It's not unusual to hear stories about children who cry before, during or after a daycare drop-offs and pick-ups. The stories I've heard come exclusively from mothers who often weave their feelings of guilt into the telling. Interestingly, if dads are experiencing these tears, they're not telling me about them. Maybe they just don't think the stories are worthy of being told.
I remember one time when my son, who was about seven years old at the time, cried when I picked him up from a new summer day camp on a Monday afternoon. As he climbed into the back seat of the car, backpack in tow, I asked, "Well, how was it?" That's when he got a little misty-eyed and started to tell me a sad tale about how things hadn't turned out as he'd hoped; he had wanted to make all new friends for the week, but after arriving that morning, he realized that he already knew one of the other kids in his group. And apparently that child had wanted to play with him; all day. I did remember that "all new friends" had been one of his requests, but didn't realize the earnestness of it. Apparently the presence of that single existing friend meant the experience had been a significant disappointment for him.
I share this story because it just goes to show that, like adults, children can be complicated beings and their emotional reactions can be somewhat befuddling at times. I was quite certain that there was no reason I needed to feel guilty about not being able to find a daycare situation consisting exclusively of strangers. It seemed like an unusual, and maybe even naive, request at the time. I'm not sure I even took it all that seriously.
When we require our kids to participate in activities and interact with people beyond the family, we start the process of introducing them to the world and teaching them to navigate their way through it. Regardless of our best efforts, they will have good days and bad days. They may even have good weeks and bad weeks. As adults we know we may even have good years and bad years. That's life.
It's our job to keep our kids safe while helping them to explore new situations and develop a variety of coping strategies. When they cry while encountering new situations, rather than feeling guilty, we should embrace the situations as teachable moments if we can. But like everything else in life, that can be a lot easier said than done.
Inspired by comments about a WSJ article on Parental Leaves
An article in the Wall Street Journal called "As More New Dads Get Paternity Leave, Companies Push Them to Take It" recently caught my eye. But what really got my attention was the number of men who commented (after reading the article) that they wouldn't feel comfortable taking a parental leave. A number of concerns were listed and most of them were related to fears that taking the leave would be perceived as a lack of commitment to their careers which might negatively influence their career growth and earnings potential.
Wow, did that leave me feeling lucky. My husband took a 4-week unpaid leave back in 1990 before it was a thing. Back when they, no joke, told him that he could do it, but they would need to demote him if he did. Why did he do it? There were two significant reasons.
Fast forward 28 years and I can think of two more significant reasons it was the right thing to do.
Parents, when considering your own parental leave options, think big. Think beyond your short-term fears and concerns. Think about what you want to be able to say many years from now when your child asks, "Did you take a break from work when I was born?" (And keep in mind that your kids are likely to judge the answer to that question differently than you might.) Think about how a leave will support your child's start in life, your spouse's career, and others who may look up to you (or at least at you) in the workplace.
Let's think more about the kinds of families we want to nurture and the kinds of companies we want to work for than an incredibly small piece of our income and a fear that advancement opportunities will be limited. In my experience, the cream tends to rise to the top. Even after a parental leave.
After almost a year of collecting Working Parent Stories (and reading a lot on the subject), there is one thing that really confuses me. Why are there so many articles, videos, and conversations about whether or not a mother's career helps or hurts her children? Actually, that's not what confuses me the most. The thing I really wonder about is this; why are there so few articles, videos, and conversations about whether or not a father's career helps or hurts his children? It's hard to find anything on the subject. Even if the family has inherited or accumulated great wealth, people don't seem interested in discussing whether or not a father's career is best for his kids. (I guess I have heard a few people, both men and women of means, explain that they work to set good examples for their children. That's interesting, and seems to imply that not working sets a bad example.)
Why is it that we're so uninterested in how a father's career influences his children's lives, and at the same time we're so very fascinated with mothers' careers?
