The reason we need to take a systems approach to redefining career paths is because any other approach is like taming a 4 headed snake; while you are busy getting one head to behave differently, one of the other 3 heads can still bite you.
Why is this issue a 4 headed snake? Because multiple systems impact how we manage our careers – organizations, the larger business environment, public policy and families.
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To learn more about this, join our free Thursdays with ThirdPath call on November 29th, with Peter Senge when we discuss how to “end the war between work and family.” Here’s a quick overview of the four different systems and what Peter and Jessica will be discussing.
The organizations we work in – We all know that where we work significantly impacts how successful we are around integrating work and life. Progressive organizations make a tremendous difference in our ability to redefine the arc of a successful career. Our Thursday with ThirdPath calls illustrate this very clearly.
But the speed up of work and a global workplace also impacts our ability to redefine a successful career. To get ahead, professionals have gone from working long hours to working extreme hours. However, our call this spring with Leslie Perlow, author of Sleeping with Your Smartphone, does a great job illustrating how the demands of our 24/7 workplace and the trap of instant responsiveness not only compromises our work/life integration goals, but also our effectiveness at work.
Public policy – Here’s where you have to be careful about being bitten by the other snake heads. Some people believe the role of public policy when addressing career path challenges is creating affordable child care, including full time care for infants and toddlers. But there are many others who would strongly oppose this type of public policy. Instead they believe the best thing for families is to make it affordable for one parent to provide the majority of care – most often the mother. Sadly the role of men and fathers is often completely lost in any of these discussions.
Therefore, to create lasting change and truly redefine the arc of successful careers, we also need to “redesign families.” Our Shared Care families and Whole Life Leaders are actively doing this. Not only are they stepping out of traditional gender roles, they are also experts in pushing back at our 24/7 work place so they have time and energy for their lives outside of work.
What will it look like when we’ve created a unified approach to change that addresses all 4 over lapping systems? I hope it means we will have created a world where men and women feel equally supported to create integrated career paths, male and female leaders model integrated lives, and all families – across the economic spectrum – have access to these solutions as well.
As you can imagine, working at ThirdPath Institute means I’ve got lots of support to create an integrated approach to work and life. Over the years, I’ve also gotten pretty good at this approach.
But I’ve also made a few mistakes, including a recent experience where my failure negatively impacted the work I needed to get done.
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This past week I had an opportunity to accompany my mother on a train trip to visit friends she had made in high school and when she first became a mother. We took a train from Philadelphia to Charlottesville Virginia, stopping in different cities to stay with each friend.
We both knew that I would be using part of our travel time to continue to get my work done. In fact, when we left I was confident I’d get my full week of work done, just in a more flexible way.
Day by day I saw these plans unravel. At the start of the week I’d gotten a little work done, but nothing close to the amount I had planned. By the end of the week I was hoping I would at least get one more solid day of work done on the train ride home. But the brain is a tricky instrument. As we wound our way back to Philadelphia I could tell my concentration was shot and the work I needed to complete would just not get done.
What did I learn from this experience?
Sometimes we’re going to make mistakes, our work/life integration experiments aren’t going to go exactly as planned. In organizations where there is trust and transparency, we can learn from these mistakes. For example, I’ve decided to count last week as 3 days of vacation and 2 days of work, including the work I did the Saturday after the trip.
When trying something new, do your best to anticipate this challenge. As I was getting ready to leave for the trip I think I might have unconsciously guessed that things could go differently then planned. So I got a lot of things organized before I left, and I knew I had a little wiggle room to meet my one important work deadline the weekend I returned.
When things don’t go according to plan, don’t lower your goals, just get smarter around how to achieve them. I clearly miscalculated how much work I could get done. But I also wouldn’t trade anything for the wonderful time I spent with my mom and her lifelong friends. A few years from now, if we make the same trip or some new trip, I’ll now know how to arrange things more effectively as I continue to experiment with meeting both my work and life goals.
Why Change is possible
This year’s Thursdays with ThirdPath calls will explore 5 mandates for change to better understand how we can create a world where men and women succeed at work while also creating time for their lives outside of work. Written by Anne-Marie Slaughter (July 2012, Atlantic Monthly), each mandate sounded surprisingly familiar, especially after we added the words “men and women” to each one.
Peter Senge will also join us on Thursday November 29th to illustrate how “systems thinking” is at the heart of significant and lasting change.
5 Mandates for Change:
Men and Women Changing the Culture of Face Time – This is at the root of all of the work ThirdPath does as we encourage men and women, early career, mid career and late career, to look for the unique flexibility in their jobs. Not every job can be flexed in the same way, but there is a flexible solution for every job. It also means pushing back at extreme work cultures so individuals and families don’t just trade long hours at an office for a new norm of long hours spread into their homes during evenings and weekends.
