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.
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.
Submitted by "Mom2Boys"
I am not the mom who cries when dropping her kids off, but today, as I prepared to return to work after completing my parental leave, was a little different. Our baby had his first day at school with his “experienced” big brother.
I can't begin to tell you how much we absolutely love our kids’ teachers, which is why I was positive I wouldn't cry when I put them in such good hands. I was doing well, dry eyes and everything, until I turned to walk out of the infant room and saw my older son's concern for his little brother; he was peering through a window checking on his baby brother as I left the room. His big heart was so obvious, and I could see him caring about and being protective of his little brother. It made my mom heart want to burst, but instead my eyes welled with tears.
Later their teachers let me know that my older son insisted on visiting his baby brother multiple times throughout the day just to make sure he was adjusting well. I can’t imagine loving these boys any more and appreciate their caring teachers so much!
Submitted by "Human Rights Mama"
As a lawyer specializing in policy advocacy for refugee rights and the mother of a 3-year-old and 10-week-old, I've had a number of experiences that only seem "funny" in hindsight. I share them in an effort to encourage other working parents because it isn't always easy, but we get the job done (at work and at home)!
When my son, our first child, was 3.5 months old, I took a required work trip to a conference in Europe. It was my second week back from maternity leave and my employer was very supportive, encouraging me to bring my spouse and baby along. Having them close enabled me to more easily focus on my work; leading a staff retreat and attending human rights hearings at the UN all week. My husband was extremely supportive and happy to come along to help, but the universe kept throwing obstacles in our way. At the time I was exclusively breastfeeding and quickly discovered that I did not have the right electrical adapters to enable me to pump. Plus there weren't many electrical outlets in the city restrooms anyway.
As if that wasn't enough of a challenge, it was 100F degrees outside, and it was humid too. But we made it work.
Instead of seeing some sights as he'd planned, my husband brought the baby to me every three hours for feedings. The thing was, my husband rarely had the right badges to get into the buildings, so he had to wait for me out in the heat. Or sometimes we met in an air-conditioned grocery store to pass the baby back and forth. Then he would pack our little boy up and try to get him somewhere cool for a nap. He must have logged 50 miles of walking that week!
In one of my favorite moments, the UN refused to let the baby through security because he didn't have an official badge from an accredited organization. That meant that I missed an entire afternoon of hearings at the Human Rights Council. I believe they were talking about women’s rights in that session ...
The irony was not lost on me.
Submitted by Jessica Duff
As a working parent, few things are as discouraging as not being able to leave work to take your sick child to the doctor!
Recently I ran into this situation while trying to schedule a doctor’s appointment for my 8-month-old son for a possible ear infection. As a busy working mom with two kiddos, finding the time to step away to take my son to the doctor seemed impossible. Then a friend helped me realize that I shouldn't complain or feel bad about the situation. She pointed out the silver lining: I am able to provide medical care for my child because I am a working parent. It really doesn't matter who takes him to the doctor.
My husband and I both have busy work schedules, but we make time for our kids whenever possible. Luckily, we have amazing family in town who can help out at a moment's notice. I have a great family, supportive (and insightful) friends, and a baby on the mend.
Who could ask for more?
Submitted by Modern Cynical Dad
"Full-time Mummy/Daddy" is a term that irks both my wife and me because it is usually used in the context of a career choice. The distaste for the term is not aimed at the individual who chooses to use it, nor the choice that person makes. It bothers us because parenting is not, in any way, a career.
Use of the term suggests that those of us who pursue careers (by choice or not) are less committed as parents. Of course, I am not naïve. I don’t really believe that other parents mean to imply that, but sometimes it is interpreted that way.
My wife and I both have full-time careers. She is an Advisor for a well-known optometrist and runs her own business. I am an Area Manager for an equally well-known retailer in the UK.
