The first 50 Working Parent Stories produced some surprises. The second 50 stories produced the following learnings:
Submitted by Kelly Irwin
Editor's Note: Lots of working parents make sacrifices so that the rest of us can enjoy the holidays. Here's a story from one of them. Thank you, Kelly!
On Christmas day I can't help but remember back to so many previous years when I slept most of the day. I worked for a grocery store chain in the deli department. We'd work all night making party trays that were ready for pick-up on Christmas Eve. I'd finish an 18-hour shift on Christmas Eve day.
One year was extra special. After working all night, I arrived at my friend George's house, and he asked me to be his wife. (I said yes :)
We worked so hard so that people could have great holiday gatherings. I always fell asleep right after dinner on Christmas Eve and then slept well into Christmas day, almost missing the day completely.
My son recently commented, "You worked hard and dedicated your skills to make other people's holidays, Mom. You should feel proud knowing that you made great party trays for people. And from what I remember as a kid, you enjoyed it. Kudos to you."
He was right. I did love it. I'm very proud and blessed to have been able to do that kind of work. For the most part every job I've ever had has given me joy in one way or other.
Pointer to a video about Rachel Freier
Some parents have a lot of children. Some parents follow religious traditions. And some parents have demanding jobs. This parent broke the mold when she combined all three. Watch this video (~6 min) to learn more about her impressive story on the Megyn Kelly TODAY show.
Submitted by The Mama Politic
Both of my parents worked when I was growing up. My husband's parents did too. So I guess it's not surprising that my husband and I went back to work after our baby was born. (And soon. I was back part-time after five weeks and full-time when she was nine weeks old.) I need my work to feel happy and connected to the world. My husband understands and is very supportive. We are far from perfect, but he definitely has my back professionally. This may be difficult for some couples to understand. I get that and wonder if maybe it's because they didn't have role models like ours.
While people don't always encourage working moms, I do think we've come a long way. Things are getting better. Back when I was in 3rd grade, my teacher once commented that she was sad for me. Her comment was prompted by the fact that my dad volunteered to attend a class field trip. Dads didn't do that very often back then. My mom had been very busy with job deadlines, and so my dad, who we didn't see as much during the workweek, was thankful to be able to attend. And even at that young age, I remember thinking the teacher's comment was odd because it didn't make me feel sad. I was glad he could come! When I told my mom how my teacher felt, she told me that people said weird things to her too. She also told me that it was "none of their business". I grew up in Chicagoland, where plenty of moms worked, so it's a little surprising that people weren't more supportive.
My husband also endured some negativity because his mom worked. He grew up in a small farming community in rural Missouri with a population of ~1,000. His mom was very ambitious and ran her own tax business. She was almost 41 years old when he was born, and, get this, he was born in April! That meant she was back at work (finishing tax returns) just days after he was born. He was her fourth kid, so by the time he arrived she knew the routine and just did what needed to be done. Her husband, my husband's dad, always supported her work, but apparently it bothered some other people. While she is considered a pillar of the community, she's also been considered "peculiar" by at least a few. My husband told me that once, when he was in school, he got into a fight with someone who made fun of him because his mom worked. And when he misbehaved at school, teachers told him it was because his mother "neglected him".
Hopefully our kids won't have any stories like these. Lots of parents I know, including my husband and me, work very hard to prove the remaining doubters wrong. And we'd like to think that our parents already have.
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
When I think of the holidays, stress is the strongest feeling that washes over me. It shouldn't. At least not now. My kids are grown, and I have very little to worry about. But years and years of the real deal (i.e. stress) are hard to shake.
On Thanksgiving, I asked my kids (now 27 and 22) to list their top fun Christmas memories. Here's what they told me:
The scavenger hunt took place the year we were worried about money and gave them very little. It took them all morning and part of the afternoon to find those few gifts thanks to the never-ending trail of clues and the secret code that had to be deciphered.
These reflections have me thinking. Was my stress self-imposed? Was I trying to please my kids? Was I trying to please someone else? There is no doubt in my mind that a significant amount of my stress resulted from my desire to meet at least perceived expectations of others. And that leads me to wonder; what could each of us do to let others and ourselves off the hook this year?
There are some articles with good suggestions listed below. In the meantime, what are your thoughts?
Maybe one of the most valuable gifts we could give each other is the gift of lower expectations.
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Few people I know find it easy to keep their house clean while raising kids, and we were no different. But I need some semblance of order to be able to think (and I mean that quite literally), so we kept things under control by hiring someone to come in and clean once a week. We actually started doing this the month we were married and didn't cut back to every-other-week help until our youngest left for college.
One of the biggest benefits of cleaning help is that you have to pick up your stuff before they arrive. Otherwise they'll spend too much time just moving stuff around. So one night a week (the night before cleaning day) we all engaged in a mad dash to put our stuff away. Everyone pitched in, and it always felt like a crisis. There was whining, there were accusations, and at least one of us was usually disgruntled about something. Then, when the task was finished, we rewarded ourselves with ice cream.
I get that not every family is in a position to hire someone to help with cleaning, but every family could modify this idea to meet at least some of their own cleaning needs.
It's also worth noting that the older the kids got, the less they whined about it. By the time they were in junior high or high school, it was just a thing that they did. What I liked most was that it kept things from getting totally out of control, and the ice cream enabled us to end on a good note.
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Pointer to video featuring Jas Kaur
Jas Kaur, mother of four, launched Goodwill Glasses last March (2017). As a working mom she strives to help others while setting a good example for her children. She tells her story in this very short video (< 2 min). This article tells her story too.
An idea for working parents who struggle to fit it all in during the holidays
What if you didn't attend one of your child's holiday programs this year? Not all of them, just one. What if you explained to your child that sometimes, most of the time, he or she is your highest priority and that means that you miss other important things so that you can be with him or her? And what if you went on to explain that sometimes, when you know he or she is safe and happy, other things are a higher priority? Like people in need, planning for the future, or even your job.
Is it possible that action would give your child gifts that could last a lifetime? Might you give them the gift of learning to perform for others, not just you? Might you give him or her the gift of independence (if only for a few minutes)? Might you give him or her a gift they'll greatly appreciate in the future when, as a working parent, he or she knows for sure that a child can feel happy and loved without constant attention from parents?
Working parents throughout social media are in the midst of expressing frustrations that surface during the holidays every year. They're frustrated when school holiday performances and activities are scheduled in the middle of the workday. They wonder how they're expected to be in two places at the same time. They want to be great parents and they want to be great employees. They become frustrated when the system appears to conspire against them.
It might make sense to ask your kids if they think it's important that you attend every single holiday activity. You might be surprised (and relieved) to hear their answers.
Pointer to a short inspirational video featuring Judaline Cassidy
Many working parents have careers that benefit their own children in various ways. And some working parents put in extra effort to be sure that their careers benefit other people's children as well. Judaline Cassidy is one of these impressive people. Watch her short inspirational story on the TODAY show to learn more.