“Let the Sunshine In” – Job Crafting

You may have seen an interesting experiment where Joshua Bell, an internationally known violinist, anonymously played in a DC train station and only a handful of people stopped to notice.* While a large number of the people walking through that train station would have most likely gladly paid the $100 a ticket he typically charges to see him perform, these travelers neglected to notice the beauty of his music while rushing through the train station. One cannot blame these individuals who were rushing off to work or to appointments for not noticing the music; however, think about how lovely it would have been for those who did take a moment to stop and appreciate a bit of beauty in their day. As Positive Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson says “The negative screams at you, but the positive only whispers”. We need to look for the positive to counteract the negative.

Why is it so important to see the positive? Fredrickson has a wonderful theory called “Broaden and Build”.** Basically she says that positive moments can foster more positive moments. Positivity promotes an upward spiral of happiness, creativity and openness. Had the people in career coachingthe train station noticed the beautiful music and appreciated it for a moment, they may have been primed for more positive moments throughout the day. Intuitively, we all know how a negative interaction can set us off track for hours and a positive interaction can set our day on the right foot. The good news is that if we are intentional and pay attention to what makes us happy, we can increase these opportunities.

Increasing positivity on the job

As a career coach, I like to ask my clients the question “what do you enjoy about your job?” Sometimes this is tough for people who are miserable in their jobs, but usually you can find one bright spot in your day. Then we work together thinking of ways to increase those opportunities. Take a moment to think about what it is you like about your job (if you are not currently working think about a previous job or any volunteer work you are doing). Are there ways to increase those enjoyable moments?

Job Crafting

When you think about what you like about your job and how you can increase those opportunities, you are essentially thinking about how you can craft your job to make it fit you better. Psychologists Jane Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski  define job crafting as an opportunity for employees to “redesign their own jobs in ways that can foster job satisfaction, as well as engagement, resilience and thriving at work.”***

Many of us neglect to notice what it is that brings us joy in our job in the same way people neglected to notice the beautiful music in the train station. We get sidetracked with our busy lives and we overlook moments of beauty in our day.

There are three ways to job craft. We can alter the tasks we do, the people we interact with or the way we perceive our tasks.

Task Crafting

Task crafting “consists of adding or dropping tasks, adjusting the time or effort spent on various tasks, and redesigning aspects of tasks (e.g., a teacher who spends time learning new classroom technology to fulfill his passion for IT)”. **** Are there tasks that you do in your job that you dislike? Can you automate those tasks? Delegate them? Reframe them?

One of my clients was life coachinginstructed to make cold calls as part of her sales role. She despised this piece of her job and dreaded doing it. She did however love other methods of marketing including blogging, social media and google ads. Therefore she researched the effectiveness of these sales modes in her industry and presented her findings to her boss. She now does much less cold calling and has increased the marketing strategies where she excels and enjoys.

Can you find ways to increase the amount of time you spend on job tasks you enjoy and decrease the amount of time you spend on tasks you don’t enjoy?

Relational Crafting

Clearly building strong relationships at work can make your job more pleasurable and contribute to productivity. As with all three of these modes of job crafting, sometimes changing one area changes another. For instance, if you want to introduce more technology into your job, you may need to increase your interactions with the technology group. Building relationships is a satisfying way to enhance your experience at work.

My husband Gideon is a good example of building relationships as a way to find pleasure in his job. A quintessential extravert, he has made numerous friends and acquaintances at every job where he has worked. Not only does he get to know his co-workers, he loves to have fun with them. Whenever he works from home and I overhear his conference calls, there is a ton of career coachinglaughing and joking—while also lots of work talk too (just in case his boss is reading this). His ability to create a social environment at work is incredibly beneficial not only for his own enjoyment of his job but also for encouraging collaboration throughout his group. Prioritizing this aspect of himself allows him to be authentic on the job and authenticity contributes to productivity and happiness.

Are there relationships at work that you can cultivate to increase your productivity and happiness at work?

