Courtesy of Raw Pixel
5 Min ReadLifestyle 11 March 2020
Ginny loved her work...
A vice president of marketing for an ad agency, in many ways her job defined her. She found the chance to innovate and solve problems for clients incredibly stimulating, energizing, and satisfying. Creative work ignited her soul. Her ambition was to develop an impeccable reputation in her field, and perhaps, one day, start her own firm. Her work ethic, of which she was very proud, led her to say yes to many projects and do whatever it took to deliver excellence.
Yet, Ginny's passion for her work made her feel guilty. It took time away from her kids (7, 11 and 13) and often distracted her when they were together. Her brain was constantly churning with work challenges. It was hard to turn the job off at night and on weekends. She wondered, constantly, if she should put her goals and passion on hold, to be a better parent for her kids.
Ginny's question — to work, or not to work — is emblematic of a struggle many working moms or parents face. We find satisfaction in our work, but we worry that it keeps us from spending enough time with our kids. Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute, has been studying this, and many other aspects of work, family life, and working moms for decades. Observing this phenomenon of guilt — which exists, despite the fact that not a single study (nope, not one!) concluded that Moms or Dads working has a negative impact on children — Galinsky had an innovative idea that might settle matters: Why don't we see what kids have to say.
In the late-90s, she and her team conducted a landmark study called "Ask The Children" to explore kids' perspectives on working moms, dads, or parents. Surveying over 1,000 children ages 8-18, Galinsky asked both parents and children a series of questions about how they felt about their parents working. Her findings were not only fascinating but also incredibly liberating.
Here are three of the biggest insights:
- It's not whether we work, but how we feel about work that impacts kids. When we feel conflicted about working, we are often reluctant to share how much we love our jobs. The guilt we feel departing in the morning leads us to say things such as, I wish I didn't have to work; I hate to leave but Mommy/Daddy has to work; If I don't go to work, we won't be able to afford [toys, games, new clothes, etc.]. Inadvertently, we're sending a message that leads kids to think, My parents hate working; They're only working because of me.
- Kids don't want their parents to work less, they want them to be less stressed from work. When adults and kids were both asked what kids would most like to change about their parent's work-lives, the contrast in answers was startling. The majority (56%) of parents thought that their kids would wish for more time with them. Yet, only 10% of kids actually chose this answer. What most kids actually wanted (34%) was for their parents to be less stressed and tired from work when they were together.
- As it turns out, kids want parents to love their work, just not more than they love them. So, if you love your work, share that. Talk about it as a source of fulfillment, meaning, and self-development — something your kids should aspire to find in school and in their future career. And if you don't love your work, try your best to embrace and share with your kids the things you do like about it: the paycheck, the flexibility, your coworkers. Your sense of choice will relieve your kids of the burden of thinking that you are only working this miserable job because of them.
Galinsky's research provides powerful and compelling reasons why working moms and parents shouldn't feel guilty about their work. But absolving ourselves of guilt is often easier said than done. Even with the right messaging, there are two time traps that can be problematic for parents and kids...
A) Work spills over into your home-life, preventing you from being fully present with your kids
B) Your work schedule is demanding and unpredictable, keeping you from getting home when you planned to. To minimize these issues, focus on the following two tactics:
Because we live in a time of swelling workloads, it's critical to create edges on your workday and on your workweek. To avoid being trapped by unspoken assumptions, discuss expectations for after-hours connectedness with your boss. Are you expected to answer emails at night and on the weekends? Or, if it's a true emergency, can you agree that the company will reach out by phone? By defining clear edges, you can more easily give work your all during work hours and, when you are done, leave that piece of it behind and be fully present with your family.
To the best of your ability, be predictable with your schedule and the time you have to offer your children. Uncertainty about whether you'll be home for dinner or to read a bedtime story is what breeds anxiety and resentment. It's okay if your schedule changes from week to week or even day to day, as long as you communicate that to your children. Even working moms who have to work late or travel for work can remain predictable and reliable for their kids by maintaining the same touch-points throughout the day, with a Skype or FaceTime call: e.g. when they wake up, at dinner time, or before bed.
Your relationship to your work serves as a role model to your kids. Careers have become an integral part of the human experience. Finding a role you love, making a contribution to your community, and earning money to support yourself and those who depend on you are all incredibly valuable life-skills to impart on your children.
Whether you work out of necessity, passion, or a combination of the two, extract working mom guilt from the equation. Guilt about work is nothing but mental clutter; it only serves to steal additional time and energy from being present for quality time with your kids and for yourself. And, as we now know, that's all our kids truly want.
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With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.