All posts by Cindy Goodman

Cindy is a national columnist who can help you with the daily struggle to find career and personal fulfillment. She offers creative solutions and new strategies for juggling work and play, career and family. As a mother of three and veteran journalist, she brings her personal experience to the work/life balancing act.

Staying Late at the Office? How to Leave Work On Time

 

One evening at the office, I had packed my laptop, slung my purse over my shoulder and stood up from my chair to head home. At that moment, a co-worker sauntered over to my desk asking for help on a project.  I noticed earlier in the day, she had been chatting away with another co-worker and had wasted about an hour shooting the breeze. Now, she was stuck staying late at the office and if I helped her, I would be, too.

Most of us find it is hard to leave work on time.  A quick peek at email before heading out the door can turn into a half-hour delay. And then there are those last minute requests that push us into overtime. Sometimes, it’s our inability to prioritize that causes us to stay late at the office finishing something we could have done earlier.

Whatever the reason you’re leaving late, it’s possible to do a better job getting out of work on time. Here’s how to make it happen:

Ramp up communication. I often have scrambled out the door way past the time I was supposed to stop working. One year, I resolved to leave by 6 p.m., which required starting my day promptly. I talked to my manager about my plan. By doing so, rather than just trying to bolt when no one was looking, I got his buy in. He understood my goals and changed his habits of making late afternoon requests. Managers, customers and co-workers become less likely to drop to-dos on your lap toward the end of the day when you establish a pattern of leaving on time and communicate your schedule.

Understand the consequences. Many times, I have spent double the amount I should on something because I started it when I was tired. Research shows working longer hours doesn’t contribute to higher productivity. In studying a variety of research, the Harvard Business Review found working more than 40 hours a week could make some workers less productive, put them at risk for making mistakes, and create the appearance of poor time-management skills.

Plan your day before arriving at work. I have learned the hard way it’s easy to get distracted by email, social media or talking to co-workers during the day. If you want to leave after eight hours, you need to be efficient within those hours. Rather than go with the flow of the workday, know what you need to get done when you walk in the door. When you plan your workday before you arrive, you should make a psychological commitment to that departure time. Some days may not go as planned. Many will.

Give yourself a 20-minute window for departure. If you wait until 6 p.m. to start packing up, you likely will get delayed by distractions. Once you’ve set your departure time, block out the 20 minutes prior to that time on your calendar to clean up any last daily details.

With some change in habit, you can actually get out the door on time. Of course, you have to believe it is possible — and resolve to make it happen.

For more, read my Miami Herald column on leaving work on time.

If you resolved to leave work on time in 2017, how are things going? Please share your experiences/frustrations/successes below!

How to handle being tired at work

 

Tired

 

This morning I woke up in the pitch dark. I looked outside wanted to go back to bed. My clock said it was time to wake up but my body did not agree. Ugh… Daylight Savings Time just robbed us of an hour of precious, glorious sleep.

Today, I’m dragging myself around sleep deprived. The worst part is some experts say this groggy jet lacked feeling could last all week.

Yep, that’s right…we might be exhausted ALL WEEK.

The worst part is that many people already were exhausted.  Losing an hour of sleep will mean an already tired workforce will be working on even less shut-eye, says Anna Kwok, vice president for Accountemps in Fort Lauderdale, an accounting staffing agency. A study from staffing firm Accountemps found 74% of professionals admitted to already being tired at work, with nearly one-third saying they’re short on sleep very often.

When we’re tired at work, we’re less focused, more grumpy and stand more of a chance of making stupid mistakes. In the Accountemps survey one really tired respondent admitted to deleting a project that took 1,000 hours to put together. Another admitted to falling asleep in front of the boss during a presentation. So embarrassing!

Some people are lucky enough to work at companies, like Ben & Jerry’s, Google and Zappos, that  encourage napping on the job to promote psychological and professional benefits. I bet those nap rooms are going to be busy today!

