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If you've had it with theories and need hands-on tips for practical change, here you go. Read "The Solution-Oriented Woman," by Pat Hudson. Lots of books and tapes on balancing home and work life revolve around creating efficient habits. Some are about creating meaningful relationships so you can keep those overwhelming demands and expectations in perspective. Then, there's the political and psychological stuff: tomes on how our oppressive patriarchal society dooms women, why we are hopelessly co-dependent, etc. Mostly, these theories don't get the dishes done.
Some dancer, Jacqueline Kessel. She danced her way into Britain's Royal Ballet despite parental misgivings. She did a soft shoe shuffle into the executive ranks at a software company, almost by default. She waltzed into law school without ever having taken a college class.
By society's definition, they're successful women they have good jobs, money, power, prestige. But although it looks like they have it all, more and more career women admit they feel something's missing. "It was an emptiness, at first unconscious," said Mary Collins Shields, former CEO of The Shields Corp., a busy Colorado Springs real estate agency. "I began feeling very anxious, very irritable, and I was exhausted," she said. "I was dying inside." She wasn't alone.
So, you've got a secure career and a comfy office job and then one day your company announces the dread downsizing. So what do you do? If you're Linda Slack, you take your buy-out and run. Or in her case, you hike. To the Himalayas, the tallest mountains in the world, the picture in her dream.
Women are a busy lot. What with careers, or home chores, or both, women often find themselves overscheduled, overworked and overwhelmed. But Marilyn Johnson thinks that African-American women are subject to all of the above and a little something extra. "Many African-American women are oriented toward work with a seriousness that is really connected to survival," she said. "They don't just work; they work to live."
Sally Fox warned that the same thing could happen to me that has happened to her sisters. "They used to go shopping just to buy cute clothes. Now they have to go through all this grief." I learned quickly what she meant when we set out to discover how much the average shopper can learn from reading the postage-size labels inside most garments. After all, how many more pop culture figures like Kathie Lee Gifford do we need bursting into tears - as she did when it was reported that her clothing line had once been made by foreign garment workers in semi-slavery - before we consider under what conditions our clothes are made? For most of us, knowing whether we are buying so-called clean clothes is nearly impossible. Our stores are a smorgasbord of garments made around the world. But finding the nation of origin doesn't tell you much unless you are as knowledgeable as Sally Fox about the geopolitics of fashion.
I have a very good life. Unfortunately, sometimes I feel I have five or six of them going simultaneously. There's the writer and the public speaker, with deadlines, calls to return, mail to answer, speeches to prepare, talks to give and monthly New England Speakers Association meetings to attend.
It can't be proven, but Brenda and Bill Nichols might just have the shortest telecommute in the whole, wide, virtual world - 19 stairs. That's the distance from the Pentium-powered computer that squats on the kitchen counter of their two-bedroom apartment to their spiffy offices located one story below. So close are the spaces that business meetings in their corporate conference room are occasionally accompanied by a soundtrack of overhead thumps provided by their two frolicking kids. Don't misunderstand. The couple doesn't descend to the type of funky basement offices many of us maintain in order to work at home a couple of days a week. Theirs is the real deal: 9,000 square feet housing two companies co-founded by Brenda Nichols, not to mention 10 full-time employees. The three-story, shingled structure - top-floor apartment included - was built by a local developer last year specifically to fit the Nicholses' personal and professional needs. Especially Brenda's.
When Claudia Flores found herself struggling to keep her vegetarian catering business going two years ago, she knew she needed some kind of help. Divorced with a grown daughter, Flores wanted a lifestyle change, too. She just didn't know how to make it happen. She needed someone who could inspire her. Someone who could get her going. Someone who would hold her feet to the fire until she got things done.
Obstetrician-gynecologist Martha Bouza delivered homemaker Shawn Gatto's first child two years ago. Bouza will also deliver Gatto's twins, due soon. Gatto, 34, explains why she has sought only female OB-GYN specialists for the past 15 years: "I feel like they're more empathetic with their patients. They can understand more than a male can understand about female hormones and everything that goes on with us. I talk to a lot of women who prefer female doctors, too."
