Ask SSS: Fried and Frustrated

Dear Style –

I read a piece on LinkedIn recently that said women our age were sold a bill of goods. That “doing what you love” as an occupation is a millennial concept that is foreign to our parents, and delusional to our generation of workers, especially women trying to juggle life and family. We should go to work, then go home and do what we love in our free time. The article did note, however, that life seems to have moved away from 8 work hours, 8 hours of life, 8 hours of sleep and is now much more work, and less life/sleep.

So here’s the question:

You have the 2 kids, husband and full life of activities outside the office – but I wonder if you are like me and don’t have the passion you once did for your ‘day job.’ I worked hard for a decade in my preferred field, then moved to areas where that specialized service-type skill is not valued as highly but I could apply my experience and have a stable paycheck. 

My professional path is now defined more by ensuring the two little people at home (and husband) have food, shelter and clothes on their backs. Is it just me (and a shift in priorities)? Am I burned out and going through a “third of life” crisis? Or is it true – doing what you love just doesn’t pay the bills for most breadwinners?

Sincerely,

Deep fried and frustrated

 

Dear Deep Fried and Frustrated,

I don’t know that we have been sold a bill of goods, but I think that the truth is really somewhere between the Millennial idea that we should all just “Lean In” and the idea that we should be grateful for our paycheck and love our life outside of work.

First, I have a lot of old school beliefs that probably come from my dad’s strong work ethic.  I think we do have to do the job that pays the bills for our family, even if it isn’t exactly what we want.  I also think you have to earn your time at the bottom to work your way up not by “leaning in” when you aren’t in Silicon Valley (where 20 year olds hold CEO positions).  As an aside, those 20 year olds have grown up revolutionizing  how we use computers and live off ramen noodles until they are snatched up by a venture capitalist, so they are “earning” it just the same…

Second, I think the reality is that we have to find a balance of paying the bills and finding joy at work.  That can happen in a couple of different ways.  Here is what I mean:

  • If you truly dislike what you are doing but like the company, maybe you could look to see if there is another department or job that you could either apply for or build your skills to move to. If so, sit down with someone from that area and see what it would take to get you there.  A lot of companies offer training to assist employees.
  • Another way is to find ways to be creative at work. Obviously if you love to paint or cook and you are in a desk job, you might have to volunteer on a social committee or like the article said, start making it part of your non-work life.  However, sometimes those can grow into eventual jobs. For example, a good friend of mine quit her day job last year, because her side business of cooking healthy ready to heat meals is a full-time job.  And most of her old co-workers are her clients.
  • However, for those of us that find our current job isn’t a far stretch from what we like, the answer can be easier. I had a passion for Customer Service, and I ended up being the co-chair of a customer service team for my company, a health system.  Yes, it was extra work, but I really found value in it and I was given special training that I now incorporate in my consulting business.

It is fair to say we all go through a “fried and frustrated” stage on the flip side, I actually think this phase is what makes us appreciate it so much more when we get “there,” wherever that may be.  And to be honest, I think we should continue to go for the dream, but be mindful to love the journey it takes to get there.

Remember, perspective is everything—and that IS something you can control every day.

Sincerely,

SSS

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Improving the Suit: Transitioning to Winter

Today we are going to talk about transitioning your fall work wardrobe into winter.  One of the challenges I find is that even as the temperature drops outside, my office temperature seems to actually feel warmer.

Pair your fall/spring blouses with Warmer Pieces – I like to mix a lightweight blouse with my heavier wool suits.  This way if I get hot, I can take off the jacket.  Plus it helps me feel more girly.

Top Coats are Your Friend – I am amazed at the number of professionals who do not own a winter dress coat.  This is the best way to avoid buying a whole new winter wardrobe.  Put a dress coat over your normal suit or dress.  It will keep you from freezing outside and burning up inside.  I have added a coat section to my Pinterest board.

Bring In Winter Colors – I love winter white.  It is such a feminine look, and really helps you pop amidst the sea of black, navy, and charcoal.

Pull Out Your Tights– Nothing gives a skirt new life like a pair of tights.

Don’t forget to visit my Pinterest site for my ideas.  I would also love to hear your ideas of how you transition to winter.

