Back from maternity leave

I got a question from a reader last week about how to prepare for his boss's return to work from maternity leave. I answered here with some help from my little guy, Linc.

For the team welcoming someone back into the office after any extended absence: let them set the pace. Ask when when and how they get briefed on what's happened while they were out and then honor those wishes the best you can. By the middle of the second week, the person transitioning back into work should largely have their routine down and start feeling somewhat "normal."

Answering this question, though made me think about the flip side-- what if you're the one coming back?

My take is this. When coming back from maternity leave, your first two words in the office should be, "thank you." And you should mean it.

Some (thankfully few) returning moms come back with the completely wrong attitude. If you expect to be an exception to the rule now that you have a family at home, think again. Of course, no one would say this out loud. However, thinking you're owed something because you're a mom now becomes obvious when your problems suddenly become everyone else's to solve. Spreading this unique brand of entitlement around the office only fuels frustration and resentment on your teams. And if you're the boss? Woah, it's just worse. Avoid the heartache and hassle with a little appreciation for everything that was accomplished in their absence.

Thank you.

Why metrics matter to me

Performance metrics matter. We know this and yet we continue to track things that have little to do with our goals. The better alternative is to make sure that you're measuring progress against the things that matter most to you and your future. Here are four steps to think through that process.

I'm trying to move away from outputs-- such as number of contracts-- and focus more on outcomes. Did I create a connection with a client? Did a client come back after the project to ask more questions or start another task? Would we both want to work together again?

What do you track on a regular basis?

Small Changes, Big Impacts

Me and Anjali! She's such an inspiration!

Me and Anjali! She's such an inspiration!

This morning, I had the opportunity to talk with superstar entrepreneur, Anjali Varma's Modern Mompreneur Meet-up group about one of the beliefs I hold most dear.

Small changes make big impacts.

I find this to be true in both business and life in general. Dreaming big while keeping your planned actions small helps fight overwhelm, keeps you focused, allows you to switch things up when something isn't working, and makes your day easier instead of more stressful.

As just one example, I heard that a tiny change like eliminating sugar in your coffee could add up to 10 pounds lost in a single year. After trying this myself and feeling better just a week in, I had to ask myself- what other small changes could I make that might pay off big?

Since then, I've applied this to networking, community building, and writing. The result? I'm spending less time battling my tendency to over complicate things and my days are a bit easier.  All of this makes me want to continue towards my goals and resolutions- instead of throwing in the towel a month into the new year as I might have in the past.

So, here's a brief video followed by a recap of what I shared today with Anjali and the rest of the AWESOME mompreneurs there.

Things I believe to be true about goals

  • Goals should be specific and measurable
  • Small actions have a big impact
  • Right for right now
  • Stretchy, but with some built-in flexibility in what success ultimately looks like
  • Integrated into the rest of your life
  • Aligned with your strengths
  • Within your direct control
  • Yours, not someone else’s goals for you

Things I believe to be true about planning

  1. You don’t have to be able to see all of the exact steps to infinity in order to start
  2. Shorter planning windows are WAY more effective
  3. Plans can have flexibility and opportunity built in

So, how might you put this in practice for yourself?

Consider adopting a 21-day cycle to build a series of good habits that move your towards your goals.  Here's a worksheet to get you started.

A big thank you to the ever-lovely Jessica McFadden for the photos and video!  So great to see you!

 

Up In the Air. Again.

It’s only been six months since this happened. And like childbirth itself, memories of the pain have faded and I’m ready to do it again. I’m taking my kids on a plane. This is something only slightly less frightening than...you know.

We’re off to visit family in Alabama and to celebrate my cousin’s wedding.

Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to where we’re going. This means connecting. I’d rather do just about anything else. I know you would too. It’s just terrible, terrible, terrible. Let’s take a quick moment and pray that I don’t lose it in front of thousands at the Atlanta airport. Ommmm.

Flashback to our June trip. Linc, the lap child, getting comfy in MY seat.

Flashback to our June trip. Linc, the lap child, getting comfy in MY seat.

Unlike last time, there’s no worry about tickets. I won’t have to sneak my 2-year-old onto the plane in a Baby Bjorn while pretending to nurse his hefty, walking, talking body. Thankfully, everyone has a seat.

This time, my worries are more of the garden-variety. What am I going to wear?

Black floral pants?

I've never pined so hard for something so hideous. Normally, this is just not my style. However, I now see the flaw in my thinking. And, it's a little too late- even for Amazon Prime. These pants offer a distracting pattern with enough splotches of color to conceal any smears, spills, or potty accidents that might- scratch that- will happen. Bring on the gummies and goldfish!

 

Isn't the coupling of floral pants and floral shoes still illegal in most states?

Isn't the coupling of floral pants and floral shoes still illegal in most states?

Big sunglasses?

