Submitted by Eleanor Wiebe
Even though it was a little unusual back in the '60s and '70s, my husband and I both worked while we raised our two girls. We encouraged independence and self-reliance from a very early age and were happy to send them out into the world knowing they could make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions.
When the girls were in pre-school, I spent time with them each evening after dinner reading, talking about their day, making up songs about their activities, and rubbing their backs as they went to sleep. Their father read to them a lot too, and he made up games that included things like finding places on the large map we hung on a wall in our home.
We always gave our girls choices. We started small by letting them choose what to wear to school, and then later, as teens, they were given a clothing allowance which they could save or use to buy the fashion they wanted. We supplied the basics like underwear, socks, and shoes.
When they were in school, I often asked them if they would rather that I didn't work so I could be at home more, and their answer was always that same, "No, because you are more interesting when you work.”
My husband (their father) was a college professor, so he had more flexible hours and was usually around when they came home from school. That was a blessing.
As for rules, we drew an imaginary circle around them and they were free to do what they wanted within it. But when they stepped outside of that circle (e.g. staying out past curfew or not letting us know where they were), there were consequences. One daughter often thanks us for giving her a curfew. Maybe this is why she still goes to bed early!
We always ate our evening meal together so each of us could talk about our day or other topics of interest. These family times are what they tell us they remember the most.
Now, all of these years later, we can see that they, along with their husbands, do even better than we did as parents.
Pointer to a funny video
Sometimes our jobs provide benefits beyond those we anticipate before we start them. In this short video clip (5 min) taken from her appearance on The Ellen Show earlier this week, Michelle Obama describes an unexpected benefit that President Obama appreciated during his second term in office. It's a story that most parents will appreciate now ... or eventually.
There's lots of talk about companies that offer paid parental leave, companies that should offer paid parental leave, and companies that don't offer paid parental leave.
Back in the day, when I took maternity leave and my husband supplemented it with a combination of vacation time and some unpaid time off which we considered his paternity leave, most parental leave was unpaid (although there was some partially paid time-off provided in the form of disability leave for six weeks following the birth of a baby). Given that both my husband and I were earning above-average incomes, this meant that we lost a fair amount of income during our leaves and that we were able to financially plan for it and easily weather it. But make no mistake, we did have to plan for it.
Fast forward 28 years, and I'm finding all the talk about the need for paid parental leave interesting. I agree it is a great benefit and believe it is most valuable for those with lower incomes. Interestingly, it seems like the companies who are most often offering paid parental leave right now are also the companies who pay their employees well. So theoretically, these employees could probably afford to take parental leave with or without the benefit (assuming they manage their finances well and their employers would welcome them back at the end). Or maybe it's fortunate that these companies are leading the way, and the benefit will be available to all, or at least more, after the positive affects are recognized.
Recently, my husband and I were in an airport preparing to return home after a fun trip to New York City. As we sat at the gate, eating some expensive airport sandwiches, we watched others who were sitting in a high-end bar nearby, enjoying even more expensive food and drinks. One group of young people sat at one of those high tables and each of them had a "wine flight" in front of them. I asked my husband, "Why are we (the retired and financially secure couple) sitting here eating sandwhiches while the young people are enjoying wine flights?!" I couldn't help but think about all of the stuff I'd have guessed they will need more than a flight of wine in the near future; things like the ability to take some unpaid time off after the birth of a child.
Now I'm old enough to know that it's possible that those young adults are making lots more money than I ever did, they could have been born into wealth so they'll never have to think about budgeting, or they may be the best savers in the world who've already saved enough money for four parental leaves, as well as the college educations that will be expected on the other end of that financial journey. In the big scheme of things, wine flights aren't going to make or break too many budgets for people who can already afford to travel by air.
But still, parental leaves, which we highly recommend, should not be out of reach for many couples. Thinking ahead, and budgeting appropriately, can enable many couples to make them a reality.
And interestingly, I'm here to report that down the road, parents may not even miss the income lost during parental leaves. But old habits are hard to break, and young people who plan and budget so that they can take parental leaves may someday find themselves at the airport eating sandwiches at the gate ... instead of enjoying wine flights in a high-end bar.
Pointer to a very funny story by Clay Heath
New and expecting dads (and moms) are likely to enjoy this very funny take on being a supportive partner when pregnancy challenges arise in A Pregnancy Story. The author, Clay Heath, has a knack for seeing the humor during a time of great stress - at least in hindsight!
As we walked into the church sanctuary, we were overcome with emotion. Emotion on top of emotion. The feelings had been intense for a while as we'd observed the outpouring of love for Kate and her family from afar. They are all loved. It is obvious, and it is moving.
We listened to loved ones, including Kate's father, John, describe Kate and her people-oriented personality. I was struck by the realization that I'd first met John, one of the children of our daycare provider, when he had been about Kate's age. It wasn't much longer before we met Megan, Kate's mother, and eventually Tyler, Kate's big brother. It hardly seemed possible that we were now mourning the loss of Kate.
In an inspiring show of strength, John spoke to those gathered, sharing laugh-out-loud stories from Kate's childhood as well as some touching (and sometimes even funny) stories from her most recent experiences battling an agressive cancer. At one point, John praised the warmth and capabilities of her doctor's, pointing out how much comfort he felt knowing that many of them were mothers themselves. Afterword as we talked, he told us, "We encountered so many wonderful doctors. I mentioned the mothers, but there were fathers too. Like the one who delivered Kate french fries he'd picked up on his way to the hospital, knowing the cafeteria fryer was down and Kate would want her french fries."
