Monday, September 27, 2010

School Days

The time of year has come: your kids are back in school. No matter what their age, this means the working mom has a new routine to establish. You have to creatively juggle all the responsibilities that come with getting your child prepared for the year ahead. Depending on whether your child is in pre-school, grammar school, high school or going off to college – there are a lot of dynamics involved in what kind of preparation is necessary. And for a career mom (dad’s too) this means you need to plan ahead to keep yourself and your child on track.

Mental Preparation
The first day back to school is always the best and worst… Will my son like his classes, his teachers, his classmates? Mentally I have prepared myself, but is my son prepared for the transition I have found that talking with your children about expectations for the coming year and offering encouragement and support helps ease those first day tensions, and encourages a more smooth transition.

It’s Okay for Moms to be Sentimental
My youngest son Joe is the last of my four children to venture through high school. It’s obviously not cool for Mom to walk him to school on the first day anymore, so I see him off in the morning, snap that “first day of school” photo for his memory book and wish him luck. I find myself reflecting on the sentiment; my baby is headed off to another year of high school… where did the time go?

Daily Planners and Investment
After that first day of class, the calendar seems to fill itself in. There are open houses to attend, sporting events, and extra-curricular activities. If you have more than one child in school, you might want to get a bigger daily planner. I think the most important event for any parent to attend is the Open House in order to meet you child’s teachers, talk about the curriculum and most importantly, determine what is expected of your child. Being there shows your child’s teachers that you are invested in your their education.
When it comes to other activities – try to attend as many as possible. If you have to shift meetings or other priorities, make that effort. You are your child’s biggest fan. It’s a big boost of confidence and reassurance when your child knows that you take an active interest in what they are doing.

“I Forgot It.”
What are classes without homework? Depending on your child, getting through homework can be a simple task or it can be a chore. My kids never sat at a desk to do their homework, it was always the kitchen table. You just have to find a place that works for them. I didn’t have to sit down at the table with all of my children, if they needed my help they asked for it. I would check and make sure their work was done and I was always on hand if needed. With four children, I couldn’t expect to have it easy with all of them. Joe needs just a little more motivation to get things done. And of course after getting things done, you need to make sure it gets to school. The most common excuse for not handing in homework: “I forgot it.” Kids will be kids, and as parents, we have to expect that, and do our best to guide them.

Listen and Engage.
Aside from helping with homework, there are plenty of ways to stay active in your child’s education. You can join the PTA or the Mom’s Club. You can help with fundraisers or volunteer at school functions. The best way to stay involved? LISTEN to your children. When they want to talk, they will talk and you need to be available and ready to listen. Communication is so important. I make it a point to ask Joe how his day was and ask him about his classes. When he wants to talk about it, he does. The best thing I can do is to let him know that I am always here to listen. I think that’s the best thing any parent can give; support.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sacrifice, Flexibility and Planning

So what does it take to be successful, aside from hard work? Sacrifice, flexibility and planning, and lots of it. When you visualize a dream and set your goals to get you there, many people will only see what they will gain. This can be a recipe for failure. In visualizing the big picture, you also have to consider the sacrifices that need to be made in order for you to reach your destination. In your endeavors for personal or professional success, here are some tips to help keep you on track:

Be prepared to make sacrifices…
Through the years I spent building my company and raising my family, I have traversed many crossroads which required me to sacrifice something. There were times when it came easy and times when it was a struggle to stray from my routines in order to let things happen. I think that is when you truly learn the art of balancing. Sometimes, it means you are at work until 8:00p.m. and you miss a family dinner. Sometimes it means you reschedule a meeting so that you can be there for a child’s game or recital. It is what it is, it’s the sacrifice we make when decide to raise a family and build a career.

The same rule applies to business, learning what needs to be done when and knowing what you can be flexible with, really helps balance the scales. I serve on boards and committees; I run a business in which I am responsible for giving direction to many people. I have obligations to all of these people. You can only imagine what my daily planner looks like… It keeps me on my feet, but it also means I have to juggle just right in order to find time to put my feet up.

Draw yourself a roadmap and stay on course…
Every night before I leave work, I prepare a list of what has to get done the next day, the “A” priorities. In the morning, I will update that list, after checking phone messages and emails. I try to focus on priorities. Some people can remember details off the top of their head, sure I can do that – but laying out a plan that I can see helps steer me through each action item I need to attend to. And of course, every now and then one item trumps another and I must sacrifice one priority for another. It happens and it isn't necessarily a bad thing. You just need to flexibility to realign yourself.

On Sunday night, I spend time reviewing my schedule for the upcoming week. I look at what is on my calendar – business commitments, service commitments, friend and family commitments, etc. It always helps if I can find one night a week where something is not planned. It doesn't always work out that way, but I find that an evening once a week that is free from commitments and planned activities helps keep me energized.

One thing to keep in mind as a priority – add fun to your agenda. Perform customer service while taking a customer to a ball game, discuss strategy over a nice dinner at an exciting restaurant – business does not always take place in the boardroom. Also, keep in mind what you think is a priority isn't always a priority in others’ minds. Use good judgment and discernment in deciding where you will spend your time. Achieving balance is not only a skill, but a mind set.

And remember, sometimes you must make time for yourself a priority. These days, it’s really easy to become burned out when you have so many commitments. You need time to relax. Shut your phone off, turn of the computer and give yourself some “me” time. That time you take to self-reflect will impact your balance and will help energize you for whatever’s next…