July 30, 2012

Communication is vital to balancing home, work

Erin Flynn Jay

Q&A talks about balancing home, work and family with Erin Flynn Jay, author of "Mastering the Mommy Track."

Q:You touch on some interesting topics in your book, "Mastering the Mommy Track," including home issues, health issues, parenting issues and work-life issues. What's the biggest issue of those four for those on the Mommy Track and why?

A: The biggest issue I see right now is home. The downward mobility of the American middle class continues. Most of the new jobs being created are in the lower-wage sectors of the economy. Millions of Americans who remain working agreed to cuts in wages and benefits. Others are settling for jobs that pay less than the jobs they've lost. Other people are falling out of the middle class, and many have also lost their homes. So many women are in a panic mode, afraid of losing their job or struggling to find work and concerned about their family's financial situation. Career moms should realize that the economic downturn is nationwide; millions of others are experiencing the same hardships. The events happening today will turn around in the future. Their spouse will get a job in his field again; it just may take more time. Self-employed women will land new clients if they keep up the prospecting efforts.

Q. You say during the Great Recession that many women experienced burnout and depression, putting their children and spouse's needs above their own. How can women avoid this? What are some steps they can take?

A: Women can communicate their needs to others by letting their spouse or partner, family members, and friends know what they need. This could be asking that groceries be purchased and put away, dinner be started, toys picked up, laundry folded, and so forth. Instead of reacting to unmet needs, moms can be proactive by expressing their needs from the start. When their needs are met, there is less exasperation. Based on my interviews with psychologists, here are some tips to help moms keep their cool at home:

• Slow down after work. Spend some time with your children, even if it is just 20 minutes before you get dinner prepared and cooked. Appreciate the small moments you have.

• Set the proper example. Children look up to parents and follow their role. Make sure you aren't yelling at your kids over spilling snacks or drawing on the wall.

• Give yourself some credit. Commend yourself for getting through each hectic day. No one is perfect. You won't get every project finished on time. Do your best each day and realize the rest will have to wait until tomorrow.

Q. Your book has advice on how mothers can take their careers to the next level — even with active home lives. What is some of that advice?

A: Women can ask their current employer for a change in their schedule — whether that be the option of telecommuting, working flexible hours, working a compressed workweek, or going part-time. They can build a solid case for changing their schedule and see if their boss will allow some flexibility. If not, then perhaps it's time to find a job that allows flexible work options.

Q. The book also raises the view that women become resentful of their partners. Why is that? How can they temper that resentment?

A: A June 2011 survey by ForbesWoman and TheBump.com confirmed that most moms resent their partners because they handle far less than their share of the housework and childcare. Most mothers said they feel like single moms, despite being married or living with a partner. This is a sad revelation. Clearly, more fathers have to partake in the housework and become more active in their kids' activities. This will temper resentment.

Q. How can moms carve out more personal times for themselves? What has to give to accomplish that?

A: Women need to share family and home obligations with their partner or spouse. Women have made great strides toward equality in the workplace, but not at home. Household chores largely fall on the mothers' shoulders — but these tasks and parenting responsibilities should be divided equally. Women will never have time for themselves until they can achieve this balance at home. Women should schedule their free time in advance otherwise it might not happen. It requires planning and cooperation with their spouse or partner. Each person's free time can be scheduled and agreed on — and both must commit to making it happen.

Q. Does any of this advice in particular help women crack through the glass ceiling? Which particular aspects help them advance?

A: The final part of this book focuses on work-life issues. Chapter 10 on time management offers stories from working mothers on their time challenges and how they overcame them; work-life experts weigh in on how to best maximize their time. Chapter 11 delves into self-care, advice on how moms can best care for themselves to avoid exhaustion and burnout. Chapter 12 closes on the topic of work — stories of women who altered their careers to make more time for their families. Career experts also share tips. This section will be helpful for women seeking to crack through the glass ceiling. Working mothers need periodically to evaluate their careers and determine their best growth opportunities. This decade, more women will be seen altering their jobs to allow more time for their families. How can the two trends happen? With superb technology available, women can complete training on their own time, work from their homes, and spend less time commuting or office dwelling.

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