The Great Grand Apology Tour

As a working-outside-the-home mom the “sorry” word is all too familiar. So says Katrina Alcorn in Maxed Out Moms- American Moms on the Brink – a memoir out last year.

Perpetually Sorry

Perpetually Sorry

Unlike the dying “Jenny” played by Ali McGraw in the movie, Love Story who famously coined,  “Love means never having to say you are sorry,”  motherhood combined with “working-hood”, means always having to say you are sorry.

Alcorn complains that being a mom is to be in a perpetual state of apologia. Here are some of the type of sorry-s that Alcorn discusses.

  • I’m sorry I’m late. I had to pump.
  • I’m sorry I can’t stay longer. It’s time to get my kids.
  • I’m sorry I have to skip the conference. I can’t afford more nights away.
  • I’m sorry I have to miss the pitch. My little one has a fever.
  • I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so so sorry.

If misery loves company, happily there’s plenty of apologizing going around.

  • Sorry my wife had to stand by her man in her lovely scarf   – Eliot Spitzer
  • Sorry about Monica’s blue dress. I’ll pay for dry cleaning – Bill Clinton
  • Sorry, I thought that many bogeys entitled me to that many mistresses – Tiger Woods
  • Sorry about lying so many times about the doping thing. The bike made me do it – Lance Armstrong
  • Sorry…whatever it was that Lance just said. My bat made me do it – A-Rod

Examples of bad boy politicians and jocks feeling remorse for getting their anatomy caught in the steroid and cookie jar.

Oops. (Not sorry)  I digress.

Moms (Is it always the moms? Aren’t there sorry dads?) have to apologize for to trying be in two places at once, for not being able to bend the time-space continuum, for being all things to all people of being unable to live up their own and others’ expectations.

I am learning to not apologize, but instead to celebrate and embrace it for all the gifts that all parts of your life bring to the other. Just when you want to feel that awful “sorry” word on the tip of your tongue, embrace the priority-setting and re-framing opportunity it may present. Try this:

  • Breastfeeding has great health benefits. It may reduce the time I’ll have to be out of the office with sick children, while I  telecommute through their naps
  • You can have five minutes of my undivided attention before I have to get my kids
  • I’m sure you did great without me on that pitch. I’ll join you for the next one
  • The conference sessions are on podcast.  I’ll listen to them on my commute in
  • I really appreciate your commitment and dedication to our team.

Depending on the circumstances, some of these may not work. It takes practice, but you get the idea.

Now a quick word about this book. I highly recommend this memoir. It is brave and it is an honest accounting of one mother (and stepmother’s) journey on the proverbial work-life-balance tightrope. She fell off, and fell off in a grand way. But she had the courage to pull herself up. And to put her story out there.  When this book first came out, there were some not so nice comments in the blogosphere, who were highly critical of Ms. Alcorn’s “inability” to manage it all.

Oh well. Apologies not accepted.

Photo credit: Shutterstock


Filth a Gal Can Love

Dirty Dish Case for Mess

Dirty Dish Case for Mess

Not THAT kind of filth. Ha ha. Dust bunnies, dirty dishes and unfolded laundry: the stuff to maintain a household, the tasks that create a mess when undone.

The division of household labor can be, well quite divisive, among husband and wives, partners or roommates.  A recent op-ed in New York Times, provocatively suggests that there is a solution in The Case for Filth

Despite women now being almost 40% of primary breadwinners in households with children under 18, men’s investment in housework has not inversely kept pace, the author argues.

The early feminists such as Simone DeBeauvoir argued in 1949 in The Second Sex, that housework was a form of feminine enslavement. I heard a more recent feminist, Anna Quindlen state the same thing at a conference. Did Feminists Forget the Toilet Paper?

The only way to solve the division of household labor is for everyone to do less of it.  Part of the issue is standards, the author argues. Women should lower theirs.

The problem with that argument is that working for an organized household does give me the illusion that I have some control over my environment. I can control  whether our towels are clean, when I feel helpless in the face of global climate change.

The article did get me to thinking that all filth  is not created equal. Mess can come in all shapes and sizes and in a variety of categories.

Such as:

  • Mess I love: Lego projects strewn on every surface and wine glasses and dishes left overnight after a dinner party
  • Mess I hate: anything requiring professional intervention like black mold in the basement or squirrels nesting in the attic insulation
  • Mess I love with chocolate sauce:  the cake that didn’t rise properly
  • Mess I cope with: clutter that means I can’t find my phone or my keys

However, mess, sadly, thrives beyond the household.

  • Mess above my pay grade: family grudges
  • Mess I am proud of:  US democracy, one of the messiest forms of government
  • Mess I deplore: threat of the government shutdowns and chemical weapons in Syria
  • Mess I am despondent over: child abuse and hunger
  • Mess in the military:  SNAFU and sexual assault scandals

There’s some mess that would benefit from lower standards and some that benefit from higher ones.

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


Plain Old Opting

Opt In. Opt out. Lean In. Lean out.  Telecommuting Policy.  Not.

Pendulum Swings of Opting Out and In

The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In,” in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, is sure to create water cooler conversation the same way Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic Magazine piece “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”  and  Lean in the book  by Sheryl Sandberg, or Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting.

