Inspired by an article in TIME magazine
Becoming a Stay at Home Dad (SAHD) might feel like the right move for some men. But even if your partner is on-board and ready to become the sole financial contributor within the family, a decision to leave the workforce, even for just a few years, may set your career back in enough ways that you are likely to regret the decision down the road (assuming you think you'll want to reenter the workforce in the future).
Last month we wrote about the financial downside to career breaks in the story Do The Math. Later we came across an article in TIME magazine that described other, greater risks, specifically experienced when a man leaves his job to care for his family for an extended period of time. The article, Don't Let Your Husband Be a Stay-At-Home Dad, outlines many of the risks associated with leaving the workforce temporarily and states, "Research suggests the penalty may even be greater for men who temporarily exit the workforce."
Every family is different and there is no single career or parenting model that works for every situation. Each of us needs to do what we think is best given our unique situations. The Time article reminds us that there are ramifications to every decision we make, just like we outlined in another recent story, Choices and Consequences.
Video about Tamara Strait and Her Dad
In addition to being a mother, wife and real estate agent, Tamara is also a daughter who learned a lot from her father. Watch this short video (2 min) to learn more about the lessons Tamara learned from her dad.
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.
By Thomas McFall (adapted from Twitter with permission | @Thomas___McFall)
In one of my Management classes, I sit in the same seat every day. It's in the front of the class. Every single day I sit there.
It's next to some foreign guy who barely speaks English. The most advanced thing I've heard this guy say in English is "Wow, my muffin is really good". This guy also has a habit of stacking every item he owns in the exact space I sit; his bag, his food, his books, and his phone are ALWAYS right on my desk space.
Every single time I walk into class this guy says "Ah, Tom. You here. Okay." And then he starts frantically clearing my desk of his belongings. He then makes it a habit to say "Ready for class, yeah?" And gives me a high five. Every day this guy gives me a high five.
I was ALWAYS annoyed with this guy. I'm thinking "Dude, you know I sit in this seat every day. Why are you always stacking your shit here? And the last thing I want to do is give a guy who barely speaks my language high fives at 8:00 in the morning." Just get your shit off my desk.
But Monday I came to class and was running a few minutes late. I'm standing outside because I had to send a quick text. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my usual space through the door. Of course, my desk was filled with his belongings. The usual.
As I'm standing there on my phone, another guy, who was also late, walks into the class before me and tried to take my seat since it's closest to the door. The foreign guy who sits next to me stops this dude from sitting down and says "I'm sorry. My good friend Thomas sits here."
It was then that I realized this guy wasn't putting stuff on my seat to annoy me. He was saving me the seat every morning. And this whole time he saw me as a friend, but I was too busy thinking about myself to take him into consideration. Cheesy as it sounds, I was touched.
I ended up going into class, and of course he cleared the seat and said "Ah, Tom. You here. Okay." And I did get a high five. At the end of class I asked him if he wanted to get a bite to eat with me. We did. And we talked for a while. I got through the broken English and learned that he moved here from the Middle East to pursue a college education in America. He plans to go back after he gets his degree. He's got two kids and a wife. He works full time and sends all his left over money back home to his wife.
Moral of the story? Don't do what I did and constantly only think about yourself. It took me nearly the entire semester to get my head out of my ass and realize this guy was just trying to be my friend. Better late than never I suppose.
Being a working parent is a challenge. After reading the book The Hate U Give recently, I'm reminded that it's even more of a challenge for some parents, like those depicted in the book. This young adult novel was a book club "assigned read" and one that I feared would be a difficult one. But it was just the opposite. While the subject matter is heavy and revolves around a police shooting of an unarmed young man, the story is told in a way that is compelling and well-rounded. Along with the very difficult situations, there is love, laughter and teen-aged silliness (and angst).
Even though the book is targeted at readers much younger than me, I found it compelling, relevant, and very worthwhile. It made me realize than one person's idea of struggle just may be another's idea of privilege. If everyone in the US (at least) read this book, I think we might have at least a little less strife and a lot more understanding of each other.
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.
Submitted by Bonnie E.
We’re a military family. My husband was assigned overseas a few months ago, and after we arrived I started a job search. One of the big hiring bodies on these bases is AAFES; they hire retail and food service workers at the various base facilities. The only job postings I was finding were AAFES jobs which were hourly shift-work positions. With a master’s degree and experience working in higher education for several years, I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of running a cash register. But I also wasn't content to opt out of the workforce for four years.
When I mentioned the dilemma to my husband he was really clear about his feelings and advised that I shouldn't work for AAFES. He'd heard that the employees aren't treated real well and told me, "You'd be so much better off to keep looking for something in your field."