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Men and Women Revaluing Family Values – ThirdPath sees this in the multitude of Shared Care families we’ve collected – whether they flexed or reduced their work hours at the same time, shared roles over the course of the year, or shared different roles at different stages in their family’s development. In each of these stories the parents learned how to maintain their involvement with work while also staying actively involved in the joys and responsibilities of caring for their children.
Men and Women Redefining the Arc of a Successful Career – This is at the core of the work we are doing with ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leaders group. This is a truly inspirational group of male and female leaders who have all “walked the talk.” Now they are working with us to create wider change. Together we are examining the systemic issues that need to be addressed so even more leaders can follow their footsteps.
Men and Women Rediscovering the Pursuit of Happiness – Whether it is the joy you gain from an amazing vacation (our March 2012 “Thursday” call), or making the most of summer (our May 2011 “Thursday” call) or phasing into retirement (a call planned for this year), this recom-endation gets right to the heart of our mission: to assist individuals, families and organizations in finding new ways to redesign work to create time for family, community and other life priorities.
Men and Women Becoming an Innovation Nation – Right again! Lotte Bailyn discovered this concept over a decade ago when she first introduced the term “dual agenda” – solutions that are good for business and good for you. Today this is central to our work. Just like Lotte Bailyn, we’ve also discovered that when you encourage every employee to do this – from entry level to executive level – they will actually find ways to improve how work is done.
Join our Thursdays with ThirdPath calls to learn more about each mandate and to learn how you can create your own unique “third path” – an integrated approach to work and life.
The Benefits of Sharing Care After School
Some parents redesign work so they can share in their children’s care when they are young. Others wait until their children become school age. Either way, there are many benefits when parents work as a team and share in the care of their children.
Parents work as a team to redesign work to accommodate the new 9 to 3 school schedule. These changes could include:
o Flex work hours or work a compressed work week
o Work from home when children are home
o Move from night shift to an early morning shift
o Shift from a salaried position to independent consultant/coach
o Once adopted this schedule can work for the rest of the time your children are in school
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Parents enjoy spending time after school with their children to get different things done:
o Parents can plan an after school adventure instead of waiting for the weekend
o After school can be a time to schedule appointments and do errands. One father noted, “They didn’t like to go to Home Depot, so I’d make a deal to go someplace fun afterwards.”
o Parents notice the time spent transporting kids to extracurricular activities is a great way to get to know their friends. Car pools also build an extra layer of support for families.
o Most importantly, parents learn something simple like tossing a football becomes meaningful, especially when a child says afterwards, “I really loved doing that with you.”
By making the most of each parent’s flexibility at work, families can also make arrangements for planned and unplanned changes in the school schedule:
o In some families both parents can flex their work for school closings, in others, only one parent can
o In every case, families can create a wider support network of friends, family, and care-givers to help out as needed
Setting up Shared Care for school age children and creating a network of support will also pay big dividends when families balance work and family during the summer months or when children become “too old” for child care. Want some help getting started? Sign up for our Work Family Coaching Calls – over a series of three calls we help you envision both your work and family goals and create a road map to help you achieve them. Learn more on the “Get Help” section of our website.
What’s at stake? Why a shared approach to family is a goal worth reaching for
Although work life balance can be challenging at any stage, it becomes especially challenging with the birth of a new baby. Not only can this change be exhausting for families because of lack of sleep, too often it also unintentionally sets up couples into more traditional roles at home.
Kristin Maschka’s describes this challenge in her book, This is Not How I Thought it Would Be – Redesigning Motherhood. Kristin is one of the many authors who have written about Shared Care.
Below is what Kristin said that she and her husband gained by switching to a shared approach to parenting, and at the end of this post we’ve listed 8 additional books about Shared Care. If you’d like to learn more, contact us, or check out the many resources on our website. We’ve got twelve years of experience you can benefit from.
“I knew what I would lose. I’d lose my marriage - Maybe not literally, but something vital at its core. David and I got married as equals, as best friends, as partners. When we were married, we vowed to “be true to the pursuit of the dreams and goals we both share.” The dream we shared now was of a family life with everyone home for dinner, with time for our relationship with each other. We wanted a family life that would allow us to share the family responsibilities so that we both had time to pursue our own dreams and both had a relationship with Kate. How could we hope to have our marriage stand the test of time if we gave up on that vow to be true to the dreams we both share? I would always carry some level of resentment, and he would always feel some defensiveness. If we gave up on the idea that we could share responsibility for our family, effectively we would be giving up on a core value in our marriage.
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“What would David lose? - I didn’t want David to miss out on the richness of the relationship I had with Kate. A richness that came from putting a cold washcloth on her feverish forehead, from reading and giggling about stories in her bed at night, and, yes, from the times she drove me crazy and I yelled and then said I was sorry and she hugged me anyway. I didn’t want David to find many years later that he didn’t know his own child, had missed her childhood and couldn’t have a meaningful conversation with her. I wanted more for him. So badly it brought me to tears. And I was pretty sure he wanted it too.”
