Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Working Moms: Setting Priorities

In Monday's post, we already established the fact that you're not about to abandon your work and family to-do lists. But you can identify your more personal priorities, whether it’s learning to play an instrument, returning to school or training for
Move ahead: Think about what you wanted to do today but couldn’t find the time to enjoy. It can define your priorities for tomorrow and help you stay on track in the face of the inevitable distractions. Mark this as the beginning of creating new rituals. Figure out specific activities to integrate into your regular routine - taking a walk during your lunch hour, meeting a friend for coffee once a week, writing in your journal or reading before bed. Carve out this time just for you and keep it sacred.

Savor your selfhood:
Society sends mixed messages when it comes to taking care of ourselves. On one hand we’re taught to go after what we want, yet if we fight too hard we’re seen as selfish. Integrate your self-fulness as you practice saying ‘no’ to what may be presented as greater opportunities you can't resist. Because yielding to outside pressure and taking on more responsibility can amount to ignoring what may be in your own best interests.

The time frazzled woman has become a common archetype today. We’re socialized to be available to our spouse, children, parents, friends and boss. And the price we pay to please others is high. At what point do we learn that charity begins at home? Self esteem comes from having the courage to make tough choices, even if they’re unpopular. After all, if a long-term goal is to have our kids find personal fulfillment, shouldn’t we lead by example? Put yourself at the top of your

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Monday, March 26, 2012

GEMS for Working Moms

Just as the women in this photo are admiring gems at the Pushkar Camel Fair in India, so can you find treasures for yourself in this blog post.

Is your life an endless cycle, revolving around work and taking care of the kids? If so, you’re not alone. In a recent study by the Families and Work Institute, more than half of American women say they don’t have enough time to spend on themselves and choose the activities they enjoy. We all know that saying ‘yes’ to more responsibility can make us feel safer with the boss and help us avoid conflict in the family. But too often ‘yes’ is our default mode with just about everything.

In a world of relentless demands, saying ‘no’ is highly underutilized. Of course, you can’t abandon the never ending to-do lists around work and domestic duties. But don’t you think you also deserve to identify your other, more personal priorities? Start now with these practical GEMS - Give it up, Evaluate, Move ahead, Savor. You'll see that they can help you put more sparkle in your life.

Give it up: As the gatekeeper, are you sometimes frustrated, stressed out or resentful about your workload and home chores? Recognize that some of the barriers are in your own head and shifting your standards is critical. Let go of the idea that you can do it all. And don’t beat yourself up about it. Guilt is a prevalent emotion for those who worry that they're not doing enough. Remind yourself that it’s OK to do less or to delegate, given the realities of your situation. Know that you’re dancing as fast as you can.

Evaluate here and now: You’ll make better choices if you step back and assess what you’re doing. Are you already exhausted by volunteering in your kids’ classrooms, coaching their soccer team and heading up the school fundraiser? Decide what makes the most sense for you and then prioritize. The same holds true with chores around the house. As long as you’re willing to do it all, others likely won’t step up to the plate.

Have you found some solutions as you struggle with setting priorities for yourself? Click on 'comments' below this post to share your gems with us. And log on here Wednesday for more usable tips, just for you.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Virtual Book Tour: Getting Old is a Full Time Job

We are so pleased to be hosting Dr. Susan Lieberman today to talk about her new book, Getting Old is a Full Time Job: Moving on From a Life of Working Hard. Susan writes about her insight into the 12 "jobs" of retirement - ranging from Strategist to Script Writer to Soul Catcher. Susan has a gift for using the challenging issues in her own life as a starting point for her highly accessible books. We enjoyed visiting with her here several years ago as she talked about The Mother-in-Law's Manual and her learning curve as a MIL.

Susan, after your last book on mothers-in-law, how did your new one come into being?

I started the Houston chapter of a national group called The Transition Network. It’s for professional women 50 and over moving from their mainstream work to 'What’s Next?'

We meet once a month and focus on our lives and our many different kinds of transitions. I love the women I have met through TTN. They are smart, reflective and candid, and as I listened to them, I heard a recurring theme. We kept judging ourselves, often negatively, against the criteria we used when we were building our professional lives. For example, I would be sitting in the kitchen happily sipping tea and reading the New York Times, something that makes me happy, when I would ruin it by castigating myself for still being in my robe at 9:30. It hit me that when we retire, rewire, shift down or switch our focus, we needed to develop a new template for success. That was the beginning point for the book.

