Submitted by Kirk Hetherington
I'm one of those career-oriented people who approaches work seriously. Early in my career I did non-profit work, and I think that's at least part of the reason I expect to derive meaning and satisfaction from my work.
After our first two children were born, I only took a few days off from work, because I wanted to save my vacation days for ... vacations. But by the time my wife and I were expecting our third child, and I was working at the director level, expectations were starting to change. In fact, I will never forget an email I received during that time, in 2018, from my company, Danaher. The message announced a new parental leave policy; eight weeks of paid time off for all new parents.
While I was thrilled when the announcement was made, and I was excited about the idea of being able to spend significant time with our new baby, I found that even though I hadn't been shy about sharing the news that my wife was expecting with my management and co-workers, I was concerned that asking to use this new benefit might not be well-received. I wondered if a request to spend time with my new baby might be perceived as a lack of commitment to my career, even though nothing could have been farther from truth.
So I was pleasantly surprised, but also a little apprehensive, when my manager, the VP of marketing, asked if I was planning to take a parental leave. After I danced around the question a bit by telling him that I thought it was a great opportunity, that I was glad the company was offering the benefit, but that I was seriously focused on delivering strong results and progressing in my career, my manager came right out and said, "I hope you take all eight weeks." I immediately responded, "I'll do it." And I did.
When our son Zack was born, I took two full weeks off, and then I came back into the office just to check on things. After concluding that the organization could survive without me (ha), I went back home and took the remaining six weeks off. While I really do like to work hard, being able to step out during this time and focus on family exclusively, was incredibly meaningful and impactful. It alleviated some tension that might have existed otherwise.
I consider myself an "all in" kind of guy who loved my work before the parental leave, and I love my work now. Taking the leave didn't change my commitment to my career, but it did cause me to appreciate my company, Danaher, even more. Of the many wonderful things that Danaher has given me in the last nine years, nothing has been more meaningful.
It's also worth noting that throughout my parental leave the company leadership and my co-workers were super supportive. That time with my family was incredibly impactful, and I cherish that time to this day.
Note: Danaher parental leave policies vary by country.
Submitted by Kelsey Sprowell
I snuck downstairs from my 'office' in the guest room to snap this shot of the family room floor.
At my friend Molly's suggestion, I ordered a roll of rainbow masking tape from Amazon and encouraged the girls to make a city for their toy cars. Olivia went nuts - I've never seen her imagination so engaged. I helped her map out a road, and then she added a hospital, a grocery store, a post office, a house, two parks, a field of cows, a firehouse and police station, and a hotel. Then she added a whole grid of sidewalks & bike paths.
It was so fun to watch! And now I kinda wish I had my own toy cars.
Editors note: Here's another clever idea !
Pointer to podcast
The Breakfast Show, a radio program out of London, interviewed Working Parent Stories editor, Kathy Haselmaier, earlier today. Listen in as they discuss the recent YouGov survey reported in The Independent about parents' varied opinions about their ability to achieve balance between their careers and family life. (The show starts at 1:27:38 and the Working Parent Stories editor arrives at 1:42:15)
Pointer to an encouraging TODAY Show Video
Women from the TODAY swap stories about their increased family time right now in this video.
Working parents adjusting to new routines (not to mention new "co-workers"), may appreciate their stories and insights. Our favorite comment from Jenna Bush Hager: "There was this one day where I raised my voice. I was down on myself for the way that I was acting toward Henry, honestly; the way I was acting toward my kids. And I video'd them, and they were like, 'This is the best! We get Mommy and Daddy at home for dinner every night.'"
Understanding how successful people were raised can be intriguing. It turns out that Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who has been getting a lot of air time on CNN recently, was raised by successful parents, and his mother, Damyanti Gupta, has been recognized fairly recently as the first degreed woman engineer at Ford Motor Company.
You can learn more about her inspiration, determination, and career in this short video. You'll also find a real gem of a story in this video.
Submitted by Nathan Wheat
Until recently, work never came home with me. Somehow I've avoided being tethered by a work-issued cell phone, and I’ve had a handy excuse for not checking work emails on the weekends: I don’t have Internet at home. You’d be surprised how much time you gain when there aren’t Tweets to check, Netflix shows to binge, or unboxing videos to comment on!
I’m sure mine isn’t the only home that has seen significant changes recently. With an eye on the news, I finally broke down and signed up for Internet service, and now work never leaves my home.
Here are some things I’ve done to keep my five year old busy and myself sane:
We're only eight work days into this new routine, and it's not yet clear how long it needs to last, but as of right now it feels like it's going to work.
When our daughter finished second grade, one of the words on her weekly spelling list was "ventriloquist". She's 29 now, has a good head on her shoulders, and did well in school. And back then, we were pretty sure that she was a genius ;)
So we weren't suprised at the end of second grade, when the school suggested that she be put into a 2nd/3rd "split class" the next year. We were told that as a self-motivated and successful student, the teachers agreed that she had that "something extra" to not only succeed in the environment, but that they thought she would help other students succeed in that environment too. Beaming with pride, we fully endorsed the plan. What could possibly go wrong?
In addition to the teacher's challenge managing the "split class", it was one of her first years teaching, and the class included five students who were either deaf or hearing impared. Clearer thinking parents might have grown suspicious that only a new teacher would take on so many challenges, and we might have grown even more suspicious when the other teachers offered up the best classroom in the building to this teacher; the large room with huge skylights and tons of natural lighting.
The year got off to a good start, but when our daughter's first spelling list that year included the words, "hill", "bill", and "will", we immediately did what any parent of a young genius would do in that situation; we scheduled a meeting with the principal. (I'm pretty embarassed to tell this part of the story. My only defense is that we were young, and we were trying to raise a genius ;) The principal masterfully calmed us down, and for reasons I can't even remember, we chilled out for the following eight months. I do remember thinking she hardly learned anything that year. I thought it at the time, and I think it now. Kind of.
The thing is, since there was a full-time intepreter in the class, she learned sign language. I claim she was fluent, at least back then, but she insists she was not. (And given that she minored in Linguistics in college, she should know.) We both agree that she knew enough sign language to host totally silent 24 hour sleep overs. While other parents complained they got very little sleep with a basement full of little girls, we slept like babies on those nights.
Fast forward 22 years. Our daughter is now an SLP (Speech-Language Pathologist) whose sign language skills are put to use on a fairly regular basis, and we learned a valuable lesson that parents concerned about their kids' learning right now may find valuable; It's hard to stop kids from learning. We all think we know what they need to learn, but sometimes we're wrong. Sometimes unexpected opportunities that are right in front of us, whether we see them or not, provide the greatest lessons of all.
As so many working parents are stuggling to juggle and navigate a new normal with their kids, it may make sense to ask yourself what valuable learning opportunities are presenting themselves within your own home right now? I know from experience it can be really hard to see them, but I also know from experience that they probably exist. Maybe they'll learn more about your work, maybe they'll learn to be more self-directed, maybe they'll learn about sacrifice, resourcefulness, or adaptabilty. While I have no idea what your kids will learn from this, I am sure they will learn something. And hopefully it will prove to be valuable in the future.
Do you have any thoughts or ideas to share on this topic? How are you coping? Let us know in the comments below.