Book Review: Sisters First
Sisters First was written by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush
Lately I've been watching YouTube videos while exercising, and recently I stumbled across some very entertaining segments featuring the Bush Twins, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush, daughters of former president George W. Bush and former first lady Laura Bush. These young women (now 36) have been on tour promoting their new book Sisters First: Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life. They are highly entertaining, and I especially enjoyed their Nov 8, 2017 interview at the Reagan Library.
After watching a number of their interviews, I started to wonder if I really needed to read the book, but finally decided to buy it in an effort to encourage them to keep the stories coming. And I'm glad I did. It's entertaining, informative, and touching, and there are quite a few stories in the book that haven't been shared via the interviews. The reason I mention it within the context of Working Parent Stories is that I think it provides a valuable example of how a parent's career can not only enhance a child's life, but how it can shape it as well. It's probably not surprising that these young women's lives have been shaped by their experiences as "first daughters", but their stories seem to present a suprising case for the value a working parent's career can provide to his or her children.
The interviews left me wondering if their childhoods were almost too good to be true, and while watching them I even started to feel a little like a slacker parent, but the book does a great job of painting a more well-rounded picture of their family life and a portrait that I personally found encouraging and inspiring. This is a collection of stories that are likely to encourage working parents everywhere.
If you ever wonder if your career is helping your kids, I recommend you read this book or at least watch one or more of the videos. The stories are likely to bring you comfort and they may even inspire you to find new ways to be sure that your career is influencing and shaping your own children in a positive way. Happy reading!
Practicing Assertiveness (at age 8)
Submitted by Mom Engineer
In 1982, while working as a software engineer, I became a mom. I didn't have many (or maybe even any) role models or advisors to help me balance motherhood with my career back then. But, it turned out to be easier than I expected and very rewarding.
Motherhood and engineering are very compatible because each is a perfect break from the other. At work I mostly work on my own, using my brain to develop software all day. At home, I was able to relax while being physical and loving as I spent time with my daughter in the evenings and on the weekends. After spending time with her, I was ready to go back to work and again focus in solitude.
Lessons learned at work helped me become a better mother. One example of this occurred when I was trying to teach my daughter to be a strong and independent advocate for herself. On the job I had experienced assertiveness training and opportunities to practice it. So one day when my eight-year-old daughter's Taco Bell order wasn't filled correctly, and she became upset, rather than resolve the problem for her, I asked her to go back to the counter, explain the situation nicely, and then come back with what she wanted. It worked.
I knew that learning to advocate for herself would be a valuable life skill and knew how to help her develop that skill ... thanks to my job.
Moms CAN: Code
Pointer to stories on the Moms Can: Code web site
There is a great collection of stories about women who write code or are learning to write code on a web site called Moms Can: Code.
Leading By Example
Submitted by Kathryn Twine
When I returned to a part-time work role after taking a break to look after my young children, I was offered a full-time role. Striving to achieve balance in my life, I asked about the possibility of doing the work part-time. “We don’t think that would work,” was what I was told. After a long decision-making process, I gave up the job and went in search of a position that would provide the flexibility I wanted.
I found an advertisement for a job at the Louisa Fleet Recruitment Consultancy and couldn’t believe my eyes. After a quick interview process, I started a new part-time, flexible recruitment role the week after my youngest daughter started school. I had enjoyed the time I spent looking after my children full-time, but I get a different kind of satisfaction from being at work every day.
My children know I care about them deeply. They also see mummy working beyond our home, and early indications are that they admire it as evidenced by my daughter's recent statement, "When I grown up I'd like to help people find jobs just like mummy ... or maybe be a ballerina." (I can't take the credit for the ballerina aspiration though :)
People ask me why I work. We all have days where we don’t feel like working, and sometimes I’ve been working around the house for four hours before I start my recruitment work, but I feel lucky to have a flexible job doing what I love. I like that my kids can see that I go to work on good days and bad days, and I hope that one day my example will provide the reminder they need to persevere in a challenging situation.
Friends and family see that I have a great job that fits in perfectly with family life. But what they don’t see is the rush every morning as I get the kids ready for school, start the laundry, make the breakfast, do the dishes, and take the kids to school before starting my recuitment workday. Working from home may sound like a luxury, but I am often too busy to notice where I’m working. I’ve got a limited number of hours to get the recruitment work done before I need to log off, divert the phones, jump in the car, and be at the school gate with a smile on my face! On good days I can get home in time for a cup of hot tea, help with homework, prepare dinner, help with baths, and put the kids to bed. Other days I need to squeeze in a supermarket run to be sure everyone gets dinner!
Flexibility goes both ways so I sometimes find myself working in the evenings and after school to be sure everything gets done. I’m willing, able, and happy to do it. Because without a business, I don’t have a job at all. And I like my job.