Yes, yes, yes! And yes, I plan to look exactly this miserable the whole trip. I firmly believe that the key to traveling with small children is avoiding eye-contact with others. I wanted to write "with strangers" but, really, I don’t plan to look at my husband either. We need to focus- and my focus will be on my feet. What other people think of my traveling circus is none of my business.

big sunglasses

Strappy heels?

Yes again. Most people dress for comfort when travelling. Flats and leggings are the norm. Not me. I figure if I’m going to feel cranky and put-out I might as well go all the way. These look perfect- super high, super complicated. And the zippers convey that "don't mess with me little people" attitude I'll be carrying-on.

Accessories?

Well, anything metallic will stay behind. I don’t need anything extra to remove when going through security. Dealing with my complicated shoes will be enough. Anything shiny will be left at home, as well. Kids are like raccoons. When bored, they become fascinated with any sparkling objects- especially those hanging around your neck. If you’re not vigilant, they will strangle you. Of course depending on how much time you have left on your flight, you might not care. I often reach a point mid-air when I wonder if lying unconscious on the floor might be a better way to pass the time.

 

Wish me luck. I’m sure it’s going to be a great trip… once we get there.

Passive Directives

I belong to a gym. It’s a nice place. There’s not much to complain about. They have a zillion treadmills, offer lots of classes that I never take (but am glad are available), and keep it squeaky clean. There's just one thing. They’re obsessed with signs. It drives me crazy.

To give you an idea, I broke a rule and I snapped a couple of pictures from around the ladies locker room. Don't worry. No one was in there changing at the time.

Here are a few examples...

Now, I don’t disagree with a single thing written on these signs. In fact, I'm so eager to comply that I might be the only member who has read them. I’m a rule follower. I enjoy guidelines that make life better for all of us. For example, I love right on red, no phone calls on planes, and wash your hands before returning to work. All good.

The random, wallpapering effect is my issue. In the locker room alone, there are eight or so unique signs. Some are posted twice or three times. 

The content itself violates a couple of basic rules of, I don’t know, eyesight, adult attention spans, and reading comprehension. The font is tiny and the bulleted lists are long. They’re excessively wordy- not unlike many of my blog posts.

And my biggest issue is that they're 50 shades of the same two rules: Don’t be gross. And, don't overdo it. 

Most of these rules are followed by everyone anyway. The rest aren't followed by anyone, ever. Actual locker room behavior is nearly 100 percent consistent. It's effectively governed by social pressure and basic standards of hygiene. No rules are, in fact, needed.  We could do away with all of this visual clutter.

Here's are some examples.

General locker room rules

General locker room rules

These are the overarching rules. If ever there was a set embodying "arbitrary and capricious," this is it. Actually, I need to take a minute to look up capricious but I'm pretty sure it applies. This gym is located within an office complex. There are rarely children on-site let alone within a two-mile radius of the building. The two top rules about kids just don't apply. Even if there were kids around, the age of four seems a bit random and impossible to enforce.

Regarding towels and trash, there are 35 bins around the room. You can't miss them. Like, you literally cannot miss them. If you happen to drop your towel or trash accidentally it will actually fall into a bin. Gravity is on our side here.

The thing about the health code's age restriction for the sauna seems important. Instead of making this item #4, they could just share this rule with teens when they sign up. The gym manager could then invite them to swing by for a good sweat after going to the DMV to get their license. Win, win.

Everyone ignores the thing about cell phones. Give up.

Feel like swimming or soaking? Just shiver there in your "regular swim wear" for a moment while you read these 19 rules.

Pool and hot tub rules

Pool and hot tub rules

Don't they know that people stop reading lists when they see more than three items? All of those other bullets are wasted.

It's actually fine that you stopped reading because they all say the same thing. In completely random order, there are a few with time and temperature ranges (hope you brought your pocket thermometer!), what to wear, what not to wear, and a burried threat to suspend your membership if you don't comply.

Oh, don't miss the attention-grabbing reference to diarrhea. I have't had my breakfast yet. Thanks.

Bottom-line? Don't be gross and don't be a hero and overdo it. You'll melt or fry or dehydrate into something resembling a dried apricot. Heat exhaustion isn't sexy no matter how "regular" your swimwear might be.

And, oh and this one.  I never see anyone shower before entering the pool. Is management seriously concerned about BO and dry skin cells? Isn't that what chemicals and filters are for?

If this is really a problem, let the lifeguard hose everyone down with his tears of boredom. He's sure not likely to have a big rescue today and is busying himself sorting the lost and found goggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one just makes me angry at my fellow members.  If you're paying the monthly dues for this gym, spend the money and have someone else put dye in your hair. Seriously.

And to the gym manager...this obviously happened once and got all over the place- the sink, shower, whirlpool, and sauna!? How awful. It was clearly so scarring that you had to right to work and make another sign.  I get it. Surely it was an inconvenient mess but why punish the rest of us with this nonsense?

 

 

 

 

 

I'll stop my little rant here. With all of these signs, the message I'm getting is that gym management wants order without confrontation. These are passive directives and totally not necessary. Sure, it could be awkward to tell someone in a towel with an gaping, open wound to skip the whirlpool that day. But, you gotta do it. Leave the rest of us alone to sweat in peace.