The rest of us have to find some other way to fight that tired feeling. Here are some ideas:

  • Take occasional breaks. Get away from your desk and walk around the office.
  • Resist cravings for junk food. Instead, keep healthy snacks around to give you stamina
  • Stay hydrated. It is a key factor in staying awake. Try putting ice in your water bottle; the cold water will keep you lively and alert.
  • Work reasonable hours. This is not the week for launching new all-encompassing projects. Staying late while you get adjusted to the time change can lead to mistakes.
  • Sit up. Slouching can lead to fatigue.
  • Use eyedrops. Splashing a couple drops in your eyes will make you feel more refreshed
  • Tug on your earlobes. Yes, this sounded crazy to me, too, when I heard it. But because of acupoints on your ears, this is a way to get the brain going. Worth a try.

(If you need them, there are more ideas at popsugar.com)

As you reach for another cup of coffee today, be patient with yourself. It may take a few days to get your body clock back on track. In the meantime, I’m going to go to bed earlier tonight and I’m going to try to follow Taylor Swift’s advice  and  “shake It off.”

 

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Click here for full infographic

How to Survive A Working Mother Meltdown

Samantha Ettus and I have both had our working mom moments

 

One day at work, I was getting ready to leave for an author’s lunch at my daughter’s elementary school. As I gathered my things, my phone rang. It was a businessman who I had been trying to reach for days to interview for an article. He was headed out of town and willing to give me a few minutes of phone time before he boarded his flight. I sat back down and furiously took notes on my computer. By the time I finished the interview and arrived at my daughter’s classroom, she look as if she wa holding back tears. She already had read her story to the class.

I felt like crud. The guilt overwhelmed me and my meltdown lasted for days. I even considered quitting my job.

Now, 15 years later, my daughter has no memory of that day. Instead, she remembers the many times I was at her elementary class parties, awards ceremonies and field days.

Still, it was so relieving to hear from author Samantha Ettus that many other working mothers also experience that “terrible working mother moment.”  Last week, Samantha Ettus spoke about her new book, The Pie Life:A Guilt-Free Recipe for Success and Satisfaction, at the Broward County Library Literary Lunch. In writing her book, Samantha encountered many working mothers who experience that moment when they miss an event in their child’s life or forget to pack their child something he or she needs for school and the mom melts down, consumed by guilt. As Samantha pointed out, the crazy part is that years later, most children don’t even remember the incident that caused us  guilt and feelings of inadequacy.

Samantha_mockupbook-1In her book, Samantha  offers a key piece of advice: “If you choose to open up the well of guilt, you’ll find that it is bottomless. Guilt is dangerous; it eats up our time and drives poor decisions.”

Yes, guilt drives poor decisions. It drives heat of the moment decisions, and those actions often create problems for us in the long run.

Ettus speaks from experience as  a mother of three. She has learned what I have discovered from balancing work, family, friends and heath and hobbies — to survive with your sanity, you must drop the quest for perfection because it’s an impossible goal.

So then, how do working mothers survive those moments when they feel like a “bad mother” or “bad employee” or when they see another woman soaring and wonder how she has such a put-together life?

Here are five survival tactics:

*Know that everyone has messy moments. “Empathize with yourself until the messy moment passes, at which point you will have the perspective to reflect on it rationally,” Samantha says.

*Make life decisions rationally. Base decisions on goals, values, desires rather than reactions or emotions.

*Define your non negotiables. (Some people make rules such as No work on Sunday. Other say Friday night dinners are untouchable) Once you know your non negotiables, you can set boundaries to protect them, Samantha says.

*Never apologize for working. “You are a role model to your kids. Why would you apologize for that,” Samantha says.

*Talk to another working mother. No one understands the struggle to do it all like another working mother. When your are at a low, the support of a friend who gets it can bring you back up. “Having a healthy slice of friends is essential for your health and happiness,” Samantha says.

Know that every working mother has that moment when she wonders how she can go on, when we feel we have let our child down.  We want to tell our children to remember a wonderful moment instead. (Remember this, not that). But what many mothers don’t realize is that we don’t need to give those instructions. When we do our best to show our children love, holding on to those wonderful memories just happens. Now, that is some incentive to lose the guilt and live The Pie Life.

What work life perks would make your life easier?

Almost weekly, I read about a company that has been one of the best places to work by a magazine or an organization. Some of them have amazing perks and I find myself saying, “Wow, I’d love to work there!” It has made me think about what perks I find most appealing.

