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 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."
Submitted by "Experienced Mom"
Recently a parent, who gave up her career 18 years ago to focus on her children full-time, shared a frustration with me; her teenaged son is only interested in himself. Even as significant events swirl around him and she tries to explain their relevance to him, his interest in anything beyond himself remains pretty much non-existant.
I bit my tongue as I thought about what she'd said. It didn't surprise me for two reasons;
When we balance family and work we make it very clear to our children that multiple priorities can be managed at the same time. Sometimes our children's needs are our highest priority and sometimes other things demand our attention. Our children learn, by watching us, that they are part of a world that is bigger than themselves and that their needs don't always deserve the most attention. This realization will help them better understand the world, their role within it, and how they can make valuable contributions.
Parents regularly experience conflicting emotions. That's part of life. Good friends and supportive relatives listen sympathetically when we describe lumps in our throats after watching our child walk into a school for the first time, getting behind the wheel of a car for the first time, bounding into a college dorm after a holiday weekend, or accepting a job far away from home (or at least that place they used to call home). These people understand that while we may have fought back tears, we're also swelling with pride. We wouldn't have it any other way. These milestones mean that we've done our jobs, and truth be told, we fear the alternatives.
Being able to experience sadness and joy at the same time proves that we're alive and that we have feelings. It's normal.
So it is with great enthusiasm that I report on a growing trend I've noticed among young working parents; they seem very comfortable saying things like, "I was so sad when I dropped him off at daycare for the first time this morning, and it was so great to see my co-workers again after being gone for so long." Not so long ago it wasn't OK to express these conflicting emotions. But apparently now it is.
Pointer to HBO's new Docu-Series Being Serena
Working moms on Reddit brought our attention to the new five-part Docu-Series on HBO* called Being Serena. The series chronicals the most recent events in Serena Williams' life; from winning the Australian Open while pregnant in April 2017 right up to attending the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
But it's the stuff in-between those events that is most interesting ... and inspiring ... and thought provoking ... and relatable.
For those who don't know, Serena is married to Alexis Ohanian, one of the co-founders of Reddit, so it's especially interesting that Reddit led us to this program. Talk about a synergistic relationship!
Working parents (both moms and dads) are likely to appreciate Serena's story and find themselves relating, thinking, and being inspired as they watch.
* It appears that Being Serena is also available via On Demand until early July. More info.
Pointer to research results published by ScienceDaily
When our kids were in school, we knew a couple who were highly respected parents. Imagine my thrill when I learned that they limited their very smart and very talented son to two (or was it three?) extracurricular activities at a time. While other parents were bragging about the hours they spent shuttling their kids from activity to activity, these parents confidently let people know that they thought some reasonable limits were best for their son.
Their confidence set the example I needed to let go of any concern I had that my own kids might be falling behind because they weren't overbooked and in constant motion. It was really helpful and comforting information during a time that I needed more help and comfort!
If you would appreciate knowing that your kids don't need to be booked 24/7, look no further than this article published by ScienceDaily: Are your children overdoing it? Too many extracurricular activities can do more harm than good. It summarizes results from a small study in England and points out that "a busy organized activity schedule can ... potentially harm children's development and wellbeing." It may provide the info working parents need to better manage their time and protect their sanity.
Originally Published: May16, 2018 | Last Updated: Jun 11, 2018
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Work required me to travel internationally on occasion. I usually viewed these trips as sacrifices since they took me away from my family along with being tiring, if not exhausting. Once I made it to the airport, I usually appreciated the change in routine, and once I made it to the hotel, I usually appreciated the opportunities to meet new people, see new things, and discuss new ideas.
But I rarely took any extra time to explore the area on my own after the business was complete. Instead, I felt compelled to get back to my family and "be there" for them ASAP. (It occurs to me that this sounds downright crazy as I write it so many years later.) Thankfully, there was one time when a colleague and I decided to take an extra day to explore Rome on our own.
Thanks to this fun, flexible and very accommodating colleague, I had a great day as we explored the city. In fact, it was so great that I vowed to return "soon" with my husband and kids (14 and 9) so that they could explore these wonders too.
Thirteen months later, the four of us were sitting on a plane heading to Rome where we experienced, what later became known as, "the best vacation".
Work experiences often make us better parents. And sometimes we need to indulge ourselves in order to understand how to leverage those experiences so that they benefit the whole family.
Submitted by the 40 daddy
While it’s common to discuss the merits of the Family/Career balance, I actually feel healthier when I focus on the Family/Career/Passion balance.
At a high level I define these as follows:
-- Family time is spent with my children and spouse; all of us together as well as time alone with my spouse.
-- Career provides my source of income…obviously.
-- Passion The collection of activities and hobbies that bring me joy.
Family obviously consumes the greatest share of time, as it should. Kids wake up and need to be coaxed back to sleep, they need food (so needy ;), want to play, and get sick. (And those little germ factories will get you sick!) We all know the drill. It takes a lot of time to raise kids.
But it’s easy to forget what I consider to be a critical component of family time: I call this “spousing”. (Is spousing a word? I’m not sure, but it wasn’t autocorrected so let’s add it to the lexicon.) And while Netflix is technically shared time together, it’s not really enough. We make time to talk for at least 10-15 minutes before Netflix. (We have so much free time!) We take walks together (e.g. we go down to the basement to look at what needs to be repaired or walk over to the garage to discuss the strange pool of liquid under the car). We try to go out for dinner together every few weeks too. (At least when our parents are in town, and there are plenty of diapers and breastmilk on hand. And the emergency numbers are up-to-date on the fridge. And you’ve conveyed which snacks are okay and which stuffed animals should always be near which blankies. And … ok fine we’ve only done this twice in three years.) It might end up only being 10-15 minutes, but we try to have “non-child-based" conversations …
Career takes almost as much time as family. We all know you gotta pay the bills.
