Balancing Work And Family, Creating PMOTs

Jim Ballard
©1999 All Rights Reserved

In today's families where everyone is overscheduled and rushing about, Working parents must do a constant balancing act. Family unity may get to seem like a thing of the past. Busy parents worry and feel guilty about time not spent with their kids. They are also sometimes interrupted or distracted at work by home concerns. How to be effective in both environments?

First, internalize a truth:


Think back to something your parent did or said, that had a lasting impact on you, positive or negative. Do you think your parent was aware it meant that much? Probably not. But as a turn-of-the-century parent you can go about consciously creating those PMOTs--Positive Moments of Truth. By planning and implementing them strategically, you can completely let go of feeling bad about how many moments there are.

Here are ten tips for making the balancing act less stressful and more enjoyable and rewarding, by managing those memorable moments.

1. Walk Your Talk.
In the end, your loved ones don't get the stuff you provide, they get you. Your most powerful method of influencing them is by being an example. Write one of the following values at the top of each day in your planner. Rotate through the week, concentrating on living out one value at a time at home and at work.

Resolve to move slower, talk quieter, listen more, and be the one who stays serene when others lose their heads.

Don't worry, be happy. Stay good to yourself. Don't let the small stuff get to you. Be a smile millionaire.

Start a project and invite assistance; ask for help on chores like cooking or cleaning or washing the dog; give some responsibilities away; share the load. In the process, bring out the enjoyment and values of working together. (One mom put a sign on her fridge: NONE OF US IS AS SMART AS ALL OF US.)

Offer a willing ear whenever it is needed; use trips to the store or sports events or music lessons to question and show understanding; make others the stars of conversations.

Balance doing with not-doing. Don't bustle about all the time; set a slower pace..

Go "dream-walking" around the block. Pretend you are breathing yourself forward, or that an invisible rope is pulling your down the path, or that a giant hand is at your back, pushing you along. Let the "be run" feeling induced by these mind-games stay with you through the day.

Just Being
Create parts of your day when your kids or spouse find you sitting with a cup of tea and a good book.

2. Send Apprecio-grams.
Set up e-mail between family members; whenever you have a moment send them short instant-messages of appreciation. Leave notes under pillows and in lunch boxes. Design a form telegram-type form (Dear ___, I appreciate your ___, signed, ___) Photo-copy the form and keep a stack handy by the bulletin board. Invite family members to complete one whenever they have something positive to say and post it or leave it on the recipient's bed. Model the behavior by giving an apprecio-gram to each family member.

3. Institute Family Meetings.
A. Choose a purpose for the meeting: share information; deepen understanding and appreciation of each family member; create a family calendar for the coming month; plan family activities; increase positive communication; solve a problem.

B. Follow guidelines: Each member gets a turn; he or she has the floor for up to 5 minutes, and is to be listened to without interruption. A turn must begin by sharing something the person appreciates.

If a problem or complaint is brought up, it must be done respectfully and without blame. After explaining the problem, the person can call for a 2-minute family brainstorm of solutions, during which he/she writes items down. (Rules of brainstorming: Anything goes. No rights, no wrongs. Record every item. Piggyback ideas. Think outside the box.) The family then selects a solution from the list and agrees on a plan for implementing it.

4. Play "My Favorite Things."
After any event the family experiences together--a meal out, a trip, or even a movie or video watched as a group--take turns having each person share 3 things she or he liked about the experience.

5. Create a Family Calendar.
Do this at the start of each month, at a family meeting. Use a large sheet of paper to create a form for each week, with columns for day of month, day of week, and a separate column for each family member. Have each person tell you (or enter themselves) items that are coming up--work items, school functions, sports and entertainment, etc., and fill in his/her column. Post the calendar so everyone can see each person's schedule. Keep colored marking pens handy so people can add regularly to the calendar. Use stickers to denote special events.

6. Study Family Life Together.
Watch reruns on Nick At Nite or rent videos of sitcoms from the Fifties such as "Leave It to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," or "The Donna Reed Show." Talk about how family life has changed since the times these shows were on. Discuss: What things were better then? What things are better now?

7. Do a Values Sort.
(This can be done both at work and at home.) Create a list of values such as the one below, and photocopy it. After a meal or at a family meeting, give each family member a copy. Ask people to circle items that appeal to them, and then to mark their Top Three Values. Then have them pair up and share their choices. Each pair has 5 minutes to come up with 3 values they agree on. Pairs then meet with pairs and negotiate to 3 values.

Continue until everyone in the family has agreed to the Top Three Family Values. At a future meeting, brainstorm a list of actions, rules, family policies, etc. that exemplify each of the agreed-upon values. For example: truth, sincerity, humor, relaxation ,courage, loyalty, trust, hard work, justice, teamwork, learning, excitement, faith, friendship, love, obedience, strength, fairness, respect, fun, honor, happiness, beauty, support.

8. Make A Family / Work Bulletin Board.
Put this where everyone will see it. Include notices, praises, jokes, personal memos, special events, interest items, cartoons, awards, prizes, etc. Encourage each person to make frequent entries and add items to keep everyone in the loop. Post pictures from work as a way to share people and events from your "other life" with family members.

9. Sharpen Your Listening.
Reframe formerly dutiful ferryings of kids to sports practices, music or dance lessons, to be special. Warm up these no-big-deal times by (1) asking open-ended questions "What are you excited about these days?"... "Tell me about this coach"... "What plans do you have for the weekend?"); (2) listening and showing interest without giving advice or adding your own thoughts ("So you liked it when, etc." "You're not so sure about ..."); (3) demonstrating understanding ("Seems like you have a lot of things coming up" . . . "What do you think you'll do about it?"... "I think you have it handled.")

10. Esteem Yourself.
Attitude is everything. Make sure others in your family are living with a happy, fulfilled person--you. Greet yourself in the mirror each morning with, "Here I am. I'm back, and parts of me are excellent!" Practice unconditional self-esteem: appreciate your inner being and goodness, regardless of what may be going on or others are doing or feeling.

James Ballard is a management consultant, leadership trainer, motivational speaker, consulting partner with the Ken Blanchard Companies, and author of What's the Rush?. He founded Maudala Press, a direct-mail educational publishing firm, and wrote a series of children's books and books for teachers on humanistic education. Mr. Ballard has also helped create a number of widely-used Blanchard Training and Development models including "Managing the Journey", "Leadership Training for Supervisors", "Quality-Driven Leadership", and "Everyone's a Coach".

Category: Work-Life, Balance
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