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The Profession and Parenting: Strategies for Making it Work

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January 14, 2020

By Danielle Kleber, ATC

As an Athletic Trainer (AT) it can be a challenge to balance work and family life due to the long hours and irregular schedules. In this series, we will present stories about ATs who successfully juggle their professional and personal lives, and we feature real stories from AT parents who “make it work.”

Danielle Kleber, ATC, is the Vice President of Operations at Athletes’ Training Center Sports Performance and Physical Therapy. Her husband is also an AT, and they are parents to a 6-year-old daughter. Kleber took the time to share how she makes everything work in a recent Q&A.

Board of Certification: What’s your current role, and how long have you been with your employer?

Danielle Kleber: For the last 10 years, I’ve been the Vice President of Operations at Athletes’ Training Center Sports Performance and Physical Therapy. I also provide athletic training services to a small high school on Friday nights for their varsity football games, as well as work some per diem opportunities.

BOC: Can you tell us a little bit about your home life?

DK: I’m married to Bill Kleber who is an AT for a high school. We have one daughter in first grade. She is starting her third year of ballet and just started piano lessons. In the fall, she is involved in soccer, and in the spring, she is part of the track club.

BOC: Describe a typical day.

DK: I find that each day brings something different, and I manage an ever-shifting list of projects, priorities and people at home, work and volunteer roles. I am fortunate that I have some flexibility to my current position and can adjust work time to fit around other priorities. However, sometimes the lack of routine can also create challenges.

From a personal perspective, I am handling almost all aspects of our home life, so as a busy working mom it can get quite complicated. In general, my day includes time in my office, picking my daughter up from school and getting to activities or commitments. I then handle dinner and evening routines, work on family or work tasks and spend a little quiet time right before bed to reflect on the day and pray.Interspersed in all of that is trying to stay ahead on picking things up around the house, running errands and keeping the little things organized.

On the outside, the company I work for looks like a medium sized business with two impressive facilities and a group of phenomenal professionals and support staff. On the inside, we function very much like a small business where a few people shoulder the bulk of the work that is not daily task oriented or related to patient or client care.

On any given day, I may work on a variety of things. For example, managing staff, developing business relationships and pursuing growth opportunities for the company. I also handle our IT needs, facility maintenance, developing a new service or solution for our customer base, marketing activities, insurance and billing decisions, and strategic planning and revenue accountability. In addition, there are things that come up which require immediate problem solving. Some examples of that might be, the server goes down, the roof is leaking, an update to our electronic medical records has caused issues needing immediate resolution, or something happens that moves quickly up the priority list.

There are things I value about the profession of athletic training, and one of those is how well I am suited to the type of work I do now—even though I am not heavily involved in clinical practice as I was at one time. I am the jack of all trades, the problem solver, the “MacGyver,” the critical thinker and the person who can connect with all different groups of people.

BOC: What are some strategies you used to make your professional and personal life work?

DK: I have a life that includes all sorts of variables from making time for my family to volunteering in service to our state association. This can also include anything from meeting the demands of my career to helping aging parents to carving out some quiet time to focus on my faith. I believe all ATs and parents are constantly shifting priorities and attending to the needs and wants of our lives. For me, keeping my foundational principles out in front of me is a good use of my energy and focus. I then partner that with regular inventories of how I’m doing in all of the areas combined. I believe striving to achieve the perfect balance makes my life more stressful. I let the natural ups and downs and all arounds complement each other, rather than striving for the elusive state of work/life balance.

In terms of actual strategies, it’s a combination of things. Most importantly, I am very lucky to have a supportive extended family which help an immense amount. That allows me to continue to spend time on the sidelines on Friday nights or serve my role on our state association board. This is all while my husband is attending to the demands of his high school athletic training role. I know someday my daughter will have some incredible memories of those special Friday nights with her aunt.

I use technology to assist with a personal organization and time management system I’ve developed and refined over the years. Those systems are the lynchpin to keeping everything on track and when they are streamlined by technology it pays huge dividends.

For many years, I’ve used Outlook and the calendar on my phone, but for me that’s the tip of the iceberg. I use Evernote, which I use to collect notes for planning a birthday party, keeping travel and meeting notes for an upcoming continuing education trip, documenting notes from a meeting or conference call, or any number of items in my life. This tool works for me regardless of whether I’m on my phone, working in my office on my laptop or traveling with access to the internet.

I use Followup.cc to keep my inbox manageable by routing emails to times or dates where I need to see them again or will be in a better place to work on them. This tool was insanely useful when I served as president of the Nebraska Athletic Trainers’ Association (NSATA) and needed to keep track of various committee work and board items. I also use Trello to keep my tasks for all the roles I play organized and making sure I’m making decisions about the next actionable step.

Another key strategy for me is to apply creativity to nearly everything I do. It helps to create purposeful quality time with my daughter. We can be two pirates going on a treasure hunt for buried treasure, and she doesn’t notice I’m picking up items and taking them back to the rooms in which they belong. We may be running an errand, so she is my navigator using Google maps while we’re talking about landmarks, directions, famous explorers, different modes of travel from history, or anything she enjoys learning. Don’t get me wrong, there are times she has to find her own fun so I can get a few things done. In those times, she has learned to use her own imagination. She also has responsibilities including pitching in to help in various household tasks.

BOC: What is your greatest achievement as an AT?

DK: I don’t feel like I have one shining moment that I would credit as my greatest achievement. I am proud that so many of the little moments have built upon each other to create a body of work where I have impacted the lives of so many patients and their families, young professionals and the profession of athletic training in my state. If I had to choose one of those smaller moments, it would be reaching my goal to be the president of the NSATA.

BOC: What is the best part of your day?

DK: The best part of my day is when I get that first cup of coffee. Mornings can be very different every day for me and that is the one constant that feeds into my need for order. I might be spending time at home eating breakfast with my daughter, driving through hectic traffic somewhere, working away at my desk, covering a Saturday morning scrimmage, or in the middle of a lake on a kayak. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I can enjoy that first cup of coffee and it centers everything.

BOC: What advice would you give a fellow AT who might be struggling balancing their career and parenting?

DK: The best advice would be to shift their frame of thought to tap into their natural strengths as an AT. As ATs, we are fantastic problem solvers and are often asked to be flexible when things are not going according to plan. We are also really good at listening and communicating. If we can extrapolate those strengths into other areas of our lives, it’s a powerful combination.

This article was originally featured in 2019 fall “Cert Update” as a part of a series.

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