It seems that instead of going to therapy, when I need to work out my own issues, I sit down at the computer, and I needed to figure out what retirement meant for me.

Are you really retired? You have started a new business and written two books since you left a full time teaching job. Do you consider that retired?

I love this question. People often want to help me understand how busy and engaged I am and not at all a “retired person,” as if that were a minor illness. Yes, I AM retired. Here is what that means to me: I have not stopped being productive or engaged in the world. I am just not driven by external demands, by how others want me to spend my time on or by what others think it is important to achieve. My life now is much more determined by internal interests and desires. I am the CEO, COO, HR Director, shareholder, vending machine operator and janitor of this company called MY LIFE. I get to do my own performance appraisals, and now, finally, I can spend my time as I wish. I don’t work 50 or 60 hours a week any more, and I avoid work that makes me unhappy.

In Getting Old Is A Full Time Job, you talk about 12 jobs waiting for us in retirement. Which of these most captures your attention?

Hands down, the hardest job for me is Purveyor of Pleasure. I was really good at working. I had a 50-year history of successful work. I was not so good at playing, at figuring out what that meant for me, besides working well. After I left my full-time job, I was determined to “have fun.” The problem was I couldn’t figure out what was, for me, fun. I don’t much like sports, I don’t sew or garden. I am a good cook but I didn’t really want to be a better cook. I couldn’t work it out until someone suggested I substitute the word “pleasure” for “fun.” Then I got it.

Writing books for me is deep pleasure. I won’t describe it as FUN. It’s hard work, It can get intense and frustrating. But it gives me so much pleasure to do the interviews, work out what I think is important to say and play with saying it in ways that other people find accessible and useful.

It doesn’t give me much pleasure to do the marketing. Using my mainstream template for success, which included economic gain and recognition of accomplishments, of course I should be spending lots of time marketing. Using the success template for this stage of my life, I should just be writing another book and enjoy it, even if I don’t get rich or famous. So please, buy a book because I am not working on many ways to get people to do that.

The other job that captures my attention is Director of Physical Planning. I just told you I am not much for physical exercise so getting myself to the gym and walking several mile a couple times a week takes discipline. It isn’t, for me, fun or even pleasurable, but feeling good, being able to wrestle with my grandkids, being able to do what I want IS fun, so I know I have to make myself stay in shape and not allow myself to be diverted. Not having to do it at 6:30 A.M. also makes the job easier.

You don’t sound so very old. How did you pick this title?

I am 69. I started working on the book when I was 67. I didn’t feel OLD then nor do I now…but I am not young. I am not really middle aged any more. What has happened to my generation is that 18 additional years have been inserted in to the average life span. So people at 90 and people at 70 all fall into the same post-middle aged category and we are, of course, not the same.

But getting old is not a curse. It’s what happens. If I am not getting older, I am getting deader. Sixty is not the new forty. What it is, rather, is the new sixty. My sixty is not the same as my grandmother’s sixty but my son is forty, and he and I are not in the same place.

So often, when someone finds out I am sixty-nine, they say, “Oh my, you don’t look sixty nine,” as if it would be a bad thing if I did. First, I look about average. Half the people I know my age look better and half probably don’t look as good – and that’s been true since I was 19. Second, what should 69 look like? And third, what if I did look 69? Would I need immediate plastic surgery? Of course, most women – men, too – like feeling attractive. I like it too – but how I feel and how I think, how flexible I am in body and sprit, how much more able I am now to forgive, overlook and understand is what’s important, not how many wrinkles in my neck.

My friend, Irene, told me I couldn’t use the word OLD in a book title because no one wants to talk about feeling, getting or being old. But really, that’s what was on my mind, that is what interested me…how I do this aging bit in a way that makes sense for me since I am, without regard to my wishes, going to be doing it—if I’m fortunate.

Who is the audience for Getting Old is a Full Time Job?

I think this book is for people about 55-75, those who are retired or thinking about some sort of retirement. Dick Goldberg, a tough critic who is national director of Coming of Age, told me this was a good book for men because it talks about jobs, and men like jobs. I very much wanted to write a book that appealed to both men and women so that made me happy. But just this week I got two compliments that made me even happier.