And he was right. Sure enough, I have found a higher ed job here. It pays well, my team is respectful and supportive, and there’s room for advancement. If I’d taken the obvious job in retail, I wouldn’t be on the path I’m on continuing my career with opportunities to increase my earnings.
My husband doesn’t have a lot to gain from me working more; it means more housework, errands, and dog walking for him. He earns enough to support us, but he’s just that confident in my abilities, and he wants me to feel like a success. So he pushes me to keep striving for more when I feel like giving up and taking the "easy" way out. (Well the work probably wouldn't have been easier, but it was arguably less responsibility and less pressure.)
Here’s to great husbands!
Stories from some stars
Working Parents are everywhere, and each of our stories is unique. In an attempt to share broader perspectives we searched online and found two interesting Working Parent Stories from the entertainment industry.
First, a humorous story from working mom, Lisa Kudrow, who makes no attempt to hide the fact that she values and nurtures her son's independence during her recent conversation with Jimmy Kimmel. (Note: The clip is mostly silly and entertaining, but we also found it encouraging and comforting.)
The other example is from country music working parents Chris and Morgane Stapleton. A New York Times article about them published in May 2017 describes their decision to bring their kids along with them when they tour. (Look for the paragraph near the end of the article that starts out "I don't remember the momment ...") Their story provides a great reminder that each of us needs to chart our own course as we juggle family and career responsibilities.
Submitted by Jon Thorne (The New Papa)
While I was in the expecting stages of becoming The New Papa, a wise father told me that a man could never truly know fear until he has a child. Now, this father was similar to me in that his son was born to him in his mid-40s. What was different was that his son had severe health problems, needing surgery and intensive medical care. At that time, I simply played off the idea that this father had had a rare experience and his ideas of fear came from a unique place. His experience was his own and mine would be totally different. I wouldn't fear anything. Of course, I was totally wrong.
I was very fortunate that my beautiful baby boy was born very healthy. Yet, that idea of truly knowing fear came at me fast and furious, even before my boy was born. During my wife's labor, as she lay on the delivery table waiting for her water to break, a sudden alarm came blasting through our phones. This was followed by a 6.6 magnitude earthquake. Now, I'm from California and am quite experienced with earthquakes. I can usually brush them off pretty instantly. Not this time. My heart sank. I froze in terror. I was waiting for everything to come crashing down, being on the fifth floor of the hospital. All my golden dreams of the picture perfect family turned into a bloody mess of carnage underneath the rubble and dust of a flattened building. Obviously that did not happen. The doctors came in and were quite reassuring, but I still asked if I could have my own epidural. My legs shook the rest of the day, even after the delivery was over and I was at home finally trying to get some sleep. It kept running through my head: such a fragile creature I just created. How the hell could the human race have survived this long?!? It was the first of many sleepless nights.
Even now, after my seasoned fatherhood of 11 months, that fear remains. I'm still waiting for it all to come crashing down. New fears now dominate my thoughts: is he eating enough, did I proof the house enough, is my wife too stressed, am I holding him too much or not enough, what's that new rash on his leg, shouldn't he be walking by now, is he crying all day when I'm at work, what if I lose my job, is my health strong enough to do this, what if I die? The weight of it all is immense. I haven't yet learned how to shake it completely off, but I do have some ideas on how to manage it all.
I feel that in order to manage fear, you have to be able to understand where the fear comes from. For me it's pretty simple, I'm a control freak. I've said it before, I've always had a basic lack of trust in people. This has led me to avoid accepting help from others, the prideful vanity of doing everything on my own and my own way. I've noticed the fearful thoughts are the loudest as I'm on my way to work, from the moment I step out of the house. It's at that point I give up all control and the symphony of worry begins. It generally lasts all day until I return home and pick up my son. It's a horrible way to spend the day. It causes me to make many decisions based on the fear. I can't go out for a coffee after work, I need to get home immediately. I can't buy that new bag for work, all my money needs to be saved for emergencies. I can't complain to my wife about anything because she's already stressed and tired. It's not healthy, and not what my son or wife needs.
Thus, another lesson for The New Papa to learn: you can't control everything all the time. I have to believe in my wife, that she has the power to be an amazing and caring mother. I have to believe in my son, that he has the power within him to grow strong and independent. I have to believe in myself, that I have the power to truly put my thoughts and focus on the areas that I can and should control. I cannot make another decision rooted in fear. Only sorrow and misery will sprout. I want my family to be surrounded by trees of hope!
Another wise friend (really lucky to have so many wise people in my life) once wrote that the lack of peace in most people's lives comes from living in fear of a future that may never even happen. It's time to start living in the joy of a future that will eventually come true!