Jenna McGregor at the Washington Post recently wrote about a study that absolutely caught my attention on her leadership blog.

In a forthcoming issue of American Economic Review, Cornell University researchers are presenting the findings of a new study that shows respondents prefer salary over sleep. Contrary to much of the research stating people’s well-being is based well beyond a fat paycheck, these findings propose that if people had a choice between $80,000, reasonable work hours and 7.5 hours a sleep and $140,000 with longer work hours and only 6 hours of sleep, the majority would choose the latter.

Really?

Who has a choice between the two anyway? Not many. My problem with studies like these is who is this really serving? It justifies workaholism and reinforces the time is money scheme we’ve all been led to believe. Truth be told happiness is driven by more than the almighty dollar.

A lot of it has to do with our state of mind. If you look at Gallup’s latest comparative Well-Being Index, Germans rate their level of happiness much lower overall than Americans. Despite the continued economic woes in the United States and Germany’s supreme economic stability in the face of the current Euro debate, only 41.1% of Germans ages 18 or older consider themselves ‘thriving’. 53.1% are struggling and 5.8% are ‘suffering’. In comparison, in the United States 52.9% say they are ‘thriving’ while 43.5% say they are ‘struggling’. Only 3.6% report that they are ‘suffering’.

In a country where unemployment is relatively low, universal health care is a given, and they enjoy one of the lowest average hours worked of any OECD country, I wonder why Germans are less happy. It doesn’t seem that money or time off is the answer. It may be culturally entrenched that it’s not kosher to admit you are doing well. I’ve noticed a German tendency to commiserate versus celebrate.

A mindshift is required to move from a state of lack to a state of abundance. The power of slow can help, one step at a time, to liberate ourselves from unhealthy thinking. We all know sleep can help boost our mood. You can bank on it!

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American families are undergoing a sea change as we rethink who works, who stays home to care for the kids and why we work. This power of slow reexamination of how we live comes at a time when women make up more than half of the people on American payrolls for the first time in our history, with moms the primary breadwinner in almost 40 percent of all families.

To understand how working moms see their shifting roles and how others see them, Working Mother magazine surveyed more than 4,600 people across the country, including working moms, stay-at-home moms, working dads and singles in the workplace. Among our findings: whether making $20,000 or $200,000, moms who view their jobs as a career—rather than just a paycheck—are more satisfied and feel more positive at work and at home. “What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report” offers surprising insights into the perceptions of both sexes.

“I meet women all the time who think of their jobs as careers, and it doesn’t matter if they’re answering phones in a call center or running a company,” said Carol Evans, President, Working Mother Media. “This research reveals that women who embrace the long-term commitment that a career implies feel more satisfied and positive about every marker that we measured, including being ‘in balance.’ These findings have huge implications for women and the companies who rely on them.”

Among the report’s top findings:

·         Moms who view their work as a career are happier in all aspects the survey measured—with their marriage, kids, friendships, salary, respect they command and choice to work—than women who work primarily for a paycheck;

·         Male managers are big supporters of working moms in the workplace (at least in the United States ~ Germany has a way to go on this aspect of working life);

·         Though moms value flex as a key benefit, men are more likely than women to have jobs that allow for flexibility;

·         Both men and women feel a deep ambivalence when wives out-earn their husbands (this substantiates the claim the Pew Research Center found in a January 2010 study about women outearning their husbands, as reported in the Washington Post).

What contributes to a woman labeling her work as a career versus a paycheck? It’s not her salary. What a power of slow idea! It has nothing, or less, to do with money.

 

Courtesy of Working Mother magazine and "What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report"

 

According to The Working Mother Report, women feel they have a career when they:

  • Have opportunities to develop skills and advance;
  • Feel supported and respected;
  • Believe their work fulfills a higher purpose than simply making money.

“The most exciting aspect of The Working Mother Report is how actionable this is,” Evans said. “Women can examine their attitudes and shift toward careerist thinking. Companies can support women in viewing their jobs as careers with training and advancement programs.”

The Working Mother Report coincides with the 25th anniversary of Working Mother 100 Best Companies. It was sponsored by three of the Working Mother 100 Best Companies—Ernst & Young, IBM and Procter & Gamble.

The Importance of a “Career”

Women who identify themselves as having a career are more likely than those who self-identify as working primarily for a paycheck to say that:

  • Their life is ‘in balance’; they are healthy and fulfilled;
  • They are supported in work responsibilities and respected at home;
  • Their spouses contribute more to caring for children and to at-home tasks;
  • Their work fulfills a higher or more meaningful purpose than ‘just making money.’

How Male Managers View Working Moms

The Working Mother Report reveals that male managers view working mothers highly favorably, seeing them in a better light than do working fathers and men without children. Male managers say that working moms are likely to:

  • Take on additional work;
  • Be committed to career advancement;
  • Travel for work;
  • Take stretch assignments;
  • Relocate.

“Male managers—regardless of whether they have kids themselves—are strong allies of working moms. They see how dedicated these women are to their careers,” said Suzanne Riss, Editor in Chief, Working Mother magazine. “Managers praise working moms for the quality of their work, their interest in advancing, and their willingness to take on extra work.”

Flexibility: Not Just for Working Moms Anymore

The moms surveyed said that a flexible schedule is trumped only by stability and security when they look for a new job. Yet The Working Mother Report revealed that men are more likely to have jobs that allow for flexibility, more likely to use flex without fear of retribution, and that they feel they can take time off when necessary.

