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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Doctors want work/life balance


Doctors want family lives, too. Last week, I had a conversation with Deborah Mulligan, an emergency room doctor at a children's hospital and single mother of three daughters. We talked about all the young women entering pediatric medicine and their desire to curb their work hours in order to have families. Deborah, a professor by day and ER doctor on nights and weekends, could relate.


A front page story in yesterday’s WSJ tackled the subject as did a blog post. It says that young physicians are challenging the assumption that a doctor should be available to treat patients around the clock. The attitudes are giving rise to different types of practice options -- ranging from small, primary-care facilities to jobs that keep doctors on predictable schedules by using a team-based approach that rotates multiple doctors among patients.

But does their work/life balance come at a price to the public? The piece says such choices are putting an additional strain on America’s health-care system because doctors are eschewing fields with unpredictable hours, such as internal medicine, pediatrics and family medicine.


And, there's the generational issue. Some senior doctors gripe that older physicians must pick up the slack for these young docs, handling trauma and emergency calls. “It really gets on your nerves when you get these young guys coming in and interviewing and they say, ‘I’m not doing this, I’m not doing that,’” says one.


I encountered the clash between generations in the medical profession when speaking about work/life balance to a large pediatric group last year. Most of the older male pediatricians had stay-at-home wives. The concept of balancing work and care giving was foreign to them. And, the industry shift toward family-friendly solutions was not something they were eager to embrace.


I would imagine these issues are playing out in other professions. Today's reality is most families are dual income. Family-friendly solutions to workplace issues are the trend. But look past the generation issue and I think there is an interesting question to ask, will the public pay a price?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Real men take naps


I'll never forget when I brought my daughter to a bridal shower and it was her turn to write in the advice book for the new bride. She wrote, "make sure your husband gets a nap on the weekends."


You see, my husband works long hours during the week. But every Saturday and Sunday, he absolutely, positively must have an afternoon nap. They are vital to his work/life balance and his personality. No nap and he morphs into a very crabby boy. So I found myself relieved when I read a blog post by Dave Barry that reveals the most significant medical discovery for men since the invention of the electric nose-hair trimmer is that MEN NEED SLEEP.


Absolute chaos can be going on in my house on the weekends and through it all, my husband naps. I can't seem to pull of the same feat. But thanks to Dave, I now know that men produce a hormone that causes them to produce muscle mass when they sleep. I discovered from another article that naps help men fend off stress and heart disease. So I must agree with Dave, real men never miss their afternoon naps -- at least not in my house. Do you nap on your days off?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Madonna sleeps with her BlackBerry

Margot Winnick, media specialist at University of Miami and a huge fan of the BlackBerry, brought an interesting article to my attention. Margot wants me to know she's not alone in her addiction to her BlackBerry.


Madonna sleeps with her BlackBerry, as does husband Guy Ritchie, she has revealed. The pop superstar made the unusual confession in a new interview, claiming there is nothing 'unromantic' about their dual habit. Speaking as she prepares to release new album 'Hard Candy', Madonna said having the device close by allows her to start work at any moment. 'We lie right next to each other with our BlackBerrys under our pillows. It's not unromantic. It's practical.' 'I'm sure loads of couples have their BlackBerrys in bed with them', she explained to Elle magazine. 'I have to sleep with my BlackBerry because I often wake up in the middle of the night and remember that I've forgotten something, so I jump up and make notes.'


Confession: I keep a notepad by my bed to write down thoughts that occur to me at night -- I guess I'm still in the dark ages. Another confession: I'm considering a BlackBerry.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Are our kids inheriting our stress?




As a working mom with huge to-do lists, I'm often stressed. And, my kids know it. Sometimes I'll be trying to do a few things at the same time and one of them will say to me, "mom, you looked stressed.'' But after reading an article this weekend, I'm having second thoughts about showing stress in front of my kids.


The article said college kids are so stressed out from everyday worries they are having trouble eating, sleeping and studying. Four in 10 students say they endure stress often and one in five say they feel it all or most of the time. Darker still, one in six have friends who have discussed suicide and one in 10 have considered it themselves.

