Working Mothers – Learning The Rules of the Game

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When I was a kid, I played soccer. I played a lot of soccer. In fact, I started playing at 7 years old and stopped when I got pregnant with my first son, 10 years ago. When I stopped playing, I had fulfilled all of the things that I wanted to do as an athlete. I was a good team player, I still enjoyed the game and I stopped playing without suffering a career ending injury. Looking back on those days, in addition to all of the great cardiovascular exercise, I have learned many things that have helped me in my everyday working life. The lessons I learned playing soccer have taught me valuable lessons that relate to the working mother world. I want to share them with you this morning.

Rule 1- Support your teammates.  Whether you are sitting on the sidelines (see the first 5 years of my soccer career) or playing in the game, you must always support your team. As a working mother, this means supporting your team whether that team is your family, place of work, or close friends. I have news for you:  as women and moms, we are all on the same team, plain and simple. We need to support our team. Some of us work outside the home, some work in the home, some work part-time, and still others are what I like to call full-time working bad-asses! We are all still on the same team and most of us are dealing with the same issues in our lives. Not one of us is perfect and we all need support. Instead of wasting time comparing and competing with our teammates, lets support each other in our respective journeys. Always support your team!

Rule 2- Practice makes perfect.  Lets face it, there are very few of us that possess pure, natural talent. Nothing was more clear to me than playing on the field. I was never fast enough or aggressive enough or big enough. I found that after years of practice, practice, practice, I got better and worked smarter. I was never going to be a natural soccer player, but rather, I worked for every goal I scored or every steal I made. The same is true with working. In order to be successful at anything, you have to keep practicing. I was not born a blogger, or a writer, or even an editor. I have worked hard for months to get up to speed on the things that I need to learn in order to make this website a success. The more work I put into it, the better I will get. If I don’t get better, I will try harder.  I encourage you to do the same!

Rule 3- No guts, no glory.  Sometimes in soccer, you go for a ball when you know it’s going to hurt. It is a big play and the rewards are potentially huge, like scoring a goal, but you know that you will likely get beat up by the goalie- but you do it anyway. Why? You do it because sometimes you have to ignore the risks and be bold to score. My journey with Proud Working Mom (proudworkingmom.com) has been a long one and the goal is to bring all working moms together in a positive way. Yet still there are women who don’t agree. I am being bold in my attempts to unite my fellow Proud Working Moms and as the say…go big or go home. In life, I have never regretted trying something and failing. I have done plenty of that. My only regret is when I let fear hold me back from trying. In work and at home, take chances, you will never regret it!

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Rule 4- It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it is how you play the game.  Whether you are playing soccer, in a courtroom, or in a boardroom, integrity is king.  When you play on the soccer field, you play by the rules and beat the other team with your skills, not with shortcuts. Integrity cannot be bought, it is earned. What can take a lifetime to earn can be destroyed in a second by a bad decision. We see real life examples of this everyday. There are a growing number of high profile individuals who have literally spent their entire careers building up trust only to be destroyed in an instant by bad choices (see Anthony Wiener and Elliot Spitzer, just to name a few).  It is never worth it. The bad choice or shortcut will never be worth sacrificing your integrity. Conduct yourself with integrity at all times and beat out your competitors with your skills.  For anyone in the working game, integrity is an essential element of success.

Rule 5- Have fun!  Ok, I have to confess that with my 7 year-old’s soccer team, this is actually the first rule of soccer. Since we are all adults, I have moved it to 5. Having fun is still an important rule of the game. If you are not enjoying what you are doing, it will be too much like work. I will confess that when I played soccer, the two-hour practices were brutal. But after the work was done, I was proud of what I was doing and enjoyed lots of things about soccer. I enjoyed being part of a team, my teammates, the smell of the grass at an evening game (which I still remember) and let me add that winning didn’t suck. As a working mother, there are things that stink like waking up at 5:00 a.m. every morning or traveling every week away from your family. Focus on the positive things that your job allows you to do for yourself and your family. Have some fun!

In addition to working with ProudWorkingMom.com, I am a soccer mom of sorts, coaching my 7 year-old’s soccer team (The Blue Dragons). It has been more fun that I ever imagined. I can’t sit these kids down and teach them the  5 rules that I have shared with you. I can only hope that by playing the game, they learn these lessons and it helps them in life.

Now that you know the rules of the game, get out there and play!

