A World Increasingly Obsessed with Work
To understand how we became a world so obsessed with work, you have to understand “systems thinking.” It helps identify the multiple forces that brought us to this present moment, and provides insight into how to make change.
Below are some of the “Laws of Systems Thinking” Peter Senge outlines in his book, The Fifth Discipline. We’ve taken the liberty of applying them to the issue of finding time for both work and family.
Take a listen to the YouTube recording as well. It’s a great conversation with Peter Senge and two parents whose personal stories demonstrate how we can each do our part to make BIG changes in this complex system.
Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants
It’s hard to develop solutions that take the whole system into account, but unless we do, real change is not possible. When it comes to work and family both sides impact the whole. To make change, we can’t just focus on changes at work OR home – we can’t cut the elephant in half – we must make changes in both arenas.
Cause and effect may not be closely related in time and space
Systems are very complex, and over time a change in one area may have unintended consequences in another. We can see this from the problem progressive countries faced around gender inequality after implementing long paid parental leaves. Luckily, many of these countries are now addressing this by requiring fathers be the persons who use a certain percent of paid leave time.
Today’s problems come from yesterday’s “solutions”
Assumptions around the need to be physically present to get work done are certainly archaic, but it may have been the only way to get work done during the industrial age. Today, the opportunities and challenges of new technologies and a global economy make it much easier to “blend” work and life. However, read on to see how today’s solution is creating problems for tomorrow.
The cure can be worse than the disease
Today, for some people, “blending” has literally become never turning off work. We can see this in Shark Tank super-star Kevin O’Leary’s comments, when he said, “I don’t have a division anymore between vacation time and work. It’s always both. I work every day.” And that rule also applies to his employees: “Do I expect my employees to respond to me when they’re on vacation? 100%,” he says. Is “blending” the only option in today’s 24/7 global economy?
Faster is slower
In today’s global economy, some believe the only answer is working harder and faster, but perhaps there is a better way … Instead of prioritizing work over the rest of our lives (and the environment!), we believe we need to develop a new mental model that allows all of us to live life at a more human pace. We at ThirdPath call it “Work-Life Integration” — prioritizing work alongside other life interests — whether it’s caring for our children, our aging loved ones, our communities, or caring for our environment.
Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious
Join us this week when we talk with Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline – one of the most well-known books written about systems thinking. We promise you will leave with big insights into the “small changes” you can make to find a more satisfying approach to both work and life.
Register to join this week’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar on January 16 with Peter Senge. We’ll be exploring the growing problem of “workism” – the pattern of people seeking validation exclusively through work — and how to fight against it.
Pauses Increase Happiness and Effectiveness
Are you feeling the need for a pause in your life? Luckily, there is a good deal of evidence that shows taking a pause helps us to live happier lives AND become more effective at work.
As Joe Robinson, author of Don’t Miss Your Life, points out… “Satisfying work and a well-lived life are the result of thinking, assessing, and having the attention to create a better pathway forward. Something no one else can do for us. What you want doesn’t happen on its own. You have to make it happen.”
Following are 8 different beneficial pauses, big and small, that Robinson suggests we start implementing in our lives today…
1. Big Picture Pause.
Set aside a chunk of time, say, 30 minutes this week and then once a month, to think about where you’re going at work and life this year and why you’re going there. What are your work goals? Life priorities? What’s missing from the picture? What do you need to change? How can you do that?
2. Work Effectiveness Pause.
Review tasks and identify ones that are frequent bottlenecks and time-wasters. How could they be adjusted for less stress and more effectiveness?
3. Priorities Pause.
Set aside 10 minutes at the end of the workday or at the beginning to map out the top five tasks on your list for today or tomorrow.
4. Balance Pause.
Each Friday, take a few minutes to assess the state of your work-life balance. Are you out of whack? What needs to happen to have a better work-life fit?
Read more …
Fatigued brains look like ones that are sound asleep. Pause when the pressure peaks, you’re stuck, concentration fades, the daydreaming begins. Take a walk, listen to music, or plan your weekend to build up energy and cognitive resources again.
6. Free Time Pause.
Take time to put together a free-time log for a week of all your time outside work. Where are the time sinks? Where are the free-time slots you could schedule a new hobby or activity? What would you like to do? Salsa dancing? Cycling?