So what's stressing these students out? Most attribute it to school work and grades, financial problems, relationships and dating, family problems and extracurricular activities. Sadly, college women have a more stressful existence than men, with 45 percent of females and 34 percent of males saying they face frequent stress.

I asked my kids whether they ever feel stressed. Without hesitation they said yes. They told me homework is what stresses them. As a kid, I remember worrying about getting my homework done. But I don't remember feeling "stressed" over it. So, I have to wonder, are kids emulating their parents?


I just started making a point to spend at least ten minutes a day doing something fun for myself ---reading a magazine article, walking around the block, doing a crossword puzzle. Sometimes, I include my kids in the activity, to show them how I unwind. But I wonder which message is stronger. Do you kids are feeling stressed too early in life? Are we doing a good enough job of teaching our children how to cope with stress? Are we doing a good enough job of learning how to deal with our own stress?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Highlights of the Work/Life Balance Conference

Yesterday, I had the good fortune to attend the 4th Annual Work-Life Balance Conference for Businesswomen. The best part of the conference was the audience -- 1,500 super-enthused women, eager to network and soak in some inspiration. I plan to write about the conference and its messages in detail in my upcoming column in The Miami Herald.

But I wanted to share some highlights. Paralympic medalist Bonnie St. John told us an inspirating story about falling down on the slope during a run for the gold medal. With the world looking on, she got up and finished the race. She finished third and won a bronze medal. The gold went to a woman who also had fallen. The difference: the gold medalist had gotten up faster. Her message: Everyone falls, winners are the ones who get up the fastest.


Naomi Judd shared a powerful message, too. She's had a hard life as a single mother at a very young age. She says change is inevitable. It's how you react that makes a difference. She defines change this way: Choose Having A New Growth Experience. Now that's a working mother I admire!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blackberrys may spur overtime lawsuits


Should you get paid overtime if a demanding boss e-mails while your getting ready for bed and wants an answer immediately? Good question.


An article in NLJ today says many lawyers are telling employers to make an overtime policy as the popularity of hand-held devices is booming in the workplace, allowing wired-up employees to work anywhere, anytime.


Attorneys believe a new wave of wage-and-hour litigation is just around the corner, where employees will claim overtime for all the hours they've spent clicking away on their BlackBerrys or other hand-held devices.


April Boyer of Miami's Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, a management-side law firm, said she has helped several clients add BlackBerry-use policies to their existing computer policies. Boyer believes that complaints about unpaid BlackBerry time will likely emerge from discontented workers. "Usually you don't hear about it until you have a disgruntled employee. They can tally up an enormous list of alleged hours worked and the employer is in a difficult position trying to defend what the actual hours worked were," Boyer told NLJ.


The advice some lawyers doled out:

* Require that employees get permission first before using their BlackBerrys after work hours.

* Consider anytime a non-exempt employee (someone entitled to overtime) is using their BlackBerry for the benefit of the employer is compensable time — period.


Most of us do what we need to do to get our jobs done. And, let's be realistic...it's not always within the time frame of our specified work hours. But I guess if I was spending a great deal of after hours time on my BlackBerry for work and a manager abused expectations, I might want to be paid for the time. Your thoughts?

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Ultimate Day of Work-Life Balance

If you have never been to the Work-Life Balance Conference sponsored by Balance Magazine, I urge to join us on Wednesday(April 23) at Signature Grand in Davie. This all day program is an amazing networking event. Lots of women, lots of inspiration, lots of fun.

Singer Naomi Judd is the keynote speaker. Other speakers are Pernille Spiers-Lopez, president of IKEA North America; Janet Bray Attwood, author of The Passion Test and co-founder of online magazine Healthy Wealthy n Wise; and Bonnie St. John, the first African American to win Olympic medals in ski racing. I will be moderating a panel of female business leaders, who have climbed the ladder and learned a lot on the way up. I know they will have some good advice to share.

Last year's conference was great and gave some strong messages to walk away with. I'm sure this year's will be even better. Register online at www.balancemagazine.com.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lucky Dan goes on a sabbatical


I'm fascinated by people who are brave/smart enough to take sabbaticals. They always seem so zen when they return to work. This time, it's Dan Le Batard, my newspaper's esteemed Sports Columnist who is doing some rebalancing. Le Batard has made a big name for himself with his columns, his ESPN gigs, talk radio shows and magazine articles. But he says he's so over with juggling it all. He announced he will take a leave of absence for a year starting May 15.