Alter How We Perceive Tasks (Reframing our job)

We do not always need to change what we do at work, instead we can change the way we see things. IT specialists can see themselves as teachers, clothing sales people can see themselves as people whose job it is to help their customers feel beautiful and leave happier than they came, people in product design can think of themselves as innovators, and the list goes on…. What I love about this form of job crafting is that you can do this without your manager even knowing you are doing this, it is a lot about perception and reframing the way you see your role.

A wonderful piece of research was done back in 2000 where researchers interviewed hospital custodians at a hospital about their jobs*****. Researchers discovered a group of custodians career coachingwho saw their work as well beyond their job description. These custodians saw themselves as healers who contributed to the healthy environment of the hospital by keeping it clean and sanitary. They were members of the team committed to helping patients get better. As a result of this perception, they went out of their way to contribute to the patients healing in creative and loving ways. Job crafting in this way not only enhances your experience at work but also increases your productivity.

Are their parts of your job where you could alter your perception so you can increase the positive?

Increasing the positive in our life can have profound effects and focusing on the positive within our job is one way to do this. Take a moment to think if you have crafted your job. I would love to hear your stories, so please share with me anything you have learned in the process. Also, think of ways you can craft your job now. Happiness at work matters and luckily there are ways we can enhance our own happiness.

Interested in learning more about how to craft your job? Please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com



**Fredrickson B.L., (2009). Positivity: Top-Notch Research Reveals the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life Penguin Random House

***Berg J.M., Dutton J.E., Wrzesniewski, A (2007). What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter? Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, University of Michigan Ross School of Business

****Wrzesniewski A, Berg, J.M., Dutton, J.E. (2010). Managing Yourself: Turn the Job you Have in the Job You Want Harvard Business Review

*****Dutton, J. E., Debebe, G., & Wrzesniewski, A. (2000). A social valuing perspective on relationship sensemaking. Working paper, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Three “Rs” in Job Seeking: Reflect, Research and Relay

With one click, you can submit your resume and cover letter for a job opening. It is so simple when compared to the old days. For example, when I applied to my first job I needed to print out my resume (the printer was in the computer lab at my school) and then print out the envelope (making sure to put the envelope into the printer in just the right way), attach the stamp and then lick the envelope shut.

While the old way was tedious, the current way has a downside as well. The ability to apply to a job without much effort can result in a mindless approach to job seeking. When applying to a job took more effort, we made Life Coachingsure to only apply to places we really liked. Now things move much more quickly. However, slowing down and thinking about where you are applying not only increases your chance of getting noticed by the recruiter but it can increase your likelihood of landing a job you will actually like.

  1. Reflect

When looking for a job, it is important to seek the right environment and cultural fit. Take a moment to think about a few times where you were at your best. Ask yourself why you succeeded in those situations? Who were you working with? Where were you working? What were the surroundings like? Your work environment can impact your productivity, effectiveness and ultimately your overall happiness. Before you click “send” on a resume or cover letter, take the time to get to know the company you are applying to.

Luckily, there are websites that provide us with an opportunity to get the inside scoop on work environments – allowing you to mindfully choose where you want to apply.

  1. Research

Websites like The Muse, Glassdoor and WorkClear allow potential applicants to peek behind the curtain at a potential employer. These websites enrich your job search by providing insights into Life Coachthe environments where you will be working. Below are descriptions of three websites as a starting point for you. I encourage you to check out these websites to see if any of them would help you.

  • “WorkClear was founded to provide insight into the work-life balance cultures of employers around the world. Members of the WorkClear community anonymously post actual work hours, vacation time, and other work-life metrics.” (Quotation from WorkClear’s website)
  • Glassdoor offers a variety of career-oriented services including the opportunity to read reviews from employees where employees can tell you the real deal about the company.
  • The Muse allows you to learn more about a companies culture. As they state on their website “We think company culture is pretty important. We show you inside offices before you apply to make sure you’ll love working there.” While these summaries are not anonymous reviews like the other two websites, the descriptions are written in a very clear way focusing primarily on the working culture at the organization.

These websites support the idea that the culture in the company is a huge contributor to happiness. Posting actual work hours? That is fantastic! Seeing pictures of the physical space you will be working? Ideal! These websites are gifts for the job seeker.