One came from my good friend Sue in St. Louis and who called to ask me for 15 books. Why on earth, I asked, do you need 15 books? “Well, my mother took my copy, loved it and now wants to give it to all her friends and neighbors.” And, Sue added, “You should feel good because my mother doesn’t like anything!” The other pleasing comment came from a woman in my breakfast club who told me she had given a copy to her housekeeper for Christmas, and her housekeeper loved the book as well.

To write a book that appeals to a 55 year-old petroleum engineer, a 64 year old housekeeper, an 82 year old crotchety grandmother and my wonderful sister-in-law who is still working flat out as an architect makes me button-bursting proud. And it reinforces my notion that because 21st Century aging and retirement is quite different than what has come before, we don’t have enough models, enough visible ways of thinking through this stage that Mary Catherine Bateson calls Second Adulthood and we all need to be talking together about how to do retirement as well as we did other stages in our lives – or better.

Thanks for joining us today, Susan and filling us in on your latest pleasure in retirement, Getting Old is a Full Time Job. Readers, if you want to ask Susan questions about how to get started on your own 12 jobs, just click on "Comments" below and follow the prompts. Susan would love to hear from you - and so would we!

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Gray Divorce

Are you and your spouse still happy, sharing activities like exercising together? If so, you may not know about a new trend hitting baby boomers - Gray Divorce. In the past 20 years, the divorce rate for boomers has doubled even as the total divorce rate has been going down. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2009 more than 25% of all divorces were among couples over 50.

AARP has identified that in 2/3 of these divorces, it is women who seek the split. Often their motivation is to enjoy the years ahead after children have been raised and left home. With the expectation of many extra years of an empty nest, these women choose to focus on satisfying their personal needs and goals rather than remaining in an unhappy marriage. In other cases, about ¼ of the time, a wife institutes the proceedings after an infidelity by her husband.

For over 50% of gray divorces today, this is not their first experience with a split. The risk of a second divorce is two times greater than for those still in their first marriage. And for a third marriage, the risk of a divorce is four times more likely. Other high-risk groups for gray divorce are African Americans and those with only a high school education. To avoid making the decision to divorce, marital therapists like Dr. John Gottman encourage midlife couples to respond to each other's attempts at reconnection.

While being alone is the greatest fear of boomers after a divorce, the vast majority rate themselves as happy. Still, there are some difficult consequences for wives and husbands: women tend to have greater financial difficulties while men generally have less contact with their children than before. Preparing for possible negative outcomes of a late in life divorce can help you cope with these unusual challenges.

For more insight about the issues in a second adulthood, join us on Wednesday when Susan Lieberman, Ph.D. answers our questions about her newest book, Getting Old is a Full Time Job: Moving on From a Life of Working Hard. Dr. Lieberman will introduce us to the 12 "jobs" she's identified that we need to complete as we move from work to "what's next." Be a part of the conversation with Susan here on Wednesday.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From Beatlemania to Mass Hysteria

Since the early 1960s, there hasn’t been any phenomenon quite like the Beatles, who were dearly loved by their female fans. Until today, that is. The UK boy band, One Direction, is creating a media frenzy during their US tour. Thousands of screaming teenage girls are always on hand, just trying to catch a glimpse of the group. If you saw the crowds you would think it was mass hysteria.

The way girls are socialized, coupled with hormonal changes and peer pressure, can impact fan behavior. As parents, hopefully you’re just dealing with love struck teens, groupie attitudes and loud music. But if your teenage daughters are facing more serious emotional conflicts, here are some tips that may help:

Promote a positive outlook. Encourage your kids to be aware of and develop their internal strengths. And support them in setting goals that will move them forward. You’ll see that focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel will help reduce their anxiety.

Initiate stress-reducing activities. Regular exercise like jogging or biking releases endorphins and can elevate their mood. Yoga and deep breathing brings about greater relaxation. And time at the gym will not only make them feel better but increase the socialization that is so healing for teens.

Maintain structure and continuity. By stabilizing the environment with a familiar routine, they'll feel less unsure of themselves and more secure. Direct them toward good role models. And as you model hopeful thinking and support their positive actions, eventually they will thrive.

You can scroll back to Monday's post and read about the teen girls from Le Roy Junior-Senior High School in upstate New York who are still struggling with Conversion Disorder.

