Submitted by Jim Haselmaier
My wife and I both worked full-time while raising our two kids. It never occurred to me that I might give up my career after our kids came along. It seemed like everyone I knew expected me to support my family financially, and I never questioned that expectation. Before our daughter was born, my wife told me that she thought she might be a better mother if she continued working, and I agreed with her. So even when things got hectic and stressful (and trust me they did), it never entered my mind to give up my career.
In hindsight, I think the process of managing careers and kids worked for both of us because we were determined to make it work. Most of the time it was just that simple. We also developed a level of flexibility that enabled us to manage and cope with the unexpected demands presented by our kids and our jobs. We got really good at supporting each other and communicating clearly. It's worth pointing out to younger parents that we weren't great at any of this in the beginning. It took years of trial and error, failures and successes, and a lot of laughter (and a few tears) to work into a rhythm. We were lucky to have friends with similar lifestyles who would listen to our stories and laugh (rather than gasp) and then tell their own similar stories. Even though our kids have been on their own for a while now, we still feel like we're catching up on lost sleep and quiet time.
We each had standing "household assignments"; mine were cooking, grocery shopping and keeping up with the cars. My wife's focus was laundry, paying bills, and "logistics". Over time I added investing and she took on some volunteer work. We recognized that the demands of our careers ebbed and flowed. When one of us was particularly busy at work, the other might need to step in and do more around the house for a while. The fact that we both had demanding full-time careers made us extra sensitive to situations where work was particularly hectic for the other. It caused us to develop a lot of empathy for each other too.
One thing that worked for us was an agreement that we would never commit to a business trip without talking with each other to be sure our trips didn't overlap. That ensured we were always able to honor our commitments. And once my in-laws came to the rescue when we both really did need to travel the same week.
One night, while I was out-of-town and having dinner with colleagues, my cell phone rang. My wife was calling to ask about a logistical issue at home. The call was quick and efficient with none of the standard pleasantries. My dinner colleagues (who knew my wife and our dual-career situation) started quizzing me about how we do it - raise kids while both of us work. I told them that we'd developed a high degree of empathy for each other. For example, I told them that we understand that, when traveling, the person at home has the harder job. I pointed out that I didn't tell her I was out having a nice meal in a nice restaurant and enjoying myself because that would not have helped her as she was dealing with the stress at home.
I appreciated that my career enabled me to travel and change my focus on occasion. I hope it made me a better parent. My wife's career offered the same benefits for her.
Determination, flexibility, and commitment enabled us to make it work. Every day.
Submitted by Kathy Haselmaier
Recently I was talking with a young working parent who was at her wits' end. She has two young children and a high pressure career. Her employer would be happy if she worked 24 hours/day. She's thinking about resigning because she just doesn't feel like she can keep up with all of the demands. Oh, and did I mention that her work environment is crazy too? The people, the assignments, and the organization structure aren't making things any easier.
I told her that I had been in similar situations in the past and asked myself this question: would I rather quit in defeat or get fired after trying my hardest? For me, it was the latter. I'd rather have been fired knowing I'd tried my best than to have quit and always wondered if I'd given up too soon.
That said, I still needed to find ways to maintain my sanity, so I often defined boundaries for myself at work. For example, I'd tell myself that I would leave the office by a certain time each day, be sure to participate in certain personal activities each day, or limit my hours worked each week. Then I reminded myself that if adhering to any of these boundaries caused me to get fired, I wouldn't beat myself up for it. If I was going to be out of work, it wouldn't be for a lack of trying.
Guess what? I never got fired. In fact, I never (and I mean never) had a manager that even seemed to notice a change in my performance. Sometimes I actually did a better job because I was forcing myself to focus on the most important work and work more efficiently.
If you're at the point where you're not sure you can take it anymore, it might be time to look for a new job. Or you may be able to modify your existing job, on your own terms and without involving your manager, in a way that makes it feel new and more manageable.
Why fire yourself?
Originally Published: Oct 19, 2017 | Last Updated: May 23, 2018
Submitted by Karen Whitefoot
My story starts with the fact that I raised twins by myself. Fortunately my career as a nurse provided some flexibility, including the ability to work extra hours so we were able to afford the necessities and a home with a yard. We even went on a couple of vacations. The flexible hours also enabled me to spend time with my kids.
My own mother was home with my siblings and me full-time. I'd never want the quality of the meals I served or the cleanliness of my house to be compared with hers. Her results were impressive. I've definitely been a different kind of mother.
Both of my children have incredible work ethics. I think it's at least partly because they watched me working hard. They help pay for their schooling by working on and off campus. They are amazing, productive adults. Raising them has been my greatest accomplishment and seeing them appreciate education, work hard, and volunteer tirelessly while maintaining their grades feels great.
The fact that my kids are turning out well leads me to believe that I did something right. Different, but right.
Submitted by Maggie
I love Facebook. It lets me catch up with old friends, share news, and learn more about the world - even fake news. But Facebook becomes the enemy when I read about the accomplishments of my friends’ children. Though I delight in their news and smile at their many accomplishments, I feel envy and a touch of exasperation - this could have been my child.
Our son Daniel is on the autism spectrum. At age two he was diagnosed for PDD/autism and began a long road of intensive therapy and development. This forced a decision on my husband and me; who would stay at home to become his full time caregiver, therapy administrator, and advocate? My husband, Dave, volunteered to take on that role. It's a role that all the training in the world never prepares you for; staying home with a special needs child. I continued working, and thankfully I was capable of taking on the role of breadwinner.
Daniel is now 21 years old and has very limited communication skills. When he is able to connect daily events and report back on a day’s activities, I want to post about it and sing his praises. But I fear that his stories about stocking candies at Walgreens and spotting rainbows, which are delivered in one-two word sentences, might sound trivial and banal to the average Facebook friend even though we know the effort required for him might be equivalent to another child making the honor roll. When he's able to make a connection and tell us about it, it brings a level of joy I wish I could share with others, but I get that most wouldn't understand or appreciate it.
There is a poem that I keep close and read often. It’s called Welcome to Holland, and it speaks about raising a special needs child and the different experiences you discover along the way. The experiences are different than what you probably expected, but not at all bad.
A mother once told me that the secret to parenting is to be long on patience while maintaining a sense of humor. Special needs parents also need to persevere in a way that most parents can't understand. This means looking for the "honor roll accomplishment" in everything that their special needs child does. It may not be Facebook material, but it certainly is wonderful for me,
Submitted by Susan Sarate
As a wife and mother to two kids, I've always wanted the best for my family. I was raised by a strong mother and great father and feel so thankful that I grew up in a happy home. My mom, who raised me back in the 70s, convinced me that when a mom worked the kids lost out and the mother would eventually be filled with regret. I believed her. Why wouldn't I? She was a great mother and full of fun. She made our lives fun. The thing is, back in 2006, just as my own family was taking shape, she died. She didn't live long enough to answer my questions, understand my family dynamics, or witness the changes that have occurred over the last ten years.