I may have mentioned once or twice that I don't like decisions. It's one thing to tell myself, "Oh, just decide already and stop being such a perfectionist!" It's another to actually deal with what might be holding me back.
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about career decisions. It's not always as simple as wanting more money or needing to help people and then finding the job that matches. Sometimes there are real emotional and mental issues that complicate decisions.Relationship stuff
Even if I know plenty of other people who have made similar arrangements work for their families, I worry that my
kids are going to be the ones starting up a meth lab when I'm gone. Or I might remember a disparaging comment someone made about working moms and think they won't love me anymore if I choose differently than they would. Or I might go after a career path that doesn't suit me simply because of the impressive "ooh" sound people make when they hear what I do for a living. Sometimes I forget that I have to consider what's best for me as well as my family, you know, since I'm part of the family, too. It isn't always about everyone else.
These might sound silly, but once I identify what I'm worried about, it's easier to think clearly about the possible consequences of my decision rather than letting my worries linger in the corners of my mind.Fear stuff
I worry all the time that I'll launch into my next career move and then find that I hate it. Yup, that's good old regret anticipation eating me up inside.
When I quit working to take care of my kids, I thought I would be fulfilled through them because they would listen to my wisdom with rapt attention. It took me a few years to realize my kids were just going to be people and that it wasn't their job to fulfill me. So I lowered my expectations, which is the opposite of what I usually like to do (Reach for the stars! Save the world!).
I don't want the same thing to happen again. If sky-high ideals didn't work for my kids, they probably won't work for my job, either. I worry that I'm setting myself up for disappointment, since it isn't my career's obligation to meet my every need.Raging against mediocrity
I don't rage because I'm spoiled and can't figure out how to sacrifice. Believe me, I know a thing or two about delayed gratification. But I expect a lot from myself. And so if I'm doing something ordinary, I feel like I could be doing more or doing better. I don't want to just be solving someone else's first world problems! The truth of it, though, is that even greatness requires taking baby steps, talking to crazy people, and filling out tedious paperwork. It comes back to expectations. Even boring, easy, or kiss-up busywork is part of life. Expect it.Unhealthy thought patterns
. If I can't do this now, I'll never be able to. I don't know why everyone else seems to have their lives together. What is it about me that makes me unsuccessful?
None of these thoughts is very helpful. Changing thought patterns is hard because of how fast thoughts can travel and how elusive that makes them. It might take a serious time investment in myself to make it happen, but if my thoughts are holding me back, it's definitely worthwhile to change them.Distorted view of the consequences
. I've held on to more than one job I hated for longer than I should have. But you know what? The world wouldn't have ended if I quit. And if I (gasp!) make a bad career choice, I'm not stuck there forever. I can leave. I could even turn the job I hate into an opportunity to find a job I like more! Jobs are not forever, not these days. So it's important for me to remind myself that the fate of the free world doesn't rest on my decision. I can change my mind. I can learn something from my mistakes. Decisions don't have to last forever.
During World War 2, when men were away fighting, employers quickly realized that they'd have to do something about the labor shortage. So they did the obvious--they recruited women. The campaign to get women working
was seen as a patriotic effort. Fast forward a few years, and exactly the opposite was true. The way to be patriotic was to stay home, raise children, and buy the appliances sold to you on television.It's interesting how we've come full circle. Once again, though the recession is barely over, a labor shortage is imminent. Baby boomers are retiring. Education is not keeping up with employment demand.So, yet again, employers are recruiting women. They're tracking down new mothers who left work a few years ago and offering them a chance to come back. They're giving returning moms more flexibility and allowing them adjustment periods to ease the transition from full-time family life back into the working world.It makes sense. These are often smart women who understand the business. They have plenty of talent and don't require as much training as a new employee might. I'd love to work for a company that was willing to accommodate the other demands in my life. So, if you were considering going back to work after a leave of absence, how could a recruiter win you over?
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. Happy flexibility!
