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My Obamacare Experience

I usually use this space to write about my adorable (I’m slightly biased) children and my eternal search for DaddyBalance.  Today, I thought I’d write and give you a Obamacare Experience from someone on the front lines of the issue.

Let’s start with a little background.  I’m a small business owner.  I’m structured as a sole proprietorship, all of my income comes through on a 1099. I have two W-2 employees, both work part-time.  I don’t provide health insurance for my employees and am not obligated to do so through Obamacare.  My wife stays home and cares for our boys, so I purchase my health insurance on my own.  I currently pay about $400/month for a high deductible ($7,500) plan for my family of 5 (wife, and 3 boys, ages 7,4, &1).  This plans provides us with good care and we pay out-of-pocket for most items.  A doctor’s visit is somewhere between $80-$140/visit.  Prescriptions run between $20-$60/piece.  We utilize a HSA to pay for most of our costs, and generally, I’m OK with this plan.  It’s not great, but it isn’t a disaster.

Let me also share with you my politics, because for this discussion, in the current environment, it matters.  I consider myself an Independent.  I’ve voted for Democrats and Republicans.  I lean fiscally conservative, while I’m more progressive on social issues.  I find myself in the middle most of the time.  The more extreme a position or politician, the less likely I’ll follow or listen.  I believe we are American first, Republican/Democrat a distant second. 

I’ve been curious about Obamacare from the start.  As you can tell, I spend a lot of money on healthcare and health insurance.  Between the $4,800 annual premium and the $7,500 deductible (which I hit this year due to my son’s epilepsy, which you can read about here), my total out-of-pocket (which I calculate by adding my monthly premium and my deductible) is around $12,300, or about $1,000/month. 

I was curious to see if my premiums would go down.  Would I qualify for a policy with a lower deductible? How about those subsidies, would they apply to me? Would I want to hold onto my current policy or head onto the exchange?

So on October 1st, the day the exchanges opened, I was on it, ready to go.  Let me be the first, or possibly the 500th person to tell you, the website is awful.  I’m 35 years old, I’ve been shopping on websites for most of my adult life, and this was the worst experience I’d ever had.  I tried to access the site everyday for about two weeks.  Each time I was stalled on at different step in the process.  First I couldn’t log on, then I couldn’t enter my family’s information, then I couldn’t see my results.  On and on it went until I just gave up. 

Fast forward to the 28th of October.  After logging onto Helthcare.gov, I finally, for the first time, was able to see my results.  Now, it’s still the clunkiest consumer website I’ve ever come across…it’s terribly slow, glitchy and user UNfriendly, but I found the information I was looking for, and have begun to answer some of my questions.

First, I don’t qualify for any subsidies.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, I make too much money to qualify.  I had 22 policies to choose from, but from only 2 companies, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield and Coventry.  (Coventry, by the way, did not appear to have either my primary doctor or my kids pediatric doctor available.) I compared two policies, a bronze and gold, both offered through Anthem.  I did not see many differences in coverage between the two policies, other than the gold offered child dental, whereas the bronze policy did not.  Most of the other comparison services (ie pain management, pregnancy, depression, etc) were the same.

The cost for the bronze plan is about $700/month with a $15,000 deductible.  That’s a 75% increase in my monthly premium and a 100% increase in my deductible.  My total out-of-pocket (using the same formula as before) goes from my current $12,300 to $22,000, or about an 80% increase.  I can still use my HSA, and there are some eye doctor services that I would be getting under this new policy that I don’t currently have.

The cost for the gold plan is about $1300/mo with a $1,500 deductible.  This policy offers some dental coverage, for my kids only.  Once again, there is not a lot of difference in the covered services between my current policy, the bronze policy or this gold policy.

I have two major take aways. 

First, I don’t see a big difference in coverage between bronze, silver and gold policies.  What I do see is a big difference in monthly premium.  The 3 level metal system seems a bit disingenuous.  My assumption was that gold policies offered substantially more coverage, hence they would be more expensive.  Along that same thought, I figured you could have large deductible (HSA eligible) gold policies, and vice versa, small deductible (HSA ineligible) policies available in the bronze arena, but that’s not the case.  From what I can tell, each of the policies offer most of the same services (90% or so), the major difference is whether I want to pay a smaller premium or higher deductible.