Summer 2015 By The Numbers

shutterstock_99675002We are only halfway through the summer…..shit.

Lets face it, if you are a working mother, summer is not always fun in the sun. It is trying to juggle the kids EVERY SINGLE DAY and at the same time, trying to actually get work done (oh, and also trying to maintain your sanity). My kids are out of daycare and I wish I could tell you that summers get easier. They don’t. It just gets worse. So far this summer, here are my numbers:

– The number of minutes spent reading that awesome book that my best friend recommended as a ‘great summer read’.

1 – The number of ‘Brunswick Zone’ meltdowns my 9 year old has had. That is when he has a shit fit after I refuse to take him to Brunswick Zone so he can spend every penny he has. Believe it or not, last summer, I think he had already melted down about 5 times, so I think I see improvement. Feels good.

2 – The number of meals I have cooked. True story.

3 – The number of loads of laundry I do everyday because my kids have suddenly decided that they need more that one outfit on any given day. And I have boys!

10 – The number of times every hour that I tell my kids to leave me alone so I can actually get something done.

14 – The number of physical altercations I have broken up between my boys.

20 The number of times I have considered sending my kids away to an ALL – SUMMER recycling camp. Thats right, at least once a day, I regret not signing my kids up for camp. Next year, I am not asking them if they want to go, I am just doing it! I know, I know, a rookie mistake.

32 – The number of minutes of actual work that I have completed since the beginning of the summer.

43 – The number of days left this summer (not that I am counting or anything).

Good luck getting all your shit done, Proud Working Mom. Remember, just take it a day at a time. If that fails, then I recommend drinking!

Stop Being A Working Mother Martyr!

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Do you see long work hours as a sign of character? A badge of honor? Do you feel like you have to show your face at the office to be perceived as working hard? Do you feel needed when you come back to your desk and find 20 voicemails and 150 emails? Do you feel compelled to be seen at the office, otherwise, you could be mistaken for a part-timer?

Ladies, working like crazy no longer guarantees a job for life. How many times have you heard about the dedicated 20+ year employee who got laid off? Working yourself to death does not guarantee a raise, a bonus, or even a promotion. What it does guarantee is not seeing your family very much.

I used to be there but have learned from my mistakes.

One of the problems working mothers face is that we don’t have very many role models to look up to. Instead, we emulate people we think  are successful. Looks can be deceiving. That person we think is succeeding is working 24/7, trading office time for family time, and is constantly stressed out. Are long hours really the hallmark of a successful working mother? The answer is no.

The good news is that the world is changing and the expectations about working, hours, and face time in the office is changing too. I now have great success with my career, I have dinner with my family most nights, have some wonderful friendships, and even carve out time for outside activities like this wonderful site and the occasional exercise class.

How do I do it? I stay focused and set boundaries.

Change Your Thinking: Work more effectively for less time- After almost 20 years of working long hours, unnecessary travel, and unproductive office time, I finally realized something. If you do your job, and do it well, you will get ahead even if you don’t arrive at 5:30 am, and stay until after dark. Your biggest enemy is not your work schedule, your email box, or even an unsupportive manager… it’s the way you think about work. Stop assuming that working a lot means you are effective- they are two very different things. Ask yourself the following question every single day: am I being productive?

Demand Evaluations Based Upon Accomplishments (not hours worked)- I run a sales team. At the end of a long day, all that really matters is if we make our goals. If this can be accomplished in 60 hours per week or 2, it makes no difference. It is a dramatic example but the idea is the same for all professions (not just sales). When you are making a profit for your company, when you close a new account, or when you help to get major goals completed, this is much more valuable than office time spent reviewing email, chatting with co-workers, or filing reports. Make the time you are in the office count for both you and your employer.

Teach them how to work with you: “Hey, can you have this ready for me tomorrow morning?”  “Can you make the sales meeting at 6:30 tonight?”  

In my early years, I would work all night to meet deadlines, often even sleeping at my desk. I was always the first into the office and the last to leave. I would never miss evening meetings. But then I had kids. Life changed and so did my priorities.

Consider this radical idea: rather than just hopping to everything and killing yourself in the process, tell your co-workers how to work with you, not the other way around. Simply say that you want to give the project your best effort and will need four days to complete it – set a deadline that works for you. Or for that evening meeting, respond that it doesn’t work for you and give them a more realistic time (that doesn’t interrupt family time).

