How much help do you have in achieving balance? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 05-15-2008, 09:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm looking for advice as I contemplate returning to my career (and I hope it's ok to post here in this forum).

I am currently a SAHM, and have been a SAHM for a couple of years. Pre-baby I had a pretty solid career, which I had for about a decade before I had a baby. I was always pretty career-oriented and it was a very difficult decision, agonizing really, to determine if I would continue working or become a SAHM.

Ideally, I wanted to work part time and be home part time, but that was not an option.

My career was one where it was typical to work 10 or 12 hour days a few times a week, and also there was some travel involved. Before I had a baby, the long days were actually kind of exciting, and I really enjoyed working on and seeing a project to completion. And I loved traveling for work.

However, my husband has a job where he is usually quite busy and can not take off a lot of time. It's not completely inflexible, but not flexible enough where he could realistically help with day care or other appointments or responsibilities relating to children. (It's a point of contention between us, but oh well).

I have zero support from other family. And I hate to rely on friends who have their own lives, you know?

So, I became a SAHM due to a lack of a support system. It is the only way it would have worked. But I would like to work again at some point. And DH is very eager for me to return to work. Hopefully, I can figure this out.

I'm just wondering, as working mothers, how much help do you get from your spouse or partner, relatives, or others?

Can you achieve balance between work and family life without outside help? How?
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#2 of 18 Old 05-15-2008, 10:21 AM
 
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We get little help from family and no help from friends. DH family is not in our lives and mine live too far away for regular assistance. (I do have aunt that can help out in emergencies once in a while but it has to be a real crisis before I will ask her to travel.)

Because dh works much longer hours than I do, I have taken on all the household management stuff - cooking, laundry, bill paying, shopping, some of the cleaning (we have a 2x month cleaning lady)

We didn't sit down and divide duties but just sort of fell into it. It works for us because we are both committed to a two income household. Dh does so much with our ds, I can't praise him enough.

How committed is your dh in taking on additional duties to make the work transition easy for the whole family?

Could he, for example, do the grocery shopping on the way home from work? Can you split morning/evening child care duties?

How old are your children? Are they able to help themselves yet?

Mom to DS, born fall 05 after ,,, wife/best friend to DH We have
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#3 of 18 Old 05-15-2008, 11:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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How old are your children? Are they able to help themselves yet?
They're not old enough yet, which is why I'm a SAHM at the moment. When they are a little older and can help themselves, it will be easier to go back to work.
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#4 of 18 Old 05-15-2008, 11:43 AM
 
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We have an egalitarian relationship and are partners in the best sense of the word. My job is every bit as important as his job. If the kids are sick, we alternate taking days off. We do approximately equal amounts of childcare and housework, but each of us has our "specialties."

He is a teacher and is off summers and vacations with the kids. My job has a little flexibililty, so I'm usually the one to take off to go to school events or take the kids to doctor's appointments.

I could not do it any other way. I have too many female colleagues who are constantly stressed out because their husbands refuse to do their share, and view their wife's career as secondary. I would not stand for that for a minute.

We have no outside family help. All of the relatives either have their own jobs, are too old, or have raised their families and aren't interested in helping me raise mine.

The one thing I would really love to have is cleaning help. But we are so frugal that we never quite get there.
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#5 of 18 Old 05-15-2008, 03:18 PM
 
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Each person's situation will be a little different - but everyone needs to maintain an open dialogue with their partner to make any situation work.

For us, my job is flexible and DP is in sales with meetings scheduled all over the place - if a kid or dog gets sick, I'm the default caregiver. Similarly, we chose a daycare close to my work place.

I generally work longer hours, so DP takes care of grocery shopping on her slow days and has dinner ready most evenings when DS and I walk through the door.

