Is “Find Work-Life Balance” Just Code for “Feel Guilty?”

17 Jan

It’s great to be back. If that sounds insufficiently guilt-ridden, sorry. I’m happy to be back at work. No ambivalence, no self-flagellation. It’s great to earn a paycheck again. It’s magnificent to get coffee, use the bathroom by myself and be around grownups. Even meetings are fun, though that feeling will surely pass. So today I’m outing myself as a happy working mom, despite the pressure women with kids often feel to sound miserable and conflicted about the “choice” to work.

Susan goes on to make sure the readers know she enjoyed staying home, loved a long maternity leave, and will revel in her weekend with kids all day. But she makes the point that she chose to go back to work, is happy, and refuses to feel guilty. Amen to that! I feel like more than half the battle for women who work is striving for the supposed balance. Why is it that men feel less inclined to stress out about this ever so tenuous balance? It’s not that they don’t feel torn to have a balanced life. It’s not that fathers don’t want to spend more time with their family, their kids.  So what gives? Why is this a bigger issue for women?

Read the rest at Forbeswoman

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I Hate My Teenage Daughter: Comedy at the Expense of Women and Girls

22 Dec

In the past few months I have been bombarded with advertisements about a new show on TV : I Hate My Teenage Daughter. The other night, with now new shows on, the kids asleep, and me too exhausted after an evening strategy meeting to do anything else, I succumbed and watched the pilot of the show. I’d like to pretend that I only watch TV worthy of my time, and that I never watch crappy TV. That unfortunately is not the case. I have been know to rubberneck to terrible shows like  Teen Mom, and soap operas like Private Practice. I am not above watching crappy TV. But I Hate My Teenage Daughter takes the cake. With nothing else on TV, I still could not bare to sit through the 30 minute show. It was badly written, with a terrible laugh track, and worse yet, stereotypes moms and teenage girls in the worst way possible. The moms are portrayed as the dumbest, most insecure, petty, women. They are terrible parents, and even worse, incompetent women. They apparently can’t dress themselves (in the first few minutes of the pilot one of the moms is unaware she is wearing a pajama top to work), and certainly can’t parent or even support themselves. The teenage daughters are also dumb, dress like sluts, and don’t do anything but be mean to other kids, skip school, and plot how to be horrible to their mothers.

Read the rest at Forbeswoman

5 Time Zones, 4 Cities, 3 Kids: Keeping Sane And Having Fun While Traveling With Kids

18 Nov

I am writing this post from a rented flat in London, England. My three kids, ages 7, 5 and not yet 2, are sleeping in the bedrooms after a long but wonderful day traipsing about London. Since last Friday we have been in Chicago, and Paris, and arrived in London on Wednesday late afternoon. We will leave for Boston on Sunday morning, and then head back to our home in Eugene, Oregon, next Friday. As I lay with the two youngest in the queen bed that I will share with them tonight, I marveled at the fact that we have already been across three time zones in less than seven days, and have two more to cross in the next eight days. Yet we are all not only alive, but actually enjoying ourselves.

My husband and I have always placed travel high on our list, and decided that we would not stop just because we had kids. Our oldest is 7 and has been in 7 countries. Our 5 year old has been in 4 countries as has our 2 year old. And over all the travels, over all the miles, I have definitely learned what works, what doesn’t work, and how to pull everything together. So here are my top 10 travel tips for traveling with kids, and still enjoying yourself:

Read the rest at Forbeswoman

5 Myths About Working Women

5 Nov

This morning I will be talking to a group of women about how I got where I am today. In thinking about that topic (usually I talk about strategic planning, or small business management) and how I was going to create a 30 minute talk that was engaging and not just all about me, I got to thinking about the hurdles and challenges that I have faced as a woman in my career. Most of my challenges have been in ignoring preconceived notions, and not getting upset when someone has one about me. The more I thought about challenges the more I realized that they can be boiled down to 5 myths about working women. Clearly these are not THE 5 myths, but ones I and many other women have faced:

1. Women belong barefoot and pregnant:
About 4 years ago I was featured in an article on USA about working moms and their choices vs. stay at home moms and their choices. I was happy to be in the article and share my story as a working mom.  The article was in the actual paper, as well as the online version of the story. By 10am the morning it was published there were over 500 comments. Most of them initially very critical of me, and the fact that I had “abandoned” my children while I went to work. The viciousness of the comments, and the clearly low opinion these people held of working women was shocking. Let me give you a direct quote from a comment:

How can you be a CEO and a Mom at the same time? My experience with mothers, especially new ones, is that they never stop talking about their kids. So one can conclude that a “Mommy Ceo” sits around at work and talks about kids all day. Also women are inherently emotional and good businesses are not run on emotions, bad ones are. Personally I’m not going to listen to a CEO or respect one that is nursing a child. Women belong in the home, not playing CEO. Its not play time this is the real world, stop making business decisions and start making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your kids.

