1) Many of my colleagues over 50 have been downsized. I enjoy my work but I’m terrified that the pink slip is around the corner. How do I convince my employers that I’m fully deployed and one thousand percent committed to my job? Employers hesitate to let go of people who exude these two qualities: Relevant and indispensable. Those are the qualities that make someone a terrific addition to the workplace. Relevant means totally with-it – they understand the zeitgeist whether it’s social media or the competitor’s products. Brimming with enthusiasm and curiosity, an employee who’s fully engaged is going to have more job security than someone who has to drag herself into work. The other quality is indispensable. You can make yourself indispensable by keeping up with trends, reading the blogs that relate to your company’s service or products as well as staying late when it matters and offering to assist someone in getting out a proposal even if it doesn’t fall within your purview. An employer will fall in love with an employee who doesn’t work only for a paycheck but rather, to add value to the company’s reputation and differentiation in the marketplace.
Dena Higley worked hard to have it all: a daytime drama writing career, long marriage and four great kids. In Momaholic: Crazy Confessions of a Helicopter Parent (Thomas Nelson) Higley says it all fell apart, causing her to look at what she was doing right — and wrong. We talked to her.
How do you know you’re a helicopter mom?
Here’s how: Are you involved in every aspect your child’s life? Do you do everything for your child? I just had a 23-year-old college graduate ask me where he could get a watch fixed. He didn’t know because mommy always took care of stuff like that for him. When they go to a birthday party, do you hand them a beautifully-wrapped gift as they get out of the car and they have no idea what’s inside because you’ve shopped for them? An HP mom is more of a personal assistant than a parent. Are you room mom and PTA president and snack mom for the baseball team? Is there anywhere your child can go to escape you for a few hours in the day?
What are the warning signs?
You’re constantly displeased with your child. They aren’t getting good enough grades so you do their homework for them. They aren’t performing well enough in their sport, so you hire a private coach — even though you can’t afford it. You drag them kicking and screaming into the car to get them to activities they have no interest in doing. Simultaneously, you constantly seek your child’s approval. You want them to like you. These two parenting skills are at polar opposites of the spectrum. They cannot exist at the same time but women try to make it happen all the time. I know some kids who have begun wetting the bed again in junior high because they don’t know who they are and they don’t know how to please their parents and teachers. There will be more raised voices in the household. A helicopter mother is constantly on edge. One missed orthodontist appointment can send a mom into a rage.
What’s wrong with being a helicopter mom?
No one is happy in her home. While you’d think a helicopter mom would carve out family time, she never does. She schedules too many activities, lessons and tutoring time. Kids can’t handle the stress which is why drugs are an epidemic. Parents work so hard to get their kids in the right college that when the kids get there they can’t function without mommy and daddy. The dropout rate is higher than ever. Even if your kid makes it through college, most grads move back home – 85% according to TIME.
What steps can you take?
Take your cue from your child. Are they old enough to clean their own room? Can they start helping prepare meals? Cooking and cleaning up after a meal, even with boys, is a great bonding time for mother and child. Do they have a cell phone? If they do they can certainly start entering in their own schedule. And they’ll take pride in knowing when their soccer practice starts. Take them to the grocery store and together plan out a healthy eating style that they enjoy. Give them some freedom to go out with friends — even if this idea makes you nervous. As they grow older, loosen the leash. Basically start to get out of their face much as possible. Go through magazines together with your daughter and talk about what’s inappropriate attire and what is classy and elegant. Then you won’t argue about what she wears on dates later on. Trust them. And realize that they are their own person and you are your own person. Learn boundaries. Learn what co-dependence is and stay away from it at all costs.
What happened to you?
I had a complete nervous breakdown when my oldest daughter refused to follow the script I had set out for her life. I got into therapy and learned to be my own person and to allow my children to fail. I showed them the world. If they want to work at a fast food restaurant and that makes them happy then they don’t have to study and go to college. But if they want choices as adults they have to buckle down and work hard now. But it’s their choice. And because it’s their choice, the nagging has stopped. The yelling has stopped. There is peace in our house. There is peace in my heart. Of course there are still antics and mistakes made. Life is messy. Families are messy. But there is still peace in my heart and peace in my home.
Lilly Ledbetter writes about tough years in Grace and Grit: My Fight For Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond (Crown $25). Her case led to her 2009 namesake legislation. Women For Hire talked to her.
After 19 years at Goodyear, you earned thousands less than men in your position. How did that affect you? I was devastated and I felt a certain humiliation that I had been treated that way. And then I had to think about how much my family had suffered and done without, through no fault of mine, but through the discrimination of my employer. That’s exactly what I thought about it. It just hit me how hard it had been and what my family had done without because I wasn’t paid what I had legally earned and was entitled to.
What indignities did you suffer at Goodyear and why did you put up with it? Early on, they had had so few women especially in the management area, and so there was a lot of sexual harassment and the language was terrible. But the reason I put up with it was because I felt women got this type of treatment most anywhere. I thought that if I did the job and earned my co-workers respect, that the environment would be better for the people in those jobs after me. In other words, I felt I was a trailblazer to go through this and prove my capability. All I asked was for was the chance to do the job, prove what I could do and be treated fairly.
Since your story became public, what have women managers in other companies and fields told you? Do you think your treatment is the exception to the rule – or not? My Story is only the tip of the iceberg. That’s why this story remains popular and part of the national conversation. Everyone can relate to it because fair pay is ultimately a family affair: when women are not paid fairly, everyone in the family is touched by it. I hear stories from strangers in the airport. I’ve heard about pay discrimination on the professional levels: doctors, lawyers, college professors and the media professionals. I’ve heard story after story, in letters and phone calls. Women say, “This happened to me, what should I do?” I work with the the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission now to bring training into the workplace so women will be treated fairly. Unequal pay is a national epidemic. It’s really so sad. A woman recently asked me why we keep harping on equal pay for equal work and I said it’s because we still have unequal pay for women and minorities in this country today. Just because you have the laws doesn’t mean people are adhering to them.
You lost your long court battle in the Supreme Court on a technicality. But your story led to landmark legislation signed by President Obama. What does the legislation do and how does that make you feel? The Supreme Court ruling against me, 5-4, interpreted a law and created a technicality. The ruling told me that although I was in the right, I had waited too long to file my claim, even though I filed suit as soon as I found out I was being paid unfairly. The ruling was an interpretation of the law, not in my favor, and the legislation Obama signed restored the original meaning of employment discrimination laws to protect people from this timeline issue.
The Act carrying my name – The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay and Restoration Act – means so much to every working family in the country because it gives them the right — if they’re doing a job and getting a paycheck – to file an unequal pay charge 180 days from the date they received their most recent paycheck. The stroke of that pen that morning in the White House meant so much. I knew it would protect all women and their families and would give them back rights that had been taken away from them.
What is your message to any working woman today? Make sure when you start your career to be sure you are being paid what you’re entitled to. You can’t afford to start out behind — because you can never catch up. It will affect you for the rest of your lives, so be sure you negotiate, get paid what you should be paid and demand fair treatment. When you do the math, if you start out with a one thousand dollar difference in salary, in 25 years, you’ll be a million dollars behind. Raises are usually based on percentages, so when you start with less, you receive less as you go forward. It’s a nightmare.
In her new book, In Her Power: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self, Author Helene Lerner says there the nine most common self-sabotaging behaviors that hold women back: thinking too small, worrying, misunderstanding yourself, dishonesty, holding back, not taking time for reflection, inhibiting desires, isolating and disempowering other women. “We have the power inside to be great,” Lerner tells Forbes, “but oftentimes it’s covered by false beliefs about ourselves.”