Not Your Mama’s Minivan

As I’d mentioned in a previous post, growing up my mother was a stay-at-home mom. This meant that terms like “daycare” and “latchkey” were pretty much foreign to my vernacular. While I realized I was in the minority, I also knew that my mother’s choice was largely borne of her traditional upbringing and what she felt was expected of her as a woman.  As far as societal norms go, all around my mom were working mothers flooding the workforce in the early 80s feeling the after-effect of the women’s lib movements of preceding decades.

My mother’s choice also resulted in her laying all her hopes and dreams in us – to say we had to be over-achievers was putting it lightly. I liken it to Tammy Erickson’s spot-on observation in “What’s Next: Gen X?” regarding the generational differences in rearing children:

Boomers want their children to be successful. You [Gen X] want to be successful as parents.

So here I am 8.5 mos pregnant, making preparations to go on maternity leave, and unable to ponder what will be in 4.5 months, let alone 1.5 months.  I also know that after my leave, barring anything majorly traumatic, I’ll go back to work, but I’m also not crazy about the idea of dropping my kid off at daycare at 7 AM and picking him/her up at 7 PM only to be a stranger to them. I can’t help but feel I don’t work my ass off (pardon the French) to fall short of being a parent and sacrifice valuable time I won’t get back. Hell, I don’t work my ass off to feel I’ve fallen short on anything in my professional life. Why should my personal life be different?

I know this struggle is not mine alone. There are groups dedicated to women’s work-life balance when it comes to raising kids.

But I also know that more and more of my peers I grew up with and those I went to college with are opting to stay at home with their newborns and don’t seem particularly driven (at least superficially) to get back to work.  These are women with advanced degrees who would rather talk Maya and Moby wraps (baby slings) than opt to re-enter the workforce.

According to the Pew Center for Research, when it comes down to it the world is still a very traditional place when it comes to gender roles in the workplace and at home – mamas tend to the decisions at home while baby daddies/partners go out and work and bring home the bacon, even with the growing trend of women being the bearers of advanced degrees and attaining nearly the same earning potential as men.

Maybe I can’t have it all but there has to be an in-between. Simply put, I don’t want to be stuck in mommy yoga overhearing bored moms obsessing over the little one while they slowly stroll their Bugaboos over to Starbucks for their daily shot o’jolt – flirting with the gay barrista there. I’ve been there, done that in a past life when I was a nanny where I worked for a stay-at-home mom. And I know there’s just got to be more to the whole work-life thing than that.

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The Baby Boom: Cultural Divide, Part Un

I’ve waxed a bit on this blog on the generational divides that exist between Yers all the way on up to Baby Boomers. One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is whether generational labels apply uniquely to our American culture, whether its a broader Western phenomena, or we can find enough commonalities across different cultures and varying generations to apply these labels liberally.

Baby Boomers are a generation defined by the big baby boom post-WWII. Theirs’ was a generation characterized by catalyzing social change, demanding more social reform and equality from our government, and ultimately fighting for a better world. This gave way to them becoming Wall Street, money-hording yuppies of the 80s, the ones living in the McMansions and at present making Xers’ lives none-too-fun.

My personal point of reference for the baby boomer generation is my mother and father. They never participated in any protests, knew what “Laugh-In” was but were most likely fuzzy on what smoke-ins were, no bra burning transpired, and the closest my father ever got to a doobie was a pipe he used to smoke which I was convinced was more affect (he was a professor) than anything else.  In short, as a kid, I was a little disappointed that they weren’t really what I deemed bona fide members of the hippy generation.

Despite all institutional and academic pressures to mainstream my dad into more PC thinking over the course of nearly 50 years, he never gave up on his philosophies – even at the cost of career advancement, more $$, and all those material pleasures that might have made life for his family a little easier. My mom decided to stay at home and raise my siblings and I so the latch-key hardships that other kids of my generation endured were never known to me. In a time in which women were encouraged to go out into the workforce and looked down upon for staying home, I knew my mom’s decision was the decidedly unpopular one too.

So how does all this relate to whether or not Baby Boomers share commonalities with other cultures?

Certainly the internet has revolutionized on a global scale the way people think, communicate, their access to information and how readily they digest that info. That’s a given. It’s made us all a little more aware that a greater world exists out there, that in this world exists organizations that harbor the ability to crush us at a moment’s whim, and that in order to survive we must band together more globally than even before.  It’s also allowed us the ability to connect with others around the world, to be influenced by those other cultures and for other cultures to be influenced by us. But the internet revolution is a recent one and one that as a result most likely would impact Gen Xers and Yers leaving Boomers in the dust.

While my husband and I grew up in very different cultures and worlds apart (me, a Midwest transplant to the East Coast at a young age, and him in the Middle East), with little shared cultural references to get by on,  I would be hard-pressed to find evidence that we’re not of the same generation as evidenced by our approach to work, life, relationships, and family.

The same can’t be said of our parents’ generation. Most of my parents’ adult life was spent straddling ethnic identities and religious sensibilities they wanted to instill in their children but also assimilating into a more homogeneous American culture – one that doesn’t really exist anymore. This created a paradox for us, but also a heightened awareness when it came to our collective “otherness.” As a result, my parents and their peers are more like other Americans their age than they might be my in-laws.