Connect Your Reflections to Your Research

When you research potential employers, be sure they have some of the qualities you identified above when I asked you to reflect on where and how you do your best work. For instance, which of the descriptions below appeal to you:

-Is a down-to-earth environment a top requirement for you? Then this company that was reviewed on Glassdoor may be a match for you: “Incredibly supportive culture with an incredible focus on learning and mentoring, Highly intelligent, down-to-earth and fun people, Focused on making a real impact for our clients”

-Are you willing to work long hours but need flexibility? Then this company’s review on Workclear’s website may be of interest: “While my lunch break is non existent and days are long, I have the flexibility to work around my business commitments, including flexible work schedule. This flexibility allows me to start work early in the morning so I can step out for my daughter’s game / practice / etc., and this sometimes means I need to catch up on work over the weekend.”

-Do you like autonomy and the freedom to utilize and develop your expertise? Then this career coachcompany reviewed by an employee on the Muse website may be for you: “One of the best aspects of [our company’s] management style is that individuals hired are considered experts in their respective fields. We’re encouraged to do our own thing and really excel.” (Note that the Muse website is different from the two above. While this quote is by an actual employee it is not anonymous and is part of an overall work overview that was provided by the company itself.)

  1. Relay your Connections with Your Potential Employer

These pieces of information the websites offer, while not the complete story, can give you some insight about a company and determine if it is worth your time applying. If the reviews are exciting to you, you can address that in your cover letter, interview and beyond. Rather than sending dozens of resumes into a black hole, take the time to determine why you are applying to a particular job and customize your resume and cover letter accordingly. Show the emplCareer Coachingoyer that you take this process seriously, you have done your homework and you have SELECTED this particular company. Ensuring that the company where you work is the right fit for you is a benefit for everyone involved. The company benefits because you will do your best work there and you will benefit because prioritizing your happiness at work is a step in the right direction to cultivating your overall happiness.


If you are interested in speaking with me about career coaching, please contact me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com.



Double Standards Hurt Men Too

Over 15 years ago, I helped write the paternity leave policy for Goldman Sachs. We offered fathers two weeks of paid leave and provided flexibility as to when they could take this leave. Perhaps fathers wanted to use the leave for the first two weeks after the child is born, maybe they wanted to supplement their spouse’s leave, or maybe they preferred to use it a little at a time to fill in the gaps at home. By providing flexibility, we were acknowledging that every family is different. Our intention was for the policy to make sense to our employees and to assist a family adjusting to a new baby at home. Did I think two-week paternity leave was adequate? No. But it was a start, especially at a firm that made no apologies for its face-time oriented, workaholic culture.

I helped write this paternity leave policy when I was newly married and did not have kids of my own. At the time, one of our male friends expressed a strong negative reaction to the idea of paternity leave. He teased me (in a loving way of course) about the ridiculousness of paternity leave and said he would lose respect for any man who took advantage of it. Fortunately, our friend changed his tune after he married, started his own successful business and had children of his own. Not only did he establish a paternity leave within his organization, he also was a role model by utilizing in the paternity leave himself when he became a father. Over time his definition of masculinity was expanded to include caregiving. This change in our friend exemplifies the larger change that is going on all around us. Men are realizing the benefits of caregiving and men, women and children, stand to benefit from this modern definition of what it is to be a man.

ReadiStock_000017967210_Largeing Unfinished Business, by Anne-Marie Slaughter, I was reminded of the power of men in the women’s movement. As Slaughter points out in her book, girls have more choices than boys do today. Girls can choose to stay home, work part time, work full time etc. while boys are typically given a more singular option of providing financially for the family. Of course we are constantly seeing exceptions to this rule and the hope is that these exceptions continue to flourish. Giving men a broader definition of masculinity benefits men and women. The opportunity to provide care for our children and elderly relatives is a gift both for the caregiver as well as the one receiving care. In addition, providing opportunities for men to be caregivers will elevate the value we place on care in our society..

