Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I have this theory that all productivity in Washington, D.C. (and many other parts of the country) grinds to a halt in mid/late August not because of Congressional recess or family vacations, but because child care options dry up. College students head back to school and working parents with elementary school-aged children are left scrambling for options. Which is why I wised up this year and scheduled the boys’ “Camp Grammie” for late August, leaving me able to make a last minute trip to accompany my husband on his business trip to Vermont.

At first, I was grumbling over my inability to get more work done while staring out at the Green Mountains. Then I began grumbling (to myself, in a Courtyard Marriott hotel room) about my inability to get out and enjoy the amazing outdoors. Luckily by day 2, I’d struck a happy compromise with myself. Part work, part adventure, but most importantly, stop feeling guilty about my choices. I could work for 7-8 hours straight, then meet my husband for a 20 mile bike ride after work around Lake Champlain.

It got me thinking, on one of my early morning adventurous solo hikes up Camel’s Hump, about how technology has substantially changed our ability to delineate work from home (and thus vacation). Oh the delight when I reached an altitude high enough to get 2 bars on my iPhone. 26 unread emails, 2 voicemails. Who would it hurt if I just took a peek? I had created a workcation right there on third highest peak in Vermont. But was that necessarily a bad thing?

Sometimes I need the ability to completely disengage, be off the grid, and be totally in the moment. But in a high-growth small business, doing that for more than a few days really, really stresses me out. What if a client can’t reach me and decides to go with a competitor? What if the server crashes? How long will it take me to return the 500 accumulated emails? All of that worry about being entirely off the grid has the opposite of the intended effect of the vacation.

For me, the right blend is a long weekend or two (or three) throughout the year being completely unavailable, preferably where cell service is unavailable. For spring break in Florida or a week at a friend’s cabin in the summer, the ability to spend an hour or so online making sure no fires have erupted makes me feel more relaxed.

Ultimately, you have to remember that you control your technology. You can bring your laptop, or not. You can turn off digital roaming on your BlackBerry. Clearly I have a lot more autonomy and control over my day than most, but the theorem holds true: you choose when to let work creep into your time out of the office. Know what level of disengagement you need, use technology to make that happen, and enjoy the time out of the office.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guest Blogger: Too Soon To Tell

Although I am beginning to embrace the chaos of working during the summer, I've been woefully neglectful in the blog department. One of our favorite and long-time contractors wrote an intriguing blog piece on Gen X women and child birth choices and I thought I would share it with you (particularly since she gave us such a great plug!)

After reading “Do Gen X Women Choose Work Over Kids?,” I had to chuckle. It seems the pundits are missing the mark by a wide margin about women’s maternal decision-making process. I don’t agree that Gen X women (roughly age 33-46) are choosing not to have children; they are instead choosing when to have children. While I admit that my evidence is anecdotal, it certainly seems to make sense to me and many of my friends.

In today’s world, where birth control, education, and advanced fertility procedures with high success rates are common knowledge and universally accessible, why would a woman begin her family before she’s had a chance to build a secure future for her potential family? There’s no rush.

If you look at the basic timeline, it all makes sense. High school graduation at 18, graduate school completion by 23 or so, internship and first job till 25, job of choice by 26, and ten years of enjoying the perks of success (read: paychecks that cover more than your basic bills!), and you’ve got a woman who is approximately 35. Medical science says that exponential increases in birth defects due to a woman’s age do not begin till 42, while fertility peaks around 35, leaving a nice 5-7 year window for women to start their families. This in turn makes the statistics that the article quotes (53% of Gen X women are childless) true, because half of that small cohort hasn’t reached their optimum (as determine by them) childbearing age yet.

In addition, many Gen X women watched their mothers struggle, divided by opposing desires to work for financial gain and security, yet yearning for the choice to raise their own children. Given a different scenario and armed with the knowledge imparted by their mothers, Gen X women are doing both – waiting till they have earned enough career status and financial stability to afford themselves the luxury of choice, then in some cases, exiting the workforce to raise their children during the formative years (0-5), and re-entering the workforce at will. This is made easier by companies that focus on aiding employees reach their own personal nirvana in the work-life balance arena (see

This Generation is also faced by a very different reality than the Boomers, who commonly expected to work 20 or 30 years and retire comfortably on their defined retirement plan after earning the gold watch. Gen X has lived through the disappearance of pensions and company retirements and are faced with the knowledge that they must work till their 401Ks can support them – for many, this means 40 plus years in the workforce. There is no fast-moving ladder to the top- when no one retires, no one advances, so the option to take a time-out to raise children is less harmful than it once.

All in all, I think the writer’s perspective that a woman must choose one or the other, kids or career, is far-reaching at best, although only time will tell – because Gen X still has many child-bearing years left!