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Dear SSS: Confused About a Pro-Working Mom Article

Dear SSS,

I read this article and something about it didn’t sit well with me despite the “don’t give up on your dreams” point.  Can I get your take?

http://www.fastcompany.com/3050962/second-shift/no-you-dont-have-to-give-up-your-professional-dreams-when-you-have-kids?cid=ps002secondshift&utm_source=ps+facebook&utm_medium=paidcm&utm_campaign=ps002secondshift

Confused

 

Dear Confused,

I think the article promised more than it delivered.  Although, I am so glad that Susan Tynan ignored those that told her she couldn’t be a mom and start her own company.  I think what you were looking for from the article (which I hope I provide in my blog) is more clarity about how you and your partner negotiate a shared schedule when you are both in demanding jobs.  I applaud Susan and her husband for having that open dialogue and support of each other.  I realize that not all of you have that.  I feel very blessed that Mr. Style wants me to have my career, too.  He is an active father.  For more on how we balance our evenings.

The other idea that didn’t sit well with me, is the idea of no longer being the primary caregiver and maybe I am just taking issue with the wording.  We for all purposes have a “nanny” and during the week, my daughter does spend more waking time with her than me, but I am still the mother and I still drive all the important caregiver decisions.  Don’t get me wrong, my nanny and I have a very open dialogue and we make a lot of decisions together, but she recognizes my place as the mother.  Just like any other working mom, someone is going to be spending more waking time with your children during the week than you are.

In the end, I think the bigger point is that we can have a career and a family, but it requires a team of support to do that.

SSS

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The Working Mom’s Guide to Childless Coworkers During the Holidays

It is that time of year, when working moms are panicking about how to prepare a Thanksgiving feast, ensure your home is a tribute to all that is holiday, manage a multitude of school programs, shop for the perfect presents, get your Christmas cards out, and somewhere amidst all of this we are supposed to work full-time (many of us as the breadwinner), too.

In this season of inclusiveness, however, what we may easily forget is the coworker that is covering work-related as we got stuck in traffic at the mall on our lunch break or dashing out for the school program. These are the people who are gracious enough to work during the holidays at times we need to be with our family.  Here are some tips for making this season better for them.

Time Off  Make sure you are giving them equal time off.  For example, I used to take administrative call duty the week of Christmas, and in turn I was given the week of New Years off.  And they gave me a bonus for working Christmas.  Another suggestion is in September to have people rank the days off around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years by their priority to ensure you have adequate coverage and that we try to give everyone at least some access to the days that are their priority. I find by using a joint spreadsheet that people are more considerate of each other and this allows managers to be as fair as possible during an already stressful holiday season.

Thank You A good friend of mine works for an IT startup holds an appreciation day for.  Here’s how it works: You nominate someone who helped cover for you during the holidays and they get a day at a hotel with golf and a spa.  One year, my kids drew pictures for the young manager who covered for me.  I tucked a gift card in with the pictures so she could splurge on herself. The theme here: sincerity and a heartfelt note. Even in modern times, Emily Post has a good point.

Be Mindful This is still your job.  Be mindful of the time you are putting in or not putting in.  I usually go in at least one weekend to catch up this time of year to make up for all the other distractions that exist.  I also take work home, and which is a sacrifice of sleep and zaps the creativity that drives our Elf on the Shelf scenarios, but it is the right way to help carry the load.

Your team player who does not have children may be someone who is struggling with infertility or simply chose a different path from the moms in the office.   Either way, the rules that guide the way you interact at the office every day should stay in effect during the holiday season:  keep your conversations during this blessed season professional, merry and bright, but remember that not everyone wants to hear what your kids did last night.

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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The Working Mom’s Guide to the Holiday Dash

Hello November …. Or as I like to call it the Mad Dash between Halloween and Christmas.  So here we go – My tips for surviving the Holiday Dash.

Dinner: This time of year is all about soups, stews and chilis.  I make a lot and it gets me 3 dinners out of the week.  My recipes are on my Pinterest page, but I always double cook on Sunday.  I make dinner with leftovers for Tuesday and I cook another soup, stew, chili to get me Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Fridays are pizza or popcorn movie night.

Thanksgiving Food: For my newlywed followers, don’t do the crazy recipe for your in-laws.  Trust me, I made chocolate soup pie one year (that is not what it was supposed to be – I felt like Bridget Jones with her blue soup) and I stressed myself out.  Go with what you are good at.  For those of us who are more seasoned and are wrangling the little ones, go with what you really have time for – not in the perfect world if all the stars and moons line up.  Don’t beat yourself up if that is a store-bought something.  Last year, I did not have time to bake a cake for Thanksgiving and I picked one up at Whole Foods.  The lack of stress was worth every penny.

Kids and Eating with Family: I always make my contribution something I know that my kids will eat, especially at the more extended family events.

The Shopping:  I start stashing for Christmas now.  As I see things on my weekly Target run that I think will make a good stocking stuffers, I go ahead and pick it up.  Anytime, I am at a store, I think about Christmas.  Hubby and I do this as a fun date night during the week when the stores are less crowded.  We pick a day and meet after work for dinner and shopping.  We have another couple that we swap sitting for – we do the same for them the next week.

Money Saving Tip:  Watch Amazon’s pre-black Friday deals.  Use Target’s Cartwheel with their weekly ad to maximize savings.

The Elf: We do elf, but I do EASY elf.  I schedule them on my work calendar that syncs with my phone.  I do the “harder” things on the weekend and give them easy tasks during the week. Mine hangs out in shoes and coats, visit the bathroom with the toothbrush (see EASY and promoting good hygiene).  On the weekends we do the really cute stuff like a marshmallow bath, bringing cookie cutters, pancakes, and mine come with Swiffer rockets to encourage the children to help me clean.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.  Don’t forget to check my Pinterest site to view my recipes and ideas for the Holidays.

 

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

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Creating a Culture of Service Through Southern Manners Part 1

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

There is a lot of debate over Southern manners and the “realness” of them.  However, for this site and my personal definition … Southern manners are the Golden Rule at it’s best.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  By doing this, people will remember you and/or your organization with a true spirit of Southern hospitality.  This is Step 1 in my Southern manners series.

How do you instill this in your team? By starting with how your team treats each other.  Each company I work with, I gather a group of employees across the organization and we create Good Team Member rules.  When they are finished we send them out to every employee to be signed and dated for their personnel file.  These rules become part of the Performance Improvement Process.  By creating a culture of respect for each other and ownership of opportunities, we transform our organization into a culture of service.

Examples of Good Team Member Rules:

  • Demonstrate integrity, professionalism, and courtesy in their interactions
  • Respect each other’s time, space, and opinion
  • Encourage new and existing team members
  • Erase departmental/positional boundaries
  • Have a “willing to help” attitude.
  • Take ownership of identified opportunities
  • Share information and ideas
  • Give and receive constructive feedback
  • Leave their personal problems at home
  • Are positive and avoid the negative
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The Working Mom’s Guide to Halloween

It’s October … I know … I feel like it was just summer.  And with kids, it is all about Halloween.  So here are some of the ways I manage Halloween.  Check out my Pinterest page for even more ideas, and for pictures of the items mentioned.

The Clothes: I bought my daughters from the Disney at JC Penny and got the dress a lot cheaper than the Disney Store.  My son is Captain America from Amazon Prime.  You still have time, Amazon Prime ships in 2 days.

Money Saving Tips:  I like things that do double duty and can be worn, again.  My son was a superhero one year and I bought long john pajamas that looked like a super hero shirt with a graphic belt and then ordered him a really cute cape and some moccasin socks from Hanna Anderson (I bought red to use for Christmas)

The School Party: Thankfully most schools want you to buy things premade to avoid any allergy problems.  When you make your weekly shopping trip pick up something easy like Smartpop Popcorn in individual bags.  There are 12 to a bag.  Or order from Amazon Prime.

The Candy: If you are worried about being allergy friendly, get toys.  You can get 156 piece assortment of Halloween stuff for $21.57 on Amazon right now.  I actually wait until the day before to buy candy because I don’t want to spend the next few weeks eating it.

The Pumpkin:  Several years ago, I invested in a plastic pumpkin that has a carved face and a plug-in light from Target.  I now can put it out on October 1 and look “together”.  We do still buy pumpkins, but it is whenever we get around to it.  We went this past weekend because it was pretty and we actually had time to enjoy the pumpkin patch.  FYI, the grocery store sells pumpkins and they work just as well.

Money Saving Tip: We printed a superhero carving pattern off of Pinterest instead of paying $10 for the patter and cheap tool set at the store.

Be the Fun Mom: I dress up.  I don’t care what the other moms do.  Last year, we were the Batman and Robin Family.  I wore a batgirl t-shirt. My baby was dressed as batgirl.  My husband wore a batman shirt and our son was Robin.  This year, we are less coordinated with the Princess and Captain America.  I have an orange witch hat and I wear all black and carry a broom.  I think it is important to show our kids that we can have fun with them.

Summary: Just have FUN and plan ahead so you can have FUN.

 

Please send all questions, comments, concerns or issues to southernservicestyle@gmail.com

 

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The Working Mom’s Guide to Exercise – Yes You Do Have Time

Trust me, I know it is hard to make the time and you are going to have to change some things, but working out is something you deserve.  It will give you more energy, improve your mood, and you will get better quality sleep because you are working out.

Step 1: Make Time in Your Schedule (Stop laughing … I am going to help you with some ideas)

  • Does your child have an evening practice of some kind that you attend?  PERFECT (Take your workout clothes with you and WALK/RUN or take your bicycle and buy a stationary trainer for it and ride while your child is practicing) My son has soccer two nights a week,  I keep my Jogging Stroller and a bag with workout clothes and I walk/run with the baby while my son practices soccer.  I eat a banana on the way and the baby eats while we walk.  Guess what – now you have at least 2 – 30+ minute workout sessions a week.
  • For those of you that alternate nights for bath/bed time with your partner (Check out my post here), then guess what – that is 30+minutes that can be used for yoga or a walk
  • Get up 35 minutes earlier a few mornings a week (be realistic and start with 2 mornings then when you feel good about it add a 3rd). I also do this.  I have early meetings the other two mornings – so I just get up at the same time all 5 days and workout the mornings I can.
  • On the weekend, do something active as a family – if you go swimming, include some water aerobics with the kids (they will think it is AWESOME and FUNNY); go hiking, ride bikes, or just go for a walk (it doesn’t have to be hard – just MOVE).

Step 2: Do Something You Enjoy

  • I love to dance, so I do dance cardio (with a DVD) – I like Tracy Anderson because she doesn’t talk a lot and you can turn off her music and use your own tunes.
  • I have friends who love basketball and play on a league and they also found they like strength training DVDs that include a weighted ball (there are lots of choices – go find something you like)
  • If you like to run, run

Step 3: Find an Accountability Partner

  • This is the hardest thing on my list. Style is mine.  We don’t work out together, but we make it so the other one can work out and we give each other grief when we don’t work out.
  • We also have a competition. We set easy goals – sometimes they are weight based and sometimes they are just about meeting your workout commitment (The reward/punishment – can be having a mommy day or in our case – Mr. Style just painted our Dining Room)

Step 4: Set Realistic Goals/Rewards/Milestones

  • Post baby, my goal was to fit back in my old clothes and to not have to buy new clothes
  • Your goal can be to have more energy

The biggest mistake people make is missing a day or two and then quitting.  You DESERVE to work out for you, and life will get in the way (whether it is a late meeting or a sick baby) … but that doesn’t mean stop – it means you take a few days off and then START back.

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Ask Southern: Waiting for a Potential Employer

SSS:

Came so close – a great job, a great company and at the 1 yard line of the hiring slog, they move the goal posts. There is apparently another candidate that is great and they say they can’t decide between me and that other candidate. Another presentation/exercise is put in place. 
Long story short, I wasn’t the final choice. On the way out the door the HR manager says she is confident I am the kind of material their company wants, and if I see a position I am interested in – contact her directly and she will be my personal “talent manager.”
I have emailed her several times and called once, but received no response. Is this just HR policy getting in the way of communication or did I take that offer to guide me into the company through a different position a little too literally?

 Sincerely,

Waiting for the phone to Ring

 

Dear Waiting,

I don’t think you took the offer too literally.  Most people wouldn’t make such a personal offer, if they weren’t serious.  Most likely, it is a combination of factors.  They have a lot on their plate in addition to your interest, and they probably have to find time to introduce you to the manager with the opening you have applied for.  Especially with school starting back and the holiday, this can take some time.

I would suggest the following, wait two weeks from your last contact, and then follow-up with an e-mail that thanks them for their help and inquire about the status of the position and let them know you will follow-up in two weeks to see if there is anything else you can provide for them.  This gives them a pseudo-deadline and keeps you from being too pushy.

Best of luck,

SSS

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Improving the Suit: Transitioning to Fall

First, I love fall.  If you check out my Pinterest page, you will find that my weekend style has a lot of fall elements.  Today we are going to talk about transitioning your summer work wardrobe into fall.

Put a Blazer on It (Yes, I was jamming to Put on a Ring on It earlier) – Take your summer dress and add a fall blazer.  If it is warm, push the sleeves up.  And if you get too warm, take the jacket off.  I have a navy and white shirt dress that looks great with my camel blazer on top.  This is also a great rule for your sleeveless tops, adding a fall blazer makes them current without being so hot.

Dust Off Your Closed Toe Shoes – I am old school, so I tend to transition to closed toe shoes after Labor Day.  I find it help to make summer pieces look more fall.  I will wear my cropped suit pants with a closed toe shoe to transition.  The added benefit is with cooler mornings, your feet won’t be cold.

Bring In Fall Colors – Because I am in the south, I have some lightweight fall pieces.  I have a plum knit blazer that is great for this time of year.  I have a couple of cowl neck sleeveless tops in fall prints and colors that also transition.

Pull Out Your Long Sleeves – Sleeveless shift dresses can enter fall with a dress shirt under them.

Don’t forget to visit my Pinterest site for my outfit ideas.  I would also love to hear your ideas of how you transition to fall.

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