survey shows most Americans spend some of their vacation working. An Adecco 2006 Vacation Survey found more than a third of white collar workers are pessimistic about their chances of uninterrupted time off, with 35% believe they will need to put in extra hours while on vacation.
Consider this: Most believe their boss will fail to thank their staff for working during their time off, with a staggering 25% never acknowledging their employees’ vacation contribution, and a total of 52% failing to do so more than occasionally.
My devious solution: I try to pick vacation locations where cell phones and laptops don't work.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Planning a vacation?

I am thinking a lot about productivity expert David Allen this week as I scurry about packing suitcases and scribbling and scratching my to-do list. When I interviewed Allen he asked: "Isn't it interesting that people feel best about themselves right before they go on vacation? They've cleared up all of their to-do piles, closed up transactions, renewed old promises with themselves. My most basic suggestion is that people should do that more than just once a year."
Clearly, he's right. Even if I depart on vacation exhausted from trying to complete unfinished tasks before I head off, there's a sense of accomplishment. Most of us don't want anything hanging over our heads that will keep us from relaxing. There's something in the thought process though that triggers us to behave this way before a vacation. I know Allen is right, I should try to clear the deck more often. But the way I see it, at least I do it once a year.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Boomers seek retirement jobs

My column today addressed baby boomers who are pushing the movement for flexibility in the workplace. These boomers seek retirement jobs -- work that allows them flexibility in time, place or duties. I received an e-mail from Linda Brickman, Human Resources Director at Braman Management Association. She says her company is employer that might be interested in considering hiring part or full time applicants who have worked previously and have retired but want to supplement their incomes or stay occupied. If you are in that position, you can contact Linda at lbrickman@bramanmanagement.com.
Another interesting note, Conchy Bretos, 61, is a finalist for the first-ever Purpose Prize, given to seniors who start businesses in their later lives to give back to society. Cuban-born Bretos founded MIA Consulting, a for-profit company that brings assisted-living services to older adults in their homes and people with disabilities in public housing.
Being a finalist is a big deal. Civic Ventures, an organization working to reframe the debate about aging in America created the Purpose Prize to highlight a group with potential for social innovation: Americans over 60. Each of the 15 finalists will receive a $10,000 investment to continue their groundbreaking work. In September, five winners will be given $100,000 each. Way to go Conchy Bretos! For more information on the Purpose Prize, go to www.purposeprize.org.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Finding and keeping a nanny

As most working parents know, you can't hold a job without good child care. Recently I have found myself giving advice for finding -- and keeping -- good nannies? Although I have a steady nanny now for five years, I have endured my share of turmoil. Even now, I am always on the lookout for good sitters to fill in gaps if necessary. There's no right answer to the best way to find a nanny, or keep one. My advice to friends:
* Do whatever it takes to keep your nanny/sitter happy. Buy her special lunches, pay her overtime, keep her favorite soda stocked in the fridge.
* Find one with as few personal problems as possible: transportation issues, their own child care issues, immigration problems.
* Don't be cheap. If you underpay, your nanny will leave you. For average nanny salaries, check out the International Nanny Association's 2006 Salary Survey, which breaks out results by region. Salaries ranged from $300 to more than $1,000 per week. In South Florida, the going rate can be anywhere from $300 to $400 per week.
In the survey, most nannies reported making roughly $12-$15 an hour, with incremental overnight pay of up to $100 per night. The survey was based on 1,119 respondents.
* Consider a nanny placement agency. There are several good ones in South Florida. Ask friends with nannies for recommendations. My sister found a great nanny by befriending a teacher of English as a Second Language (ESOL) courses at a nearby high school.
For night time sitters, I have found teenagers to be the best. Now is a perfect time to find them. I typically scour the summer camps for teens who like to care for children. I also chat with women in my neighborhood when I walk my dog, especially if I suspect they have teenage children. And, I always ask babysitters about their teenage siblings. If you have any suggestions, feel free to contribute your tips.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Striking a balance

Finally, some progress in what companies are doing to help employees with work/life balance. The CCH Unscheduled Absence Survey found companies offered an average of nine work/life programs in 2005, up from eight in 2004 and seven in 2003. That's slow and steady progress!
Here are the most common work/life programs:
Employee assistance (73 percent)
Leave for school functions (65 percent)
Wellness (64 percent)
Flu Shots (61 percent)
Fitness (55 percent)

Here's the nugget most employees already know: Almost two out of three employees who fail to show up for work aren’t physically ill, according to the CCH survey. Personal illness accounts for only 35 percent of unscheduled absences, while 65 percent of absences are due to other reasons, including Family Issues (21 percent), Personal Needs (18 percent), Entitlement Mentality (14 percent) and Stress (12 percent).
Maybe more companies will wise up to the benefits of helping employees with issues in their personal lives. My employer is catching on. How about yours?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Most men want to be Mr. Mom?

How interested are you in being Mr. Mom?
Four-in-ten working dads say they would stay at home and assume the role of Mr. Mom if their spouse or partner earned enough to support their families, according to CareerBuilder.com's "Working Dads 2006" survey. Fed up with the struggle to balance work and home, 44 percent of working dads surveyed said they were willing to take a pay cut to spend more time with their children.
I wonder how realistic that is in South Florida. With gas prices soaring, insurance premiums rising and housing costs higher than they've ever been -- would any father really be willing to take a pay cut for more family time?
I do believe the survey findings that men are frustrated because they have less flexibility -- perhaps that's why the audience at my son's talent show was filled with moms, working and stay-at-home. More than half of working fathers, 58 percent, missed at least one special event in their children's lives due to work in the last year and 19 percent missed five or more. I'm willing to agree that men want more time with their families and that maybe women are bolder about slipping out of work for a special event.
But I don't know any men willing to take a pay cut to spend more time playing Mr. Mom? I'll have to survey a few at the gas pump.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Even more on time management

Judging from response to my article on time management, there is a lot of interest in the subject. Workers are desperate to get more done. I received an e-mail from a man named Bob Davies with a tip worth mentioning. His advice: Make a commitment to a specific activity you will do over the next seven days, and then place a horrific penalty for non-performance. This can be a fine, $100, or an uncomfortable action—such as washing your neighbor’s car or even eating a spider!
As long as someone else will enforce the consequence, your brain will search and see the consequence as the higher level of pain and set the instinct of avoidance in the on position. You can’t stop the avoidance. In this case, you avoid the penalty by taking the promised action. You can avoid your way to the top.
I am combining Davies' tip with another I learned from productivity guru David Allen. Instead of writing "sell old coins" on my to-do list like I do every week, I am going to break it up into specific actions. For example, I am going to write "inventory coins". Then I am going to impose a penalty on myself if I don't get it done in seven days. I usually work on the reward system so this might be just what I need for motivation. My neighbor's car sure is dirty.