My Husband’s Transition


 

Over the past 2 years since I returned to work I have done a lot of transitioning, my life is very different than it was 2 years ago.  And while there are days I still want to fight this life I now lead, for the most part I have settled into the routine of being a working mom and homemaker.  I admit I spent most of the past couple years thinking about myself but as I begin to break free from that and think of others I realize something I did not fully appreciate before.

While I was busy with my own transition my husband was having one of his own. Not just in returning to school but also with taking more responsibility in our home and with our children.  My first year back to work, on top of returning to school and working, he also was responsible for getting our daughter on and off the bus every day and making dinner almost every night.  Tucked within those tasks are: homework monitoring, permission slip management, lunch making, hair fixing, outfit coordinating (OK he didn’t do that last one, Isabelle has her own sense of style).  WOW!  And he did a great job without ever complaining.

Sometimes in our overwhelmed states we forget we aren’t the only person going through this transition from homemaker to working mom.  How can we support our husbands in their transition?

Be Appreciative:

Remember how much you appreciated being acknowledged and thanked for your hard work?  Your husband feels the same way.

Be Supportive:

This one can be a little hard.  I have to admit as much as I loved seeing my husband help out around the house, especially those first few months when I was totally wiped out after work, I was also feeling territorial.  He would take initiative in doing the laundry and I would think, “that’s my job!”   Maybe your husband doesn’t do things your way.  Complaining and criticism are not what is needed during the transition period, support and encouragement are.

Be a Listener:

You may find conversations at your house to be a little different.  Listen to your husband as he shares the satisfaction he discovered in a freshly vacuumed rug.  As you later tell him what happened at the weekly staff meeting you just might discover a new appreciation for each others lives.

How are you helping your husband through the transition?

Home/Work Organization

I have been listening to a couple leadership podcasts lately.  They are great and inspiring me in my business and work life.  Great tips on how to be a great employee, manage my time, serve customers, encourage a team, make a life plan, etc.  Conceptually they are both great about discussing prioritizing family life, marriage, time for me, etc.  But practically they are really just about work.

Today I was listening to a great podcast on time management.  As I prepare to create systems and organization within my job this next year I learned some great tips for managing my time so I can get everything I need to do accomplished while at work.  The problem is that then you come home and it is like a second business, a second job that needs all that same organization, leadership and time management.

That is the challenge of going from homemaker to working mom, you have gone from one full time job to two.  And managing to be successful in both is challenging.  I spent years at home learning to be successful as a homemaker, then I went back to work.  I am starting over as an employee and loosing ground as a homemaker.  I have a million things to do each day and no idea how to do it all.  And I don’t want to live 2 completely seperate lives with 2 completely seperate goals and systems.  I would like there to be some flow as I go from one to the other.

So here are a couple tips I heard this morning and how we can apply them to both work and home.

#1–You can’t get it all done.
So with that truth in mind, what do you want to get done?  What is important to you?  You can’t do it all, what are you going to do?  And, maybe more important in this culture, what aren’t you going to do?

I am definately guilty of setting too many big goals and creating the monster to do list.  I want my life to be perfect and I tend to have a hard time accepting the idea that I can’t have it all and do it all.  I am not a perfectionist per se but I do tend to want to believe I can do anything and be anything I want, which is to do and be everything.  So this one was a great tip for me.  I know what I want to do this next year but also naming all the things I am not going to do this year is a great way to free myself from the guilt and disappointment of unmet expectations.

#2–Block the last 15 minutes of your workday to write down everything you need to do tomorrow.
Brain dump before you leave.  When you return to work in the morning you will have a list of what you are going to do that day.  This not only starts your day off right but allows you to more freely walk away from the office without worrying about what you might forget the next day.

This is a great one to do at home as well.  Before bed write down everything you need to do tomorrow, make lunch, homework with your daughter, grocery shop, laundry, call your mom, buy a birthday gift for your son, etc.  Put it all on the list.  Keep in mind as you write your list #1, what you are and aren’t going to do.

#3–Be present.
It is very tempting to get distracted with home responsibilities and personal agendas while at work and vice versa, work while at home. But this actually makes you unproductive in both places. When you are at work you are being paid to work. When you are at home you are not. Decide where you are at that moment and be there.

I would like my life to flow from work to home but to have them happening at the same time just creates a mess.  So be present at work and then be present at home.  For me personally I don’t find myself thinking about work at home as much as I think about home at work.  But, when I am home I tend to get caught up in thinking about things like the fact that I didn’t used to do housework on weekends because I was home during the day and could do it when the family was gone.  When I get caught in thinking about my old life I am not present either.  So I need to learn to be present in this new life at home.

#4–Pause.
Step back and observe how things are going.  Don’t just get sucked into negative thinking or problems but step back and ask yourself how you can improve.  What are you doing wrong?  What are you doing right?  Often times when we step back we discover problems and solutions we just could not see in the midst of the chaos.

One thing I have seen as I have done this at home is what my children are learning.  I often worry that my daughter’s faith is not developing the way I would like.  I see all her less than godly character qualities come out during busy days and feel like a failure.  But when I step back and spend time with her I often hear biblical truths and understanding that I miss in the chaos of our days.  I also hear clues as to how I can encourage that faith and help her continue to develop an understanding of who God is.

#5–18 minutes.
The guy I was listening to, Peter Bregman, has a book called “18 Minutes”.  In it he accomplishes more by better utilizing 18 minutes a day.  The first thing he does is creat a list of the top 5 areas of focus for the year (remember you can’t do it all), then create a to-do list with 6 boxes.  One box for each area and a 6th box for everything else.  Once you have that foundation you begin your 18 minute routine.

