Pointer to HBO's new Docu-Series Being Serena
Working moms on Reddit brought our attention to the new five-part Docu-Series on HBO* called Being Serena. The series chronicals the most recent events in Serena Williams' life; from winning the Australian Open while pregnant in April 2017 right up to attending the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
But it's the stuff in-between those events that is most interesting ... and inspiring ... and thought provoking ... and relatable.
For those who don't know, Serena is married to Alexis Ohanian, one of the co-founders of Reddit, so it's especially interesting that Reddit led us to this program. Talk about a synergistic relationship!
Working parents (both moms and dads) are likely to appreciate Serena's story and find themselves relating, thinking, and being inspired as they watch.
* It appears that Being Serena is also available via On Demand until early July. More info.
Submitted by Britt Larsen
Growing up, I always knew my mom was different. When my older sister was young, my mom started an after school music program. For over 30 years she ran the Colorado Academy of the Arts, and over those years, she taught hundreds of children and adults to love and appreciate musical theater. Sometimes I got frustrated because my mom was busy, but as an adult, I realize that her example and dedication is one of the reasons I am successful in my own career now.
My mom has a talent for recognizing talent in others, especially in people who don't think they are artistic. She is a master at casting people in roles that they may not have imagined for themselves. I will forever be thankful that she followed her passion and ignited that passion in every person she taught.
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Work required me to travel internationally on occasion. I usually viewed these trips as sacrifices since they took me away from my family along with being tiring, if not exhausting. Once I made it to the airport, I usually appreciated the change in routine, and once I made it to the hotel, I usually appreciated the opportunities to meet new people, see new things, and discuss new ideas.
But I rarely took any extra time to explore the area on my own after the business was complete. Instead, I felt compelled to get back to my family and "be there" for them ASAP. (It occurs to me that this sounds downright crazy as I write it so many years later.) Thankfully, there was one time when a colleague and I decided to take an extra day to explore Rome on our own.
Thanks to this fun, flexible and very accommodating colleague, I had a great day as we explored the city. In fact, it was so great that I vowed to return "soon" with my husband and kids (14 and 9) so that they could explore these wonders too.
Thirteen months later, the four of us were sitting on a plane heading to Rome where we experienced, what later became known as, "the best vacation".
Work experiences often make us better parents. And sometimes we need to indulge ourselves in order to understand how to leverage those experiences so that they benefit the whole family.
Pointer to an HBR article by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox
Sometimes we overlook the many ways that our careers help our children, but this Harvard Business Review article by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox helps us keep everything in perspective. If you've ever doubted that your career helps your kids, you'll find these reflections from the mother of grown children valuable. Thank you, Avivah!
Submitted by the 40 daddy
While it’s common to discuss the merits of the Family/Career balance, I actually feel healthier when I focus on the Family/Career/Passion balance.
At a high level I define these as follows:
-- Family time is spent with my children and spouse; all of us together as well as time alone with my spouse.
-- Career provides my source of income…obviously.
-- Passion The collection of activities and hobbies that bring me joy.
Family obviously consumes the greatest share of time, as it should. Kids wake up and need to be coaxed back to sleep, they need food (so needy ;), want to play, and get sick. (And those little germ factories will get you sick!) We all know the drill. It takes a lot of time to raise kids.
But it’s easy to forget what I consider to be a critical component of family time: I call this “spousing”. (Is spousing a word? I’m not sure, but it wasn’t autocorrected so let’s add it to the lexicon.) And while Netflix is technically shared time together, it’s not really enough. We make time to talk for at least 10-15 minutes before Netflix. (We have so much free time!) We take walks together (e.g. we go down to the basement to look at what needs to be repaired or walk over to the garage to discuss the strange pool of liquid under the car). We try to go out for dinner together every few weeks too. (At least when our parents are in town, and there are plenty of diapers and breastmilk on hand. And the emergency numbers are up-to-date on the fridge. And you’ve conveyed which snacks are okay and which stuffed animals should always be near which blankies. And … ok fine we’ve only done this twice in three years.) It might end up only being 10-15 minutes, but we try to have “non-child-based" conversations …
Career takes almost as much time as family. We all know you gotta pay the bills.
Many employers will say they respect the demands of parenting, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Some of my previous co-workers (and managers) didn’t have children and didn’t truly understand the demands they present. To be fair, how could they possibly understand? I know that I didn’t fully understand them until I took the plunge.
