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Rule 26: Focus

Aug 21, 2008
Shea Fialdini lives in Seattle with her husband and three children. She works as the Grants Manager for the Global Health Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

As a working mom I thought I was beginning to master the fine art of productive multi-tasking until my three-year-old son set me straight.

One day when I was trying to do too many things at one time including getting him a bowl of ice cream for dessert. Apparently it wasn't working for him. He looked directly into my face and said "focus!" I laughed it off at the time thinking it was just a cute comment, but I found myself hearing that little voice in my head over and over again, especially when I was trying to do too much.

Like everyone I play a lot of roles in my life; I'm a wife, mother, daughter, manager, professional, sister, friend, etc. These roles all come with responsibilities and demands that make it challenging to pay attention to what's in front of me at any given moment.

As I go to work each day and come home again I find the transition from my role as a mother to working professional and back to a mother again to be particularly humbling and humorous at the same time. The stark contrast between these two parts of my life can make me feel a little nutty sometimes.

It never ceases to amaze me that within the span of two hours I can go from having a conversation with my son about why he can pee standing up, but he can't try to poop the same way; to sitting in a conference room with three other people discussing the finer points of financial risk management in international grant making. Both conversations are critically important in their own right, but the contrast is so jarring it's enough to give me whiplash.

I love how my roles as a mother and as a professional stretch me in new directions and inspire me in different ways. I find this time in my life to be both profoundly challenging and deeply rewarding.

My ability to balance the vastly different demands of being a working mom greatly depends on my capacity to be fully present and "in the moment." This means leaving the Blackberry in the car when I'm at home (or at least not reaching for it until the kids are in bed), and not worrying about how much laundry I have to do, or what I'm going to cook for dinner when I'm in a meeting.

The happiness of my family, success of my career, and mental stability are all highly dependent on my ability to give my full attention to the person or project that's in front of me. So when I find myself thinking about my grocery list in the middle of a staff meeting or worrying about a presentation during dinner with my family I try to remember that little voice saying "focus."

As excerpted from "42 Rules (tm) for Working Moms" Super Star Press, 2008.
About the Author
Laura Lowell is the executive editor and author of "42 Rules for Working Moms." She has gathered practical advice and information from working moms all over the world to share with others. She lives and works in Silicon Valley with her husband and two girls. http://www.42rules.com/working_moms/index
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