Leading The Way Towards a Paradigm Shift

Same-Sex marriage: Heterosexual couples can learn from same-sex couples regarding how to define their roles within their marriage. Same-sex couples have the freedom to design their own marriage (p. 78). They can ask the following questions to guide their choices: Whose job pays more or has the best income prospects down the road? Who enjoys work more? Who has a more supportive employer? Who prefers to be the primary parent? Wouldn’t it be incredible if heterosexual couples evaluated their division of labor with the same openness? Perhaps in the near future heterosexual couples will make their choices in the same way same sex couples make their decisions rather than relying on predetermined, outdated gender roles. This would open up opportunities for men and women to evaluate their unique hopes and dreams for themselves and for their families.

Women’s increase in income

“40% of American women are the primary breadwinners in their families. That includes single mothers, but it still tracks a major trend.” (p. 49) With this fact, it makes sense for many families to revisit traditional roles. When a woman earns more than her husband, it confuses the traditional model of fathers being the breadwinners due to a higher salary. Of course this does not automatically reverse the roles because there are many factors that determine who does what within a couple, but it opens up the opportunity for a more thoughtful conversation.

What Can Women Do to Help the Men’s Movement?

“Let it Go” in the Home

Ok, this is a really big deal and I love how Slaughter captures this in her book. We women need to Let it Go at home. We need to let our husbands handle parenting and housework in their own way. If we micromanage our husbands, we are denying them the opportunity to make a unique contribution. Slaughter talks about how women have a tendency to give men step-by-step instructions on how to handle the house when they are not home (p.150). Our husbands may do things differently, but that does not make it wrong. In the same way women want to contribute to their workplace in their own way without having to “act like a man”, men need to be able to contribute at home without micromanagement. If we want men to contribute equally at home, we must make room for them to express themselves their way and allow them to learn from their mistakes just as women are making their own unique mark in the workplace.

Support Young Men

career coachingWhat are the messages we are giving our sons? Do we tell them they can do anything like we tell our daughters? We need to make sure we tell our son’s (just like we tell our daughters) that they can be whoever they want to be. They can choose to be primary caregiver whether it is for their children’s entire childhood or seesawing career opportunities with their spouse, or they can choose to be the primary breadwinner. As mentors, we need to ask young men to think about what work and family means for them. Women are asked constantly about how they plan to manage work and family. Men also need the opportunity to reflect on this and to ask themselves the questions about their values and priorities (p. 180). Women and men need to live lives with authenticity and integrity, but the only way to do that is to search your own soul and determine what will make you truly happy. We have worked very hard over the years to expand women’s choices; men also deserve more choices and an expanded definition of masculinity to provide freedoms and opportunities for all.

If you are interested in learning more about life coaching, please visit my worklife coaching page or email me at amyalpertlifecoach@gmail.com.


Hurricanes and Snowstorms Oh My: The Business Case for Telecommuting

It has become common knowledge that Flexible Work Arrangements (FWAs) help individuals manage their work-life needs, but to my surprise there are some employers who continue to question the business benefits of FWAs. The Agile Workforce and Workplace: Flex Primer for the New Future of Work (2011) by Karol Rose and Lori Sokol, PhD enumerates the many ways FWAs help employees: control over workload, ability to handle work-life demands, promotes health and well being, reduces stress, etc. In addition, the book also points out the clear-cut and compelling ways FWAs help employers, including Business Continuity Planning and Facilities Planning.

Business Continuity Planning

When weather events like Hurricane Joaquin occur, employers who have embraced FWAs and telework arrangements have an advantage. These companies can feel assured that employees will continue to produce even if the office is closed. Technology makes working from home a reality for many employees. However, this was not always the case. During the terrorist attacks on 9/11, I was working downtown at Goldman Sachs. Our office was closed for several days following the attacks. Since I managed Goldman’s Employee Assistance Program and arranged for the emotional care of our employees, I worked incredibly hard during those few days. Given the limited technology we had at that time, the work was slow and frustrating. Not only were we emotional and traumatized ourselves, we had to work harder than ever without the technological support to do so.

