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Rule 32: Live One Life

Aug 23, 2008
Christine Kittinger loves boys Will and Joey, and husband Steve - a fantastic dad who can fix anything. She is Vice President of a human resources consulting firm, Assets Unlimited.

Popular opinion in the area of work-life balance seems to hold that the best way to excel at work and at home is to keep the two lives separate. Focus only on work at work, and only on the family at home. Do you really need two lives? Not me. One is quite enough, thank you!

My boys and my work are sources of great joy (more often than not) and fulfillment in my life. Over the years, I have found that incorporating my home and work lives have brought me greater happiness and success.

Enter my office, and you see photos of my boys gracing the bookcase, and their smiling faces pop into view whenever the screensaver kicks in on my computer. I know the work environment may sometimes dictate otherwise. Some offices truly are not family friendly, but I find that the charm of a toothless baby smile or my older son's cocky grin will warm the heart of even my most "cool" clients. They look, they smile, a short conversation that is more personal than professional follows, and we are suddenly both more human and sometimes even feel an instant bond.

Thoughts of my boys also help lighten my mood on the toughest of workdays. One morning when my son Will was three years old, I was walking him to his preschool class. As we neared his classroom, he gave me a once over and asked why I was wearing my "fancy suit clothes." I told him I had an important meeting. He looked up at me and asked, "are you going to dance there?" I laughed and said, "No, I don't think so." He got very serious, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Well, you should, Mommy." I told him he was right, we really should dance at the meeting. I managed to contain my laughter until he was inside the room. The vision of the Board of Directors dancing around the conference room practically had me rolling on the floor.

His comment kept me smiling through that meeting, and mentioning it to a few of my mom (and even dad) clients has actually resulted in a few quick waltz steps and one great "John Travolta Saturday Night Fever" moment.

Of course, you have to know your audience. In many cases, children create a common bond. But there are also those professionals who do adhere to the "work is work and home is home", philosophy. I don't start conversations with new clients by talking about my children. I usually follow their cues: family photos in their office, or Little League trophies on the desk. Sometimes the family talk comes out further down the line. Sometimes it never comes up at all. Yes, I do have clients who I work with regularly that don't know much about my boys. If they've been with me for a while, they definitely know they exist, but I can sense that they want to focus on the job at hand, and I will not try to convert them.

Just as my boys bring joy to my work days, feeling free to talk about work at home, and even letting them see me work during the evening when necessary, is already having a great influence on the boys. I am not sure they understand exactly what a client is, but they must think a client is something good and nice. The boys regularly pick pretty flowers and leaves in the morning and ask me to give them to my clients. Sometimes I do!

A small sign near my desk says, "Mothers of little boys work from son up to son down." True. And it can be great fun if you don't divide your time, and truly live one, wonderful life.

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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