Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Single Moms - Part 3 - The Light at the End of the Tunnel

When you are childless and go through a break up it is hard.  I remember chocolate ice cream, Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs, and whole weekends spent on my couch.  And then slowly you get back into things, maybe go out for a night on the town with friends or speed dating (preferably combined with a wine tasting).  The entire process is about you and, well, processing what you have gone through.

When you go through that break up with a child, however, it is different (still hard).  The process now becomes about making sure your little (or not so little) one is comfortable with the new normal and you are forever tied with "the one that got away" through your child (or children).  What's more, you now are doing most of it on your own (possibly without financial support) and quite frankly, that is draining in a way I can't even begin to explain.

No matter what the circumstances of the parting of ways, no matter how amicable or how much of a relief it is, your mind still needs to process the loss.  If you spend your time keeping everything and everyone else together that may not happen as quickly as it otherwise would.  For some that is good, children don't understand mommy wants to sit on this couch and eat this ice cream and watch this sappy movie and cry.  More likely you are going to the park or watching Dinosaur Train.

The back end of the process is a lot less noticeable as well.  There are no late night happy hours for me, just impromptu play dates with friends and their children.  What I have noticed though, is over the last week or two, I am not crashing as soon as the baby is down (except of course for those nights he refuses to go to sleep).  I once again have time to write, read, and think in the evenings.  If this keeps up I may even have time to take a relaxing bath one night!

Over the past year, co-workers, fellow volunteers, friends, and family have supported me through a very difficult time.  I am still working furiously to try to recover financially, but emotionally, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I see glimpses of the old me and it is like running into an old friend.

Not everything in life is about work.  If you are truly lucky, as I am, work can be a safe haven to fuel your passions when things outside of work are falling apart.  But in the end, if you can't find a healthy balance in both arenas, you will end up seeking the help of a medical professional.

Work/life balance is not like a scale that must balance perfectly every day.  It is more like a pendulum
that swings back and forth (or three dimensionally if you have volunteer, church, and outside interests) to the area that needs the most attention.  But no matter how far it swings in one direction, there is a tension pulling it back the other way in search of a balance.

I feel like my pendulum is pulling back from a year's worth of "family" demands.  I have learned to find time to volunteer, spent time with friends, and engaged in new work pursuits that have truly challenged me.  All the while, constantly learning about the little monkey who lives in my heart and home.  For me, that is the epitome of work/life balance and I am loving all of it.

*~*~* Single Moms - Part 1 - You Will Never Be As Hard on a Single Mother as She is On Herself
*~*~* Single Moms - Part 2 - Toddler Gone Wild

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Back to School Time For the Kids - How Will You Model Lifetime Learning This Year?

This time of year always makes me nostalgic.  While I get to go to class throughout the year and each time is like a mini flashback, there is nothing quite like the build up to the start of a new school year.  A friend of mine published a blog post on those "school" supplies that moms love the most, and I must say, her list (and the instant "Oh yeah I need those!" reaction we all have reading it) make me think that I am not the only one in the start-of-school-envy boat.

We all know that kids pick up on what we do even (especially?) when it doesn't match what we say.  So, what are you modeling for your children about lifelong learning?

I have a friend whose morning post today was that her daughter asked to start off her first day of school by attending a 6:30 AM sales meeting (celebrating a record sales month) with her mom.  It is easy to see that her second grader sees learning as an integral piece of the pie; that she sees execution as a by-product of that learning; and that she sees the two go together hand-in-hand.  (If you knew my friend you would know right away where her daughter gets that amazing sense of purpose, balance, and love of learning.)

But for the rest of us mere mortals, it is so much easier to stop at a fast food restaurant on the way home because making dinner and doing the dishes and doing everything else just to get ready for the next day is just too much.  We constantly have to nag our children to do their homework, but how often do they see us learning?

I have such fond memories of when my mother studied for her real estate license.  (Those big books filled with multiple choice questions!!!!)  I still remember Dewey, Cheatam, and Howe and their real estate antics.  But more importantly, I am convinced that seeing my mother approach learning in the same way she expected me to is one of the reasons I love to learn to this day.  And it is one of the gifts I want to pass on to my son.

So, if you want to be the kind of role model that my friend and my mother are for their daughters, why not start today.  It is the first day of school after all!

Crack open your trapper keeper or pad folio, your composition book (stolen from your child's supply) or a moleskin journal, your colored pencils or your favorite Cross pen, a crayon or your highlighter, and one of those five leadership books sitting around the house you've been meaning to get to.  You know you have them, they have been mocking you for years.  Really don't have any?  That is fine, both Kindle and Nook have apps for PC and Mac and you can download them and a book in about ten minutes.  Need a recommendation?  Check out the list below.  Just pick one book, read one chapter tonight, and write down the answers to these questions.
  1. Why did you pick this book? (Because it was on the list and you want to be a better leader isn't going to cut it here.  Seriously, at least 200 words if you need the challenge, why did you pick this book?)
  2. What did you learn by reading the first chapter?  
  3. Did anyone comment on what you were doing?
  4. How did that make you feel?
  5. What would it mean to you personally if you could read a chapter and journal each night in pursuit of your own professional development?
Think about ways you can make this family time.  Set a timer with everyone at the kitchen table (you have laptops, iPads, and wifi, yes you can all work at the kitchen table) doing their "homework each night.  Talk about what you learned with your children - think they don't understand?  You will be surprised.  Your greatest sounding board could be sitting across the table from you.  Don't talk down to them, seriously ask them what they think and then listen.  

The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson.  The premise of this book is that "great innovative breakthroughs can be explained by the intersection of disciplines and cultures."  I like this book as a starting point because it gets you thinking about making connections between all the different experiences you bring to the table - that perspective which only you can provide.

Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.  This book includes a code for you to go online and find out what your top five strengths are.  The book breaks the strengths down into four domains and shows you how they each work to produce results.  The premise of the book is that you will get further developing your strengths than working on your weaknesses (unless, of course, one of your weaknesses is a career derailed).  I think the unstated genius of the book is that to have a balanced team (or someone to work with) you can choose someone with strengths in areas you are not strong in. Why work to build competence in a weak area when you can partner with an expert!

The Introverted Leader by Jennifer Kahnweiler.  Dr. Kahnweiler shows Introverts how to their preference and her 4 P's Process to become better leaders.  For those of us who have a preference for Extraversion, the book shows us a process that works regardless of preference and gives us a perspective on what those with another preference need.  The chapters cover all the major work areas so it is also a great place to start a reflective professional development project.

The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney.  Strategy without execution is really nothing more than a day dream.  This offering from the FranklinCovey brain trust is for those people who want to focus on achieving results.  The idea of prioritizing Wildly Important Goals and working towards them creates positive, proactive, engaged teams.

The Next Level by Scott Eblin.  The Next Level is about the transition from specialist/technician to executive, from the doer to the planner, from the specific to the general.  It is about what you need to let go of when you move up the chain (doing everything yourself) and what you need to pick up (seeing the big picture).  In other words, being the go-to-person is what got you where you are today.  But "what got you here, won't get you there."  You need to be able to let go what you are good at and what you have been rewarded for in the past to pick up the new skills and presence you will need to be a successful executive.