Posts Tagged ‘childcare’

I’m always a bit suspicious of company outings. I get that they’re a nice way to connect with co-workers in a different way. I just worry that sometimes they’re the only time people actually have fun together. Meaning, the actual work isn’t together or isn’t fun, and the outings are a compensation for that. I like being with others and I like having fun. I don’t like the idea of relegating either to once a quarter.

Which is why I don’t feel so bad that we hardly ever make it to the zoo. Tomorrow is my day with the monkeys and while all week I’ve been thinking I’ll take them to the zoo, it turns out we have actual ‘work’ to do instead. And we need some down time.

This is how it looks like our day will shake out: Early morning: laze around the house. Morning: playground/ haircuts/grocery store to shop for picnic in the evening. Mid-day: nap (hopefully for all of us). Afternoon: either haircuts or grocery store, which ever didn’t get done in the morning. Evening: picnic in the park across the street from our house, concert in said park, bedtime, adult time. As you can see, there’s no time in this busy schedule for a trip to the zoo.

I think that’s OK as long as I can build having fun into the other things we’re doing during the day. Luckily, the monkeys like getting haircuts. So that’s built in fun. If tomorrow they suddenly decide that they hate haircuts (not unlikely), I can always make it fun with the ultimate pay off: donuts. As for picnic planning, the monkeys are into it.  I’ve gotten them involved in menu planning – it now involves about 6 kinds of fruit and popcorn, plus my additions – PB&J on challah and chicken salad sandwiches. As long as I remember that going to the grocery store isn’t just an errand to hurry through but is an experience  for us all to enjoy, we can still have a really fun day without a special activity.

It’s not that I’m against going to the zoo, or company outings. It’s just that I want to make sure that fun and togetherness are baked into everyday activities, not something out of the ordinary. If we can make the work fun, then just think about how much fun the fun can be.




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I’ve been working part time since the monkeys were born. When I first went back to work it was two days a week and over the last two years it’s slowly inched up to four days a week. That actually seems like the right amount for me to be able to feel somewhat successful in my career and also feel like I get to spend a lot of time with the monkeys.I say somewhat successful because it’s still a challenge. I can’t do everything I’d like to do and I have to really prioritize how I spend my time. I say no to a lot of requests. This is especially hard as I work for a small and growing consulting firm and there’s always more than enough work to go around. I’ve been with the company since it was really small, am a leader there, and am vested in its success. I often feel bad because I can’t do as much as I know needs to be done.I feel especially guilty when I see my colleagues and friends struggling with working many hours and having too much to do when I know that it is technically possible for me to take things off of their plates. But it’s not possible for me to do so and maintain my part time status, so I don’t.  For a while, this was really challenging for me. But I’ve recently decided not to stress over it, because it is what it is, and feeling guilty isn’t actually helping anyone. In fact, my friends and colleagues at work have told me not to feel so guilty, that they just accept that I give what I can and so should I. And I have indeed felt much less guilty about work lately (1 point self aware adult; 0 points Jewish heritage). And then there is the other guilt. Last week, I was in California for a couple of days for work. I hadn’t traveled in about a month, but it was to be the first of two longish trips to the West Coast in the course of two weeks. And it was my first trip since we lost our nanny. So I felt guilty just getting on the plane.

Of course, as I settled into my work, I forgot about the guilt and concentrated on what I was doing. I was immersed in my work and feeling pretty good about it. Until I got this text message from my husband: Monkey 2 has infections in both ears. Cue spiral into guilt and recrimination, vision of husband on sofa buried under two screaming kids, fantasies about quitting my job, vision of myself on sofa buried under two screaming kids,  worries about paying the mortgage, etc. Oh, and then off to lead a team of 15 people in a working session.

This other guilt is equally bad for my job, equally unhelpful to my husband and the monkeys, and equally unhealthy for me. Yet I can’t seem to figure out how to get past it. Is it even possible to not feel guilty over not being with your kids when they’re sick? If I can get over the guilt about traveling for work and leaving home and childcare responsibilities to my husband, does it make me a bad mom? If I was the dad, would I even be writing this post? I know this last question isn’t quite fair, just like I know that there are some moms who do travel for work without the guilt. What I’d really like to know is, what’s their secret – and can I get some?

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One of my Strengthsfinders strengths that I’ve always identified with is input, which means that I’m a collector of information. In my case, it means that I’m an information addict, filing pieces away in my brain, overloading on data, never shirking a web search when more information might be out there that might be able to help me in some way that I can’t even imagine.

When I was pregnant and a new mom, it actually started to feel less like a strength and more like a weakness. Especially since the more books your read about getting your babies to sleep, eat or play, the more perspectives you can find about the ‘right way to do it.’ Ultimately, after consulting 6 different books about gas and finding 5 different answers ranging from it’s all in the parent’s head to your child could be seriously ill, I made a clean break and decided not to rely on books to help me rear my children.

Instinct, I decided, would be a way better teacher for me than information, and I vowed to stop reading the baby books. Oh yes, every once in a while I can’t resist, and still consult a chart that tells me what my kids should be able to do by now or an article that helps me decide whether they’re really sick or just have some evil cold. But for the most part, my husband and I have been going it alone since sometime before the monkeys’ first birthday.

