Force a Moment!

I had some moments with my girls today. Rare moments cause they were in the late afternoon, early evening, which is a time I don’t typically get to share with them. But I worked from home today, so I had some flexibility to pick them up earlier than usual. Our babysitter’s birthday is this week, so we decided to bake cupcakes for her. I can’t remember the last time all three of us were in the kitchen taking turns with the blender. It was nice. Little to no fighting, homework got done and mom even made a home cooked meal for once! I think we all felt more relaxed at the end of night.

It made me start thinking about people who work for me. Things seem to be so busy at work, that I barely have time to spend with people on my team. If we aren’t talking about a specific project, it’s a quick hello, how are you and that’s about it for the day. Yesterday, I finally got to spend some time with one of my direct reports because she kindly offered to take me to get my car that was in the shop.

Frankly, I think she realized this was her chance to get a moment with me. My undivided attention, for once.

We talked about things that had probably been brewing for weeks and connected on things that reminded us that we actually like working with each other. And we shared a moment, where we laughed, hard and realized we’re both just people, both moms trying to do our very best.

I think you have to force a moment sometimes. Not the actual moment. But I think you need to create the environment to let moments happen. The truth is, they don’t take much, maybe just us slowing down a bit.

So, think about someone you’ve been trying to connect with or have felt disconnected from. It may be a co-worker, your kids, a friend, your mom. I don’t know but I know that I’m not the only busy one and I’m not the only feeling like some days I’m missing out on the moments. Just slow down long enough in the presence of that person to create a space where connecting is easy. Trust me. That moment will be worth whatever else you think you’re missing.

Now, that’s how single mom’s lean in!

Center of Attention!

So, my first born, Sydney, thrives on being the center of attention. I think this has a lot to do with birth order as well as the fact that she has always gotten a lot of attention. Her first adjustment was school, when she had to learn to share the spotlight with 19 other kids in the classroom. She had a hard time understanding why the teacher paid attention to anyone but her! 

She’s gotten a little more comfortable with this concept, but last weekend, I watched this issue manifest in a different way. 

My daughter was at a party of an older girl she is close to. She is a couple years older than Sydney, but she also had other friends there that were older than her. So the gap between Sydney and some of the girls was 3 or 4 years. Before I left Sydney came to me with a panicked look in her eyes. I asked her what was wrong and she started crying. She explained to me that she felt weird and she didn’t know what to do.

Now, this is never Sydney’s issue. She is a very confident girl, who usually is the first to try something, the first to speak and the first to join in. But, she didn’t feel comfortable because they were talking about things she didn’t really know about and things that her and her 8 year old friends don’t worry about yet. But that’s not what really made her uncomfortable, the fact is she didn’t know what to do with herself if she wasn’t going to be the center of attention, the one talking, the one being listened to.

I think for a lot of us at work, we sometimes feel like this. We feel like if we aren’t leading the project, if we aren’t running the meeting, if we don’t have all the answers, we don’t know what to do. I think we should do the same thing I told Sydney.

Sit back and learn something from others around you.

We so often think leaning in is doing more, taking a seat at the table, speaking up, fighting to get noticed. I believe, particularly for strong, assertive women, learning how to sit back and not be the center of attention is sometimes harder, but often  times more fruitful. If you’re a leader, you’ll be able to better observe those who work for you and discern their real abilities. If you are working on a project, you’ll find others will step up to the plate if you let them, actually freeing up some of your bandwidth.

You’ll also very likely become more like-able. Let’ s face it. No one likes the little girl who always has to be the center of attention, not sharing the spotlight with anyone.

So challenge yourself. Make yourself sit back and listen, not talk in a meeting, not be the one with all the ideas. Be a learner, a listener, a supporter. You may feel like a fish out of water, but you’ll appreciate the water (being the center of attention)much more when you get back in!

Now, that’s how single mom’s lean in!

Time to make the donuts!

I think most of us remember that Dunkin’ Donuts commercial where that poor guy would get up in the dark hours of the morning to make the donuts and grumble almost incoherently, Time to make the donuts. But how many of us remember watching that and panicking that one day that might be us. Surprise!  You’re the new star of that very commercial. It’s called Life!