When you do this an amazing, almost magical thing happens: 99% of the time, they listen and adjust.  Don’t assume they understand your schedule. They don’t.

Enlist the partner in your life- the importance of a real partnership– We spend a lot of time talking about this at PWM. Dual career families are now the single largest group of families in the workplace. If you add in single parent homes you now have the majority of the workforce- not kidding. When we all support each other, we can build a new model (eventually a more popular one) of dual parenting, high productivity, and reasonable hours.

Women and Self-Esteem

 

imagesSelf-esteem is a term used in psychology to reflect a person‘s overall emotional evaluation of his or her own worth.

It is generally thought that the more self-esteem a person has, the better it is for them. The world contains plenty of people whose self-esteem appears very high. This causes us to question whether there can be too much of a good thing. Is self-esteem always a good and positive thing? Is there ever a time when there can be too much?

We all know that low self-esteem is something that can destroy a person’s quality of life. It’s a real killer to any motivation or confidence that one may have and can bleed into other areas of your life. On the other hand, when someone thinks more highly of themself than they should, it can be perceived as arrogance. This is also bad.

The key is finding a healthy balance between the two extremes, and to love yourself as well as displaying humility. It is in between these two that a person finds balance and can make peace within their life as well as with the rest of the world. Balance is a necessary quality in all aspects of life, and this one is no exception.

How is your self-esteem?

Keep in mind that women are notorious for poor self-esteem. We have been taught and shown our entire lives that it is not polite or ‘lady like’ to display too much confidence. Don’t be that bossy girl who has a big mouth or who can confidently show the world how it is done. Don’t stand out and act like a ‘know-it-all’. No one likes that. We have all been taught, or have seen this in action.

Ladies, it is 2014. Time to stop worrying about what others think and start building up your self-esteem. You are awesome and you know it. Now it is time to show everyone else. And while we are at it, lets show our daughters and other girls (and fellow women) that it is ok to be bossy. It is ok to know all the answers and it is ok to know it all!

You are valuable. You are worthy of being loved. You are unique. Your life holds amazing potential. You can do great things when you put your mind to it. So enough talk ~ get out there and do it!

Working Mothers and The Importance of a Real Partnership

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I am told I travel a lot for work. I travel every other week, usually for a couple of days- maybe this is a lot, I am not sure.  Either way, I’d venture to say that’s more than the average working mom. Working mother travel is predictable in the sense that at some point, either before, during or after my trip I can always plan on someone asking:

“So who is watching your kids when you are away?”

The question comes from women. It comes from men. It comes from peers. It comes from fellow working mothers. I am no longer surprised by this question, in fact, I expect it. When I answer, simply saying the kids are home with their dad, I see the look in their eyes. It is disbelief, it is surprise, it is pity, all of the above.

Every. Single. Time.

What is unfortunate about these reactions are that so many people still assume that just because I am the mother (and I am traveling) that I must be leaving my kids with my mother, or mother-in-law, or sister, or some other very capable female. Not usually considered is the possibility that my husband is not only running the show, but in a very competent way. This is truly disappointing.

The real success of my working mother life has always been about partnership. For our family, we have always “made working work” by depending upon one another and thinking about our work and parent commitments as equally important- to each other.

For example, on the mornings I travel, it is not uncommon for my departure to occur before anyone is even out of bed. This means my husband Scott has to ready our three kids, drop them at daycare and school, and still get to his job on time (which is early). Additionally, in the evenings when I am away, he has to manage multiple pickups, volleyball practices, prepare dinner, take care of homework responsibilities, and prepare everyone for the next day. By anyone’s standards, male or female, this is a ton of work!

Our partnership works because I reciprocate by taking on the majority of drop offs, pickups, practices, and play dates on days when I am working from home. Very truthfully, if Scott and I had more of a traditional marriage, whereby the majority of household AND parenting responsibilities fell upon only me, the professional roles I have enjoyed in the past and today simply would not be possible. Both my career options and development of those options would have been limited. Because I have this true partner in life whom has been helping along the way, my career has grown and blossomed. And…. because my career has grown and I feel like I have a real partner, I am a much happier individual.

A big thank you to my partner, Scott. Without you, none of this would be possible.

This is an excerpt from Jennifer Barbin’s new book: Guilt Be Gone which is available on our site and on Amazon.

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