Some companies offer onsite day care, making life easier for working parents. Others offer onsite gyms, making it easy to fit exercise into the work day. Then there are those companies that offer massages, merchandise discounts, and unlimited vacation.

As a working mother, I most value a flexible schedule. When I need to come in a little later to attend a parent teacher conference or leave early to take my child trick or treating, having a manager that will allow me some flexibility in my work hours makes all the difference in balancing work and family. To me, that’s the best perk.

My friend who just had a baby values paid parental leave. She is thrilled that her employer not only made her feel comfortable about taking three months off, but also paid her for most of it.  She says that’s the perk that will keep her loyal.

Clearly, the perks we care about depend on our individual circumstances. But there are some that everyone can appreciate.  One company I read about offers on-site employee concierge to handle all of life’s chores. Concierges send packages and flowers, pick up groceries, shop around for the best deals on car insurance, take your car in for service including oil changes, and even stand in line for concert tickets. Now that’s a perk that can help all of us better balance our lives!

While it’s nice to be spoiled by our employers, smart companies use perks to drive engagement. They want us to be happy coming to work and give our jobs our full effort. Sure, salary is a big factor in our job satisfaction, but the right perks can keep us from leaving, or lure us to another employer.

So, it may be time to think about what perks matter most to you. What’s your favorite perk where you work? What perk would be so enticing that you would change jobs to get it?

You may not be working as much as you think you are

It’s 10 p.m. at night and I’m watching The Bachelorette. It’s a silly show but I love it. During commercials, I’m checking work email, clearing out the junk and responding to a few inquiries I didn’t get to during the day.

If you’re like me, you feel like you’re working A LOT. Yet according to the 2016American Time Use Survey, full time workers only put in about 40 hours a week, which is only five minutes more a week than a decade ago.

So, we’re not actually working as much as we think we are…or something else is going on.

In this hyper-connected age, working hours might still be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the hours to do work can stretch from midnight to midnight, with emails zipping through the ether at the convenience of the sender, but not necessarily the recipient, as noted by Nick Coltrain of the Coloradoan.

I tend to interval work, which means I switch from task to task at home and the office, taking care of personal responsibilities and work responsibilities as needed. If your workday is anything like mine, you might sit down in front of your computer screen to start a project and become distracted by a new email. Then, you might work for an hour, and take a quick break to check Facebook.

The switching between personal and business tasks at the workplace has become so habitual that some researchers believe Americans spend as much as two hours of an eight-hour workday doing non-work tasks, whether or not we realize it.  Of course, no one can work 8 hours straight without going crazy. We all need breaks.

I think what makes me feel like I’m working so much is that even when I am at home and not actually working, I still feel the tug of work on my brain. It’s that “always on” feeling that researchers say creates chronic stress and emotional exhaustion and makes us feel like we’re working more all the time.

In our desire for work/life balance, it’s just as difficult to know how much time we spend on leisure activities as work tasks, in part because of the increase in smartphone use. The American Time Use Survey shows Americans spend about five hours a day doing leisure activity, with television watching accounting for more than half of that time. However, many people are like me and watch television with their mobile devices in hand, sporadically checking work email.

When employers ask workers to manually track their work time, productivity improves, according to Fred Krieger, CEO of Scoro, a San Francisco productivity/project management software firm. If you really tracked the hours you worked for a week, how much do you think it would add up to? Do you consider multi-tasking — watching television and checking email to be work or leisure time? It’s kind of tricky, isn’t it? But if we can improve our productivity by tracking our time, it might be worth doing.

What do you think your time diary would reveal about how much you work?

Post Vacation Blues Are Real: Here’s what to do

 

worker on vacation

Vacation is crucial to work life balance. Yet, every time my family and I board a plane to return from vacation, I get a knot in my stomach. I love the restorative part of vacation, waking up to know I have no responsibilities and my only task is to figure out what enjoyable activity I will do each day. But vacation usually goes fast and then it’s time to return to reality.

I am fortunate to return to a career I enjoy. Many people hate their jobs, their bosses, their overall predicaments. I don’t. Yet, I dread going from the high of a vacation to the reality of a routine. I dread the post vacation blues.

