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The Working Mother Experience is a 250 page glossy coffee table book that contains nearly 100 essays written by EMC women (and one man) from around the world. The essayists share their candid perspectives on being working mothers in our fast-paced business environment.

Working Mother Experience Book (in PDF)

Sunday
Apr252010

NOT Thursday

I think life with kids, at least the way I tilt the scales of my life, often feels like running an obstacle course.  There is a sense of feeling alive and having a purpose.   My life has meaning. There are a lot of moving parts to being a parent.  We are responsible for everything from the clothes on their backs to (optionally) saving for their college tuition.  The responsibilities of now and tomorrow can sometimes be overwhelming.  Most days I feel I have it together.  This past Thursday was NOT one of those days.  Henceforth this day will be called, NOT Thursday. Thursday started with a (way too early) trip to the gym.  Often my boy is still sleeping when I go to work with my personal trainer.  NOT Thursday.  The tot was awake and teary.  He was definitely out of sorts, but nothing specific seemed to be wrong.  By the time I left for work he had a slight temperature, but nothing startling.  Daddy was home for the morning so I went to work knowing he was in good hands.  By the time I came home from work my child still had a temp and was refusing to eat or drink anything.  However, he kept saying nothing was wrong.  He had no pain.  I saw that he kept swallowing and swallowing, but he seemed resolute in his complacency that nothing was bothering him. I took his temperature - 101.  I decided a call to the pediatrician was in order.   Typically an evening call to the on-call pediatrician is a routine affair.  NOT Thursday.  In a fluke, Murphy's Law, sort of way the after hours number was stuck in a never-ending loop sending you back to the main menu.  Meanwhile, the boy's temperature rose to 102 Degrees. I try the local ReadyMed number I have kept on the refrigerator for just such an emergency.  Expecting them to gladly take my cash, I pat myself on the back for being prepared, and call them to find out what the procedure is for being seen.  I forgot, this was NOT Thursday.  They told me I needed a referral from my pediatrician (that I can't reach). I explain to the receptionist that I can't reach the pediatrician and they say, "No Problem", and transfer me to someone who can help.  I explain the situation to the next Nurse Ratchet she sighs and HANGS UP ON ME!  NOT Thursday! The temperature on the thermometer that I keep torturing my child with rises to 102.5.  Now my pediatrician prefers to see us before the fever reducer medications are given, but since I can't reach the office, I give my boy Motrin.  I try to reach my sister who is a critical care nurse.  She almost always answers her phone, NOT Thursday.  I call another sister who has 5 children, does she answer? NOT Thursday! The temperature climes to 103.5!! My son wants me to hug him and walk around carrying him.  I am trying to IM with my husband (he is at work) and decide if I should take him to the hospital. Yes, I know about the tepid baths and playing with water in the sink.  I was nervous about the rising temperature, but also afraid to take him to the hospital and expose him to everything there, when his immune system was clearly compromised. I did what anyone would do in my situation.  I called my MOTHER!  She told me not to worry.  Normally, I would listen, but this was NOT Thursday. Zigging when I should have been Zagging was the name of the game. I realized it had been hours since I came home from work.  I had not changed my clothes, eaten a single bite of food or had one sip of water.  Hmmm.  I stood over the island in my kitchen and tried to catch my breath and relax.  I tell myself, "I am smart, I will figure this out."  I was reflecting on how lucky I was this was happening on a Thursday night.  My Mother-in-Law who adores my son was there to keep him comforted while I tried to come up with a strategy (which mostly involved waiting for SOMEONE returning my phone call!!).  BTW, I never argue with my MIL, but this was NOT Thursday.  Suddenly, I am having a very unpleasant conversation with her. UGH!  After my MIL leaves, I discover my son has a rash.  I assume it is a heat rash given his temp, but this is NOT Thursday! Normally, I don't see my husband again in the same day after he goes to work.  I am usually asleep long before he comes home.  NOT Thursday. My son could not sleep, so neither could I.  I tried to provide as much comfort as I could.  The temperature came down with medication, but my son was still so uncomfortable.  Even while sobbing, my normally very articulate son, could not tell me what was wrong.  I hated NOT Thursday!  Friday, he saw the doctor at 11am.  Strep Throat.  Guess who else has Strep Throat now?  That is right, Mommy! It has been three days of antibiotics and rest for both of us.  Life is much better now!  We are both feeling better and smiles and laughter have returned to the house.  For me, once I know the enemy (Strep Throat) I can deal.  My son is not suffering from some incurable fungus or Lime disease, it is common, painful but curable, STREP.  I am so glad it is no longer NOT Thursday! P.S.  Thanks to all my friends who emailed me tips and tricks.  Yes, we have tossed the toothbrushes and the fruit popsicles are a hit!

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Saturday
Apr102010

Good Question..."We Need Women Leaders. How Do We Get Them?"