Evening Texts from "the Boss"
Submitted by Jessica Duff
It happens to most of us working parents; the dreaded after hours text question from your boss. Or worse yet, a group text conversation with several managers. You know you should respond because, well, it's your boss!
As a parent, you weigh the cost of losing precious time with the kiddos knowing that your response will likely get you involved in a 20-minute back-and-forth conversation as you strive to hash out an "urgent matter". Or should you ignore the conversation in the short term so that you can deal with it later, after the kids are in bed?
I've faced this dilemma quite a bit lately. I strive to deliver high value at work to help my company succeed, but balancing my career with my role as mom can be so tough!
One of the more valuable benefits a company or manager can provide to working parents is to respect their work at home. A manager who understand when an employee needs to say "no" to work and "yes" to cuddles, bath time, reading, bedtime prayers, and other memories and feelings children will draw upon in the future will usually cause an employee to develop a strong sense of loyalty to the company.
Because, when it’s all said and done, being a parent is the best and most important job of all.
Packing School Lunches
A collection of ideas to help you ensure your kids pack healthy lunches for school - With a little help from you, most kids can pack their own lunches.
Recently a working parent on Reddit asked us to provide some ideas for packing quick and healthy school lunches for kids. Here are some ideas:
There's a New Sheriff in Town
Pointer to an article by Kathy Macaraeg - Volunteering at our kids' school was always an enlightening experience.
One night at dinner my husband was discussing his plan to visit our daughter's elementary school the next day. He'd be working as a volunteer with a small group of students in the library. She warned him that some of the students in the group caused problems for some of the other volunteers, so my husband told her, "Well you'd better let them know that there's a new sheriff in town!" We still laugh about that conversation. The meeting went pretty well, but afterward he admitted some of those kids were pretty challenging.
Volunteering at school often provided us with unique insights into what our kids were experiencing and learning. We could see for ourselves what we going on, and it didn't always align with the stories they were telling us at the dinner table. Sometimes the two of us shared a volunteer slot which was easier to manage, but there was no getting around the disruption it caused to our work schedules. Still, we knew we were lucky to have jobs that enabled us to do it at all.
Some working parents don't have jobs that provide that kind of flexibility, so they may find this article helpful and encouraging. It offers suggestions for parents who aren't able to take a break in the middle of the day: How To Be Involved At School When You're A Working Parent.
The Telecommuting Challenge
Submitted by Lisa Giles - "... let your family know they are your top priority. Also let them know that your work will be your primary focus during the day until they become your primary focus during in the evening."
Almost 20 years ago, while supporting a family member recovering from a health issue in Omaha, Nebraska, my innovative manager arranged for me to telecommute to my job in New York City. Since then, I've been successfully telecommuting on-and-off for different companies while advancing my career and achieving personal milestones along the way.
During this time, I've navigated career goals, and my husband and I have also welcomed two daughters, who are now 14 and 17. Telecommuting has enabled me to bridge my mother and employee roles, although I have needed to make some adjustments along the way.
At one point I feared that I was focusing too much energy on my career. While I was “home” a lot, I didn't always feel like I was focused on my family quite enough. This fear was confirmed when my then 7-year-old made me a Mother’s Day card that showed a picture of the back of my head, as I sat at my desk facing a computer monitor. The caption read: “Company worker”. That's when I knew I wanted to make some changes.
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.
Running My Own Race
Submitted by Sherene Abrahams - "I've let go of the idea that I need to be just like everyone else."
Before my children were born, I assumed that I wouldn't work outside the home after they came along. I figured that a part-time work schedule wouldn't be an option, and I didn't want to work full-time.
But things don't always go according to plan. When my eldest was 9-months-old, I was given the opportunity to return to work on a part-time basis. I was told that I could work from the office two days/week and from home one day/week. I accepted the offer, held the job for five years, and even had another baby during that time.
When my eldest started school, I was ready to make my career a higher priority. By that time I could do my job with my eyes closed. It was easy and convenient for me as a working parent. But it was no longer challenging.
I found a new job that sounded perfect; there were shorter hours, it was closer to home, and it was a step up on the career ladder. Unfortunately, it didn't go as well as I hoped it would because it just wasn't a great fit for my skills. But luckily, after nine months on the job, I found and landed my dream role. It was closer to home, super flexible, and involved work that I love.
While it took some adjusting to find the right fit, I'm happy to report that I've found it and am balancing my roles at home and at work. Here's how I do it.
In an attempt to help other working parents, I created The Working Parents Hubshub. This site, which currently serves parents in Australia and New Zealand, helps working parents find services they can use to achieve better balance between their families and their careers. It is also a place to share tips and experiences with other working parents. We share lots of great info on our Facebook page also, and we even have a small Facebook group dedicated to discussing these things in more detail.