7. Vacation Pause.
Figure out at the beginning of the year where you want to go on vacation and when you want to go. This makes it easier for coworkers and managers and locks them and you into making the holiday happen at the most opportune time, with plenty of notice to make workflow adjustments.
8. Life List Pause.
Take some time to think about what you’d like to do on this planet for the experience of it. What’s on your Life List? Sail the South Seas? Learn guitar? Keep a rotating list of five experiences and start jotting down steps to make them happen.
To hear more about taking a break, check out our “Finding Your Sweet Spot” webinar where we talked with Christine Carter, happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, about her book, The Sweet Spot, How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. In it she draws on the latest scientific research on positivity, productivity, and performance to demonstrate that by doing less we can actually accomplish more.
OR: Join our December 12th Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar to learn more about why turning off work on vacation is good for you AND good for your organization.
Creating Culture Change Requires Courage and Hope
A guest post from Jessica DeGroot, ThirdPath’s founder and president.
What keeps the ThirdPath community moving forward? Learning from and being inspired by the amazing moms, dads and leaders who have gone ahead and asked for change – even when they’ve had to be the first to do so. Since founding ThirdPath I’ve learned that connecting to this courageous community has made us smarter, it’s also fostered my sense of hope. What derails the progress we are all working towards? Losing hope, and losing courage.
- Previous positive experiences around work-life integration – so even if you are failing at the moment – you stay motivated to keep making changes to achieve integration once again
- Strong support at home, including someone who keeps encouraging you to reach for an integrated solution, even if it means leaving an unsupportive workplace
- Seeking out role models who inspire you that integration can be achieved
- Taking time to recharge and replenish your energy so you can overcome the next obstacle
As Peter Senge taught us long ago (see info graphic on right), when people maintain hope around what’s possible, it helps them avoid lowering their goals, it also helps them discover new and more creative solutions.
Why do I know this better today? Because of how personally challenging this past year has been.
I have always believed there is a “win-win” answer around work-life integration. However, this year, as I balanced my leadership role at ThirdPath with the unexpected and all-consuming demands of elder care, it taught me that some years we will fall short of this goal. Sometimes life will demand more of us, and work will need to take a back seat.
If you think it’s gotten easier for leaders to integrate work and life since ThirdPath was founded, think again. Here’s why:
- Creating a high performing team that supports everyone’s work-life integration goals is the best way a leader can achieve work-life integration themselves
- Creating a team like this is harder than you think, especially in a chronically overworked workplace
- Unpredictability – like what I experienced around elder care – makes planning much more challenging
- When leaders don’t have time to think and plan, they give up on improving their own work-life integration, as well as their drive to think more creatively with their teams around these issues
Read more …
Given these truths, should we be surprised that so many leaders give up hope, lower their goals, and let work take over their nights, weekends and even vacations?
I know there is a better way. I know supporting leaders to model integrated lives is key to change. However, this past year also taught me how hopelessness might be an unexpected obstacle to change.
How do you renew hope? Find support. Take time to recharge. Recommit to your goals … AND listen to the amazing conversation I had with Brigid Schulte about this exact issue. I promise it will renew your hope that change is possible.
Another option? Join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.
The Many Gifts of Shared Care
Bryan and his wife both worked a four-day work week when their son was born. Now they are “empty nesters” and can quickly see how the “gifts” from adopting this approach just keep on coming. Read on to learn what Bryan gained from sharing care with his wife. Or watch the YouTube recording of our Thursday Webinar where Bryan and another dad explore the benefits of adopting this approach for themselves and their organizations.
Here’s what Bryan learned: I always knew I wanted to be a very involved Dad but until the time comes when the baby is born and real, it can be difficult to know exactly what that means. As it turns out, Shared Care has been an ideal way of being intimately involved in the day-to-day care of my son. By spending the first few months at home with my son and wife and then caring for my son one day during the work week (known to him as Daddy Day, Mommy also has her own day during the work week), I was able to develop the kind of relationship with my son that I had always hoped for.
Being able to truly share in the care of my son with my wife has been a true gift, some of the benefits anticipated, others quite a surprise.