Change the reality don’t change the vision - As Kristin explains, “Whenever people feel the pain of a big gap between current reality and the way we want things to be, there are two options. Change the reality or change the vision. Reality is tougher to change, so the easiest and fastest way to relive pain is to ratchet down our expectations. For example, we tell ourselves mothers are just naturally better at family so it will never change. For a time, we feel better. The painful gap between what we have and what we want is a little less because we’ve decided to want less.” But then she asks, “What have we lost in the process?”
Want to Read More?
The Libra Solution, Shedding Excess and Redefining Success at Work and at Home, Lisa D’Annolfo Levey (2012)
Equally Shared Parenting, Rewriting the Rules for a New Generation of Parents, Marc and Amy Vachon (2011)
This is Not How I Thought It Would Be, Remodeling Motherhood To Get The Lives We Want Today, Kristin Maschka (2009)
Getting to 50-50, How Working Couples Can Have it All by Sharing it All, Sharon Lerner (2009)
Daddy On Board, Parenting Roles for the 21st Century, Dottie Lamm (2007)
How to Avoid The Mommy Trap, A Road Map for Sharing Parenting and Making it Work, Julie Shields (2003)
The Four-Thirds Solution, Solving the Childcare Crisis in America Today, Stanley Greenspan (2002)
Halving it All, How Equally Shared Parenting Works, Francine Deutsch (2000)
Love Between Equals, How Peer Marriage Really Works, Pepper Schwartz (1995)
A 21st Century Workplace – Lessons from small business
Jennifer Johnson is Co-founder Current Designs – a small research instrument manufacturing firm. Ken Stern is Founding Partner, Stern & Curray – an immigration law firm. Jennifer and Ken are also both great examples of Whole Life Leaders – leaders who have been successful at work while also creating time and energy to be an involved father, mother, grandfather, husband, wife and community member.
Whole Life Leaders model and support progressive conversations at work – Whole Life Leaders help their team develop 21st century skills and an integrated mind set so that everyone increases their capacity to develop win-win solutions – solutions that foster a thriving workplace and multi-dimensional lives.
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Whole Life Leaders create more sustainable workplaces - Whole Life Leaders who are small business owners, like Jennifer and Ken, are also leaders who are helping us create a blue print for 21st century workplaces. Workplaces that truly support everyone – from entry level to executive level – to follow integrated career paths.
Whole Life Leaders support progressive conversations at home - In addition, Whole Life Leaders are changing what’s happening at home. Together, they are working as a team to step out of traditional gender roles and address the changing needs of work and family. Sometimes this means one parent – the father or mother – temporarily steps out of work or reduces work to create a workable solution for the family. But they see this as one part of an on-going story where both parents are partners in caring for their children and meeting the financial needs of their family.
Download our Whole Life Leaders PDF and see how these pioneers are changing how we do things both at work and at home.
Like it or not, children grow up …
When my children were young I really didn’t understand that my Shared Care journey with Jeff would include a point in time when my children would grow up and leave the house. But it happened. One child is off to college, which also means I know how quickly the other will be making his way through high school.
Life with teens is easier - As I compare my life today to the early years of our family, it’s amazing how much easier it is. Gone are the days of the physical demands of those early years. Now our son is busy with his own life. And on the days I’m “in charge” he often doesn’t come home until 4:30 or even 5:30. Now when one of us travels for work, gone are the exhausting days of doing “double duty” because the other parent is absent. Now we even have another pair of hands to help out with dinners, walking the dog and doing all the other everyday tasks families require.
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Life with teens is also harder - However – as any parent of a teenager knows – life with teens is also harder. The problems they face are more complex and often can’t be quickly crossed off the to-do list.
Creating a collective tool box – both at work and at home - What I didn’t know was how much my decision to Share Care with Jeff would become so valuable as our children grew up. As Shared Care parents we were both experts in flexing our work to be available for our children. And as Shared Care parents of teens we could both think together about how to handle the new and sometimes challenging territory of dating, driving and the all encompassing college application process.
I remember a moment a few years ago when our daughter was facing a significant challenge with another friend of hers. At that exact moment I also had a work commitment that I couldn’t reschedule. You can’t predict when your teenager will need a shoulder to cry on, but this was one of those moments. I left our house not knowing how things would unfold – my father was wonderful in so many ways, but my Mom was the parent I leaned on for emotional support. Returning home later that day, not only did I find my daughter once again ready to take on the world, I learned how much Jeff was truly my equal in managing the ups and downs of family life.
But we didn’t achieve our “team approach” overnight. It took practice, a few fights, me letting go and even getting some outside resource when we kept getting stuck in a particular problem. Now with our youngest in high school, Jeff and I will be using our “team approach” to start planning for life without children at home. Yes, I know it’s hard to imagine – but like it or not, children do grow up.