You know what makes my husband happy? College football season.
He is eating, breathing, sleeping, dreaming college football right now. All football, all the time.
We’re going to Miami for a few games and to, of course, tailgate our little hearts out at our annual Ultimate Tailgate. We’ve upgraded a lot of our tailgate gear, and since everything just arrived in the mail, it’s been living in our dining room.
…Plus a random ladder. Because I still haven’t finished stenciling the bathroom.
So – our home kind of looks like a football bomb went off, which is driving me a little crazy, but it’s all in good fun.
A few people have recently commented that they want to know how our work/parent schedule has worked out. If you remember, we planned to flip-flop stay-at-home duties with Henry so we both could maintain their career. Our plan was that Kristien would work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and I’d work Monday and Friday, and we’d both play catch-up when possible on nights and weekends. We have a very unusual situation in that we both own small businesses, so I hate to give blanket ‘advice’ on how to make it work because not many people are in our position (which, by the way, has both major perks – namely, flexibility – and serious drawbacks – it can be 24/7, we pay self-employment taxes and for our own health insurance, etc.). This is less ‘advice’ and more like my own reflections on our experience…
I found the work-from-home/parent split to be extremely difficult… in fact, for me, it was pretty much impossible at the rate I initially tried to work. Having a job from home without childcare assistance is a killer – I don’t know WHY I thought it would be any different! The upshot is that you have to wake up early to work, work through naps, and work after bedtime to somehow cobble together the hours, which is very draining, especially considering my maid and personal chef never show up to work. Hmmm.
I felt like by trying to ‘do it all,’ I wasn’t doing anything very well. I also felt like I wasn’t intelligently allocating my time and energy. I became obsessed with time management for a while, and then I realize that time management wasn’t my real issue. It was just that I was doing too much, period. We decided that I would become the primary caregiver, which made me extremely happy and also freed up time for Kristien, who could ramp up his work without going insane. We considered daycare so I could keep working at the same rate, but you have to look at the opportunity cost of those things – I could earn less money and keep Henry at home, or I could earn more and put him in daycare. I have no qualms with daycare, but it wasn’t the choice that I wanted to make, and I feel reaaaally lucky that I had the budget flexibility to choose to take a pay cut.
We do still swap off parenting duties throughout the week, mostly so that I can get some work done. It’s not the neat Monday-Friday v. Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday splice that we imagined, but it is functional and effective. It’s definitely not a 50-50 split, either, but that’s perfectly fine now that we’re doing it (although I know Kristien wishes he had more time at home…. but what parent doesn’t?). We rarely get outside childcare help, but sometimes, I ask family to help out with Henry if I have a deadline and Kristien is at work – I’m so thankful for their help at those moments! I still end up working a lot of early mornings, late evenings, and always on the weekend.
You read these stats about how women who take time off to raise their children seriously hurt their career options and earning potential… It’s scary. Those facts may be true… but I try to remind myself two things. First, you never know what the future holds. Maybe, in five years, I’ll be doing something totally different, and the time off wouldn’t matter. Second, I can never get this time back with my beautiful son, and as I mentioned, I feel really blessed and lucky that I have this option at all.
The best part about our arrangement? Kristien gets to spend so much time with Henry, which I know he really values. He often goes into work at 11 or 12 and stays until 8 or 9 PM. It sucks that he gets home late, but it also means that he gets to spend all morning with Henry – they both love that.
There’s so much pressure on women, huh? To ‘lean in’ and do it all. I definitely feel that, too. If I’m not careful, I can waste a lot of time worrying whether we’re doing it right – for Henry, for our careers, for our family’s future. I try to remind myself that all that matters is we’re all stable, happy, and healthy.
Yesterday, I gave a talk to a group of state employees; my segment was called “Finding a Fresh Focus.” It’s so easy to get sucked into the “What if?” thought process and second-guess yourself… When that happens, we worry away all the awesome parts of life! These are the three things that I’ve personally been trying to refocus my thoughts on. I find that the more positive, hopeful, and thankful my thoughts are, the happier I am.
…Not all the things you want. Things are pretty awesome if you slow down and savor each moment.
Have you ever heard of the negativity bias? People are more likely to remember – and get distracted by – negative experiences than positive ones because negative emotions are more powerful and require more attention than happy ones. Kind of sad, right? But when you’re aware of the negativity bias, you can intentionally refocus your energy on acknowledging positive things. If you’ve got big dreams, identify how you can achieve your goals and, when things go awry, focus on how far you’ve come instead of what went wrong. You’re more likely to stay on track if you can keep it positive.
I read this little nugget of wisdom on a random website a few months ago, and it really stuck with me. Give what you want to receive. So simple, right? Want friends? Be friendly. Want to live in a nicer, more accepting world? Do volunteer work. Want to be content? Do things that make others smile.
I guess this is my roundabout way of saying… Things don’t always work out exactly the way we envisioned, but that’s okay. There are so many big (family!) and small (football!) things to make us happy. Life is busy, and it can be stressful to successfully juggle it all, but as long as you focus on the things that really matter… it will all be okay. More than okay, in fact! Pretty damn awesome.
How do you achieve your own version of a life/work balance?