Stumbled onto a article in Forbes Women this morning. It was titled "We Need Women Leaders. How Do We Get Them?" "Creating equal opportunities for women starts with a willingness to change the status quo....Today's workforce already comprises more than 50% women. When will the composition of America's business leadership reflect that reality? If we don't fully harness the power of women in the workforce, our future growth could be at risk." There are some great points made in this article, worth a read.  Of course, it will be a challenge to find corporations with the willingness to change status quo and to invest in that change.

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Tuesday
Mar022010

The loss of Joyce Hynds

Heroes come in many forms.  The most famous save us from bad guys, pull us out of burning buildings, and throw winning touchdown passes.  But the heroes that most profoundly touch and shape us are the ones that exist in our everyday lives--those who inspire us, challenge us, motivate us, and put a smile on our face just by being in the same room.  Joyce Hynds was such a person.  She was a dear friend, a mentor, a role model, and a confidant to me.  She was also my hero. Joyce lost her battle with cancer early yesterday morning.  For those of you who knew Joyce, you understand my profound sadness (celebrating her through these words is all I can do right now to keep the tears somewhat at bay).  For those that didn’t have the privilege of knowing her as I did, I hope that reading this will do her memory justice and give you some kind of idea of what a truly amazing person she was and why she will be missed so. And so, with that being said . . . Joyce liked to wear high heels and give warm hugs.  She probably never thought much about the hugs she would give me in the hallway at EMC but it made my day.  And looking back, I think that those famous heels and hugs together create the perfect metaphor for who Joyce was: a sharp, stylish, witty, no-nonsense gal with a passion for life and a heart with room and love for everyone; someone who could giggle like a school girl one moment and stand toe to toe with any head of state the next. When Joyce spoke it was always an occasion to listen.  Her animated and vibrant persona would command and light up a room even when talking about what she ate for breakfast.  She entertained everyone in a casual and unassuming way that neither drew undue attention to herself or came at anyone else's expense. This easy and affable nature, though, often hid the fact that an incredibly tough and stoic woman lied just beneath the surface--a side of her I might never have known had I not returned to her desk unexpectedly one day to return the gym badge she had left behind.  I knew something was off when, well before I reached Joyce’s desk, I heard a man barking and bleating like a bully about some papers that he claimed to desperately need.  As I got closer to her desk, I realized that the unpleasantness was being directed at Joyce.  Myself feeling a bit taken aback from the man’s domineering tone, I was blown away by how cool and unyielding Joyce was.  In that moment, my normally warm friend was firm and unflappable.  She dispassionately yet firmly explained to the brute that he wasn’t going to get those papers and why.  A reaction that made his antics look all the more pedestrian and childish.  It may not sound like that riveting a story but I have channeled and emulated the Joyce I saw on that day on several occasions when I needed similar strength and resolve. Did I mention that Joyce liked to wear high heels?  And not just any high heels, mind you, but insanely high heels.  All the time.  And yet she pulled it off.  Her fashion sense was vivacious and colorful and completely in tune and distinct to who she was.  Her personal style achieved the perfect balance of professional and fun, whimsical and polished, and served as a model for all of us still searching for that elusive “career look”.   Instead of the groundhog, we all looked to Joyce every year and waited for her festive silk skirts and peep-toed heels as a sure sign of Spring. As you can obviously surmise from what I’ve already shared about her, Joyce had a work hard, play hard attitude towards everything in life.  I’ve never known anyone, especially at Joyce’s age, so dedicated to physical fitness and yet also so ready to tear into a cheesecake or big box of white chocolates.  Joyce had a body that made women half her age jealous and she was walking proof that when you attack exercise as passionately as you attack food, you can have your cake and eat it too.   I’m going to be lost without my spin, step-aerobic, and Turkey-Trot buddy.  Even though she spun, stepped, and ran circles around me, she was my inspiration and my guide.  However, I do have a sneaky suspicion that she stayed in such tremendous shape throughout the years not for the sake of vanity or athletic accomplishment but because of her undying crush on Tom Selleck! Of all the things Joyce was, though, it was her role as Grandmother that meant the most to so many.  Her love and dedication to her own family was at the center of her strength and beauty and she extended that love well beyond her own offspring.  Joyce was particularly famous for her “baby wall” which was a side of her cubicle entirely dedicated to pictures of her EMC families’ children.  Every new child had a place on her wall and she maintained it and boasted about it as if every baby on there was her own grandchild.  I’ll never forget her reaction when I told her I was pregnant (I still have blood in my head from the strength of her hug) and how she constantly checked in on me and saw me not only through the pregnancy but through my new life as a working mom--perhaps the greatest of all the many gifts she gave me.  Taking my baby son to meet Joyce was one of the proudest and most special moments of my life. Like any true leader or role model, I don’t think Joyce ever thought of herself as one.  And I doubt she knew that she was my hero.  The great thing about people like Joyce is that none of that matters to them.  They don’t do what they do for accolades or recognition.   With the poise of a statesman and an angel’s heart, Joyce served as a flesh-and-blood example of what we all can aspire to be.  I urge all of us look at the positive and tangible impact she had on everything and everyone around her and consider that as we now go about life without her. Some of the people who are near us are queens wearing invisible tiaras.  Joyce Hynds was one of those queens masquerading as common folk. I will miss you, girlfriend. Updated to add ceremony information as well as link to tributes on the Funeral Home Site: http://www.lehmanreen.com/obituaries/tributes.php?id=12437  (Thanks, Doug!)  