As we were pulled into the loving embrace Kate had experienced, we were again reminded that parents are often uniquely qualified, through their work, to help so many in very meaningful ways. Sometimes parents are able to witness and understand the value they provide directly, sometimes they understand it intellectually without witnessing it first-hand, and sometimes they're not even aware when their parenting status enhances their skills and experience to help others.
As we gathered to celebrate Kate's life, her family was thoughtful enough to remind us.
Recently, I spoke with several friends who are also mothers. It seemed like each one of them was complaining about the same thing: They were running around like headless chickens who were tired and worn out and they had no time for themselves.
As working parents we are often pulled in many directions and bombarded with multiple demands at the same time: Your boss wants the report in ten minutes, a child wants a treat now, the laundry basket is overflowing, and we badly need a haircut. The list goes on and on.
Whether you are a working parent with one, two, three or more children, or even the parent of a special needs child, the demands on you and your time seem endless.
Many of us find it difficult to prioritize our own needs above those of others. And sometimes it feels like we are losing ourselves in the process.
While it is important to take care of others, it is essential to take good care of ourselves first. Like the airlines remind us: "Put the oxygen mask onto your own face before helping small children and others". If we can't breathe or function, it's impossible for us to help others.
Taking good care of ourselves has to be a priority! Whether this means going for a run, doing yoga, meeting with friends, or just taking a few minutes to sit down and relax.
Make these rituals ruthless priorities! They help us feel better and stay sane. Plus, your children will benefit by learning and appreciating that taking good care of oneself benefits everyone. Remember: It is not selfish, it is self care.
Pointer to a thought-provoking video
UPDATE Nov 9, 2018: According to National Geographic, video highlighted below, may not be as cute and natural as originally suggested.
You will probably appreciate this video (2:20 min) if ...
Submitted by Jim Haselmaier
Counterintuitive situations fascinate me. It's surprising when conventional wisdom is proven wrong or something that seems obvious turns out differently than expected.
The majority of parents I know are deeply committed to the well-being and success of their children. Many put a lot of thought into various aspects of parenting and ask themselves questions like, "Am I being supportive enough?", "Am I being tough enough?" and "Am I being flexible enough?"
Many years into parenting, I learned that I needed to add asking myself, "Am I letting go enough?” Here's why …
One summer when our daughter was about three-years-old, we spent time with my in-laws at their cottage on a river. One afternoon, the five of us decided to take the canoes out. The river was calm and shallow. My wife, daughter and I were in one canoe and my in-laws were in another one. I’ll be the first to admit I am not an accomplished canoeist, and unfortunately that contributed to the fact that, and don't ask me how, at one point we became broadside to the current. My in-laws, who were upstream, were in total control of their canoe. In order to be sure they didn't hit us, my mother-in-law stepped out of their canoe. And let's just say that both she and my father-in-law ended up very wet very fast. There was splashing and rapid chatter as the adults attempted to convince our daughter we were all having great fun.
Through four sets of adult eyes this was a relatively minor event, although my wet in-laws might have a little more to say about it. (And I have to say, as the son-in-law, I felt pretty stupid for helping to cause the flap.) But through the eyes of a three-year-old little girl, the scene was very traumatic! From that point forward, our daughter was afraid of boats. And we knew why. Thankfully she'd get in them, but there was usually a fair amount of discussion beforehand.
About seven years later our daughter was at Girl Scout summer camp. When I arrived to pick her up at the end of the week, the girls were out on the lake – swamping canoes. Ugh … I knew this was going to be tough for her.
As I watched from shore it was apparent that she was in distress. Not in danger, but distress. After a while one of the leaders came up to me and said “She was doing a lot better before you arrived. I think if you leave it might go better for her.” So I made myself scarce for a few hours.
Sure enough, it helped. She got through the canoe swamping exercise. The leader reported my daughter’s distress lessened considerably after I left. It turned out my presence, which I figured would be helpful and supportive, was actually hurting her. It was interfering with her ability to do what needed to be done. By eliminating the distraction of my presence, she accomplished the challenging task.
That event influenced how I parented from that point forward. I tried to be more mindful of situations where it was best to let my children handle situations on their own so that they could increase their confidence in their own capabilities. I often asked myself, "Am I letting go enough?"
Pointer to a video news conference with Dr. Donna Strickland
On October 2, 2018 Dr. Donna Strickland was announced as a 2018 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Dr. Strickland is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo who describes herself as a "laser jock".
During an entertaining and inspiring news conference, Dr. Strickland described what it's like being the first Canadian woman to win the honour, and she also talks about being a working parent. She and her husband raised two children while pursuing their careers.
When asked (at the 10:50 min mark in the video) if she thinks that scientists have a responsibililty to the world, Dr. Strickland replied (in part), "We all should do what we find fun and what we can do." She went on to say that when her daughter was quite young her daughter was being asked by her friends about the fact that her mom went out to work instead of staying at home. Dr. Strickland told her daughter, "The world works best if we all do what we're good at."
Pointer to a Forbes article by Mary Beth Ferrante
Yesterday Forbes published a great article called How To Survive A Two Breadwinner Household. We love the article because it promotes many of the same ideas we promote and aligns with many of the topics we've covered recently including the following (and many more):
Thank you, MaryBeth Ferrante, for helping other dual income couples recognize the challenges so we can be sure our families thrive and we contribute to a brighter future in so many ways.