Thankfully, today, we have the technology to support workers if there is an emergency. Events like the Swine Flu, hurcareer coaching west orange njricanes, snowstorms and even a visit from the Pope are among the multiple events that prompt the need for employees to work offsite. Companies that have embraced telecommuting as part of their corporate culture are better able to handle unexpected events. If employees already have technology that allow them to work from home and managers already have the skills to handle remote employees, then they can make a seamless transition when an emergency arises.

By having employees telework on a more regular basis—not just when there are big events, employees can create a work space at home that is conducive to working from home. They can also work out any kinks with their technology. Finally, when employees work from home, managers and employees develop skills to work together remotely. Competitively speaking, the better able employees can continue to work when there is a crisis, the better a company’s competitive edge.

Facilities Planning

Another fascinating trend that was highlighted in The Agile Workforce and Workplace is facilities planning and design. There is so much creativity with designing the modern workspace. Developing a flexible workforce contributes to this trend. Today, facility design can be more creative with space dedicated to collaborative meeting spaces in addition to individual workspaces. Embracing telework supports this opportunity.

Companies spend a ton of money on real estate. According to The Agile Workforce and Workplace, it costs approximately $8,000-$14,000 a year for a workspace per employee. If companies can reduce office space by supporting employees who wish to work from home or leveraging an emplcareer coaching west orange njoyee’s hectic travel schedule, there are many benefits. Companies save money on space, reduce energy costs, and can design a more fluid and adaptable workspace. “Hoteling” is a brilliant way to address the real estate realities of a modern workforce.   Since many employees are not in their office all the time due to travel schedules or telework arrangements, hoteling is a way to create shared workspaces and save money.

Hoteling involves creating workspace that can be utilized by multiple employees. By having employees work from home and then reserve office space at work when they need to come into the office, companies reduce the 1:1 ratio of employee to workspace. Not to mention the fact that employees save on gas by not having to drive to and from work each day and employers save on energy costs by reducing the amount of space they need for workspaces. Employers who reduce energy output can also receive carbon-offset credits.career coaching west orange nj

Encouraging employees who prefer to work from home the opportunity to focus on their work there and then come into work for collaborative opportunities, is an enterprising way to give employees control over how work gets done. Supporting employees’ unique needs without sacrificing productivity is the crux of the flexible work culture.

Employers can prepare for the inevitable emergencies by embracing telework and can save money on real estate costs. Having a more fluid approach to how and where work gets done is a win/win for employers and employees. For more information about The Agile Workforce and Workplace: Flex Primer for the New Future of Work, visit Karol Rose’s website at  http://www.klrandassociates.com.

Click here for more information on the benefits of Career Coaching in West Orange NJ & Surrounding areas.


Returning to Work: Leveraging Organizational Resources

In the first blog of this series, Returning to Work: Details and Dreams, we focused on identifying our responsibilities and prioritizing them according to our values. In Blog #2 of this series Returning to Work: Leveraging Your Village, we focused on how to get the things done on your list after going back to work. In this blog, we will focus on how to utilize your employer’s work-life programs and policies and how to communicate with your manager to figure out work arrangements that foster work-life success.

Taking advantage of corporate programs can be hugely helpful and worth exploring. In addition, companies may also have work-life policies to consider, including work from home options, part-time arrangements and other flexible work options. In many ways, however, the best way to find work-life balance at work is to have a supportive manager who respects your autonomy and lets you get your work done in the way that best utilizes your strengths and family responsibilities. Developing a healthy relationship with your manager is one of the best ways to achieve work-life balance and job satisfaction.

If you are a freelancer or self-employed?

This blog can also apply to you as it can provide you with a template for evaluating how to organize your time. How do you work best? How many hours should you work? Please use this lens as you read through the rest of the blog.