In today’s diverse world, fewer cross-cultural generational disparities will exist. But how those that do exist, especially in cultures with very different world views on the individual vs. community, manifest themselves remains to be seen.


Gen Yers: The Pseudo Generation?

LonelyGirl15: The Illusion of Real

This AM I was reading Penelope Trunk’s post over at Brazen Careerist  on the generational differences between Gen Xers, Yers, and Baby Boomers. I’m a cusp child, but closer to the Gen X mindset – at least when it comes to conducting myself in the workplace. Xers are naturally more inclined to strive for independence professionally and not big on being constrained by rules of the corporate establishment put into place by the Baby Boomers who have capitalized on these rules, but whose rules don’t do much to help position Gen Xers as up-and-coming leaders.

…Leaving us wondering if Boomers are simply paving the way for Yers to move into those coveted spots? Then again do we even want these types of hierarchical roles or would we rather establish some sort of specialty niche in the middle where we could still get our hands dirty with the work (and not just delegate) but also be recognized as an esteemed expert in our field on level with those in sr. management roles?

While Trunk contends that Gen Yers are better at the pretense of teamwork than the rest of us, that they get along with Boomers better (all of which might be true), I’d also like to assert that Gen Yers lack the depth of their X counterparts. They grew up in a post-Max Headroom, Glasnost era where the open world was enjoying the fruits of technology, far enough away from the footprints of fear that left our generation uncertain and distrusting. Theirs was a universe swept by the rapidly changing landscape of technology and its suitability for the type of accessibility and connectivity human relationships crave  – resulting in Yers’ affinity for over-exposure (not just in the literal sense by them realizing their exhibitionist tendencies online, TV, etc) but also a desensitization to the world around them – an indifference that may mimic on the surface the Gen Xers’ cynicism but is coming from a very different place. Whereas the latter’s cynicism is rooted in idealism gone wrong and a sense of injustice and disillusionment in the world as a result, the former’s comes from a self-awareness which has more to do with how they will be perceived.  By always being “on” they may be perfectly suited to act the part they need to win the workplace, just possibly not be the ones to revolutionize how we work.


Surviving the Work-Travel Hybrid

Make the best of traveling for work.

Make the best of traveling for work.

I spent this past week at a work offsite in Minnesota. I should also add that I spent the better half of last weekend apprehensive and anxious about the prospect of leaving my husband for 4 full days. While some spouses may relish in the time away, my husband and I have become more and more attached with the years. In truth, we’ve only been married 2.5 years and yes, I suppose in the grand scheme of things, this might be considered “the honeymoon period,” but so bummed was I by the prospect of being alone, I actually cried when he left me for work the morning of my flight.

The truth is that once I had arrived in Minnesota and settled into the hotel, my time was so packed with activity, I scarcely had time to take a dump, let alone spend quite as much time as I would have liked on the phone talking to my hubby. Over time I’ve realized that there are some really cool perks to traveling for work and lessons learned from my experiences that might benefit others:

  • You Don’t Need to Drink to Have a Good Time: I stayed up with the best of the partiers, listened to amusing tales, and got to know people I never see due to geographic location or work schedule. In the end, it allowed me to form relationships that most likely will prove invaluable in time. Self-awareness is king here. I know that one lick of alcohol makes me sleepy and sloppy – neither of which I need spilling over into my work life. (no pun intended)
  • It’s OK to Get Annoyed by Your Co-Workers: Everyone needs to decompress and in intense away business situations, where you’re forced to be with a lot of the same people all of the time, it becomes even doubly important. Mingle in and out of groups, if your situation allows, and use it as an opportunity to reach out to others and get to know others. Sometimes all you needed was a little diversity in your social setting. Besides, this solution is much more socially acceptable than punching someone.
  • The Bed at the Westin Can be Your Alter: Don’t know if you’ve ever stayed at the Westin, but if you haven’t, I highly recommend spending a night on one of their king size beds and spending it alone. It will be the best night of sleep you’ve ever had and you can be as greedy as you want with the pillows and hog all the space on the bed you want without feeling the teensiest bit guilty. Btw, their bathtubs aren’t too shabby either. And after a long day of intense meetings followed by dinner small chat, it’s a nice release.

Motivation Matters

Being that my quasi-new magazine crush-du-jour is Entrepreneur, I happened to be eye strolling through some posts online, when I came across a feel-good, albeit spot-on post by David Javitch about the right way to motivate employees.

One of the key points relevant for workerbiatches: If you are a manager or employer, don’t assume that just because you have a smart employee that is highly self-motivated and is comfortable assuming more autonomous roles, you don’t need to be involved in nurturing and supporting that individual.

