Monday, March 22, 2010

Mom Tip Monday: Household goods play kit

At 16 months, my baby boy LOVES assembling things and taking them apart. The thing is, he'd much rather work with every other object in my house except his toys that are specifically made for young ones. For instance, every time I'm in the bathroom, he's trying to pull out all of my cosmetics and twist the lids off or moving things from drawer to drawer.

So, we got wise to this and created a play kit for the kitchen. This way, he can use real household goods that are still safe for his little hands. Our kit is a metal colander that we fill with his baby bottles (including all the innards), plastic cups, plastic spoons, plastic lids, etc. The colander makes a to squat next to - he even enjoys sitting in it now and again. All of the items fit nicely inside each other and even stack perfectly. And, his Dr. Brown's bottles are easy enough for a toddler to pull apart and put back together.

This play kit keeps our little one entertained for up to a half hour while we make dinner in the evenings, so I highly recommend creating your own version! Anyone else have a "household good" play kit idea?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keeping Moms in Corporate America

To all the companies out there that have been approached by moms who want to work from home and have said no – WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? In this digital age, it’s so easy for anyone to pick up her computer, webcam, and mobile device and participate in meetings, respond to emails, create presentations, etc. – pretty much doing just about everything she would do at the office. Because of this, I am honestly baffled, just baffled, when I talk with another mom who longs for an opportunity to work from home even just ONE day a week but is met with uncompromising responses that her company “frowns” on that kind of thing.

In the AFL-CIO Now Blog, James Parks writes about the need for workplaces to adapt to the greater role of women in the workforce and references the 2009 Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation, which takes “a comprehensive look at working women and how their work has transformed today’s workplace.” Following a subsequent press conference, he writes that “the report’s co-author Heather Boushey, senior economist at CAP, cited a poll that shows a large majority of Americans support new, more family-friendly workplace policies. A full 85 percent of respondents say businesses that fail to adapt to the needs of modern families risk losing good workers.“

And that, my friends, is the key – during a time when workforces need to be the most productive they can possibly be, it’s incredibly important to retain and recruit savvy, ambitious, and hard-working employees. Many (I repeat, MANY) of these people are moms…moms who are looking for work-at-home opportunities that provide the intellectual challenge they need while allowing for quality mom time as well.
Flexibility in the workplace can take many forms, and part-time or flex-time is wonderful for many people, but my focus in this post is on the opportunity to work from a home office at least part, if not all, of the week. I left my previous employer because when I approached them about working from home one day a week after returning from maternity leave, they told me I could do it as long as I understood that it would mean I would not be promoted, manage people, or manage accounts. Hmm…essentially, they were telling me that working from home meant I wasn’t as valuable to them as those who sat in their offices from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (sometimes longer) every day. I now work at a wonderful, rapidly-growing company that allows me to work from home regularly and travel to the office (or elsewhere) for client meetings or other needs. I work more than I ever did before because I like the work I do, and I feel a greater sense of balance for lots of reasons (five of them I list below).

Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out (HARO), offers great advice for how to convince your boss that working from home works for you. Below, I list reasons why employers/managers should highly consider saying yes the next time you approach him or her about working from home (print these off and anonymously leave them behind during your next meeting).

1. Drive time is eliminated - While many moms want to work (I being one of those moms), most still crave a work-life balance they simply can’t get from being physically in an office 40-50 hours a week plus commute time each day. Between getting ready in the morning, driving to and from work, and being in the office, employers are asking moms to only spend about 2 hours of quality time a day with their little one(s). That’s simply not enough.

2. Productivity will increase – I know this is absolutely unbelievable to managers who want to have a watchful eye over employees, but based on point #1, moms allowed to work from home have the opportunity to work longer hours because they’re not spending an hour getting ready in the morning, nor are they leaving work early to fight traffic and get home just in time to turn right around and drive little ones to an evening activity.

