Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I'm Bored! And other common complaints...

It's summer here in New England. It's around 90 degrees with pools and beaches on the brain. And it also signals another critical moment - the end of the school year. Today is the last day of school in our town and kids are screaming with delight. Summer? Bring it on!

I'm excited for the kids - for the swimming lessons they will take and the tennis they will play; the time with friends and hopefully some family vacation time. It's all great stuff. Until...

The words are uttered; first day home - after all the swimming, play time with friends, hour of "media time," dinner with grandparents, etc. "I'M BORED."

Really? You're bored? You mean, there are actually 10 minutes of the day that someone hasn't coordinated some perfect activity for you to do and you cannot find one thing to occupy yourself? And I won't even mention the billions of dollars we have spent on toys, books, sports equipment, you name it.

When I hear these words, I often find myself thinking back to my own childhood. I was an only child and, thus, pretty independent. I can recall playing, doing artwork, and reading. And there may have been a few occasions when I complained to my parents that I was bored. But in the end, they didn't jump up from what they were doing to come up with some amazing activity for me to do. Don't get me wrong - I was taken on awesome vacations, to amusement parks, played with friends, etc. But I had no grand expectations that someone would come up with some new and exciting activity for me if I had a spare hour in the day.

I have to admit that when my kids utter these words, I feel pressure - pressure to be some kind of Super Mom whose kids are always happy and smiling with lots of productive projects and fun time. But then I also feel like I shouldn't have to account for every moment of their days and that they need to become more independent and figure out what they can do on their own - and that doesn't involve some electronic gadget to keep them occupied. Have we done this to ourselves as parents with all of the playdates, sports and hip-hop classes? Are they wrong to expect that we will entertain them EVERY MOMENT of the day?

Our society has changed drastically in regards to parenting; in my opinion, some is for the good and some is not so good. When our parents were kids and even when we were kids, I feel as though we fit into the "fabric of the family." While there may have been extracurricular activities and sports, I feel like our parents really drove the schedule and how much we did or didn't do. These days, it seems quite the opposite - at least in our home. Everything surrounds the active and social lives of our kids.

Don't get me wrong...nothing is more important to me than my kids' wellness and happiness. But sometimes I feel that as a society, we have shifted our priorities so much that we may be doing our children a disservice by making them believe that everything is about them. What happens when they get out in the real world? Everyone talks about how the younger generation of twenty-somethings have a sense of entitlement...but can we blame them?

So what do we do? While our kids are young, we need to instill a sense of independence which sometimes means not catering to their every whim and making them understand that they have to figure it out on their own. I have a bad tendency to respond to their complaints with, "Go read a book!" or "If you don't have anything to do, I'm happy to give you something to do!" - which usually means a cleaning task. But I realize that I may need to help them start problem-solving by figuring out what their options are. They could select an art project, maybe a nature walk outside, or a toy that has been on a shelf for a while. By showing them how they can find other options, hopefully they may start to do this on their own in the future.

What do you think? How do you respond when your child says, "I'm bored!" I would love to hear your thoughts.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Time to Take Root

It's Friday morning and I'm in my living room/home office in front of my laptop with my coffee. My dog and cat are both looking at me like, "What are you doing here right now? Why are you home?" And then I panic because I feel like I'm supposed to be somewhere else. But I'm not...because I'm in my home office working but in a very different way than I have for most of my career.

I have decided to leave my well-paid, challenging, full-time job with a very desirable company to become a marketing and social media consultant. While some are "Leaning In," I am most definitely Leaning Out. If you're scratching your head wondering why, you can bet that I'm about to elaborate.

I have spent years - almost eleven to be exact - juggling schedules, cursing like a truck driver while stuck in traffic on the way to daycare, explaining to managers why I have to work from home for the day so that I can attend a school function that takes place at 11AM on a Monday morning, yelling at my kids because they want my help with homework while I'm trying to get an important project completed, etc. I could create pages of these situations that arise daily. But you get the picture.

I have also had all different work arrangements: part-time, full time with a day working from home, 4 days per week. And while some of these worked very well (like part-time), they always went away, usually because the role became bigger and more important so full-time became a necessity. I have had flexible managers and those who haven't been so flexible. A few companies were forward-thinking and others more traditional.

Lastly, I have tried all methods of childcare and organization methods. We have had babysitters, after-school care, nannies, etc. We have connected with some of these caregivers and not so much with others. In the end, the good ones always seemed to go away too soon, usually because they were moving on to other things in their lives. And we were left to start a new, frantic search for a replacement. This process always took months, involved outreach to friends, signing up on websites, etc. We always made due in the end but never without a lot of finagling. Oh, and the message boards, big post-it calendars, apps, lists, etc. that I have purchased/downloaded/written to organize our lives! I could fill a room with them (note: I should have a tag sale).

Through all of these years and situations, one feeling has remained a constant: a desire to make my life and my families' lives less "crazy." I will admit it - I have a type A personality and I yell...a lot. The more hectic my life gets, the more I feel out of control. And this has taken its toll on me and on my family.

Enter the decision to make a change...and the challenges that this brings about. I love to work - I love the work that I do. Marketing and social media are ever-changing, challenging and in great demand. So I want to keep doing what I love and to continue working with great people but I also want to create a calmer, more supportive environment for my kids and my husband.

So, here comes the next phase of my life. Earlier in this post, I called it "Leaning Out." But I don't really think I'm doing that; I'm just "Leaning In" in a different way - a way that hopefully leads to a greater sense of control while still contributing financially and continuing a great career. Years ago, I read Carol Evans' book, "This is How We Do It." It talks about how women make changes throughout their lives to support their families' needs. It's the new reality and it's here to stay. For all working families, you know exactly what this means. And you can do sometimes have to take risks and be your own advocate. But you can do it.

So there you have it. I'm a consultant, an entrepreneur. I'm filling out all kinds of paperwork for my LLC, I'm talking to clients, I'm Tweeting. And then when my kids get home from school, I'm doing homework, going to soccer practice, playing cards and walking my dog. It's the new me.

My new company is Take Root Marketing and my website will be live soon. My plan is to also blog about my experiences in establishing my new company in the hopes that it might inspire others and may also (hopefully) assist other entrepreneurs who are getting started. I will post more details when I  have them.