Work-life Programs

The good news is that many companies offer work-life programs—especially the larger companies. Often organizations partner with vendors like LifeCare, Harris Rothenberg International and Bright Horizons Family Solutions (to name a few) to provide a variety of family friendly services. If you have not done so already, familiarize yourself with your company’s family–friendly benefits. Programs can include (but are not limited to):

  • Childcare – full-time and back-up
    • Companies can provide on-site full-time care or partner with full-time childcare facilities located near the office.
    • Back-up childcare is helpful for the occasional school holiday or when your nanny calls in sick and can be located on-site or at off-site affiliates
  • Eldercare assistance
  • On-site Gym
  • On-site Wellness programs: nurses and doctors on-site, health screenings, flu shots
  • Concierge services –these services can make life a little bit easier—e.g. on-site dry cleaning
  • Homework help for your kids: homework help via the internet or by phone
  • College Coaching: Assistance with the college search and application process
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAP): counseling services that are free and convenient
  • On-site Lactation programs
  • Mentoring programs and Parenting Groups—learn from other working parents

Work-life Policies

In addition to work-life programs, there are work-life policies to consider. Parental leave is a popular one in the news today with companies like Netflix announcing very generous policies. (Of course having a policy does not necessarily mean people feel safe to take it advantage of it—but that is for a separate blog.) Since you are returning to work, parental leave policies probably don’t apply to you so let’s focus on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWAs). FWAs are hugely helpful because standard work hours are not always ideal for real life. FWAs include:

  • Part-time arrangements – involves working less than full-time so it is accompanied by a pay reduction
  • FlexTime arrangements: flexibility with when you work
    • Compressed work-week: nurses often work longer hours a day for fewer days a week.
    • Irregular hours: working different hours -– often seen in retail where evening and weekend hours are often the most wanted timesimages-5
  • FlexPlace: Working from home or from a satellite location
  • Job Sharing: Creating a full-time schedule for one position with two employees

These arrangements can be negotiated during the job offer process, but they can also be arranged as needed. Sometimes it takes working a bit to realize you need an FWA and sometimes it takes being in the job to see whether an FWA is conducive to your job. You may even find that working an FWA is actually preferable for your job situation. For instance, if you work with clients in a different time zone.

Informal Work-life Options

Informal work-life options are an ideal solution to work-life issues. Things change constantly—a child gets sick, after school activities change, work is busy, work is not busy. It is great for all involved when you can work out arrangements with your manager on an as needed basis. Sometimes a particular project lends itself to telecommuting while a different project requires working late. How can you communicate with your boss to make things work for you?

Which Work-Life Resource Do You Need?

First you should ask, what do you want?

  • Are there days you need to be home earlier due to carpools?
  • Are there days you want to be home to volunteer?
  • Do you want to go in later some mornings so you can bring your kids to school?
  • Do you want to be home by 5:00 so you can help your kids with homework?
  • Do you need one day off a week to tackle your errands, self-care, etc.?
  • Do you need a day off a month to take an elderly parent to a medical treatment?

Now evaluate ways to meet the needs that you identify. Do you need to work from home some days? Do you need a part-time schedule? Do you want flexible hours (a full-time schedule but with modified work times)?

Communicating with Your Manager

The key to success with negotiating with your manager is to make it a conversation—not a negotiation. Come with a suggestion, but be open to modifying it. As a positive psychology coach, these are some things I recommend thinking about before your meeting:

  • What are your strengths? Are those leveraged in your modified job responsibilities?
  • Can you fill a need with your job change? For instance, can you volunteer to work late one day a week so you can work with West coast time zone and then come in late a different day?

I love exploring creative solutions to work-life dilemmas and I am pleasantly surprised by how often there are win/win situations. For instance, a client of mine was hoping to work fewer than 5 days a week, but she was not sure how to ask. After talking with her, we realized that her boss was in a difficult situation trying to give another employee more hours. By volunteering one of her days to her boss, her boss was ecstatic since she was able to give those hours to an employee who needed them. It was a win/win.  My client was able to keep a job she loved and have improved work-life balance and her boss was grateful to have a work dilemma resolved.

Take some time now to evaluate your needs and your employer’s work options. Keep an open mind and be willing to experiment.  Going back to work can be challenging, but there are resources out there to explore.  Creativity and communication are keys leveraging organizational resources to enhance your work-life balance.

Click here for more information on the benefits of Career Coaching.


