Recently, I spoke with several friends who are also mothers. It seemed like each one of them was complaining about the same thing: They were running around like headless chickens who were tired and worn out and they had no time for themselves.
As working parents we are often pulled in many directions and bombarded with multiple demands at the same time: Your boss wants the report in ten minutes, a child wants a treat now, the laundry basket is overflowing, and we badly need a haircut. The list goes on and on.
Whether you are a working parent with one, two, three or more children, or even the parent of a special needs child, the demands on you and your time seem endless.
Many of us find it difficult to prioritize our own needs above those of others. And sometimes it feels like we are losing ourselves in the process.
While it is important to take care of others, it is essential to take good care of ourselves first. Like the airlines remind us: "Put the oxygen mask onto your own face before helping small children and others". If we can't breathe or function, it's impossible for us to help others.
Taking good care of ourselves has to be a priority! Whether this means going for a run, doing yoga, meeting with friends, or just taking a few minutes to sit down and relax.
Make these rituals ruthless priorities! They help us feel better and stay sane. Plus, your children will benefit by learning and appreciating that taking good care of oneself benefits everyone. Remember: It is not selfish, it is self care.
Pointer to a thought-provoking video
UPDATE Nov 9, 2018: According to National Geographic, video highlighted below, may not be as cute and natural as originally suggested.
You will probably appreciate this video (2:20 min) if ...
Submitted by Jim Haselmaier
Counterintuitive situations fascinate me. It's surprising when conventional wisdom is proven wrong or something that seems obvious turns out differently than expected.
The majority of parents I know are deeply committed to the well-being and success of their children. Many put a lot of thought into various aspects of parenting and ask themselves questions like, "Am I being supportive enough?", "Am I being tough enough?" and "Am I being flexible enough?"
Many years into parenting, I learned that I needed to add asking myself, "Am I letting go enough?” Here's why …
One summer when our daughter was about three-years-old, we spent time with my in-laws at their cottage on a river. One afternoon, the five of us decided to take the canoes out. The river was calm and shallow. My wife, daughter and I were in one canoe and my in-laws were in another one. I’ll be the first to admit I am not an accomplished canoeist, and unfortunately that contributed to the fact that, and don't ask me how, at one point we became broadside to the current. My in-laws, who were upstream, were in total control of their canoe. In order to be sure they didn't hit us, my mother-in-law stepped out of their canoe. And let's just say that both she and my father-in-law ended up very wet very fast. There was splashing and rapid chatter as the adults attempted to convince our daughter we were all having great fun.
Through four sets of adult eyes this was a relatively minor event, although my wet in-laws might have a little more to say about it. (And I have to say, as the son-in-law, I felt pretty stupid for helping to cause the flap.) But through the eyes of a three-year-old little girl, the scene was very traumatic! From that point forward, our daughter was afraid of boats. And we knew why. Thankfully she'd get in them, but there was usually a fair amount of discussion beforehand.
About seven years later our daughter was at Girl Scout summer camp. When I arrived to pick her up at the end of the week, the girls were out on the lake – swamping canoes. Ugh … I knew this was going to be tough for her.
As I watched from shore it was apparent that she was in distress. Not in danger, but distress. After a while one of the leaders came up to me and said “She was doing a lot better before you arrived. I think if you leave it might go better for her.” So I made myself scarce for a few hours.
Sure enough, it helped. She got through the canoe swamping exercise. The leader reported my daughter’s distress lessened considerably after I left. It turned out my presence, which I figured would be helpful and supportive, was actually hurting her. It was interfering with her ability to do what needed to be done. By eliminating the distraction of my presence, she accomplished the challenging task.
That event influenced how I parented from that point forward. I tried to be more mindful of situations where it was best to let my children handle situations on their own so that they could increase their confidence in their own capabilities. I often asked myself, "Am I letting go enough?"
Pointer to a video news conference with Dr. Donna Strickland
On October 2, 2018 Dr. Donna Strickland was announced as a 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Strickland is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo who describes herself as a "laser jock".
During an entertaining and inspiring news conference, Dr. Strickland described what it's like being the first Canadian woman to win the honour, and she also talks about being a working parent. She and her husband raised two children while pursuing their careers.
When asked (at the 10:50 min mark in the video) if she thinks that scientists have a responsibililty to the world, Dr. Strickland replied (in part), "We all should do what we find fun and what we can do." She went on to say that when her daughter was quite young her daughter was being asked by her friends about the fact that her mom went out to work instead of staying at home. Dr. Strickland told her daughter, "The world works best if we all do what we're good at."
Pointer to a Forbes article by Mary Beth Ferrante
Yesterday Forbes published a great article called How To Survive A Two Breadwinner Household. We love the article because it promotes many of the same ideas we promote and aligns with many of the topics we've covered recently including the following (and many more):
Thank you, MaryBeth Ferrante, for helping other dual income couples recognize the challenges so we can be sure our families thrive and we contribute to a brighter future in so many ways.
Inspired by an article in TIME magazine
Becoming a Stay at Home Dad (SAHD) might feel like the right move for some men. But even if your partner is on-board and ready to become the sole financial contributor within the family, a decision to leave the workforce, even for just a few years, may set your career back in enough ways that you are likely to regret the decision down the road (assuming you think you'll want to reenter the workforce in the future).