I don’t know that I have some great advice to give you about this. But I will tell you, I’m right there with you. And frankly, I think most people are. Life has a rhythm to it that basically gets a little redundant after a while. What’s interesting is that our lives have a ton of ups and downs, unexpected events and challenges, yet we still find ourselves being bored.

And like I said, I think this is pretty universal. I believe it has nothing to do with being over stretched as a single mom, or overworked as a leaning in professional or overly lonely as a single. Married women will tell you the same thing. Stay at home moms – yep! they feel this way too.

So, what I would tell you is don’t start wallowing in this feeling. When you start feeling it, recognize it for what it is. Understand it’s natural and normal. Try to do something to shake up your schedule. Start a new exercise program. Plan a vacation. Change up your get ready routine. Get a new hair cut. Start a DIY home improvement project. Do something that gives you a new pep in your step.

Now, if it’s really severe, this feeling of being stuck in a rut, don’t blow it off. Sometimes we need to seek help and shouldn’t be afraid to do so.

But for most of us, we just need to buck up and take the need for variety into our own hands.

That’s how single mom’s lean in!

Click on the donut to watch the commercial!

Dog Days

About a month ago, I did something completely unplanned and monumental. We got a dog. I wasn’t even thinking about taking this leap for another couple years. But there was a lot going on and I was feeling sentimental, so I did it. Spur of the moment! I mean we left home for groceries and came home with a puppy!

And I’m not going to lie, I’ve had moments when I’ve already said aloud to myself, “What were you thinking?” And the truth is, I wasn’t! But I realized today that in the greater scheme of things, this was a great decision.

Why having a dog helps an already busy mom who’s trying to lean in?
1. Helps teach your children responsibility
2. Gives your children a greater sense of family
3. Gets you and your family outside
4. Gets you home
5. Keeps you occupied
6. Gives you a companion
7. Shows your children unconditional love
8. Brings great joy
9. Teaches your children compassion
10. Reminds you that material things aren’t so important

And that’s just the top ten.

All this came to me as the girls, Sophie the dog, and I were sitting outside having an impromptu picnic on a blanket. We were out there cause the dog was getting restless inside, so we took her on a mini walk in the front yard. She found some shade under a tree and laid down. Next thing I know, I’m getting the blanket, Sydney’s making sandwiches, Jordan’s grabbing the dog’s bowls and we’re having one of the best moments of an already nice, long weekend.

Getting Sophie without any real thought was a little crazy, and she is a lot of work. But sometimes, we have to let go of all of our logical reasons to do or not do something. In the end, I believe we’d all be surprised by how much we get out of those ‘unplanned’ decisions.

Now, that’s how single mom’s lean in!

Exhausted Mom? Keep Looking Forward!

I went to the circus this weekend with my 2 girls. Sydney is 8, soon to be 9, and Jordan is 5. She will start kindergarten in just 3 weeks. Hard to believe, but in a matter of weeks, I will have 2 school-aged children! We had tickets through my job, so we were with a few other families that I didn’t know. Between these three young couples, there were 5 kids. All under the age of 3.

Now, my girls wear me out. They fuss, they sass, they talk back. They are far from perfect. But as I watched these families with these young children, I realized on my worst day with the girls at this point, I’m not nearly as drained as I remember being when they were babes. You chase after them. They can’t communicate with you. They throw temper tantrums and don’t understand your threats. It’s hard! And then one day, it’s not as hard. I don’t even know that you notice it when you make the shift. When they can get dressed themselves, walk alongside your grocery cart, graduate to a booster or no car seat at all, buckle their own seat belt. Their smallest steps towards independence free you up to not be so physically, even if you’re still mentally, fried! So to any of you single moms with toddlers or even babies, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s actually not that far away. Kindergarten and elementary school changes a lot in children.

