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Does it work for you?

On a day like today, I love when I can schedule all sorts of meetings out of the office. So, I was out and about, driving past Grant Park in the late morning. I saw a bunch of mamas (probably urbanMamas!) out at the playground with their little ones. I must have sighed and said, "Oh! Look at the mamas...." I think I also said, "Makes me wonder if I should just stay home." My [single, childless, male] colleague said empathetically, "You must think about that seriously every now and then."

Yes, I do.

BUT. I love the work I do. Yes. I do. I enjoy working with people. Yes. I do. I love the people I serve. Through my work, I believe I am contributing to our society, to our Portland, to our community. I also believe that I still am able to have a strong relationship with my girls. They both have their separate communities and are becoming more independent in them. Each of them are developing their own personalities and preferences. They are learning immensely, both in the time we are together and also in the time we are apart.

For sure, our situation has challenges. I leave work at 4pm, and evenings can be harried. Still, this is our schedule, and I think this is still working for our family.

Even though I don't often feel that my 7 AM to 4 PM work schedule is all that awful, I can't help but wonder what else I can do. Should I work 20 hours? 32 hours? If I did work fewer hours, would I still end up doing 40 hours-worth of work during the shortened time? Should I stay home all together? Someone mentioned to me recently: "The reason we moved to Portland is because we could still have a great lifestyle and not need two incomes to sustain ourselves." With my spouse also working full-time, do I need to? Or, is it not a matter of whether I need to, but is it a matter of whether I want to?

I know all of us think about these things. All our situations require delicate balance: whether we are the sole breadwinners, whether we are part of a necessarily dual-income family, whether we are staying at home with our children, whether we are doing a little of both. What choices has your family made, relative to balancing family needs and careers? What do you love most about your family's choice? What is the most challenging about your family's choice?


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Oh, one of my favorite topics! I'll be interested to see how others strike the balance. I work full-time (35 hours) from home, starting at 5:30 AM. My husband works about 25 hours per week on campus (mornings and one very long evening), and probably another 20 at home between his full-time position and the extra classes he teaches at his old institution. Our son is in day care 20 hours per week on campus with my husband. He loves it, and it's very affordable - the convenience and cost was part of what drew us to this job instead of another offer my husband had the year we moved.

We don't have an option - I have to work. The money we'd lose in retirement savings and the out-of-pocket cost of health insurance for me, not to mention my salary (which is essential for paying our mortgage, etc.), would be unsustainable for us here in Portland. I know retirement savings and college funds are a luxury for some, but they are a necessity to us. Even if they weren't, we couldn't afford to live as we do (comfortably but modestly) without my salary. Both of us pick up work on the side for 'extras' like having the house insulated and painted and doing renovations.

I like working and wouldn't change that, but I have to say that most of what I like about having a job is sapped by working in relative isolation at home. And I'm underemployed right now, but can't advance with my current employer because I work remotely. My schedule is so ideal that I haven't looked in earnest before now - and I do wonder if I should just suck up spinning my career wheels for a few more years, but I know I would be miserable.

I intend to begin a job hunt once our second child has begun morning day care in January. If I get a local job, I assume my schedule will be 'regular' again and more of the childcare burden will fall on my husband. But assuming the new job is enough of a salary increase, we may be able to get an afternoon babysitter some days to help.

What we do works for us - we have a pretty equal partnership in running our family and household, and I like it that way and so does my husband. We do dislike how much of our work life spills into our home life because of the fact that we work from home, but I think that's a fact of life no matter what kind of work you do.

Yes, sometimes. I always tend to think the grass is greener. I work full-time, M-Th 7 to 5:30. Long hours, but at least I get to spend three full days with my sons which can't be beat for working mom. I'm still nursing so my day really starts at 4 am when my son stirs for his morning feeding. My alarm goes off at 5 am and I push snooze trying to get a few more extra minutes of sleep everyday. It's rare that I can make it home before 6:30 pm, and then the madness ensues. I have my 3 year old hanging off of my leg, and my infant panting like crazy when he hears my voice. Many people think I'm insane for working the hours I do but having a stable career that's still challenging but with limited stress cannot be beat. I'm sure our family will reassess the work schedule soon to adjust to our changing lives. Being a family with two working parents, I've realized that it helps if one spouse has a lower stress and flexible job.

It was difficult initially to make the decision to stay home, but I wouldn't trade the last year for anything. I want to be at home with our children (one currently, but hoping for a second soon) during their early years. Fortunately my spouse agrees and we can do this financially. In a few years, we'll reassess our situation and go from there. I hope to be back in my profession at that time.

We had little choice in my returning to work. My job comes with terrific insurance and we couldn't afford to pass that up. I work 40+ hours a week over 4 days so I can be home with my daughter on Wednesdays. No matter how tough it gets to motivate myself to work, I try to remind myself it's only 2 days of work before I get a day off with her. While 10 hour days are super hard (it also means I get very limited time with her on those days) it makes it so worthwhile to have our day together. My husband did cut his hours back to 3 days a week and stays home with her the other 2 while I am working. Those are the hardest days, leaving them at home and hearing about all the fun stuff they did while I was gone. For the other 2 days she goes to "school" and while I'm glad she gets some social interaction there, I can't help but be a tad jealous that I'm having someone else spend the day with my daughter while I really want to be the one with her. I think it's good for all of us though, that she plays well with other kids and if comfertable with other adults, but it doesn't make it any easier to leave her and head out to the office.

I try and make the best of our Wednesdays together, but sometimes I pile lots of to-do's on that day because it's one of the only days I can get our personal stuff done.

One of the many reasons we moved to Portland is because of how affordable it is. With that said, my staying at home with our babes is still a financial stretch at times.
On a more personal note, being a stay at home mom is rewarding for me and the right choice for our family, but it is also a personal sacrifice.
I have found that possibly because we had our children into our 30's, what with my career being well underway, I have put aside a part of my life that I readily put aside thinking I wouldn't miss it. I miss parts of it alot... interaction with adults and not just chatting, I miss collaberating, achieving a result, etc... With that said, I really don't want to go back because my FT job as SAHM is important to our family and me. I have found that I need a balance of kids and personal achievement, which is why I started my very small business.
I encourage my fellow Mama's to pay attention to what you need as an individual to be happy and go with it, try to balance it with the many needs of the family, try to identify what keeps you energized and engaged and make it work. It's important to also realize and expect that the scenario will be filled with compromise (mine is that I work on my business stuff from 9pm until 11:30 - time well spent to me).
As they say, when Mama's happy everyone's happy.

I like this topic too! I am now working full time 5 days a week, 40+ hours a week and my husband works graveyard. Our goal is to do this through the summer to keep both kids home as much as possible. When I had my son (who is now 2.5 yrs old), I went to part time and worked 3 10 hour days and it was GREAT! But my husband lost his job last year and I got pregnant and yada yada yada.. I'm lucky I have a job that has adjusted to my needs and my boss is the best. I just accepted a promotion (after returning from maternity leave) that will ensure I work full time for quite a while but it is with the hope that I will be making enough money within a year for my husband to quit his job and stay home. It is a constant sea of doubt for me about whether to work full time, part time or not at all but the biggest thing I have learned is nothing is permanent. My husband and I agree that if I decide I just can't do the full time thing we'll look at me going back to part time and him getting a day job etc... it's all about adjusting and trying different arrangements. I love that we are both open to change and communicating about it often. The most challenging thing is knowing what I want!! The grass is always greener...or so they say.

I work 24 hours a week because we need my income (grad school loans!) but would I work if we didn't? It was so hard to go back after maternity leave but I am glad to have the adult contact and to be active in my profession.

I often think we have the perfect balance: Daughter gets to play with her friends at her wonderful day care 2 short days a week and the rest of the time I am working, she is with Daddy (and he gets to parent without Mommy looking over his shoulder). Of course, that means that I am working part of the weekend and in the evenings which cuts down on family time.

I have times when I so wish that I didn't have to leave her at all. And there are times when I think that if I worked full-time we could afford _________. All in all, I know I have it good but it is hard not to think of the alternatives. We'll see how I feel when the newborn arrives this Fall!

I'm so glad to see this topic. I am the sole breadwinner and have been for about 3-4 years, so I didn't have a choice but to return to work full time. I'm there 8:30-4:30, work through lunch about every day and about 3 days a month, schedule permitting, I'll work from home. I have a team taking care of the baby -- part-time nanny 2-1/2 days a week, my mom and my husband. I would rather have a 4-day work week but I also find it hard to stomach having less time with my 9-month old son on those days. Right now, the situation works okay, but I would definitely be saner if I had a mid-week break. It's harder now that my son is getting so much more engaged and interested in the world. I don't think I have a choice but to keep working. I know I'm not cut out to be a SAHM -- ironically work does give me balance. But I'd like to work less. My goal is to find a job that will let me have a flexible work week/telecommute. Plus, my husband will start looking for a job this summer and that will help. Funny, how I crave being with my son and then find myself on a Saturday afternoon like today, wanting someone to take him for a couple hours so I can nap.

Having had a taste of different work situations this past year, I've definitely learned that there are challenges and rewards to every option. Working FT out of the home was easier for me in the sense that there was routine, and I didn't have to spend 80% of my life juggling nearly as much as I do now. However, I saw my son so much less than I do now.

When I was home FT with him for a few months while starting my businesses, there were challenges to that situation as well. I loved being a SAHM for that brief time, but I also love working. I crave it. When I fulfill my passion for creating things, I am happy and definitely a better, more focused mother.

Now, working from home, he is in school only for 15-18 hours a week, which is great because he gets social time and loves learning in that atmosphere, and I get time to work uninterrupted. But that also means I have to work every second he is napping or sleeping, and on the weekends when he and my husband can have papa and son time.

The surprise for me was how much harder working from home really is compared to working in an office. I work odd hours so that my son and I can go to the zoo on a sunny day. But I am also the one expected to go to the doctors appts and set work aside when he is sick because it's harder for my husband to take that time away. And, being home, I am the one who does the majority of the grocery shopping, the laundry, every day cleaning, etc. because I'm here and not far away from it all. My husband is awesome and does pitch in a lot, but let's face it: the fact that I am home means it's easier for me to take care of those things too, even though I should be spending that time working when Boo is in school.

This works for us though. My husband and I have been together for 13 years and we've always traded the weight of responsibility so that each person is allowed to live their dreams equally. He's supporting me in my dreams now, and although it's more crazy and hectic than I imagined it would be, the rewards for me and my family far outweigh the challenges.

Gabby joined our family when she was nine months old. I took family leave from my full-time job, really expecting to quit when the 12 weeks was over so I could stay home full time with her. When I met with my boss, she offered me a half-time position. I was really torn. I hear that it's really hard to get a half-time professional job that pays a good salary and includes benefits, etc. My husband and I discussed it and said we would try it out for a couple of months and then reassess. Our thinking was that if I quit now, and then decided I wanted a part-time position, it would be hard to find something that was beyond minimum wage. I had also been working on my career for over 15 years; quitting and leaving a gap in my resume was a little hard to stomach. In my field, it can be hard to get back into the work force once you've left.

Well, we had to make a mad dash to find child care for Gabby. I returned to work the week after her first birthday and found great care right near my office. She's now there 3 days a week. My work schedule varies between 2 and 3 full days a week. During the weeks when I only have to work 2 days, I still bring Gabby to child care and use this time for myself - massage, gym, haircuts, doctor's appointments, gardening, cleaning, etc.

Well it's been six months since I began working half-time and I really love it - usually. There are days when I still question this decision for several reasons: 1. I miss her during the days when I'm at work; 2. Sometimes my job can be frustrating and stressful; 3. After paying for child care and contributing to retirement, I don't bring home much money; 4. Gabby is getting older and so much fun to be around. However, the pros currently outweigh the cons. I think that this half-time work is the best of both worlds and provides a good balance between my professional life, mama life, wife life, and personal life.

On another note, besides spending lots of time as a family, my husband and I have carved out time to work on our own personal pursuits. Two evenings a week he attends classes in an area he's interested in. I go to knitting Tuesday nights and yoga Sunday mornings. This also gives him some private father and daughter time.

So in the end, it's taken us a little while to find what works best for our family and I think we've found it - for the time being :)

Thanks for linking to the story on the NICD Study of Early Child Care. The study website can be found here: http://secc.rti.org/ I think I remember reading a story about its earlier findings (which were the same: children in daycare had behavioral problems) back when we were just signing Philly up for her first institutionalization - a full-time daycare in downtown Manhattan when she was 13 months old.

My first inclination about this study is to think that the effect of daycare on children would depend on the type of care setting. But one of the principal authors says, "This study makes it clear that it is not just quality that matters."

I haven't checked out the full study parameters - what kinds of daycares are included in the study, what cities are involved (there are 10 of them), other variables.

My girls have been in a daycare setting since they were each about a year old. We've experienced larger-format, corporate-style daycares, and - here in Portland - we've experienced wonderful in-home, smaller-scale daycares. I don't forsee many behavioral issues for our girls through the sixth grade, as the study implies.

Every family makes their own decisions about whether or not they are a dual-working-parent family or a single-working-parent family with a stay-at-home parent. I trust we make the decision that works for us. If we need to use full-time daycare, we find an environment that provides nurturing and care for our children.

I think things our family really emphasizes, seeing as our time all together can be limited, is to be involved in our girls' schools and daycares and to have considerable quality time in the evening/weekends. One new evening tradition for us involves sitting down to dinner together almost every evening. The girls set the table with placemats, napkins, utensils, and these little handmade placecards with all our names. We rotate seats every day. Dinner-time conversations almost always starts with everyone sharing what our favorite parts of our days were.

Anyway, the study tugs at a part of me and irks me because I think our family is supposed to be one of those included as part of that cohort. But I think we'll just go ahead and defy what the studies show.

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