I throw a load of laundry in whenever needed, since keeping up is easier than catching up. Along those same lines, we pick up toys/dirty dishes/clothes that are lying around the house each evening before bed, and big cleaning like floors, bathrooms and dusting gets done on the weekends. My house isn't always imaculate, of course, but it's clean enough. There is no room in the budget for a regular maid, but I've had them out 3 times in the last 4 years for random assistance.

It took us a while to find our groove, and it morphs to fit the current need. We've never had outside help, unless you count some marriage counseling when DS was a tiny infant and we were flipping out about the major life changes we were going through.
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#6 of 18 Old 05-15-2008, 04:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I know quite a few couples where each parent works and the only reason it works (according to what they say and what I see) is because they view it as a partnership and trade off roles and responsibilities.

I've never felt my DH and I have an equal partnership when it comes to roles and responsibilities. When I left my career after the baby was born, he did make more money than me, but not a huge amount more. And we'd both been in our careers about the same amount of time, and each of us had good earning potential.

But I am the one who took parental leave; he did not. I am the one who deliberated about going part time or staying at home for a few years; he did not.

It was pretty frustrating. I wanted something a bit more equal and I really admired couples who had more equality. I know much of it depends on how family friendly a career one has. Most of the couples I know who have that equality also have fairly family friendly careers - teaching, nursing, public service, etc. It does make a difference. But then I always think if family were really important, you'd try to find a more family friendly job. It's easier said than done.
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#7 of 18 Old 05-17-2008, 04:13 PM
 
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I know quite a few couples where each parent works and the only reason it works (according to what they say and what I see) is because they view it as a partnership and trade off roles and responsibilities.
I think your friends are right, for the most part. My life would be very unbalanced if DP didn't pick up an equal amount of household duties and child-rearing. I'd be horribly resentful and stressed if I had to woh and then come home and take care of the house and handle all the kids' needs, too. I rely on DP a lot: he makes dinner, picks up DS2 from preschool, helps clean, handles bedtime routines, etc. We split things pretty close to 50/50 on parenting and about 70/30 on house-hold stuff (I'm home more, so I end up doing more housework). We also have family on both sides that live close by.

When I was single, obviously I did it all, but I had support from work and family. Not so much on the day-to-day stuff, but I had people who would give me moral support, babysitting, etc. My company was flexible and worked with me when I needed schedule changes, etc.

I think it's important that, if you have a partner, they step up for half the work & if you don't, you at least have people around you who are flexible enough to support you in doing what needs to be done. I have a lot of single working mom friends and they all have at least one or two friends that can exchange child-care with, so they can get a break now and then.
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#8 of 18 Old 05-17-2008, 06:49 PM
 
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Dh has a much longer commute, and is usually gone 7am to 7pm. I do the morning routine, school and daycare dropoff. Our sitter picks up the eldest from school at 3.30, and cooks dinner for the family. I pick up ds2 from daycare, but if I have to work late, the sitter will do it at 4. She also cleans our house once a week. This works great for us.
Although I have less of a commute, I occasionally have meetings in the evenings. We both travel abroad for a few days once every 1-2 months. When I cannot, dh will do the morning routine and arrive at work much later, so I generally have to let him know well in advance.
Once home, childcare and chores are more or less evenly divided, or we do things together.

mama to my August boys ('03 & '06) trying to figure out what to do after 5 losses
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#9 of 18 Old 05-17-2008, 09:23 PM
 
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We saved up money and DH took a year off work during which time I got job training and a job and he had to slowly incorporate the duties of SAHP as I was at school and then as I was at my job.

The plan was for him to incorporate himself and get a WAH contract to fill in the gaps as we learned to live on our income. Well he got a contract but WOH. He lasted exactly 2.5 mos as a SAHP.

Some of the comments he made while looking for a nanny for our youngest showed the revelation it had been for him. "She used to do all the housework but when I stayed home I realized, Hey, this isn't really a fair division of labor" (give the man a gold star )

If he hadn't done the SAH job I do not think it would be even close to equal now.

