Smart Companies Offer Work/Life Perks

In my recent travels, I read an article in United’s Hemisphere magazine by Lisen Stromberg Beating the Parent Trap that discussed the value to companies that offer work/life balance perks. News studies confirm that companies with a more gender-diverse talent pool had 15 percent higher returns, regardless of the industry. While work/life balance considerations are critical to working parents, a more flexible workplace benefits everyone. Consider a 2015 EY Global Generations survey of full-time workers that confirmed two-thirds of Millennial men would change jobs, give up a promotion, or relocate in order to secure better work/life balance.

Family matters and Millennial workers want more flexibility and options to work and live the life they want. This is confirmed by a survey of Millennial workers showing that: 1) 90% believe parental leave is extremely important; 2) 79% say they’d be happier if their company offered more flexible working arrangements; and 3) 61% of women report they expect to pause their career to care for children.

This article is a fresh look at what we already know–flexible workplaces and support for working parents is critically important. Ms. Stromberg concludes in her article that “….with the demand for talent greater than ever, wise companies are recognizing that offerings like pumping rooms are not “perks” but rather prerequisites for attracting and retaining the best employees.”

To learn more, read the article linked herein or Ms. Stromberg’s book Work Pause Thrive

Summer Savings- Chicago Museums Waive Admission Fees

Heading to a museum is great way to spend time with your children and ignite their interest in science and the arts, but the costs can really add up. This Summer, however, many Chicago museums are reducing prices and many even have days where the admission fee will be waived all together.childrens-museum-of-manhattan

Some of the deals include:

  • Art Institute of Chicago: Free for Illinois residents, 5 to 8p.m. on Thursdays
  • Chicago History Museum: Free for kids 12 and younger.
  • The Field Museum: Free for teachers and active military personnel, free for everyone June 21, 22 and 23.
  • Museum of Science & Industry: Free for Illinois residents June 1-3, 6-8, September 6-9, 12-16, 19-23, 26-30, October 4-6, November 3, 10, December 1.
  • The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum: Free for children 3 and younger.

 

Read More: Chicago Museum Free Days

MAKING WORK/LIFE BALANCE ACTUALLY WORK

The topic of work/life balance is so frequently in the news, often with a negative connotation. Typically, this conversation seems to be exclusive to women (although men are certainly impacted by the same issue). We are all in pursuit of this highly sought after notion of “balance.” But what does balancing work with the entire rest of your life really mean anyway? A recent New Statesman article astutely pointed out that the “life” part of the work/life balance discussion for women is often really just more work (i.e. childcare responsibilities, household tasks, etc.).

The topic can frankly feel discouraging.

I would argue that the many stories on work/life balance usually fail to capture the fact that millions of working families are literally finding ways to “make it work” every day. Most working parents aren’t miserable, haggard, stressed out messes trying desperately to hold it all together on the way out the door each day. Quite the contrary, in fact. The sunny reality of work/life balance is that it actually works for many working families.

True, juggling a job and kids can sometimes feel like a struggle. Work commitments are often overwhelming (and sometimes those kiddos can be overwhelming too). However, savvy Chicago-area working parents are finding ways to make their busy schedules work — and that includes time for date night, exercise and yes, even fun.

Recently the nation’s leading au pair placement agency Cultural Care Au Pairconducted a survey of 600 families to learn more about work-life balance and overall satisfaction in various areas of their lives. Survey results revealed that parents feel strongly that exercise and socializing with adult peers play a significant role in achieving work life balance.

  • 82.8% of respondents report that a healthy lifestyle is important in achieving work-life balance.
  • 68.6% of respondents say time with their partner, spouse or friends is important in achieving work /life balance.

It turns out that not every working parent is rushing out of the office to get back home to make it to Junior’s piano lessons or to tackle the lawn work.

Participants in the survey indicated that the “life” part of the work/life balance equation included activities that they found to be fun or relaxing. And these parents aren’t afraid to prioritize their own wellness.

  • “Work-life balance means working hard when you are there and enjoying family, friends when you are home and taking time for yourself,” stated one mom.
  • “I look forward to having time for myself – to workout, spend time with friends, etc. in addition to quality time with my kids and spouse,” said another respondent.

The survey also revealed that reliable childcare options help parents take care of their own needs and that “down time” is important when it comes to finding balance.

  • “We are able to have a regular date each week,” shared one survey respondent.
  • “I am more balanced in both work and life,” said another mom about having childcare and other support resources available. “It is easier to plan for last minute scheduling changes.”