So lately, I’ve been reading up on how to avoid post vacation blues, or even just end-of-summer blues. I have figured out a few things to do different this summer. Here is my plan and suggestions:

1. Know the benefit of a break. Whether you are job hunting, thinking of leaving your job or overwhelmed by your job, you need a break. Tell yourself it’s okay to take a vacation and it’s okay not to think about real life responsibilities for a short period of time.  Repeat after me: It’s okay to chill out!

2. Make a game plan for the return. Spend some time coming up with a list of things that you can do after you return that will challenge you intellectually or  physically. Those people who are constantly challenging themselves rarely appear to be depressed or negative, according to Andrew Griffiths and his blog on Inc.  I signed up for an online writing webinar a few days after my return from vacation this year. It gives me a learning opportunity to look forward to that I can fit into my workday.

3. Do more of the things you enjoy. If it’s spending time with your family you enjoy, figure out how to do more of it. If it’s exercising you enjoy, get up early and go bike riding twice a week. If you enjoy working, that’s a good thing, too. What aspects of your job do you like most and how can you do more of those things? Griffiths say some people have a hobby they enjoy like fishing or gardening but the last time they did it was 10 years ago.  The weeks following your vacation are the time to get back into something you enjoy doing. For me, I love reading. I just created a library of books on my iPad waiting to be read on a lounge chair on the beach over the upcoming weekends.

4. Ask someone “how can I help”? Commit to helping someone else either in your workplace, your business network,  your community, your children’s school. If you want to feel uplifted, there is no better way.

5. Get in the right frame of mind.  Sometimes we take ourselves far too seriously and focus on the piece of our lives that we find dull or difficult or exhausting.When you come back from vacation rested and happy, you can use that as motivation to re-examine your work life balance and your outlook. What are the things that made you happy on vacation — sleeping in, touring museums, taking hikes, eating at new restaurants? All those things can be done wherever you live. You just have to make the effort to do them.

6. Change up your routine.  During your first week back from vacation, take a new route to work, sit in a different chair at the dinner table or eat lunch with a different crowd. Small changes often are enough to renew our zest for life.

Vacations are fun because they offer a break from the tedium and familiarity of life, but if you’re miserable being at work or at home, you may want to consider making big changes to feel happier — or just start planning your next vacation!

Fitting Fitness into your Summer Schedule

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(Micaela Stavrinos works out on June 20. She is taking advantage of the longer daylight hours over the summer to attend an outdoor bootcamp. PATRICK FARRELL pfarrell@miamiherald.com)

 

 

All around me in sunny South Florida, I see people in shorts, bathing suits and tank tops. Summer is here and that means more of our bodies are exposed. For me, that's enough incentive to make an extra effort to exercise. Besides, summer brings more daylight hours to get out there and move our bodies. 

So where to begin? How do you motivate yourself and squeeze fitness into your busy life?

Fit it in your work day. Almost every day, Sergio Perez walks to the supermarket from his Miami office to grab lunch, trekking about a mile each way. While the heat can be intense in summer months, Perez, who works 50 to 60 hours a week in financial services, says the routine is the easiest way to squeeze fitness into his work life balance.

Do something you enjoy. Do you like bike riding? How about swimming? Find something you like to do and you will find yourself more motivated. It doesn't need to be grueling.  “It’s not about who works out the hardest or longest. It’s just about do something, most days of the week,” says Chira Cassel, co-founder and director of The Sacred Space Miami, a wellness center in Wynwood.

Do something small every day.  “A lot of women have life responsibilities and run into scheduling problems that make exercising more difficult,” says Tony Musto, director of fitness programs at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “But all it really takes is moderate activity five days a week.
 
Make it convenient. The more convenient your exercise plan, the better chance your routine will stick. Micaela Stavrinos, an administrative assistant at the executive office of University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, used to go to a gym that took an hour to get to with traffic. Because of the hassle, she stopped exercising. Now, instead of heading home from work, Stavrinos uses the longer daylight hours of summer to go to a boot camp at a gym less than a mile from her downtown Miami office and home. Within a half-hour after leaving her office, she has shed work clothes for gym clothes and is running to the nearby stop sign with others in her fitness class. “There are days when I don’t want to go, but it’s close by and I push myself,” Stavrinos says.
 

