Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Is Jack Welch right? Can there be no balance for working mothers?

Not long ago, I had to explain to one of my company's principals that I needed more flexibility. My youngest son seems to have some developmental issues and, twice a month, I'd like to take him to a behavioural psychologist. The most convenient appointment is 9:00 AM on Fridays.

The man I reported to nodded with understanding, and agreed that priorities are priorities - kids come first. But even as he told me not to worry about it, to do what I had to do, I sensed and undercurrent of .... what can I call it? Patronization?

Somehow, even in the most seemingly liberal of work environments, I'd gotten the sense that I'd hit the ceiling. That, while my job was probably safe, this was as far as I was going to go. I would never see the letters "VP" after my name on a business card.

In a recent speech that's gotten a lot of press, Jack Welch of GE reportedly said, "There's no such thing as work-life balance. There are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences."

I'd hate to believe that's true...but in most companies, it probably is. However, his speech prompts other questions for me: Do I need to "have it all", in a traditional sense?

Honestly, no. Making VP would be great, but I've never been exceptionally competitive or title-oriented. I just want to love my job. If I'm leaving my kids for 8-10 hours a day to make a living, I'd damned well better be enjoying myself. I need to be challenged, for sure. And I also need to be proud of what I do. For me, that means working for an ethical company and having a title appropriate for my level experience and expertise. Mid-level management is fine...I don't need anything fancy.

What I don't want is stress. By stress, I don't mean too much work - I mean too much work without reasonable support or reasonable deadlines. Stress for me also comes from lack of trust and lack of flexibility. If I'm forced to use up my vacation time to care for sick children or made to punch in and out for medical appointments, I'm going to to be stressed.

I'm also going to be unhappy. And that's not beneficial to me OR my employer.

So that's what "having it all" means to me - have a job that I enjoy and that I'm proud of, and having ample, stress-free time with my family. And that can be after 5:00pm and on weekends. That works for me.

And believe me, (before my sleep was interrupted a minimum of twice nightly by my insomniac preschooler) I've been known to turn my laptop on after the kids have gone to bed. I've stayed up til 2:00am many, many times to finish projects. I've made many a conference call with the nebulizer running in the background. When I worked for a compassionate company, I did this happily.

I don't want my work judged through the filter of the "sacrifices" I make as working mother. I want my work judged solely on its quality, for better or for worse. Let my promotion to VP be judged on THAT basis, only.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

30-Day Shred: Lessons Learned - from Hot by BlogHer

Love this post from Hot by BlogHer -

It's been awhile since I did Jillian Michaels' 30 Day Shred regularly. I still pull it out on days when I'm not running, but it's not the religious experience it once was.

However, while running today, I realized that I've learned several lessons about fitness and health thanks to that DVD. (And listening to Jillian on her radio show, The Biggest Loser, etc.) These changes in thinking have completely altered the way I look at fitness now. Now, I'm not saying that I like exercising more now - I still have to force myself to work out! But for those of you who have done the shred, tell me if these revelations sound a little familiar to you:

1. More time does not always equal more fitness
I used to be someone who thought the longer I worked out, the more weight I'd lose. So I'd tether myself to a treadmill at 3.0 mph tops and stroll along for 45 minutes to an hour, barely breaking a sweat, and congratulate myself at the end for all my hard work. Or in college I'd go lift weights for an hour, taking long breaks between each set, moving slowly from machine to machine as I chatted with my friends.

The truth is, I wasted so much time when I worked out like that. I could have had the same or better results by not resting between sets of weights and pushing myself harder on cardio. The Shred is only 20 minutes - but in that 20 minutes I get a better workout than two hours of the above routine.

2. Complacency will get you nowhere.
If Jillian taught me anything, it's that you have to constantly push your body to make it change. If you can only do 10 push-ups now, and do them everyday, it's likely that 10 push-ups won't be quite as hard a month from now. You have to change the position, or add more push-ups in order to continue making your body work hard.

The same goes for an entire workout. If you do the same workout for the same length of time each time you exercise, eventually your body will grow accustomed to the movements and it will no longer be effective. The Shred has three different workouts, each working your body in different ways, and if you get to the point where one level is easy, you can follow the harder variation on the moves.

3. You can do more than you think you can.
I remember that first time doing the Shred, and I distinctly recall yelling at the TV, "Are you f*cking kidding me!?!?" at one point. After that first time through, I nearly shrugged my shoulders and told myself this was too hard for me. But Jillian's words stuck with me: You're strong! Ain't nothin' you can't do! And as soon as I regained the feeling in my extremities a week later, I tried it again.