Enter the era of the tantrum. Lately, my kids have been really stumping me. The whining. The crying. The defiance for defiance’s sake. It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. And while every once in a while I find myself coming up with an inspired way to handle their behavior, for the most part I have no freakin’ idea what to do.

So today, I read that Dr. Harvey Karp has come out with a new book, The Happiest Toddler on the Block. I’ve heard about his first book, The Happiest Baby on the Block, but never read it. And while I’m still really into the idea of parenting by intuition, I’m wondering if it has it’s limits. I mean, how many times can you use the same approach to address behavior and find that it doesn’t really work before you start questioning that approach.  

I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve already learned something from reading the review of the book in the New York Times. The article goes into a bit of detail on Dr. Karp’s method for talking a toddler out of a tantrum. Instead of reasoning, or trying to soothe through calming adult language, Dr. Karp suggests talking toddler speak, mimicking your children’s language and phrasing. In response to a child’s wilful demands for a cookie, “Dr. Karp adopts a soothing, childlike voice to demonstrate how to respond to the toddler’s cookie demands. “You want. You want. You want cookie. You say, ‘Cookie, now. Cookie now.’ ”

Talking directly to toddlers in their own language shows them that you’re listening to them, and, Dr. Karp suggests, reinforces that you’re acknowledging their point of view. My guess is that it may also surprise them enough to shock them out of their tantrum. Gotta try that one.

This idea really resonates with me because it reflects the attitude I try to take when having conversations with clients and colleagues. When folks are frustrated or upset, the first thing I do is repeat their concerns to help them fell heard. Of course, when I do it with my kids, my instinct is to rephrase what they say in my own words. But I really like Dr. Karp’s suggestion of using their words and their phrasing to really drive home the point.

 So I’m intrigued. I probably will even buy the book. And it makes me think about the limits of intuition. As a consultant in an emerging field, I am often asked to solve problems that go beyond my area of expertise. Most of the time, that’s OK, because something that I’ve done before prepares me for what I have to do now. Even if I don’t have the exact experience of doing something, I have enough related experience to figure it out.

But any good consultant knows that some things lie directly outside of their area of expertise, and therefore require bringing in other people who do have the knowledge, or figuring out how to learn really quickly. As much as I think relying on your intuition is a good thing, its also critical for me to know when I’m outside of your zone of effectiveness, and when I need to consult outside experts to get the job done — whether that’s with my children, my colleagues, or my clients.

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal had a great article about how Obama is trying a new approach to win South Carolina. In the past, the way to win in the South has always been to use established networks and leaders, get the endorsements or preachers and politicians, and roll on to victory. In part because Hillary has tied up some crucial endorsements, and in part because he’s going after a younger audience, Obama is going direct to the voters, establishing his own infrastructure, and trying to motivate voters who might not otherwise participate in the primary.

When I first read the article, I thought to myself, Obama, you better stick with what works if you want to win this state. And then I realized that what’s playing out in South Carolina is what plays out in the business world all of the time. The established players stick with what works, and newcomers innovate to create new approaches, products, services and businesses. Often, the newcomers end up building very large businesses very quickly. The established players, sticking with what works and playing the same old game, end up with much slower growth. It’s the classic Innovators Dilemma as described by Clayton Christensen

It’s also something I’ve been encountering at home. When our nanny of two years was leaving, I wanted to stick with what worked – finding another nanny to replace her so that our combined school/nanny schedule would stay the same. It hasn’t worked out very well (more on this later!) and now we’re mixing it up – trying to have the boys in school more and considering not even looking for a new nanny.

It is scary to try a new approach when there’s so much history telling you that the old one worked really well. Sometimes you try something new because you can’t go the established route, like Obama not getting the support of some key established players in South Carolina. Sometimes you try something new because you try the old way and it fails, like me with the new nanny. And sometimes you try something new because you have a hunch that it might work.

I’m keeping an eye on the South Carolina primary – I hope that Obama’s campaign innovation strategy works. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed about our innovation in the childcare routines, too.

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I was reading last week’s Business Week and came across an article on Richard Sapper. Apart from an inane argument about how to design, the article is a nice profile piece. I especially liked this quote from Sapper: “The most important thing for me is to give everything I do a form that expresses something. It’s not neutral. It has a point of view and a personality.”

So what’s the link outside of the world of design? Well, expressing a point of view and personality in everything that you do. When we’re with our kids, especially little kids, much of the day is taken up by routine tasks. Diaper changes, feeding, bathing, dressing, laundry, feeding, diaper changes, undressing, etc. Its easy for me to get into a rut where I’m doing these things quickly, without expression just to get them done. But when those tasks take up the majority of your time – which they do any time you have multiple young kids in the house – you can miss a lot of opportunities for fun, play, learning and development.

One way that we imbue cooking and eating with personality and point of view in our house is making it a collaborative process. And yes, making calazones with two 2.5 year-olds is a messy and potentially aggravating process. But it can also be a lot of fun. More importantly, it gives me a chance to start teaching my kids real skills and gets them excited about eating. When they were smaller I used laundry folding time to teach them about colors and the names of different articles of clothing. Now, we’re potty training. We combine bum-wiping with yoga practice. Downward dog is fun for the boys and particularly useful for me in that context.

I know, this is getting kind of gross,  but it is true. On days when I have the energy and creativity to bring personality and point of view to routine child care activities, me and my boys have a better day. And when I don’t, I not only bore them, but I kind of bore myself.

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