Be consistent.  Consistency is key to reaching health and fitness goals. Countless studies show that having someone or something keep you accountable for completing a workout will increase your adherence, and your results. Even during summer, life or work easily can get in the way of our quest for the perfect beach body. Using a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit, a fitness app or personal trainer, or even meeting a buddy to exercise can increase your chance of sticking to a fitness plan. It’s really about whatever motivates you and keeps you consistent.

Make it social. I love meeting my friends at exercise class. It motivates me to first show up and then to give it my best. You can combine fitness with family time, too. Talk a walk or a swim with your kids at night. Another idea is to use summer to make your get-togethers active, says Chira Cassel of The Sacred Space Miami. Instead of a business lunch, have a walking or workout meeting. Instead of joining a friend dinner, take a yoga class together in the park: “It’s a nice change of pace to get people out of their comfort zone, and less sitting is better for the body.”

Do it in your workplace or with work buddies.  Some workplaces make exercise convenient and a bonding activity, particularly during summer when the work pace slows. At Kip Hunter Marketing in Fort Lauderdale, the account executives engage in friendly exercise competition using Fitbits and compare their steps weekly. At MBAF, an accounting firm, employees in the Coral Gables office go from their desks to bootcamp in the conference room on Monday nights. Attendance is up in summer. “We all encourage each other to go. It’s fun and easy,” says MBAF Marketing Director Wolfgang Pinther.

Mix it up. Varying your workout routine, and scheduling exercise on your calendar gives you a better chance of follow-through, says Raeah Braunschweiger, a health fitness specialist with the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center in downtown Miami. She suggests trying new trends like barre fitness or belly-dancing: “Find something you find fun. People get stuck in a rut and then start to question why they are doing this.”
 
If you want to read more about Fitness After 40 or Fitting Fitness into Your Work Life Balance, I wrote two additional articles in the last week. 
 
Have a fit summer!

The Work/Life Balancing Act

Tragic death shows why work life balance is important

As a beer lover, my attention was immediately drawn to the recent headline in The Miami Herald:

Founding brewer for MIA Beer Company killed in car crash

I continued on to read the article:

A well-known brewer in Miami’s craft beer scene was killed in a car crash over the weekend.

Piero Rodriguez, one of MIA Beer Company’s founding brewers, was killed in an accident early Sunday, owner Eddie Leon confirmed. He was 34.

“We are completely devastated,” Leon said.

And then, there it was, the paragraph that stood out to me as a warning for anyone who thinks excessive work can't kill you:
 
Rodriguez had been working double shifts, Leon said, brewing in the morning and often tending bar at the brewery at night to make extra money. Friends feared it might have been exhaustion that forced him to lose control of his late-model Acura on Northwest 33rd Street at the tight curve in the 8900 block, just minutes down the street from the brewery. He struck a light pole, wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was ejected, according to police. He was pronounced dead at Kendall Regional Medical Center at 2 a.m. Sunday.

 

Clearly, the ironic part is that Piero was doing a job he loved – he was just doing it too much.

His friends and peers told The Miami Herald It was common to find him at the brewery doing the laborious, scrubbing tanks with punk rock blaring in the background while his son tagged along.

He was living the life he always wanted, his brother Ruy said, albeit cut far too short.

“People should be more positive,” Ruy said, “and pursue their dreams like he did.”

And there, right there, lies the fine line. While it is admirable to pursue your dream and do a job you love, everyone needs balance. Death by overwork is real and it can take your life in different ways. There are health reasons why work life balance is important and repercussions for thinking you can work a little longer or harder before taking time off. Over the years, I've written about people who have dropped dead of exhaustion right at their desks.

According to the Herald, the last thing Piero Rodriguez said as he left work late Saturday night was how much he was looking forward to spending Father’s Day with his young son.

He would never make it home.

That's a cautionary lesson for all of us. Sending my prayers to Piero's family….
 
 
 
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The Work/Life Balancing Act

Working mom takes on a challenge

 

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Like most working mothers, I try to juggle work and family as best as I can. Recently, I decided I want to finish my master’s degree that I started many years ago, before I had children. To do so, I learned I would have to take my Graduate Record Exam (GRE) again.

When I saw the GRE practice tests, my first reaction was HOLY MOLY! That was followed by, “No way can I pass this test!” The math problems involved formulas I haven’t seen for 30 years such as the circumference of a circle and the area of a rectangle. The test has algebra, word problems, geometry. I was completely intimidated. I worried how I would ever find the time and energy to re-learn math concepts.