Love Warrior, Special Book Report post

Over the weekend, I read funny mom Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Love Warrior. I loved the Carry On, Warrior about motherhood and looked forward to her follow-up about marriage. I’m a married mom myself. As a casual fan, I had only the most general awareness going in about Glennon’s marriage- the infidelity, the separation, the reconciliation, and post-publish announcement that she and her husband Craig are re-separating.

I don’t just suspect that many other seemingly pulled-together people are struggling in their marriages. I know it from conversations with friends and the fact that hundreds of thousands of women like me preordered Love Warrior. Glennon’s book was a chance to get a deep, long look into another marriage while not feeling the need to be politely reassuring. It was also a chance to feel a little less alone.

I started it late last week on the day it came out and finished it over the weekend. I read every last word and some twice. I’m glad I did but am I’m feeling conflicted.

First, it’s hundreds of pages of Glennon’s “me, me, me”- which, I suppose, is the point of a me-moir. At times, though, it’s a bit much. I couldn’t help wondering what it’s like to be one of her close, personal friends. Is it as exhausting as it seems? And, her sister, oh my. God bless this woman. Glennon’s sister is some kind of emotional endurance athlete. She’s supported her for years throughout what is amounts to a daily 100-mile introspective race through Death Valley.

What’s more is that Glennon explains her binging and boozing as behaviors driven by the deep-seeded fears of a hyper-sensitive soul. On one hand, it makes sense but on the other comes across as a bit of a post-game analysis and rationalization. I made some bad choices too. Looking back today, they still just seem like bad choices driven by yes, fear, but also immaturity, inadequate life skills, and a limited perspective on the world.

I also feel conflicted because I’m not sure what to do next. I finished it with more questions than answers. Questions like:

  • Is everything “good” now? Is this kind of comeback from rock bottom a one and done- or two and done, in Glennon’s case. It would seem that counting Oprah as a new friend would make life pretty damn good from here on out.
  • Is there ever a time that you can just relax and live or must we always stay on treadmill of greater self-discovery?
  • How too can I have a personal breakthrough filled with wisdom-growing epiphanies? Is binging and boozing to extreme a prerequisite? I fall short in this regard.
  • Should I manufacture a crisis with my husband or just start digging and assume one is buried somewhere in my marriage? If, in fact, a crisis is necessary, where can I sign up for a relatively short and easy one? It seems time-consuming right when I don’t need another “to-do” on my list.

Though questions are swirling, there were a couple of important take-aways.

  1. You see what you expect to see. It’s true of your husband and everything else. What you believe about their intentions can be a misleading, often painful filter from which to view their actions in your marriage. Instead, see others as flawed people who are doing the best they can with what they know.
  2. Anyone who suggests they know God’s direction for you better than you know yourself should be promptly ignored. And if you still reserve your conversations with God for an hour or two on Sunday, you’re missing a much greater opportunity.
  3. You can share your story without sharing someone else’s. Glennon is a skilled and thoughtful writer who carefully and generously tells her side without presumptively sharing any of Craig’s. It’s noteworthy that this serial philanderer emerges as one of the most endearing and sympathetic characters in the story.
  4. You gain balance in yoga which is good for your tree pose and other stuff.
  5. Breathing in a group apparently can make you feel like you’re floating in fluffy cloud of forgiveness. As lovely as this sounds, you’re it also makes you vulnerable to smelling other people’s bad breath. I must not be that bad off because I’m not willing to risk it.
  6. And lots of other great stuff.

When I reached the last page, I was sorry for the book to end. To me, this is a sign of something well worth reading- even through the tedious parts. I admire and appreciate Glennon’s courage and look forward to reading it again someday.

On reading blogs

Seth Godin encouraged his readers this morning to read more blogs. He points out that they're free, full of good information, and a respite in a way from the noisier more marketing focused messages we're subjected to each day. Of course, I enthusiastically agree!

So, I thought I'd share some of the blogs I enjoy reading regularly.  

In addition to Seth's, the two other broad categories of blogs I like are food and things I think will make me laugh.

  • When I need some healthy inspiration: Oh She Glows and Love and Lemons are just lovely and delicious.
  • When I'm having a mom moment: Scarry Mommy is usually good for a quick laugh at some of the absurd moments that happen regularly with kids- though I don't know if it counts as a blog. However, most of the people contributing articles have blogs of their own that you can find if you enjoy a particular person's style.
  • I also love the big-time blogger Glennon Melton. She's hilarious and inspiring and just so, so right about a lot of things. The Bloggess by Jenny Lawson is raw and ridiculous. It makes me laugh and feel a little uncomfortable at the same time-- which somehow is a good thing.

Listing these just now, I realized that I've also read all of their books-- and each I loved as much as their daily material on the blog.

If you have a blog you write or enjoy reading, let me know! I'd love to check it out.