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October 23, 2010
One moment you are being a leader, leading meetings and leading the herd onto the plane as the privileged frequent flier and the next you are bring up a baby, meeting with no-one and you are leading your toddler – no dragging your toddler – down into the back of the plane and into coach as your career morphs into motherhood.
Motherhood and your executive career collided! So how can you transition from a high-powered job, or actually any job, and to a role as mom?
1. Accept it’s going to be different
Any change is going to be different. If you were an executive, manager or working in a team, it will be different now you have a child. You can’t just work late, go on a business trip, or plan to work over the weekend even if you have great childcare, great family and great organization at home. You’re going to need to check if that’s OK and not being able to make an immediate decision will probably be different. But this change doesn’t need to be good or bad unless you choose to see it that way. Yes you may not be able to do that European trip or worse you may not even be asked now you have junior around. But in exchange you get time to spend with your family, avoid those security lines and the meetings with your boring counterparts that you never liked anyway! It’s different and you get to choose how you feel about it.
2. Work out your long-term strategy
Obviously you are planning what your work and home life looks like. Obviously? Well for some people it’s obvious. For others it may not be. But it’s good to work out how much time you want to spend at home once you have a child, or whether you want to or need to work fulltime, or if you intend to change direction or careers with the new family. Work out how to balance your new life and how you are going to finance it. Will you get a nanny or will grandma help out? Will you be at home 24/7 or will baby be at daycare during work hours? Plan out your first five years at least. The first five years takes you to kindergarten. The next ten to fifteen takes you through education and out of college. It’s worth thinking about those too and making some decisions.
3. Decide what you are going to give up and what you are going to take on
One of the hardest things to do is to accept that you can’t do everything. OK superstars give the impression they can be career woman, mother of ten, Nobel peace prize winner and able to make perfect brownies at the drop of a hat. But usually it’s with a team of hire-priced helpers. You can try and do 110% for your job and 110% for you family and you will probably find yourself going 110% crazy. For example, immaculate clothes are the sign of a high-powered executive. Ones with a throw-up stain are the sign of someone who is caring for a little one. You can make a pact that you will always be turned out perfectly and go ballistic the one time you aren’t or decide to never pick up your child in your business attire and let the au pair do it instead or just accept that your Prada may get poop on it. Life is not always going to be perfect and you decide to be OK with it.
4. Partner on the plan
As you work out your strategy and what is going to change you need to partner. Partner with your partner or spouse, your family or childcare providers and your co-workers and boss. It is better to be open and discuss possibilities rather than keep it to yourself. Your boss will not like surprises and if you don’t discuss your future he or she will make up something, which could be worse than the truth. Ensure your boss and co-workers that you can make the job work but also discuss any changes you will need to make to your schedule or on work expectations. Also do the same with your family and friends. Be honest; ask for help and set expectations. For example, you will still want to see your friends but the expensive lunches you used to have won’t work with junior around but a potluck at your home will.
5. Monitor and check in
As you go through this great adventure you need to check and see how the plan is going and what is working and what is not. The important part of this monitoring is to see if you need to do any course corrections. You may find that your mom loves looking after your baby for a couple of hours and is willing to do it twice a week instead of the once she does now. Or you may find that staying at home full time is driving you nuts and you need more adult company! Either way it’s OK to revise and change your plan.
Becoming a mother is a huge step made even bigger if you are trying to balance work. But it can be done. Just be realistic and don’t try to be superwoman (or mom).
At age 46, David Couper and his partner adopted a baby boy. Their son, Teddy, is now four years old. David is an author and career coach with many professional women and mothers as clients. His latest book: “Outsiders On The Inside: Creating a Winning Career…Even When You Don’t Fit In!” came out in August 2010. Visit http://www.davidcoupercoach.com/.
October 22, 2010
I am disgusted with my son today (Sunday). I woke up this morning (while he was at ice skating with his father) to find out that various cables, cords, etc. had been unplugged to my computer, modems, etc. in my office. I was livid and unable to function until Marc, my husband, came home to help put things back together. Technical matters are not my strength.
It got me thinking. There was a horrible story in the news last week about a son (30 year old) who brutally killed his parents and then took off on a plane to Israel. Granted he had documented psychiatric problems, but it led me to consider the fact that as parents, we never know what/who we are raising.