Why now? "Because sports stinks down here right now,'' Le Batard says. Le Batard, 39, called his work/life balance lopsided. "Too much of my identity was tied into my work. I have been working too much, too long. I want more time with family and girlfriend.''


Le Batard says he allowed his ESPN contract to expire April 1, but plans to keep his radio show on 790 The Ticket because it's "3 1/2 hours of laughter a day.'' While on leave, he plans on traveling to China and Spain and hanging out in Miami with his parents, brother and girlfriend of a year. He may even look into writing a book.



While many dream of sabbaticals, few can pull it off financially. LeBatard says 20 years of being single, with low expenses, allowed him to sock away enough to live comfortably for a year.


He plans to return to The Miami Herald in a year, "refreshed and invigorated.'' The paper has guaranteed him his job when he returns and he hopes to write an occasional column, much like previous sabbatical taker Miami humor writer Dave Barry.


Sports editor Jorge Rojas says Dan's sabbatical is good for the paper, too. (It saves money on his salary for a year. ) Rojas is envious. He wishes he could afford to take a year off -- and have his job guaranteed when he returns. As Rojas points out, "most of us can't do that for a year." Fess up, are you envious, too?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Great tips for a job search or career change


My friend Vivian and I were chatting one day about her sister, Belkys. After 20 years as a mortgage banker, Belkys wants a new career. She is her family's breadwinner so she needs to find a new while still trying to earn a living. I though Belkys was pretty typical of others who need to change careers right now.


So I paired Belkys with Maria Drew of Right Management of Florida, an executive coach, for my Miami Herald article. Belkys knew she was getting a good deal, a session with a coach who usually charges a good sum for her service. But I was surprised by how much I learned during the session. Finding a job-- or whole new career -- is way different in today's high tech world from the kind of searches I did many years ago. Maria really encouraged Belkys to think about her hobbies and how they could be turned into a new career.


The most important tip Maria shared was her view on networking. She points out that companies are inundated with resumés sent electronically. The way to get noticed, she feels, is to drop a name or have someone within a company make an introduction. Maria encouraged Belkys to go to networking events and to use online social networking sites (she likes LinkedIn). These are things you can do even if you're working during your job search.


I asked Maria the biggest mistake candidates make. Her answer: bombing the job interview by talking about yourself rather than finding out how you can fill a company's gap in skills. Here's the link to our appearance on CBS4 this morning:



Just listening to the Belkys made me realize how tough it must be to leave your career comfort zone after many years. Have you ever been through a career shift? What was the best and worst part for you?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Women law firm leaders still sparse, why?

I've often read that the reason women aren't in the top jobs in Corporate America is because they don't want them. But I once again wonder about that assertion after reading today's National Law Journal.

I have watched law firms become much more flexible with their female lawyers. I see them making more female partners. Yet, the article says only small percentage of women are at the pinnacle of law firms across the country, and some recent departures do not bode well for the advancement of women in the profession. What wouldn't a woman want the most power position at her place of work?

Apparently, managing a multipartner law firm is a job few lawyers want, regardless of gender. "The pool of lawyers who want to run a law firm is relatively small, but the pool of women lawyers eager to take on the tasks is even smaller, said Valerie Ford Jacob, co-managing partner of 684-attorney Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson in New York.

Here's what makes chair of a law firm unappealing, Jacob says: Extensive travel to far-flung offices, the constant demands of business development and, in some cases, the need to maintain a practice with key clients while dealing with managerial issues.

But the article goes on to give all kinds of other explanations for turnover at the top: A male partner asserted that women don't want to be chairs because those in the job perform a housekeeping function within law firms — something women are not keen to do. A female partner suggested fewer women are in the right leadership roles to ascend to the top --either because of balance issues or law firm politics.