Hopefully as you read that comment your jaw drops, because it is amazing that anyone in 2007 would have even dared type that. But of course this is why women still feel the battle towards equality has not ended. But at the end of the day, I am a CEO and I am a mommy. So I have staunchly tromped all over this comment, as many, many other women leaders have before me, with me, and will in the future. Idiots will always exist, but we know that this myth has been soundly debunked. How cool was it to hear that Virgina Rometty was appointed the CEO of IBM starting January 2012?

Read the rest at Forbeswoman

Working Mother Magazine Salutes 2011 Working Mothers of the Year

22 Oct

Originally posted on Forbeswoman….

As I tab through the entries for the women who have won the honor from Working Mother Magazine as the 2011 Working Mothers of the Year, it is hard not to be inspired. All these moms were nominated and hail from the Working Mother Magazine 100 Best Companies to work for. Every mother on this list is tackling a career in companies and industries often dominated by their male counterparts. And on top of it these women are mom’s taking on more than one might imagine possible.

There is Sandra Boller-Bibrey who decided with her husband, after raising 7 of their own children, to adopt 4 sisters, ages 9-15.  There is Jamie Simpson, a partner at Ernst and Young, who thought she needed to resign when she had a child with medical needs. But instead, her company convinced her to stay on, and helped her satisfy her career goals while still giving her the time and balance she needed to take care of her child. There is also Barbara Taylor, BDO’s General Counsel and most senior woman, mom  to 3 kids 14 and under. I could go on and on.

The coolest thing about this list, besides the amazing women on it, is the fact that all these women have achieved what I consider the holy grail for working mothers: recognition in their careers, and amazing feats as mothers. We hear and read so much about women who are “mommy tracked” or women who wonder how many children they can have, and still keep their career on track, or women who put off having children in order to keep their career on track. This list of women all embraced who they are in the working world, but did so without apologizing for being mothers. This may mean adjusting work hours in order to make everything happen, or staying up late after kids are in bed, to finish work. But it does not mean giving up the chance to succeed in the business world, or bow down to the man who has chosen his career over anything else. One way or another these women have embraced their lives, and prove to all of us that you can have it all. I too salute all these working moms. Congratulations!

Working Women: When Have You Waited Too Long To Become a Mom?

3 Oct

New York Magazine has a very controversial photo on it’s front cover this month. It mimics the famous Vanity Fair cover in which Demi Moore posed nude, and pregnant. Despite how you may feel about whether women should take advantage of advances in medicine that allow them to become mothers in their late 40′s or early 50′s, the picture on the cover of New York Magazine is disturbing. The woman on the cover definitely does not look like she could be or should be pregnant. And maybe it’s that initial shock at the picture that make many people feel that women should not be using medical advances to become pregnant when they are 49, or 52 like some of the women in the article. I don’t feel like older women should not become mothers. I think there are many children in this world who would only hope to have a parent want them so much, they were willing to do everything it takes to be pregnant at 50. I’m no doctor — but it’s got to be an overwhelmingly hard experience. I had my first child at 30, and my 3rd at 35. I can tell you that those 5 years made a huge difference in how I felt pregnant. I can only imagine what a 50 year old feels like.

Read the rest at Forbeswoman

The Path to Happiness? Be a Working Mom

22 Sep

I just read a fascinating post on Forbes.com by a fellow contributor, Alice G Walton. She references a few studies that equate mind wandering with negative feelings and depression. Alice writes:

So is being happy all about shifting our tendency away from focus on ourselves? Research in other areas, like neuro-theology (literally the neurology of religion), suggests that there may be something to this. Andy Newberg, MD at the University of Pennsylvania has found that both in meditating monks and in praying nuns, areas of the brain important in concentration and attention were activated, while areas that govern how a person relates to the external world were deactivated. These findings may suggest that for people who practice meditation or prayer, the focus becomes less on the self as a distinct entity from the external world, and more on connection between the two.  This reflects the idea discussed earlier where shifting attention from inside to outside is at least part of what quells unhappiness.