As anticipated, the greatest benefit of Shared Care has been to share many more of the ‘little moments’ with my son so that I felt as though I witnessed his growing up first hand. I knew his favorite books and his favorite playgrounds, the stories he made up while playing with his trains, and how he liked his grilled cheese sandwich cooked at lunch.
Shared Care brought my wife and I closer together as we felt like ‘true partners’ in this whole business of raising a family.
We shared our lives on several fronts – the ups and downs of clients and projects and deadlines and co-workers and the ups and downs of playtime and napping and discipline and mealtime. Shared Care has helped to foster a wonderful closeness with my wife and as a family.
Shared Care helped me become a better employee as well as a more productive one.
Because I knew my time at work was limited, when working, I found myself very focused. I became better at prioritizing and retaining a perspective on what part of my contribution was the most valuable both to the company and to clients. My company also recognized my contributions both verbally and monetarily regardless of the truth that I continued to prioritize family alongside work.
Read more …
Another benefit of Shared Care was learning how to create self-time.
Both my wife and I learned how to structure our lives so that we both had a certain amount of private time in any week to ‘do our own thing’ and recharge. We’ve been able to create windows of time where each of us has the night off, or a morning off, where we can pursue our own interests apart from work and children. This time has always been precious to me.
One of the many benefits of ThirdPath and its mission of teaching couples about Shared Care is that it helps to create a vision of a new family structure where men and women contribute in significant ways both in the raising of children and in the generation of income.
It can be easy to feel isolated at times on this new path, especially when I was the the only father on the playground on a Thursday morning, or the only male senior technical person who worked a reduced schedule. But to my mind I have the best of all worlds. I developed a depth of connection with my sons that I never had with my own father, have done work I love and moved ahead in my career, all while also creating a lifelong bond with my wife. I may be biased but looking back, it sure feels like Shared Care has been a better way to combine work and family.
Thanks for being such a pioneer Bryan! We are confidant that forging this path for all of these years has made it easier for others to follow in your foot steps.
Making the Impossible Possible
When Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” went viral in 2012, we immediately recognized adding “men and women” to each of her 5 mandates summarized ThirdPath’s mission. These mandates are also at the root of making “the impossible possible” – supporting a new appraoch to careers and family that doesn’t force people to choose between the two.
During our 2018-2019 Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar season we explored each mandate. We also added a sixth mandate – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries. Check out the May and June webinars, they also demonstrate how this is a key ingredient for supporting men and women to share things at home.
She also argues, “It’s time for CEO’s, supervisors, and team leaders to assume that the experience of caregiving… helps people become more efficient, and develop knowledge, patience, adaptability to different rhythms, honesty, courage, trust, humility, and hope.”
To learn more about her revolutionary vision, listen to our YouTube recording of the Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar with her.
We’ve also included a recap of the mandates below. Reading them, you’ll quickly see why putting these mandates into action helps make the impossible possible.
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s Mandates for Change:
Redefining Work, Careers and Family
Read more …
NEW – Men and Women Creating Win-Win Boundaries – Following an integrated approach to work and life means learning how to set win-win boundaries, otherwise flex becomes working days, nights, weekends and vacations. However, doing this requires making choices – both at work and at home – so we have the time and energy we need for what’s most important.
Men and Women Redefining the Arc of a Successful Career – This is at the core of our work with ThirdPath’s Pioneering Leaders – the male and female senior leaders we work with who all “walk the talk.” Whether on our bi-monthly leadership calls, or at our Pioneering Leaders Summit, together we are exploring the opportunities and barriers of creating workplaces that support an integrated approach from entry level to executive level.
Men and Women Revaluing Family Values – That’s what we’ve been doing since launching ThirdPath, including our ground breaking work supporting Shared Care families. We help both mothers and fathers redesign work (and careers!) so they can stay actively involved in the joys and responsibilities of caring for children. We’ve also learned this approach is key to balancing work and elder care.
Men and Women Rediscovering the Pursuit of Happiness – Whether it is the joy of an amazing vacation, making the most of summers, becoming an active volunteer, or a hobby enthusiast, this mandate gets right at the heart of our work. Most importantly – following a “third path” can continue all the way through phasing into retirement.