I'm kind of a goal junkie. This doesn't mean, of course, that I always achieve everything I set out to do. In fact, I usually have so many ideas and projects that I'd need superhero powers to accomplish them all.I'm not going to lecture myself or you about the typical goal-setting principles. You've probably heard the SMART acronym before. But since the end of the year was kind of a downer for me (I do NOT deal well with people hurting other people), and I don't want to become obsessed with negative things, I've realized the same is true for goals.For me, goals don't work so well when I frame them negatively. If I'm trying to quit a bad behavior, well, it's like the pink elephant principle. If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, pretty soon you can't think about anything else. If I'm trying to cut back on sweets, well, that's nice but soon I start thinking about my favorite sugary treats. If I say I don't want to spend so much time on Facebook, just the thought of not checking in with my lovely online friends for twelve hours sends me screaming back to the computer.I do much better when I think about my goals positively. I'll get such pretty strong muscles if I work out, for example. Telling people on the internet why they're
wrong doesn't seem nearly so attractive when I'm focused on my own goals. I will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when that novel is done much more than the feeling of time wasted when I've spent four hours on Facebook. Essentially, it's about increasing positive behavior more than obsessing about the negative stuff. Thoughts are powerful, and whether your goals are personal or professional, I bet you'll succeed more when you focus on what you want than what you want to eliminate.
Relocation can be a huge issue in a marriage, especially in a dual-career family. If one spouse is offered a job in a far-away city, what should the other spouse do? What if both spouses are offered careers in different cities? It seems, in the interests of fairness, that it would make sense to take turns relocating. "OK, honey, I had to find new friends and new schools and a new job all my own when I followed you here. Now I have the job offer, so it's your turn." Except that's not always practical, especially if you're trying to follow an upward trajectory in your career. You can't always move upward when you've got to take what you can get in the new city, and if you're climbing, leaving your job can interrupt everything you're trying to accomplish.I just learned that there's a term for one spouse following another for a job--he or she is a "trailing spouse". Being the trailing spouse can be difficult for a number of reasons. There's the hassle of finding new friends, a new job, new schools, and more. But I think what makes it hardest in terms of a career is that you have to abandon the networks you've worked so hard to establish and start all over. This might pay off in the long run because hey, imagine having friends all over the country or even the world. But it can be difficult to navigate in the short term, whTrailing spouses are disproportionately women. Even in dual-career families and even when the woman makes more money, families tend to follow the husband's job, giving his career priority over hers.
I'm not saying this is right or wrong, but when you're deciding whether or not to move, it might be worthwhile to consider why you're making the move. Are you doing this because it makes the most sense for everyone in your family or because that's what's expected?So if you've packed your bags and headed to a new city, it's not easy to start over. Make sure that you spend some time before the move determining your goals for yourself and planning as much as possible (and here are some tips for relocating spouses if you want to read more). Anticipate that adjusting to a new location will take some time. Talk to some people who have lived or who currently live in your new location so you'll have a better idea of what to expect (especially for international locations). And be prepared for not being prepared--unexpected things will happen!
Some of your children have already headed back to school. Mine are still trying to cram in as much fun as possible before being doomed to sit in a chair for hours on end.
When you're working, navigating the school routine can be stressful, especially for the first few days as everyone gets used to a new schedule. So I put together some tips to make the first few days a little easier.
1. Don't stress too much about buying stuff.
It will still be there later if you forget something. And you can beat the crowds if you're shopping a couple weeks after school starts. They won't use all their school supplies right away, and summer clothes will be just fine until the temperatures drop.
2. Write down (or type into your phone) everything you need to remember.
The first week is usually even more crammed than the rest of the year. For me, each of my kids has a different schedule the first day--if I didn't write it down, my kids would either miss the first day or be hanging out with the crickets for a few hours after school. It will take a few days for the routine to become second nature. Besides their first-day schedules, I also have to keep track of back-to-school night, meetings with teachers, early outs, and more.
