‘worklifebalance’

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What About You? The Value Of Sleep

The minute we become parents we immediately start to hone in on the value of our children’s sleep. Their growth, their feeding, their development and their sometimes labile temperament quickly illustrate the import of real rest in our lives. Many parents advertise their commitment to their child’s sleep as a huge parenting win. Those of us who struggle with it, we often admit defeat. It’s clear, pretty early in infancy, that sleep transforms who we are, how we think and how we live from day one. Our babies are savvy professors in this regard.

Modern parenting conversations are teasing out the value of child sleep versus the value of adult sleep in multiple ways. In some cases, it’s the tug-o-war and battle-of-minds while discussing data and beliefs around when to let a baby cry-it-out. Working parents often report on their inability to sleep in the early working/baby years. In the U.S. we constantly revere those who don’t sleep a lot  — productivity seems to trump wellness in the hierarchy: there are politicians, profressional athletes and successful business people who brag about their capacity and earnest commitment to their craft via the lens of accomplishing greatness on minimum sleep. All this, despite the mounds of research that find health and performance benefit from a good night’s rest.

No question it’s culturally acceptable (if not culturally desirable) to sacrifice our own sleep for our children’s. I’m uncertain there are hard and fast rules here about which is more important but I speak with sleep expert, Dr. Maida Chen about the value of sleep routinely. We decided to share some perspectives on sleep (see the video) because I wonder:

What about you? What about your sleep?

Just this morning someone commented on the intensity with which I work and suggested (like so many do) that I must not sleep. I was happy to report that I’m all in for improving things, but that I also have spent a good deal of energy these past years making great time to sleep at night, while also carving out time to love-up those in my life who consume my heart. I think there is a better way to care for ourselves and it may start with 7 or 8 hours a night with our eyes closed.

Support For The Value of Sleep

In the video we mention a bit of data. Read more here:

Balance And Bad Parenting, Maybe

3-27 jumpingLast night four Swansons sat in row 6 of a little commuter airplane on the way to visit family, all plugged in. Four people who love each other with four separate devices hardly communicating for the two hours or so that we sped through the air. At first glance it can look like an utter failure — you can hear the criticism ringing in your ears — this family must not be connected, or these working parents, pounding out emails and prepping presentations while their children watch videos and play apps, really must have their priorities off, right? Right.

Maybe.

On that flight I read a beautiful blog post from tenacious pediatric researcher Dr Jenny Radesky that questions the new world in which children are being reared. The one where their parents are plugged-in, distracted, perhaps less attentive and less available while raising infants and young toddlers. It’s the same world today, where preteen digital natives may be connecting more by text than by talking. She cites data that found, “if you take away preteens’ mobile devices and make them hang out with their peers in the country for one week, they get better at reading other people’s facial expressions.” Perhaps these children and teens are swapping thumb skills for interpersonal ones. Radesky is the researcher behind the observations out last year evaluating parents’ use of mobile phones at dinner that alarmingly demonstrated children’s near need to act out to get their parents’ attention.  Are our parent-child connections forever changed because of the profound brilliance that digital devices have in capturing our attention? Radesky brings up the zone of proximal development (I’d not previously heard of it) and its profound value. She says,

In order to effectively teach children how to regulate their behavior, we need to interact with them in what psychologist Lev Vygotsky termed the child’s “Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).”  This means  knowing their cognitive and emotional sweet spots: what they can do on their own, what they can’t do, and what they can do and learn with an adult’s help.  You can’t fit the puzzle pieces in yet?  Let me guide your hand a little bit until you figure it out by yourself. You can’t calm down when you’re frustrated yet. Let me help you identify what emotion you’re feeling and then show you some options for calming your body down. And I’ll slowly take my support away until you can do this skill on your own.