I suspect there are a combination of reasons. But I encourage the women who want the top job to speak up and say they want it, get the word out that they would do the job whatever it takes and lobby for it. It's what the men do. Am I naive in thinking that's all it would take?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Working Dad's Big Decision


I read the news in The Miami Herald this weekend that Florida Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero is resigning. I was shocked. Even more shocking was the reason.


Six years after becoming the first Cuban-American to hold that position on the bench, Cantero, 47, had to choose between his family needs and his career. He said his daughter's recent undisclosed illness and his children's ages -- 18, 15, 13 -- persuaded him to resign and to move his family from Tallahassee back home to Miami.


"During these six years, despite the new friends we have made, my wife, three children, and I have missed our hometown. It is time I put my family's needs first." Cantero wrote in his resignation letter. "We have an extended family in Miami, which has grown to include many grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. My children miss their grandparents, their aunts and uncles, and their cousins," he wrote.


I can only imagine how hard this decision was for Cantero. So many working parents must make similar decisions every day in cities around the country -- moms and dads. Cantero will land a job in Miami, no doubt about that. But for the man who was touted as a possible U.S. Supreme Court justice, the resignation meant HUGE personal sacrifice. It will be years before his children understand -- really understand -- the sacrifice. It's no wonder Cantero said, "It's a decision I didn't make lightly."


Do you think he made the right choice? Have you ever had to make an extremely difficult career/family decision? How did it work out for you?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Layoffs, buyouts, bad morale

Today is a difficult day for me. Frankly, the morale in my office stinks. One of the reasons I choose not to work from home is collegiality. I like my co-workers and get lots of ideas, feedback and enthusiasm from the interaction I have with them. But just like in life, there's a plus and minus.

Yesterday, a large group of my colleagues, the most seasoned reporters at my paper, were offered buyouts. In their eyes, it was an emotional slap in the face. I likely would have been among them had I not gone part time years ago. Today, those who have stopped by to chat with grim face and sad tales, tell me they can't afford to take the offer. They all need to keep work in their work/life balance. And so, we all wait for the next move by our employer. In the meantime, the uncertainty about the newspaper industry, the future for family breadwinners and the career paths of workers who have been in this profession for decades weighs heavy on us all.

Part of me wants to retreat to my home, to hide from the disenchantment permeating my workplace. But is that fair? These are the co-workers who help me find the right word for a column, ask me about my vacation, share coffee cream and swap tales about our children's milestones. So, here I am. At my desk. A sounding board. A cheerleader for the hopefully good times ahead. Someone who knows that live is not all about work, but knows how important it is when your job is your passion, too.

Often, my colleagues and I complain about too much work. But today, it's the alternative that scares us more.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom

I'm back from Spring Break and want to talk about an article that caught my eye while on vacation. It was about Tracey Gold and her new gig: host of TLC's new show, The Secret Life of a Soccer Mom. It's a reality series that airs 10 p.m. Mondays and shows stay-at-home moms what their lives could have been like had they pursued their careers.

Here's the pitch for the series: This new series offers those women a chance to answer “what if” when it gives a full-time mom the chance to secretly live the life she gave up to raise her family. During this season, viewers will meet women like Adrian, a mother of three who dreams of making it big in the fashion industry; Kathryn, who met her husband in culinary school and now wants to see if she can handle the heat of a professional kitchen; and Jeannie who wonders if being a police officer – like her husband – will be as rewarding as raising her four children.

This is the link to the trailer for the show: <http://www.bark-bark.com/tlca_009/approvalfinals/TLCAslsm_FINAL.mov

I haven't watched the show, yet. I like the premise, but here's what I hope the series tackles:

  • Conflicts that arise when a child's class play, field trip, award ceremony arises on the same day of an important work meeting, business trip or project deadline.
  • Conflicts that arise when the dreaded call comes from a school nurse to come pick your sick child up pronto. (This could include negotiations with spouse over who has more flexibility that day or would most risk losing their job)
  • Office politics that make you ask yourself whether the aggravation is worth the income.
  • Decisions about child care coverage for school holidays and summer vacation and/or manager reaction when you bring your child with you to work.

Those are a few that come to mind off the top of my head. If you've seen the show, let me hear from you. I promise to weigh in again after I watch it. Do you feel a half-hour series can do justice to the life of a working mom?