3. Start the routines before school starts.
Well, I've never been great at this one, but the theory goes that if you get them used to an earlier bedtime and consistent mealtimes ahead of time, it won't be so hard for their little bodies to adjust.
4. Make lunches ahead, and set out breakfasts the night before.
I sort of do this. I make a week's worth of peanut butter sandwiches (they freeze really well) ahead and stick them in the freezer so my kids can grab one in the morning and go.
5. Review everything that comes home the first week and put it somewhere safe so it doesn't get lost.
Some of the first-week information is important for the entire year. At our house, we have a shelf with key hooks. I put everything school-related in a clip and hang the clip from a key hook. I know that if I stuck it to the fridge with a magnet, it wouldn't stay there long.
6. Get to know the other parents as soon as possible.
Carpools, volunteer substitutes, emergency babysitting, sharing classroom concerns...there are a whole lot of reasons a working mom relies on other parents to help in a pinch. If you've got a few people you can call on, it can reduce your stress.
7. Set a time for homework.
For us, it works best to do homework when our children come home from school. Then we can use video games and playing with friends as a bribe and we don't have to stress about it at bedtime. Homework time can also be a great time (at least when your child isn't throwing fits about his times tables) to talk about what's going on at school.
What do you do to make the back-to-school transition easier in your family?
Lorie Gonzales is the founder and president of Mursener & Associates, Inc., a consulting firm specializing business professionalism and communications. They provide training in all areas of professional business conduct, presentation skills, multigenerational and gender communications and team development. Lorie is a certified communications consultant and etiquette professional. Prior to founding Mursener & Associates, she spent over 20 years in the communications industry with such notable companies as AT&T, Lucent Technologies and AVAYA. Ms. Gonzales is involved in many professional and civic organizations through out the Salt Lake Area.
Have you ever found yourself sitting at your desk daydreaming, thinking about how great it would be to work for yourself?
Or maybe you’ve been frantically trying to finish a client’s project in your home office when all of a sudden your computer breaks down and there is no one to call for help. Wouldn’t it be nice to work in an office where computer problems are handled by the IT staff?
Let’s face it – we all want the best of both worlds: the flexibility of working for yourself and the support system that comes from working in a large company.
Well, I have had the good fortune to experience both of these scenarios. For many years I worked in corporate America with all the good and bad that that entails. Now I work for myself and it’s great. But it’s not a panacea. There are some downsides. Whether you are considering working for yourself or someone else, there are few things to think about.
One of the best things about working for yourself is that you are the boss!
You get to make all the decisions. What do you want to do, sell, provide? What do you want to charge? Who do you want to work with? Who do you want to work for you, if anyone?
You don’t have to answer to anyone. You can focus on your passion. You can do things the way you want.
You also can work when you want and not work when you don’t want. You can arrange your work schedule to meet your family’s needs. If you need to go to a parent teacher conference, take a sick child to the doctor, or even if you want to take time to have lunch with a friend, no problem. You decide how much and when you want to work.
However, by being the boss not only do you get to do the thing you love the most, you also get to do everything else – the marketing, the selling, the invoicing and collecting. The list goes on and on. . . . .
And while you can do things the way you want, you might not always know if what you are doing is the most effect and the best way to promote your business.
Those flexible work hours, while wonderful to have, also have some down sides, especially if you are working from a home office. It is very easy to let household chores and family obligations get in the way of focusing on business. It’s really easy to think
“I’ll just take a minute and do a load of laundry or put the dishes in the dishwasher” and pretty soon the day is half over before you have started work.
On the other hand, you can also find yourself working incredibly long hours – late at night, early in the morning, on the weekends.
One of the best things about not working for yourself is that you are not the boss!
You don’t have to be in charge of everything. Someone else is responsible for deciding the direction of the company, handling personnel issues and making certain things are running smoothly.
You can focus on the job you were hired to do and let others handle everything else. If you are in accounting, you don’t have to worry about new product development, marketing, sales, personnel, social media campaigns, and on and on and on. . . . .
