Category Archives: work/life balance

Another update on Things I should I should..this time with some progress

Back in June 2012, I wrote down things I should do. Here’s an update.

Find a way to access a book I downloaded to my tablet.  YES, I now borrow e-books from the library on a regular basis

Plant those tomatoes.  NOPE

Donate that bag of clothes and other random stuff.  YES, but still more stuff needs to go!

Finish those blog posts about work/life balance.   DONE

Various Tech Stuff, like backing up pictures to the hard drive and setting up a wireless modem.  YES, set up the damn wireless modem, or is it called router? 

Go through all my magazine clippings and actually do something about it.  Joined Pinterest instead

Now I have new things to add…

Look into life insurance. LOOKED into it but didn’t do anything about it.

Write a will. (I suspect that I will have to get around to this one!) Haha, NOPE

Create a Shutterfly album. YES, actually got one printed

Recycle batteries and electronics. YEP

Put away winter clothing and blankets. It’s that time of year again.

Get heel taps for new pumps. NOPE, now these pumps are no longer new.

 

Now I got to go..my to-do list is mile long.

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Frugal Substitutes: Less Tongue In Cheek Version

A few months ago, I created a fun chart about possible frugal substitutes.  The idea was that you can replace pricey wants like vacations and massages with cheaper options that fulfill the same need.  Looking back, the intent was good but I’ve totally ignored my own advice for the past few weeks!

I went on a short trip.  I bought a new computer. I got a massage. I went shopping. I bought some clothes and a new purse.  AND I keep browsing online shopping sites.  In short, I have been choosing expensive wants instead of examining the reason behind my sudden desire to buy, buy, buy.  The only possible exception is eating out but my husband and I did some of that, too.  It just hasn’t been a budget buster because we still eat home most days or tend to choose inexpensive places when we do go out.

I cannot justify my choices but I really needed a vacation!

 

My Balance Now

Before I moved closer to work, I had an hour drive to and from work.  I re-read my 2012 post that went into depth about how I balanced work/life and thought I’d update it.  Sometimes I can’t believe I endured this commute for so long.

1.  What’s your work schedule?

Before: I got up at 5:15 to 5:45 to get to work on time.  I got home by 5:30-6 pm., usually exhausted with an aching back.

Now: I get up around 6:25 and get to work on time.  I often have time for breakfast and light stretching/exercise!  My drive is 30 minutes tops (usually faster in the mornings when fewer people are on the road).  I get home by 5pm. Sometimes I even hit the gym or go to the park with the kids.  According to co-workers, I’m also less grumpy in the morning!

2. How do you handle childcare?

Before: Part-time nanny, freelancing husband with flexible schedule and more time at home.

Now: Still part-time nanny on occasion who does light housecleaning, plus A LOT of help from my mom.  My husband’s schedule and travel has picked up, which leaves me taking more time off for doctor appointments, illness and such. Pre-school pick-up is a pain to manage.

3. What do you find best about your current set-up?

I love my shorter commute which has resulted in more energy and quality time with spouse, self and kids!  I love getting more help from my mom since she is amazingly good and flexible with her schedule.

4. What advice would you give to other moms about the juggle?

It’s not really about working or not. It’s really about flexiblity. Even within the restraints of a traditional 9 to 5 job, I know I’m fortunate that my boss is understanding about childcare issues as long as I manage to meet deadlines.

I still stand by my love of online shopping: Order as much as you can online.

And I’ve converted to the dark side — smartphone with tons of apps. It’s the only way I can keep track of my emails and shopping lists. My husband and I communicate quickly via text, emails and shared shopping lists, too.

I’ve been taking some vacation days to do a mommy-and-me class with my kids on weekday mornings. It’s shorten my work hours which is nice on a mental level BUT also forces me to eat at my desk some days to get all my work done.  I love using that time to  learn and play with my kids alongside mostly stay-at-home moms or grandparents.  This alleviates a lot of mommy guilt because I have more hours with my kids overall and don’t have to cram all the fun stuff on weekends.

5. Do you think the juggle is harder for women than men?

Yes.  I’m actually guilt-free and good at ignoring snippy comments but I do spend more time cleaning the house and thinking/planning kid-friendly activities.

Feel free to chime in with details about how other women (and men) handle the work/life juggling act!

What The Most Successful People Do At Work

I’m in the middle of reading Laura Vanderkam’s new e-Book “What the Most Successful People Do At Work“, a series that follows two previous e-books about what successful people do before breakfast and on weekends. All of these short books are meant to be quick, informative reads. I think they’re all very enjoyable and most people can get good tips from them. Because work is so busy right now, it’s taking me much longer to read this! For now, I will say that I was struck by the example of a successful children’s book illustrator in Chapter 1, as I expected the successful people profiles to hail from the corporate world. I wasn’t sure if I could relate but considering that there are tons of small business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers out there AND the fact that in many ways, in the current work world, we’re all freelancers that need to plan and prove our worth daily, I think the illustrator can be a good example for all of us. Right now the main take-away I’m getting is the importance of planning the day and your workload. I enjoy taking on bigger projects that require thought and strategic planning but it seems like most of my workday is taken up by immediate needs (and emails!).

Anyway, I would recommend this book. You can buy it yourself today and you’ll probably finish it before I do!

168 Hours…Who Are The “Rest of Us”?

Before I go into time management advice for “the rest of us“, I thought I should define this group.  The rest of us are not the 1%, which I would define as those in highly successful households with six-figure salaries. These same folks are often profiled in work/life balance articles.

