‘work-life balance’

All Articles tagged ‘work-life balance’

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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Online Sabbatical

I’m taking an online sabbatical this month. Consider this an act of both self-reflection and self-awareness but also an act of self-preservation. As any blogger knows, blogging every few days, taking photographs daily, approving and responding to comments 24 hours a day (7 days a week), while authoring content in your head every few paces, is an entirely consuming experience. Blogging has completely changed my life. And this job is an utter privilege. I concur with a good friend from high school who has said, “I’m happy to help and thrilled to be here.”

But I’ve been consuming media, blogging, and authoring content without reprieve since November 11, 2009. That statistic is not a justification, rather an explanation. I simply need a bit of time away from this space. I need to understand the relationship I have with my iPhone, with Twitter, and my blog better. I need to go back outside.

I also need a bit more uninterrupted time with my children. I need some uninterrupted time with myself. I need to go to clinic during the week without being online for a few hours first.

Today, I’m stepping back.  I’ll be working in clinic. I’ll be working at home. But I won’t be blogging, I won’t be on Twitter, I won’t be checking comments every few hours.

My thought is that I’ll reemerge differently. I speculate it may be liberating. I speculate it might be stifling. I have no idea how I’ll actually feel. But I know it will help me understand not only our complex relationship with social networks and digital media differently, it will improve my capacity to share.

I will miss this community. I have come to count on all of you more than you know. I learn from this space daily. I’m a more-informed, better-read pediatrician because of this.

I’ve been given all sorts of advice about how to unplug successfully. That in itself illuminates the nearly universal challenge we have with our devices and our technology. Remember when I said I was a little bit unhappy?  When I unplug, I’ll trust my instinct and I promise to report back. In the meantime, I’ll dig up and re-post blogs from the past 21 months that you may enjoy. And I’ll likely post a few new photographs for you to see from time to time.

Until September 1st, I wish you all well. May you find a little more time to look at the sky, too…

Thrilled To Be in Primary Care

Being a primary care doctor is an utter privilege. Think of this post as part proclamation and part journal entry.

Yesterday afternoon I sent out this tweet:

It was a spontaneous tweet in the middle of my 15 minute “lunch break” when I realized I still had hours to go in my clinical day. The motive was incredulity, not remorse or a need for pity. I was in a good spot–my frame of mind and perspective sharpened twice this week.

First, I’d had a discussion with clinic  leaders where we noodled around the upcoming fall where I will be traveling heavily and unfortunately away from clinic. We were discussing how to meet the needs of my patients while simultaneously meeting my need to contribute nationally. I reminded them how I’m unwavering in my adoration for my panel of patients and my commitment to caring for them. They nodded. You see, they know….. Read full post »

Tina Fey’s Triannual Sob, The Mommy Wars, And A Truce

Tina Fey, I hear ya. As working moms, we’re asked an unfair question when we are asked about “juggling it all.” And I’m with you on the angst about working and parenting, except your triannual sob is my quarterly crisis.

Tina Fey, about-to-be-Momma-again-hilarious-comedian-“ridiculously-successful-and-famous”-deserving-it-girl, was showcased in an article in yesterday’s New York Times. It was in The Sunday Styles section, a portion of the paper I fondly refer to as the “Ladies’ sports section.” I can’t remember who coined the name, but the section is defined by wedding announcements, articles about junky TV, and snapshots of random strangers carrying coffee or poodle accessories in Manhattan. But I sincerely don’t mean to marginalize it. Often the section houses little storytelling gems that sit with me all week. Yesterday’s piece about Ms. Fey got my heart pounding. There she was, one of the funniest people on the planet, saying the same things that I do. Well kind of. Our only similarity really may be that I’m just another working mom. But it made me want to listen to her even more.

Tina, like the rest of us, is asked to defend her work, her “juggle,” her parenthood differently because she’s a mom. Curtis Sittenfeld writes that in Ms Fey’s new book Bossypants (dying to read it–can you find me 4-5 hours?) Ms Fey asserts, “‘The rudest question you can ask a woman’ is, ‘How do you juggle it all?”” Simply put, it’s archaic to think of life this way. Women are continually reminded to question their choices differently than male counterparts in the work place even when we share parenting responsibilities. The questions alone arguably bring the working-mom struggle back to our windshields. And it ultimately perpetuates gender inequality. Why is it any different for me than it is for my husband? He works just as many hours as I do. But no one asks him about balance. Or commitment. True, this struggle really doesn’t tug on him like it does on me. I believe cultural norms play a role in this. Read full post »

Working Moms: An Association With Overweight Children

A study about working mothers is getting a lot of buzz. The official title of the paper: Maternal Employment, Work Schedules, and Childen’s Body Mass Index. Most media summaries however are entitled something like, “Mothers Who Work Have Fat Kids.” I’m not kidding.