There's this guy I used to work with and we often had fun and interesting conversations. He asked unexpected questions and took conversations in unexpected directions. Once he asked me, "Why do you work? You obviously don't need the money." I responded by asking him, "Why do you work full-time? You obviously don't need that much money." He smiled, and as I recall, the topic was changed.
Given that so many men have held full-time jobs for so many years, and so many of their kids seem to have survived and thrived that we find a discussion about whether or not it's good for those kids boring, I find myself wondering why we are still discussing the ways women's careers influence their children. What gives? Serious question.
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
In fact, we don't remember a lot of things. We don't remember their first words, first smiles or the first time they ate mashed potatoes.
Here's what we do remember. We remember when our daughter sat on a rock in front of our house waving to people as they drove by in their cars. We remember when she proudly insisted on wearing her Brownie Beanie into school when she was in the second grade. And we remember the days she graduated from college. We remember when our son's preschool teacher described the way he played house with the other kids in his class. We remember the time he held a rock "up his nose" for hours (without our knowledge, of course). And we remember the speech he gave during his high school commencement ceremony. We also remember the time we left the suitcase filled with family "essentials" on an airplane as we started a big vacation. And we remember the time we were walking on a beach together and our son kept throwing minnows that were washing ashore back into the water. He was convinced he was saving their lives.
So when I read this headline: "Latest News: Serena Williams missed her daughter's first steps - but other moms had her back - Working mothers often have to make sacrifices and Serena Williams is no exception", I nearly fell off my chair. For two reasons.
First, who really cares? Apparently Serena does, or did, based on her Tweet which, along with the responses, inspired the blog post. She's a new mom. I get it. And I have some good news for her.
And second, how is her husband, Alexis Ohanian, holdiing up? Did he witness the first step? And, if not, is he upset? Did he cry? I'm not concerned enought to check.
Headlines and stories like these do not help working parents. They don't help any parents for that matter. They distract us from the things that really matter (so much more). A child's first steps are exciting ... at the time. But it doesn't take long to realize that, in the big scheme of things, assuming a child's development tracks an expected path, first steps aren't very important.
We should all be focusing on the important stuff. Like saving minnows.
The first 50 Working Parent Stories produced eight surprises. The second 50 stories produced six learnings. The third 50 stories produced the following 11 insights:
Pointer to Working Parent Stories you can watch via video
Lately a number of Working Parent Stories are being told via videos. We've gathered them in one place in case you're in the mood to watch a few or binge-watch them all.
Pointer to fascinating research about parenting and judging parents
When our kids were growing up they flew alone from Denver to Detroit every summer to visit their grandparents in the Mitten State. They took their first trips when they were seven and eight and were so intent on going alone, they insisted on being there different weeks. Maximizing a rare chance for some undivided attention was probably their primary motivator.
Most of our friends and co-workers knew about the ritual, and I distinctly remember the time one of my co-workers, my manager actually, told me, "I would never let my children travel alone on a airplane." Apparently she wasn't impressed with our attempt to foster a strong sense of independence in our kids while ensuring some quality time with Grandma and Grandpa. Instead, she thought we were putting them at great risk. And I assume she thought the risk was greater than any potential reward.
This memory was triggered recently when a friend pointed me to an article written by Tania Lombrozo that was published on the NPR web site in 2016. It's called "Why Do We Judge Parents For Putting Kids at Perceived - But Unreal - Risk?" and references research* published in the open access journal Collabra. The article and research provide really fascinating, and sometimes surprising, information about how we perceive various risks parents take, and it draws attention to some thought provoking ideas like the following:
Working parents need to make a lot of deliberate decisions about childcare, and this article makes it clear that society judges those decisions ... sometimes harshly. And sometimes unfairly and ignorantly. This article will get you thinking, hard, about making decisions that will help your children both short-term and long-term. It may build your confidence in terms of decisions you've made or are making. Or it may cause you to question some decisions. Either way, it'll make you think.
File this story under "Fresh Thinking". And at least try to skim the article. It's really fascinating.
