It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children? (Second time around.)

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) that were “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday: at 7:00 p.m. Lecture by NYT best-selling author Ron Lieber on parenting teens.

For my grade schooler:

Monday:  at 6:30 p.m. Sports banquet (with child).

Wednesday: at 7:00 p.m. 7th grade informational Springfield trip meeting (with child).

Thursday: Nothing. (Thank goodness: the kids are out snowblowing the neighbors’ driveways!) ….but you get the point.

Not included in the above list: regular sports practices and activities, parent work meetings, etc.

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…or attend an informational meeting on the Springfield trip even though I’ve attended it already for 4 children…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

Shouldn’t we be home? That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued. Moreover, although I love my computer, I am sometimes tethered to it simply to pay attention (read: not MISS) the important school to-do’s that now come via computer to the mom’s email.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

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Thanks, but No “Thanks.”

You’ve given your precious time to a Millennial. Waiting for a “Thank You”? Good luck.

Thanks

 

 

It’s time to take matters into your own hands.

 

 

 

I learned the hard way. “Go to school” on me! You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

True story: a few years ago my mom casually mentioned to me a year after the fact that one of my children (plus a few friends) never really thanked her for some substantial time she had invested in them. She wasn’t being rude – but clearly my mom was bothered.

On SO many levels I had missed the “teachable moment” that we all desire as parents, bosses, mentors, etc. Furthermore, the millennial offenders are just fantastic kids! (After all, 3/5 of my kids are millennials). They are our future.

So, here’s how I have solved the problem:

I ask.

That’s it.

“I’ve given my time to you. This is what I expect in exchange.”

From now on, each time I help someone (particularly a millennial!) whether it is in a job search, a resume review, college recruiting support, etc. I use it as an opportunity to explain my expectations. Crystal clear. I am no longer waiting. I do not want to be disappointed. I do not ever want to have the feeling my mom did. Rather, I have chosen to take the matter into my own hands and use it as a chance to “shape” someone in a positive way.

Here’s what I asked of a very capable young woman recently for whom I offered to write a college letter of support:

1) Please alert me as to when I need to complete my letter. (Note: timelines need to be her responsibility, not mine.)

2) Please follow-up with the school to be certain they have received my letter and it is appropriately in your file. (Note: I am asking her to “own” the process.)

3) Please write me a handwritten thank you note. (Note: while it seems so obvious, it’s not. These kids have SO many means of communication. They need to understand that the world is noisy. Stand out with a handwritten note. Period.)

4) Please let me know as soon as you hear of an acceptance, denial or deferral (Note: I am asking her to keep me in the loop; I have invested my time and merit inclusion of information.)

5) Please keep me posted over the next few years. I have taken my time. I care about you, your school career and probably even your post-college career. (Note: while she probably does not even realize it, I am “coaching” her for how to interact when she begins job prospecting. Further, to the extent that she really does keep me posted – it is likely that I will somehow help her!)

6) Lastly, please remember that “in life” there will be people who help you get where you are going. Please treat those people as “people in your life” and stay in touch. Drop them a line every so often. Send a Christmas card. Whatever. (Note: The important thing is that the gift of time comes with a responsibility. I gave her my time. If she plays her cards right, we can have an amazing relationship.)

Postscript: The young lady was denied admission (early admission) to the college she so desperately sought to attend. Not even a deferral. She and I have communicated a few times since her deeply disappointing news. It is my hope that she takes my “advice” and stays in touch. Trust me: if she does just that I would be thrilled to help point her in a direction, introduce her to possible internships, and even help her land a job after college, etc. [After all, she already successfully completed steps 1-4 with terrific success!]

Invest in yourself. Invest in others. Say thanks.

My Upcoming 30 Day “Print Diet”

I tried the ‘digital diet’ thing. Sadly, I flunked.

I really enjoy learning and being online. Moreover, managing a house of 7 requires that I be online; from my experience there’s simply no way around it.

I recently decided to try a ‘print diet’: no Chicago Tribune, no Wall Street Journal, no New York Times, no Crain’s Chicago Business. I suspended all print delivery for 30 days in August.

