The Life of a Working Parent

21 Nov

WorkingParentsChart{source}

The question Travis and I have been asking lately is:

How do other parents do it?

How do other parents find time for everything? Specifically for working dads*, how do they find time to work full-time; take care of the yard, house and cars; exercise; spend time with their kids; help around the house; hang out with friends; and make their marriage a priority?

As a former full-time worker, I know it’s easy to feel that it’s all you do. And I don’t want Travis to feel like he doesn’t have time for anything else.

I also know that it’s a blessing that I get 2 days off that Travis spends working. I can exercise, run errands, do chores, get together with friends and spend quality time with Emma those days. Travis still has to fit all those things in after work and on the weekends.

The problem we run into is that when Travis gets off work, I’m ready for him to spend time either with us as a family or watch Emma so that I can have a break. And I end up feeling frustrated when he spends time on the weekend raking our yard or cleaning our cars, because I view those things as non-essential (though I do understand why Travis thinks they are important). I’ve had to re-prioritize since having Emma and accept that some things just won’t get done at all or as often anymore. So in my mind, anything ‘non-essential’ should not be getting done.

There’s a How I Met Your Mother episode after Lily and Marshall have a baby where they talk about how when they keep score of who’s done what and how much, nobody wins. And I agree that “keeping score” per se, as in “I’ve done more than you!”, isn’t helpful. But there should be a balance. I think one of the secrets of making a marriage work – with or without kids  – is encouraging your spouse to continue doing the things that they enjoy. For me, that’s running, reading and writing. For Travis, it’s hunting, fishing and hockey.

So how do you make that happen? Enter the #1 thing Travis and I have learned since having Emma: the importance of communication. We were married for almost 6 years before Emma came. Yes, we learned about communication during those 6 years, but we also kind of did our own thing most of the time (perhaps a bit too much). A baby has taken communication to a whole new level.

I feel a little like the overbearing wife when I ask Travis to ask me if it’s ok before he goes and does something, leaving me to take care of Emma. But it helps me. Because even if nothing is different than it would be if he just went and did whatever, I feel noticed, cared for and appreciated. Instead of feeling like he has the freedom to do whatever while I’m “stuck” taking care of Emma (which is what it feels like sometimes, not gonna lie!), we decide together that I’ll take care of Emma so that he can get x and y done.

I guess this is especially top of mind for us right now because we are working on getting our house ready to sell, and a lot of the projects that need to be done are Travis’ area of expertise (like drywall, gutter/soffit/fascia repair, caulking, etc.) It’s not that I couldn’t learn to do those things, but someone has to take care of Emma anyway, so it might as well be me.

Honestly, I think it will get better (for me) when I’m no longer breastfeeding. Often, I don’t leave to go do something because Emma will wake up while I’m gone and she’ll want to eat, and it’s just easier to nurse her or take her along than have Travis give her a bottle and I pump later. Regardless, Travis and I are trying to balance the ‘Emma load’ a bit more evenly. We also found a couple at church who we’re going to trade date nights with, so that we can get some time just the two of us. But then, those are just more things to add to an already overflowing plate and it brings me back to the initial question:

How do other parents do it?

So I’d like to hear from all of you parents reading this, whether it’s you who works or your spouse. How do you both balance it all? 

……………………..

* I say working dad because that’s the situation we’re dealing with, but I realize that moms who work full-time deal with this conundrum also, in equal –  if not greater – amount.

7 Responses to “The Life of a Working Parent”

  1. monthsbeforeyou November 21, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    That chart really brings it home. That is certainly my life right now as a full time working mom. It’s really difficult. I often find that almost nothing gets done during the week that isn’t essential to the next day’s schedule. I can start laundry, but rarely does it get finished. I wash bottles and anything we may need for the next day’s food, but sometimes other things get left out to be done later. I can vacuum A room or two but not the whole house. I definitely feel like I’ve had to accept that it’s not longer possible to just “knock out cleaning the house in one big evening.” I have to do little mini things that almost feel insignificant along the way to work toward the goal of a clean house.

    I often has similar frustrations with my husband because we both work full, but sometimes it feels like I am bearing the biggest load when it comes to taking care of our son. I know a lot of that is because I’m still breastfeeding, and I think you are right – life may change quite a bit in terms of shared responsibilities once that phase is over. For now, I guess i’m just trying to accept that there ISN’T balance and keep in mind that it won’t always be like this!

  2. Paul November 21, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    I am not sure anyone “does it all” or maybe it just looks different after kids. You learn to maximize smaller slices of time since that is all you have. I can do more with 5 minutes than a lot of people. BC (before children) you can have hours of uninterrupted time. AC (After children) that time is fractured. That can change as the kids get older as they can actually be engaged with you during chore time instead of the choice being mutually exclusive. It also forces you both to define what your family priorities are and stick to that. As an example, we work on exercise since I have a desk job. However, mornings aren’t good since we go to bed later and having each of us have separate routines is hard since it doubles the time to completion. So, we workout together and, increasingly, as a family. It’s hard to do that since it requires more coordination and communication, but it works for us. That is why we take time, even thought it’s only a few minutes, to pray together, too. It’s a constant balancing act to do what is important over what is urgent, to do the best over the good, and live with things taking longer than they used to.

  3. specialkkluthe November 21, 2013 at 11:34 am #

    Well said Paul!

  4. Ashley November 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    I’ve sort of accepted that things can’t be equal just yet. I have an almost three year old and seven month old. I work three days per week and have the more flexible job schedule so a lot does fall on me. Then, on the weekend, much of my husband’s time is spent with household chores, errands, etc. Also, I am inherently less social than he is, so I makes less of an effort to get out alone with friends. I used to get bitter when he would go, but I figure, I can’t blame him that I don’t get out enough if I don’t make an effort. We ebb and flow, I think with duties, though most child duties lay on me. As the kids get older, I think this will even out and I will get more of that me time back. And, for now, as far as the house goes, I have just realized that everything won’t get done. I am not superwoman!

  5. s3v3r3d79 November 24, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    The one thing I’ve learned in my two years as a single dad is that there is time for everything…you just need to set your priorities. Laundry is important but not as important as running. Running is important but not as important as helping my daughter with her homework. With the right priorities it can all be done.

  6. Kasi December 5, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    It’s a season. Parenting is so physical at first, especially for a breastfeeding mom, but it changes. Before you know it, school! or play dates or whatever works for your life. Something Dave and I have found helpful is at the beginning of each quarter, we set aside a weekend where we focus on planning, budgeting, assessing our goals and dividing up housework equitably. Usually by the next quarter, we have a LOT to talk about. Sometimes we even go to a hotel or something so we’re not distracted by house work. These weekends have really helped us get back on the same page. Probably not for everyone, but it works well for us. You’re not alone!

  7. specialkkluthe December 5, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    @Kasi – that’s an interesting idea!

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