Parenting, sacrifices, and your work
I was moved to respond when I read Jory’s post questioning if there is ever a right time to have a kid if you’re serious about your career. I recently had a baby. Jory, you write that you fear “the underlying sacrifice that has, time and again, come with the responsibility of children.” I thought I would share with you some sage advice- not my own. This week, a group of women gave me an incredible gift: a shower of their professional and personal advice on how to manage work and home, the love for my husband and for my child. These women work in what’s lamely called the “work life” field.
They work with families, companies, and leaders to create better work+life fit (Cali Yost’s term). One of the women at my shower was Jessica DeGroot, who teaches shared care (or 50/50) parenting and whose work inspired the New York Times magazine piece from Lisa Belkin that you quote. All of the women at the shower work hard to help parents take equal (or nearly equal) responsibility for childcare and work outside the home, what Jessica calls the “Third Path.” Here are some pearls from Sharon Teitelbaum, a career coach and wise woman:
1. "Go with it." What I took away was that moderation and compromise are the keys to having kids and a career. We don’t talk a lot about moderation in our culture of extreme jobs and super parenting. But it’s how you get through with a minimum of stress.
2. Which brings me to Sharon’s second point: "Spaghetti O’s." “They’re in a can. You open them.” In short, you don’t need to prepare deluxe home cooked meals or keep an immaculate house. And I guess now you can even buy organic Spaghetti O’s.
3. "Date night": have one with your partner very often. And also, as Lisa Levey suggested, have a night for your own self often. Take care to keep your own time sacred. In my short time as a parent, this is the biggest sacrifice I’ve noticed. Which leads to the next point…
4. "Create intentional boundaries." While working and parenting, you need to be deliberate about time commitments, saying yes, and controlling your personal resources of energy, time and attention. So Jory, if you’re a mom, you probably can’t work seven days a week. Some things will have to get let go or delegated. But surely you can live with that? And, to reference Meers and Strober, who write, “every time you correct your spouse's "errors" or criticize his way of doing something, you're dealing a blow to 50/50 [parenting].” This too comes back to creating intentional boundaries. If your husband is on baby duty, don’t hover and check to see if he’s doing things right. Leave the house. Take your time (after all, that’s the deal) and let him figure it out.
And one final point from Lisa Levey, which I’ve heard over and over again and which is worth raising. Most new moms are asked, “well, if you go back to work, how much do you need to make to cover childcare”? This question is usually posed to the mother, not the father. Because the mother is often the default parent, childcare is so often thought of as a cost that comes out of mom’s salary. I did it myself. In Lisa’s words, this is a reductionist view. Investing in childcare so mom and dad can work is an investment in the whole family.
On a personal note Jory, I think about the amazing company you’ve helped to build, and which has probably required many sacrifices at times. I, and probably thousands of others who read BlogHer, am in awe of what you and Lisa and Elisa have built. If you’ve managed to birth and nurture an entrepreneurial gamble with grace, imagine what you can do with your child!
Yes, I was supposed to have written this post two days ago, except that
every time I sit down to write, the baby seems to have a meltdown. And
then, I got turned down for a job I really wanted and I’m wondering if
things will ever be the same again. The truth is, life with a child is better than anything I have ever experienced. I can’t recommend it enough. And it makes time for work sweeter too, because it is time for yourself.