Last month we wrote about the financial downside to career breaks in the story Do The Math. Later we came across an article in TIME magazine that described other, greater risks, specifically experienced when a man leaves his job to care for his family for an extended period of time. The article, Don't Let Your Husband Be a Stay-At-Home Dad, outlines many of the risks associated with leaving the workforce temporarily and states, "Research suggests the penalty may even be greater for men who temporarily exit the workforce."
Every family is different and there is no single career or parenting model that works for every situation. Each of us needs to do what we think is best given our unique situations. The Time article reminds us that there are ramifications to every decision we make, just like we outlined in another recent story, Choices and Consequences.
Submitted by "Experienced Mom"
Recently a parent, who gave up her career 18 years ago to focus on her children full-time, shared a frustration with me; her teenaged son is only interested in himself. Even as significant events swirl around him and she tries to explain their relevance to him, his interest in anything beyond himself remains pretty much non-existant.
I bit my tongue as I thought about what she'd said. It didn't surprise me for two reasons;
When we balance family and work we make it very clear to our children that multiple priorities can be managed at the same time. Sometimes our children's needs are our highest priority and sometimes other things demand our attention. Our children learn, by watching us, that they are part of a world that is bigger than themselves and that their needs don't always deserve the most attention. This realization will help them better understand the world, their role within it, and how they can make valuable contributions.
Inspired by Maurice Cheeks
Have you ever tried something new or encouraged someone else to try something new? If so, you know that new experiences can be nerve-racking. When we try new things, they rarely go perfectly at first, and nervous feelings can cause us to stumble. Many of us can recall at least one situation where our nerves got the best of us and we choked.
When that happens, people around us can help us keep our mistakes in perspective; they remind us that stumbling is normal and they encourage us to try again and expect better results next time. These experiences can help us grow, build self-confidence, and become more compassionate people. Parenthood is filled with these opportunities; opportunities to try new things and opportunities to encourage others who are trying new things.
Some parents who provide encouragement and compassion provide powerful examples for the rest of us.
Apparently that happened back in April of 2003 when working parent Maurice Cheeks, now a Basketball Hall of Famer and then the head coach for the Portland Trailblazers, helped a 13-year-old girl out because, as he said, ''I just saw a little girl in trouble and I went to help her. I'm a father. I have two kids myself. I'd have wanted someone to help them if they could.''
If you're not familiar with this story, take two minutes and watch what happened (or here from a better angle, but lower quality video). You won't regret it. It's a great reminder to all of us that there is a lot more power in building people up than tearing them down. Thank you for the reminder, Maurice. And congratulations on your recent induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Happy Ending: The girl who sang in the video is all grown up and pursuing a career in acting.
Opportunity to share your experience, influence corporate policy, and earn some money
UPDATE Sep 30, 2018: Specifically seeking women of color at this time
University researchers want to talk with pregnant employees (and their partners), and they're willing to pay up to US$155 depending on your eligibility and participation level.
We're enthused about this study because these researchers, led by Kelsie Daigle, share our passion for learning about parental leave, new-parent sleep, working parents, breastfeeding in the workplace, and returning to work.
If you're interested, participating, you can contact Kelsie directly via email. (One option is to earn US$30 for particating in a one-hour interview.)
You are eligible to participate if you meet the following criteria:
Read stories about parental leave:
Inspired by a Freakonomics interview with Indra Nooyi
Recently, while listening to a Freakonomics podcast called "A Conversation with PepsiCo C.E.O. Indra Nooyi" something was said that got me thinking. Indra was describing her daughter's school and how they hosted a weekly "class coffee with mothers" on Wednesday mornings at 9:00 am. Because she worked, it wasn't practical for her to attend most of the gatherings. Apparently her daughter highlighted each of her absences by providing a list of the mothers who had attended each week. Indra was clever (she calls it "coping"); she eventually called the school and asked for a list of mothers who didn't attend regularly and provided that list to her daughter in rebuttal.
That story instantly took me back to the years when my husband and I franticly juggled classroom volunteering with our careers. I enjoyed volunteering and learned a lot about my kids, their teachers, their friends and their learning. But even today it elicits feelings of stress, and I find myself questioning whether or not it was worth it. But I know exactly why I did it; I was afraid that my kids' teachers would treat them differently if I didn't. (Who knows whether I was right or wrong?!)
I've heard that some parents pressure teachers to let them in the classroom, and that not all teachers want parents in the classroom. (It has to be a challenge to manage all those volunteer slots while garnering parental approval at the same time.) I'd guess that some parents are very helpful and others may create more work than they're worth.
If we truly want our daughters to have as many opportunities as our sons, our sons to learn how to be supportive spouses, and everyone to be paid fairly, we need to stop and think about how we're asking our moms and dads (aka role models) to spend their time.
We appear to be succeeding in terms of educating future mothers in the US; more women than men are now graduating from college. But we haven't yet figured out how to ensure they succeed at the same rate as men once they're pursuing careers; fewer mothers than fathers work outside the home, and many mothers who do work are underemployed by choice.
We could pile on teachers and ask them to add even more to their overflowing plates as we try to figure out how to help our daughters achieve more career success, or better yet, let's help them out with this challenge. My suggestion: launch a #dadsinschools effort, meaning that we mothers should stop volunteering in schools and instead encourage dads (and only dads) to take on the classroom volunteer duties. This could change things. Profoundly. It would enable moms to focus more on their careers, and it would enable dads to learn more about their kids. And it might even help us, as a society, to understand how important we really think it is for parents to volunteer in the classroom.