By Kelly Allder, VP of HR Programs, Ceridian
Time and again, I read articles and blogs about ‘achieving work life balance’ or ‘improving productivity’ or ‘5 tips for getting that next promotion’. While all very legitimate and worthy goals, as a working parent, I have to say there are times when I feel maxed out and if I have to think about one more thing that I SHOULD be doing, I’ll probably get an ulcer.
Let me start with the basics: Combined, my partner and I have four children in our blended family (aged 16, 14, 13 and 12). On any given day, the kids might have hockey, soccer, dance, cooking class, altar serving, school projects, some kind of ailment, and/or the need to go to the mall. We have THINGS to do!
At the same time, I have a good job (VP, HR Programs at Ceridian), working in a fast-paced, constantly-changing organization that values employee engagement. My job demands my active attention and participation. I focus on implementing HR technologies, enhancing engagement, helping people resolve challenges, and building change leadership capabilities (to name a few of my ‘sundry duties as assigned’).
As a professional in the HR arena, it behooves me to be connected, in-the-loop, and aware of HR trends. I ought to be a Thought Leader, read blogs by other Thought Leaders, learn, network, read, stay up to date with industry best practices, role model good [employee] health, and generally improve my skills and knowledge.
However, I often find myself in a “working-parent” / “HR person” conundrum. I am aware of the need for employees to take vacations, breaks, go home, put down their smart phones and recharge, but how can I do that and stay up-to-date professionally? Should I spend more time updating my LinkedIn profile and tweeting the latest industry news? Or reading my latest Jodi Picoult or Jack Reacher novel and sewing the ripped shirt of my daughter’s work uniform? Do we order in dinner again so I can work for 30 extra minutes at the office? Or, do I leave early, buy organic vegetables (after reading ‘How to feed your kids’ Brains’) to make hearty soup, and THEN login after dinner to ‘catch up’?
You could say I have brought this situation on myself as a result of my life choices and my opinion about what it means to be a successful parent and successful leader at work.
- I love my family and love being a mother. It’s my responsibility to care for my kids’ nutrition, to be involved in their education, to listen to their broken heart stories, and to cheer their successes. I schedule my day down to the very minute, so I can maximize my time with them, sometimes scheduling early morning work calls (i.e., before they wake up), so that I can spend 10 extra minutes trying to convince my daughter of the value of eating breakfast.
- I love my work and being really good at what I do. It’s my responsibility to bring my A game every day, to facilitate conversations, work through people issues, do it fast, do it now, do it right, represent the company and be pleasant (HR people are supposed to be ‘nice’, right?).
The result: While I drive to and from work, I flip flop between my SHOULDS. I should remind my son to put on deodorant. I should work on that Excel file that I need to send to my Technology colleague. I should buy some plastic spoons so my cutlery doesn’t go missing in the kids’ lunches. I should use my cutlery to save the environment. I should blog more about HR trends. I should send a recognition email to the project manager that keeps us on track. I should do yoga. I should learn SQL…Do you see where an ulcer could come from? How can I prevent it?
A couple of years ago I took some advice from our fantastic LifeWorks team [our EAP / wellness provider]:
- Be Present.
- Focus 100% of your attention on the task at hand.
- Make choices about how you spend your time, and don’t second guess them.
I have learned to focus my attention on the moment at hand. When I am at work, I am 100% focused on my work activities. When I am with my family, I am 100% focused on them – looking into their eyes when we have conversations (not at my phone), playing card games, cooking together and talking about homework. I know there is work waiting for me; work that might be considered more important than a card game. But, I know that when I am AT work, I am 100% at work, and so I deserve to have my personal time 100% focused on personal things as well.
I suspect my circumstances are not unique. There are likely thousands of parents out there with the same challenges and list of “shoulds” running through their heads. What kinds of strategies do you use to stay on track and ulcer-free?
Kelly Allder is an experienced human resources consultant and dynamic facilitator. As Vice President of HR Programs, Kelly is responsible for HR technology and HR programs that help enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and collaboration of employees and managers.
Kelly is also Executive Director of Ceridian Cares, Ceridian’s very own charity, where she oversees the daily operations and national committees that give grants to people in need.
Kelly holds an MBA from Schulich School of Business at York University, and she drives a MINI Cooper. Kelly has four children, all of whom can fit into her car, plus 1 hockey bag. Follow Kelly on Twitter @kallder04!