05 May, 2010

Parenting Values

I’ve just added a comment to an interesting discussion about values on the Coaching at Work LinkedIn group and thought it worth keeping it here too.

A significant area of my work is corporate maternity coaching: coaching women (sometimes men), 1:1 or in groups through the transition to motherhood / parenthood at work. An area in which values really surface and are key to resolving so-called ‘work-life balance’ issues. Clarifying values can be an important part of coming to terms with one’s own choices and way forward.

Following - with a light touch - Stephen Covey’s approach to picturing ourselves taking in the impressions at our own funeral, I sometimes encourage these new parents to look forward to the moment when their new child leaves home / has 18th birthday etc. How would they hope that person looks back on their childhood? Gives some perspective on parenting values.

It also gives perspective too to those who say that checking our values are being met in a situation shows a kind of selfish demandingness.  Rarely do parents’ values about their own children focus solely on how those children meet the parents’ own needs, and similarly when we check a situation (job role working hours etc, childcare provisions) for whether they are meeting our values, it’s not an expression of ‘me, me, me’, as criticism of the individualistic career woman sometimes supposes. For parents it’s most often about our own struggles to meet deeply generous expectations / values we hold in relation to supporting others.

UK Major Political Parties’ plans for baby leave

The excellent Emplaw newsletter has brought together some employment law related extracts from the election Manifestos of Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.
Here are some snippets on maternity / paternity leave plans:
Parental leave.  “We will introduce a new Fathers’ Month, four weeks of paid leave rather than the current two”;  “... we will introduce more flexibility to the nine months’ paid leave that mothers currently enjoy – allowing them to share this entitlement with fathers after a minimum of six months” (Emplaw editor comments that this has already been achieved - see the Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010, SI 2010/1055 in force on 6.4.2010).
Parental leave: “We will introduce a new system of flexible parental leave which lets parents share maternity leave between them, while ensuring that parents on leave can stay in touch with their employer”.
Parental leave: “Give fathers the right to time off for ante-natal appointments. Allow parents to share the allocation of maternity and paternity leave between them in whatever way suits them best”.

03 May, 2010

Maternal Leadership: the first 90 days

I’m struck again by the relevance of thinking on leadership transitions to the new mother’s return to work. Michael Watkins’ 2003 book (The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels: HBS Press, 2003) offers advice for the leader who is new in post and is also highly relevant here.
The return to work looks a lot like the new leader’s first 90 days in this HBS Working Knowledge interview by Senior Editor, Martha Legace
The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels (HBS Press, 2003).
The extract from Watkins’ book, further down the page, offers a helpful list of points of focus.

In the HBS interview with Martha Legace, Watkins says:
“Transitions also are times when small differences in a new leader’s actions can have disproportionate impacts on results. Everyone is straining to take the leader’s measure and people are forming opinions based on very little information. It’s a bit like starting high school; those early impressions, right or wrong, can really stick. And the stakes are high. Failure to create momentum during the first few months guarantees an uphill battle for the rest of their tenure in the job. Building credibility and securing some early wins lays a firm foundation for longer-term success.”
Just as the description of transition sounds familiar, the advice for new leaders extracted from the book is also very sound for the returning mother who wishes to make an impact and work out where to focus her (limited) time and energy.

02 May, 2010

The Depression of the ‘sandwich generation’

Elizabeth Day reflects in The Observer on the reaction to Alison Pearson’s farewell column in the Daily Mail. The much-loved columnist admitted to having suffered from depression while finding herself sandwiched between children and elderly parents and full of high expectations of herself. “Is it women who are mad, or is it the society we live in?” Pearson had asked. “We always suspected there would be a price for Having It All, and we were happy to pay it; but we didn’t know the cost would be our mental health.”