When you work for someone else, you might not have the flexibility to decide when you want to work but once you have finished your work day, you can head for home and leave your work at the office.
When working for someone else, you have a predictable income which is not something that can always be guaranteed when working for yourself. If you are lucky, you might also have some additional benefits: health insurance, 401K.
There is no one absolutely right choice. We all have to decide what works best for us.
Colleen Aitchison is the proud mother of 4 children: Hannah, Grace, Kate and Gabriel. She is also a full time student at Utah Valley University and will graduate with her bachelor's and teaching degree in December 2013. Her hobbies include: reading, family picnics, book group, and watching her daughter’s soccer games and gymnastics recitals. She grew up in Ontario, Canada.
My children will get tired of me strongly suggesting that they finish school before having their children. There is an easier time to finish your education and a more difficult one. Being married with children while being a full time student has many challenges. That being said, it is possible and even provides a good example to my children about my values and how much I value education.
I went back to school part time when my youngest daughter started 1st grade. It was scary taking the plunge and actually registering for that first semester. I was worried that my age would be a detriment, that I would feel lost among these young students and that I would feel slow next to them.
But registering turned out to be the hardest step. I found I loved going back to classes, learning things, and doing something that was just for myself after years of doing things just for my kids. Instead of feeling slow and lost, I felt that my age worked to my advantage. My life experiences were worth something in the classroom and I could contribute to discussions in a meaningful way. I was willing to work hard for this opportunity and money was not nearly such a concern for me as it was for them. I wasn’t interested in flirting or dating, and my social life didn’t get in the way of doing homework and projects.
Once I got into my program, things got more difficult. I am in the education program at Utah Valley University and the class requirements are rigorous. 7 classes and 16 credit hours for my first full time semester required a new system of organization for my life. I literally had to sit down and write down all the things I needed to get done in a week and learn how to say no to the non-essential things.
Adding school to your schedule means you have to change your schedule at home, too. Organize your life. Make meal planning a top priority. I have cubbies in the kids’ closets with their clothes set out for the week so that I know they have clean clothes for the school week. Say no to extra activities that people want you to help out with. This is not the time to be PTA president.
My advice for those wanting to go back to school with children is to go for it! There have been sacrifices, but it has been worthwhile. I hope my girls realize that an education is worth any sacrifice.
I recently read a Facebook survey which asked respondents what percentage of income husbands and wives contributed to the family finances. The vast majority answered that husbands brought in most of the money. But what interested me was this: Many respondents didn’t have just one single answer for the question.
In a lot of cases, the responsibility for income changed from year to year. Maybe the husband put the wife through school, and then the wife did the same for her husband. Maybe the wife stayed home with the babies for the first few years and then went back to work while the husband stayed home. Maybe she worked full-time and her husband freelanced, then she lost her job, so now they’re both working part-time, but soon he’s going back to school so he can get more credentials.
I never thought about stuff like this when I was a teenager. I thought you either worked full-time or you stayed home with your kids. I don’t know why I never considered other options, or never imagined that I’d do one thing for a while and then do something else. I knew that life might derail my plans, but to me that only meant that my husband might die and I’d have to work full-time. I was planning for SAHM-hood all the way, baby. I don’t regret staying home, but I do regret my lack of planning for other possibilities. I wish it had occurred to me that there were more than two options.
What would I do differently with my perfect hindsight?
I would have taken advantage of my opportunities at a younger age. I married and graduated at just about the same time, but DH still had a year of school left. I told myself I was just putting in time until he was done with school, so it didn’t matter what kind of job I had—I ended up in a call center, commuting by bus every day from Provo to Salt Lake City.
It was horrible.
We were poor, so poor, and I hated my job. But I didn’t think my BA qualified me to do much else. I didn’t realize then that once we started having kids and I could quit my job, that the next stage of life was finite. I probably won’t stay home forever. I also didn’t realize I was selling myself short.