This isn't just men, btw. I was reading a story on working mothers who had always had a SAHD and they were saying exactly the same things!!! How it would be nice to come home to a spic and span house with supper on the table but they had come to accept that well taken care of children, fit partners and gourment meals were sufficient (sigh )
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#10 of 18 Old 05-17-2008, 10:21 PM
 
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So far it has been a pretty good egalitarian situation for us...but there are times when I have to gently remind DH that I feel I'm shouldering more responsibilities than necessary. DH tends to forget sometimes that we have to work together to make it work. There are nights where DH is lounging on the sofa listening to music and I'm like...honey...I just had super stressful day and I was wondering if you could play with DD while I...take a shower? Generally he comes around and is a great dad/husband...but communication with him is vital.

DH works for the city, so his position is much more flexible than my own, and often it is he that stays home with DD when she is sick. There are moments, however, when I say to myself, my profession just isn't worth it! But, those times pass and somehow we get through the hard day-to-day stuff.

Working and parenting is tough...especially with a toddler. There are days when I'm so exhausted that I can barely think straight. But at the end of the day, we're still a family and I can't help but feeling blessed in so many ways...even if people would consider our circumstance less than desirable.

Well, after that tangent, my only advice is to keep communication open with your partner and don't be afraid to delagate between yourselves. I think the biggest mistake that people make is that they (as in moms) try to do it all themselves. It shouldn't be this way. You and your spouse are PARENTS and you are in it together. Talk amongst yourselves please.

"Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." Charles Lamb.
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#11 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 12:05 AM
 
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We have an egalitarian relationship and are partners in the best sense of the word. My job is every bit as important as his job. If the kids are sick, we alternate taking days off. We do approximately equal amounts of childcare and housework, but each of us has our "specialties."

He is a teacher and is off summers and vacations with the kids. My job has a little flexibililty, so I'm usually the one to take off to go to school events or take the kids to doctor's appointments.

I could not do it any other way. I have too many female colleagues who are constantly stressed out because their husbands refuse to do their share, and view their wife's career as secondary. I would not stand for that for a minute.

We have no outside family help. All of the relatives either have their own jobs, are too old, or have raised their families and aren't interested in helping me raise mine.

The one thing I would really love to have is cleaning help. But we are so frugal that we never quite get there.


This is a lot like how my life works, except I do have help from family here and there. Also, I have a large community of friends (mostly WOHMs) that I can call if I'm really in a jam (and I help them).

Interestingly, and I've posted about this elsewhere, my life feels a lot more balanced with two WOHPs in a fully equal partnership than the WOHD/SAHM model did. That never felt balanced to either of us; this does. So I'd say the question of balance depends on the family dynamics.
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#12 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 12:53 AM
 
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Can you achieve balance between work and family life without outside help? How?
DH and I can't balance it all without help.

We both WAH. DH works about 60/hours a week, and I work about 30-40/hours a week. Even though we are home and can (in theory) set our own schedule, when push comes to shove, we cannot do it all. We need to have set times during the week for work, time to spend together, time to spend with children, time for ourselves, etc.

We have a live-in nanny, and this has worked out very well for us. She also does some home management-type things as well - like grocery shopping, errands, getting the cars to the mechanic, getting things fixed/repaired/replaced, etc. She also doesn't mind running the vacuum cleaner, if needed, although cleaning is not part of her job description. We also have a special needs child, and she is experienced with SN kids, and does really well with our DD.

What we like about having a nanny is the flexibility. Nanny is willing to change gears as needed - if DH or I want to spend some time with the kids, she has no problem doing some laundry, taking care of home management stuff, etc. She is also willing to do overnights, and having a live-in nanny when you have to be away overnight is a real plus.

In very busy times, we've also had a housecleaner 5-10 hours a week.

We've thought about daycare options, but honestly, we really like the nanny situation. Since we WAH, we get to see her interactions with the kids, we get to "check in" with them throughout the day, we have that overnight flexibility, and more.

