Check out my new e-book!


If you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s because I’ve been busy with this:

haveitall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share my journey as a working mother because I’d tried it all:  staying home full-time, working part-time from home, part-time outside the home, full-time outside the home and finally full-time from home.  In every situation, I made every possible mistake along the way (did I mention I learn things the hard way?), and so my hope is that YOU can benefit from my mistakes!  At least you’ll feel you’re not alone.

Along with my story, I share some great tips and resources, and follow up with self-coaching exercises you can do to achieve YOUR ideal work/family balance!  Here’s what others are saying about the book:

“Jenny opens up to us with her own story that is so very honest and touches your heart. It made me feel it’s okay to be myself and nothing more or less. I would definitely recommend to others! It’s a must read for not only working parents but anyone that has self doubt themselves.  I’d love to hear more of Jenny’s stories. They are truly inspiring.” Nozomi Morgan

“I would absolutely recommend this book to other working parents. Jenny provides simple strategies and ideas that I think would be helpful to many working parents.  It was perfect timing for me to read this right now! I would actually like for my husband to read it too! I felt like I could really relate to some of Jenny’s experiences which made me keep reading!” Lori Goldsmith

Get your copy of Have It All:  You CAN Balance Work and Family today.  And if you like it, please leave me a review on Amazon.  Thanks!

 

 

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Making the Holidays Meaningful


So, if you’ve read my last two posts, hopefully you are feeling less stressed about the holidays because you are taking care of yourself and simplifying your schedule.  Here’s the last, and probably most important way to relax and enjoy the season:  make sure it has real meaning for your family.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercial aspect as well as the social obligations:  we think (consciously or unconsciously) that we need to buy at least as many gifts as last year, we feel that we are expected to attend  certain functions, and pretty soon we forget the real meaning behind the season.

If your family is religious, then staying in touch with your religious observances is a clear way to focus on the “reason for the season”.  But even if your family doesn’t subscribe to any particular religion, here are some ways to focus on the spirit:

1.  Make gifts meaningful.  If you have kids, then you’ve probably experienced cheap plastic toy overload.  The recession, increased environmental awareness and recent publicity about the dangers of imported toys have helped many of us realize the pointlessness these types of gifts.  One way to avoid this is by buying quality made educational toys such as those by Melissa and Doug.  Another is to give “experiences” instead of toys that may be played with for a short while and then discarded.  A friend of mine said her daughters’ favorite gift one year was when her mother treated them to a dog-sled ride.  Stocking stuffers were muffs to keep their hands warm and treats  for the dogs.  It was a special experience they will never forget.  A trip to the ballet, a concert, or even a day at the bowling alley with friends are all great ideas.

2.  Share with the less fortunate.  Volunteer at a local soup-kitchen, ring the bell for the Salvation Army, or sponsor a family.  Your local United Way can give you a wish-list for a struggling family.  Kids enjoy picking out gifts for other kids, and learn to appreciate how lucky they are.  We are going to shop for the family we’re sponsoring tomorrow.  It is humbling to think that others are soldiering on with so little.  I am grateful for the opportunity to help in some small way, and for all of the blessings in my life.

This is my wish for you, too – that you find true meaning in the season and enjoy it with the ones you love.

 

Simplify Your Holiday Schedule in Two Easy Steps


One December several years ago,  my husband casually observed, “You don’t like Christmas very much, do you?”  I was heartbroken.  I love the holidays, but I realized that I had lost my enthusiasm by trying to do too much – stress had taken all of the fun out of it.  I certainly didn’t want to ruin it for my family, too.  That was the year I started making an effort to prune my “holiday overachiever” mentality, relax and enjoy the season.  Easier said than done, I know.  Still, I’ve managed to convince my husband that I’m really not a Grinch.  You can simplify and reduce stress in two easy steps:

1.  Prioritize activities and events. 

Gather the family together and get out your calendar.  Decide which events are on your “must do” list:  visits with family, religious observations, and school activities such as holiday recitals and concerts may be most important to you.  Then, look at the rest of your options.  If you discover, as we did, that you are invited to holiday parties three nights in a row, you may want to rethink your plans.    Ask your kids which events are really important to them.  You may be surprised to discover that rituals we take for granted, such as visiting Santa, may not matter to them, particularly as they get older.  This will free up some time for some much-needed R & R.

2.  Simplify your “to-do” list. 

  • I’ve really pared down my holiday baking.  Try one of the “One Dough Makes Ten Cookies” recipes or organize a cookie exchange with your friends.  Keep it simple by sticking to your strengths.  I finally gave up on making candy from scratch – I’m just not good at anything that requires a thermometer.  Instead, we make peppermint bark by melting chocolate in the microwave, spreading it on a cookie sheet and sprinkling it with chopped up candy canes.  My kids absolutely love smashing the candy canes and have been demanding to know when we are making peppermint bark!
  • I’ve also simplified my shopping – we live in a remote mountain location – so what I can’t buy locally I buy online and ship directly to long-distance family.  No more all-day trips to the outlet mall.
  • I also don’t send hand-made cards anymore.  I like Smilebox for making a nice slide show e-card that can easily be emailed or shared on social media.