Returning to Work: Leveraging Your Village

When returning to work after being a Stay at Home Parent, the list of To-Dos can be mind-boggling. In the first blog of this series Returning to work: Details and Dreams, I reviewed how to create a list that lays out all of your responsibilities and then prioritize them based on your values. Now, with this list in hand, we need to figure out how to get it done. In the end, we cannot do it all alone—especially if we are going back to work. We also need to identify and leverage our resources. Luckily, there are many resources available; you just need to take the time to identify them.

Child labor (aka: chores)

Resources come in a variety of shapes and sizes. One of the many benefits of returning to work is giving your child the gift of independence. Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to have them help out around the house more. Taking the time to identify age appropriate chores is the first step in this process. When figuring out chores for your children to do, think about the following:

  • Which chores do you no longer have time for?
  • What are good skills for your kids to develop?
  • What chores do you really dislike? (Shhh….A secret benefit of going back to work is to outsource the tasks you never really liked in the first place.)
  • What special skills do your children have that you can leverage?

A wonderful resource for identifying age appropriate chores is in one of my favorite parenting books: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel. She devotes an entire chapter to children and chores. It is definitely worth a read.

Once you have identified the chores you would like your children to do, you need to make sure they know how to do them. Things that seem obvious are not always obvious to our kids. Show them how to get the bowl and pour the cereal, or how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch or Mac and Cheese for dinner if they are old enough to use the stove. If your child has not had these responsibilities before, you need to take the time to teach your children.

Kids are often excited for parents returning to work. Share the excitement and let them know it is a team effort. But remember change takes time and going back to work involves a learning curve for everyone. In Positive Psychology coaching we promote a Growth Mindset — where taking risks and making mistakes are part of the learning process and effort is rewarded. Keep this in mind as you teach your children new skills. While you may want everything to be done as well as you do it, a more effective expectation would be to expect mistakes and imperfection, particularly in the beginning.

Carpools and playdates.. oh my!

So your kids can’t drive yet, this is a problem. How are they going to get to their sports/dance/chess/karate lessons or practices? Our kids are so busy after school that if you are working past 3:00, you need to think about how your children are going to get to their after-school activities. This is where your community can come in handy. Below are ideas for you to consider around your neighborhood, which involve local friends, neighbors, nannies, schools and companies.

  • Are you working part time? Perhaps you can set up a carpool schedule where you can drive on the days you are not working and another parent can drive when you are working.
  • Are there after-school activities at your child’s school to buy you a little extra time? Can you sign up for that and then pick the kids up a little later after these activities end?
  • Can a friend drive your child during the week and then you can drive to games on the weekend or provide sleepovers over the weekend?
  • Can you employ a nanny/helper for the afternoon to provide homework help, make dinner and drive carpools? It may be difficult to hire someone just for the afternoons, but a nanny share could help with this problem. My friend created a nanny share with her neighbor. Her neighbor needed a nanny for the afternoons and my friend needed her for the mornings. A perfect arrangement for everyone.
  • Contact your local college’s career office to hire college students (who can drive) to babysit.images-3
  • Is there a driving company in your community? We have a wonderful service called Vantastic in our neighborhood. Local dads established this service to drive children in our community to school, after-school activities and to camp in the summer. This service is a huge help for working parents!

Shake things up!—Review roles and responsibilities with your spouse

If you are married, another great resource can be your spouse. Returning to work allows for an adjustment in parenting roles within a couple. It is a great opportunity to revisit roles and consider sharing certain responsibilities. For the non-stay at home spouse, this offers an incredible opportunity to interact with the kids in a different way and for parents to revise their game plan. Shaking things up can be a powerful way to reinvigorate a marriage and a home. So be creative and work together to think outside the box and question assumptions. Some possible areas to shake up are:

  • Change up who handles the morning routine.
  • Can either of you work from home on certain days to help with carpools?
  • Are there ways either parent can help with school volunteering?
  • Does the same parent bring the kids to the doctor? Does it have to be that way? Would sharing that role be helpful?

By working together to re-think parenting roles, both parents have an opportunity to grow and stretch in different ways and to better appreciate each other’s prior responsibilities.

You are not alone in your journey back to work. You have many resources available within your own family and community. Look around to see what is available and then find a way to piece these resources together to make your transition back to work more manageable. Know that these challenges truly can provide opportunities to grow and learn as a family.

