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Five-Bite Friday: Listen Up Edition

Hey there, folks, happy Friday. We have all sorts of stuff for you today, including some startling new research that reveals that a third of pet-owning wives say their pets listen better than their husbands. Hmm. OK, maybe this isn’t groundbreaking, but my husband sent it to me and suggested it for Five-Bite Friday, and I didn’t want him to think, you know, that I wasn’t listening. (For the record: Pete listens better than either our cat or our gerbils).

But, more seriously, we also have video of Katie Couric’s interview with Ellen Galinsky (co-founder of the Families and Work Institute), as she talks about her new book, Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, and more.

So enjoy — and have a great weekend.

Katie Couric interviews Ellen Galinsky

Today’s young resemble early-1900s youth

Wait listed for child care

Women majority on social media

Pets listen better than husbands?

Balance Before Motherhood: Creating Space for Future Riches

Today Hollee and I welcome Beth, who didn’t want to wait for marriage and motherhood to begin looking for a well-balanced life. Beth is a successful lawyer now trying her hand in business — and she is creating the life she wants right now. Our gratitude to her for sharing her story. — Becky

It is not without trepidation that I lend my voice to this blog since it is easy to feel like an interloper. I sit on the sidelines watching, mostly in abject awe, as my friends balance their personal and professional ambitions against their goals and priorities as wives, husbands, partners and parents.  I am not yet someone’s wife, nor am I lucky enough to have had children, though I remain optimistic that both of those events lie in my future.   Despite this, I have made a concerted effort to create the space in which I hope all of that shall come to pass.

As a first-born child, it never really occurred to me to challenge the natural order of events. Consequently, I had always suffered from what I like to call “the next logical step syndrome.”  If I worked hard in high school, I would go to a good college. Check. If I did well in college, I would go to a good law school.  And if I did well in law school, and it was of interest, I would get a federal clerkship and work in a big firm as a litigator.  Check, check, check and check again. What I failed to realize, despite my years of education, was that, at some point, I might have to choose.

For me, that moment came as I was working into the early morning hours (again) at my law firm in New York.  And, in a desperate move to procrastinate, I looked back at my billable calendar for the previous seven months and realized that there had only been three weekends in which I had not worked both Saturday and Sunday.  This was not unusual – I was a fifth year associate – and the pace of the job, the vast intelligence and cogent strength of the people with whom I worked, and the extraordinary depth of responsibility with which I was trusted,  were well known to me. Moreover, it was something I sought.   All were necessary in order to build a foundation toward partnership — which was, of course, my next logical step.

By any external measure, I was a success in my career and, if I am truly honest, I loved that success.

But I was not dating; I was not making adequate time for vacations, friends, reading, and family.   And, in that moment, I sat back, and questioned where I was headed. I asked whether it was the right option, whether my life was of my own creation, my choices conscious — or whether I was, by not making space for myself outside of my career, defining my life in absentia.

I would be remiss if I failed to point out that I worked with many people who were able to find balance.  They successfully navigated the law-firm world complemented by rich home and family environments, each of which elevated the other.  To even intimate that one cannot find completeness as a litigator at a big firm would be irresponsible, unfair, and hyperbolic to an unnecessary extreme.  I simply realized that this environment would not afford me, based on my own internal make-up, the same balance.

And so I made a decision to change.  For me, it was a slight change of career, a change of physical place and a change to how I lived my life.  I went in-house as a corporate lawyer in Los Angeles — a new path where the learning curve was high, thus affording intellectual challenge. This gave me professional depth.  However, my work hours allowed time to date and see friends and join philanthropies.  I was now physically closer to my family.  I started taking classes at UCLA because there were things I wanted to learn. If I made 7 p.m. dinner plans, having to miss them for work was the exception.

It would be overly simplistic to attribute the seismic shift in my life to the external movement of job and location alone – it was not simply a matter of changing my place that changed my station.  What I believe to be most different about this decision, and for which I am continually grateful, was that this conscious choice meant focusing on what could be. I was making my life as full and interesting as possible, and with room for a husband and family – and I was making it possible for them to happen in their own moment.

