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? ...