Oh yes, we certainly do need to be in this space and be available, eyes connected, body engaged, actively listening to the loves of our life (children). In championing this reality we can easily finger-wag that how things used to be (without smart phones and wild virtual connection to data and community) is better. Slow down, unplug, unwind, and CHECK BACK IN, right? Common Sense Media even has a new PSA campaign, that I happen to love, tagged #realtime guiding us back to life with a series of delicious, tight videos reminding us how we mess up. Read full post »

Digital Parenting: 5 Ways To Compartmentalize

26% of parents say they’ve used media as a distraction when with their children and we all certainly know our own smartphone use may be changing who we are as parents. No question I get cranky with my kids if I’m emailing on my phone and they interrupt me. Just one of many unfortunate realities of having work with us at all times. The more devices I use and the better they become at helping me enjoy life, the more imminent the need for getting serious about the daily calisthenics of doing things without our devices. Remember this article, Don’t Text While Parenting: It Could Make You Cranky ? It is becoming more and more uncomfortable for us to be away from our “phones” as we progressively depend upon them for daily living. I use my phone as a computer, a mail service, an organizer, a calendar, a video camera, an activity tracker, and a GPS every day. Of course I like when it’s around but there is also NO question that the best part of the last week of my life was time when my device wasn’t in arm’s reach…

5 Tips For Compartmentalizing Your Digital Life

  • On a Diet: We parents can model effective “media diets” to help children learn to be selective and thoughtful about compartmentalizing digital tools. I fail at this all the time, slipping into old habits or just “checking something quickly” online when unnecessary. Working on crafting a plan for what I consume and when I consume it, helps. Also thinking about what our children watch and play online/with devices and for how long, helps too. Yes, have movie night but also think about co-viewing programs with your children of any age and spend time discussing values and reactions you have to shows you watch and apps you play together. Be intentional showing your children the things you do to minimize technology interfering with things you love (keeping cell phones out of bedroom, putting cell phone in backseat of the car so you don’t text and drive).

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Can’t Stop Time

photo (58)I take solace sometimes knowing I can’t stop time. When I look to the clock and trade panic for solace it’s a way to distance myself from the reality that as time marches on in its infinite human construction, I don’t have to think about moments with the boys lost. Every parent hears over and over again that, “it just goes so fast.” I find that advice never helps. Just makes us feel like time with our beloved little humans is slipping through our fingers and I can’t imagine a parent who feels good about that.

My little boy is no longer allowed to be entirely in my grasp as the doors of that big schoolhouse open forever next week. My 5 year-old starts Kindergarten and it’s pretty clear to me that from here forward there will be many forces facilitating his gradual exploration of the world away from our cozy nest.

The solace I mention is real though and it helps me. At moments I can feel the space and peace that comes in knowing I have literally no control over his aging and what it provides — like giving into the wind I can lean into this space and know what a privilege it is to witness this wild ride. It certainly helps that he clearly loves the speed with which life is hurling at him. I see it in moments where he looks at the Kindergarten class list and in the moments where he sticks his right foot out while standing next to his bike and poses as if he’s ready to take a big stage and I feel his thrill as he looks over to his older brother and realizes he finally belongs at the same school. Growing up really is quite a thing to behold.

Being a part of something bigger is a huge part of being human and school is an essential first (or second) step

And although that solace I just mentioned is real I can’t help but tell you that there is certainly a part of me that suffers in these waning summer days. I feel the excitement yes, I lean into the solace yes, but as a working mom I can’t help wonder, “did I do this all right?” Were the last 5 and 1/2 years exactly what I imagined for his time at home preparing for the onslaught of schooling? Was I present, available, ready, and everything I wanted to be? Well, surely not. It’s clear my iPhone got in the way, as did my job, and my ambition to improve children’s health. Thankfully there are ways he shows me he knows he’s got my attention but I can’t help but trip (and fall) sometimes knowing there are infinite ways to raise a child and I do look at those other paths with curiosity.