* More about the research: It included a series of clever experiments written by authors Ashley Thomas, Kyle Stanford and Barbara Sarnecka. They found evidence that shifting people's moral attitudes toward a parent influences the perceived risk to that parent's unattended child. Learn more.
Pointer to a video about MJ Hegar
This story is about a political candidate in the US named MJ Hegar. We know almost nothing about her political positions, but think her campaign video is great because it highlights another contribution from another working parent.
Prepare to be impressed. And surprised.
Commentary about a Forbes article
Throughout life, we encounter people who encourage us to strive for more, while others (hopefully only a few) think we should strive for less. At least that's how it is for me. My husband comes to mind as a person who pushes me to strive for more, while my high school guidance counselor, who I only met once, surprisingly seemed to suggest that I should strive for less. (When I told her about my college plans, she asked, "Why would you want to do that? It will be really hard.") In hindsight, she did me a big favor because her comments served as a motivator when it did turn out to be really hard, and I struggled. Her words rang in my ears as I steeled myself to prove I could do it.
Why is it that some people want us to strive for less? I'm not sure, and figure that different people probably have different reasons. But at the end of the day, at least in my experience, striving for less rarely leads to contentment. It seems like most people are wired to be most content when they're contributing as fully as possible.
Which, of course, brings me to work. And the role it plays in our lives. The most content people appear to seek out work (and other opportunities) that align with their capabilities and interests. When people are finished pursuing careers, or during their time off, they're often pursuing activities that look a lot like careers ... without the pay. That doesn't mean that people who aren't employed don't have more free time than those who are. Instead I mean that they often fill a surprising amount of that free time with activities that align with their capabilities and interests.
Forbes recently published an article called "This Is What Success Means Now: Beause It's Not Just Paychecks and Promotions". Working parents may find it interesting, and their parents may find it insightful. Stop reading right now if you don't want to know how it ends. The final point seems like a bit of a stretch to me, but claims, "Work is no longer something that you have to do, it's something that you should want to do ... it is the way we become ourselves, not the opposite way around." While that final claim seems to ignore the fact that most people work so that they can support themselves and their families financially, I think they're spot-on in in terms of recognizing that when we find a fulfilling job, it is part of what makes us whole; it helps us become more.
People sometimes asked me why I worked. My husband had a good job; we didn't need the money. The thing was, I wanted more; more contribution, more challenge, more satisfaction, more recognition. More for myself, more for my community, and more for my kids. I wanted the satisfaction and fulfillment that only a career could provide. I wanted to set an example for my children and other people too. I loved challenges and enjoyed the experiences (most days). I wanted more. If you're reading this, you probably want more too.
Pointer to Poppy Harlow / RBG video clip
The RBG movie (and the review we wrote) got us thinking even more about spouses and the important roles they play in our careers. In fact, it caused me to head to YouTube to learn more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband, Marty, who are portrayed as Working Parent trail blazers.
The search led to a February 2018 interview with Ruth by CNN's Poppy Harlow. Their exchange, during the interview introductions, revealed another story about a supportive spouse; Poppy's husband, Sinisa Babcic. Watch the first minute and a half min of the video to hear the story.
"Behind every great man there stands a woman" is a phrase I often heard growing up. It was stated as a compliment and recognized the value of a supportive spouse; always a wife back then. Many years later I find myself recognizing that there is a lot of truth in that statement; a great person or great people are often supporting people who achieve anything of value. Maybe some succeed against all odds and without any support, but the vast majority of us need somebody in our court; someone or someones who want to see us succeed, encourage us to strive for more, and are willing to make at least small sacrifices to help us achieve "great things". It's the reason we encourage people to establish relationships with mentors, coaches, managers and peers.
When one's spouse can act in a supporting role, one has an advantage. When a spouse can act in multiple supporting roles, one has an even bigger advantage. It's hard to find a story that makes this point more clearly than the RBG story, but many of us have stories to tell. We've collected quite a few of them hoping that they will inspire you. Enjoy!
More stories about supportive spouses: