Thursday, March 11, 2010

Does a bad morning mean it's going to be a horrible day?

I have to confess: I had a screaming match with my six-year-old this morning. How ridiculous. I'm old enough to know better, yet we stood there, bellowing at the top of our lungs. Sadly, this is nothing new, just another morning fight over what she needs to do so we can get to school in time.

Oh, I try to avoid the fights. I give warnings ("We're leaving in five minutes."). I set up a routine ("No breakfast until you're dressed. No t.v. until you've done everything you NEED to do for school."). I punish her ("You are not allowed to come downstairs until 8:00."). I reward her ("You get to pick the t.v. show if you're dressed and ready.").

Nothing works, and I am at a loss. My son does all these things without being asked. He reads in the morning, studies his spelling words and regales us with wonderful tales of his dreams. He goes to bed with a smile and wakes up beaming even brighter.

But the girl...oh that girl, she makes my blood boil. Why can't she ever get dressed without cajoling? Why can't she ever eat her breakfast without pouting? Why can't we ever get out the door without yelling?

The bad mornings set me up for bad day. I end up screaming (yes, screaming! My throat still hurts an hour later!). She ends up crying. Boy ends up near tears, with his hands over his ears, stunned into silence.

And we're off on a bad journey. I only hope we can reverse our course.

I hope she's fine by the time she gets to school. I imagine her walking into kindergarten with a black cloud over her head. I want to be there and watch her, see if she can shake it off and go about her day normally.

Because I can't. I am going to stew all day about this. I'm going to be distracted at work. There's going to be a pain in my heart and a pit in my stomach because I am a bad, bad, horrible mother. Someone will ask my opinion about a new leadership message and I will feel that I have no right to give it because I yelled at my daughter. I can't get my kids out the door in the morning; how can I possibly add any value to a multi-billion dollar company?

Then I will go into a spiral about my own defective personality. I am the daughter of a yeller. My mother swore at us and said some awful things. I vowed I would never do that. But sometimes, oh, sometimes when I've been so very patient and I've asked and I've said "pretty please" and I've reasoned and I've still gotten no results, then monster mommy comes out. I SCREAM. I scare the kids. I scare myself. Do I have anger-management issues? Control issues? What the hell is wrong with me?

Finally, I will try to rationalize. I didn't swear at her. I didn't hit her. I didn't verbally abuse her. I just yelled at her to put on her coat and put on her shoes and get in the car. I'm okay. Secretly, I pray the damage I've inflicted isn't permanent.

One of my daughter's favorite books is Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes. Our favorite line, one we often tell each other, is this: "Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better."

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say that to her this morning. And I hope we don't have to wait until tomorrow for things to be better. I'm going to try to have a better afternoon.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The sometimes ugly truth about working from home

Thank goodness for the Business Women's Finishing School & Social Club. They've highlighted an update to my blog post about the good, the bad and the ugly of telecommuting. Although I wrote it 18 months ago, it's still relevant today:
http://businessfinishingschool.blogspot.com/2010/02/working-from-home-personal-costbenefit.html.

Check it out!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

My Guest Blog on Business Women's Finishing School & Social Club: Groundhog’s Day—The Working Mom’s Holiday

Working mothers should unite. Let’s lobby Hallmark for a new February holiday, one that honors the cornerstones of any working mother’s life—routine, consistency, schedules and predictability. Up with Groundhog Day!

Business Women's Finishing School & Social Club: Groundhog’s Day—The Working Mom’s Holiday

Friday, January 22, 2010

We don't love Conan, we love what he stands for

Everyone knows about Conan O'Brien and his nasty departure from NBC's Tonight Show. It's one of the Top Ten Trending Topics on Twitter. This week his show's ratings are, by his own account, up 50%. He's truly going out on top.

But why all the love for Conan now? Where was Team CoCo back in August or September or whenever Conan's ratings needed some propping up?

No offense, Conan, but these people don't really love you. They love what you're doing. When unemployment is at 10%, when a new job often means a pay cut, when a pay raise or a $25 gift card from your boss makes the news, we working-class folks can only DREAM of flipping off the boss.

Problem is, if we did that we'd probably get a boot in the butt instead of a $33 million severance package. And we need our jobs.

But we can dream. And we can watch Conan, and we can cheer loudly as he speaks for all the workers who want to stick it to the man.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

To fit in something new, you have to take away something old

I was toying with different metaphors for the title of this post: one more ball in the juggle (too R-rated), one more log on the fire (too destructive), one more sandwich on my plate (too cutesy). But, in thinking about it, I realized that my juggle (or my fire or my plate) is already full. So to fit in something new, I have to take away something old.

First, the add: I'm trying to shift careers. I've spent the bulk of my working life in business communications as a writer, editor or project manager. I'm currently a contract worker and I'm fortunate to have a long-term gig with my former employer. I can put in as many hours as I want, but I'm trying to keep it to a maximum of 25 per week, which will leave me some time to do other things.

When I left my full-time job, I wanted to figure out what to do. I dabbled in online/magazine writing, which I love, but journalism is a dying--or at least low-paying--career. I waded back into the corporate world, which I sometimes feel is sucking out my soul. So, I've decided to try something that I love, or at least something that has some personal meaning to me. I'm studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

It's daunting. Not so much the idea of a career change--I can live with that--but the actual steps I have to take to do it. I have to study and pass a test!

It's been a thousand years since I was in college, and a hundred years since Grad School (which I never finished because life and jobs and pregnancy got in the way), so I have to remember how to study. In the past I was studying subjects that came rather easily to me. This is a whole new field, and I am dealing with a host of other priorities. I have a lot of sandwiches on my plate.

I know that I won't be able to find the time to study, so I have to make it. Which means it's time for some serious time management.

Here's how I'm going about it:

  1. Follow the plan. I'm studying for the American Council on Exercise certification, and they have a 20-week study guide that I can follow. I'm on week two, and so far I've been keeping it up.

  2. Schedule it in. I'm trying--with mixed results--to study for an hour each morning before I start work. Today I missed it, so I have to figure out a way to fit it in tonight.

  3. Relevel my expectations. I'm a Type A. I like things how I like them. But I have to give up some of this control, so I'm trying to realize that with my momunteering, showing up is half the battle. I don't need to prepare and things don't need to be perfect.

  4. Just say no. I was so proud of myself when I did this! Yesterday, I was asked to volunteer in Thing Two's art class but I said no (of course, I'll be at her Daisy meeting this afternoon).

  5. Ask for help. This has been a tough one for me, I but I have to start asking for help around the house (or letting things slide--see #3 above).
I know that people who have jobs and kids and lives go back to school all the time. There are tons of websites dedicated to it (here's one: http://back2schoolmoms.com/). But it's hard.

What I'm starting to realize is that you can't just add something; you need to take something away. So in addition to the steps above, I've deactivated my Facebook page, I've unsubscribed to tons of email newsletters I get, and so far I haven't taken on any additional freelance work. Pleasure reading is on hold and I'm avoiding reality t.v. We'll see if that's enough...because it's up to me to make sure that all my balls stay in the air.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Don't Quit...yet. What to do before you give your boss the finger

Apparently people are going to be quitting their jobs in droves once this recession is over (links below).

Not so fast, people. Over the past month, I've had four conversations with four different people who hate their jobs and want to quit. I'm not a career counselor--far from it!--but perhaps they sought my counsel because they think I'm a role model. I did what fed-up worker dreams of: I actually quit.

The thing is, even though it's all worked out for me, I probably didn't do enough to save my job. And I wouldn't advise anyone else to do what I did.

(Background on my breaking point: I had started a new role in the company where I had worked for nine years. From the beginning, though, I felt alone and distrustful of leadership in the new group. Then I started to feel angry and bitter. Adding to that, I was under a lot of personal stress, so I felt toxic.)

By the time I left, quitting felt like more than my best option; it felt like the only one. In retrospect, it might not have been.

