I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 5

Over the last few weeks, try I’ve been delighted to host this five part series written by Christine Brown-Quinn, inspired by the movie ‘I Don’t Know How She Does it’.
In Part 1, we heard that letting go can be good – we’re not all expected to be super women and it’s mainly ourselves who put this pressure on us. Part two enlightened us with some top tips for managing childcare. The topic of the third part of the series was guilt, and how working mothers can switch their mindset on the guilt trip and last week’s penultimate post explored work life balance and whether it’s a myth or a reality.
This final part looks at the importance of making time for your partner, something I’ve blogged about previously. It’s good guidance and common sense, yet I appreciate how difficult it can be to do.

 

 

  • This is your last chance to win!

 


As part of this series, Christine is kindly giving away four signed copies of her book ‘Step Aside Superwoman, Career and Family is for Any Woman’ and all you need to do to be in with a chance of bagging one is
Either sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter and Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article. Phew! Lots of ways to win!
Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random. Good Luck!

 

 
Make time for your partner – Your kids will thank you in the long run – by Christine Brown-Quinn
We often think that when the focus isn’t directly on our kids that somehow they are losing out. And if they’re old enough to talk, they’ll certainly tell you that that’s the case… When we’re at work and they’re at home, they lose out. When we’re out in the evening at seminar/night class and they’re at home, they’re missing out. It even extends to our relationship with their dad. When we’re spending time with our “other halves”, the kids are missing out. Is this really the case? If you’ve read any of the previous blogs in this five-part series, you’ll know that it’s not. Investing in yourself IS investing in your family. And here’s why investing in your relationship with your partner is also investing in the family.
The kids are happy when the family unit is happy so your relationship with your partner is as important as your direct relationship with your kids. And let’s face it, any partnership or marriage isn’t easy – there are a lot of things to work through. Also, too much focus directly on the kids can actually be detrimental. (The real world doesn’t work that way – they’re not the centre of the universe and the sooner they learn that the better off they’ll be). Keeping the flame alive has other advantages as well – the kids will eventually grow up and leave home (trust me, it does happen!) so it will be just the two of you again so it’s good practice for the future.


During most of the film I don’t know how she does it, Kate Redding played by Sarah Jessica Parker treats her husband Richard like a second class citizen or worse yet, a totally incompetent carer. He doesn’t seem to have any rights when it comes to taking care of the kids or running the household. I cringed when I heard Kate say “how could you let that women look after MY kids when I was away?” as if to say Richard is not competent enough to make his own decisions.
Kate was referring to Richard’s choice of a back-up carer when the regular babysitter cancelled while Kate was away. The husband evidently gets no say in the matter! Think about your own circumstance. Do you ever treat your other half like he doesn’t have a clue when it comes to anything associated with the kids or house? Is that fair? Have you given him a chance? Have you showed him the “ropes”? Remember, people are people and just like micro-managing people at work, your other half will feel humiliated if you adopt the ‘Ms Dictator’ approach. I’ve tried it – it doesn’t work. In the long run nobody likes Ms Dictator!
Over the years I’ve learned that I’ve got to trust my colleagues and my other half to “run the ship” when I’m not around. They need to feel empowered to make decisions and I need their buy-in on how things are run. Otherwise, when it doesn’t work, it’s all my fault. On the other hand, when I do trust them and listen, better decisions can be made. The road to Super Woman is a dead end – you’ll end up burning yourself out which Kate nearly did too.
Gaining respect for your partner’s parental skills is something you have to work on together. It requires constant communication and discussion on approaches to food preparation, discipline, schooling, and childcare. One of my favorite parts of the film I don’t know how she does it was when Richard shows he can take care of things at home – like sorting out his daughter’s ballerina tights while Kate was on a business trip. He had a wonderful look of pride and satisfaction when he told Kate he had sorted things out. Kate glanced at him lovingly as if to say “yes, you’ve done it and I love you for it”.


But running a really efficient Grand Central Station where each parent is pitching in and all the home logistics are running smoothly isn’t enough. Do you have time for just each other? I really felt sorry for Richard when he announces to Kate that she doesn’t seem to have any time for just him. Couples that play together stay together. What was that common interest that brought you together? What interests have you developed together as a couple? I know it’s a struggle to find the time but it is possible – be creative. Plan it out and get it in the calendar.
My other half and I played basketball together when we first met. Later, when the kids started playing tennis, we decided to take lessons and joined a club. Playing tennis for us was really about going back to basics. Both of us have always liked sports and it was part of our relationship from the very beginning. Be prepared for the kids to be jealous of your time together. They will try to make you feel guilty like somehow you’re short-changing them. Funny isn’t it, some of the best things you can do for your kids are the ones where it’s not about them.

 

I Don’t Know How She Does It – Part 2

In Part 1 of this I don’t know how she does it series, sales  brought to you by Christine Brown-Quinn, she talked about how you need to stop trying to be Superwoman – learn to let go (stop micromanaging!) and give others a chance to grow and develop both at home and at work.  This second part takes a closer look at how this applies when it comes to looking after your kids.

