Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I dropped a ball

As a working mom, and more importantly I think, as a working freelancer, I am constantly juggling dozens of balls at any time. I have many clients, and have to keep all their issues in my head, all their tasks on my to-do lists (and I must have to-do lists!), and I have to remember to account for my time and bill and so on.

As a mom, I have to keep track of everyone's schedules, book lessons and playdates, sitters and daycares, summer camps and carpet cleaners, and so on.I live my life by the watch and the calendar, constantly trying to get everything done on time, kids to bed at the right moment, dinner served right at six, and so on.

It's a seriously difficult juggling act. And this week I dropped a ball.

I missed a key deadline. Not for a client, but for my son. I missed the Thursday deadline to sign him up for little league this Spring. And because I was two days late getting the application in, the league we've played in for two years (and I mean "we", since I've been coaching his team all this time), the one we really felt a part of, the one his closest friends play in, the sport he loves above all others, says they won't let him play this year. Somehow, if I'd gotten the application in on Thursday, they'd have had a place for him, but by Saturday, they didn't.

Now, it's not as dire as it sounds, because the league in the next neighborhood over from us is not as uptight as our old league about living within their boundaries, and their registration deadline was Sunday, and he will know a few kids from school who play in that league, and it's not that far from where we live. And they guaranteed him a spot. So he'll play there, and I will coach.

But of course both he and I are very upset about our old league. They had really made us feel a part of the community, of the little league association, or something important. And for two days, they've tossed us to the curb (and I begged, all weekend, but their exact words were "We're full. He's on the waiting list, but don't hold your breath."). I feel like I've been duped this past two years into belonging to something to which I never really mattered.

And we'll have to go back to the first league next year or the year after, because the in-boundary thing matters the older the kids get and the better they play (for all stars, etc.). But I won't coach for them again. I've been burned.

Anyhow, this bad thing happened, along with all the bad feelings, because I dropped a ball. I forgot about the deadline.

My son has forgiven me, but I haven't. I went out yesterday and bought a new wipe-off calendar for the fridge, with colour coded markers to write down everyone's schedules. And I held my first family meeting, telling everyone to take responsibility for their own schedules, and stop expecting me to remind you every day of swimming lessons and vet appointments.

I don't know how long the new system will work, especially because my husband hasn't bought into it. But at least it makes me feel like maybe I don't have to juggle everything alone.

Still, I dropped an important ball, and can't let that happen again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What generation are my kids?

Via GenXpert, I found another Gen X blogger, The Gen X Files, which led me to an interesting thought. Dave who writes this blog is a Gen Xer, and has a couple of kids, the younger of whom is 8, about the same age as my older son. And Dave says his kids are Millenials, or Gen Y. But are they?

I know we like to put labels on everything, to put people into convenient boxes so we can classify them, clarify them, and of course market to them. And that works to some degree, but sometimes we draw the box too broadly.

Take the boomers. They've been defined as the children of the post-war generation who came of age in the 60s and 70s. Who are now entering the last decade or so of work, starting to be grandparents, etc. I loved the label Generation X when Douglas Copeland first defined it. We were the gap generation, not the boomers, not the children of boomers. Our parents were born during World War Two. We came of age in the 80s, and entered the work world right when all the boomers swelled the ranks and left no openings, when bad times hit the economy and our hopes of life-long employers like our parents had had was a wasted dream.

The generation right after us, the echo boom, Gen Y, Millenials, or whatever name they go by, had it better. Their parents hovered, sheltered, and made life easier for them (which is in no way to be interpreted as a swipe at our parents, who did a fine job!). Because they were numerous where Gen X was few, they were a desired audience, so media paid attention to them in spades, as did marketers. They grew up in a more digital world, with video games, home computers, and ubiquitous cell phones and internet. They wouldn't know how to dial a rotary phone, load the paper in a typewriter, or maybe even crank the film forward in a camera.

Right. That's us, that's them. But what about my kids? They are the children of Gen Xers through and through, born at the beginning of the 2000s (does that decade have a name yet?). They are growing up in the shadow of Gen Y, although that shadow is nowhere near as suffocating as the boomers' shadow under which I grew up. Are they a generation of their own, or will they be lumped in with the group 15-20 years older than them? What do we know about my children's generation?