Here's the advice I wish someone had given me when I could think of nothing but walking out the door:

  1. Talk to other people on your team and to people who used to report to your current managers so you can better understand how they are succeeding (or failing) in their roles. Of course, you need to be cautious in what you say, but I find that if you ask a few questions on how someone has been successful and what their experience has been, you can learn a lot. You might also be able to forge some deeper relationships with team members. And when you’re in the trenches, you need some good buddies.
  2. Talk to people outside your group (but within your company) to see what else is out there. I'd pick five people who seem to have cool jobs to have an "informational interview." You can find out what they're doing, how they like it, and how they got there. And you might see opportunities...or you might find that maybe the grass isn't greener elsewhere.
  3. Throw yourself into your client. I hate to sound like some CEO somewhere, but the truth is, I didn't care enough about my client when I quit. Maybe if you can get more involved with your clients, they'll see you more as a team member than as an outsider or a service provider. Once you feel valued, you’re invested.
  4. Talk to your supervisor. The trick here is to not complain. Maybe you want to implement a "status meeting" where you outline goals and achievements for the week. Force your supervisor to give you 15 minutes every other week (at least) alone. He/she can't ignore you, and again you'll be building a relationship (see #3). At the very least, you’ll be compiling a list of your accomplishments, which might come in handy if do decide to leave.
  5. Get involved in outside groups/networking. I’m a business communicator, so I joined the board of my local IABC chapter. Find a professional networking group and go to some events. Volunteer for a committee to build skills that you lack, or present yourself as an expert in an area where you know you're strong. You'll find out how other companies do things, and you'll start to see how much you really know about your field. You’ll definitely gain some perspective on your own situation.
  6. Have a reason to leave each day. It doesn’t matter if it’s to cook dinner for your family, to walk your dog or to take a spin class. If you schedule something for 6:00, you’ll have a reason to get your work done on time and you'll have something to look forward to at the end of the day. As an added bonus, you’ll have something other than work to talk about with your friends.
  7. Take a vacation. When I left my job, I was paid for six weeks of vacation. What if I had taken that time, even part of it, to relax, get my mind off work, and recharge? I might not have ever left.
  8. If you’re still tired after your vacation, look at a leave of absence. I wish I had done this. Oh, how I wish I had done this!!! With a leave of absence, you can get a sense of what it’s like to really not have your job anymore. You might even figure out how you want to spend your time. Who knows? You might even miss what you were doing…or it might be the way for you to find your true passion.
  9. Keep your eyes—and options—open. Polish off your resume. Look at job boards. Start networking. Even if nothing comes of it, it’s good to know what else is out there, and that you have options. You’ll feel powerful.
  10. Own your choice. When you’ve run through this list and made your decision—whether you stay or go—own it. Don’t be a victim. Realize that it’s your choice to come to work each day. Making this active choice—without apologies—can make the difference in how you view your job.

If I were given the opportunity today, I’m not sure if I’d go back to my old company. But the next time I’m feeling lousy about my job, I’m not going to act on impulse either.

Links on how unhappy workers are:
Job satisfaction falls to record low in US, survey shows
Recession has left workers disgruntled, planning to leave jobs
Recession intensifies Gen X discontent at work

More reading on how to cope if you’re unhappy at work:
How to Survive in an Unhappy Workplace
Your Career: New Year Know-How

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What if Tiger were a Cougar?

Okay, I know that this blog is supposed to be about work/life balance and all that. But I’m fascinated by this Tiger Woods debacle (just Google it. No need for a link). Not from a wife/husband standpoint or even from that of an avid golf fan. I'm enthralled by the marketing/PR/Communications predicament his entanglements have created.

I can't think of a female athlete or celebrity with nearly as much endorsement power, but look at Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams or Danica Patrick. Would their endorsements survive "transgressions" like Tiger's?

When Serena made her infamous outburst at the U.S. Open, people were clamoring for Nike to drop her. When college soccer player Elizabeth Lambert pulled the hair of an opponent during a game, she was crushed in the news and suspended from her team.

What would happen if any of these female athletes behaved as badly as their male counterparts? What if they were accused of having nearly a dozen extra-marital affairs, all while maintaining—actually peddling—a perfect and squeaky-clean image?

So, what if Tiger were a Cougar? Would the companies who pay those endorsements take this same “wait-and-see” attitude? I doubt it.

In the meantime, I can't wait to see the marketing fall-out from the fall of this formerly perfect pitchman.