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Posts Tagged ‘sick kids’

We had a rough bout of the stomach flu the other night, with each monkey up every hour or so throwing up. At first, I went to sleep with Monkey # 1 and was taking care of him. But then Monkey # 2 started, and I switched beds (and rooms), thinking that Monkey #1 was probably done puking. He wasn’t. And he wasn’t pleased to wake up to find Mr. Daddy next to him in bed instead of me.

We talked about it a lot the next day. How there’s only 1 mommy and 2 sick boys, and I needed to try to be with both.

Monkey #2 said, ‘I wish there two mommies.’ Monkey #1 seems to be a bit better at conceptual math. ‘Next time, each of us could have half a mommy and half a daddy to sleep with us. That would work.’

Not willing to be outdone by his brother, Monkey #2 topped him with this: ‘If we had 100 mommies, a few could sleep with each of us, some could sleep with daddy, some could sleep with Misha and some could sleep in the basement.’

And some could cook dinner, and some could fold laundry, and some could work. I’m liking that last plan.

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Brazen Careerist, is one of my favorite blogs, and I especially liked Penelope’s recent post on how to be a good manager. Her mantra: be generous. Which I love, of course, because it’s not only something that applies to being a good manager, it applies to being a good person in general. Life is not a zero sum game. Surprisingly, giving more to other people doesn’t leave you with less. It leaves you with more. So yes, generosity is critical, in management and in relationships outside of work.

This post got me thinking about what I think it takes to be a good manager. And I think it’s simple: be empathetic. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes, seeing a situation from their perspective is critical. It allows you to assess the situation better and therefore respond to it in a more appropriate manner. It also helps you win the trust of the people who you are managing or leading, so that even if you have to tell them some stuff that’s hard to hear, they know that you’re coming from a place of understanding and appreciation of their position.

I learned a little bit about empathy this week from the monkeys. Monkey #1 was really sick: pneumonia. For the second time in three months. Poor guy was a mess, with a fever and a hacking cough. To make things worse, his cough kept him from sleeping for very long. So, I had a sad, feverish, phlegmey, tired kid on my hands for several days.

His brother was equally sad, whiny, and clingy. But not sick. Initially, I’ll admit, I was annoyed with monkey #2. Couldn’t he see that I had my hands full with his brother?  Didn’t he know why I couldn’t pick him up?

But then I looked at the situation from his perspective.

Here he was, deprived not only of a lot of my attention, but also deprived of his playmate and his best friend. Realizing that Monkey #2 was reacting not only because he was jealous but also because he was lonely and, of course, bored, helped me help him. I sent him to school without his brother. I made sure that he got plenty of park and play time with Mr. Daddy. And I made some room on my lap so that he could get in some snuggles, too.

It was still a pretty rough week, but at least I didn’t feel like I was ripping Monkey #2 off.

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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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This morning, my kids were acting strange. They were whiny and cried a lot, and one of them had woken up several times in the middle of the night – all of which are, thankfully, unusual behaviors in our household.

I tried to tell whether they were sick or not by taking their temperatures, but they didn’t have fevers. I tried to ask if they were in pain, but no matter how I phrase it, the answer is always yes. Our conversations go like this. Does your tummy hurt? Yeah. Does your head hurt? Yeah. Does your cheek hurt? Yes. Does your funny bone hurt? Yes. Very helpful.

I really wanted to know if they were sick or just cranky, so I could make a good decision about whether to send them to school. But I didn’t have a lot of information at my disposal. I had to guess, and trust my gut. My instinct told me that if they weren’t actually sick then they were at least pretty tired, and that I should keep them home from school.

As I thought about it, I realized that with my kids, I am often having to make decisions without all the information that I’d like to have. I have to just trust my judgement and make a call and hope its the right one. This actually happens a lot in business as well. As much as we’d like to be able to predict future outcomes, most of us have limited information. The information we seek is often unavailable, costly or even unreliable, so we have to just go with what we have. It can be hard to trust your judgement, and sometimes even harder to convince your colleagues to let you trust your gut.

That’s where parenting helps. It gives you a chance to practice trusting your gut. I’m going to try taking advantage of these opportunities, instead of dreading them, in hopes that when I have to use my judgement at work, I’ll be better at it. Ideally, just having more confidence in my gut decisions will inspire other folks to trust my gut as well.

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