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I know how strong the temptation is to make everything “perfect” for your family, but is it really worth it if you’re trying too hard and losing your holiday spirit?  As working moms, we have enough on our plates already.  Relax and enjoy yourself and your family will, too.

A Working Mom Success Story


Last week, I wrote about Why you deserve to be happy and questions to ask yourself if you’re notSo what happens if you decide you’re NOT happy in your current work situation and you want to change it?  The very thought can be overwhelming to a lot of moms:  we have children to support, and some of us are single parents.  We also have to consider what will work for our families; if this job doesn’t allow me to have a good work/family balance, what will?  What does that look like for me?  Since I have already shared my journey to “having it all”, I wanted to share a success story with you from Kelly, who had a tough decision to make last summer.

Stacy has an 18 month old daughter, and was shocked by how much becoming a mom changed her life.  Before becoming a mom, Stacy had always been very successful in her career – when she found out she was pregnant, she was just about to begin working on her dissertation for her PhD.  Needless to say, becoming a mom put those plans on hold.  Stacy found herself torn between wanting to continue moving forward in her career and missing her daughter terribly during the day.  She said she was afraid that she would miss her daughter’s childhood.  Stacy was working outside the home, and didn’t feel like she was fulfilling her potential professionally.  Worse, she was bringing a lot of work home, and was so tired at the end of the day that she often fell asleep reading bedtime stories to her daughter.  She had no time with her husband, or for herself.  She wasn’t exercising or making time for relaxation and re-charging.

Stacy came to me needing to make a quick decision about whether to return to her current job for another year.  Though she didn’t want to go back, she wasn’t exactly sure what she would do instead, or how she and her husband would pay the bills in the meantime.  She also wasn’t sure about how or when to finish her dissertation.  Together, we looked at her goals for all areas of her life, prioritized and created a workable action plan.

In the end, she made peace with returning to her current job for one more year, but was able to create a plan for transitioning to working part-time, which would allow her time to spend with her daughter AND finish her dissertation.  Also, she’s making time to walk outside every day, has gone for a couple of hikes with her husband, and has successfully transitioned to having her daughter sleep in her own room – no more falling asleep during story time!  I am amazed by the progress Stacy made so quickly and wanted to share her story to inspire more moms to find that balance.  Please join me in congratulating her accomplishments – way to go, Stacy!

Can working moms really have it all?


In talking with my clients and friends, it seems there’s one wish most of us have in common:  to “have it all”.  We  want quality time with our kids, to be a real, caring, patient mother.  We also want a career – not just a job, not just to help with the family finances, but something fulfilling – a purpose.  If not our mothers, certainly our grandmothers were expected to feel that being a mother was purpose enough.  And it is.  But even my grandmothers worked outside the home when their children were older.  Womanhood, and motherhood, is fraught with changing seasons.  Sometimes we can work this to our advantage.  Because I didn’t have kids until my 30’s, I had already been Mary Tyler Moore or Ally McBeal, the independent career woman.  I chose to stay home with my kids, feeling that I’d waited a long time for this experience, and I wanted to enjoy it fully.

That decision was immensely rewarding and unexpectedly difficult.  I missed interacting with other adults.  I felt guilty that I wasn’t contributing financially.  However, I knew it was a season, and that I would go back to work as soon as my kids were in school.  I was a teacher, so I assumed this would be somewhat easier than it is for many working moms; after all, I would basically working the same hours and days that they were in school.  This worked well when I was an Instructional Coach because I didn’t have any “take home” work.  However, when we moved for my husband’s career, I landed back in the classroom, which was much harder.  I felt like I had to make an almost nightly choice between helping my kids with their homework or doing mine – lesson planning and grading.  In the end, I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job anywhere:  I was emotionally drained, all my patience used up at school and none left for the two kids dearest to me – my own.  And I felt like I was always behind at work – that I could always be working harder, doing more.  It wasn’t working.  Something needed to change.
This is the dilemma of so many working moms:  how to have a fulfilling, rewarding career, and be a fantastic (not just ok) mom to their kids.  But there are inevitable trade-offs.  Rewarding careers often require a lot of commitment.  Is it possible to “have it all”?  Maybe not in the purest sense.  There are only 24 hours in the day, and we must make choices about how we spend them.  That being said, when we stop to really examine our priorities and we’re willing to sacrifice a few things that don’t measure up, we can come very, very close.  Employers are becoming more and more open to alternative working arrangements; a couple of my close friends negotiated a job-share when their kids were little so that they could each work half-time and spend the other half at home.  More and more companies are open to telecommuting or offering more quality childcare options.  Also, many women are figuring out how to work from home.  While writing this post, I ran across an infographic stating that “96% of professional women believe having it all is attainable”.  With that kind of optimism, surely many women have figured this one out.