Second, I want to keep my current policy!  If I’m not getting substantial better coverage, why would I want to be forced onto the exchange?  My current policy is not a “catastrophic” policy, it’s good coverage and a much lower premium and deductible. 

I recently received a letter from my current insurance company.  They told me they were in the process of reviewing my policy and would let me know if they were going to cancel by the end of the year.  I’ll hold out hope, but I’m not encouraged.  I’ll keep you posted.

If you are interested in learning more about my Healthcare.gov experience, shoot me a note or make a comment, I’ll do my best to answer.

UPDATE: A letter arrived yesterday to inform me that my policy will cancelled Feb 23rd.

Happy 7th Birthday, Henry. (The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Written)

 

You is kind.
You is smart.
You is important.
– The Help

Oct 1, 2006

I remember two things about the day you were born, son. The first is that it was a Sunday and the St Louis Rams were playing on TV. When your mother and I arrived at the hospital the evening before, I realized that our in-room TV had only 3 channels. Wondering if this was 1986 or 2006, I was happy to pass the time that Sunday afternoon watching football. I had one eye on the game and one eye on you as you made your much-anticipated entrance. The second thing I remember is that after you were born, I went out to get your mom some dinner. It was late, and on my way back to the hospital, I stopped at a local gas station and bought a 6 pack of beer. I wish I could say this was a spur-of-the-moment act by an over-joyed new father, looking to make a celebration. The truth is, it was pre-meditated. So much so, in fact, that as your mother prepared for your arrival by filling  her Mother- To-Be suitcase with your first onesie, pacifiers and stuffed animals, I was preparing by being sure I had a cooler in the trunk of the car. I knew, 36 hours before you were born, that I would need a way to sneak booze into your hospital room. As you took your first sips of milk, I was downing Bud Lights.

Oct 1, 2010

I snapped the above video  on October 1st, 2010, your 4th birthday. There is nothing particularly unique about this video, except that I don’t remember taping it. Earlier that day, I participated in a local charity golf tournament. The 11:00am shotgun start was also my signal to crack open the first beer. I drank all day and won that tournament. About the time I should have been celebrating the 4th anniversary of your birth with candles and cake,  I was toasting my victory with a bottle of red wine. The next morning, I awoke to see that I had posted this video on my Facebook page.  As I stared at the screen, watching you and your brother, Charlie, run around the house, I knew something had to change. If I kept this up, I thought, I might not see your 5th, let alone 7th birthday. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that would be the last time I was ever drunk.

The following Monday, I entered a library, found a book titled “The Best Life Diet”, and checked it out. At first, I thought I needed to get in shape, which I did. What the book taught me  was there was a bigger reason why I struggled with my weight.  The diet suggested that I take 30 days off from drinking. I did, and it was the best month of my life. I found energy, time and you. I found your brother and your mother and it  was amazing. Shortly thereafter, I decided I wasn’t going to drink anymore.

Oct 1, 2013

Today marks the 3 year anniversary of that golf tournament, and I’ve been sober ever since. With this confession today, people will treat me differently, they may treat you differently, as well. Unfortunately, we’ll be judged. It would be easy to continue to give half answers to direct questions as to why I no longer drink. After all, why endanger the relationships I’ve worked so hard to build?  Why not keep this our little secret?  A pact between a father and son, never to be told, never to be repeated.

The answer lies in why I’m writing to you today.

Henry, there will come a time when you are asked to stand up for what you believe in, to stand up to a crowd of “nay-sayers” & “cannots”. There will be a time you are made to feel the outcast, like you don’t belong.  The fear will overwhelm you like a boat against the power of the tide, paddling as the waves crash upon you. Exhausted, you will be asked to find the courage to rise above and be yourself. And at that moment, when you feel the urge to turn to me and say, “Dad, I can’t”. I want you to think back to your 7th birthday, when your father sat down in front of a computer and proclaimed to any who would listen, “My name is Greg Younger and I’m an alcoholic.”