With the right motivation, it's possible to push yourself harder than you've ever pushed yourself before. I needed to hear Jillian yelling at me to keep going, don't quit, fight through the pain. Now I try not to let my self-doubt get the best of me. Your mind can help or hinder you - which is it going to be? ...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Jon & Kate + 8 - some thoughts about the divorce

Just posted this comment to a conversation on TwitterMoms, and thought it was worth sharing here, as well.

On Jon & Kate's divorce:

I was also surprisingly sad about the divorce, especially since I've only seen a few episodes of the show.

I do feel that Kate was unfairly demonized in the press. With a husband as laid back as Jon, someone had to take control of that household! Was she overbearing? For sure, but she has EIGHT KIDS, and Jon didn't seem to be proactive at all as a parent. I sensed that if Jon were left alone with the kids for a day, Kate would have come home to six soiled diapers and a colossal mess where her tidy home once stood.

I also take issue with the judgments cast on Jon and Kate as parents in the media and on social sites. How do we know if they're good parents? We only know what editors and paparazzi allow us to see. I'm a working mother. Kate probably travels more than I do, but I'm away from my kids 40+ hours per week. She probably has WAY more time with her kids than I do, and you know what? GOOD FOR HER - if I had eight kids, I'd kill for a few nights a month in a hotel room, too!! And she's making far more money than I do, and again - good for her. Jon quit his job, and someone needs put those eight kids through college - and feed, clothe, educate and entertain them along the way.

I have sympathy for Jon, too. I'm sure he never signed up to be the father of eight. And Kate was probably a lot more laid back and fun when they got married, too.

That said, I think the fact that he's looking for apartments in NY says a lot about him. He's going to be 2.5 hours away from his kids, if he lives in NYC all the time. I take Jon for a guy who married young, got a lot more than he bargained for - or was ready for - and is looking sow some wild oats while he can.

My bet: You'll see him in the tabloids mingling with the likes of Lindsey Lohan before long.

I hope Kate's making enough to pay for a few good nannies. She's gonna need them.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I *hate* Insurance Companies


Gotta vent: #1 son had to get new orthotics last month, something that is NEVER covered by insurance. But, miraculously, when I called Aetna (yes, that's right: Aetna) I was told that they would be 100% covered. Hear that, Aetna? On May 14th, you told me my son's orthotics would be 100% covered. 100%.

Well, shocker of shockers, the podiatrist's office left a message yesterday saying that Aetna wasn't paying. Really? Did they not say 100% covered? I swear they did.

So I called Aetna this morning, and guess what? They're NOT covered. They would be, if my son were geriatric or diabetic, but since he's only hypotonic, they're not. Somehow, they left that part out. Funny, that.

Amazingly, my 5/14 conversation was documented - they do recognize that they told me we were covered. But we're still really not covered.


Thank God for flex accounts.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Affordable Autism Treatment

I have one, possibly two children on the autistic spectrum. Fortunately for me, my 7 year old is very "high functioning," and fully mainstreamed in the public school. (My youngest is awaiting diagnosis - his evaluation will be in August.)

I'm a working mother who, fortunately, has a working husband and good insurance. Our developmental pediatrician is 100% covered. But here's the thing: She really doesn't do anything except diagnose and recommend treatment. The treatments she recommends are largely therapy-based - behavioral psychologists, social skills, occupational therapy, speech therapy...

None of these treatments tend to be covered by insurance. If you're lucky, you can submit them as "out of network" expenses after you hit a deductible (in our case, I think it's $750) and then you can get 70% back. But my husband works for a big company, so our benefits are great. Most people don't have that much coverage. And not all our therapies will be eligible. Social skills, for example - the therapy we need most - is NEVER covered.

We've used a flexible spending account in the past, too, and even that can't be used for some therapies.

Needless to say, providing therapies for one child on the spectrum is a financial hardship. We haven't even begun to treat child #2 yet.

And again - we're lucky. We're middle-class and well insured. But not all families of autistic children are as fortunate as we are.

So, I was really pleased to see a tweet from MomsRising this morning.

It sees that New York's new Senator (and HRC's Senate replacement), Kristen Gillibrand, is proposing affordable autism treatments in New York state. Since she estimates that treatments can cost up to $6K per month (I 100% believe that), this is what she's proposing:

First, I’m pursuing a mandate on insurance companies to ensure they provide affordable, quality treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders. We must make sure families can get the treatment their children need, through insurance coverage they can afford.