Wikipedia defines Gen Y as born right up to 2000. My son was born in 2001. Some have called this group Generation Z (we're going to run out of letters soon!). Another Wikipedia article says Generation Z starts with those born after 1997 (although the same article as says those born after 1991).

While my googling is hardly extensive research, I think it helps prove my point that whatever generation and whatever their defining characteristics come to define my children, they are not Gen Y. I hope their generation gets what ours lacked -- enough numbers to have advantages but small enough to not lose out in the workplace.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Being without a job is new to Gen Y

I have spent most of my career being between jobs. Of course, I've been basically freelancing for the last dozen years, so that's to be expected. But it's also a function of my generation.

I entered the work force around 1990, when a recession was underway (nothing like this one, which is global, but still there were no jobs) and full time jobs were unheard of for the average university grad. My parents worked for the same employers most of their working lives, but I came to work not expecting to stay anywhere for too long. Luckily I managed to cobble together a career out of it, but being without work was a pretty common thing for me.

So I pity the newly unemployed Gen Ys, especially those just starting to buy homes and start families. Because they've spent their entire working careers in a labour environment where they could call all the shots, ask for the moon and get it. And now this, where they may not be able to find any work, or at least any work above serving coffee at Starbucks (or are they laying off too?).

Okay, maybe pity isn't the first word I would have used there. I'm a typical Gen Xer -- bitter about the raw hand demographics and timing have dealt me, so part of me can't help but smirk, maybe even chuckle, at this situation Gen Yers are now in, because it's about time they felt my pain.

But then today I read Penelope Trunk's column on what to say to someone who'd been laid off, and her straightforward, make-it-easier-on-them advice kind of shamed me. So now it's more like pity.

And in that case, I offer some advice. You'll get through it, you'll still manage in the long run, and people like me are here to help if we can.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Twitter -- is there a point?

A friend and colleague dragged me into Twitter last week, and while I've now got 20 followers and have posted a bunch of stuff, I'm not sure I see the point yet. So people are pointing me to some links. Don't they have jobs to do that make these constant posts difficult? Isn't hearing from them once or even twice a day on Facebook enough?

What can you do on Twitter that you can't do on Facebook or email? How can it have any effect on my business or even my life? I can see how mundane it can be to see what everyone had for breakfast, but is it any less mundane to know what a blogger friend is working on before she posts to her blog?

I'm still waiting to see why I'd need this. In the meantime, I'll go tweet something terribly profound. Like how the sun is shining in Vancouver today.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

No job? Join the army

Via Penelope Trunk, I found a link to an article from a couple months back that says that the recession is driving up enrollment in the US military. I suppose it makes sense. When the jobs disappear in this economy, rich 20-somethings will go back to university, and poor Gen Ys will enlist. Seems like a reasonable idea, unless there were a war on. Oh wait, there is a war on. Two in the US, last I looked.

In some cases, the peace of mind that comes with good benefits and a regular paycheck is overcoming concerns about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which any new enlistee is likely to join.

Doesn't seem fair that poorer Americans are forced into this kind of choice.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Haven't posted for a while now...

I have become one of those people who has a blog but doesn't write on it. I guess I thought no one was listening, and got a bit tired of writing to myself. But maybe that's the point. If I write to myself, maybe others will come.

So I'm posting today, and will try to do it more often.

Of course, today's not the best day for this for me. I'm annoyed with my kids, my work, my clients, etc. I'm in a funk. You know, one of those moods where nothing in particular is wrong but you're upset anyhow, where you feel a bit angry but are not really sure at what. Where you have the vague sense that tears are close to the surface but there's nothing going on in particular that makes you want to cry.

That mood. Maybe it's hormones. After all, 41 is just around the corner, and I hear pre-menopause can start anytime now. Or maybe it's a general sense of dread because after my first mammogram last month, they want me to come in for a follow-up mammogram tomorrow. They're very reassuring -- it happens all the time, could be nothing -- but still I worry.

Or maybe that's not it. Maybe I'm just in a mood. But hey, I wrote about it. Anyone reading?