On a day we celebrate your birth, I want to thank you for giving me life.

Happy 7th Birthday, Henry. (The most important thing I’ve ever written)

How Do You Raise a One-Armed Boomerang?

When I was 18, my parents asked me what I wanted for graduation. I thought and pondered, pondered and thought. What I really wanted, above all else, was my freedom. I didn’t want to live at home anymore, my only issue was money, I didn’t have any. I devised a plan and presentation, complete with notes and figures. For graduation, I told my parents, I wanted to move out of the house. I would agree to take a class at the local college, work nights to cover my cost of living, if they would fit the bill for the apartment. Knowing that I’d be attending the University of Kansas in Lawrence after the summer, I figured this would be a great “test-run” of the college life. I even called around and found a local complex allowing for 3 month leases. After reviewing my proposal, my parents agreed, and the lease was signed.

That summer and the “Party Apartment” (as it became known) were on my mind when I heard about the “Rising Share of Young Adults living in Their Parents Home“. Apparently, at the end of 2012, 36% of young adults age 18-31 lived with their parents…36%! They are commonly called Boomerang Kids. Sent out of the house for a short while, only to return, like a boomerang, years later. That’s an amazing statistic. As a parent, it’s scary thought. I have three boys, Henry, Charlie & Max, ages 7, 4 & 1. How do I raise three One-Armed Boomerangs that fly straight through life, never making that u-turn back to my basement?

No child dreams of growing up and living with their parents. And, of course, there are situations when living at home, or needing help from a parent is the only choice. I’ve leaned on my parents plenty. But how do I raise my boys to value responsibility?

I’ve heard it said, from parent to child, “Do as I say, not as I do”. I verbalize how I want my boys to act. “Do your homework,” “Be nice to your friends,” “Clean up your room,” “Eat your vegetables.” Each instruction, outwardly describing a behavior I want to instill in my child. Yet, I often wonder, is it my actions, not my words, that are being heard?

Maybe the secret to breaking the arms of my little Boomerangs is to look inward, not speak outward, and examine how closely aligned my actions are to my words. Do I take my work seriously? Am I nice to the people I meet? How healthy do I live my life? Maybe if I want my boys to be disciplined, healthy, and keep a clean room, I should demonstrate constraint, eat right and take care of my belongings. Want a child to be good with money? Ask yourself, “How good am I with dollars and cents?” Want a child to listen, do less talking. Want a child less dependent on you, become less dependent on others. (See: Parents, Grand) Sure, it’s possible to live a life out of balance, only to see your own child choose a life in contrast to your own, but more often than not, it won’t happen.

The most important attribute I can demonstrate is the desire to become better and grow. I am not a not perfect parent, perfect son, perfect boss, but I can be better. Working on ourselves might be this life’s greatest challenge. Yet, it’s a choice, and it’s a behavior that will be learned by my children, and that’s a great thing. Because if I do nothing else but demonstrate a life-long lust to making myself a better person, and my sons only learn that one teaching, how can I fault myself for who they become?

1996 was a great summer, living in that one-bedroom apartment in West Wichita, working nights at Chili’s, and drinking on a fake ID. I aced that English 101 class and left for college later that summer, never to return. I have my parents to thank for raising this one-armed boomerang. And to my sons Henry, Charlie & Max…I don’t care what your presentation looks like, I’m not renting you an apartment for graduation!

Charlie Goes Skylander Hunting

I didn’t play many video games growing up. I spent my days outside; throwing balls against the house and breaking windows. My next door neighbor, Petey, had all the games. After school, I’d sometimes head over to his house and watch him play his Nintendo. Usually, after a few games, I’d get bored and head back outside. It’s hard to say whether my sons will become “gamers”, like Petey or “outsiders” like me. We own a Wii and the boys have recently become interested in a game called Skylanders. They are hot and cold on the game, it usually depends on the day and whether their friends are outside. But I do know this…my kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to watch videos on the Ipad. In particular, they love to watch toy videos.

When I was growing up, we had the JCPenny catalog. Every month or so we’d get this inch-thick book in the mail and I’d go through the toy pages, line by line, soaking up all the new toys and dreaming. I loved imagining that I could only have one toy on each page. I would go back and forth, in my mind, trying to decide which of the Star Wars, Transformers or Thundercat figurines I wanted for Christmas. So I understand my sons infatuation with the YouTube toy videos, it’s like the JCPenny catalog on steroids.

In particular, my boys love a video series called EvanTubeHD. Evan is a 7-year-old boy who does toy reviews of all the latest games. If you’ve got small children, it’s worth a look. You can see it here. The series is very PG and Evan’s father plays a prominate role in the series. My boys can sit down and watch EvanTubeHD for hours. And they are constantly asking me to make a video of them, just like “EvanTubeHD”.

Fast forward to Labor Day, 2013. Charlie, my 4-year-old, has been on a year-long potty training escapade. (Read about how it all started here). Charlie tends to go a few days without accidents, then he’ll “mail it in” for a day and have several potty-in-the-pants moments. In an effort to get Charlie focused, we decided to create a “Potty Challenge”. If Charlie could go seven days without an accident, I’d take him shopping for a new Skylander. As an added bonus, I told him I’d take a video of him and put it on YouTube. It took Charlie some time, but he finally made it seven days without incident. What follows is our first CharlieTubeHD video. Enjoy!

Le Petit Problème

“Daddy?”

“What, Charlie?”

“I need to go potty.”

“Of course you do…we’re late for the doctor, so you’re gonna just have to hold it.”

“But I can’t…I need to go now!”

“We can’t stop, Charlie, just hold it”

“DADDY!, PLEASE!”

The stoplight is red.  My steering wheel knuckles are white. Many miles away and very few minutes to spare lies the doctor’s office.  We had intended to leave 15 minutes earlier, but my wife was late.  Not that it would have mattered.  I was not ready.  Work piling up. Deadlines missed.  Soccer practices, baby’s not sleeping, family in town, medicine not adminstered, work to be completed, laundry to be folded, quality time to be scheduled, red lights staying red and red and red and red…

“Daddy…….Daddy……Daddy?”

“CHARLIE, JUST HOLD IT, GODDAMN IT!”

The intesnity of the scream startled even myself as I thought…”I supose I could have handled that better.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Petit Mal Seizures

A few weeks back, my wife told me that she  had begun to see Charlie, my four-year-old son, “space-off” from time to time and she asked if we should be concerned.  Shortly there-after, I saw one of these “space-off” moments for myself.  Basically, Charlie was mid-sentence at the dinner table, stopped, stared off into space for a few seconds, and then was back to normal.  At first, I didn’t think much of it and told Lindsey not to worry.  Charlie has a habit of getting ahead of himself, and I felt this was just an example of his brain working a little “over-time” to catch up with his thoughts.

Of course, these moments did not stop, and Lindsey continued to express concern to me, but since I wasn’t seeing them, I didn’t think much of it.  On Friday (6/28/13) afternoon, I was home from work early and Charlie finally had one of these moments right in front me…Once again, he was mid-sentence, broke it off, (“Daddy, Daddy, for my birthday, can we……………..”) but this time, it lasted for a while, maybe 10-12 seconds.  I knew right then what my wife new six weeks ago…this wasn’t good or normal.

Being the 21st century parents that we are, we Googled it.  The internet in these instances can be both a blessing and curse.  Our minds were filled with all types of crazy scenarios, but the diagnosis that we kept coming back to was a type of epilepsy called “Absence Seizures” (Also known as Petit Mal Seizures).  We called the doctor and they asked us to come in the next day (a Saturday).

Time slowed down, Saturday arrived.  Lindsey and I arranged for a sitter to watch Henry & Max, while Charlie, her and I went to see our pediatrician.  After a brief consultation he told us an EEG was needed and that we would have one scheduled on Monday.  And that was that.