When I sat down to study, I felt overwhelmed. When I took practice tests, my first time around I got almost every problem wrong. But I was committed. I started to look at the exam differently. I know I will never need to know the circumference of a circle or the volume of a cube after the test is over, but I was proving to myself that I had the ability to learn new things. For the last month, I have spend every spare moment learning how to do math problems and memorizing difficult vocabulary words.

Today I took the actual exam and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. Learning difficult material at 50 years old is one of the biggest challenges I have taken on. Yet, I’m so glad I did because I proved to myself I can handle a challenge.

If you’re thinking of taking on a challenge — academically, professionally, personally —  go for it. It’s a great sense of satisfaction knowing that personal development and work life balance are compatible.

What challenge will you take on before 2016 runs out?

 

 

 

Father’s Day: A working dad’s perspective on work life balance

For Father's Day, I wanted to hear a dad's perspective on work life balance. I know firsthand that work life balance is a struggle for working mothers. But what about for working fathers? Are their challenges the same?

A friend calls Mason Williams a "super dad."  So, I asked Williams to share his thoughts on being a father and finding work life balance.  IMG_0161

What exactly does being a super dad mean these days? Williams explains:

Although he is the Chief Investment Officer/Managing Director for Coral Gables Trust Company, the 38-year-old Williams takes his parenting job equally as seriously. He says his children are his life – two sons, a 6-year-old named Jake and a 3-year-old named Luke. Williams, has been married for nine years to his wife, Ana Lucia, who is a stay at home mom. Ana Lucia makes most of the household decisions, but Williams says he's equally involved in the decisions regarding their children, so much so that he recently listed his son getting into a magnet program at the elementary school as a personal accomplishment on a recent awards nomination. 

While Williams' job is set up to be 9 to 5, it extends well beyond those hours. Often, he works 10-hour days. "We're small and entrepreneurial so it comes with the territory," Williams explains. "You have to make an impact all the time for the business to grow. It can wear on you at times, trying to find balance between work and being there for your kids. I struggle but I think it's important to find ways to be with them."

Like most professionals, Williams can't help but check email on the weekends. It's the best time to trade ideas with his colleagues, he says. "With the iphone, email is at your at fingertips and it's hard to put it down."

As the sole provider for his family, Williams says he puts expectations on himself that fathers of prior generations may not have experienced. Professionally, there is pressure on him to "do what I need to do at the office." At the same time, he also feels pressure to help at home. "When I'm not at the office I feel like I have an obligation to help with the children so my wife can take a break."

Williams realizes his generation of fathers are raising children in an era when technology has made parenting easier and more challenging. On one hand, parenting advice is at their fingertips. On the other, work is always in your pocket.  "I think it's far more stressful," he says. "My parents did not have a Blackberry or iPhone. They could shut down. It's harder for us to concentrate on our home lives when we're home, so that's added stress."

Of course, that's not Williams' only stressor. He says like any parent, his challenge is learning to stop, take a breath and spend time with his family. "I have to tell myself that project at work, or that email can wait. Prioritizing is huge challenge and I have had to learn when to put family ahead of work. I know if I help out at home, I have a happy wife and I have learned happy wife equals happy life."

Williams says as a parent, he gets involved with the time management of his children and the activities they take on. "I'm teaching my son why he should do homework first, so he has free time afterward."  Both the Williams boys are involved in sports, something Williams encourages. "We want them to be active. Our oldest is doing swimming and golf. Our youngest is doing soccer and swimming." One day, Williams even envisions an athletic scholarship for college for his sons like the one their mother, an avid golfer, received years ago.

With all the challenges dads take on today, Williams admits their children's accomplishments become that much more of their own personal achievements. Williams proudly tells me his son Jake has just been accepted to the Sunset Elementary magnet program for Spanish. 

Yes, fathers today are pulling the double duty that mothers did for decades — and while it's a tough, they are reaping the rewards in the close relationships they are forming with their children.

Keep up the good work fathers, and enjoy your special day. Happy Father's Day to all the super dads out there!

 

 

The Work/Life Balancing Act