Home, Office, and Stress
Imagine two women sitting across from each other at a desk. The first one is Alison. At forty-two, Alison is the vice president of a successful manufacturing company. Today she has to make a decision on major capital improvements, including deciding whether to buy $20 million worth of new machinery; she has to review the résumés of several applicants for a new plant manager's position; she has to talk to lawyers and prepare a strategy fora zoning easement that will enable the company to expand an existing plant; and she has to speak to a civic club luncheon for which she has no time, but it might make a difference, when it comes to getting that easement. Right after lunch, she has to head for the airport to catch a plane to the Midwest to tour a plant that might have to be closed down.
Across the desk from her is Peg, thirty-four, her secretary. Today Peg has to type up about twenty letters, some of which she'll essentially have to compose, to various suppliers and clients. She has to make copies of Alison's internal company report, bind it, and distribute it to all the company's executives. She has to check on all the changes in Alison's scheduler and make sure they're put into the computer. She has to screen all Alison's calls and appointments, deal politely but firmly with a couple of people who've showed up without appointments, and call to double-check scheduling and reservations to make sure that there aren't any snags on Alison's trip. She also has to learn the new database system the company has decided to install.
Which one of these women is under the most stress?
The answer: they both have about the same amount of stress. It's a lot, and relatively little of it is related to the demands made on them by work. Each woman is very good at what she does and takes pride in her work. Each has consistently received favorable work evaluations, even commendations.
Where does the stress come from? Alison is a single mother of two. Her ten-year-old son, Trevor, has a soccer game for the county championship this afternoon. Her fourteen-year-old daughter, Whitney, is starting to skip school and hang out with a group of girls Alison doesn't approve of. Right now, the only thing they're doing that Alison knows about is smoking cigarettes, but it's still cause for serious concern. Alison took time off from work yesterday to talk to her daughter's guidance counselor; to make up for the lost time, she had to bring work home and stay up late into the night to finish it.
Peg's husband, Mike, works second shift, so scheduling time for discussing the kids, for sex, or even for a movie or a relaxing conversation is never easy. Vincent, their fifteen-year-old son, who has always done well in school, just brought home two C-minuses and a D on his last report card. Peg sees her dream of his acceptance into a good college jeopardized. Billy, their four-year-old, has been doing well in day care -- but the center is closing down, and Peg is going to have to start searching for a new source of child care.
Both of these women know the truth that every woman knows: it's not the work that'll get you...it's everything else.
But we're talking about two bright, talented women here -- women who know how to make very complicated things run smoothly and who take legitimate pride in doing it. Why shouldn't they be able to make their home lives run smoothly?
We'll get to know Peg and Alison better as we go along. But actually, we're talking about all of us. You, me, every woman who has ever worked for a living, who has ever gone out of the house to take on a new, complex, sometimes hostile world.
We have done it. We really have changed the world. We've remade the workplace, we've remade the image of who women are in the world. There's more to be done yet -- a lot more -- but look at what we've done already!
We've also exploded the myth of the superwoman, the one who can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan (besides, we also know about all those nitrates and fats these days).
Or have we? Maybe we're still putting that same pressure on ourselves to succeed in both worlds. Many of us have husbands who do help out more around the house and who do share the responsibility of child care. a lot more than our fathers did for our mothers. For others of us, unfortunately, that's not the case. And many of us are single parents, coping with work and home all by ourselves, with no help at all.
Some help, very little help, no help...but here's the bottom line. Home is still our responsibility. Ultimately, it's the one that most of wouldn't trade for anything, but still it's the one that drives us the craziest and brings out complicated and ambivalent feelings.
* * *
In this book, we'll be dealing with the problems around dealing with the problems of our families. I'm not going to tell you how to help a troubled teenager do better in school. I'm going to show you how we can make ourselves better equipped to deal with that and other problems.
I'll be giving you reports from the front: interviews with women who have been there, women who have taken on the job of CEO in their own homes and project manager for the projects they've created.
I've changed their names and some details of their lives, and in a couple of cases they're composites, but essentially, these are women who've made it work and who have taken the time to think about what they've done and how it's worked for them.
Mom, Inc. is a self-help book for women who have management and organizational skills that they're not fully utilizing for the biggest management job of all. It's a book about how we can bring our home lives and our work lives back into a state of synchronicity and how we can bring home some of the coping mechanisms and organizing principles we've learned, developed -- or innovated -- at work. I'm going to show you that this is what you know, this is what you can do, these are tools you already have, and here's a new way of using them.
There are two kinds of books on organizing your home, your life, your kids. In the first, you get doctrines propounded by fearsomely efficient Home Dictators, setting up a kind of Brady Bund of routines, rules, and doctrines guaranteed to obliterate all personalities and individual foibles, and create a gleaming, sanitized paradise. There aren't a bunch of laughs in these books -- there's no time for them, unless they're scheduled in. In the second, the message goes something like this: You might as well laugh and enjoy the total chaos that you're muddling through, because you can't really do anything about it, and anyone who thinks you can is an uptight, humorless Home Dictator who's never had any experience with real life.
Well, in my heart, I'm with the muddlers. It's more fun, and instinct tells me that the folks who tell us to just muddle through are probably coming closer to the way things really are.
But when it comes to our children, what then? On the one hand, we can't afford to just leave it to chance. And on the other hand, we all need our sense of humor more than ever. Can you have it both ways?
In this book, I say you can. You have to laugh; you have to accept that your plans are not always going to work out like clockwork. But you can have a master plan, and you can make it work.
Copyright © 1999 by Neale S. Godfrey/Children's Financial Network, Inc.
Taking Your Work Skills Home
Taking Your Work Skills Home
At work, you can run through your "to do" list efficiently; at home, you struggle to find the time to make the grocery list. At work, you can organize and lead meetings with power and panache; at home, it's one battle after another before you can get the kids to get ready for school, sit down for dinner, or prepare for bed. As a working mother, you face this dilemma on a daily basis, not realizing that the career skills you use so effectively can be just as valuable when managing your home and family.
In Mom, Inc., trusted financial expert and working mother Neale S. Godfrey explains how to turn practical business concepts and procedures into more effective methods of running a household. In a light-hearted, no-nonsense spirit, Godfrey offers simple and creative ways to help your kids become "team players":
* Create a family mission statement
* Turn perennial household issues, such as chores and mealtimes, into manageable projects that the whole family can work on
* Use quizzes, self-tests, and worksheets to set realistic priorities and goals for each family member
* Extend your professional time-management skills to after-school activities and family trips
* Develop a flexible budget that will both meet your daily needs and allow you to fund special projects, such as preparing for the holidays and saving for college
Taking a fun and innovative approach to parenting, Mom, Inc. shows that motherhood can be the most rewarding and successful job you'll ever have.