The weekend was tough.  We were filled with all sorts of emotions and feelings.  As an added bonus, Charlie began to complain about a ringing in his ear, telling me at

Charlie 1

one point, “Daddy, my ears don’t work.”  I think Lindsey & I both wanted to learn more, but staying off The Google was a difficult, yet necessary task.  Spending too much time there, when you don’t know the diagnosis, can send you into madness.

Monday arrived and the doctor called first thing in the morning.  The EEG had been scheduled for 9am on Wednesday. And that was that.

The instructions were to keep Charlie up about an hour later the night before and try to wake him up an hour early.  Lindsey and decided that I would take Charlie to the exam while Lindsey stayed home with the other two kids.

I was up early on Wednesday and had Charlie up by 6. We left for the exam around 7.  The morning was unusually mild (mid 60’s) and Charlie needed a sweatshirt to keep warm.  The hardest part was keeping him awake in the car.  We headed to the hospital (about 40 min drive) and found a breakfast place close by.

After a grilled cheese breakfast (I might be Father of the Year), I realized that the appointment was still 30 minutes away.  I found a park close to the hospital and Charlie had a blast exploring the new surroundings.

Charlie 2

The time had finally come to head to the hospital.  The waiting room was filled with toys, kids, and stressed parents.  The eyes in that room is scene I will never forget.  So much sadness.

The wait was not long and soon we were being led to the examination room.

The EEG lasted about an hour and included Charlie sitting on my lap as the nurse (Roslynn) placed about 15 nodes on his head.  Charlie watched a show (“Good Luck Charlie”, you can’t make this stuff up!) on the Disney channel as the lights were dimmed.  The nurse came in and out a few times and Charlie did great.

After the exam, a gentleman named Brad came in, and nervously said, “Hi, Mr. Younger.  We don’t usually do this, but based on the exam results, we thought we should discuss the results with you immediately”.   Charlie, still on my lap, felt like 100lbs and the white walls of the exam room seemed to close in on me…time slowed down and I feared the worst.

Charlie 4

Brad went onto to tell me that since it was the day before the Holiday (July 3rd), and that results of the EEG had shown clear indications of activity, he had called our pediatrician and gotten the OK to share the results with us today.  Further, he informed us that the neurologist had been watching the results in real time in his office and was also consulted.  He had clearly seen indications of “Absence Seizures”, and felt we should know ASAP. 

My heart was racing, but the results were both what we expected and actually were the best results we could hear.  You can learn more about Absence Seizures here: http://www.epilepsyfoundation.org/aboutepilepsy/seizures/genconvulsive/absenceseizures/Charlie 5

You can also watch a pretty good video of an example of these seizures here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xE6N0Da8Ce0

Basically, Charlie experiences short seizures many times a day (50-150).  The nurse told me she stopped counting during the exam, but probably had five or six seizures during the thirty minute EEG. They last anywhere between 2-30 seconds and don’t cause any harm to Charlie.  The biggest concern is that he might fall on the stairs or on the playground.  Also, we must watch him in the water, as a brief loss of consciousness may cause issues.

It was a long morning and the sleep deprivation was more than Charlie could handle as he passed out in the car on the way home.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Honey, it’s OK, we’re not that late”  My wife said as she gently touched my arm.

I took a deep breath and the stop light finally turned green. 

“Charlie, there’s a QuickTrip up ahead, how about we stop there and you can go potty, sound good?

“Yes…but hurry, I really have to go.”

“Ok, I’ll hurry.  How about this, you look out the window and as soon as you see the QuickTrip sign, yell as loud as you can, just like Daddy did, OK?”

“Ok, Daddy.”

I gassed the Volkswagen Minvan and we raced ahead.

“Do you see the sign?” I asked.

“No.” Charlie quietly replied.

I went faster and we got closer.  I saw the sign in the distance and asked again, “Charlie do you see it now?”

“No.”

I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw Charlie looking intently out the window, holding himself with both hands, while his legs jiggled like butterly wings.  I peered out and saw the QT sign fast approaching.  Pleading now, I asked “Charlie, do you see the sign?”

“No”

Again, I gassed the van, our heads bumped against the headrests, the gas station was close now…”Charle, don’t you see it!”

“Daddy, do you hear me yelling?” Charlie asked.