Today let me tell you this: I’ll hold onto the solace every single moment I see it and I’ll let it mix up with the suffering. I can gently mute the parts of pain that comes with aging and losing the intimacy found between mother and son during toddlerhood and the preschool years. I’ll find that solace when I feel the thrill from peering over the edge of this great big world ahead of him. One thing I know for certain is I’ll enjoy the first moments of Kindergarten next week, too. This little boy of mine is growing up to be a thoughtful, curious, kind, and happy little man. It’s his excitement for the next giant step that will tug me along into September…

Women At Work

My husband is often in earshot when people probe, “I don’t know how you do it all with your family and your career.” In asking the question there is doubt, of course, that it’s possible. My husband is never the recipient of the same question regardless of the facts: we both have intense, high-demanding careers in medicine as physician leaders. Reality is, there may be little different in our level of responsibility, time commitments, and our opportunity to improve pediatric health care while there is no difference in our passion and commitment to raising our boys. So the calculus around the questioning doesn’t equate — nobody ever asks him about his balance with work and family.

My grudge with this disparity wavers in intensity. I bring this up now because of Matt Lauer’s controversial conversation with General Motors CEO, Mary Barra. He wondered if she could be a good mom and run GM on national TV. He said,

“You’re a mom, I mentioned, two kids, you said in an interview not long ago that your kids said they’re going to hold you accountable for one job, and that is being a mom,” he said. “Given the pressure at General Motors, can you do both well?”

It’s not only his egregious comment that aggravates, we’ve all gotten used to similar questions for women who work. What sets the interview on fire is his deflection of bias and responsibility. With this episode in the never ending media series on women and work-life balance we learn again that there is quite a bit of:

  1. Ongoing persistent cultural bias against women in leadership roles: we constantly wedge women and their success into the construct of balance with work and home when we rarely project men against the same backdrop.
  2. Ongoing anxiety about this bias coupled with a desire to eradicate it. Culturally, most of us don’t want to think about men and women’s responsibilities in the work place and home differently. We like to mature past our current realities when it comes to equity and sharing responsibilities for child-rearing and work.

Can we acknowledge the ongoing, profound cultural bias against women leaders and control that doesn’t exist in similar ways for men? Read full post »

3 Reminders For Summer Sleep

Bed as throneOur house is teeming with excitement about the impending reality: it’s almost summer break. As the hard-core school, sports and carpool coordination chaos eases up, you wanna know one thing I’m really hoping for this summer break? A bit more sleep. I do a great job protecting my children’s sleep and a mediocre job protecting my own. I work on sleeping with my cell phone off and away from while getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep but reality is my phone has a tendency to creep back up next to the bed and I am often up early to start working. Clearly I’m not unusual in this way. Parenting and sleeping a lot don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Studies find 14% of grade school children are still getting their parents up. The news is grim when it comes to sleeping with our phones, even 4 out of 5 teens say they sleep with their phone (on or near the bed). It’s becoming clear that quality sleep is one of the most undervalued power solutions to preserving wellness in our families. The more data I review, the more I know we have to get the word out on the value of sleep and the way that we protect it as we raise our children. Culturally, this is a swim upstream; we’re bred to revere those who do so much during the day they are left with limited sleep at night. Some new data, a funky article ending, and a 4-minute TED talk lay the foundation for my 3 quick reminders: Read full post »

The Lion Dad And Over-Enrolled Kids

photo[1]Someone mentioned recently that I was potentially a Tiger Mom. That’s when I realized we have a Lion Dad situation around here.

So many of us now “co-parent” our children. We share the responsibilities of raising children with our spouse or partner. Although co-parenting usually describes parents separated or divorced who take turns raising children, I think “co-parenting” describes many of us living together while raising children, too. In our home everything from feeding to toilet training, preschool pick-ups to soccer sign-up, and bathing to bedtime routines are divided and diced. The dance is typically elaborate and often it can be very messy. Sometimes it makes no sense how we split the tasks and of course sometimes we mess up– both forgetting something that needs to be done. I often feel like we’re always the last ones signing up for parent conference or preschool home visits–we just aren’t entirely always on top of our game! I know you know what I mean—so many of us divvy up the tasks necessary in raising children these days I’d suggest this co-parenting is just a part of modern parenting. A tango of sorts.

So it’s awkward at times that women, particularly those of us who work outside the home, are the key go-to or point person for outside institutions, families, and sports teams when someone tries to reach in and coordinate with us. I often feel the world is behind the times. Read full post »

Ways To Decrease Risk Of Breast Cancer

When we have children, many of us slip in the self-care department. We may not eat as well, not exercise like we did “pre-baby,” and don’t have time to go and see our own doctors. Simply put, our own care doesn’t come first. Parenthood immediately demotes our status…

All fine in some ways. It’s astonishingly wonderful to care so deeply about our children. That devotion still catches me off guard.