We do our best….and especially if a child is adopted….as is my son….we don’t always have all the biological information we would otherwise be privvy to from our own lineage. Not to say that adoptive children are any more troublesome than others, it’s just that we are operating often more from a place of unknown.
That said, I am in a state at the moment of distrust with Seth.
What he did to my office was a total violation of my personal property and a complete lack of respect for my things and the time I spend at my computer (too much I recognize). It felt like a huge slap in the face and one that I am still having trouble grappling with in my mind.
Additionally, during my senior dad’s latest weekend stay with us, Seth took bills from his wallet which we discovered as he was preparing to return home. Seth denied it, then ultimately admitted it. It was upsetting, especially to my father, and I’ve told my dad that he should never leave his wallet in the room they share at bedtime.
I plan to go to the hardware store later today and purchase a padlock for my office….or will call in a locksmith if it comes to that. I’m not thrilled feeling the need to go this length…but I DON’T TRUST my son. And, I told him so.
In a fit of rage, while he was at skating, I took out two large garbage bags and loaded them up with some of his favorite toys in the living rooms, and took his wallet, and various other items, and tucked them away/out of sight in a closet in a garage.
I asked Seth why he did what he did, and he offered no explanation. I also asked if he thought an apology might be in order, and he said “sorry.” He looked sad. But, was he truly remorseful or was he sorry because I took away his toys and he wanted them back? Can you teach regret or remorse to a child? And, if so, how?
Was this punishment the right choice, especially for a child who has so much? For how long will he miss the toys? And, will it truly bother him that I said I don’t trust him anymore or will he be over it tomorrow? Does having my trust mean anything to him? I feel like it does…or at least it should. Other than my love, if he doesn’t care about trust, then what?!
I love him, but I can’t look at him right now. I know my emotions are raw as I write this, and they will ease.
It’s just that we put so much time and energy into our children, if we endeavor to be what to us feels like a good parent. Everyone’s definition and perception of that is different, and there’s no right or wrong.
But, how do you raise a child who values their property and that of others?
Is this a phase typical for a 7 year old? What was his motivation?
I may never know.
But, I would love to hear from you. Has your child exhibited behavior that felt destructive or wrong? And, if so how did you handle it so that they learned a lesson that would stick with them?
October 20, 2010
I experienced another stressful and unexpected event in my life last week. I think I am getting used to all of these stressful and unexpected events that occur almost daily, if not weekly. This one, however, truly touched my soul. And it pertains to my dog, Maxi. My favorite of my two dogs. My “doggie soul mate,” if you will. Yet, unlike all of the other stressful and unexpected events that have been occurring in my life, this one has a very happy ending. However, I digress.
Last Thursday my husband and I took our dog, Maxi, for a check up. I knew going into the appointment that I had many questions and some anxiety about certain issues Maxi was experiencing. The biggest of those issues was that Maxi had 3 golf ball size fatty lipomas in his upper chest. We had one biopsied a year ago, which turned out to be benign. However, over the past year, Maxi developed two more, with one extending under his armpit. The Veterinarian who examined him last year, was concerned about the spreading of the lipoma because he told us that if the lipoma spread much more under the arm pit, it could put pressure on some nerves that run through the arm pit area and cause some nerve function difficulties, possibly making it difficult for Maxi to walk.
Maxi had other issues as well: He had something on his chest that looked like a Melanoma. He had a growth on one of his front paws that he licked constantly. The licking was causing a minor infection. He also had dental problems. And to my surprise, there was a mass growing on Maxi’s gums that the doctors were most concerned and suspicious of. And all of this had to be taken into consideration with Maxi’s age of 12 years old.
Knowing that Maxi is truly my dog, my husband deferred the decision of Maxi having surgery to me. And I had the option of having some of the issues taken care of, all of the issues dealt with, or do nothing. I asked the Vet what the procedure would entail if I decided to have everything taken care of. He outlined step by step what Maxi would be going through. Additionally, because we would having the surgery at this Veterinary Hospital, we were also told that we could leave Maxi for a few days in their “Rehab” area. In that area, he would be watched 24 hours a day by a Vet and assistant staff who would be doing all of the aftercare for Maxi such as change bandages, give medication, etc. That sealed the deal in my mind. Because we have another dog in our home along with a rambunctious child, I was enamored with the fact that Maxi would be in the main hospital facility for two days and then transferred to “rehab” after that for several days of aftercare. I gave the Vet the go ahead as my poor dog sat on my feet, trembling, and looking up to me for reassurance. I bent down, hugged him close and with as much mind power that I could muster, I told Maxi, through my eyes, that he would be perfectly fine, but that I would be there for him and he would absolutely be coming back home to me. I could swear I felt him trembling a little less after that.