Submitted by Chatón Turner
I'm a "Working mom on a quest for balance in stilettos". My children are 7 and 3-years-old, and we have another one on the way. I'm a wife to Andre Smith. And I'm also an attorney for a healthcare system, an adjunct professor, and a public speaker. In my "spare time" I maintain a social media presence via my chatonsworld.com web site, @Chatonsworld account on Twitter, and @chatonsworld account on Instagram. Obviously I like to write and communicate.
Balancing all of my roles is my biggest challenge. Indeed, Corporate America is still not very accommodating to working parents, and many organizations do not have formal flexible work policies. The culture and lack of flexibility makes balance incredibly hard. Still, I'm driven by high standards and a vision for the lifestyle I want to provide for my kids. My income matters to my family, and my family matters to me, so I try to do it all. I also hope that my example -- trying, working hard, and persevering despite these challenges -- will serve to teach my children what is possible.
Luckily I have good role models at work, and my mom worked the whole time I was growing up so I know it can be done. Maybe being a working parent is like childbirth. After powering through my own drug-free child birth experience, just like my mom had done, I asked her why she hadn't told me about the pain. It seemed like it might have been worth mentioning! She said "Nobody talks about it because if we did nobody would do it." So, like I said, maybe it's the same for working parents.
People tell me that I need to power through the working parent struggles to get to the glory, and I'm in it for the glory of my kids. Hopefully these people are right!
Inspired by Jaclyn Perovich
This beautiful photo caught my eye on Instagram recently, and the caption was, well, captivating.
Posted by "aupairworks", it described a goodbye to an au pair. And a thank you for taking care of her sons and "loving them like little brothers". Wanting to hear more about this story, I contacted Jaclyn Perovich, the mom of the little boys shown in the picture. She is an au pair consultant so had lots to share. She talked about her positive experiences as an au pair and with au pairs. The thing that especially caught my attention was when she said she'd told her au pair, "Thank you for letting me enjoy my children again!" He'd enabled her to focus more on her children when she's with them, instead of needing to worry about the more mundane things involved with caring for them. Attending Library Story Time with her younger son and going out on a lunch "date" with her older son are activities recently added to her calendar. We talked for a bit, and here's some of what I learned about au pairs.
Au pairs focus on your children when you're not with them so you can focus on your children when you are with them. In addition to keeping your children safe and engaged with life, they clean up their messes too. This means that they do things like feed your kids (and clean up afterward), pick up their rooms and play areas and/or help the kids do it, and keep the kids' bathroom tidy. (They don't regularly make your dinner or do your laundry or clean up after you, but they do give you more time to do those things.)
Submitted by Jim Haselmaier
Managing personal and professional obligations is a challenge on a good day. When unexpected complications pop up it gets even harder to keep everything and everyone on track. You probably know what I mean; a meeting that runs late, a call from the school, realizing that you've got two different colored socks on as you prepare to meet with your customer, or, a family member that gets sick.
When someone gets sick at home, the challenges can mushroom into even more problems if other family members end up with the bug. And being sick yourself is often the worst because, in addition to feeling lousy, you start to fall behind at work and at home as the ratio of "doers" (aka "parents") to those needing attention (aka "kids") gets out of whack.
Submitted by Kelsey Sprowell
I had a lot of fear about going back to work after my daughter was born. My own mom, whom I admire, didn't work after I was born.
That fear completely evaporated after about six months! My initial fear was probably common; I just couldn't imagine that anyone else could possibly love my daughter and take care of her the way I do. But I noticed right away that she came home from "school" smelling like her teachers, so I knew she was being held all day, and that was reassuring. Also, she never cried when I dropped her off, which helped. And every time we got to school, all of the teachers addressed her (not me) - "Hi Olivia!"
I was also nervous about missing out. I didn't want to miss her first steps, for instance. But what I've found is that the work week is really short, and I don't miss much. I don't ever get annoyed or fed up with her because we're just not together long enough to get on each other's nerves.
I love my job, and the people I work with, so before Olivia was born (and after), I couldn't imagine staying home, even though my mom had done that. I get so much fulfillment from working and being a mom.