That initial move to Los Angeles was six years ago.  And I have changed jobs once again, this time leaving the law behind and trying my hand at business. I am not yet married, and I still have not yet had children.  And, in truth, neither is a sum certain in my future.  But my measure of a successful life remains unchanged.  I have a life that is rich in professional challenges, and my cup is full with friends, family, traveling adventures, and learning.  I sit around tables on Friday nights with friends or talk to those far away, amazed at the depth of their commitment to their partners, or their desire to find life partners, as they embrace their lives with children, or discuss their children to come.

And I look back on my Friday nights on the 34th floor, looking out at the office lights across the street, and remember fondly the woman that I was. I am thankful that I learned from her path – and took a chance at a new one in which my future, my next logical step, is entirely of my own design. — Beth

Beth is choosing to keep her full name out of the blog so that she, rather than Google Search, can share the contours of her personal growth and ambitions with a first or second date.  But she assures you she is real, and still learning, and still working to achieve balance.

Talk-Back Tuesday: Do you ease into Mondays — or jump right in?

OK, so I’ll be honest: My experiment yesterday didn’t work out exactly as intended.

I’ll save that tale for another day, but suffice it to say that I fell behind on a few things early in the day and spent much of the morning trying to catch up. I did, however, wake up looking forward to the day, and, by lunchtime, I was caught up and looking forward to the afternoon. So, it wasn’t perfect, but it was real life. I did OK.  My big dilemma: I work best when my scheduled events, like calls and interviews, are first thing in the morning. It gets my day going and keeps me motivated and moving. But it isn’t terribly compatible with “easing into the day” — which, needless to say, didn’t happen at all. The problem is, I think I sort of had contradictory goals: to give my day a more relaxing start AND get a lot done. I probably should have picked one or the other. But enough about that — it’s Talk-Back Tuesday. (Or as my friend Elsa calls it, “Two-Bite Tuesday.”)

And today I’m curious: How did you approach this Monday morning — and how do you approach mornings in general? Do you “ease into it” — or do you get a bunch of things done so the rest of the day will move more smoothly? It’s Tuesday, talk back!–Becky

Injecting Fun into Monday with MAMA

This is going to be a quick post because, the truth is, this month my to-dos runneth over. In fact, the past few weeks, I’ve been waking up on Monday mornings consumed by this stressful thought: How am I going to get it all done this week? Or, rather, How am I going to get it all done without losing my mind?

Not the most uplifting way to start the week.

That’s why I loved Gretchen Rubin’s recent blog post about improving Monday mornings. (You may have seen it; we included it on Five-Bite Friday). As we’ve mentioned before, Hollee and I are both big fans of Gretchen’s bestselling book, The Happiness Project, and we both read it while we were writing the “happiness chapter” in Good Enough Is the New Perfect. Gretchen has some Secrets of Adulthood that resonate particularly well with us, like: “You don’t have to be good at everything” and “People don’t notice your mistakes and flaws as much as you think” and “What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you — and vice versa.”

She also has a personal commandment we both like: “Act the way I want to feel.” Confession: I have not been acting the way I want to feel on Mondays.

So, with that in mind, I read through Gretchen’s tips and vowed to put some of them into practice. She starts by suggesting that we ease ourselves into Monday mornings. I’m not sure I have time for too much easing, but I did vow to give myself 10 minutes to read the New York Times Magazine while drinking my coffee Monday morning. That’s a start, right? I’m also going to “have some fun” and “give myself something to look forward to.” I plan to accomplish these things by having a glass of wine on my front porch with my neighbors before dinner, assuming the weather is nice. The kids can ride their scooters, I’ll catch up with my friends. And I’ll look forward to it while I’m editing chapters all day.

Becky vows to end her day (if the weather's nice) with a glass of wine right here

Gretchen also suggests we make the most of the morning, and I plan to do that, too. Checking a bunch of things off my list will definitely improve my mood — and should reduce the feeling that I can’t possibly get everything done.

One more thing: I am going to take time to enjoy the things I have to do today. Because here’s the funny thing: Even though I have a lot to do most Mondays, it’s all pretty much stuff I like doing. I like editing the chapters in this book, which is easy to forget when I’m consumed with getting it all done. I love this book, and I love that Hollee and I are bringing it to life right now. (I should probably write this in big letters and tape it to my office door, just so I remember).