In the next few weeks, I’ll post some questions to ask yourself when planning your ideal work/family balance, and ideas for making it a reality.

How to Make a Schedule that Works and Stick to It


 

My post is late this week because I allowed my busy schedule to get the best of me.  Coincidentally, a couple of clients and prospective clients also mentioned the difficulty of creating and sticking to a schedule this week.  We all know how challenging maintaining a schedule can be, especially for single parents, people working multiple jobs, or going to school in the evenings.  However, for these people especially, finding a schedule that works is essential.  Creating and maintaining a workable schedule can keep you on track to achieve your goals, while allowing you to build in time for relaxation and recreation.  Here are some resources and tips I’ve found helpful.

First, it’s important to set priorities.  Scheduling is easier when you know what’s most important; you can make time for that first.  Here is a great resource for setting priorities and using time effectively:  Challenges and Choices: Time Effectiveness — Prioritizing Your Time

After you’ve made time for what’s important, work in the rest where you can.  Think about  what is most likely to succeed based on your own tendencies:  are you a morning person or a night owl?  As a morning person, I find that doing activities I tend to skip, like exercise, first thing in the morning, helps to keep me on track.  I don’t schedule much of anything after about 8pm, because I’m not very productive in the evening.  On the other hand, the struggle to get my son ready for school in the morning became much easier when I started working from home and he could sleep in a little longer.  It’s amazing what a difference a half hour can make.

Are you a procrastinator?  Finding a way to focus on your goals can help keep you on task.  I like Joe’s Goals, a free online “habit tracker” created by a “regular Joe” (sorry) who thought of a great way to hold himself accountable.  You create an account, add your goals, and then keep score of how you did over the week.  You can also journal about your activities.

Of course, there will be times when you want to be free of a schedule and just slack off for a day.  (See last week’s post.)  The beauty of a schedule is that it helps you to get tasks accomplished so you DO have down time.  When all else fails, read this Grand Pep Talk to keep you motivated to stick to your schedule and Just Do It.

How do you stick to a schedule?  Share what works for you in the comments!

Mothers Returning to Work – How to Ease the Transition


When I was a teacher, this time of year meant returning to work after having my summer off with the kids.  Though it was never as hard as the first time, each fall was a difficult transition for the whole family:  suddenly I was not there full-time to clean the house, prepare meals, do laundry, buy groceries, etc.  Though heading back to work after being home with kids is a challenging time, there are several things moms can do to ease the transition.

Plan and Practice Ahead of Time

The transition will be easier on everyone if there is time to adjust to the new routine.  If your children are not yet in school, research and commit to a childcare option that is comfortable for everyone.  Transitioning a breast-fed baby to a bottle will be less stressful if you give it some time – you don’t want to worry about whether or not your child is going hungry on your first day back to work.  Give yourself and your child plenty of time to take care of learning new skills like potty training.  It will go better if the pressure’s off.  In the days leading up to the Big Day, practice getting up and dressed by the time everyone needs head out the door.  Practicing ahead of time can instill confidence in kids and ease anxiety for mom.

Enlist Help

Starting back to work part-time is a great option for moms if it is available, but often it is not.  If you’ll be working as many hours as your spouse, make sure he knows that you will need an equal partner in household chores.     Most husbands are more likely to respond positively if presented with a request for help instead of  a demand.  Make a list of what needs to get done and divide it up based on personal preferences.  Maybe your husband is a master with the vacuum, but isn’t big on cleaning bathrooms.  Older kids can pitch in, too.  Even if they are ambivalent about mom going back to work, you can sweeten the deal with an allowance or reward for completing chores.

Go Easy On Yourself

This is the most important part!  It seems that guilt and motherhood just go together; stay-at-home moms often feel guilty that they are not contributing to the family’s income, and working moms feel guilty about kids having to go to daycare, or just spending less time with them.  Remember that quality, not quantity, counts when it comes to time with your kids.  It’s better for kids to get a few hours per day with a happy, fulfilled mom than a whole day with a resentful one that doesn’t really enjoy staying home.   Also, give yourself permission not to have a perfectly clean house or home-baked cookies for your kids’ snack.  Trying to do it all is the fast lane to burnout.  Finally, remember to make time for yourself – for exercise, relaxation or girls’ night out.  By taking care of yourself, you are taking care of your kids’ mom, and that benefits the whole family.
Need help balancing work and family?  Visit newfrontierslifecoaching.com