Check this out: In a study of "life satisfaction" conducted by a University of Florida doctoral student, the happiest male campers were married men with children. However, the happiest women were - ready for this? - single and child-free. Coming in a close second: married, child-free women. Meanwhile, a Roper survey for Harlequin Enterprises, purveyors extraordinaire of romance fiction, finds 46 percent of American women agreeing that "a good night's sleep is better than sex." Anybody see a correlation here?
Superwoman, icon of the '80s, may have done the truly amazing: bent society to her will so successfully that she made herself extinct. This creature - legendary for being at once a wife or partner and mom and career achiever and housekeeper and volunteer and friend and daughter and sister and workout dynamo - has stepped down from the pedestal.
In the interest of saving time, I'm not going to wallow in my due 15 seconds of fame. Those of us balancing work and family know those extra seconds are precious. Part of my job is to watch for ways to help families cope in this hyped-up, speed-saturated world. It turns out that business writer Roberta Roesch's latest book includes interviews with me. So, with that disclaimer, I insist I would've bought this book anyway. It's comprehensive, jammed-packed with tips and strategies from people a lot smarter than me. In "The Working Woman's Guide to Managing Time," Roesch cites several surveys and reports that scientifically vouch for what we feel in our bones. We're busy. According to a Report on Women, prepared by the Roper Organization, women most likely to feel time starved are working mothers in their 30s and early 40s. Regardless of their age, income or marital status, they're more likely than men to feel short of time consistently. We know who we are, right? Roesch says her research convinced her "that despite this pressure, most women need and want the full life of both working and taking care of their families." She then lists tests to see why your mornings are mayhem. (I especially liked one mom's confession that her daily schedule from 8 to 8:15 a.m. is to "run around and scream a lot. Look for shoes. Make idle threats.") These are the kind of pointless, maddening routines that force normal people like us into reading time management books. Since business is Roesch's bag, expect to find sections on alternatives to the 9-to-5 job, how to get families to respect your time when you're working from home, how to deal with deadlines without stress, how to diminish the temptation to procrastinate, how to pass up meetings that waste your time, how to remember and work on longer-term goals as well as make the most of each day.
A rift in sisterhood gapes open in the statistics of a recently released Gallup Poll on gender bias. The poll found that 46 percent of Americans would prefer to work for a male boss. Only 20 percent would prefer working for a woman, with the remainder expressing no preference. It is an unpleasant enough statistic. But it looks worse closer up. It seems that if women want to find out who is dragging their feet on the way to the gender revolution, we have but to look in the mirror.
Choices. That's what women are making these days. And sometimes their choices seem to fly in the face of their feminist beliefs. For instance, since the late '80s, growing numbers of professional women have cut back on their work hours, gone part time or quit work to devote more time to parenting and other pursuits.
The best gift for making a conscious, disciplined trip through menopause is "postmenopausal zest." This is a special, buoyant sort of energy, fueled in part by the hormonal change in ratio of testosterone to estrogen. Once a woman has come through the menopausal passage, she can say good-bye to pregnancy fears and monthly mood swings. No longer confined by society's narrow definition of woman as sex object and breeder, she is freer to integrate the masculine and feminine aspects of her nature. She can now claim the license to say what she truly thinks.
A lot of working mothers like me are finding increased flexibility by working out of their homes. There's no boss, no set hours, no need to run out the door at 5:30 to pick up a child at child care. And you get to wear sweat pants and listen to Bonnie Raitt while you work. There are trade-offs, though.
Georgia's Bulldogs are down to their last game. It's make-good time for Saudia Roundtree. When she signed with Georgia out of Kilgore (Texas) Junior College two years ago, Roundtree promised coach Andy Landers she'd take him to the national championship.
She strikes me as a guided missile; a woman on a direct course to her target. I follow the perfect trajectory of her career with awe. There was graduate school, then the first job that was the steppingstone to the second, better job. There was the lateral move to another company that eventually paid off in the best job.
Policy wonks may debate the reason for the death of the so-called car pool law portion of the Clean Air Act, but to me it is as clear as the radio reception in my car on those rare but happy occasions when I drive to work alone: mornings. Mornings are a delicate time for the human animal. Yanked rudely from the arms of Morpheus onto the wheels of the daily treadmill, we spend our first hours of the day in a state of the utmost fragility, hoping to avoid the heart attacks and strokes that are statistically most likely to occur at 9 a.m.