‘work-life balance’

All Articles tagged ‘work-life balance’

The Right Choice

Every once and a while I make the right choice. I mean when it comes to work and life and striving for balance. Sometimes I say “No” just when I should. Those “No’s” gain access to the best “Yes’s” in life.

Last week at the end of a series of 3 weekends of work, I was finishing up a conference and decided at the last minute to decline the dinner with peers. I felt pressure to go but just couldn’t stand missing out on the night with my boys. I had that longing in my heart–you know the kind–where you can feel the ache of absence, where you sincerely feel the separation from your kids like a missing body part? It was strong; all at once I said “No,” just in time.

We went to a baseball game here in Seattle. We sat only 8 rows back behind the dugout. The foul balls flying near our heads (me ducking for cover), the crowd screeching, and the sky blue. The husband and the boys had their gloves. We counted airplanes flying above. We cheered and jumped up with home runs. It was a perfect night out. Delighted to be there I had these passing waves of mindfulness, or gratitude, for being with my family and not missing out once again. We were all a little giddy to be at a real baseball game and then 2 things happened that affirmed my “No” was really a magical “Yes” afterall:

  1. A teenager caught a foul ball. Then he caught another ball. Then he did what many kids do—he acted generously. He saw F sitting right in front of him with his glove up and he tossed him the ball. I mean, can you believe that? A teenager gave my little 5 year-old boy a Major League baseball…bliss.
  2. During the middle of the sixth inning, after a bag of popcorn, a small tantrum from O, a bag of peanuts, and 4 hot dogs, Pennington went up to bat. Jon leaned over to F and said, “This guy’s hitting a ball to us.” They got their gloves up and ready. The foul ball did come. And the husband really did catch it. And my boys (all 3 of them) really did leap up for joy. We even made it onto TV (see photo above)!

Two foul balls, one perfect “No,” and a Saturday night with my boys illuminated a momentous “Yes.” It doessn’t always work this way yet every once and a while we make really good and really lucky choices. And then we’re fortunate enough to witness and celebrate them while they happen. For all the suffering that remains in so many of our lives, these little spots of light must be spoken…

24 Hours Offline

I took 24 hours offline from Friday at sundown through Saturday at sunset. I didn’t use my phone, I didn’t text, I didn’t log onto a computer, and all the while I didn’t enter a single network. I didn’t blog, tweet, Facebook, or LinkIn. I was genuinely unplugged without entering the wilderness. I was at home in Seattle devoid of my devices on my second annual digital sabbath.

I went shopping for a friend’s birthday gift by myself, the quiet liberating. I went to a baby shower, I played  baseball with the boys outside, I cleaned up the back yard. And while the sun shone in Seattle on Saturday afternoon, F and I cuddled on the driveway. We laid down on the pavement and looked up at the sky. We didn’t talk much and even with the paucity of words, the moment takes up a big part of my long-term memory. Little F returned twice to join me on that hard surface, grabbing for my hand amidst the concrete. Presence is very soft no matter how hard the earth below you.

No beeps, dings, or directories distracted. It was a day much slower than the rest.

The lesson is simple of course. Twenty four hours without distraction are exceptionally bright. The loss from being disconnected online is overwhelmingly  surpassed by the gains acquired with being present offline. And although it’s easy for many of you, this unplugged time is an utter luxury for me in the time of exceptional connectivity and work online.

There’s nothing I would do to reverse my time offline. It was rich and it’s solidified the need to establish a new goal to make time for a more frequent digital sabbatical. I want to seek solace routinely from the deluge of content, information, exceptional wisdom, and friendship I gain while online and return to the spaces without distraction that house the same things.

Join me? Will you take earnest 24-hour periods of time without technology, too? Do you think your kids will notice?

Mommy Daddy Days

For the last month or so O has woken up every single morning with the same question:

“Is today a Mommy Daddy Day?”

What he means is, “Is this a weekend where I get the day with both of you?”

The answer, less than 2/7 of the time, is unfortunately “No.” And on some level it kills me. I don’t usually only say, “No” when he asks, I usually end up marketing the day. It goes something like, “No, but the great thing is today you get to go to school and you have swimming lessons. Or, “Today you get to go to the zoo with the nanny and make thank you cards. Or, “Today is a Daddy Day!”

It weighs on me. O is extremely attached and has been since day (before) one. I often think about how he’s as attached as I am. F on the other hand adores his independence.

I traveled all week and fortunately mid-week from Florida I face-timed with the boys. It was delicious really, and settled my aching heart in spite of the fact that the first thing O said when he saw my face was, “Come home, Mommy!”

Being a working parent tugs on us in bizarre ways. But it also elevates us. And as I spent the week crossing the country giving lectures, I was reminded of my strong sense of purpose. My need to speak up and improve the world for my children. The need to scream from the roof tops about revolutionizing health communication. I mean what I say and I believe in what I do. And while the boys thrive, this equation of clinical responsibility and working to change health care, works. The only problem is that this week O might have missed me as much as I did him. I would suggest this new reality is not entirely ideal.

