From the Backlist: Work/Life/Family Balance
This week I interviewed and was hired for my dream job. It’s still so new and I feel a little in shock. From my initial application, through each set of interviews, I shared the experience with my Exponent bloggers and I received amazing words of encouragement and support. Now that I’m transitioning from over a decade of SAHMotherhood, I’ve turned to them for advice on how to balance my work, life, and family. I’d also asked them about how important it is to live near your work. As I will be working from home but traveling a lot, we are considering potentially moving near my husband’s.
Here are some samples of suggestions from bloggers on how to make full-time employment easier for family life.
Alisa: Proximity to work is really important, but that is a long-term decision you can take the time to make if necessary, as I wouldn’t want to feel rushed into it along with starting the new job. In the meantime, you’ll need someone close by who can be a backup to Mark when you’re travelling. A backup to the backup, as we say in our house.
Amelia: Not a working mom, but I’ll second the short commute recommendation. Many of my colleagues commute 25-60 minutes and I can’t even imagine doing that. Having a ten minute drive to work in the morning and evening is an absolute godsend. Though I think Alisa’s advice to maybe do one thing at a time, rather than starting a new job and selling/moving houses at the same time, is really sound. It’s a lot of work to move.
Jana: I second the need for the following (though I’m doing things as a “single mom” so I might lean more heavily on these than you would):
-someone close to the kids’ school to call when there’s an emergency.
-a list of takeout-friendly restaurants on speed-dial
-phones for each kid (got old-school & cheap brick phones rather than smartphones so they can’t run up huge bills)
-debit cards for the older kids (they can even order pizza in a pinch or can walk to a grocery store and pick up food/TP/etc)
-I let my kids sign any forms that come home from school–I simply trust them to tell me if there’s a problem and they manage the rest of the stuff.
-I’d also say that you ought to make the crockput your new best friend. Ditto the breadmaker (there’s nothing quite as cheering as setting a timer for bread to be coming out of the baking cycle when you walk in the door).
-My kids have their own amazon Prime accounts so they can order books/clothes/stuff that they need w/o needing to ask me for it.
-And…my kids have a few recipes that they can make and I keep those ingredients always on hand (for E it’s Cuban bean soup, for C it was PB&J and quesadillas)
-One more thing: cereal for dinner is not a fail. It’s a pretty balanced meal, all things considered.
April: Something my husband and I did recently which has helped immensely is that we both added feeds of each other’s calendars to our own so we can see both calendars at once. (We use google and ical, which both make feeds and can share with each other, and lots of other calendars work this way too. You can google instructions.) And we both got on the same list app (Wunderlist, but there are about a zillion of these that all work great) and inputted and divided all of the household chores. We also made a shared shopping list, so whoever notices something is out can add the item, and whoever happens to be at the store can check their phone and grab what is needed.
Since we have done this, we waste less time figuring out out whose turn it is to do what, and coordinating who needs to be with the kids when the other has a meeting, and being frustrated or angry with each other about logistic stuff.
EmilyU: How do I do working and parenting? Good childcare is #1. I’ve used in-home daycare for my babies and preschool starting at age 3 for both of my kids. For after-school care for older kids you hope to find a reliable babysitter your kids bond with. In order to get someone good you’ll probably need to give her/him a regular schedule, or as regular as you can, even if you don’t “need” her every day. Hopefully someone with a car who can drive the kids to their after school activities. Days when school is closed are hard. My son is in an after school program that offers programs on no-school days, so maybe your school would have something like that. I bring him to work with me sometimes, too, though I’m not very efficient when he is here and I can’t do that on days I have meetings. My husband has a flexible job so he can stay home on off days occasionally as well. I use park district camps during the summer, and they have after care so I don’t have to pick him up by 3 pm — impossible if you’re working full time.
Making dinner every day can feel exhausting and relentless. The hour between when I pick my kids up and put food in front of them is the hardest hour of the day. They are hungry and tired of being “good” all day, so it all comes tumbling out and they are cranky, as am I sometimes. So to get decent food on the table as quickly as possible I have a small repertoire of meals that can either be made in half an hour or can be made the night before. We sacrifice variety, but there is no way I can make something time-consuming on a week night.
My only other advice is to be clear and honest about what your limitations are. We had a moment this winter when I didn’t get something done I said I would do, and my husband was annoyed, then I snapped and said well I can’t do everything!!!! To which he said, then tell me what to do to help! Which is kind of a no-brainer but I realized I was expecting him to see what needed to be done the same way I did, which isn’t reasonable. So I gave him a list of 3 tasks I needed him to take over, and he has been doing them. It’s been better, but this kind of thing takes constant adjustment so it’s never “solved.” It’s better to ask for help before things get so busy you feel totally overwhelmed.