Among those whose work does allow for flexibility, there is a large gap in the percentage of women (58%) and men (74%) who say flexibility has had a positive impact on their career advancement.  Working mothers are more likely than working fathers to say:

  • Part-time work is a viable option at their company (65% vs. 58% for fathers);
  • They would work part time if they could still have a meaningful career (70% vs. 63% for fathers);
  • Flexibility increases their commitment or loyalty to their organization (77% vs. 73% for fathers).

Mars vs. Venus

Women who earn more than their husbands are more likely to expect men to contribute to cooking, cleaning and caring for the kids (um, I kind of expect my husband to contribute no matter what his paycheck):

  • Women surveyed were significantly more likely than men to say that domestic chores should be split down the middle (92%). But fewer than half say their spouses do their fair share. Men, in contrast, reported that they feel they are doing their fair share (68%).

The Working Mother Report revealed a deep ambivalence among both men and women about women earning more.

  • When asked in theory about the idea of their spouse out-earning them, 73% of women and 59% of men said they were comfortable with the idea of their partner earning more.
  • When women actually are the breadwinners, the comfort level drops for men from 59% to 42%.

Read the full report, What Moms Think: The Working Mother Report.

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Do Busy Moms Have Time?

April 1, 2010

After reading Washington Post staff writer Brigid Schulte’s time starvation manifesto, “The Test of Time: A busy working mother tries to figure out where all her time is going,” I couldn’t resist but to reach out to her to share the power of slow. I felt an affinity for her and her struggles. It seemed like the right thing to do.

She sent a lovely response, agreeing to meet for coffee if I was every in the area. It just so happened I would be. So we sat down for a chat while I was in Washington, DC in mid-March. In our one-hour discussion, we covered a lot of ground, which she wrote about in today’s Washington Post.

We talked at length about our lives as working mothers, the constant external pressure to keep it altogether, and our intense need to do this despite how taxing it can be. Her children are roughly the same age as mine (primary school); like me, she works in a deadline-driven environment, often from her home office; and, like many people, she struggles with the clock.

That is where our lives diverge.

Somewhere along the line, I consciously decided to disengage from clock combat. I began to look at time as a resource I could work with, not against. It was a subtle, yet profound paradigm shift that leaves me feeling calmer when life gets messy.

With two kids life is often chaotic and loud and odiferous. Just yesterday my son dropped a strawberry on my favorite pants, staining them a lovely red hue. We learned that berries really can stain. But we learned something else, too.

Boundaries matter.

This mind-shift of time-as-friend-not-foe happened because I saw how my children, back when they were age one and three, lived in a timeless state. To them the clock meant nothing. So why did it mean so much to me? What would happen if, for a moment, I stepped out of time altogether and walked more slowly to the car, to the grocery store, to the laundry room? What would occur if I took the risk of slow-poking it to work, thanking the fourteen-wheeler for giving cause to ease off the gas for the ten-minute ride?

Wonders occurred. My life occurred. I occurred.

Sitting in the trendy metro-area coffee shop with my new Post pal, I delighted in Brigid’s company as she admitted she delved into the procrastination chapter of The Power of Slow first. Life can be so overwhelming! Where to start! Working toward deadlines seems to help. It must as she manages to meet her timelines like everyone else. But along with the workaday routine, she is accompanied by a deep feeling of dread. Tell me really, she said to University of MD leisure studies professor John P. Robinson, where does my time go?

She even went on the Dr. Phil show to address this same issue.

It got me to thinking.

Where are we spending most of our time? If I were to calculate how much time I spent in my car, for instance, while in the US for just that week, I would say a good deal of our time is spent inside our vehicles. How can we cut down our personal traffic? Is it feasible?

Telecommuting arrangements are one way to navigate the time continuum. For moms who work without pay (read: full-time parenting), how can we carve out moments of time for ourselves? In a past essay, entitled “Minute Snatchers ~ How to Be a Writing Parent” I called time carving  minute-snatching. I’d snatch a few minutes during naptime to write. In fact, I wrote three books that way. It was fulfilling because it gave me a sense of control, something many moms struggle to regain in their lives dictated by so many external demands.

Having blocks of time seems like a luxury, yet it is possible. It really is about task management.

My kids, for instance, are home for a two-week Easter break right now. Like boomerangs that hover low to the ground, then high in the sky, they double sling-shot their way through the day. Sometimes, they make arrangements with their friends; at other times they are sitting on my lap, asking what they can do. Just when the pain point of their boredom gets unbearable, they come up with an idea. I call it skating on the fringe of creativity. They need those unstructured days to feel the timelessness of youth. Then there are moments in which they are in structured play, such as a two-day riding camp. It is about blending both to find the optimum experience.

Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we don’t.

Think of it this way: when you fill a tablespoon with water, what takes longer? Running the water at full speed or raising the faucet handle just a tad to fill it once without spilling?

The other day my son ranted about how his jacket wouldn’t zip up as he hurridly struggled with the zipper.

“Sometimes slow is faster,” I said in my best mommy voice. He smirked as I showed him what I meant.

Today he proudly showed me he could zip it himself.

“Look, Mom!” he beamed. “There really is power in slow!”

Why yes, honey, I’d say there really is.