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What About Chores? Seattle Mama Doc 101

So what about kids and chores? My take is that it’s personal. But also I’ll hint that I think chores are a great opportunity to build community and citizenship. Research has found great lifelong reward from doing childhood chores (think: less drug use, higher self-esteem, more sound relationships, beginning a career path, less anxiety, etc). I mean with those findings, sign me up! But it’s possible not everyone agrees and research may not be what sways you. It may be a need to get things done around the house. A popular poll (done way back in 2001) found that 75% of people feel children do fewer chores today than 10 or 15 years ago. I don’t know if that’s just recall bias or pessimism or favorable historians talking. But…

A smattering of opinions about chores:

What do you think; is there controversy here at all? Do you think chores help transition our children into responsible adults?

Snow Day

It’s a snow day. Snow day is a word combination in the English language that has two meanings, divergent and separately defined only by age. To a 5 year old–”snow day” sounds a little bit like “Nir-va-na”–a day that is one of life’s greatest gifts. To a 37 year-old with a few jobs, it sounds a little bit more like “stresssssss.” Snow days, of course, often leave us without child care, without a school system, and without a back-up plan. And when our work doesn’t stop, we’re left juggling a set of very cold knives.

It would be nice to exist in a culture where snow day meant the same to all of us—a perfect reason for a big gasp in the productivity machine. Play and a little more unrestricted, unscheduled time outside is good for all of us. But that’s the onerous and stark reminder we get on days like today: we really are grown-ups and there is work to be done. And since snow days aren’t a national phenomenon, those of us that collaborate with others outside of our community, “snow day” sounds a little like a fake cough when it comes to an excuse for extending a deadline…

Don’t get me wrong, safety should always remain a priority. We should fiercely protect our children from driving and walking on roads with moving traffic when it’s icy and snowy; we should stay off roads when we are urged to do so. I’m not saying schools and routine businesses shouldn’t shut down. I think we need help juggling and understanding the multiple demands on our attention even when weather intervenes. We need a plan. Our work doesn’t stop demanding our attention and sometimes our bosses’ priorities aren’t aligned with our own. Read full post »

Getting It “Right”: Birthdays In Mommyland

My quarterly crisis is rearing its very ugly head. See, it’s birthday season around here and while the boys’ birthdays overlap with the holiday season, I tend to feel an irrepressible need to reflect. Holidays and birthdays are momentous moments, but also markers of time. Places on the calendar and spaces in my heart for subscribed reflection and perspective gathering.

So it is now, this time of year, where I seem to struggle the most with my choices as a mom and a doctor, a wife and a daughter, a community member and a girl just trying to get it all “right.”

I cry every year on my boys’ birthday. The tears well up both out of joy (wow-wow-wow my little boys love getting older & their joy with the special day grows annually) and also out of sadness. Sadness in my ongoing strife with the question of shifting balances, purpose, goals, and daily mindfulness. Am I working too much, am I missing something, am I as present as I can be? Should I be home more? Should I contribute and write more? Should I be seeing more patients? Can I help more people than I am helping today?

I’m torn. Shred up about what is “right” (for me) and on birth day, I’m nearly emulsified. This is tough stuff. As the years tick by and the acknowledgement of mortality grows as the days seem seep into the ether, I really want to have no regret. Sometimes, like most humans, I do.

Part of the trouble is the words of all the parents around me. They all say the exact same thing. And they have been saying it to me for over 5 years. I know they say it to you, too. The woman at the grocery, the mentor or peer, my good friend, the doctor across the country, the parents in my clinic, my mother, the barista, the man helping me at the parking garage…. They all say the exact same thing when they see my boys:

“It just goes too fast.”

 

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Four Hours On A School Bus

A good friend wrote a “secret, imaginary blog post” and sent it my way. I realized instantly it was a real blog post. But to protect her son and allow the imaginary (blog) to become real, she called upon her childhood and the beloved author Judy Blume, for help. She chose the pen name Veronica:

Then Nancy decided we should all have secret sensational names such as Alexandra, Veronica, Kimberly, and Mavis. Nancy got to be Alexandra. I was Mavis.
-Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Veronica is an awesome friend, a passionate researcher, and mom to two. Like all of us she has stumbled upon unexpected challenges in protecting her children from harm. In particular, protecting her son with severe food allergies. Her post helped me see more clearly what it is like to love and to care for and to support a child with severe and life-threatening food allergies. What it is like to wave good-bye for a day of school…and house worry. And really, what it is like to have no choice but to go well out of the way.

