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The Balancing Act

As I watch my boys, ages thirteen and eleven, grow up I wonder if I have balanced my time well between my work life and my personal life. Have I given them the parenting they need? My wife and I believe that we need to build our sons up to be well rounded individuals so they can compete in the new economy. I fear that this new generation of young people will have trouble competing in the business world as evidenced by youth sports philosophies where they “have equal playing time” or teachers that let them “re-do” test questions to enhance their grades. Before I go too far on the parenting aspect of my life I should first clue everyone into what my wife and I do for a living. I am the Deputy County Executive and Chief Information Officer for Oakland County, Michigan. My responsibilities include the management of four hundred employees that provide our technologies, facilities, grounds, and engineering. My wife is a middle school teacher who specializes in Language Arts for sixth and eighth graders. Those are tough ages! I am sure you have all heard that public employees have it pretty good, i.e. they don’t work too hard. I made the mistake one evening of joking with my wife by saying that she only works nine months out of the year, she didn’t laugh! I have found her, many a night, working to midnight grading papers and writing progress reports. My position at Oakland County also requires me to put in many more hours than the traditional forty hour work week. The reason I share this with you is that we both have a passion for helping others. This passion has led me to government, and my wife to teaching. The big question is, how do we balance that passion with raising two young men properly?

Government employees have forever been knocked for having an easy schedule with phenomenal benefits. I am sure that this audience of public sector employees would agree that our jobs are demanding in many different ways. In many cases, public sector careers are more demanding on our time than our private sector counterparts. Could we learn the “balancing act” lessons from each other? Should we learn by looking back towards our parent’s ability to raise us?

Times sure have changed and we definitely do not live in our parent’s world. Technology has changed everything by providing more efficient ways to do more every day. Remember when we used to send hard-copy memos? We used to wait days for an answer or we picked up the phone. Now we are connected 24X7 with multiple forms of communications on our hips. Teachers now have all their grades on-line with parents having total access. Some may say that having this type of access to our children’s education is the ultimate transparency. What we forget is that someone needs to maintain all that access, the teacher. What about our children? They are the generation of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking users. I would venture to bet that many of you are out in the social networking world, heck this blog was writing especially for GovLoop. I am on Facebook and Twitter just to keep tabs on my nieces and nephews. Sometimes they forget I am out there and they type some really crazy stuff! Do these technologies allow us to get more done, thus having more time with our families? Are we truly more productive or do we just work more?

Is the “balancing act” more difficult today than ever before? What everything comes down to is whether we will have done everything in our power to build two solid citizens out of our boys. Every person reading this blog will have their own circumstances to relate to when trying to answer the tough question, “Am I balancing my work with my children?” I have soul searched this question and I am not sure that my wife and I would be voted as “Parents of the Year” but we might come in a close second! In my humble opinion, we have two boys that get excellent grades, they look people in the eye when they talk to them, they are respectful of others, and they still hug us every night before bed. I give my wife and I good interim grades on our progress report but we have so much more work to do. Hopefully, parenting grades are not out there on-line!

I have come to one other conclusion. As public sector employees or public servants we have to remember that while helping thousands and millions, we cannot forget those closest to us, our family. So work hard in these tough economic times but play hard at home as well. Thanks for reading!

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Profile Photo Steve Ressler

Balance is so difficult. One of my mentors told me that we are never truly balanced. And the goal is not to be balanced at all times but balanced over time. For example when I moved to Tampa for my family, my mentor stated that I was clearly focusing on family at this point (moving for partners job) which was fine. But it would be a hurt on my career for that period and there would be periods of time I'd spend my focus on work.

Would love to hear how others think of balance and actions they do to maintain the balance

Profile Photo Fernando Beltran

Phil,

The fact you are bringing this up is a sign you are a good parent.

Personally, I think we (some of us) fool ourselves into thinking that we do a good parenting job by showing up at the dinner table, asking how they did at school, and tucking our kids into bed at night. It's so easy to get absorbed into our daily routine and we can always find excuses to keep ourselves busy at work.

I have met very successful professionals, even at the executive level, who work a 9 to 5 schedule. Their businesses thrive despite their "unusual" schedules for someone at those levels.

The fact that my kids are still young (seven and four) sped up my decision to become a business owner. It was a risk in my career and is tough on cash flow but very rewarding from the personal standpoint. I get to spend more quality time with the people I love the most in my life and I can have a more direct influence in their formation (critical at this age).

Somebody shared this with me not too long ago and I thought it was very moving and accurate:

"I tried to teach my child with books,
All I got were puzzled looks;
I tried to teach my child with words,
They passed him by often unheard.
Despairingly I turned aside,
How shall I teach this child I cried.
Into my hand he put the key
Come he said, Play with me."