I find these studies, and Alice’s take on depression and unhappiness, fascinating. I immediately related and think that the reason I am a generally happy person, and always have been (depression is, thank goodness, not something I have ever had to deal with), is that I am an over committed overachiever. I am always, and always have been, committed to too many things. In high school I was class president, and in theater, and did three sports a year, and played the flute in flute choir, and got straight A’s. Oh yeah, and I also worked on weekends for additional pocket money. Today I find myself as the mother of three young boys (ages almost 2, 5 and 7), the CEO of a tech company, on three committees, on the Parent Council at my sons’ school, on the Board of Directors at the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, on the Board at Whole Earth Nature School, President of the Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network, and the current Chair for the Willamette Angel Conference.

Read more at Forbeswoman

Old Navy Coupons Gone Wrong

1 Sep

There is something about seeing a poorly implemented marketing program that just makes me want to strangle the person who thought it up. Someone in Old Navy’s marketing department had the brilliant idea to help drum up sales during August. Here is the idea:

Get people to come into Old Navy from Aug 1st through Aug 18th by enticing them with coupons. Every $20 you spend, you get a coupon that gives you $10 off any $20 or more purchase in the future. Every $40 you spend gives you $20 off every $40 or more purchase in the future. If you spend for instance, $190 at Old Navy between Aug 1-Aug18, then you would have been given, at the time of the purchase, $80 worth of Super C-A-S-H to be redeemed at the end of the month.
Old Navy only let customers redeem the coupons from Aug 25-29.
So far so good. Sounds like a pretty typical coupon promotion. But here is the kicker:

If you spent $180 in ONE transaction, you still got multiple Super C-A-S-H coupons that looked like this:

Read the rest at Forbeswoman

AIRBNB and The Internet Trust Issue: Who Can You Trust Online?

4 Aug

I have been using sites like VRBO.com for over 10 years. I have stayed in more vacation rentals than hotels in the past 10 years. I love being able to rent a condo or house in a city or tropical place, that gives me the luxuries of location, beautiful and clean dwellings, but a kitchen and laundry, for the same price or cheaper than any hotel. I often travel with my kids, and with three young boys I really can’t go anywhere for a week if I can’t do laundry. It would mean packing way too much in order to make sure my kids had clean clothes the entire week. It’s also not a vacation if my husband and I have to eat out at restaurants for every meal with the three boys (ages 1.5, 5 and 7).  I love using vacation rental services.

Recently, though, I have been investigating flats in London for a trip (business and pleasure) I need to take in November with my family. I have had a hard time finding a flat with the right requirements, in the right location, that is available. I found one, through a listing on a HomeAway.com site, but the actual flat that I am being offered is not listed, and there are no customer reviews. A rental agency that had another flat I saw, with many positive reviews, offered me a different flat. But they want me to wire 300 GBP to hold the reservation. And this time (this all took place a few weeks ago, before the AIRBNB story broke) I have hesitated and felt nervous about sending a wire transfer for a vacation rental that is not listed anywhere on any website. The rental agency doesn’t have a website either, but they do list three other flats on HomeAway.com sites which have positive customer reviews. But still I have hesitated and have yet to reserve anything for London. I have, however, sent a Paypal deposit of 100 Euros, for a rental in Paris, that appears on VRBO.com and has 35 customer reviews (all positive). Why is this relevant? Because I think the home exchange/vacation rental services online have a major trust issue to deal with.  And after the AIRBNB stories, that issue has just gotten HUGE.

Read the rest at Forbeswoman

The Right to Choose: Work and Motherhood

22 Jul

Full disclosure: I am about to write about a book,TORN, in which I have written an essay. I am not the author of the whole book, and I do not receive any financial gain from the book being sold, but I am a contributor to the book.  Today I watched a piece about working mothers on CBS News, all about whether working mothers make good mothers, and whether good mothers make good workers. The conclusion of this “news” piece is that if women have careers as opposed to “jobs” they tend to be happier and feel less guilt. News flash:  Happy women seem to make good moms. Seems like a pretty obvious statement to me, and it really does not address the guilt that most working moms still feel, regardless of whether they are working because they absolutely need the money, or because they value their careers. I love my job. I am a career-focused person. I am lucky enough that if I really did not want to work full time, I would not have to. But I definitely would not be a happy woman if I did not have a career. This does not mean that I don’t value stay-at-home moms, and that I don’t wish sometimes I could be there 24 hours a day for my boys. But for me, in order to be a happy mommy, I need to feel satisfied with my career and my work. And if I am not happy, how could I be a really good mommy to my boys? But why is this news? Why are working mothers constantly feeling judged by our society, and studied, to see if they are indeed “good” mothers?

Read the rest on Forbeswoman