I hate seeing studies (and media reports) like this. Not because they’re not helpful or worthy of our time, but because they examine the effect of mothers working, not mothers and fathers working, on our childrens’ health. In addition, the media/blogosphere goes bananas. This is the stuff that sells; studies on working moms get our attention. They feed the so-called “mommy wars.” They suggest that with the rise of women in the work force over the last 5+ decades, our children are suffering. No mention though, that fathers have been working during this time, too. No mention that, “In general, children whose mothers worked outside the home were less likely to live in low-income families.” That’s a direct quote from the results section of the study.

These studies dole out merit to the ever-present struggle that most working moms feel–the constant tug-of-war in our hearts between the need to be home and the need to work outside our home. I don’t read about men having this struggle. Is this biologic? Why are woman held more responsible for our child’s health? Can’t we evolve and get past this archaic notion? How many more studies will narrowly look at women in the workforce while leaving the role of fathers’ employment aside? As we come to embrace a more diverse family unit, we must rid ourselves of these rigidities. Studies like this suggest that men aren’t to blame if kids are overweight, but that women are. Most of the children in the study had more than one parent at home (on average, children with working mothers had 1.91 adults at home, therefore the far majority had either an additional parent or adult around). Seventy-nine percent of working moms were co-habitating or married.

It just can’t all rest on the moms’ shoulders. Really, overweight is more complicated than finger pointing; the authors know this. They didn’t set out to create blame, rather to create ideas for solutions for busy families with working moms… Read full post »

Baby Elephants & The Working Mom

Working-mommy crisis ensued again last night at the typical quarterly interval, yet in the most unusual form. It was my regular Thursday, a 14-hour work day away from my boys. I left the house before 7 and didn’t return home until nearly 9pm. I didn’t see the boys all day. But that wasn’t it. I was doing just fine with my day; I’d seen over 25 patients in clinic, made some inroads on work in social media and sincerely enjoyed the opportunities I had to help. The shift occurred after I decided to watch the first disc in The Planet Earth series. Have you seen it? I’d planned on finishing a post on Amy Chua (writing it feels like putting hot pokers in my eyes at this point) but realized my brain was fried. Decided to give in and stop working around 10. We got a new television for our basement this week; I popped in the DVD.

The show has nothing to do with women in the workforce. I don’t think the BBC producers thought once about inspiring a post on work-life-balance. Yet the series has everything to do with parenting, our connection to community, our space in nature, and our commitment to our children. The future of the health of our planet is dependent on our care now (of course). Our task in helping preserve the earth is really about more than the quantity of plastic that ends up in landfill. It’s really about how we learn to love and enjoy the woods and the wilderness, how we learn to live and travel without leaving large marks, and how our children understand what matters outside the walls of their home. And how they come to understand decision-making.

The BBC series highlights the earth from every contour and perspective while chronicling animals of all forms in their process of incubation (penguins=amazing), rearing, surviving, and dying.

I just kept watching the mothers. My stomach flipped at points as I watched a mother elephant help her young bull who’d walked right into a tree because he’d been blinded in a dust storm. Or the polar bear teaching her young cub to walk. These animals flanked their mothers. The babies would get tired during migration and sit down. Their mother urged them on… Even after the room was dark and I plopped into bed, I was eyes-wide-open thinking about those mothers. Read full post »

2011 Hopes, Dreams, Predictions

One year ago, I published a post about hopes, dreams, and predictions for 2010. Click on that link, there’s a 7 second video worth watching.

While we determined our hopes and predictions, a friend helped me determine the mathematical equation for ranking the likelihood of each coming true. We figured it went something like this: Predictions>hopes>dreams. That is, predictions are most likely to come true, dreams the least.

Here’s the 2010 list of predictions from a night one year ago with friends and neighbors. The results listed thereafter.

2010 PREDICTIONS: “2010 will be easier on all of us than 2009,” “Obama’s reputation will be saved by climate legislation,” “I’ll paint the trim in the house white.”

(No, I don’t think 2010 was easier. I don’t think Obama’s reputation was saved. Instead of painting the trim, we sold the house)

2010 HOPES: “Good health,” “My Dad can retire by 12/31/10,” “My mother-in-law’s cancer treatment is successful.”

(Good health, yes, thank goodness. Yes, her dad retired. Yes, my mom’s treatment has put her into remission for the time being).

2010 DREAMS: “F will be potty trained,” “Obama is as good of a man as we think he is,” “I work less,” “The Chevy Volt will save GM.”

(Yes, F potty trained in January of 2010 (YAHOO). I believe Obama is an amazing man. I worked more, not less. I don’t know about the Volt; the jury is still out. Thoughts?)

We were on, we were off. I do believe we all continued to dream big.

As I ended the year 2010, I was directed to a blog post entitled, “The Myth Of Work Life Balance” by Mitch Joel. I read it more than a week ago and have returned to it in my head many times. I agree with parts, disagree with others.

First things first, anyone who writes about work life balance doesn’t have it. Read full post »