Another fun thing about Mondays: My workday is shorter than usual because that’s the day I help lead the “Green Team” at my girls’ school. We’re turning some unused outdoor space into a garden right now, and that means I’ll get to spend at least 30 minutes Monday out in the sun with a bunch of kids, digging in the dirt. After that, K and I will take a walk together while B has her piano lesson, then B and I will hang out while K has her guitar lesson. Then, hopefully, I’ll have a glass of wine.

Not bad. Especially for a Monday, right?

Anyway, I’ll let you know how my experiment in Morning Adjustment to Monday Attitude (MAMA) goes. In the meantime, here’s a MAMA challenge for YOU: What can you do differently to improve your Monday? Let us know what you plan to do — and then check back on Talk-Back Tuesday and tell us how it went.

Oh, and Happy Monday! — Becky

TGIFive-Bite Friday

Ahhhh… Friday.

It’s been a long week (last week of classes for Hollee, work/life panel for Becky, lots of writing for both). But whenever we see your comments on our posts — or find new fans (or likers?) joining in the Discussion — we’re re-energized. So thank you for keeping us going. Have a terrific weekend! –Becky & Hollee

Big Week for the Tooth Fairy: Henry Lost Two at Once!

Delaying kids prevents “motherhood penalty”?

Female Golf Star Resets Priorities

Is The Long-Haul Degree Worthwhile?

Tips for Improving Monday Mornings

Parents Exploit Kids on YouTube

On Parenting and Politics: Sheila Simon Talks

Sheila Simon has made national headlines since being named the Democratic Party candidate for lieutenant governor in Illinois last month, so naturally, she’s making her blogging debut at another major venue: BeckyandHollee.com!  We are truly honored that Sheila took the time to share some of her parenting and work/life wisdom with our readers today.–Becky and Hollee

It’s not a stretch to say I’ve always been involved in politics. My parents were both state reps when they married in 1960. They served in the Illinois House together and then bought a house together  — so, I must have some kind of genetic predisposition toward liking the world of politics.

Sheila with her daughter, Reilly

I was elected to the city council in my hometown of Carbondale, Illinois. My husband and daughters were a part of that campaign, cheerfully stuffing and stamping envelopes along with the other volunteers. The girls and their friends made homemade yard signs — not many candidates can boast unique campaign lit bearing the artist’s signature.

As the girls grew, however, having a mom in politics sometimes became a bit embarrassing. When I ran the soda table at a middle school dance, my older daughter made me promise not to tell her peers that I was on the city council. (I didn’t point out that it was unlikely to come up when asking, “Orange soda or root beer?”)

But despite growing into teenagers, the girls have always been supportive. They both helped out in my campaign for mayor. And in 2007, they brought a number of friends along when we went door knocking in Iowa for a presidential candidate named Barack Obama.

Now the girls are 20 and 15 — one is in college and the other in high school. And last month I became the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in Illinois.

My husband and daughters were the first and most important people I consulted in the decision to submit my name for consideration to the Democratic Party. Illinois is a huge state, so it will mean a lot of time away from home. But the girls knew what we would be getting into — and they’ve been enthusiastic from the start.

Reilly is a college freshman in Chicago, and when I’m in the city, she often comes along to campaign events. She’s done everything from early morning television shows to a banquet with Chicago’s Chinese community, where my speech was translated into Chinese. She seems to be a budding anthropologist, studying and learning from every group we meet.

Meanwhile, my 15-year-old scrutinizes my wardrobe, picking out campaign-appropriate, Brennan-approved outfits. And she’s served as a one-woman communications team, pointing out moments that needed more punch in a speech before Democratic Party leaders. She was right! And I gave a much better speech because of her.

I’m sure we’ll have challenges along the way, like making prom dresses this week for Brennan and for Carla, our exchange student from Oxapampa, Peru. But I have no doubt that the dresses — and this unusual family lifestyle — will turn out just fine.

At least I know we’re working with good fabric.

Sheila Simon is a Clinical Professor of Law at SIU Carbondale and the Democratic Party candidate for lieutenant governor in Illinois. A mom of two, she is (perhaps?) best-known for convincing Hollee to sing and dance live for 600 of their closest colleagues. Follow Sheila on Facebook and Twitter.