But we have to keep on top of our preventative screening. No reason not to when it may allow us a longer time to parent our children! So that’s where I come to breast cancer screening. As women, breast cancer will affect about 1 in 8 of us during our lifetime, the most common cancer in women after non-melanoma skin cancer. It can be highly curable if detected and treated early. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over age 50, but many are younger and some are new moms. There are some risks we need to know and scientific evidence that can help us do a better job caring for ourselves.

Share this widely, please.

Yesterday I teamed up with Dr Julie Gralow, the head of breast cancer oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the UW on Twitter for a 1 hour conversation about moms and breast cancer— lifestyle choices, genetic risks, screening, & coping with breast cancer. I learned a ton preparing for the chat and have already tried to think about changes I’ll make in my own life. When I finished the fast-paced hour conversation I sent a note to a friend on Twitter  that I now had to head out for a run, pour out the wine in the house, call my friends to schedule mammography, and ask about a breast MRI. You’ll see why:

Lifestyle Choices May Decrease Breast Cancer Risk

Marissa Mayer Back To Work

Yesterday I started to see a number of tweets from parents and fellow pediatricians on Twitter criticizing Marissa Mayer for announcing that she’d return to work within 1-2 weeks of the delivery of her first child.

First off, I’ll start with my assumptions:

I’m authoring this post in the belief that Ms Mayer has access to quality health care–that is, she has the ear of a board-certified obstetrician, a board-certified pediatrician, and access to a lactation consultant as needed. My hunch is that if she needs info on evidence-based ramifications, from a health perspective, of going back to work 1-2 weeks postpartum, she can get the data she needs. Since she used to work at Google, I suspect she understands how to find what she needs online as well.

Assumptions acknowledged, I’d like to give Ms Mayer the respect she deserves. Faulting her for not making a traditional choice is devoid of context. She is lauded for her enormously successful career at a young age. She is the youngest CEO of any Fortune 500 company. To me it appears she has savvy and skill, invention and grit. Thanks in part to Ms Mayer as the first-female engineer at Google, we enjoy an entirely different electronic world with Gmail, Google search, maps, and images.

As we expect and work to have women hold an increased share of leadership jobs, academic or not, we must acknowledge we can’t have it both ways. “Women are still missing from medicine’s top ranks,” for example. We can’t want and wait for more and more women to have their hands at the wheels of powerful companies and organizations, only to question their commitment to their personal and their children’s health and well-being when they return to work. One week or 6 months postpartum… Read full post »

Sick Day

I had an unexpected gift this week: a not-so-sick sick day with my 5 year-old. And it really couldn’t have come at a better time.

We’ve never had a sick day like this before and he’s off to Kindergarten in September so the days were running out for preschool stolen-away sick leave.

In the past when he’s been ill he’s been well enough for me to head off to clinic or work and he’s been home with my mom or his nanny. I’ve ached in the absence but pushed through knowing it really wasn’t me he needed but rest and time away from school. Previously I knew that my patients needed me more.

This time he spooked me. Late Sunday night he developed a booming fever and complained about significant abdominal pain. He skipped dinner, plodded off to bed, and made a series of sweat circles on the sheets. My husband and I were both sitting on the edge of his bed hovering near midnight negotiating the logistics of heading to the ER. I went through the lists of the different diagnoses I imagined could cause his symptoms. I worried. We made plans for his brother, figured out who would go to the ER, and started solidifying next steps. Just then, he stopped complaining of pain and went back to sleep.

I didn’t lose my worry. I tossed and turned. I got up and organized my closet late into the night and tidied little piles repeatedly. I didn’t really sleep.

By morning, the fever was gone. The pain had improved and he joined us at the breakfast table. He downed his breakfast so we took his brother to school. And me? I got the day with my boy all to myself, I got to be home with him–worry changes everything. Read full post »