Years ago, when our kids were little, there was a single moment on a Saturday afternoon that I clearly remember. The house was busy. More than just our kids were running around inside. They were loud. They were hungry. They were thirsty. A glass of milk was spilled. I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time for this! I’m trying to get some volunteer work done, and it’s impossible to concentrate and focus with all of this commotion.” My thoughts continued, “How can I get all of these children out of here so that I can help others?” And then it hit me. Like a ton of bricks. One of the kids had survived some traumatic situations in the past. Maybe welcoming him and giving him a little time (like enough to pour a glass of milk or even mop up a spill) was the best way for me to help others. Maybe the people who most needed my time and attention were standing right in front of me at that very moment. How did I miss it? Why wasn’t it immediately obvious? Why couldn’t I see the forest for the trees? That moment changed me. At least a little.
Fast forward a few years, and I still want to help others. Since retiring, it’s been easy to find ways to continue doing most of what I enjoyed doing at work. I send my husband financial reports. I create and maintain web sites. I’m organizing everything. I’ve planned a few events. And there is no shortage of intelligent and engaging people to talk with most days (in person and online). When I left work, my only concern was that I had wanted a few more years to help younger employees realize their full potential in the workplace, and I figured that would be hard to do in retirement. But I also wanted to have more time to do other things, so I left.
I’m convinced that the minute you leave the work world you start to lose touch with it. Changes are occurring every day and you’re not keeping up with them because you aren’t experiencing them. But yesterday morning, after I hung up the phone following a monthly conversation with a former European colleague, and after sending a quick networking note to another young woman whose career was launched only a couple of weeks ago, I had another one of those “Ah ha” moments. I realized that I am helping others with their careers. At least a little.
When I started working, my career goal was simple; show that it was possible for a woman to work full time while raising children. In hindsight it seems almost silly, and it even seemed like a modest goal at the time. The thing is, it wasn’t easy. Ever. As I stated in my Stamina blog post, the critical success factor for me was marrying the right person. My husband could not have been more supportive. My goal became his goal, and while there were many challenges, frustrations (and not just Tech Frustrations), and stories that only became funny in hindsight, we pulled it off. One day at a time.
The goal sounded trivial, even in 1985. The implementation of the goal was and is anything but trivial, even in 2017.
Now, when we gather with friends, most of them retired, it’s the stories of the craziest and most hectic days we recall and laugh about. The daughter who cried for at least five days in a row when we picked her up from daycare. The inability to helicopter parent which resulted in my husband exclaiming, “What do you mean you have to memorize the Periodic Table of Elements by tomorrow morning?!” And the annual Halloween costume conversation which started with, “You can be any character hanging in this aisle [at Walmart].”
For those of you parents working and raising kids right now, I think it’s worth clearly stating that what you are doing is hard. And it’ll probably be worth it in the end. You’re showing your "village" that you value the education, upbringing, and guidance they provided. You're showing your employers that working parents can be strong contributors and leaders. You’re showing your kids that hard work is important, it isn’t always easy, and you’re giving them real opportunities to add value around the house which builds lasting self-esteem. You’re showing another generation of young parents what’s possible and hopefully helping them understand that both families and careers are worth the effort.
What you’re doing matters.
If you're a working parent and/or young employee and think that I can help you in any way, please feel free to contact me.
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With special guest William M. Timpson, Ph.D.
Technology enables us to learn and connect with each other in ways I never imagined as I worked toward a degree in the leading edge field of computer science “back in the day”. At that time computers were often used for complex computations, a long distance phone call was expensive, and writing letters was time consuming and provided a very slow Return on Investment. Fast forward to 2017. Almost every day I am taken aback by the wide variety of options we have to communicate instantly with almost everyone we know and even some we don't know. Facebook and other forms of social media enable us to easily keep in touch and share the most exciting (and mundane) aspects of our lives with relatives and friends that are near and far; some we may not have seen face-to-face for decades and some who may live on the other side of the world. Twitter lets us receive seemingly unfiltered messages from so many, including the President of the United States. And a plethora of news channels enable us to filter perspectives so that we can customize our impressions of world events and the attitudes of others. Most of the time I think that this is great and that it enriches our lives and improves our relationships. But sometimes it seems overwhelming, my view of the world and current events becomes skewed and distorted, and/or I am left with a feeling that “everyone” else has a life fueled by a steady stream of euphoria and joy while I’m sitting at home doing laundry … again. That can be a Tech Frustration.
Recently, my husband, 21-year-old son, and I watched a video about Millennials in the Workplace. It sparked a great discussion, and let’s just say that the Baby Boomer parents and Millennial son didn’t see eye-to-eye on all of the opinions shared. It was a lively conversation. And it got me thinking about relationships and how they can be enhanced or hurt because of the existence of social media, our attitudes about it, and our determination to use it carefully or treat it casually and/or carelessly.
Through some Restorative Justice volunteer work, I met an interesting and inspirational guy named Dr. William Timpson. Dr. Timpson is a professor in the School of Education at Colorado State University, and he has a fascinating background that includes work in Northern Ireland, South Africa, South Korea, and Burundi. Dr. Timpson and the Restorative Justice program have taught me a lot about listening and conflict resolution. Recently I asked Dr. Timpson how he thinks technology and social media are impacting our ability to strengthen relationships and resolve conflicts. Drawing from his 2002 book, Teaching and Learning Peace (Madison, WI: Atwood), here is some of what he told me.
Dr. Timpson: We all know that good communication can be pivotal in defusing a volatile confrontation. It helps lower emotions and defenses so everyone can obtain better understanding and define peaceful resolution alternatives. This information draws on Tom Gordon’s (1974) Teacher Effectiveness Training to describe three sets of skills that provide an effective model for establishing good communication: 1) Deep Listening, 2) Empathetic Expressing, and 3) Consensus.
Covey, S. (1989) The seven habits of highly effective people, New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
Gordon, T. (1974) Teacher effectiveness training. New York, NY: Peter H. Whyden.
Solnit, R. (1994) Savage dreams: A journey into the landscape wars of the American West. New York, NY: Vintage.
Timpson, W. (2002) Teaching and Learning Peace, Madison, WI: Atwood.
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