Newspaper dietI’ll try to go entirely digital and mobile in my news reading. Also, I’ll supplement my digital subscriptions by adding in more “religious” reading of my favorite digital sources via either subscription or Twitter feed:

The Skimm, Business Insider, TechCrunch, Mashable, OZY Media, Re/Code, etc

Why? Print is getting too costly, and I am becoming more aware of the environmental impact of print media. Further, I should be able to digest all of my news via mobile phone.

Before the commencement of my “print diet,” I must confess that I have several concerns:

1) Will my children be bothered that my nose is buried more often in my phone? YES. I’ll need to be super disciplined and awake early as if I was reading the newspapers. Nothing else.

2) Will I miss the “little things” from the Chicago Tribune that I love so much…Mary Schmich? John Kass? Blue Sky Innovation? The obituaries? My daily horoscope? Sudoku? In the NYT, Thomas Friedman? In the WSJ, OP-Ed page and the weekend WSJ?

3) Will I be able to really dive deep into a subject? Will I resort to sound bites and headlines?

4) Will The Skimm, Twitter, etc. be enough to fill in the gaps?

I LOVE and APPRECIATE the “little things”. For example, I want to be able to hug an acquaintance after a loved one passes away; I want to commend a neighbor who is working hard on a start-up; I want celebrate the local kid who advances in his sport. Most importantly: if I miss my kids little things, then I’ll miss everything. If I sense that it is happening, I’ll go back to print.

 

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault

 

It is 7:00pm. Who is minding my children?

These are the opportunities (school and parent-related topics) “available” to me this week:

For my high schooler:

Monday, November 4, at 7:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 6, at 7:00 p.m.

For my grade schoolers:

Thursday, November 7, at 7:00 p.m. [Not on the actual calendar..but you get the point.]

How did we get here?

Said another way: Who will mind my children?

How on earth did we get to the point whereby working moms, “stay at home” moms, working dads, “stay at home” dads are asked to be somewhere on school nights at 7:00pm? As if jobs, school, sports, and extra-curricular carpooling are not enough, we are being “asked” or “invited” to evening “opportunities” out of the home. In no way am I suggesting that the 7:00pm meetings and opportunities are not meaningful or important…it’s just that I am scratching my head. Why? Because I am a rule follower and it’s hard for me to not “do the right thing.” When someone tells me that I should come hear a great speaker on successful parenting that the school is sponsoring…well, I should do it. It’s “what you do” as part of being a good and supportive parent; it’s “what you do” to be part of the school community.

This year: enough head scratching. I am not going. Sorry. I happen to be incredibly lucky: there are  fantastic schools in our neighborhood; more importantly, the administrators, school boards, etc. are not only super-qualified but also really nice people and often friends of mine. But I can’t do it any more. I need to be home. That’s where I should be. So should my husband. He should be home. That’s where I am most valued. That’s where he is most valued.

So here’s a start-up idea for someone: grab it. Please create a central repository of Vimeos, (password protected for schools). Every parent in America can stay home on school nights (when not carpooling for sports and extra-curricular events). Yep. Stay home. Cook dinner together. Eat dinner together. Read a book together. Just be together.

After the kids are in bed, mom and dad can take out their computer and “go” to the 7:00pm meeting via Vimeo.

The “opportunity” of a lifetime.

Have YOU Ever Gotten a Retreat From Tory Burch?

Several months ago I woke up to this text.

TBtex

Oh my goodness? Did I win some sort of contest?! Did my husband surprise me and give me a retreat weekend with Tory Burch, a woman whose business acumen I really admire?! How thoughtful. [Frankly, I didn’t even realize there was a Tory Burch retreat for businesswomen or mothers.]  I happen to be fairly impressed by Tory Burch the brand. The woman, too. She built a very successful company and, since its inception in 2004, she has not only built a desired and recognized brand but also become a millionaire in the process. Her former husband and business partner, Chris Burch, recently launched C. Wonder in New York and is trying his hand at building a brand without her. Between prior marriages, they have a combined six children…and unfortunately a very messy divorce.

The day prior to receiving the aforementioned text I was sitting in the airport reading the Wall Street Journal waiting for a flight departure. When I turned the page I saw a full-page highlight of Tory Burch, WSJ Startup of the Year (“SOTY”). I didn’t realize it at the time, but the WSJ was beginning to feature startups and chose to highlight various entrepreneurs and mentors.

Tory Burch

Clearly Tory Burch was on my mind.