Javitch gives 10 tips to motivate (and since I can’t think of a way to better paraphrase his tips, I’m going to re-post them here):

  1. Praise the employee for a job well done–or even partially well done. (From an employee perspective, praise is always something we can afford to hear more of. It’s also especially important that this praise and thanks come from different stakeholders directly involved in your work and impacted by it and not just the boss.)
  2. If an employee is bored, involve that individual in a discussion about ways to create a more satisfying career path, including promotions based on concrete outcomes. (Eh, workerbiatch works too hard to condone this one. In fact, I like it so little I’m going to strike it out.)
  3. State your clear expectations for task accomplishment. (Paraphrase and/or regurgitate your manager or have them clearly state back to you what you just said often. Ask questions if you’re not entirely comfortable with direct route or follow via email with a, “This is what I understand the task-at-hand to be…” You’d be surprised how often miscommunications happen and can be the culprit for future tension.)
  4. Ensure that the job description involves a variety of tasks.
  5. Ensure that the employee sees that what she’s doing impacts the whole process or task that others will also be part of. (I’d also add that once said employee is at a certain level and assuming more responsibility, he/she should be owning more pieces.)
  6. Make sure that the employee feels that what he/she is doing is meaningful.
  7. Provide feedback along the way, pointing out both positive and negative aspects.
  8. Allow for an appropriate amount of autonomy for the employee based on previous and anticipated accomplishment. (This is especially apropos with regards to Millenials.)
  9. Increase the depth and breadth of what the employee is currently doing.
  10. Provide the employee with adequate opportunity to succeed.

As an aside, I feel pretty grateful to have a work environment at present that pretty much hits the mark on all of the motivational points Javitch addressed. Having worked in a lot of different environments, I realize, like true love, it’s a pretty rare thing and  requires the same level of care and effort to sustain it and keep it healthy.
Read more: http://www.entrepreneur.com/humanresources/employeemanagementcolumnistdavidjavitch/article202352.html#ixzz0JeYt4RKC&C


Scary as it Sounds, Susan Boyle is in Control of her Career

Susan Boyle is in complete control of her career. By all accounts, the media circus that’s engulfed the 48-year-old Britain’s Got Talent performer and overnight sensation would indicate she’s either incredibly shrewd and calculated re: her career trajectory or she’s yet another tragic victim in a long line of greedy, publicity whoring TV executives.

Her recent stay in a rehab clinic would seem to indicate the latter, but then again, it hasn’t hurt her and it’s helped to keep her in the limelight and explain away her her mini-tantrum/meltdown in front of a camera crew. (Not to mention, her rumored £9,000/minute pricetag for corporate events.)

All theatrics aside, from what I can see Ms. Boyle is doing everything right when it comes to her career:

  • Hired a Money Maker/Manager: Not sure Susan’s fame will be as long-lasting as that of U2, but she’s made sure to hire the same promotional wizzes to work on making her into a star. Now let’s hope Susan isn’t totally opposed to charity work and helping hungry kids should her manager decide that’s the side we need to be exposed to. For hers’ and our sake I hope this is not the projected route.
  • Exposed/Branded her Talents: Susan Boyle has become a global household name because she went on a stupid reality TV show and showed us what she had. Whatever this means, her Les Miserable performance on YouTube is forever embedded into 100 million peoples’ brains (if not more).  No doubt about it, Susan is not just an influencer, she’s a doer.
  • Went a Little Meshuganah for her Art: People love the vulnerable, brooding, temperamental artist, especially when they label her a “spinster.” Her nut-job act only stands to help further her career…for now.

Working in my PJs Does Appeal to Me: Home-Based Businesses Anyone?

Gear up for some tips on Home-Based Businesses

This month’s Entrepreneur has an interesting article about starting a home-based franchise business. While most of the franchises in their top 101 list seem to be cleaning businesses and overall, the list did little entice me into jump-starting my own franchise-specific savings account, it does beg the question if working in your skivvies is ultimately what we’re all after.

So what skills should a successful home-based franchisee or independent contractor/freelancer possess? Assuming we’re all into working in our skivvies afterall…

Let’s start with basics:

  • Know Your Legalese: As an independent contractor/freelancer, you set up shop under your own name, so to speak. You’re working under your own business guidelines, free of any legal ties to a franchisor. For either scenario, legal counsel will be helpful in assessing your business’ liquidity and giving you sound peace/piece of mind.
  • Keep Figures Straight (or Know What Software to Utilize): For savvy bookkeeping business owners with a penchant for Accounting, keep track of the #s might not seem daunting, but to the less skilled, it can be. Keep this in mind as you get your freelance business or franchise off the ground. You’ll want to seriously consider investing in efficient bookkeeping software.
  • Consummate the Relationship Early On: As stressful and time-consuming as a day gig can feel (Did i mention soulless and thankless too?), remember that whether it’s your side business or you’re committing to a franchise or solo contracting biz full-on, it will take the guts and guts inside the guts out of you. What distinguishes this from all other relationships you’ve had in the past is your commitment to its success so be in it for the long haul .
  • Don’t Start Every Bullet Point with a “K”: It’s ok to spice it up once in a while as I just reminded myself in the last bullet. The most interesting gigs I ever embarked on that eventually led to more serious professional relationships were started on a “trial” basis. It allows you to test the climate and the waters to know if you’re ready to jump in head first, especially relevant when going the freelancing route.

For more useful “starting your own franchise” information, go to AllBusiness.com.