Puzzled, I responded, “No”.

“Then I can’t see the sign”.

My wife and I smiled as I finally made the turn into the Quicktrip parking lot.  Charlie hopped out and we were off and running to the potty, crisis averted.

A little while later, we were at the doctor’s office (only a couple of minutes late) for Charlie’s check up.  It’s now been 5 weeks since the EEG.  He’s been on medincine and the seizures have almost completly gone away.  The doctor gave Charlie a great report and the prognosis is very good.  The bottom line is that he should grow out of these in a few years time and it does not appear to be turning into anything greater.  This is a small problem and we are truly blessed that it isn’t something more serious.  Even the ringing in his ears has stopped and we’ve got our Charlie back.

These type of events teach you many things.  Most notably, I must remember that all the small problems don’t matter.  What does matter is your kids and your family. Charlie’s clarity of thought refreshes me.  We can and should refuse to listen to the small stresses in this world.  Deadlines are usually self imposed.  The laundry always get done, the red light always turns green.  Being a few minutes late will not impact the outcome.  When the world is pestering us like an overbearing father racing a white mini van towards a Qicktrip, let’s say, “Do you hear me yelling?  No?  Then I can’t see your stresses”.

Thanks for your thoughts, prayers and support.  Now, let’s go Enjoy The Day!

Embrace The Velcro

This post orginally published as part of a writer’s series called “5 Things for New & Expectant Fathers”.  See the orginal here & be sure to check out www.playgrounddad.com for lots of cool Daddy Stuff!

I have three boys under the age of 6. I’m knee deep in action heroes, Thomas the Train, diapers and spit up, so believe me when I say there’s a lot that was never revealed to me as an expecting parent. The level of craziness in your home grows slowly, child by child as they age and get active. It takes reflection to realize how calm and independent your life was pre-kids. With that in mind, here are some things to think about as you embark on this journey known as Fatherhood.

#1 – Consider A Career Change
I’d like you to take stock of whatever career you’ve chosen and begin to think real hard about learning to make baby formula or batteries. Both are obscenely expensive and cannot be found in the “used aisle” or dollar store. I often wonder why Walter White from Breaking Bad decided to cook meth when he could have made infinitely more money, and garnered much less hazards, had he just learned the chemical reactions that yield baby formula. If you’re not 100% satisfied with the life you’ve chosen, or the amount of money you make, trust me, and take a long look at batteries & baby formula.

#2- You Will Lose the Sock Battle
Treat everyone of your child’s socks likes it’s the last time you’ll ever see them again. After the pair of socks enters the wash cycle, they will disappear and you will find it nearly impossible to find an exact pair. Enter any preschool in America, and ask the kids to take off their shoes, you will find that not one single pair matches. You will lose this battle; don’t even spend the energy trying. You will, of course, not believe me and in an attempt to deceive the Sock Gods, buy different colors, styles, try rubber band techniques, search Pintrest for clever solutions…but it won’t work, the Sock Gods will always win. Go teach your kid how to read or ride a bike…it’s a much better use of your parental energy.

#3 – Let’em cry it out
Look guys, your kids will start to control your lives from the second they are born. It’s in their genetic makeup to push the boundaries and try to get away with anything and everything. Nothing personifies this like sleeping habits. Unless you want an hour long nightly routine or a child that walks before they sleep through the night, you better embrace the “cry it out” methodology. A little crying never hurt anyone, and the end result is you sleeping more, so let’em cry.

#4 – It ain’t cheap if it breaks
I hate to sound like your 85 year old grandma, but the truth is the truth. Head to your local “Toys R Us” and you’ll find a Thomas the Train figurine selling for $12.00 or the whole set selling for $99.99. At which point, you might ask yourself “why is this sooo expensive?”…I’ll tell you why…your kids are gonna treat these toys like a rag doll and yet it’ll still usable after 10 years. This is especially true for outdoor toys…nothing ruins a nice afternoon quite like the wheel coming off that piece of crap scooter you bought for lil’ Joey’s birthday. Buy quality. Short term pain is long term gain.