Due to the fact that my husband had to go back to work, and we came with only one car, my husband drove me home so that I could get my own car along with my laptop to keep my mind distracted with busywork during the surgery.
As I was driving back to the hospital, the Vet called me on my cell phone to say that they took blood from Maxi and did chest x-rays to see if the lipomas has spread to a more dangerous or complicated degree. I was told that Maxi’s blood work was like “that of a puppy,” which meant that he would probably withstand anesthesia well. And the chest x-rays showed the lipomas with the spreading of tissue under the armpit, but nothing that looked dangerous. This meant Maxi was cleared for surgery.
From start to finish, the surgery took 6 hours. And this incredible Vet took the time to come out and explain what had been done with each issue that needed intervention. He was calm, warm, caring and compassionate. I needed this Vet as the one to oversee Maxi’s surgery. Heck, I needed this Vet to oversee me!
I prayed for a good outcome every step of the way. I asked God to watch over Maxi because besides my son, Maxi is all I have in this world. I wrote on Facebook for my friends to please pray for Maxi. I received an outpouring of well wishes and speedy recovery messages from that post, along with messages to help me think positively. My friends are a huge part of my world. They comforted me to no end.
And now for the special part. Once the surgery was over, the Vet came out to tell me how successful everything went. He knew I looked drained. I hadn’t eaten anything all day, as I felt nauseous throughout the whole 6-hour ordeal. He helped me pack up my things and told me to go home and that I could call later to check up on Maxi. I could have kissed this man. He was a hero in my eyes.
Now, the fact that this animal hospital has a “rehab” center is amazing in and of itself. It also has a boarding facility where healthy dogs are boarded when their owners go away. We board both of our dogs there too. And the staff in the boarding facility love Maxi just as much (well, maybe not just as much) as I do. When I spoke to the clerical staff, they put me on the phone with one of the young men who I knew well from the boarding area. He told me how well Maxi was doing. He also told me that he crawled into Maxi’s cage and laid down with him for about 15 minutes and rubbed Maxi’s back as Max gave this young man a “face bath.” I was shocked. Where would someone at an animal hospital get into an animal’s cage to comfort them? I told this young man that I absolutely couldn’t thank him enough and that he made my evening much less stressful knowing that someone gave my dog some extra attention.
The next day, Maxi was doing so well, that instead of spending two days in the hospital facility, Maxi was going to be transferred to the “rehab” facility a day early. When I spoke with another young man who happened to also love Maxi, he told me how well Max was doing and offered to take a couple pictures of Maxi with his cell phone and e-mail them to me (see below). I was blown away!! Where in the world would employees take the time to take a picture of your animal for you while in the hospital and e-mail them to you?? I told him he made my day like he couldn’t imagine.
And the most important thing was not only the love, caring and attention Maxi received, but that the same doctor called every single day, right after he finished “rounds” to give me a medical update on Maxi! I am blown away by this incredible and amazing facility. I have had family members in real hospitals that never received this level of care and attention!! And to even track down a doctor, any doctor, to find out how your family member was doing was a full-time job in and of itself!
My Maxi will probably be home and resting on my bed as you read this. I needed to share this incredible situation because I kept thinking, “What if it was my son who had this type of surgery?” I would be allowed to stay in his room and hold his little hand, but would he get the same level of caring, love and compassion from the employees? Would he be made to feel as “special,” as my dog was? To be quite honest, I highly doubt it. I do know that Pediatric hospital staff tends to have more compassion and caring than employees who take care of the adult staff. But to find such exceptional care for a dog is beyond incredible. Perhaps actual medical staff that takes care of people should do rotations at this veterinary hospital. Maybe medicine, like old dogs, could be taught some necessary new tricks.
I would like to thank the entire staff at the Long Island Veterinary Specialists hospital. Every single employee made me and my dog feel special and cared for. The surgical team was exemplary. The rehab employees were priceless. And a very special thank you to Anthony and Eric for loving my dog as if he was their own!
