Home Away from Home

How do you stay connected when you are separated from your child because of travel?

Many of us travel for our jobs. My husband and I have worked hard to minimize our travel schedule, but there continues to be times when we need to be away. Being away from a few days is relatively easy for our kids to handle. It becomes more difficult when one of us is gone for longer periods of time.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does it stinks!

Applications like Skype and FaceTime have made it easier to communicate and ‘see’ each other, but can be somewhat disappointing when you don’t have very interesting information to share: nothing particularly exciting or unique happened during the day and everyone is fine, or have limited time to talk.  When discussing this issue with some friends one, whose spouse also travels quite a bit, shared that when she or her husband travel they found that sharing pictures or making video messages went a long way with the kids. I thought it was a great idea, so our family decided to give it a try. Instead of sending a standard “Hi, Dad. How are you? We love and miss you” message, we decided to get creative. We’ve come up with various silly ways to stay connected when one of us is away. We sing songs to each other, put on short skits or Lego-inspired plays…the kids have lots of good ideas. It’s all about what they think will be fun or interesting to do. It’s been fun to make the videos, and helped us all feel more connected even though we are miles apart.

What’s helped you feel most connected to your child or spouse when you’re away on travel?

The News on Stay-at-Home Moms (and Dads)

It’s in the news again….this time the media is stating more women are staying at home to raise their children. If this really news? Sounds like someone is trying to start a debate, doesn’t it? Does it really matter if more women are staying home or going back to work? I think each woman’s (and man’s) decision is made for their own unique reasons and lumping parents into working or stay-at-home categories (and all the stereotypes that go with them) is a dangerous precedent. Aren’t we all trying to be the best parents we can be? My guess is, if we peeled back this observation, we’d find more parents are staying home — whether it’s the mom or the dad.

Every caring parent grapples with how to best raise their child, how to nuture them, and teach them. When it comes to deciding if a parent will stay at home or go back to work there is no easy decision, and in my experince, a whole lot of second guessing. When I speak to parenting groups, I talk about the phenomena of second guessing that occurs when you became a parent. It can feel like you’re getting your PhD whether you realize it or not. I was indoctrinated into second guessing just about everything within weeks of becoming a parent. Once I realized second guessing was becoming second nature, I started to push back against it. I found that when I was unsure, research, a discussion with my spouse, and sometimes others (when appropriate) helped me make decisions I felt good about. I also realized I had the opportunity to evaluate and course-correct when/if needed. It was liberating.

Only you know how to best raise your child. Staying at home versus going back to work is a personal decision. One isn’t better than the other.

If there is news in any of this, it’s that we, as parents, are constantly seeking to do what’s best for our child regardless of whether we stay home or not. That sounds like good news to me.

What do you parenting decisions have you struggled to make? How are combating second guessing?

Go Ahead Make My Day

Many of us are familiar with the Clint Eastwood character Dirty Harry who used the famous tagline, “Go ahead, make my day.” I was reminded of this phrase during a particularly tough week at work.  But not in the way you might think.

The work week started like many others, with a steady stream of work pouring in. I knew the week would be different, when the pouring didn’t stop. By mid-week, I knew there was still quite a mountain to climb before I could reach the end of the work week. It was not a good feeling.

I could have gotten overwhelmed or difficult to be around as my workload increased, but I knew that wouldn’t help me get to my goal of completion. Instead, I started seeking out “good moments” during the day. I found that when I allowed myself to notice them, and really take them in, it made what could have been a bad day, more than bearable, it actually turned it into a good day. These “good moments” were, in fact, making my day.

Finding the good moments weren’t particularly difficult, once I paid particular attention to finding them. The good moments came in various forms: sharing a joy with my kids, or us laughing together; my spouse and I connecting over something other than work or the kids; noticing fall colors; and having dinner with a friend. These good moments helped redefine what could have been a bad week to a pretty darn good one.

As a working parent, a terrible work week can sometimes spill over in your family life. I’m glad I sought the good moments to help defend against it happening in mine. When a bad work week starts to form, I’ve got my go-to phrase now: “Go ahead, make my day.” With good moments, of course.

How do you combat a tough work week? Where do find your good moments?

Which Way are you Leaning?

What’s a mother to do? We give birth, we take our child home, we start to care for it, and then we are faced with the decision—to go back to work or not.  Of course, some of us will have decided prior to having our child that we won’t return to the workforce because we don’t want to, or financially it doesn’t make sense.  Some of us know we will return to work and it becomes an issue of how soon, and then there are the rest who are on the fence.

And here our quandary begins. Perhaps we’ve invested time in our careers and are making our way up the corporate ladder and want to continue our climb. Perhaps we have a profession we’re passionate about. Or perhaps we need the money, want continued contact with adults, or know that work gives a sense of purpose you haven’t found anywhere else.  You weigh the pros and cons of staying home with your child and not working (maybe temporarily, maybe permanently), and you weigh it and you weigh it and you weigh it. And while ultimately you go with the decision you feel is best you can’t quite shake that nagging voice in the back of your head. Am I taking something away from myself if I stay home? Am I taking something away from my child if I work?

And now the dialogue is no longer being kept to ourselves, or amongst our working mother friends. It’s being discussed out in the open. Oh goodness! Why Women Still Can’t Have it All by Anne-Marie Slaughter was published in the July/August 2012 edition of The Atlantic. Her article encouraged a dialogue between working women, to understand the obstacles women still face to reach the highest professional levels while raising children, and encouraged men, who are expressing a desire to be more involved in the raising of their children, to join in the situation.

Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, encourages women to be “at the table” professionally, take risks, and pursue your desired career. She also mentions men playing more of a role in the rearing of the child and household responsibilities.

I can understand why reactions to both the article and the book have been strong.  Each gave me pause. What do you mean women can’t have it all? And Lean In—I didn’t realize I was leaning out.  Do I really have to do more than what I’m already doing?

What really bothered me wasn’t the article, book or their content. It was the emotions they were triggering in me—guilt, anger, relief and hope.  Quite a range of emotions, don’t you think?  I still have guilt about putting both boys in daycare when they were young. I know I am a better mom than I would have been a stay home mom (I think stay-at-home moms are amazing), but it didn’t take the guilt away. I was angry because I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at in my career while fighting hard to maintain boundaries specific to the hours that I work and the time I spend away from the family because of it.  I felt relief because someone was finally talking about this—I’ve often felt alone in my daily struggle to do what’s best for my children, spouse and myself. Lastly, I felt hope. Hope that we’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg and more conversations will take place between spouses, partners, companies and communities. That we will reach equality in the home and in the workforce, and as a country we’ll figure out how to better support families so that we not only can survive but also thrive together.

The question, “can women have it all?” makes me think should we want to have it all? and what does having it all mean? I think our kids should have it all—involved parents working for supportive companies and communities that value our future generation more than sustaining a culture of workaholics.

We’ve got some work to do, and I’m leaning towards whatever will get us there.

Which way are you leaning?