#5 – Zippers & Velcro were created not to be ignored
After your child is born and you’ve experience about 3 months of sleep deprivation and you and The Wife are battling the dreaded “Eye-Twitch”, and its 4:00am, you don’t want to deal with buttons…it’s hard enough to jumble with those tiny diapers, throw in 46 random buttons that NEVER align correctly, and you’ll be wishing for that zipper. As for Velcro, you’ll quickly find that your life as a parent is a constant battle of the dressing and undressing of your children. The knots and double knots, and broken strings and tripping and tripping….there’s no need for it! Embrace The Velcro, fathers, Embrace The Velcro.

Image Credit: Helen Harrop

Use These 5 Parenting Tips To Become a Better Leader

I was a leader before I was a parent.  Starting as a sales manager and continuing as a small business owner, I developed my leadership skills before entering into the daunting world of parenting.  I tend to growth exponentially when challenged.  As I juggle roles and projects, I learn about myself and am forced to become more efficient to succeed.  Now, as a parent, I find myself challenged in whole new way.  Challenged to work smarter, not harder, learn to perform at a high level, while creating balance.  What I’ve really found is that my role as a parent is making me a better leader.  Here’s 5 ways:

1. Eat Dinner as a family

Growing up, my family almost always ate together  around the dinner table. As we got older, it became harder to accomplish, especially on a daily basis, but my mother insisted on us eating as a family as often as we could. As a parent, I want the same thing for my family. Sitting at the dinner table allows us to “check-in”…ask about our days and connect. As a leader, you should be doing the same thing with all of your employees. I have frequent one-to-one’s with my staff in order to lay the ground work for the week, hold us accountable to our goals and ensure that we are on the right path. As leaders and parents, we need to stay connected, because our lives get busy.

2. Parent Every Child Different

Some kids stare off into space, while others can’t stop moving. Some listen to direction, while others fight you tooth and nail. How we parent will always depend on the child. Each one has certain gifts and abilities, as parents, we should identify those abilities and parent accordingly. This applies to our staff as well. As leaders, we must understand the strengths and weakness of our team, so we can put our staff in a position to win. Of course, rules are rules, and you’ll get nowhere if you’re always playing favorites. But understanding how much rope you can give an employee will help you develop their abilities at a faster pace, while creating a more productive team.

3. Make time for Mom & Dad

Parenting is hard, it can feel chaotic and tornadic at times.  It can be easy to lose perspective and take your frustrations out on your partner. In order to be a great parent, you’ve got to have balance.  That balance should include whatever it takes for you and your partner to feel re-energized.  Date nights, golfing with your buddies, or a day at the spa…it doesn’t matter, just as long as the kids are not involved!  As an organizational leader, you must take time away from your role in order to gain perspective and plan your future accordingly. At least once a quarter, I head out to a restaurant or coffee shop and plan my goals for all the organizations I lead.  This allows me to hit the “reset” button and identify exactly where I want to take my groups. This also allows me to gain perspective on which team members are playing the biggest role in our success, and thank them accordingly.

4. Do as I Say, Not as I Do

You don’t have to be a parent very long to figure out this doesn’t work!  The first time your child says a cuss word, or screams “why do I have to go to bed, you and mommy get to stay up!”, you realize that your parental actions will often be listened to more acutely than any direction that may come out of your mouth.  This absolutely applies to the work environment. I recognize that my staff watches what I do just as much as they listen to what I say.  Do you want your team to be organized, efficient, and proactive? Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you posses those traits, the answer could be telling.

5. Have Dance Parties

Come by my house on any random Saturday night and you’ll hear the volume turn up and see my family dancing around the living room.  We laugh, we smile, we dance! My wife and I will always value having fun with our kids. You may not find it appropriate to have dance parties at the office, but you should be looking to have fun, however you see fit. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, maybe buy some pizza’s one day to say Thank You or sponsor a toy drive for the Holidays…anything that allows for a little fun and connection goes along way towards creating a great working environment.  Don’t forget that the office can get very stale, it’s your job as the leader, to ensure that doesn’t happen…so get out there and dance!

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