Submitted by Rick Steffens
One challenge that confronted me every day at work was determining what time to go home. I get great satisfaction from finishing a task and like to start every morning with a clean slate, but many days, when my meetings were over and it was time to go home, I found myself facing a backlog of action items.
At the same time, I felt a strong pull to get home and spend time with my wife and kids. To figure out where to draw the line and when to go home, I created a process so that I could defend my decisions to my kids, my wife, my boss, and most importantly, myself. Interestingly, in the end I never needed to defend them to anyone but myself.
Here's what I did. At the end of the day, if someone or something was pulling me to stay in the office, I would imagine sitting down with my kids and telling them why I'd needed to work late and miss out on spending time with them. If I felt good about that conversation, then I stayed and focused on the task. But way more often than not, imagining that conversation just didn’t feel right, so I went home.
On the occasions I did decide to work late to take care of something, I felt better about it because I knew that there had been many more times that I'd put work on the back burner to be with my family. This process enabled me to show my family that they were important to me, and to show them that work requires sacrifices sometimes too.
Submitted by Paul Helbling
After I was divorced, I had custody of our four children. The youngest was eight years old at the time. It worked. Not necessarily perfectly, but that just meant that there were a lot of learning experiences along the way. As an educator, I think that was a good thing.
One way we made it work was to require each person to take responsibility for their own laundry. As I said, it worked. There were some issues, but I didn't get involved with any of them. When there was yelling, I ignored it. When I needed to do my own laundry and found a load of clothes that had been left in the washer, dryer, or both, I just moved them into a basket.
Years later, when I remarried, I shared this strategy with my new wife who was still raising her youngest (12 years old at the time). She was surprised by the idea, but gave it a try. It worked for her too. Even when she found clean clothes that had been in the washer for two days.
Ann Landers probably said it best, "It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings."
Submitted by Rick Steffens
When my two kids were in grade school, I needed to travel for work a lot. To be sure I stayed connected with them in a meaningful way, I wanted to establish a fun, special and easily repeatable activity that would make it clear to them that our relationship was one of my top priorities. After some discussion, we decided I would take each of them out for lunch once a month.
When we were just starting out, I didn't really think it was a big deal. But every time I picked one of them from school, the teacher would tell me that they were really excited.
Submitted by Jim Haselmaier
Managing personal and professional obligations is a challenge on a good day. When unexpected complications pop up it gets even harder to keep everything and everyone on track. You probably know what I mean; a meeting that runs late, a call from the school, realizing that you've got two different colored socks on as you prepare to meet with your customer, or, a family member that gets sick.
When someone gets sick at home, the challenges can mushroom into even more problems if other family members end up with the bug. And being sick yourself is often the worst because, in addition to feeling lousy, you start to fall behind at work and at home as the ratio of "doers" (aka "parents") to those needing attention (aka "kids") gets out of whack.
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Sleeping in has always been my preference. Alarms can be so harsh. As a new parent, it always seemed unfair that babies and toddlers didn't appreciate the opportunity to sleep in on a Saturday morning.
My husband has always been an early riser, but even he didn't want to get up as early as the kids some Saturday mornings. So early on we concocted a scheme to make these mornings "extra special" for our 3-year-old daughter. On Friday nights we'd leave a bowl of cereal and a spoon out on the kitchen table and put a plastic cup filled with milk in the refrigerator with plastic wrap over the top. Because she was getting to be such a "big girl" we'd allow her to make her own breakfast on Saturday mornings.