I’ve always been open about my family obligations. I try to manage expectations about my work through clear communication. I’m also careful about the spacing of large projects that require a lot of time and attention (e.g. long days, weekend work, fast responses times). One trick I use is to be sure to include often overlooked tasks within my full-time schedule. (i.e. I schedule blocks of time for mundane activities like administrative work and supporting teammates.) This provides me with a bit of a buffer so when I’m not in the middle of a critical project I can often arrive a little later, or go home a little earlier, and shut off my phone for the weekend.
When I strike that clear, well-defined balance, it helps with my morale at home and at work, it enables me to spend plenty of time with my family and on my career, and feels like I’m contributing in both roles.
For me, it’s crucial that I also make some time to pursue my passions. Sometimes it’s guitar, sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s carpentry, or rehearsing a theater piece.
I find it hardest to make time for these things. Several nights of broken sleep aren’t great motivators for waking up early to write the next Game of Thrones. If we don’t get all the kids asleep until 9:30 pm, I don’t have enough energy left to break out the guitar or get the table saw running. Standard home maintenance tasks like sweeping, dishes, groceries, and laundry can easily consume all of our time during a weekend … That makes a beer and Hulu feel like the most peaceful way to spend my cherished down time.
I’ve managed to carve out some time for these activities in several ways. I hustle the kids out a little earlier than normal so I’m at my desk 30-45 minutes before I’m needed. Or I pack food, kill the Internet, and put on head phones during my lunch break. My wife and I will swap out time on the weekends so she can take a yoga class on Saturday and I can go for a run on Sunday.
Time for ourselves and our passions does wonders for my wife and me.
I feel lucky in many ways. I started a family later than many; just after I turned 40. That gave me 20 years to play around, screw up, try and reject jobs, learn to live without much money, and then land a career that I enjoy and really establish myself. By the time my kids were born I’d developed a strong reputation, a large industry network, and marketable skillsets. This stability means that my career enables me to spend a reasonable amount of time with my family.
I also have a strong partner with a career and passions of her own that I actively support, and on occasion I make sacrifices to help her accomplish her goals. We have each focused on each other’s careers and needs as much as, if not more, than our own. For us this is hugely valuable; doing everything we can to support each other’s careers. At different times, one career or the other takes precedence. Sometimes only one of us is intensely pursuing a passion or career, and if a balance isn’t struck it can lead to stresses in the relationship.
Just recently I reached a point where I am able to trim back my career, which I love, to make a bit more time for family as well as passions that could lead to a secondary career. It’s taken 20 years to reach this point, and it still feels like a risk. We’ll see what happens.
I feel strongly that my deathbed memories will not be focused on my careers and hours worked, but instead will focus on our family and the passions we pursued. I’m working on making sure I have lots of great deathbed memories. (As morbid as that sounds as I write it.)
Submitted by The Mama Politic
My husband and I both work. I'm an academic researcher. He's a sociologist. We have a daughter who recently turned one and older children from my husband's previous marriage.
For now we're prioritizing my career, although neither of us is slacking on the job. His strong support is enabling me to advance in my dream job as an applied research faculty member at a large university. I feel lucky to have his backing along with somewhat flexible work hours. We also have great daycare which we appreciate. Our caregiver is wonderful, and our daughter appears to be thriving. Lots of things are going really well.
Still, it isn't easy. One of the things I find hardest about being a working parent is balancing career objectives with this feeling that I need to "do it all". And look fantastic doing it! As the sole cook in our family (long story), I need to get dinner ready each evening. Given my food allergies, this takes some extra effort. And to make things extra challenging, my daughter just started becoming incredibly fussy when we get home at the end of the day. Trying to make dinner and keep her happy is starting to feel like a losing battle. Between my Type A personality that has me wanting to make a great dinner and her unabated screaming, feelings of frustration and uselessness often take over. Hopefully this is a temporary phase.
One way I am staying motivated is by training myself to say, "Screw that!" to a lot of things. I didn't puree my daughter's food when she was younger, I don't make bento boxes, and right now I just feed my daughter everything we eat - spices and all. She has slept in her own crib since day one, and I never breastfed because post partum depression required me to take a mood stabilizer. Sometimes I feel like I can't possibly be "enough" at home. Interestingly, many things seem to come more naturally to my husband than they do to me. Maybe it's because he has older children and has done this before. Still, I feel like I need to do it all, or at least I want to do it all. These feelings and challenges are helping me learn the value of prioritization.