3. Sick time for kids is less of a factor – Millions of moms and dads have to take off work every day because of sick children. Now, even if one of them works from home and sends a child to daycare, she still has to keep the child home for the day. BUT!! If she’s set up to work from home, there are many, many more opportunities for her to get work done during naps and in between caretaking than if it’s the “policy” that she has to take a personal or vacation day just because she’s not in the office.

4. Retain valuable people – Everyone knows it costs more to hire someone new than to retain a current employee. And, when a smart, ambitious mom decides that working from home would make her happier in her career…listen, evaluate, and then TRY it…for the love of God, at least set it up as a trial situation before making a long-term decision. Is it really worth losing her?

5. Create a thriving culture – Lots and lots of articles have been written in the past few years about the changes companies have made to create more flexible work options, and the meaning behind the article is – WHAT A GREAT PLACE TO WORK! Work schedules don’t have to be a one-size-fits-all…it makes companies truly stand out when they realize how to be different.

Now I understand that there are just some jobs that require on-site presence, such as elementary and high school education, construction, and retail, but for your everyday corporate job, where someone literally sits at a computer almost all day long, there is absolutely no reason for an employer to not at least consider a work from home option. Moms will just find another place that does allow work from home options, or they’ll join a growing number of savvy moms called mompreneurs starting their own successful businesses because working in traditional settings just doesn’t cut it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

To All the Jobless

Last night, my husband and I watched "Up in the Air," and while I know the movie is really supposed to make you think about the irony of traveling all the time but still feeling lonely, it really made me feel for all the people out there who have lost their jobs during this recession. We've had friends who have been let go during this past year, and I've spoken with bloggers who are really leaning on their blogs for some income while they or their husbands look for something.

We all love complaining about our jobs now and again, and I have friends who are at the point of their careers where they're trying to figure out what it is they really want to do. However, those of us who have a steady income should take a minute, sit back, and realize how lucky we are that we're not trying to figure out how to pay all of our bills or restore our pride after losing a job.

Even though every single one of my friends who have been impacted by a company cut-back have ended up in a better situation, the time in-between is absolutely draining and heartbreaking. So, to all of you who have dealt with the loss of a job, I salute you for being incredibly strong and, many times, really creative in dealing with your situation.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mom Tip Monday: Make a Place for Them to Do Art

Wow, I've now done two weeks in a row! This is exciting except that I seriously need to make the other days of the week a priority. Especially for my non-mom friends who read this blog. Promise to have something different this week ladies :)

So anyways, my tip for this week is to make a place for your kids to do art. Our baby boy LOVES coloring, painting, gluing...anything art-related. He gets so excited when you pull out his basket of art supplies that he starts stomping his feet and clapping his hands, sometimes until he falls down (he's only 15 months old for God's sakes...he's still not that sturdy). :)

When he first started loving to color, we would let him do it anywhere in the house and would just pull the crayons out onto the floor to let him dig in. This resulted in my first-ever crayon markings on the wall, floor, and plenty of other places. What I realized is that art is one of those things that should be contained just a bit until he starts understanding that the world is not his canvas. So, every time he pulls out his basket, he goes to his high-chair and uses his tray as his desk. If we had room for a full kids desk or table, I would use that, but this works just fine.

If you happen to have one of those portable chair/high-chair thingies, use that because then you don't have to be confined to any one area when the mood strikes!! We just pull our highchair into whatever room we're sitting/working/playing in, and then our Picasso can let loose.

Happy Monday!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mom Tip Monday

OK, so on Mondays (I can't promise it will be every Monday), I will share a tip that helps me, my family, or my son stay sane :) It won't necessarily be thought-provoking, but hopefully it will be something that makes your life a bit easier. Hopefully other moms, aunts, grandmas, nannies, etc. will respond with additional tips each time.

First tip (courtesy of my husband who figured out to do this) - turn the toiletpaper roll around so that you have to reach behind it to pull the sheets down. That way, when your little one walks up and starts rolling the toiletpaper (which mine does every single time he walks into a bathroom), you're not left with the entire roll on the floor. I don't quite have a tip yet about what to do when they figure this out and start pulling on the sheets. :)