Second, I’m authoring new legislation to provide military families with affordable treatment. My new legislation, the Uniformed Services with Autism Heroes Act or the “USA Heroes Act”, will require TRICARE, the military health insurance program to cover the full cost of autism treatment. Currently, TRICARE caps autism coverage at $3,000 a month – about half the treatment a child needs for effective therapy. What’s worse, thousands of military families are forced to the bottom of long waiting lists for autism specialists each time they are relocated. Families that fight our wars and defend our freedoms should not face bankruptcy for trying to get the medical care their children need.

And as the third step in my plan, I’m calling for a portion of the $10 billion that was given to the NIH under the President’s Economic Recovery plan be dedicated toward autism research to give scientists and laboratories the resources they need to reach the next breakthrough.

Right on, Senator. Now help protect the jobs of women who have to leave work to take their kids to therapy....

Here's the Senator's YouTube video on the topic. (And, btw, seriously impressed by the Senator's use of Social Media.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Who needs the gym when you've got ExerciseTV?

My 20th high school reunion was last week. 

Nothing short of public speaking freaked me out as much as that - and I can't explain why. In most aspects of my life, I'm a pretty confident person. I'm not bad looking (no Zeta Jones, but OK), I'm reasonably smart, have a degree from a respectable university, I've got a great career... And yet, with the reunion coming up, I felt completely inadequate. I had to have GREAT outfit, GREAT hair, and I absolutely, positively HAD to lose that last five pounds. 

For a girl who, in 1989,  wore combat boots every day and enough eyeliner to make Amy Winehouse jealous, you 'd think I'd have been a lot cooler and more aloof about the whole thing, but but no.  

The outfit and the hair seemed easy enough, but the 5 pounds... I'd seriously plateaued. After the birth of son #3, I ballooned up like a post-breakup Jessica Simpson. I joined Curves (I swear I didn't know about the pro-life thing...) and went on a high protein diet. And I started running.  

It all worked pretty well, but I did plateau five pounds short of my goal. I look fine, but still have a little bit of a jelly belly, which I'd like to see disappear.

With two kids in day care and schedule so tight I barely have time to sleep, gym membership was out of the question. Runing and walking (outside and on my garage sale treadmill) weren't working enough muscle groups. I was tired of my Cindy Crawford video.

And then I discovered ExerciseTV. Jackpot!

Did you know about this? It's amazing. There must be over a hundred videos to choose from every month, and they're all free On Demand.  If you have any kind of cable or satellite TV system with On Demand service, you probably have it already.

I've tried a bunch of different videos and programs, finally locked into Jillian Michael's 30-Day Shred. Marketers: Take note. This is a 3-phase program with phases 1 and 2 free On Demand. But if you want to progress to Phase 3,  you've gotta buy the DVD. How freaking smart is that?

"The Shred" really is a 30-day program, and it totally kicked my ass - but it's only a 20 minute workout. So I could get up at 6:00, do the workout, shower, and get everyone out the door on time. Brilliant! 

On weekends, I'd add on a "three-mile walk" with Leslie Sansone. That workout is a bit corny, but it gets the job done. And with my Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in the fall (sponsor me!), I need all the extra walking I can get.

By the end of my month on the shred (and I did buy the DVD for the 3rd workout) I'd lost most of my awful jelly belly. And, best of all, I'd gotten so used to getting up to workout every morning, I'm still doing it.  Jumping jacks in the morning - for me, anyway - work better than coffee.  Not that I'm giving up my beloved coffee any time soon.

So, bottom line: I lost the flab, feel great, and have better fitness habits....and I didn't have to join a gym. ExerciseTV is free and couldn't be more convenient. As long as they keep adding workouts I enjoy, I'm good!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Quoted in "Battle of the Marketing Sexes" on iMediaConnection

I was interviewed by Susan Kuchinskas for this really smart (and fun) article on iMedia Connection.

The article, Battle of the Marketing Sexes, is based on the suggestion that women may, biologically, be predisposed to being better online marketers:

No matter how much we hate to hear it, the scientific jury is in: The brains of men and women are different. They differ in size, structure and composition, and they function differently, as well. If that's the case, it's not so sexist to examine whether there might be certain things that one sex might be better at. Math, for example. Or marketing.

Before you go crazy on me, let's get a few things straight: First, nothing you're about to read applies to all women or all men. Scientists acknowledge that the range of individual differences is huge, and anyone might fall anywhere on the spectrum. Second, scientists use language like "tends to," indicates" and "seems to" in order to make clear that their studies almost never give an absolute answer. Moreover, the results of even a study of a large number subjects may not apply to people in general. I will pepper this article with "seems to's;" if I omit one, it's to streamline the language, not because I think it's an absolute....

Read on for more - and for my interview!