October 19, 2010
When I was 20 and studying Buddhism, I decided it was not for me. One of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism states that “Life is Suffering” and this negative kind of thinking just didn’t sit well with my youthful, ignorant, girl-from-Kansas self. Back then I was an optimist. Hopeful. Naïve. When you are 20, have big hair, wear size 8 Jordache jeans, and drive a 1978 Camaro with a killer stereo, there is very little compassion or understanding for suffering in life.
But fast forward only 15 years later, and that same unaware girl had gotten fat, had been married and divorced, hated her career, and drove a four-door Mercury. I was miserable, sad, lonely and afraid. So I turned once again to studying a spiritual way of life to turn my heart back on, and I kept coming back to the phrase, “Life is suffering.”
This is one of my favorite journeys into wisdom. And, no, I won’t tell you the complete lesson. You have to figure it out yourself or it’s no fun for the rest of us who ran around bumping into walls for ten years. But I can tell you this: the recognition of this truth does not bring about sorrow or loss or depression. It brings on freedom.
No matter what choice you make in life, you are going to have to pay a price for it. You cannot escape suffering. This insight is magnified in parenthood. I watch my boys make choices every day in their development that causes them pain and pleasure. I’m learning the lesson all over again. What follows is a very small, simplified example, but when it comes to wisdom, it’s good to start small sometimes:
Lyle and Wyatt both love little girls. They are fascinated by them – drawn to the bright pink clothes, the sparkly hair ties, and the fistfuls of curls on their head. Any girl brave enough to play with my boys will come away sans barrettes, headbands, hats, gloves or anything else that’s shimmering and pink. So on the playground Lyle follows the girls around, hoping for some attention. Sometimes an older girl will take a fancy to him and quickly makes him her baby by swaddling him in her coat and stuffing him into a makeshift crib under the jungle gym. Most of the time the girls scream and squeal and tell Lyle to go away.
Ah. Poor Lyle. He gets his heart broken. But the next day there he is again, trailing after the girls. But maybe this time he has learned something and he chooses not to be so grabby and aggressive. As a result, the girls are not so repulsed by my little boy. They tease him and won’t let him on the slide. But then after some clapping and smiling on Lyle’s part, the girls come to an agreement: Lyle can come inside their “fort,” but only under the slide. He’s glad to do this, but he’s not exactly cooperating with all of it.
Outside of the female fort, Wyatt is teetering back and forth on his feet, pressing his fist in and out of his mouth, and making his “wubbawubba” sound. He wants to follow his brother into the fort, but he is a little more leery. He has also had his heart broken by a girl in the form of a good shove when he tried to play the wubbawubba song on her arm. And as he stands there rocking and making his strange sounds, the girls begin to shriek at him.
“He’s creepy,” they say. “It’s that creepy baby again.”
Then one of them takes a closer look.
“He’s cute,” she says to her comrades. “This one is much cuter than that one.”
She points at Lyle.
“Let’s take this one, too. He can be our slave.”
So the girls bring Wyatt into their fort and after some discussion that turns into arguing, they decide to kick both boys out.
They shove Lyle and Wyatt out into the bright, warm sunshine of the playground and ban them from returning to the home under the slide. My sons cry a little. They try to get back in. They whine. They push, but the girls push harder. Wyatt falls down, gets up, and starts to play his wubbawubba song. He toddles off in search of me, but detours when a falling leaf skirts across the air and lands close by. Lyle sees a soccer ball bounce across the path, and he gives chase. The girls and their rude dismissal are forgotten.
I hope my children can always recover from rejection so bravely. I hope they understand that if they want to play, they are going to get hurt. They are going to get kicked, bit, shoved, pushed and run over any time they try to have fun or do what’s right for them. And someone will always try to make them a slave. Even in fun. And, yes, it’s going to hurt. Sometimes more than others.
The alternative is to choose differently. They could choose to stay inside, to stay safe, to not take risks, to not chase girls, or balls, or dreams, or anything else that makes life so wonderful. But no matter what they choose, they are going to get hurt. They are either going to cry from loneliness or cry from heart break. They are either going to ache with ignorance or ache with experience.
I cannot always choose for them, and if I did, I may not choose wisely. I want to protect them from mean people. I want to spare them the bullies of the playground. And I will do my best to be a fair and just buffer between them and the world. But in the process of watching them choose, if I am a good mother, I will teach them that they are also learning to live. And it’s hard. Yes. It’s hard. But after all — life is suffering. And I mean that in the best possible way.