Click here for more information on the benefits of Life Coaching.


Returning to Work: Details and Dreams

Returning to work after being a stay-at-home parent can be overwhelming. Whether you are returning full-time, part-time, with a commute or from home, there are steps you will need to take to make the transition as smooth as possible. This blog is part of a four part series. First, in Details and Dreams, you will need to get a clear picture of what you need to focus on to make your transition as smooth as possible. You will think about what you need to do and how to prioritize these responsibilities. Future blogs will focus on how to handle these responsibilities in a way that keeps you sane and employed and maintains your priorities as a parent.

The next blog, Leveraging Your Village, focuses on how to manage some of your family responsibilities. We will look at how to identify and utilize your family and neighborhood resources to make your transition a success. The third blog will discuss Prioritizing Self-Care and how to find time to take care of yourself when time is more limited. The fourth blog focuses on your Leveraging Organizational Resources by investigating organizational work-life programs and policies as well as information arrangements with your manager.

Begin with a brain dump:

When I coach people returning to work, the first thing I ask my clients to do is to begin with a “brain dump”. This is where I ask my client to write down EVERYTHING they do every day. I recommend you begin this way as well. Below is a short list to remind you of some details, but you need to make your list specific to your life:

  • Food shopping
  • Walking the dog
  • Homework help
  • Carpools
  • Laundry
  • Exercise
  • Making Meals
  • Scheduling activities
  • Doctors and dentist appointments
  • Checking in with elderly parents
  • Self-care (reading, talking to friends, relaxing with a cup of coffee or tea)

To help you create a complete list:

  • Look through your past to-do lists
  • Glance through your calendar to remind yourself of the dozens of things you do in a day.
  • Ask your friends to tell you about their to-do lists as a reminder of things you might not be thinking of.
  • Input your children’s school calendars into your calendar as a way to get a more complete picture of the year.

The more complete your list the more clear you will be on your potential challenges.

Does looking at this list cause you to hyperventilate? Don’t worry. First, congratulate yourself on all you do! Wow, it is really amazing to see it all in one place. Stay-at-home parents often don’t get enough credit for all they do, so now is the time to see how capable you have been. Recognize that these same skills that allowed you to handle your incredible to do list will allow you to transition back to work. Positive psychology coaches focus on people’s strengths and how these strengths can be applied to new challenges. So consider how you have managed to handle this To-Do list in the past and how some of those strengths can be utilized to tackle your To Do list in preparing to transition back to work.

Identify priorities and values:

Now let’s dig a little deeper. You may want to grab a journal or notebook for the following activity. In positive psychology coaching, we want our clients to lead meaningful lives that are aligned with their core values. In order to tackle your list you need to reflect on what you care about most:

  • What are aspects of being a parent you truly enjoy?
  • What are things you are most proud of?
  • What are your priorities?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Planning a business dayNow look at your list with these things in mind. What is it that you don’t want to give up when going back to work? Is participating in your child’s school a priority? Is visiting your parents important to you? Do you want to read to your children every night? Help with their homework? Exercise? Read? Make healthy meals? Conversely there may be things that you are happy to let go of, like laundry or carpools or food shopping. Going back to work can give you the gift of outsourcing undesirable aspects of managing a home (one of the secret benefits of going back to work!).

In order to figure out how to handle your responsibilities, you need to determine your unique priorities. With a sense of your priorities, you can determine how to handle the other responsibilities. For instance, homework help may not make your priority list. No problem, suggestions on how to outsource that are in Blog #4. However, you want to continue to exercise and you cannot outsource that, we will address exercise in Blog #3 on Self Care. The next 3 blogs focus on how you can manage the list you created. These blogs include ideas on ways to think differently about how to ensure your items get done in a way that accommodates your new schedule, values and priorities. The transition of going back to work is a unique opportunity to really think about your life and what is important to you. It is a time to think outside the box, throw out old assumptions and take advantage of resources that are available to help you. Self-reflection, talking with friends and coworkers and possibly meeting with a life coach are all ways to make your transition as successful as possible.

Click here for more information on the benefits of Career Coaching.