Then after the circus, we were at Wal-Mart. The girls were doing what they do. And I was doing what I do – Keep your hands to yourself! Stay with me! No you can’t have that! Stop! And a mother and her teenage daughter walked by. It was almost like they were circling our craziness cause I saw them several times, but they were just walking, talking, almost like they were just two friends at Wal-Mart. They gave me hope. Again, I know there will be all kinds of mental or emotional things to manage with my teenagers, but the exhaustion that comes from constantly disciplining and fussing at your kids during those elementary years will likely be a thing of the past.

People always say, “You blink and your kindergartner is off to college.” This is only said by people with older children. Because when they’re young, one day can feel like a week. But I think as you progress through the stages, moving closer to that day when all your hard work gets put to the test and they start their own life, you really do start to feel that way. But when they’re young, sometimes you wish you could blink and be waving goodbye to that college student!I don’t blame you. Just keep looking forward, cause in some ways it really does get easier!

Constructive criticism can be fun!

So, I know most of us hate to be criticized and just adding the word constructive in front of it doesn’t make it much better. But if it truly is meant to be constructive, the idea is that it comes from a place of love and from someone who really does want what’s best for you.

I’ve also found that it is actually fun when you get it from a friend or colleague who you tend to laugh with a lot. I have a friend and colleague who basically told me that I ‘look’ taken. Now what does this mean? I believe in some ways this is actually a compliment(Or that’s how I decided to take it). I seem confident and content. Not desperate. I seem comfortable in my own skin. But the truth is, I’m single and I’d like to date and maybe even get married again. So what she was really saying was I don’t look like I’m available and that’s a problem.

What’s made this criticism priceless is that because our first conversation about it was so funny, I actually like talking about it. I’ve asked other people if they agree with the critique and I’ve actually made some adjustments.

Now every time I see her I wait to see if she notices I’m showing a little leg or have a shirt cut a little lower than my norm. If she doesn’t I definitely point it out and we start laughing all over again. Sometimes, its even around other people which allows me another opportunity to remind people: Yes! I’m single and looking 🙂

I believe this approach can work in the workplace too. We’re usually so serious about giving feedback and it’s usually done in a very formal way. But some little things that may just be idiosyncrasies or habits that people have formed over the years may best be addressed in a more casual, humorous way. When you can both sort of laugh about it, it makes it more of a team effort to fix it. Plus, with some light heartedness around it, the one who is criticized will feel more comfortable checking to see if they’re improving or making the necessary changes.

We respond to overall experiences. It’s not necessarily a specific ride at Disney our kids remember, but the overall mood and moments rolled together that make the memory. I believe you can change the experience of receiving feedback for an overall more positive result. So seriously, make a little fun out of your next constructive critique! I think the results will surprise you.

That’s how single mom’s lean in!

Cut Yourself Some Slack!

I’ve slacked off! Not at some point, last week! It’s officially been a week since my last post which is the longest I’ve gone since I started The Single Mom’s Guide to Leaning In.

But the truth is, I was busy! I was at a conference, took the kids to Disney, got one ready to send off to overnight camp all in the midst of my floors being redone and my house being in complete shambles!

There were things I should have done, needed to do and wanted to do, but sometimes you have to understand, you can’t do everything. And frankly, most of it was still sitting there waiting for me this morning.

So how do I get myself comfortable with letting a ball drop here or there? I cut myself some slack! That’s the single mom’s lean in! Tip of the day!

We are our own worst enemy. We keep the ‘to do’ list running in our head. We taunt ourselves if we don’t think we can finish something. We fret over what others will say or do if we don’t respond or deliver when they want us to.

So much of what we do or don’t do is not life threatening, at home and work. We hold ourselves at times to unrealistic standards, which means we’ll never be happy with ourselves. This feeling can lead us down a very negative path. So how do you learn to cut yourself some slack?

1. Surround yourself with people who applaud you for what you do.
2. Prioritize what needs to get done so you can feel comfortable with not checking off some of the things on the bottom of the list.
3. Keep things in perspective. (In most cases, the world will not come to an end if you don’t complete the task.)
4. Change the voices in your head. (Instead of beating yourself up about what you haven’t done. Congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished.)
5. Lean In! What you do get done, knock it out of the park!