5 minutes each morning looking at the list and moving things on to a calendar.  You need to work off a calendar not a to do list because the calendar will call you out when you fill it too full, your list won’t.

1 minute each hour to stop, take a deep breath and decide if you are doing the right thing and being the right person.  Are you on track to have the day you want, be the person you want, acheive the goals you set?

5 minutes at the end of the day. What worked? Share feedback. Thank people.  Finish the day neatly.

18 minutes is a great plan if your life ends at 5pm but my goals are for work and home.  I have a million more things to accomplish after 5pm.  I can’t stop now.  With another full work day in front of me maybe my book should be called “36 Minutes”.  I am going to need at least another 5 minutes worth of 1 minute assesments after work and a second 5 minute rap up before bed.  If I brain dump my to do list for 15 minutes per #2 and then summarize my day for 5 more minutes I really need 20 minutes at the end of the day.  What I am wondering about is the 5 minutes in the morning.  Do I do my home 5 minutes before work or after?  Could my end of the work day 5 minutes be immediately followed by my beginning of the day home 5 minutes?  The answer to that question will depend on how much time you have in the mornings and what home tasks you can realistically accomplish before work.

#6 from me:  Create the habit
The number one time management lesson I learned while I was at home applies equally to my work.  I was reading a home organization book and the writer was singing the praises of the calendar to manager her day.  She talked about how she had tried many different calendars searching for the one that would finally stick in her life, the magical system that would bring order to her chaotic schedule.  I was so excited as I read because I had also tried many systems and dreamed of finding the right system to take control of my life.  I was reading so fast that I suddenly realized she had changed topics and I totally missed the answer.  So I went back to re-read the section.  And what I realized is that she did not have a magical answer.  There was no one perfect system.  It wasn’t about the system at all!  It was about starting over each time you fell off the wagon.  It was about habit.

I did eventualy find a simple system that worked for me, one that I got in the habit of using and felt comfortable with.  And I have used a version of that system both at work and home the past couple years.  It has gotten me through but, definately could use some improvement as my to do lists are longer and more complicated and my time is far more structured.

So I am looking forward to integrating some of these suggestions into my daily organization this year as I work to develop new habits as a working mom.

How do you stay on top of both work and home organization without feeling like you are livng 2 different lives?

Creating Systems at Home and Work

Over the years I have worked for small companies, large companies and medium size companies.  Each has their pros and cons.  Overall I prefer the small and medium companies.  But the con of the small company is definitely training. I will admit that with a small company the learning curve of a job can be a bit steep.  Not because I don’t understand the work but because the training isn’t always that good and the only person who knows the answers to your questions is the person you replaced.  So on some levels you end up re-inventing the wheel.  The past 2 years I have had 3 different jobs each with a different training experience.

First was a part-time job working for my insurance agent.  I was his only employee.  I showed up all excited for what was my historic return back to work after years of focus only on home and family.  My new boss told me he had been up half the night worried about how to train me for the position.  In the past he had hired assistants that came from other agents, they already knew the job, so he hadn’t taught someone how to use the company system in years.  I figured since he was up half the night he must have come up with a plan.  Nope, turns out he was still overwhelmed by the task at 9am.  I spent the first day cleaning the desk and tossing out old marketing brochures.  Eventually he just jumped in and began showing me how to do things one at a time and gave me the freedom to play around on the system and figure a bunch out myself.  I could do the job but this training method didn’t really give me a ton of confidence and not understanding how it all went together I spent a lot of time being very unproductive.

My second job was with larger company that was much more organized.  My position was a newly created position as a result of rapid growth.  All the work I did I got from someone else who was overworked and glad to get rid of it.  They had systems in place for everything and I learned that job quite quickly and felt good about what I was doing.  And because I understood what I was doing I was able to see where I could improve the systems and make it my own.  While I knew almost from the moment I started that this company probably wouldn’t be the right fit for me long term I hated leaving a position I felt so confident in and enjoyed so much.

My current position is with a small company.  The person I replaced had been here for years and knew everything.  However there was no system in place and she had no idea how to pass on 8 years of knowledge to me in a couple weeks.  Eventually she just started responding to all my questions by telling me she didn’t know what she was doing when she started and she figured it out so, I would figure it out too.  After 6 months in this position I am starting to understand what my role in the company is and how to do things.  The down side of replacing someone who did know what she was doing but didn’t have systems in place to pass the information on is, I have looked and felt fairly incompetent on a regular basis for the past 6 months.  So one of my goals for the new year in my job is to define the position and create some systems and instructions for doing it.  I plan to stay put for a few years but, I believe this will not just help the next person that comes along but will help me in be more organized in the day to day tasks and identify areas that need more structure.

This got me thinking about my home and family life.  If you think about your home as a small business then you are the full time employee that left after many years of just taking care of things.  Having identified that replacement workers do not always get proper training in small companies, I started thinking about the training my replacement workers have gotten.  Have I just dumped a bunch of work on my family with vague, “you will figure it out” instructions?  They have seen me do it but, does that mean I taught them what to do?  Or did I have systems in place making it easy to learn and follow instructions as I have stepped out of many past responsibilities?

I am getting organized at work this year, why not at home too?  I am going to think about the systems in my home that need to be established and the ones that exist which I could pass on to my daughter or husband.  Our family schedule revolves around my husband’s school schedule so every semester is different and he has a different level of ability to help around the house.  All the more reason to have home systems in place so we can easily see what needs to be done, how to do and and where to shift the schedule depending on that semester’s needs.

What kind of home systems do you have in place?  Are you prepared to give adequate training to the members of your family as you return to work?

If you don’t know what your kids can and can’t do there is a great chart here at Workingmom.com to get you started.