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Friday, March 09, 2012

Humor Wins the Day

Do you sometimes feel like the proverbial tree falling in the forest? When your teens don't seem to hear you speak, you may wonder if you're actually making a sound. If you're frustrated - like this mother - by your attempts to communicate with your kids, maybe it's time to try some humor.

It's not easy being a parent today. There's a fine line between protecting our children from very real dangers facing them - drugs, bullying, sexting, online predators - and overly controlling them through helicopter parenting.

When you set clear boundaries and expectations about issues you consider non-negotiable, like their safety, you can work with your teens to get their cooperation on others without resorting to these kinds of threats. Inject some humor into your conversations and see if you can recover some of those good feelings and belly laughs from the past.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Getting Back on Track

Whether you're actually driving on a curvy road or trying to navigate the twists and turns of life, you don't always get the advance warning sign of a risk ahead.

Do these unforeseen hazards sound familiar? You've just gotten your finances under control when you bite down on an olive pit and break off part of a tooth. How will you fit the cost of a crown into your budget now? Or you've worked hard to make your new exercise routine a habit - but over-doing it, you've torn a muscle that will take months to heal. So now you're back on the couch, trying to regroup. And the diet that you followed so successfully after the holidays was thrown away with the arrival of your weekend guests. Will you be able to get back on track once they leave?

When these kinds of threats materialize, they can put your carefully worked out plans in jeopardy. What can you do to meet these challenges and move ahead? Here are two tips to guide you in turning setbacks into opportunities:

Act as if you are committed. Make a plan outlining the objectives you need to meet in order to accomplish realistic goals. You're more likely to succeed when you are optimistic and enthusiastic about working to bring your aspirations to reality and give yourself reinforcements along the way to motivate you. Draw on your strengths - both personal and spiritual - as you act to break through barriers. Use all the support and resources available to bolster your own efforts.

Have a Plan B ready for flexibility. Your path will not likely be a straight line but you don't have to be defeated by your slip-ups if you've worked out a contingency Plan B ahead of time. Now take the opportunity to brainstorm novel ways of getting to your goal and continue to refine your strategies as you learn from your mistakes. When your reactions are not set in stone, you can improvise along the way as you discover what works best and then modify your behavior based on the feedback you get.

There may be limits to what you can accomplish but give yourself permission to begin the process without expecting perfection in your results. Especially if you're a sandwiched boomer, faced with the responsibilities of growing children and aging parents, these tips can help develop the resiliency you need to thrive.

With the price of gas going up and up, you may not be doing much driving right now, but when you do, here's to the joy of an open road - without dangerous curves or hidden perils.

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Monday, March 05, 2012

Caution, Curves Ahead

Last week, I was driving down one of the canyons in Los Angeles, quickly moving the steering wheel left and right as the road twisted and turned. It was like playing an arcade game, trying to keep your car on the virtual road, going as fast as you can. In those videos, the sharp curves keep switching and obstacles suddenly appear, causing you to crash and burn if you're not reacting fast enough.

It may be fun to play on a screen but what about when life itself mirrors this wild experience? If you find yourself in the midst of a constant stream of challenges, threatening to devastate you, you're probably looking for a way to tone down the level of your reactions and emotions. Here are two ways to begin:

Give up the illusion of control. If you're a sandwiched boomer, you've probably already noticed that you don't have very much control over the way your growing children or aging parents behave. Juggling work and parenting responsibilities, do you still somehow hold on to the belief that you can determine the way those around you act? This is the time to let go of your unrealistic expectations and the belief that you can create a perfect outcome. What you can change is how you react to what comes your way. Choose to focus on looking inside as you shift to more positive emotions. And turn the challenges coming at you as opportunities for growth.

Give up the guilt. When things don't turn out the way you expect, do you blame yourself? Whether it's trouble maintaining a balance between work and family or your needs and your partner's, don't beat yourself up for your choices - learn from them. Instead of dwelling on past mistakes, forgive yourself, let go of your negative feelings and allow yourself the opportunity to regroup and try something else. You're doing the best you can so give yourself some credit and ease up. After all, you're human, not all-knowing, and you deserve another chance. Friends can give you support and perspective as you share your feelings and concerns.

Stop by again Wednesday for more tips on plotting a course for yourself. And if you're stressed from dealing with the ups and downs of the economy, consider our ebook, Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm: Practical Strategies and Resources for Success.

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