Men and Women Becoming an Innovation Nation – Lotte Bailyn discovered this in her pioneering work around the “dual agenda” where she designed solutions that were good for business and employees’ personal lives. Over and again, our amazing ThirdPath community has taught us, when you encourage employees to prioritize work alongside life – men and women, parents, single persons and grandparents – they will also find a way to improve how they work.
Listen to this year’s Thursdays with ThirdPath webinars – each episode will show you how to put these ideas into action.
Our join one of our Overwhelm Mitigation Groups. Let us help you learn how to set win-win boundaries at work, so you can have more time and energy for life.
The Challenge & Possibility of Integration
Don’t get us wrong – we know it’s challenging – but over the last 19+ years we’ve noticed a new paradigm, both at work and at home, that makes “integrated careers” more possible.
We’ve learned a lot from pioneering people like Amy and Marc Vachon — authors of the wonderful book Equally Shared Parenting — as they moved ahead in their careers while also creating time for their children and relationship to each other.
On the Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar where we featured Amy and Marc, you can find out how they first began their journey and what they’ve discovered as they’ve continue to navigate a path that supports love, family and two careers. Just click the link to the right to hear more!
Amy and Marc are what we call Whole Life Leaders – professionals who have moved ahead in their careers while also creating time and energy for their lives outside of work.
To become Whole Life Leaders, they developed a variety of “integration skills” that let them push back at a world that now lets us work anywhere and all the time. Instead, they looked for ways to become more effective at work so they had time and energy for their lives outside of work. You too can follow the path Amy and Marc Vachon have traveled down, and it all begins by putting into practice the following simple processes:
Key Integration Practices
1 – Create Time to Reflect
Create “pauses” at work. Make the most of slower periods at work to assess what you are doing and develop fresh and creative ways to focus on your most important work. If no slower periods are in sight – gain a fresh perspective from a short vacation, a “no work” weekend, or even just a quick walk outside during your lunch break. As Marc said on our webinar, “The only way to think in new and creative ways, is if we aren’t constantly running around putting out the next fire.”
Read more …
Develop a clear sense of highly valued non-work activities. Create time for family, friends, volunteer work or projects that feel of equal importance than the work you do. Get help from the people who are close to you to make time for non-work activities. Your spouse, a friend, a family member, or coach can all be resources to help you reach for your goals. This has been a cornerstone to both Amy and Marc’s approach. They wanted to craft a life where they were successful at work, partners in the care of their children, and to continue life interests beyond work and family. It turns out by doing this, they’ve also created a healthier, less harried lifestyle – something they are modeling to their children as well.
3 – Make Changes at Work
Below are some of the tools Whole Life Leaders like Marc and Amy use to help improve their effectiveness at work. The beauty of these skills is that they are also very teachable, and we’ve got ways to help you start learning them right now.
- Reduce email overwhelm. Adopt better habits around reviewing, managing and responding to emails.
- Create quiet time. Block off routine time in your calendar for quiet, focused, thinking work.
- Plan around the “seasons” of your work. Discover ways – at work and home – to better manage peak periods of work.
- Improve delegation. Delegate to junior employees as an opportunity for them, and as a way to create more time for you.
4 – Experiment, Learn, Repeat
Maintain an experimental approach! Remember, changes may need to happen both at work and at home. As Amy and Marc progressed in their careers and moved into positions where they began to manage others, you can imagine they had to learn a few things along the way. Whether it was Amy creating a job-sharing leadership position, or Marc’s conversation with his boss to collectively combat overwork and overwhelm, both would agree, the journey has been very worthwhile.
Want to learn how to develop these integration practices so you have time for work, love and play? Join one of ThirdPath’s OMG! – Overwhelm Mitigation Groups.
Our OMG experience provides an opportunity to learn and master key integration skills. The 1-hour calls meet monthly with a skilled facilitator, like-minded peers, and proven methodology. Join our OMG! 12-call series starting this summer.
Change Can Begin at Home
We need to continue to push for changes in public policy and more flexible organizations but there are changes that we can make in our own homes to move away from rigid gender based roles and assumptions.
