By: Revanche

Careers, marriage, kid, life: how do you find parity?

August 30, 2017

I see some form of this question off and on in the various forums I haunt.

We’re in an Extra Hustle chapter of our lives this year and are hanging on by the skin of our teeth: all our conversations revolve around how we’re going to survive the coming day (taking shortcuts, cutting or trading errands and commitments) and the house. I’m sick unto death of discussing house stuff nonstop but we still have a ways to go.

When we’re not, we manage with just the two of us. Our family members with kids all have at least one grandparent actively supporting them, on a daily or weekly basis, if not both sets of grandparents. That’s never been the case for us, and a few years back, I was pretty freaked out about the prospect. I had to mull it over for years. No amount of reassurance allayed my worry.

In the true spirit of my alma mater, I had to learn by doing.

Childcare

Daycare: JuggerBaby is in daycare five days a week. For nearly $2000 a month, they’re open from 6:30 to 6:30 which is highly flexible for both of us, though we run late enough that we’re occasionally rushing in before they’re closing.

To save money ze was enrolled part timeΒ for almost a year. Full time is awesome. Ze loves it, I preserve energy. PiC was the sole chauffeur because it was on his way to work, but after ze started full time we compromised. I now go out of my way at least weekly to drop off and pick up so that he can have a bit more freedom those days.

Babysitting: We’ve struggled to find anyone in the right age group to watch JB. We ended up hiring a daycare teacher to pinch hit on occasion. We tend to avoid babysitting in small part because this year has been amazingly expensive on the home front but also because we tend not to prioritize going out. That’s not JB’s fault, though, we’re staying-in types.

I do feel it’s important that we hire zir at least quarterly to make sure we’re still considered clients, though!

Bonus help: Very occasionally, we have house guests who also love playing with zir. This gives us an odd hour of reprieve now and again. Our most recent house guest was an absolute unlooked-for godsend – he would always play with JB when ze charged out of bed in the morning or stampeded home at night. This happened at a rather crucial time in our household and freed us up to discuss decisions that had to be made quickly and jointly.

Parenting

This is distinctly different from childcare which is not a replacement for parenting. Childcare is a critical supplement to our lives and I’m thrilled there are so many people who love JB outside of zir own little family but it’s our job to raise our child.

We’ve joked that I’m always the Bad Cop, he’s the Fun Cop. This is true. But we both remain responsible for being patient, disciplinarians, and educators. Sometimes one of us can’t keep it together, and the other has to step in. Thank goodness there are two of us because whoooo that child can push our buttons.

Careers

We’ve both earned promotion and raises in the past 3 years – the same three years that include my pregnancy and the first two years of JB’s life. It’s not to say that I haven’t taken a hit for motherhood, I have. It still pisses me off. PiC didn’t take a similar hit. I realize that it has a lot to do with the size of our shops so I’m willing to consider that might have been an isolated incident, if I don’t see signs of that issue being repeated.

We’ve made huge adjustments to our jobs and haven’t suffered unduly for it: we work fewer hours, became more efficient. We fit in work around the odd shape our lives take, force our schedules to be flexible and we’ve both taken hits on our productivity. We rotate who takes those hits by prioritizing very specifically for what’s important to our jobs.

 

Important ground rules makes this work.

Pre-children, my work hours were sacrosanct. I wouldn’t take a single personal phone call during my work day. Now, I walk the dog, run two errands, get back at my desk to clear my emails and guide my staff all in the morning. Rinse and repeat for the afternoon! PiC never had that rule but he also can’t bring home 90% of his work, so when he has to work in the evenings, I cover bedtime to give him time. For my part, I once worked 7 days a week, and late every night, so now I only work week nights if it’s critical.

We’ve been lucky that even while growing in our roles, we haven’t increased our travel time. Heck, I’ve minimized my travel over the years, which is the opposite of many senior roles in management. This may not last so I cherish it.

My chauffeur days are scheduled on days that PiC usually needs the coverage. There’s an implicit understanding that if I’m feeling 14/10 pain or fatigue those days, he takes over. There’s also an explicit promise that he doesn’t get to make that decision for me, I have to. The problem we ran into was that he was trying to look out for me, and didn’t trust that I would ask for a pass if I needed it. He wasn’t wrong that I avoided it but it was because I didn’t trust that he wouldn’t over-extend himself trying to spare me. We were both well-intentioned but stupid. This agreement works better – I have to make the call and he rolls with it. If he can’t accommodate, then we’ll figure something else out.

The person who has a meeting or phone call gets priority. If he’s running late for work, and he’s driving – that sucks. But if he’s running late and has a meeting – I take over and chauffeur. For me, we only clear the decks for the important calls. Not all of them are and those calls don’t get the same consideration. I also schedule more of my calls for the afternoon to keep our mornings calmer.