Enjoy her post. Tell us what you think. Share what you do to protect and support your own children with food allergies. If you’re looking for online information about food allergies, Veronica likes going to Food Allergy.org or Kids With Food Allergies:

Four Hours On A School Bus: Parenting & Severe Food Allergies

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Traveling For Work

I’ve been traveling for a week. Please forgive the silences here. As you can imagine, I’ve been making lots of noise elsewhere. Since I left my little boys and husband early morning last Friday, I’ve been at the AAP national meeting in Boston where I met with many friends and peers, gave a talk at a big conference at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, had the honor to participate in the Mayo Clinic Center For Social Media board meeting, and today I’m speaking about immunizations at the Minnesota Dept of Health’s Got Your Shots conference in Minneapolis. All very exciting and this work and time feels productive on many levels but the leave-taking last Friday left me gutted.

O had been up all Thursday night last week vomiting and we spent the night in the frenzy of clean-up (how many back-up sheets do you have?) and comforting. As the sun rose, I knew I was leaving them for the longest stretch ever. I vividly remember the sound of the car door closing just as I drove away and it wasn’t until about North Dakota, mid-flight, that the ridiculous ache (heart) and nausea associated with leaving started to regress. It’s been busy since I left. The work serves as a very good distraction. But like many of you have heard, I often feel like I’m missing a limb or two when I’m away from my boys.

It was last night when I knew I needed to head home. The Husband mentioned that F had proclaimed it made no sense to travel to the farm (that we usually do) to get a pumpkin when he could simply get one at the grocery store. Clearly logical for a near 5 year-old. But the reason I knew it was time to head home was that my husband agreed.

I’m honored to work and entirely blessed to share my stories and my ideas about working as a pediatrician and writer and working to change health care. But it will never ever take away the role I cherish and hold most dear. That is, my commitment and love for my children and my family. The busier I get, the more clarity I hold. As I speak about striving for balance and making sense of the different hats we wear and batons we pass in our lives as parents and clinicians and children and community members, I must say that never once while away did I worry that I don’t understand priorities. The boys thrive as I do because I am surrounded by committed family and friends who share a similar vision. And they love and hold and care for the boys beautifully while I’m away. As I woke this morning across the street from The Mayo Clinic, what I knew was this: I can’t wait to get home to see those boys and travel to that farm for a beautiful pumpkin, but I really am thrilled to be here in Minnesota and just so happy to help.

 

Work Life Balance? Milk And Cookies?

After a great day in clinic yesterday, I was up until nearly 2am this morning tidying my email inbox, meeting some deadlines, and readying for a talk tonight on work and life and finding balance. The timing of this talk bleeds irony, I know. I also acknowledge I’ve already used up my one night allowance of sleeplessness this week– if you’re keeping score (see my most recent blog post).

Tonight, I’m presenting on behalf of PEPS about finding balance in our transitions back into work outside of our homes and finding peace with the juggle between caring and loving our children while finding meaning in our work. I’ll talk about disobeying the rhetoric/rules that others share about “work life balance.” I’ll talk about my experiences as a working mom, I’ll share lessons I learn from my patients, I’ll share some research, and I’ll discuss some tools you can use to improve behavior change.

If you want to hear a bit of my thoughts– or better– if you’d like to school me on how to make this all work, please join me. Tell me what you think and know. I expect, like so many experiences in my life, I’ll get a lot more out of this than I’m able to give. I’m told there will be milk and cookies, too. Incentive enough?

RSVP: PEPS Parent Talk Lecture Series

 

5 Things From My Online Sabbatical

There are 5 things I took with me from my online sabbatical in August. Know, however, I didn’t do as stellar of a job staying offline as I’d hoped and the 5 things are harder to hold onto than those numbers you see me grasping right there. I’d envisioned an entire month like the family photos: unplugged, disconnected, liberated, and focused. It wasn’t entirely like that. Clinic got nuts a few times, there were minutes I was still staring at my phone and hours every day I’d sit at the computer responding to emails, there were upsetting mega-tantrums from the boys and there were a few phone calls I fielded with bad news from friends. There were moments I felt inexplicably tired despite the uptick in sleep. All was not peace on earth.

Yet, let me be very clear: the month away was worth it. I learned a bit more about my relationship with technology, who I am as a person amidst 2011 information flow, and how I want my life as a parent and person to change.

Clearly, part of the experience of being a parent is housed in the soul.

You know this. Something happens the day you become a parent. Like a huge shift in your footing, that unexpected large wave washing out the sand where you stand, or how it feels in your toes when you try to gain traction running downhill. It happens without our control. The transition is very loud yet somehow its inaudible. It’s huge, unquestionably bigger than any anticipation and warning about having a child. Being a parent is greater than our own capacity to explain it thereafter. And it’s tactile, although you can’t really feel the transition to parenthood like you feel a touch on your skin on a warm day or the cold air when you walk out into a mid-January night. Rather, you feel it shift inside. Somewhere in an unidentified part of who we are that isn’t detailed in the anatomy textbooks. Becoming a parent is becoming more aware. My time away helped me see this. So, here are the lessons:

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