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Sunday
Jan242010

Women and Self-Promotion

Many women are uncomfortable with the concept of self-promotion.  In fact, one of the most packed seminars I ever attended was called the "impostor syndrome". If you are unfamiliar with the definition - here it is from Wikipedia:

The Impostor Syndrome, sometimes called Impostor Phenomenon or Fraud Syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an officially recognized psychological disorder but has been the subject of numerous books and articles by psychologists and educators.

Regardless of what level of success they may have achieved in their chosen field of work or study or what external proof they may have of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced internally they do not deserve the success they have achieved and are actually frauds. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they were more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

This syndrome was thought to be particularly common among women who are successful in their given careers, but has since been shown to occur for an equal number of men. It is typically associated with academics and is widely found amongst graduate students.

Many working mothers suffer from self-doubt and it is a constant struggle to find balance.  Maybe because we fear that others have more time to dedicate to one area of their lives, for example, the office.  The truth is that people with a great deal on their plates tend to be more productive.  They don't have to be working mothers, but they are people with discipline and priorities.  In other words, people who don't have time to procrastinate. Women in general need to be a little better at talking themselves up.  Consider this blog post from Clay Shirky (Warning:  foul language in the Shirky blog post) called Rant About Women I stumbled onto via Twitter.  I know nothing at all about the author of this well written article and can not vouch for its authenticity.  However, I found his seemingly first-hand account of the career achievement differences between men and women in his own corner of the world a worthwhile read.  It may open up readers to new possibilities, enjoy.

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Sunday
Jan242010

Internet is 20 years old. Ah, to be twenty years old again!