Many employers will say they respect the demands of parenting, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Some of my previous co-workers (and managers) didn’t have children and didn’t truly understand the demands they present. To be fair, how could they possibly understand? I know that I didn’t fully understand them until I took the plunge.
I’ve always been open about my family obligations. I try to manage expectations about my work through clear communication. I’m also careful about the spacing of large projects that require a lot of time and attention (e.g. long days, weekend work, fast responses times). One trick I use is to be sure to include often overlooked tasks within my full-time schedule. (i.e. I schedule blocks of time for mundane activities like administrative work and supporting teammates.) This provides me with a bit of a buffer so when I’m not in the middle of a critical project I can often arrive a little later, or go home a little earlier, and shut off my phone for the weekend.
When I strike that clear, well-defined balance, it helps with my morale at home and at work, it enables me to spend plenty of time with my family and on my career, and feels like I’m contributing in both roles.
For me, it’s crucial that I also make some time to pursue my passions. Sometimes it’s guitar, sometimes it’s writing, sometimes it’s carpentry, or rehearsing a theater piece.
I find it hardest to make time for these things. Several nights of broken sleep aren’t great motivators for waking up early to write the next Game of Thrones. If we don’t get all the kids asleep until 9:30 pm, I don’t have enough energy left to break out the guitar or get the table saw running. Standard home maintenance tasks like sweeping, dishes, groceries, and laundry can easily consume all of our time during a weekend … That makes a beer and Hulu feel like the most peaceful way to spend my cherished down time.
I’ve managed to carve out some time for these activities in several ways. I hustle the kids out a little earlier than normal so I’m at my desk 30-45 minutes before I’m needed. Or I pack food, kill the Internet, and put on head phones during my lunch break. My wife and I will swap out time on the weekends so she can take a yoga class on Saturday and I can go for a run on Sunday.
Time for ourselves and our passions does wonders for my wife and me.
I feel lucky in many ways. I started a family later than many; just after I turned 40. That gave me 20 years to play around, screw up, try and reject jobs, learn to live without much money, and then land a career that I enjoy and really establish myself. By the time my kids were born I’d developed a strong reputation, a large industry network, and marketable skillsets. This stability means that my career enables me to spend a reasonable amount of time with my family.
I also have a strong partner with a career and passions of her own that I actively support, and on occasion I make sacrifices to help her accomplish her goals. We have each focused on each other’s careers and needs as much as, if not more, than our own. For us this is hugely valuable; doing everything we can to support each other’s careers. At different times, one career or the other takes precedence. Sometimes only one of us is intensely pursuing a passion or career, and if a balance isn’t struck it can lead to stresses in the relationship.
Just recently I reached a point where I am able to trim back my career, which I love, to make a bit more time for family as well as passions that could lead to a secondary career. It’s taken 20 years to reach this point, and it still feels like a risk. We’ll see what happens.
I feel strongly that my deathbed memories will not be focused on my careers and hours worked, but instead will focus on our family and the passions we pursued. I’m working on making sure I have lots of great deathbed memories. (As morbid as that sounds as I write it.)
Submitted by The Mama Politic
My husband and I both work. I'm an academic researcher. He's a sociologist. We have a daughter who recently turned one and older children from my husband's previous marriage.
For now we're prioritizing my career, although neither of us is slacking on the job. His strong support is enabling me to advance in my dream job as an applied research faculty member at a large university. I feel lucky to have his backing along with somewhat flexible work hours. We also have great daycare which we appreciate. Our caregiver is wonderful, and our daughter appears to be thriving. Lots of things are going really well.
Still, it isn't easy. One of the things I find hardest about being a working parent is balancing career objectives with this feeling that I need to "do it all". And look fantastic doing it! As the sole cook in our family (long story), I need to get dinner ready each evening. Given my food allergies, this takes some extra effort. And to make things extra challenging, my daughter just started becoming incredibly fussy when we get home at the end of the day. Trying to make dinner and keep her happy is starting to feel like a losing battle. Between my Type A personality that has me wanting to make a great dinner and her unabated screaming, feelings of frustration and uselessness often take over. Hopefully this is a temporary phase.
One way I am staying motivated is by training myself to say, "Screw that!" to a lot of things. I didn't puree my daughter's food when she was younger, I don't make bento boxes, and right now I just feed my daughter everything we eat - spices and all. She has slept in her own crib since day one, and I never breastfed because post partum depression required me to take a mood stabilizer. Sometimes I feel like I can't possibly be "enough" at home. Interestingly, many things seem to come more naturally to my husband than they do to me. Maybe it's because he has older children and has done this before. Still, I feel like I need to do it all, or at least I want to do it all. These feelings and challenges are helping me learn the value of prioritization.
As I ponder the way we negotiate this life, I think about my need for my husband to support my career goals and understand my need to go to work every day. We are far from perfect, but he definitely has my back professionally. This may be difficult for some couples to understand. Maybe the fact that we both had working moms is why it feels right to us.
Some friends who don't get it give me flak. They warn me that I'll regret not putting our daughter to bed every single night, and they're concerned that I've never cried when I've taken her to daycare. When our daughter was six months old, I changed jobs so I could spend more time with her, but some still seem concerned for me.
My husband and I take this all in. We also know that our daughter is healthy, happy, and developmentally on track. She clearly loves us. Because we need our work to feel fulfilled, we truly believe that we're making choices that are best for her, our marriage and our family. It just feels right.
Link to a short video clip from Good Morning America
Many working parents are constantly assessing the way they spend their time. Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots, is no different. He recently told Michael Strahan on Good Morning America that he thinks about the tradeoffs related to many of his decisions. You can view Brady's comments about family starting at 3:14 in this short video.