After hours of trying to figure out the ‘surprise’ I burst out laughing!!

THIS is what my friend was referring to in her text:

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 11.24.33 AM

A RT.

A RETWEET!

I laughed to myself. I guess I should have been “happy” that Tory Burch “retweeted me” but to be honest – I was merely doing what I like to do: celebrating others’ success. In observing on and offline behavior I mostly look for beauty. Beauty in good times – but also in bad times. There’s beauty all around us – you just need to look for it. In reading  about Tory Burch and tweeting a picture of the WSJ/SOTY feature, I was merely trying to celebrate and share one woman’s success. I know that her success has come with a price – but isn’t she like any other female (or male) in the world: trying to figure it all out? Cute that my friend called a RT “‘cool”. I think it’s much cooler, though, celebrating success and knowing that each woman (and man) out there shares a common bond: we are all doing the best we can! That’s cool.

WHAT is KNAAC?! It is NOT Greek to Me.

My daughter took four years of Ancient Greek in high school. We often had a phrase around our house if we had no idea of the answer to a question, we would chuckle and say “I don’t know, it’s Greek to me!” Today, one can no longer pull the “it’s Greek-to-me” card.

If you are not aware of a MOOC you need to be. Same with SEO, SEM, “Big Data”, Social media tools Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and lastly but most importantly: coding. A recent WSJ article by Kirk McDonald entitled “Sorry College Grad, I Probably Won’t Hire You” encourages college grads to take ownership  of their continued knowledge base. I couldn’t agree with him more! “Teach yourself just enough of the grammar and the computer logic of computer languages to be able to see the big picture.”

I am obsessed with “staying current”. Always have been. And now, with the speed of technology the race is getting faster and faster. So what to do?

Do. That’s the answer. Do.

Learnbydoing

Make a pact with yourself. Do NOT let technology be something to watch from the sidelines. TRY. Engage. Learn. Make a pact with yourself. I am. This summer I hope to learn some coding from Codecademy. Or maybe I’ll take another Coursera class. Free online. If I am a really good mom (or bad?) I will require the same of my five children, regardless of age. WHY? Because today it’s no longer college; it’s knowledge. It’s what you know, not where you go. Knowledge is your currency.

Knowledge As A Currency = KNAAC.

Don’t let it be Greek to you.

Dear Women: Do What You Do and Do Not Ask for Permission, Ask for Forgiveness

Dear Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Anne-Marie Slaughter and even Susan Patton:

Thank you.

Each of you is “right.” Whether it’s: “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” (Slaughter, who returned to a manageable professor life at Princeton after a stint in foreign policy at the State Department); the importance of “leaning in” to your career and taking a seat at the table (Sandberg, COO of Facebook on the importance of speaking up); eliminating tele-commuters (Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and new mother, who recognized that innovation occurs at a central location; productivity works for telecommuting, but less so for innovation); or encouraging Princeton women students to find a husband while in college (Patton, professional, mother and Princeton grad). Perhaps each of you is trying to say something similar? Let me sum it up the way my mom does: YOU DO WHAT YOU DO. Yes. Just like that. YOU DO WHAT YOU DO. In other words, we all make choices.

Over the last few years I have really tried to grasp the whole working mom thing. Every mother – parent for that matter – is trying his or her best. Make your decisions and make them with confidence!  Perhaps I am an anomaly? I have played sports my entire life. I competed with boys and men at a time when many girls and women weren’t into sports..so perhaps I had a confidence that most women didn’t have? I have never felt slighted by men. I’ve always chosen to speak up when I thought it necessary, lean in at the table when I wanted to lean in, and request a promotion/raise when I deemed it earned. I’ve never had a problem rolling up my sleeves to make cold calls, knock on doors to sell, or simply “put myself out there”..because I believe in myself. Moreover, I’ll do whatever it takes to go the extra mile.