Finding a good nanny is a job in itself, but when you finally find the right one, it really makes the hunt worthwhile.
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#13 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 01:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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If he hadn't done the SAH job I do not think it would be even close to equal now.

This isn't just men, btw. I was reading a story on working mothers who had always had a SAHD and they were saying exactly the same things!!! How it would be nice to come home to a spic and span house with supper on the table but they had come to accept that well taken care of children, fit partners and gourment meals were sufficient (sigh )
Thanks for making this point! I don't have any personal experience with this (I am a SAHM, my H is a working dad). But I suspect this to be very, very true!

I would love, love, love to give my H an opportunity to be a SAHD for a couple of months. I know (hope?) he would see things differently.

I think we can always learn from walking in another person's shoes. There's always room for perspective, in all things in life.
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#14 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 01:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We've thought about daycare options, but honestly, we really like the nanny situation. Since we WAH, we get to see her interactions with the kids, we get to "check in" with them throughout the day, we have that overnight flexibility, and more.
Wow. I think this sounds so ideal! That is a great scenario! I'm happy to hear it can be done.



In many ways I regret that my degree isn't in a field easily translatable to a work at home position, and I certainly didn't fashion any sort of a career or resume that makes me qualified for work at home jobs, certainly not one that would finance a nanny. My degree/career is pretty much a given full time 40 plus hour with travel and night meetings kind of job. Great for a 20 something year old childless person set on career, not so good when you have children. However, I am grateful that I have a resume that could land me a well paying job that at the very least pays for child care and then some. That is a blessing I'm thankful for. But I'm looking into possibilities for other work arrangements. It's good to know they are out there!
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#15 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 01:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Interestingly, and I've posted about this elsewhere, my life feels a lot more balanced with two WOHPs in a fully equal partnership than the WOHD/SAHM model did. That never felt balanced to either of us; this does. So I'd say the question of balance depends on the family dynamics.
:

I know exactly what you mean. I'm living that way right now. I'm a SAHM with a working spouse, and it doesn't feel balanced and never has. I totally get what you say above. For me, it would be far more balanced if I also worked full time and my H and I shared child and household responsibilities. I can dream...
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#16 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 02:01 AM
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I have a lot of help in achieving balance.

We don't have family nearby, but DH is extremely involved. We split the one year maternity/parental leave, and although we already had a pretty egalitarian relationship, that really helped to set the stage for parenting as a team.

Right now, I would say he does more than I do overall.

Best of luck to you, OP.

professor & maman de DS1 (6) & DS2 (1)

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#17 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 02:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a lot of help in achieving balance.

We don't have family nearby, but DH is extremely involved. We split the one year maternity/parental leave, and although we already had a pretty egalitarian relationship, that really helped to set the stage for parenting as a team.

Right now, I would say he does more than I do overall.
That is a beautiful thing to hear!

I have three friends who have pretty good marriages from what I can tell on the outside, and interestingly enough, all three couples split their maternity/paternity leave equally.

(Ok, I'm going to be bitter here so excuse me while I digress) None of the cruddy 5 days off from work that my H took for "paternity leave." That wasn't very helpful to me, recovering from a c-section. : : : :

And these couples I know also do a pretty good job at dividing up childcare and household activities now. I really envy and admire partnerships like that.
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#18 of 18 Old 05-18-2008, 06:27 AM
 
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My relatives are far away so they're off the hook

Dh has a fairly flexible schedule so that helps a lot.

Friends have picked up a lot of slack for me.

I do want to find a babysitter to fill in but I haven't really looked yet.

It helps a lot that my kids are now all in school and the two oldest can be at home by themselves for short periods. Since dh works so close to home-I feel comfortable with them being home for short periods.

I have to say my current employer has been great. Though I don't have paid time off (being part-time) they've been good about letting me have time off.

The employer I had before I became a SAHM was completely inflexible about last-minute schedule changes (which can happen when you have kids).
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