Dads working full time …
Dan (New York Dad) – “My wife and I have developed a rhythm of working together to balance work and home life. Most days I handle getting our daughter’s things together for the sitter and drop off / pickup. Jen handles getting our daughter ready for the day and getting us out the door on time. In the evenings we share in the tasks of bath duty, laundry, story time and bed time routine. I enjoy this arrangement because Jen and I split up the responsibilities giving us each one on one time with our daughter but still have time together as a family.”
Dads flexing work hours …
Miguel (Chicago Dad) – “I’m a stay at home dad who works part time and enjoys every minute of both. After 20+ years in the button down corporate world, I took a step back and decided that I wanted to stay home with our daughter since we knew she would be our only child. She brings me joy and excitement every day. I love being able to be around for all the big milestones as well as the silly little things. Of course it helps that my wife works full-time which covers our day to day necessities. Keeping my hand in the working world allows me to have some balance and engage in grown up conversations. I wouldn’t trade this for anything!”
Dads staying home full time …
Dan (Chicago Dad) – “You never know what life is going to throw at you. All you can do as a couple is adapt and make sure you are there for each other. Our “style”, dates back to the end of 2005 when I left a high pressure banking job for what I thought would be a 12-18 month break to spend more time with our 3 boys and decompress. Almost 8 years later, I remain “retired” and a full time stay at home dad. My wife’s career flourishes (I’m very proud of her), and I would not trade the time I have had seeing my boys grow and mature. Being the only dad at school events clearly designed for moms and continually asked why you aren’t “working” can be tiring. But taking comfort in knowing you were there for your kids makes it all worthwhile.”
Dads sharing in the care after school …
Listen to our March 2018 Thursday with ThirdPath webinar where two dads discuss how they share work and family responsibilities of their school aged children. When both parents learn how to navigate school closures, sick days, after school activities and summer schedules, it can make full time flexible work possible for both parents. And when men and women both learn how to share in these predictable and unpredictable changes, everyone wins – moms, dads, kids, and our workplaces. Here are a few things you will gain from this approach:
More time as a family:
After school time can be great for both bonding and productive activities. Parents can plan an after school adventure instead of waiting for the weekend. They can also schedule appointments and errands. One shared care dad combined the two, “my kids weren’t always thrilled to get the errands done, so I’d make a plan to go someplace fun afterwards.”
More wiggle room for change:
Learning to work as a team, knowing which parent can flex and when, as well as building a network of support with family and friends, will pay big dividends when families work together to navigate school closures, sick days, and the summer months.
More opportunities to teach life lessons:
As children become more self-sufficient, creating a relaxed afternoon at home can give everyone time to connect. Having a friend come over can free up parents to get other household tasks done, or as children grow older, they can help you with these activities, by learning to take on responsibilities like laundry and cooking meals.
More able to be present for teens:
Older school aged children may start to need you less, but being around still makes a big difference. Parents of teens learn that teachable moments come at different times – at the mall when trying on clothes, or late at night when they are trying to finish a paper. Other parents admit to “shamelessly eavesdropping” during car pools. This helps the parent ask better questions later on such as, “So how is that new coach?” By taking turns being the parent at home, both parents increase the likelihood of being available, whatever comes up.
Want to learn more about mom’s and dad’s who are doing things differently at home? Check out our “integrating work and family” web page.
Whole Life Leaders are Transforming Organizations
The following is excerpted from the article Transformative Flex, by Jessica DeGroot and Jodi Detjen. The photos on the right are from ThirdPath’s biennial Pioneering Leaders Summit including our Pioneering Leader award winners.
Leaders who follow an integrated approach to work and life are changing a few fundamental assumptions…
First, they discard the outdated notion that a work-first approach is essential to business and the only route to success. Then they reframe this binary assumption into one that recognizes work matters AND life matters. They also learn how to create success in both areas by creating a team at home and a team at work.
Most importantly, when couples jointly follow this approach, they both learn how to push back at out dated norms as they support each other to achieve an integrated solution over the course of their careers.