“We know that the topic of work/life balance is really individual to each family,” says Marcie Wolbeck, Local Development Director for Cultural Care Au Pair. “But I always encourage the families that we work with to take into account the needs of everyone in the family – including your own. And know that there are resources like childcare and other outside support that can help you achieve the balance you are looking for,” she adds.

I’d love to hear your take on work/life balance and what it means for you. What factors/resources help ensure that everyone in your family gets their needs met? What do you do for YOU to find a sense of balance when life feels busy and chaotic? How do you make room for FUN?

Caitlin Murray Giles is the co-founder of 2 Moms Media LLC.. Caitlin wears many different hats, but her favorite gig is being mom to the three little people in her life. After the birth of her first child in 2004, she traded her days as an attorney in Cook County courtrooms for play dates on the Chicago park scene. Inspired by her new life as a mother, Caitlin began writing about her parenting experiences and working as a brand ambassador for companies looking to make connections with real moms. Caitlin saw first-hand that many traditional marketing strategies simply didn’t resonate with savvy moms and she knew that there were better ways to make authentic connections. Before long, she found herself in the business of marketing to parents in Chicago and beyond. Caitlin is grateful for the opportunity to grow her business by leveraging her experience as a modern-day mom and a marketer to help clients looking to do “mom comm” right. She resides in Wicker Park with her family.

IT’S MY SCHEDULE AND I’LL FLEX IF I WANT TO: IN DEFENSE OF FINDING A WORK SCHEDULE THAT WORKS FOR YOU

Five years ago, I couldn’t see how I was going to be able to find a work situation that worked for me. I had a three little ones at home — ages 6, 4 and 2. My husband was working long hours in his job as a litigator. After stepping back from my work as a lawyer for a few years while I stayed home with my babes, I was excited to start a new professional chapter — but I also had clear priorities in mind.

Yes, I wanted to return to work. But I also wanted to have the flexibility to spend time with my kids. I wanted to dive back into the world of client meetings and challenging projects. But I also wanted to help with homework, shuttle kids to and from baseball practice, cook dinner and sing goodnight songs.

Our life felt very full and I couldn’t see how I was going to squeeze my work into the equation. I knew that two parents working 12 hour + days just wasn’t going to work for us. Frankly, I struggled for several months trying to figure out which road I wanted to travel because I couldn’t see how I could make it all work.

Then I had a major change of heart. Rather than wait for something that seemed “perfect,” I figured that I might as well give it a go. What’s the worst that can happen any way? Over the next few months, my business partner and I launched our new boutique marketing business. As our client list grew, I started to feel more and more demands on my time. And I organically fell into a schedule that seemed to work for my family (most of the time any way).

I spend the early morning hours with my kiddos getting them dressed, fed and off to school. Then it is off to work, work, work from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. until school pick up. The reality of our lives is that our late afternoons and early evening hours are beyond busy. Between homework, way too many afterschool activities and my kid’s constant demand for a daily dinners and semi-regular baths, these hours are jam packed. Every day. I need to be running around and meeting my family’s needs during this time.

And then 8:00 p.m. rolls around. Kids are in bed. The house is quiet. I’ve had time to check in with my husband. And that is when my “power hours” begin. I find that while I spend much of my day running around to meetings, the evening hours were when I could really get stuff done. After a few hours at my computer, I hop into bed feeling like I somehow made it all happen.

When I first started working my unconventional schedule, I worried that clients would think I was lazy or just generally MIA. But I found that the more honest and forthcoming I was about my work schedule, the more supportive and understanding my clients were. The bottom line was that the work was getting done. Of course, some days I have 4:00 p.m. meetings and I make that work. But for the most part, I came to understand that I had to find a schedule that worked for me AND be unapologetic about my choices. I also found that many of my clients were mothers themselves so they got it because they felt the same demands that I did (and p.s. — dads sometimes find that this sort of schedule is a must for them too).

If you are struggling with your schedule and considering other options, I encourage you to keep the following in mind:

  1. Be honest with yourself. No one can do it all, mama. Spend time honestly taking stock of the various demands on your time, supportive resources available (like that amazing babysitter your kids love) and YOUR own needs (yes, you).
  2. Be honest with your employer and clients. If you are working a flex schedule, own it. Don’t lead your clients to believe that you can hop on a conference call when you are really at your son’s karate class. I live in the real world and I know that clients have demands. But I have also come to understand that NO ONE is available at all hours of the day — whether that is because I am with another client or because I am feeding my son fish sticks for dinner.
  3. Don’t be afraid to break your own rules. In a perfect world, you could totally control your schedule. But that just isn’t possible ALL of the time. There are weeks when I have to travel for work. Other times, I have clients in town and work 14 hour days. It happens. But I know that my flex schedule awaits on the other side and that helps me get things done.
  4. Try hard to be present where you are. Work when you are working. And put that darn phone down when you are with your family during your down time. Otherwise, you might as well just go back to your desk.

