If you're planning to re-enter the workforce after an extended break, and you have kids that aren't newborns, it might help to consider the change from their point of view. Most kids find comfort in routine, so at least starting to establish a new routhine, before you actually start the job, is likely to make the transition easier on everyone.
Think ahead. Chances are you will need your kids to do more for themselves if you're going back to work. Asking them to take on more responsibilities around the house is great for them, and should help you too.
The key to a smooth transition is to be sure that your kids have taken on these new responsibilities before your first day on the job. Even relatively compliant kids will need "practice" before new routines run smoothly. We found that our kids usually threw three "fits" in a row when we imposed new routines on them. If we could endure those "fits" (which usually were just complaints, whines or worse), and stay firm (and consistent), the new routine tended to click by the fourth iteration and the kids often because enthusiasts. Maybe we're all that way :)
Here are ideas for things most kids can be expected to take on around the house. Obviously their ability to take on various responsibilites will vary widely based on their ages.
Most kids are happy to help when they know that their contributions are truly helpful; it gives them a great sense of accomplishment and helps build meaningful self-esteem. This means that while they're taking on a new responsibility you need to be sure you're not hovering over them, offering too many suggestions and/or criticizing their efforts. Let them make a few mistakes! Keep yourself busy doing something else meaningful while they tackle their new "jobs".
An important key to success is to be sure that your kids don't view your return to work as an imposition on their routines or a punishment. By establishing new routines before your return, you're likely to ease the transition for everyone and discover how your work actually helps your kids become more capable adults in the future.
Pointer to an HBR article by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox
Sometimes we overlook the many ways that our careers help our children, but this Harvard Businsess Review article by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox helps us keep everything in perspective. If you've ever doubted that your career helps your kids, you'll find these reflections from the mother of grown children valuable. Thank you, Avivah!
Commentary on a recent article in The Economist
Most parents want their children to be paid fairly when they enter the workforce. They believe that compensation should correlate to value delivered, and that an employee's gender should not impact their pay. Many are passonate about the topic of "equal pay for equal work", and we recently wrote about some of them in the story "When Parents Act Like Corporations".
The first step toward achieving equal pay is working (i.e. obtaining some pay ;). Then, if you want to compare your compensation to another employee's, you need to produce at least the same results or value as that person. Some fascinating data about the gender pay gap was recently published in the the story "Choices and Consequences". Some studies show that pay rates for men and women align until the birth of their first child. After that, women who have a child find that, on average, their pay dips. Many factors explain the dip, and some people are bothered by it.
Researchers from Princeton, the London School of Economics, and the Danish Ministry of Taxation recently found that in Denmark, one of the greatest predictors for how a woman's pay will be impacted by having a child is the example set by her mother. Specifically, the example her mother sets in terms of how she manages her career. Apparently men's pay, on average, dips very little, if any, after their first child is born. You can read about this research in a short article in The Economist: The roots of the gender pay gap lie in childhood.
So, if you're serious about wanting your daughter to be compensated at the same rate as the men she will work with, look no further than the example set within your own family.
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Related note: A guy I know recently commented that we often give mothers most of the credit, as well as the blame, related to their children's opportunities and behaviors. We agree. At the same time, many couples believe that childrearing is a team effort, and neither parent's contribution is more important than the other's. Congratulations to all of the parents working so hard to support their children, each other, and their communities. It isn't easy, and that's why we admire you!
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 Ann Brauch
When my daughter Kirsten was a senior in high school, she called me at work one morning toward the end of the school year very upset. She had overslept. And wouldn't you know that it was the morning of her AP Spanish exam. She flat out missed it. I felt horrible knowing that if I'd been a more attentive mother, I could have prevented the situation and the angst that followed. Kirsten was no slacker, and I hated thinking about the consequences she would endure in spite of all of her hard work.
Another mother, a friend who happened to be at school that day, overheard the teacher ball Kirsten out for the transgression in no uncertain terms. Apparently she did not go easy on her. Kirsten was and is a strong young woman, and interestingly, she didn't tell me that part of the story. She accepted full responsibility for her mistake.
Luckily all was not lost, and a make-up exam was offered and taken. I'm sure you won't be shocked to read that Kirsten went on to college, graduated, and is now gainfully employed by a software company in the healthcare field. The mistake did not ruin her life. In fact, I think she learned a lot from it. For starters, I don't think she's overslept since!
As I look back on this experience with the benefit of hindsight, I can see that it was valuable. If I hadn't had my own work and priorities, I might have prevented the situation, and the lesson might not have been learned. At least not then. In some unexpected ways, I think the fact that both my husband and I work has required each of our kids to develop a strong sense of responsibility. And that is serving them well now that they are young adults.
Submitted by Mark Haselmaier
When I was younger, I got hungry after dinner a lot. So I would ask my dad for something to eat. Sometimes he would oblige, but he usually looked at me and said, “Go get a snack. You know how to make a peanut butter sandwich or toast a bagel.”
As I think back on those experiences, I remember realizing that I wasn't the only important person or thing in my parents' lives. I learned that they had other things that were important too, and I needed to become capable enough to handle some things on my own.
Submitted by Paul Helbling
After I was divorced, I had custody of our four children. The youngest was eight years old at the time. It worked. Not necessarily perfectly, but that just meant that there were a lot of learning experiences along the way. As an educator, I think that was a good thing.
One way we made it work was to require each person to take responsibility for their own laundry. As I said, it worked. There were some issues, but I didn't get involved with any of them. When there was yelling, I ignored it. When I needed to do my own laundry and found a load of clothes that had been left in the washer, dryer, or both, I just moved them into a basket.
Years later, when I remarried, I shared this strategy with my new wife who was still raising her youngest (12 years old at the time). She was surprised by the idea, but gave it a try. It worked for her too. Even when she found clean clothes that had been in the washer for two days.
Ann Landers probably said it best, "It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings."
It’s a mistake to consider kids and career to be a trade-off rather than a chance for both to benefit. Kids learn from the actions of parents. While high-quality time does not replace a reasonable quantity of time, a greater quantity of time than is needed is a detriment, not a benefit to the child.
My mother taught school, and each day we had an hour or so of time alone to learn how to be independent, even from a young age. Sometimes the learning included misbehavior and occasionally some injuries. Most often the learning was how to be successful all by oneself. An even greater lesson was too subtle to be recognized at that time.
Mom’s working shaped my attitude for what women could and should be able to do. It’s influenced my collaboration with colleagues, my relationship with my wife, and my parenting of our daughters. Mom coming home later than her children each day was a significant blessing to my upbringing, and I’m thankful for it.
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