To Be a Whole Life Leader – Work matters, and so does life
When couples both strive to be Whole Life Leaders, work matters and so do their lives outside of work. Both parents become experts in learning how to set thoughtful limits on how much work they can take on. We call this win-win boundary setting. Both parents also find ways to use flex to as a tool to help them do an excellent job at work, be responsive to the needs of colleagues and clients, and keep their eyes focused on their lives, not just their careers. The core of their solution is a “triple win”.(See definitions on the right.)
Whole Life Leaders become experts in flexibility AND capacity management
Flexibility defines where and when someone works. Capacity management relates to how much work is expected to be done individually, as a team and within the organization.
Flexibility requires agility, and the ability to think outside the box when faced with competing goals. Capacity management requires innovation in how the work itself gets done such as prioritization, expectation management, and strategic delegation. In fact, success in these two dimensions requires a set of 21st century skills that are valuable for everyone who works in today’s 24/7 business environment.
These leaders are changing the rules of the game
Professionals who develop these skills, who are then promoted to managers, begin to spread the skills to their teams. Instead of pre-defining where, when, and how much work gets done, these leaders work with their teams to determine the best way to achieve the desired success.
Managers who follow this approach get out of the business of micro-managing unnecessary details about how work gets done, and into the business of managing effectiveness. It’s also clear, ThirdPath’s progressive community of Whole Life Leaders have become role models of a new kind of leadership.
A FEW DEFINITIONS …
This happens in the moment – something that one physically “feels” as in “I feel out of balance”
This happens in the long run – this happens in the long run – it’s how you create multi-faceted lives, with paid work happening alongside other commitments
Work First Work Cultures:
In these organizations, life needs are always subservient to work and career priorities
Triple Win Solutions:
Flexing so it’s good for the work you do, the people you work with, and good for you
Collective Boundary Setting:
Working together to set thoughtful
limits around how much work we take
on so we can do our best AND our organizations thrive
Want to learn more about ThirdPath’s progressive community of Whole Life Leaders? Let us mail you DeGroot & Detjen’s article: Transformative Flex. Send your mailing address to: Time4Life(at)ThirdPath.org
Together We Can Change the World!
We are just back from the 8th annual Dad 2.0 Summit – and we are charged up to make change! Did you know that Dove Men+Care is pledging $1 million over the next 2 years to help dads afford to take paternity leave? Why is this so important? Getting dads involved right from the start helps all of us manage work and family responsibilities better – and not just during the diapering stage!
Take a look at the inspiring videos on the right, then read the great example of what we’re talking about – it’s a story from one of the bloggers spotlighted at the Dad 2.0 Summit … Then help us push for more change TODAY by taking the
Dove Men+Care Pledge for Paternity Leave and by sharing this link with everyone you know.
The Chaos Theory of Parenting – by Cort Ruddy
Our typical morning routine is goes like this: Child 1 ostensibly gets up at 6:15 a.m., to be on the bus at 6:52. Children 2 and 3 rise from their slumber when child 1 departs, and they get on their bus at 7:40. That’s when child 4 awakes, his bus arriving at 8:12, which he dutifully boards.
I call this predictable structure the Ordered Family model. And it works well on paper. In reality, it rarely occurs. Here’s a sample of our reality through the lens of one particular day last week when my wife just happened to be away on business.
The alarm went off at 6:15 a.m. as planned. Our oldest child didn’t move, however. Unplanned. Then it went off again. And again. When she did finally move, she announced she needed a shower because “it had been a few days.”
Long story short: she missed the bus. So, of course, I had to drive her. I woke the two younger ones, who are just barely old enough to be left home alone, and ordered them to get ready as I took the eldest to the High School.
When I got back, the house was still standing and everyone was alive, but nobody was ready for the middle school bus, now just moments way. So, I quickly threw together their lunches, prodded them to brush their teeth and get dressed, and then I watched as the bus pulled away while they sat at our counter nonchalantly eating breakfast. Bus missed.
To take them to school, I had to wake the boy, as he cannot be left alone for everybody’s sake. Once his sisters were deposited at middle school. We went back home to get him out of his PJs and ready for his bus, which he missed. So, it was back in the car and to the third school of the day to drop off yet another child.
By the time I got home, I had exactly zero minutes to get showered, dressed and off to work. Needless to say, I was late. Like, really late.