As I ponder the way we negotiate this life, I think about my need for my husband to support my career goals and understand my need to go to work every day. We are far from perfect, but he definitely has my back professionally. This may be difficult for some couples to understand. Maybe the fact that we both had working moms is why it feels right to us.
Some friends who don't get it give me flak. They warn me that I'll regret not putting our daughter to bed every single night, and they're concerned that I've never cried when I've taken her to daycare. When our daughter was six months old, I changed jobs so I could spend more time with her, but some still seem concerned for me.
My husband and I take this all in. We also know that our daughter is healthy, happy, and developmentally on track. She clearly loves us. Because we need our work to feel fulfilled, we truly believe that we're making choices that are best for her, our marriage and our family. It just feels right.
Inspired by an interview published on Forbes.com
Founder and editor of the web site mater mea (which means "my mother" in Latin), Anthonia Akitunde, was recently featured by Forbes.com. The article, which is based on an interview conducted by Stephanie Newman, highlighted some "hidden joys of working mothers". These joys will be familiar to many working parents.
Here is a sampling of them.
Some parents aren't encouraged to share stories about the joy they get from their work. Thanks for talking about it, Anthonia and Stephanie!
Inspired by the Harvard Business Review podcast: "Couples That Work"
About two months after our second child was born, I was interviewing for a new job. I'd spent the previous few years at a start-up that never came close to delivering the compensation I'd walked away from with my previous employer. So when I received a respectable offer to return to that "previous employer" as a contractor, and in a role I'd filled right out of college nine years earlier, I felt relieved, encouraged, and happy to get my foot back in the door.
But my husband didn't feel the same way. He told me that if I took that job I'd "ruin the family name" because I was overqualified for it and capable of more. He thought I needed to continue my search until I found a position that better aligned with my experience and provided compensation that aligned with that experience.
That wasn't exactly the encouraging response I was expecting, so I paused, and then I took his advice. A month later I landed a much better offer for a position that required the experience I'd acquired and would compensate me accordingly.
My husband's surprising encouragement to walk away from the "lesser" offer really caught me off guard. I'd always appreciated that he supported me, but I'd never realized how much he respected my capabilities. It was a huge confidence booster, and in hindsight, a defining moment that kept my career on track at a time when it could have easily been derailed. (It's also worth mentioning that by pushing me to take on more responsibility at work, demands on his time at home were certainly going to increase, so he didn't have much to gain by pushing me to strive for more.) Of course I ended up taking the better offer, and I never looked back.
It turns out that this kind of "tough love" advice is a trait found within successful dual career couples according to an interesting Harvard Business Review podcast called "Couples That Work". Guest Jennifer Petriglieri calls this providing a "secure base" and points out that this kind of encouragement, when one spouse actually pushes the other to move further outside the relationship, is how we thrive, develop and grow. Interestingly, it's often the same kind of encouragement we give to our children to ensure they become capable adults.
Every young couple who wants to strengthen their relationship and career opportunities should listen to at least the first 10 minutes of this podcast.
Submitted by Franki Paron - "I was much more fulfilled and a better mom when I had work outside the home ..."
Raising our children was the most important and challenging work I've ever done, but I needed my career to make my life complete. Life is probably easier when one parent commits to making full-time homemaking and child-rearing their career. However, I wasn't able to find enough personal fulfillment in this choice when I tried it. I stayed home with our children for two years after our son was born and found that I was miserable without my career.
While it was very busy, and at times chaotic, I found I was much more fulfilled and a better mom when I had work outside the home that was my own pursuit. There were other sacrifices that our family made, but I'm certain that my working was not one of these.
Our children are successful and happy adults in large part because we were fulfilled parents.
Submitted by Theodosia Wicktor Ahern
I'm 80 years old and raised three sons. Unlike most women my age, I worked and went to school while they were growing up. I'm sure that my work helped them become the strong, self-reliant and honorable men they are today. All three of them have married strong independent women who worked while they raised their children, and all three of my boys turned out to be excellent home chefs too. It's probably because they had a working mother.
My sons were always interested in what I was doing, or where I was working. I think that contributed to their respect for women and appreciation for family. They turned out well in spite of, or maybe partly because of, the roles I had outside our home.