I struggle with the same balance that every mother struggles with: what is the right blend of work and family? I’ve worked full-time, part-time, corporate HQ, telecommute, Fortune 1000, ecommerce Kleiner-Perkins funded digital-startup, WAHM, etc. I had my first child ten days after being graduated from business school, worked full-time until my fourth, left for a while and had a fifth. I returned a few years ago to a job that on paper was “below” my qualifications. Why? Because it was a fast growing company in ecommerce and the potential for personal and professional growth in a rapidly scaling industry and the company was amazing (my employer was competing against Groupon.) I chose not to worry about career level but rather focus  on potential experience to be gained and value to be added. As Eric Schmidt had told Sheryl before she took the Google job,”When companies grow quickly there are more things to do than there are people to do them.” Very true. And today? I’ve shifted, and  have founded my own small start-up which I’ll manage on my own schedule. I am on the “career jungle gym”, not the linear  corporate ladder (a reference to Fortune’s Patricia Sellers who said, “Think of your career as a jungle gym, sharpen your peripheral vision, and look for opportunities all around.”);  With five kids (all athletes) in four schools – I am just like any other mom in the world: trying to figure it out.

Let’s take it one step further: How about we women DO WHAT WE DO and then take a line from  most men’s playbook: DO NOT ASK FOR PERMISSION rather ASK FOR FORGIVENESS. Perhaps that’s what each of the aforementioned formidable women is trying to say? DO WHAT YOU DO..WITH CONFIDENCE! It’s what Marissa Mayer did when she changed the option of a remote workforce for Yahoo: she’s doing what she’s doing with confidence. She thinks it’s the right thing for Yahoo. (For what it’s worth, I must agree with her: she is trying to turn around a sinking ship and needs innovation.) It’s what Sheryl Sandberg is doing by speaking up and encouraging women to “lean in” to career advancement and not “leave before you leave.” She’s doing what she thinks is the right thing and using her power with confidence to remind women to speak up and lean into their careers. (For what it’s worth, I think it is brave of Sheryl to speak up; I reluctantly read her book and was pleasantly surprised by the nuggets of raw truths she was willing to share with the reader.) It’s what Anne-Marie Slaughter did by going back to Princeton as a professor of politics and international affairs: she’s doing what she’s doing with confidence – doing it HER way. (For what it’s worth, I have two daughters, one of whom happens to be at Princeton; I found Anne-Marie’s article to be brave and spot-on: we make choices in life.) And lastly, Susan Patton is doing what she’s doing: speaking up to the young women at Princeton. Maybe I do not agree with her but I commend her for DOING WHAT SHE’S DOING and NOT ASKING FOR PERMISSION..but forgiveness. (For the record, I do not agree at all with Patton but commend her for speaking up.  With CONFIDENCE!)

Going On Spring Break? Let the Airplane Seating Shuffle Begin!

We are heading out of town for a few days. I cannot wait to get my airplane goggles on to  observe “opening games”! I am absolutely in AWE of the airplane seating game of “checkers” that is now one of the most intriguing sports to watch!

The last flight I took happened to be international. My husband had spent months trying to make the flight comfortable  – he knows the ins and outs of travel and knows how the seating arrangements work, where the most legroom is, how to navigate exit rows, etc. Needless to say, he spent time (and I think even used miles) to arrange for “good seats”..whatever that is. The funny thing? Once we boarded the plane it was as if an “invisible” announcement went out to all on board: LET THE GAMES BEGIN! Before my very eyes people started trying to swap seats! Mothers with crying babies, teenagers who wanted to sit next to headphone-wearing siblings, anxiety-ridden females fearful of traveling and desirous of sitting near the front…the anxiety was palpable. The flight attendant chose not to control the situation, rather she aided and abetted! I watched as families were split apart because the “pressure” of saying “no thanks, I will not swap seats with you” was simply too powerful. Who wants to be put on the spot when a crying baby in a mother’s arms escorted by the flight attendant supports the request of “would you mind terribly switching seats?” Does it matter that it is the middle seat to which you will be “switched” in the last row of the plane right near the lavatory?

What ever happened to the old: you-take-what-you-get mentality? I can remember vividly traveling solo with sometimes 5 children and oftentimes we would be separated. Oh well. If the airline is that dumb to separate me from my children such that complete strangers are saddled with a toddler? Oh well. (Okay, I’ll call it my mini-vacation!) But really. I just sucked it up and dealt with it. To be honest, I noticed that my kids usually rose to the occasion and engaged in lively discussion with their new airplane neighbors.

So for now, I’ll help if needed. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll wear dark sunglasses, pretend I’m asleep and PRAY that no one wants to play the airplane seating shuffle with ME!