To WIN one of four SIGNED copies of Christine’s book simply sign-up to receive email notifications of all my new blog posts straight to your inbox and / or follow me @workingsupermum on Twitter  and  Tweet ‘I want to win with @workingsupermum’ / or ‘Like’ the Super Mummy Facebook page via the links on the right or leave a comment with your thoughts below this article. Phew! Lots of ways to win!

Competition closes at 5pm on 15th May 2012 and four winners will be selected at random.  Good Luck!

 

Super Manage Your Childcare – My Top 3 Tips by Christine Brown-Quinn

Anyone who juggles work and family knows that the childcare arrangement is one of the most critical things to get right if you want your life to run smoothly – it’s the linchpin. “Well, if you can afford it, just hire an expensive nanny,” you say and “its’ all sorted.” Sorry, money certainly helps, but it’s not what makes or breaks the situation. YOUR people skills and management skills are what counts. Just like at work, simply paying someone doesn’t mean they’ll perform. As humans, we’re a lot more complicated than that.

Whatever your arrangement – nursery school, childcare in the provider’s home, or some sort of help in your home, whether it be a nanny, grandmother, or perhaps student – think about how you would like to be treated if you were the one being hired to look after somebody else’s kids. Also is there anything you’ve learned in your professional environment about working with people – how to motivate, work effectively in teams, resolve conflict, resolve problems – that might also be useful when it comes to interacting with the person looking after your most precious asset?

You’ve got it. IT’S EXACTLY THESE PEOPLE SKILLS THAT YOU USE IN YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT THAT YOU NEED TO USE WHEN MANAGING YOUR CHILD CARE ARRANGEMENT.

Here are my top three strategies:

1. Manage the relationship day by day – Don’t let problems boil over. Deal with them as they arise. There’s a scene in the film I don’t know how she does, where Mom Kate comes back from a business trip and her husband Richard says they need to talk to the nanny about her being late all the time. Kate screams, “No! I don’t want her to leave.” Tiptoeing around these kind of sensitive issues may avoid some pain in the short term, but in the longer term it only makes the pain that much worse. By not dealing with issues as they arise, you are also setting a dangerous precedent. In this case Kate & Richard are saying it’s ok to be late and are opening up the door to other potentially unwelcome behaviour.

2. Empower the carer – In another scene Kate’s on a business trip and she’s about to go into a very big meeting. She gets a call on her cell phone from her nanny who’s after a telephone number to arrange a play date. Understandably so, Kate is frazzled and searches her handbag looking for some sort scribbled note. Kate clearly is trying to manage the play date and her big deadlines at work. Is this really necessary? Isn’t Kate causing her own stress? Empower the childcare provider to take responsibility for this kind of detail. After all, you’ve got other things on your mind and that’s why she is likely to do a better job than you. Just like at work, when you empower people, they feel appreciated and trusted and are able to handle the situation brilliantly. They figure out how to do things on their own.

The payback is huge when you follow this principle. Currently we have a university student (Callum) who picks our 11 year old son Zach up from school and helps him with his homework. I make it clear that it’s Zach’s responsibility to get his work done and Callum’s responsibility is to support him. When we get feedback from the school that a certain piece of work is done well or not so well – we share that with Callum too and by doing so make it clear that he shares in Zach’s successes and’ not so good’ results.

I always ask Callum for his views – eg how can we motivate Zach to do his work more quickly (he has a tendency to let his mind wander like any healthy 11 year old boy.) What’s his response? He suggests great ideas like promising to play football if there’s enough time after Zach completes his homework. Does Callum feel empowered and personally responsible? You bet he does! The irony is when you give people personal responsibility, their job satisfaction goes up – they feel like they make a difference. The upside for you is your time is freed up and it’s a real joy to see others develop. (I’m even teaching Callum how to cook!)

3. Support the carer’s authority – Empowering also means that you need to be careful not to undermine the childcare provider’s authority. I’m sure you don’t like it at work when you’re given a job to do, but then somebody comes along and completely undermines the direction and actions you’ve taken. Always support the carer’s actions, especially in front of the kids. If you have a disagreement, you need to deal with that offline.

Mom Kate in the film loves to avoid conflict. When the nanny takes her son to get his first haircut, she never discusses with the nanny that she’d prefer to be part of these “first” moments. With some discussion and planning lots of things are possible. I remember many times with our two older kids that I had to have a quiet word with the carer about restrictions on television or snack food, usually because the carer was new. Children are natural arbitrageurs!

The biggest gift your childcare provider gives you is the opportunity for you to be you. Without this trusted partner, you can’t go out in the world and show your full talents. Like any relationship it’s a two-way street and this one certainly deserves day-to-day managing and investing. You won’t regret the long-term rewards!

This blog is part 2 of a 5-part series.

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