That’s right. Lean In! Last week, I didn’t get everything done that I wanted to but I leaned in. I came back with great new ideas for my team and I to pursue for the company. I created great memories with my kids. I prepared my daughter for an incredible experience and I got one step closer to having a livable house again. I did a lot, but there’s still much to be done. There always will be. So, cut yourself some slack.

Toot your own horn!

I believe humility is an important characteristic. I also believe you can over do it and that you must know when you need to be a little less humble.

How do you over do it?
It’s the definition of a martyr. Telling everyone all the time that all the things you do are no big deal, that nothing is a problem.

When do you need to be less humble?
When there’s a risk of people taking advantage of you or under-appreciating you. I know how hard you work and I know you probably make it look easy. This is why you have to learn to toot your own horn.

So, how do you do it and remain likable?
1. Say it jokingly. Example: Your boss says, “I don’t know what we would have done with out you.” You say, “I was just thinking the same thing, just kidding. It really was a team effort.” You probably mean the last part, but you reiterate the first part in your joke.

2. Point out facts of accomplishments that have had a positive impact. Example: I’m glad to see the new communication plan we implemented is working. We’ve received 50% more requests this month, which is a new record.

If you really are doing a good job, people are probably noticing. You may just need to remind them. Hopefully these techniques will work!

That’s how single mom’s lean in!

Have a Strong Foundation!

My 8-year old daughter loves music and when the movie Pitch Perfect came out, she was dying to see it. However, it was PG-13. Now she’s a pretty mature 8, so there are some PG-13 movies I let her see. But this one, I knew when I saw the preview for it, was questionable. So how did I decide through her begging and her tears to firmly say no? I have a strong foundation and for us, it’s based in Christianity. But I realize that’s not the only foundation and I’m not here to judge your foundation or tell you what yours should be, but I am here to tell you that you must have one. Because it is true, those who stand for nothing fall for anything.

So based on my foundation, there are certain things I don’t want my daughter exposed to. I know she’s heard bad words and luckily she realizes she shouldn’t use them. I know she’s seen shooting or killing at least of aliens or monsters. But there were concepts and ideas I don’t think an 8 year old should take in, things like using derogatory names to refer to girls, implying sexual activity, watching underage drinking, etc. That list was too long. So it was an easy choice for me. However, I had to find the information. So here are a couple of websites to help you make informed decisions about what your kids should or should not watch when it comes to movies.

http://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews
http://www.kids-in-mind.com
http://www.nickjr.com/parenting/flicks_for_kids

But, movies are just one thing. We make judgement calls everyday about what we will and will not allow our kids to do. Having a foundation helps you not have to make that decision in the moment. With it, many of your choices are predetermined. Therefore easier to make and easier to stick to!

Frankly, the same does hold true at work. You must lead at work with integrity, holding to the ground rules you have set. But they must be set. Have an established set of precepts or guidelines to help you make decisions at work whether it be in regards to how you handle a disciplinary action, allowing someone to take last minute vacation or leaving the office early. Having a foundation, communicating that foundation and living by it will ensure a healthier,happier environment at home and at the office.

It’s not always easy, but being consistent develops the necessary practice. That’s how single mom’s lean in!

Make lemonade!

I just got home from an awesome staycation with the girls and the families of my closest girlfriends. I was already to blog about the value of girlfriends. However, after the girls bath, I realized my computer won’t turn on and it’s not cooling off in here!

I’ve tried everything but the air conditioner is  really not working. It’s 80 some degrees in here. So I’ve put pallets on the floor, turned on a movie and stripped the girls down. Tomorrow, I’ll call the home warranty people and that leads me to my tip.

Every single mom should have two things: Triple A and a home warranty. We’re sweating tonight but for $60, tomorrow, someone’s going to come make a hundreds of dollars repair on my A/C. It’s peace of mind. Most people don’t realize you can get a home warranty even if your house isn’t new. And although I know many think its unnecessary, it can save a single mom in a bind when you could never afford replacing or repairing some of the appliances in your house.

So tonight we have a not so cool but fun sleepover. Tomorrow it will hopefully be a cooled off bedtime as usual!

We’ll talk more about triple A when I’ve cooled off!