Looking back on it now, I’d use that pre-kid time as preparation for the rest of my life. I’d get out there and knock on doors and get myself a better-paying job with real experience, or I’d go to graduate school. As it was, my life felt so overwhelming then that I just felt completely trapped. Of course I can see a more sensible direction now. If, pre-kid, I’d had a more demanding job where my skills were more valued, I might have been able to talk myself into a part-time position later on if and when I decided to go back to work. Like many newlyweds, I didn’t appreciate my pre-child days because I didn’t recognize the opportunities right in front of me.
This doesn’t mean that I’m trapped now (or later, when I go back to work) because I didn’t take advantage of all the options I had then. There are still options. They might take longer than they would have at a younger age, but they’re still available.
All or nothing aren’t the only choices, but it can feel that way. And when neither all nor nothing works well for me, it’s easy to believe I’m trapped. I can get so frustrated looking at the either/or that I forget to look at the in-between: Options C, D, and E. And any one of those options doesn’t have to be a life sentence. A choice can last any length of time: for a year, maybe, or just while the kids are little, or until I get something else figured out. I often have more choices than I think I do, but if I don’t explore all the options, my circumstances become excuses to make myself miserable.
Life gives us a lot of choices. And sometimes they aren’t as simple as we think they’ll be. So this is what I’ll tell my kids: Don’t assume you know how your life is going to work out, because you don’t. Structure your choices to open as many doors for yourself as possible, both now and in the future.
No, this is not an ad for sunglasses. Today's post is about helping your family deal with work-related transitions.
You knew things were going to change at some point in your life. Maybe you’re going back to work for the first time after being home for a few years. Maybe you succeeded in negotiating a part-time schedule after working full-time hours. Or now could be the right time for you to go back to school.
No matter what you’ve got coming up, any kind of work/life transition will probably throw you and your family out of your typical routine. It will take a while before you’re used to the changes in time and income and to the effect these changes create in your family’s lives.
So here are some tips I put together to minimize the pain:
Communicate the changes. It’s important for your family to understand that you aren’t making these changes just to torture them with extra chores. If you explain why the changes are happening, it doesn’t mean they’ll like the new routine, but if you point out how they’ll benefit, it may help. And reducing the element of surprise can make things easier, too. If your children don’t adjust well to disruption, explaining their new schedule in advance and then again as you implement the routine can ease some anxiety.
Negotiate and delegate tasks. Every household requires sacrifice and compromise. If you’re working less hours, you may not be able to eat out as often. If you’re working more hours, you may not be able to complete the same household tasks you did before. Your family may not want to contribute, especially if you’re asking more of them than you did before, but hard work and preparation for adult life are necessary to their development one way or the other, and so are the skills that come with negotiation and responsibility. You might need to compromise as well by letting some things (such as clean closets or your evening TV show) go.
Get organized. Once you’ve figured out how you can manage your new life, a visual reminder such as a chart or calendar can keep budgets, deadlines, chores, and routines in your mind when you feel too frazzled to keep track of everything mentally.
Ease in gradually. Can your spouse take some time off during the week you start your new job? Can you begin living on your smaller budget now? What about asking for a reduced schedule your first week on the job? Or what if you took a class or two now while you wait for the semester to start? The changes would be less sudden, giving everyone some time to adjust.
Hold a practice run. By setting everybody’s alarms and getting them fed, dressed, and packed up as if you had to be at work on time, you can determine whether or not the routine you’ve put together will actually work in real life. You could also find out if the caregiver will allow you to bring your children in for a day, a half-day, or even a visit to familiarize them with the center before they spend time there daily.
Do your research. If you’ll be spending more time at home, you’ll want to know about places you can take your children, activities you can do at home, friends your children can play with, and more. For those of you who are going back to work or school, find out what child-friendly resources, if any, are available from your employer to help you out.
Evaluate and renegotiate where necessary. Even if you’re as prepared as humanly possible, unexpected things will still happen. Take time after you’ve adjusted to your new routine to see what changes can make things go even better for your family, and be flexible enough to realize that changes are constant.