The magazine piece follows three women profiled ten years ago in the New York Times article, “The Opt Out Revolution”, which profiled highly educated women happily opting out of the work force to take care of their children full time.

Since then, one found a new career after being at home for a while.  Another woman’s marriage ended in divorce, and another is struggling to find meaningful work outside the home.  The article details the ups, the downs, the unintended consequences of choices. The reader is left with the feeling that opting out didn’t quite pan out as the women had planned.

It was not just one gender’s viewpoint.  One husband feels just as constrained, lamenting that he gets to work for fifty years and then he dies, and wishing he had the luxury of self-discovery as did his wife.

Ultimately all choices have pros and cons. You end up giving up in one area to gain in another.

Once again the pendulum has swung. To go gun-ho in one direction to completely opt out is to invite the pendulum to swing back equally hard in the other: the struggle to opt back in.

I am reminded of the lyrics penned by the Rolling Stones:

“You can’t always get what you want,
If you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need

I am not seeking to dismiss the struggles. They are real. There are things as a society and individually, we can do to make it better for men and women and children across all economic spectrums.

(Although having arguments about who will stay home with the kids when the nanny calls in sick, for many, will seem like a luxurious problem to have.)

At the moment, I’m just seeking what I need, in the gifts that all the pieces of my life give the other parts of my life.

I’m just opting for what I can do at this point in time with the choices I’ve made.

Do more yoga. Improve my financial modelling skills for new business development. Coordinate braces for my preteen. Streamline administrative processes in a new entrepreneurial division. Reorganize our home medicine cabinet.  Improve the look and feel of this blog.

If you try sometimes, you just might find, get what you need.

Well sung Sir Mick.

What have you opted in for? What have you opted out of? How did it work out?

Personal Branding and the Real You

brandingEver feel like you have to split yourself into your work self and your life self?  You have to be one person at work and a completely different person at home?
That can be exhausting, sucking the very life and even breath out of you.
This especially true if the personalities that you have to put on in either place, aren’t really you.
Personal branding says you don’t have to.
When I think of branding, I think of toothpaste, cereal and cars.   Colgate, Cheerios and Camry.  Until recently, I had never heard of branding in relation to people.
More and more every worker needs to take charge of their own career.  Long gone are the days when employee loyalty resulted in a company managing your career for you.
Personal branding is one method of managing it yourself. Personal branding is your unique promise of value.
Ditch, Dare, Do by William Arruda  and Deb Dib, is a personal branding how-to-book for executives. The subtitle is “66 Ways to Become Influential Indispensable and Incredibly Happy at Work.”  Who doesn’t love that?
The authors say you only need 9 minutes a day.
The chapter I liked the most was chapter two:  “Be The Real Deal: Be You!” There is a great example of a calm quiet leader, whose career had stalled because he was not seen as an energetic driver.  But on his off time he was a marathon runner and a race car driver.  He was a deliberate and energetic planner.  He plotted out every detail of his runs, when to rest, when to push hard. As soon as he applied those principles to his work place, and set his work mantra as ” Set the pace to win,” his value at the work place increased.
What really appealed to me was permission to bring your whole self to the workplace, instead of the strict compartmentalizing that can be fueled by that awful stress-y tightrope work life balancing act.

Business Strategy Informs Life

Taking life lessons from business. Taking business lessons from life. This is the focus of How Will You Measure your Life? A New York Times bestseller, the book is written by innovation expert, Clayton Christensen along with James Allworth and Karen Dillon.

how will you measure your lifeChristensen is a Harvard Business School professor and it make sense that he would be able to see how business and life are complements.  Just like golf – my husband tells me. Ah, subject for another post!

Dell the computer company is a cautionary tale for business and parents alike.

In the early 1990s, Dell’s strategy was simple.  They made customizable entry-level computers at low cost. Dell was able to do this because a Taiwanese company could manufacture reliable circuits for them, at a lower cost than Dell could. This went so well, that soon they began manufacturing Dell’s motherboards. Dell was happy to outsource. Then in 2005, that same Taiwanese company announced it was making its own computers.  It took everything it had learned from Dell:  all its processes and core competencies.

What does this have to do with parenting?  We live in an age where parents feel obligated to provide more and more resources to their children: video games, fancy sneakers, that expensive sleep away camp that promises to teach character.  We outsource to nannies, to babysitters, to tutors, to therapists, to college entrance consultants. Outsourcing can be a good solution.  But just as in business, too much, gives the computer store away.

What a company does with its resources, or its processes, is what makes a business unique. Christensen shares that one of the greatest gifts he received from his parents, was learning to patch holes in his socks as an elementary school child. His mother gave him a needle and thread and told him to come back when he had to threaded it. She gave him resources, but more importantly, she gave him a chance to figure out what to do with them.

In parenting, too much, or the wrong kind,of outsourcing may result in the loss of something only you as a parent can give your child – your core values. Or in business-speak, how to transform resources through unique processes.  Resources, no matter how many, mean very little without the how and more importantly – the why.  Christensen’s mother passed along her core values of confidence and pride in doing for yourself.

In business, the adage is: never outsource the future. In parenting, what could possibly be more future-oriented than our kids?

This is a good read.