That’s when it occurred to me the similarities between math’s Chaos Theory and the way my wife and I are as parents: the Chaos Theory of Parenting.
In mathematics, Chaos theory is used to describe dynamic systems where minor variations in initial variables can cause wildly different outcomes.
I find it easier to understand Chaos Theory by thinking about the game Plinko on the Price Is Right. That’s the one where the lucky contestant drops a round chip down the Plinko board and it bounces around rather unpredictably until it reaches the bottom.
The difference is that in Plinko there are only five possible outcomes. While in life, and in parenting, there are infinite. Kid 3 could miss the bus. Kid 2 could leave without gloves and have to stay in for recess. Kid 4 could forget his homework, and his parents could get a call from the teacher. Dad could be late so often that he gets fired, and the whole family could have to move to another state. Anything could happen. All based on Kid 1 sleeping through her alarm and a host of other initial variables.
You could be observing us on what seems like an otherwise quiet evening when an unexpected (but predictable) variable occurs, like someone yelling, “Oh My God! We forgot soccer practice!”
And then we suddenly find ourselves scrambling to get our tween to her indoor soccer practice, and the whole plan for dinner is out the window and half our kids are crying because they’re hungry and haven’t started their homework. All because one of us had to run to the store after work to get an ingredient for the dinner we now aren’t making and, in the frenzy, simply forgot it was a practice day.
Clearly, I have only a rudimentary understanding of the real Chaos Theory, however I’ve found that with proper use of vagueness and big words, anyone can sound like they’re an expert on theoretical mathematics.
Parenting, on the other hand, is not quite so easy.
Cort Ruddy is a writer, working and raising four kids with his wife in upstate New York. His writing has appeared in Adirondack Life and Central New York Magazine, and can be found online at RuddyBits.com. He’s on Twitter @DadBits.
Check out our free resources so you can have more fun and less stress. We’ve even included the free CJ case study describing how a dad changed his schedule to a four day work week.
Advice From A Seasoned Caregiver …
Amy Goyer’s book “Juggling Work and Caregiving” is full of good advice about how to balance work and eldercare. Below is an excerpt about the importance of developing a team when caring for an aging loved one…
Team members can include a variety of people …
Whether they are family members, friends, volunteers, or paid professionals, make a list of everyone who is currently involved in your loved ones care, or who supports you so you can be a caregiver.
Consider the following options:
- Family members
- Neighbors: Your loved ones and yours
- Friends: Yours, the friends of the loved one you are caring for, or of other family members
- Members of faith communities
- Paid or volunteer services such as a house cleaner, handyman, companion, meal or grocery delivery, chore services
- Medical, health, social service or geriatric professionals
- Financial, legal and technology advisers
- Gatekeepers: People who regularly interact with your loved ones and who may be the first to notice a change or problem (people such as the mail carrier and yard worker)
Team members contribute in different ways …
Everyone will contribute at different levels and with different strengths.
They will likely fall into one of the following six roles:
- Big picture – Family members and care managers who keep an eye on and communicate the overall planning and status of things
- Single responsibility – Someone who is willing to coordinate one chunk of caregiving such as managing finances or a household task
- Ongoing – Paid or volunteer caregivers, neighbors, and friends who help with the everyday aspects of care
- Single task – Someone who is happier accomplishing a specific time-limited job with clear instructions
- Special projects – A team member who steps in for an emergency or one time circumstance
- Backup – Team members who are great at stepping in when plans go awry
Match team member roles with personalities and availability …
One team member may be more hands-on while another prefers tasks such as “dealing with finances and paperwork; conducting research; making phone calls; cleaning; organizing; running errands.” No matter what, keep the lines of communication running smoothly between team members. Amy includes practical suggestions for how to communicate productively as well as advice for what to do when things aren’t going so well.
Bottom line, “Your caregiving team is made up of people who have different relationships with the people you are caring for, all with lots of history and possible baggage.”
Caregiving can be challenging for you and for all team members. Luckily Amy’s book includes a number of suggestions for creating, managing, and navigating the ins and outs of this difficult time.
Did you know that ThirdPath has resources to help you at every life stage? Let us help you get support to think in new ways about your work and life responsibilities so you can find more joy in both.