The internet is 20 years old.  Ah, to be twenty again!  Forgive me as I wax nostalgic here, but technology is sorority sister I have grown up with for the past two decades. I don't know about anyone else, but I I felt like I knew everything at 19!   Life was simple and planned out.  All opportunity ahead of me.  I thought of the internet the same way. It was fresh and new.  It was the future. In order to understand my history with the internet let us go back a touch earlier.   In the late 80s, my boyfriend at the time (now Husband) gets himself into huge trouble because he rang up a $3,000  ($6 an hour in those days) bill using CompuServe on a 300 or 1200 Baud modem.  Lucky for my husband, my Mother-in-Law was not angry for long and considered the crazy bill an investment in her son's technology future.  To this day he still serves as the family IT support help desk so he is likely paid in full on his crazy teenage debt.   Without the exposure to my husband's addiction...passion at such an early age I don't know where I would be today.  The world of computer technology was opened up for me and I had my own private tutor.  (He also taught me how to drive, but that is a blog post for another day). Life was not the straight path I thought it would be when I was 19.  Two months before my 20th birthday my father passed away suddenly.  My life plans went through the equivalent of government-issue cross-cut shredder.   The confidence I had a few fleeting months before was reduced to a memory as I tried to figure out who I was in the new world order.   My sorority sister, technology, was there for me.  I threw myself into my schoolwork and learned all there was to know about business applications of technology.  I was not interested in coding, I wanted to know we could extract business value from this new medium.  I studied locally and internationally.  When I returned to the United States, I took administrative types of jobs maximizing the business value of technology.  Companies paid me to train in word processing, spreadsheets, web-publishing and graphics programs.   My Mother seemed to find comfort in the logic of technology as well.  She was an avid user of tech toys and I was lucky enough to always have a computer in my home. PhotobucketApple IIe was the first in 1984 and she has upgraded to the latest and greatest technology even today.  Yes my Mother is the coolest techie grandmother around, she is even on Facebook and can text with the best of them! Is it any wonder that I ended up at EMC, a technology company.  As I have blogged here before, EMC is also my Mother's initials so it was a perfect match.  EMC publishes an online periodical called ON Magazine.  The latest issue is a celebration of the Web's  20 year anniversary.  Many EMC bloggers (Len Devanna Barry Burke, Gina Minks just to name a few) that I enjoy have written about the article and the three questions it asks: * How has the Web changed your life? * How has the Web changed business and society? * What do you think the Web will look like in 20 years? Then I read this at Blog Stu "To continue the conversation, I am tagging Natalie Corridan-Gregg (EMC), Aneel Lakhani (works for IBM, speaks for himself) and Andrea Meyer (Working Knowledge) to continue the #20years discussion.   Cool.  Skin in the game :) Before I go any further the geek in me has to say out loud to the blogosphere that I find incredibly ironic that the traditional gift for a twentieth anniversary (such as what the web is celebrating) is china, given all of the issues around China and internet searches that are circulating currently, but I digress... * How has the Web changed your life? After reading my introduction to this post I think it is clear that technology has been a thread throughout my life, but specifically I would say that I am much more informed.  I planned my wedding online, prepared for the birth of my son online, researched jobs and created my resume online,  I searched for my home and car online.  As a working mother almost all of my shopping is done online (in the wee hours of the morning).  Christmas Cards and holiday shopping would be impossible for me without my sorority sister WWW. * How has the Web changed business and society? How has the Web changed business?  Let us turn that around.  Can you have a business without the Web?  Sure.  If you are a gas station or dry cleaner, but even then how do people find you if they don't drive by your location?  I would say that the Web is business.  It is how we communicate.  It is how we research.  It is how we live.  How do you separate business and society in this question?  In the world of 24 x forever my work and home lives bleed into each other without definition.  Polly Pearson blogged about the death of the "Out of Office " message back in August of 2008 and mused "[Is it because] Everyone is on wireless devices… thus always 'in' the virtual office?"  My working mother lens says yes.  Technology has made it possible for us to be virtually anywhere and everywhere.  I work 7 days a week, I am a mother and wife 7 days a week (feels like eight).  The Working Mother Experience book tells me that I am not alone.  All working parents are fighting to give 100% to their kids and their careers and ignoring the funny math that creates.  Facebook is a double edged sword I now know way too much about some people, but it is an invaluable tool in my "staying sane" arsenal.  Remember the funny math from the previous sentence?  Facebook allows me to pretend to have a social life on top of the alleged 200% of myself I am giving away elsewhere.  It acts as a big red "STOP" light for me on the roller coaster of life.  I can check on how my peeps are doing when it is convenient for me, a la that wee hour in the morning shopping.  When I see Girlfiend Y posted that she spent the night in the ER, guess what pops to the top of my to do list post 8 am.  That is right calling Girlfriend Y.   Girlfriend Y would never 'bother' me with such things as asking for a shoulder to cry on, but my friend Facebook allows her to hint she might need one.  Very Cool.  Back to the concept of the lack of Church and State between business and society web application for a moment.  Facebook has allowed me to be friends with co-workers I would never have a chance to really get to know.  Yes in some cases it was not the best idea, but 80% or more of the time, I am thrilled with the connectedness I feel with the fellow EMCers.  I see their kids pictures, I can navigate around a bad day because I know in advance.  On the down side, a fellow EMCer is responsible for my slipping into the grips of the Farmville application.  My toddler actually owns my 'farm' and enjoys it immensely, but I have to remember when his crops are due to harvest and of course those annoying Facebook status messages are the result.  You can do a Twitter search to see the most popular global topics and learn a bunch about how people feel.  The local election in Massachusetts on January 19th is a terrific example.  Nothing is local anymore.  A blogger I read out of Delaware wrote a terrific piece on the MA election and the effect it would have on the Nation.  It was eye opening. Society has found a way to merge itself with the never-ending demands of the global economy.  We adapt. * What do you think the Web will look like in 20 years? What do I think the Web will look like, or what do I fear the Web will look like?  The Web, like many of us at the tender age of 20, can make good choices or poor choices that affect the future.   My fear is that in the quest for more and more data mining that privacy will become a thing of the past.  So much of business and society is simmered into the very foundation of the current iteration of the Web that extricating the two is near impossible.  That is ok in peaceful hands, but people's lives can be ruined by accusation, identities can be stolen, the path to truths obscured.   I receive all of my new from the Web through 'trusted' sources.  There was a horrible Sandra Bullock movie called The Net released in 1995.  The movie was not able to suspend disbelief for me, given the leaps it took with technology.  The concept of the movie, where someone's identity could be erased and replaced, via software sits with me as a possible scary outcome. On the other, angel on my shoulder, side I can see the Web uniting the world.  It is already starting to happen.  The world felt 9/11.  The world felt the Tsunami.  The world is wrapping up Haiti in a big hug as I write this blog post.  The best thing I can see coming out of the internet in twenty years is people seeing each other for their similarities instead of their differences.  We are all human beings.  We need the same basics of food, water, love, shelter.  We love our families and want better for our children.  If the internet can build global community then that would be the best of all outcomes. To keep the discussion going, I appeal to David Spencer, and his terrific Dave Talks Shop blog, to give us his thoughts.  I look forward to reading his perspective.

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