Consider the “typical” work/life profile on Yolanda Edwards, Executive Editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and Emily Kalanithi, an attorney.  (This is a great series from the blog “A Cup Of Jo” which I’m not singling out as criticism, just that these “types” of women are often the same ones profiles in Working Women-type magazine, i.e. women who “have it all”):

Yolanda Edwards:

  1. Work schedule: I work five days a week at Martha Stewart Living from 9:30 to 6 or 6:30. I work on Momfilter from about 6:10 to 7am, which is when Clara wakes up; and I work on it at night, but not more than a half hour, because I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, so I’m a little too sloppy. I usually get a chunk of work done on Momfilter on weekends. And I try to do a post on my travel blog around once a week.
  2. Childcare: We have a great babysitter who comes three days a week and picks her up. On the fourth day she has after-school activities, and on the fifth day, her dad gets her. I try to pick her up at least one Friday a month”

Emily Kalanithi:

  1. Work schedule:  I work in the office full-time, Monday through Friday. My actual hours in the office are pretty reasonable—9-6ish. But I frequently check in on email at night and on weekends during naps and after bedtime.
  2. Childcare: We have an amazing nanny who comes to our house five days a week. Our nanny feeds Eve at an astoundingly early hour (4:30 or 5). After I come home from work around 6, I play with Eve until she goes to bed at 7:30. Then, if Jeevan is home, I’ll cook an easy dinner (maybe 3-4 nights a week). Or we’ll order Chinese or Thai or Indian.
  3. Balance:  My husband has a very busy job as well…When we’re too busy or tired for real date nights with a sitter, we have devised something called “internal date nights” where we put the baby to bed and have a date at home. Even if it’s just ordering food and watching a movie, it at least means we’ve set aside the time to be together without email-checking and other distractions.

The above are just snippets and I encourage you to read the series of posts.  Getting glimpses into the lives of very successful/elite made me realize that there is an entirely different world out there and that if you’re not in the top 1% or even top 15% in terms of income, your choices are so very different. 

Our vision of balance is very different.  People in power and/or who love their jobs really don’t want a break from their work.  They call it a balance if they get home at a reasonable hour, put the kids to bed, and have another hour or so doing work-related things.  For the rest of us, the 40 hour work week is just fine.  That’s not to say that in a recession and stagnant hiring practices, we’re not over-worked as well.  It’s just that we’re not expected to be “on call” or resent being on call since that seems above the scope of our responsiblities and pay scale.

They can buy flexibility.  When you read the typical work/balance article, there is much reliance on paid help from cleaning to nannies to personal assistants.  These are luxuries that are out-of-reach for most people.  I call this buying time because you make enough to outsource many chores and afford a nanny, which offers more flexibility than daycare since there aren’ts pick-up or drop-off times.  Secondly, those in power have  the ability to set their hours. This depends on company culture, of course, and if the person wants to do this.  Some hard-charging personalities probably prefer to work 60 hours per week.    Still, I do believe that if an executive needs to work from home for some reason, few people would question it.  If you’re lower on the totem pole, however, it’s harder to justify working from home.  This is based on observations and my personal experience, but the only time I can work from home is if I put in my regular hours and then work from home on a special project.  There’s no way my boss, or most bosses, would let me leave earlier with the promise that I’ll finish up in the evenings. 

Part 3 of this series will address the challenges facing those of us who cannot afford to buy help/flexibility.  I’ve written many posts with tips for simple living that could be applicable but I also want to delve into bigger issues regarding work/career and family.  I know I have my notes somewhere…

How do you envision balance?  What are your biggest challenges? How does paid help factor into your balance, if any? 

Also, check out author Laura Vanderkam’s blog…her book “168 Hours” inspired this series.

168 Hours…For The Rest of Us

“168 Hours” is a time management book by Laura Vanderkam.  The basic premise of the book is that we all have 168 hours in the week and most people don’t manage that time very well.  From some reviews on Amazon,  I gathered that many of the “solutions” for managing time better require money and a lot of flexibility.  While I doubt the author blithely assumes that everyone can afford cleaning help or good daycare, the media does tend to focus on high-powered women when addressing the issue of time and work/life balance.  See Atlantic’s recent “Women Can’t Have It All” article or any issue of Working Women magazine. 

The focus on high-powered executives and especially on successful women makes sense on some level.  Women are still expected to deal more with the juggling of household chores, childcare and work.   Even if the chore and/or childcare split is 50/50, it seems that women devote more time thinking and managing these chores.   The assumption is that if CEOs university professors and magazine editors can make it work, the average women can certainly learn time management tricks from them. 

The problem is that this trickle-down theory is often not applicable to those lower in the ranks.  For example, a magazine’s Editor-In-Chief has to answer to the publisher and certainly has high demands placed upon her.  However, it’s unlikely that she has to ask permission for leaving early or for vacation time.  She has more influence over company culture than those beneath her.  She can work after the kids are in bed.  If the average employee wanted to do that, he/she would have to convince the boss that they are actually working after work hours.  Good luck with that…

My normal tendency is to write a short post and include a list of tips geared toward people in the middle-class.  However, I wanted to explain the origins for this post and also acknowledge my own privilege.  While I can’t really set my own schedule, work from home or easily pay for cleaning help, I am a white-collar professional working in an office setting and I do enjoy more flexibility than the average retail store or restaurant employee.  For this, I’m lucky.  Before you say that it’s also your ability, education and hard work, I know many who work just as hard with just as much ability who just happen to have less understanding bosses or a more nose-to-the-grind corporate culture to contend with. 

How can you carve out valuable time if you’re not the 1% (or top 10%) with money and flexibility? How can you manage if you really don’t have the resources to outsource? I’ll try to answer this in Part 2 (coming soon).