‘work-life balance’

All Articles tagged ‘work-life balance’

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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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 »