Confessions of a Working Mom Q&A: Part 2
Q: How much time did you take off for each child?
When I had my first child, I took the traditional leave that was granted to me. I am fortunate, lucky, blessed and thankful for that unbelievable amount of time and support offered through my company. I wrote about this in my first Q&A and I cannot stress it enough!
But 18-weeks at home (through winter) alone, with a non-verbal human that required endless work and no sleep was also depressing and lonely for me. I was stuck inside our tiny house most of the time. I knew almost no body in our new neighborhood. I was overwhelmed.
I loved bonding with my new baby and being with him so much, for so long was a magical experience in many ways, but also an isolating one. With our second child, my approach was different. I took a few weeks completely off to recover, bond and sleep (ha!) and then took the rest of my leave as a remote and part-time worker. This was great for my mental and emotional well-being. I loved having something to do each day that was not related to cleaning diapers, but also got to enjoy so much lovely bonding time! Everyone is different and everyone’s journey is different. That’s what makes the world go round!
Parents need to make decisions that suit their mental, emotional, physical and financial well-being and needs. Whether it is go back to work early, late, stop working all together, work part-time or work-from-home, the decision is so personal and dependent on so many factors it is truly impossible to judge another parent (even though many do!).
Q: How do you keep in touch with your kids over the course of the day?
Being away from my kids for a good chunk of the day can be hard when I feel like I am missing fun things with them – new experiences, moments of connection, developments and milestones. But I work hard to make sure we get happy times together every single day, whether it is in the morning before work or right when I get home! We overload on weekend time together as well.
If I am going to miss bedtime more than twice a week (rare!), I ask my husband or caregiver to let my older son stay up a wee bit late so I can have a last cuddle and put him down myself.
Throughout the day, my caregiver sends photos, videos and other quick text updates. With the baby, we use an app called BabyTracker which helps keep track of feedings and sleep, so I often glance at that throughout the day to feel in the loop!
Sometimes over lunch we Facetime, though that experience has proved difficult for my toddler a few times. It depends! Overall, I truly value and appreciate the multiple video clips and photos throughout the day! Thank goodness for smartphones.
Q: How do you manage the balance day-to-day?
Like any parent, you are making sacrifices and decisions every day to benefit your family in whatever way possible. Stay-at-home parents are managing a ton, just like parents who work outside the home. The amount to balance isn’t less or more, it is just different and straining in distinct ways. By no means do stay-at-home parents have an easier time “balancing it all.”
As a parent who works outside the home, I feel like I sacrifice time with my children, finances to support their care when I am away, and some of the experiences as a family we would otherwise have. But the decision to work is multifold. I both must work and want to work. That decision is personal to me and also to the broader well-being of my family. I am doing the best I can by them, that is the choice I make.
We have found ways to make managing the household easier (chores, errands, to-do lists…), and childcare more efficient, transparent and affordable. We spend more happy moments together each week as a family because of these system.
I sacrifice money to help us thrive, not just survive. I order grocery delivery to the house more often than not, I have subscription services from Amazon, Target and Lola so I don’t spend tons of time shopping for household supplies, and I happy pay my sitters an extra 15-minutes (or half hour) when I return home at the end of my work day sometimes so they can help clean-up/prepare for the next day and I can spend those minutes soaking up my kids in quality time. This won’t be forever, it is not every day, and those upfront costs now is worth it to the health, wellness and connection for our family.
I am incredibly, remarkably thankful to have a phenomenal (and I truly mean phenomenal) husband who is a supportive, involved, engaging, caring, helpful, efficient, loving, dedicated and responsible partner who does not fit the mold of any dad memes and jokes out there. He changes diapers, he gets up when the kids cry, he takes morning duty solo, he cleans the kitchen, empties the dishwasher, folds laundry, packs diaper bags, make formula, plays with the kids, runs it all if I am away for work or pleasure – you name it! He also works 75+ hours a week. This man is heaven sent. Without a partner like that, I can imagine how much harder the stress is for both working parents and stay-at-home parents. Single parents, for sure, are saints carrying it all themselves.
I feel lucky day to day with the support and resources I have to manage a healthy balance. I also go out of my way to discover tools, methods, practices to implement in our lives to make things more efficient and effective. I sacrifice one thing for another and make decisions with our time, money, energy and efforts that suit our distinct family and situation, as every parent does.
“When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.”Sheryl Sandberg, ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’
Q: Between work, the house and your kids – do you find time for yourself?
I do find time for myself. That is probably an impossible task for many parents who are “doing it all” but if you have the means, support and drive to do so – there is a way. I see my commute (about 25-30 minutes a day, each way) as “me time” – I call a friend, listen to some music, throw on an audible book or podcast I love. If I make it the gym over the weekend (my gym has a daycare, hooray for that!) – I find that to be great me time!
Although these moments are no longer about me sitting on the couch relaxing by myself indulging in wine and Netflix binges, it is all about perspective.
Walking my baby for a stroller wander around the neighborhood while he sleeps is “me time” – I throw in headphones and call my Mom or Dad for a quick chat, listen to something I want to listen to and get a little fresh air and exercise in. If you are a stay-at-home parent with kids who still nap, I highly advise carving out some of nap time for yourself as a break! There is always, always a ton to do – dishes, chores, to-do tasks – but you need a mental and physical break as well! Take it! Multitask with those other items the second half of nap or when the kids are awake (if possible).
Finding time for myself is much different that it use to be as a single adult, but it is there tucked inside a quieter moment here or there. It is all about point-of-view, time management and feasibility! Stay-at-home parents with no help get the least amount of me-time and self-care, I can only hope they encourage their partners to lend a hand when possible!
Q: Rude Working Mom Question: Why did you have kids in the first place if you are just going to work all day?
No one, no one, asks this of men but this question always seems to hit women. I even had one of my very best friends ask me this is not so subtle terms.
Having kids is not about being with them for every second of every day. Sure, it could be that to some people, but that is not the way it goes for all, or even, most. Having a family is much larger, longer, deeper/meaningful, wider and all-embracing than what happens from 9-5 (heck, even 7-7) Monday through Friday through one chapter of your lives together. Parenting is not a sprint, it is a marathon.