This helps us make decisions on the fly because we both struggled with being over-accommodating. Much trial and error, and a few spats over misunderstanding, got us to this point. Now we have a better handle on what’s grumbling about running late and what’s truly important.

I firmly believe that, like alcohol, being a parent just brings out that which was strong in ourselves anyway. I guarantee that we didn’t always get out the door on time when it was just the two of us either!

 

Around the house

Most non driving days include tidying, cooking dinner, and doing laundry in addition to my regular 9-to-5 work. PiC prepares all breakfasts and lunches. On my chauffeur days, I do our grocery shopping – produce is best on weekday mornings! But I don’t take on additional housework. Unless I feel like it. Sometimes the soul needs to do laundry before it can process another stupid email.

Ideally, PiC should hit the gym on my driving days but sometimes he just gets more work done. That’s his call but once in a while I will press him to make sure to get that workout in – it’s better for our mental health.

Dog walking, feeding, medicating, twice a day, five days a week: me.
Final evening and weekend walks: him.
Wash and put away dishes: both.
Swiffers: mostly him.
Vacuuming: mostly me.
Trash, recycling: mostly him.
Money mgmt: all me.
Clearing the table: JB
Car maintenance: all him.
Putting away groceries: All of us. No one touch the yogurt or JB will have a fit, though, that’s zir job.

JB is responsible for giving Seamus his evening treat, throwing away Seamus’s trash, putting laundry in the wash, and wiping up spills.

Whoever uses the last of something is responsible for refilling it and too darn bad if you’re the one who hit the end of the cooking oil five times in a row, you refill it (AKA me). PiC runs all the other physical errands (getting gas, bathing the dog, stopping at the store, etc).Β  We maintain a reasonably clean and near-tidy home, no one’s looking for Housekeeper of the Year awards on the back of anyone else’s labor.

The point is that we operate on the good faith that neither of us are looking to dump work on the other.

The friends and family plan

Outside of our family life, I work hard at maintaining friendships and like-family-ships. I choose to eliminate toxic people from our lives intentionally, and likewise intentionally dedicate time and support to good people.

When things are temporarily out of whack for us at home, with work or each other, or JuggerBaby is taxing our patience to the very limit, this outside support keeps us upright. This keeps us from boiling over at each other and causing real, permanent harm, and gives us much needed perspective.

The lessons we’ve learned in getting here

  • Learn to speak up when we need to change part of the routine, whether we want to introduce change or not.
  • Have conversations in the moment, not confrontations after you built a head of steam.
  • Prioritize! You WANT to get fifty seven things done. You NEED to get ten of them done today.
  • Look for ways to relieve your partner’s burdens and volunteer. Your partner should do the same.

Being proactive means that you can have faith that no one is dumping work on the other and that you’re both doing your best. Or trust, rather, since I don’t believe in operating on blind faith. Your partner is who your partner is – can you trust them to be your best advocate? I can. PiC always looks out for my best interests and I do my best for him. With that trust, resentment can’t get a toehold.

:: What does balance look like for you? How do you create balance in your life or relationships? What’s the toughest part of finding your balance?Β 

15 Responses to “Careers, marriage, kid, life: how do you find parity?”

  1. “Have conversations in the moment, not confrontations after you built a head of steam.” That is brilliant. And very difficult for some of us to achieve. I’m getting better at it now, but I spent most of my life being first stunned by offences, after which the head of steam developed, and maybe 3 weeks later I thought of “what I wish I’d said.” Ugh! SO much better to be aware in the moment of what is happening in real time and to deal with it on the spot. It is wonderful that you have your roles defined to such levels of detail, and that you and PiC have fostered the levels of trust that you have. You’ve got something golden there.
    Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Money Blueprint: Awareness = Power to Change ItMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      It takes time and effort, repeated effort at that, to have those conversations. But honestly my conversations happen after the being stunned, the head of steam, then working through what I really want to change that made me mad in the first place. Because as I mentioned earlier, I have quite a temper πŸ˜‰

  2. I’ve always believed that work-life balance is a myth. If you’re working full time, then you have to pick and choose about what you can cram into your non-working hours – which is why so many of us are seeking FI/RE.

    As you said – prioritizing is essential.

    I have to admit that we are struggling to find any sense of balance right now. Mr. Smith has been staying home with the five kids and is having trouble. I’m gone for most of the day and passing out exhausted at night (the twins are still waking up a couple of times a night). We’re actually considering making some really big changes, because the current situation is just not sustainable.
    Harmony@CreatingMyKaleidoscope recently posted…Monday Medley: Birthday Party, Zoo Trip, and Back To WorkMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      I think it depends. Before the home reno, we felt we had a great balance between work and life, and we’re still managing ok right now but we look forward to having a bit of calm.

