Don’t Let Work Stress Overwhelm Your Marriage


When your job interferes with your marriage it causes all sorts of problems. You know what I’m talking about. Too much time at work, thinking and talking about work when you are at home, and getting upset over things at home because of work stress.

With entrepreneurs, this stress is even worse. The weight of your company is on your shoulders. Every decision counts, and you don’t get to quit at the end of the day and let other people make the important decisions. Do you work from home? If you do, good luck separating your personal and professional life. It’s even tougher. Your children walk into your office, your spouse asks if you can take a moment to discuss something just when you are getting some steam rolling on a project.

Here are a few things that I do that help me keep the work stress away from my marriage: [Read more…]

Embrace The Car Conversation

Car Conversations

What is it about getting in the car that makes many kids talk incessantly? From the moment their rear end hits the seat, their lips don’t stop moving.

Maybe you have endured a long day of work and just want to enjoy some peace and quiet. Or maybe traffic is a nightmare of cars inching along and you feel distracted. Whatever the reason, too many times we as parents lose our patience with the endless conversation and ask our kids to be quiet.

We really should embrace the “car conversation”, as I like to call it.

When driving along down the road, I have found that my kids will initiate some extremely interesting conversations. Interesting in the sense that they often bounce around from one thing to another, with some bizarre topics usually thrown in for good measure.

The thing that I love about the “car conversation” is how my kids feel so free to talk about whatever is on their mind. They will ask questions that leave me scratching my head trying to figure out what they mean. Sometimes they will make comments that make me laugh and cry all at the same time, like when we were passing a cemetery and my youngest said, “Dad, I want to get you a stone in a place like that.

As you are driving along, be sure to pay attention when they aren’t talking to you but talking to a friend or sibling next to them. Do your best to stifle any laughs though, as once they realize that you are listening they will stop that conversation and start peppering you with questions again.

The next time you find yourself in the car with your kids, take a moment to embrace the “car conversation” and cherish the time while you have it. To help kick-start a conversation, here are a few questions that you can use to get your kids talking:

  • What is the silliest thing you could ever do?
  • If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?
  • What would it be like to live on the moon?
  • If 7-11 is open 24 hours, why do they have locks on the doors?

Shortly after you read this post, I will be putting this into practice as we drive home from Disney World and have hour after hour of car conversations. While there are certainly times that I would prefer some peace and quiet, I have learned to embrace the car conversation as I know it won’t be long and the back seat will be empty.

Photo courtesy of Alex Barth

Can Taking Your Work On Vacation Help Work Life Balance?

With a trip to Disney World on the horizon, I have been giving some thought to the need (okay, desire) to bring along my laptop and Blackberry so I can stay connected to work as well as my blogs. Earlier on in the planning for our vacation, my wife had commented that she would not be happy if I was spending our vacation connected to the Interweb.

While I agree with her, I do think there is some validity to having access to work. Is it possible that taking your work with you on vacation helps your work life balance?

Before you cast this idea off as rationale (an excuse) to stay connected to your Crackberry, as my wife likes to call it, give it some thought.

The last time that you took a vacation, what was waiting for you when you returned to the office?

If your work is anything like mine, you likely had a stack of issues on your desk that needed immediate attention. In an effort to dig your way out of the backlog of work, you end up working overtime – thus defeating the original intent of getting away for a vacation.

Wouldn’t it be better to spend 5 or 10 minutes of otherwise down time on your vacation dealing with some of those issues?

It sounds good to me.

Obviously, one needs to be careful as technology can hurt your work life balance just as easily as it can help. However, with proper moderation, you might find yourself returning from vacation knowing that there aren’t any fires waiting to be extinguished at the office.

So, while I plan to pack my laptop and Blackberry for my upcoming vacation, I will be limiting their usage such that it does not take away from our family time.

There will be no need to log in to write blog posts, as I am working on lining up guest authors. There will be no need to log in to moderate comments, as this time I am not running a contest during my vacation (I recommend avoiding that).