I would love to hear tips from other women struggling to find a work schedule that works for them. How did you approach your employer or clients with your desire for a work schedule that varies from the 9-5 norm? What schedule works for you?

Caitlin Murray Giles is the co-founder of 2 Moms Media LLC.. Caitlin wears many different hats, but her favorite gig is being mom to the three little people in her life. After the birth of her first child in 2004, she traded her days as an attorney in Cook County courtrooms for play dates on the Chicago park scene. Inspired by her new life as a mother, Caitlin began writing about her parenting experiences. Caitlin saw first-hand that many traditional marketing strategies simply didn’t resonate with savvy moms and she knew that there were better ways to make authentic connections. Before long, she found herself in the business of marketing to parents in Chicago and beyond. Caitlin is grateful for the opportunity to grow her business by leveraging her experience as a modern-day mom and a marketer to help clients looking to do “mom comm” right. She resides in Wicker Park with her family.

Summer Childcare 2016: Make Plans Now!

With most kids just now returning to school, the last thing working parents are thinking about is childcare for next summer. In her new article How to Survive the Summer Child-Care Void Next Year, Kate Mangan suggests that thinking about childcare now and planning ahead is the best solution. Working parents spend an average of $7,000 on summer childcare costs and working lawyer parents likely spend even more, particularly thinking about lost revenue with time away from work and business development.

Kate encourages working parents to think about possible childcare support and options including: 1) taking strategic vacations allowing working parents to share in childcare responsibilities; 2) developing the best possible deep bench of babysitters; 3) seeking support from grandparents and other relatives; and, 4) considering summer camps that might make sense for your children. The article also offers links to service providers and other helpful resources.

While we all hope that summer will last as long as possible, it already is time to think about your family’s childcare needs in 2016.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

We know what it is like to be a working parent and the daily challenges we face to be our best at work and at home. We also appreciate that everyone’s situation is different and that both working moms and dads struggle to achieve the perfect balance between home and work—if that is even possible. It is particularly difficult when our children are small. As is often said “…a picture is worth a thousand words…” and that is so true in viewing pictures detailing the day in the life of a number of working parents. Do you recognize yourself here?

 

Asking the Right Questions – Hiring a Nanny or Babysitter

The task may seem daunting. But we do have suggestions for how to interview potential child care providers. Our suggestions:

Sample Nanny Interview Questions

1. Why are you a nanny?
2. How long have you been a nanny?
3. Describe your work schedule and duties at your previous families.
4. Past experience? (Number of kids, ages, how long you cared for, interaction with the family, typical day, why left)?
5. Formal early childhood development of childcare training?
6. CPR Training?
7. First Aide Training?
8. Background check?
9. What would you do if a child is sick or has an accident?
10. How would you handle criticism or suggestions where the parent is very upset/emotional about the issue or where you strongly disagree with the parent?
11. What do you like about being a nanny?
12. What do you dislike about being a nanny?
13. What are your beliefs about childrearing? (discipline, naps, learning, feeding, etc) 14. How do you discipline?
15. How do you comfort a child that is sad, sick, or angry?
16. How do you get a child to go down for a nap?
17. Describe a typical day with my child (activities, sleep, structure, reading, singing) 18. How do you describe yourself? What do you like to do?
19. Why are you looking for a new job?
20. What are some of the rules (for kids and parents) you followed in other homes that have worked well?
21. Which rules didn’t work well?
22. Describe your ideal family/employer.
23. Do you have any pet peeves about parents/children?
24. What are some examples of things that upset you about your last family? What things would you have changes in the previous arrangement?
25. Are you willing/interest in doing any housekeeping? What?
26. What are you willing to do regarding pets?
27. When can you start working?
28. Are you ever available to work nights/weekends?
29. How flexible are you with overtime or late notices evenings/weekends?
30. How do you get to work? What is your driving history?
31. Did you drive with the other families? Their car? What kinds of car? Where did you go?
32. What is your hourly rate? 1 kid? 2 kids? 3 kids?
33. How do you like to get paid?
34. What are your expectations regarding vacation, holidays, sick time?
35. References. What was your relationship with each? May we call?