      What changes would you be able to make to the current situation to alleviate some of the stress? I feel like your situation is a bit where we were in the early newborn days where you just had to get through those first months intact.

      • SP says:

        Security, although this is more because it also comes with a job that we suspect he’ll enjoy more over the length of his career compared to industry. So, as a package, the tenured job is better than industry for us. BUT, this could always change. If the jobs were equivalent, then I suppose I’d take the money!

        Yes, he has some flexibility – more than most, even! So I think that is good. It is just an overall sentiment of his career driving our family decisions that makes it seem to me like I will make more sacrifices. Also, the travel schedule I have now is probably not sustainable. Future projects should have less of a travel burden, so maybe it will all be fine.
        SP recently posted…July UpdatesMy Profile

  3. SP says:

    We don’t have kids, and it still seems hard to get everything done!

    If we have kids, it seems clear I’ll be making more of the sacrifices. T will make some too, but I expect mine will be greater. There are reasons for this, but it still kills my feminist heart just a little bit. Some of the reasons are that we really can’t trade the security that would come with his job if he gets tenure, and I would feel much better if one of us has that security. If he doesn’t get tenure, his earning potential likely doubles mine at this point, particularly if we are willing to uproot and follow his career. (Academia has lower pay based on what his peers are seeing in industry.) He kindly said we can move for my career if the tenure thing doesn’t work out, but financially as a family unit, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to do so. So my career will be as big and important as possible, but when push comes to shove, his offers more benefits for the family unit.
    SP recently posted…July UpdatesMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Does T not have flexibility as part of the security of his position if tenured?

      Would you rather have the higher earning potential (and realize it) or the security of tenure if you have to choose?

      I tend to guess that I’d rather have the money because I can control the money but security is nothing to scoff off.

  4. One of my colleagues once said of Mr. Sandwich and me, “It’s not like most marriages. They’re a team, like Batman and Robin.”

    We are both overwhelmed by the same things, and we are both running nonstop at all times. We agree on what slides (housekeeping) and on what doesn’t (Baguette’s needs). We do as much as we can, we trust that the other is also doing as much as he or she can, and we cut each other and ourselves as much slack as possible.

    We always say thank you. We always talk about how much the other one means to us. We’ve developed a phrase: “No one else.” That sounds like it’s about fidelity, and sure, but really it’s about the fact that we are both aware that there is no one else with whom we could manage this life.

    Thankfully, we each work for someone who is willing to give us flexibility (I have been mommy-tracked, but not by this supervisor).

  5. Ahhhh, so much of this was so very close to home. Our biggest challenges are: lack of a stable support network (my parents are amazing & willing when schedules permit but I have to fly them in) & both work schedules. Mine is particularly heavy in the late afternoons/evenings (APAC team management) & the international traveling is the true killer.

    I find that I’m a ruthless prioritizer, try to read myself & our family situation as best as possible & make course adjustments as we go. I streamline many of our routines, so we can have what’s important to us. . eg. we want to eat reasonably healthy dinners at home during the work week. So, we cook bigger meals on weekends & are satisfied primarily with leftovers during the week. I’d prefer fresh stuff, and I’m sure the kids would prefer more variety, but we all survive & it’s not up for negotiation unless someone else has the time & energy to cook.

    I could write a book on the work stuff. It’s hard. That’s all I’ll say. I want/need to do less, but find it so uncomfortable to give up the financial security blanket & implicit/explicit recognition & rewards that come with my job.
    Hawaii Planner recently posted…It’s too hot, and gone fishingMy Profile

    • Revanche says:

      And I love that you share the decisions that you make at the micro-level! I think we are similar enough that it’s helpful to see what you’ve been doing day to day and incorporate some ideas that I might not have had on my own.

  6. Mr. FWP says:

    This is both encouraging and challenging. It’s a ton to juggle. And this is a little fun: that’s the first time I’ve ever seen parenting compared to alcohol…

  7. I no longer want work-life balance: I want to be retired!!!! My partner retired earlier this year and he is the happiest man I know.

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to take less work so I can spend more time with him. Yet doing so means I’m earning less, except when I happen upon a higher-paying gig.

    Did I mention that I want to be retired?

    P.S. I would happily babysit for you if I lived nearby. I used to do this fairly often while back in school in midlife. The parents loved me because I drove myself there, never turned on the TV (books and toys, kids!), tidied up the place once the children were in bed and never called boys.
    Donna Freedman recently posted…Grateful for sun and berries.My Profile

    • Revanche says:

      Belatedly: YES to retirement. I have to figure out how to make that happen! You would be an awesome babysitter πŸ™‚

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