When the family has crashed for the night, I don’t see anything wrong with answering a few email messages. When the kids are riding Space Mountain for the 44th consecutive time and I am trying to hold down lunch, I don’t see anything wrong with returning a few phone calls.

What do you think – should you take work on vacation or let it pile up until you return?

Pull Your Kid Out From School Painlessly

Damien Riley

Damien Riley, author, teacher and dad, keeps an eye on popculture, the news, and humor all around us. His blog, Dynamite Lesson Plan, tackles the topic of education with a perspective from someone on the inside – an elementary school teacher.

Who am I and why am I here?

Hi there again. I’m a big reader of the Man Page and I’ve enjoyed writing a few guest posts here so you may know my stuff. If not, allow me to introduce myself: I am a public school teacher, specifically 4th grade (9 year olds). I’m writing this guest blog in response to a post Derek wrote some time back in which he made the point that schools can make parents feel irresponsible for taking their kids on vacation. I am attempting to shed light on why different schools have an attitude. I also try to make it very clear that I am pro-family vacation! Finally, I provide the tips you need to take your kid out of a public school painlessly. (and be let in the front door upon return!)

Middle Class vs. Impoverished Schools

Most parents know that schools frown on student “vacations” during the year. What most do not know is the difference between a middle class and a poverty frown. Kids from middle class neighborhoods supply the school with much needed ADA funds when they are present. Kids from poverty schools do it too but they have a plentiful supply of Title I, NCLB, free lunch and many other funding programs.

So what does that mean in plain English?

Basically, the middle class schools need money and every kid in a seat pays it! The impoverished neighborhoods have more money than you can shake a stick at and don’t really worry about attendance as a funding source. Isn’t that ironic? A vacation offers so much and yet it is frowned upon. My parents used to always take us to Disneyland and museums, and even the beach sometimes on school days because they thought we would benefit by it.

Guess what, they were right and we did benefit! Out of 4 kids, all 4 have college degrees and 2 have Master’s degrees. The ultimate learning field trip is a family vacation to talk about. You can quote me on that one.

Schools don’t mind as much when poor kids miss school.

The impoverished kids are my professional area of emphasis. I have worked in inner city, impoverished schools since 1997. I’ve made home visits where the parent is out dead drunk or shuffling to hide the crack pipe. They haven’t all been bad but some things are unimaginable. For example, I found out one of my students was being taken to L.A. once a month and fake blood smattered under his nose so he could beg at the airport and make money for his family. Shall I stop there? I am sure cops and social workers see worse than I have with kids, but I have seen enough to know a few hidden truths.

My point?

Kids in poverty don’t get pulled out for vacations.

Again, the irony is that the school doesn’t follow up and doesn’t make a stink as much with the impoverished kids. Is it protecting anyone at all? This is a tough subject, I hope I haven’t offended anyone but after 10 years I think I have enough experience for an opinion.

How can you pull your kid out painlessly?

I know I am speaking here today to guys around my age 23-53 in middle class homes. I recommend you take your kids out to have vacations. I do. They have too much stress on them sometimes (though a little stress is good sometimes to achieve healthy, well-balanced goals!).

They will learn more about the world in that trip.

If it’s more than 3 days you want to avoid problems with the office and/or the teacher, see if you can do an “Independent Study” packet. Usually you can and the kid never loses any days on the roll. Sometimes they get huge rewards at assemblies and such for perfect attendance. If its just a day or two, just say she/he was sick.

Bon Voyage!

Read more of my education related blog posts at Dynamite Lesson Plan.

Happy Birthday :: Giving Your Child A Choice


Today my youngest son turns 7 years old!

It is amazing (not to mention a little scary as well) that my son is already celebrating his seventh birthday, as it seems like just yesterday that he was a tiny little baby being held in our arms.

Over the years, he has given me plenty of opportunities to reflect on why being a dad rocks and I cherish those moments.

As we celebrate his birthday together as a family (thanks to my flexible schedule I will be home with him all day), I thought that I would share something that we have been doing for both of our boys the last couple of years.

The Birthday Choice.

Two years ago, as our oldest son’s birthday was quickly approaching, my wife and I were dreading the idea of entertaining an army of young children for an afternoon. That was when we thought of presenting our son with a choice.

He could have a party with all of his friends…

Or he could receive a more significant gift from mom and dad.

If you’re thinking that sounds like bribery, well, I guess it is!

As you might imagine, he chose the appeal of receiving the bigger, better, world-changing gift as opposed to spending an afternoon with his friends. My wife and I waited until our son wasn’t looking to high-five that we had diverted the trip to Chuck-E-Cheese and the inevitable need to crawl through the maze of tunnels to find the one child that could not find his way out.

Some might think that a choice like this is encouraging a child to be materialistic.

I like to think that it is teaching them to be realistic.

They learn to evaluate their choices and make a decision that will lead them to the most happiness. The fact that their choice also leads to our happiness as parents is just a bonus. But this lesson will serve them quite well in later life.

Do they spend a few hundred dollars on a party to entertain their friends for an afternoon? Or do they opt to skip the party and enjoy their special gift for many months, if not years?

That really isn’t too different than the decisions that they will have to make many times as they grow older.

Do they spend the money on an elaborate weekend vacation or do they contribute to their Roth IRA and retire earlier? Do they accept the job offer with a higher salary and more hours, or the job offer with a lower salary and no overtime?

As parents, we do not encourage them to make a particular decision and we support them either way. They are welcome to select the party with their friends at the expense of a more substantial gift; however, they have yet to do so since we first presented them with this choice.

For the record, our youngest son did select the more substantial gift this year. In addition to the gifts that we would have bought him whether he had a party or not, he will be receiving Rock Band Special Edition for Nintendo Wii.

Remember how I mentioned earlier that being a dad rocks?

By giving my son a choice on his birthday, I will have an opportunity to rock with him and it really doesn’t get much better than that.

As we rock out this afternoon, I’d like to hear what you think about presenting your child with the choice between a full-blown birthday party with their friends or to have that money spent on a gift for them.

Photo credit: Kevin

Discipline :: Stick To It

Being a parent isn’t always easy – as any parent will readily tell those without children. One situation that is often the cause of much parenting heartache is child discipline.

With the many different methods of disciplining your child, it can certainly be confusing as to what is the “best” method for your children. To further the confusion, what works for one child may not work at all for another child. Often times parents want to use one method of discipline for all of their children and expect the children to behave like perfect little angels at all times.

Regardless of what method you choose, one key to success is that you stay consistent when it comes to discipline. If you don’t stick to it and enforce the rules consistently, your child isn’t likely to follow the rules consistently either. Likewise, when your kids have broken the rules and have been disciplined, don’t waver on their punishment and change the consequences.

No video games all week…stick to it.

Sit in your room for one hour…stick to it.

No TV or movies…but The Dark Knight, no…stick to it.

That last point there put me face to face with the dilemma of altering my stance on discipline this afternoon. With plans to wrap up work early today and take my oldest son to an afternoon showing of The Dark Knight, I was faced with the decision to stick to it or bend the rules when he decided to misbehave.

As much as I really wanted to see the movie today – don’t think I didn’t give serious consideration to leaving him home with my wife and seeing the movie by myself – I knew that the right decision was to stick to our consequences for violating the rules. If I were to bend the rules for this “special occasion”, he would quickly learn that whenever we had something special planned for the day that he would not have to follow the rules.

There are times that you will have to sacrifice something that you want to do in order to stay consistent with your method of discipline. As I mentioned earlier, nobody ever said that parenting was easy.

When your children know what to expect if the rules are broken, they will most likely have an easier time following the rules consistently. That doesn’t mean that they will always behave – but they will understand that they will face the consequences should they decide to not follow the rules. In addition, consistent enforcement of the rules will often mean that there is a reduced amount of whining and crying (can I get an “it’s not fair”) when you do have to discipline your kids.

While you continue to praise your child for good behavior, you also need to stay consistent with the rules and consequences for bad behavior.

Don’t take the easy way out…stick to it!

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