Posted By RichC on January 19, 2019
Brenda and I often reminisce with later-in-life retrospection as to our life vs work balance and decisions we made when having careers and a family. We have concluded, in hindsight of course, that it could not have been more perfect for us. Couples of every generation have their own struggles with finding that balance; we “want it all” and often struggle to find the ideal balance between having enough money, developing a rewarding career, being a good husband or wife, yet still enjoying our individual personal wants … and all the while being great parents. That last part is for me was the biggest hurdle and likely requires the most sacrifice if it is high on your priority list – it was for us (see below break).
I see the challenge for my own kids now that they are grown. The memories for me hauntingly come back as they did this past week in seeing Katelyn and Drew jump through hoops to figure out what they were going to do when their babysitter called to say she was sick. Katelyn started texting late on Wednesday evening in a struggle to either cancel patients for the next day (never a good thing) or figure out which parent or friend to ask to be inconvenienced. I’m not sure exactly what we did back in the day with both sets of parents hours away, but I know it is a stressful moment for a couple. Thankfully I was able to easily cancel a morning breakfast meeting with a client and make the 3 hour drive to Perrysburg, Ohio in order to help out. Absolutely no regrets … as you can tell by my granddaughter Annalyn’s reaction to me being with her (also fun to play with Drew and Katelyn’s tech gadgets – photos above. The ThingCharger and Amazon Echo Spot … even Brenda wants one after I talked about it when I came home).
We all have our daily lives and schedules and some of us are fortunate that we can be more flexible than others. At first glance, one could assume that it is by luck … but the reality is that it usually happens by “choice.” (be warned, longwinded advice below)
My mom and dad, who were parenting in the 1960s (and those prior to that for thousands and thousands of years), made the decision that the woman would forgo her job and stay at home (usually happily) to raise the children while the husband continued to focus on work and his career. Almost every ‘day to day’ parenting duty fell on mom … except for perhaps serious discipline, bringing to mind the memorable “wait until your father gets home” line. Somewhere during my childhood, this desired changed for young women in America and en masse significant numbers decided they wanted to have the option to have a job or pursue a career outside of the home (as well as other freedoms associated with feminism ideology). This second-wave of the gender equality movement opened up a can of worms when it came to the traditional husband and wife “roles” after marriage and in particular raising a family, and probably still does for some? It was … and still is … challenging for both women and men to say the least.
In our case in the late 1970-80s, I comfortably accepted that Brenda went to college, desired a career and desired fulfillment from work. I think that made it easier right from the start. Thankfully we were of the same opinion in agreeing that each of us would support the other as best we could in our careers. She supported my starting a business and was even willing to move and start it in a growing city in our early days (I chose not to and started it in the economically depressed Northeastern Ohio). I, in turn, returned the support when she was offered an opportunity in Cincinnati and one in Seattle (we never moved to Seattle). Our decision and determining factors had to do with weighing job/career opportunities and how they would fit into our lives as a married couple … and eventually as a family. I see that same decision-making process with Katelyn and Drew … along with a little bit of personal choice and expectation from each other.
The reason I share some of this is that when you are younger, is hard to know what you’ll eventually value as important and fulfilling … and how much of one’s early decision-making is society pressured or personal selfishness. For me, my life has been far more rewarding having balance (work and parenting), but that meant I may have sacrificed professionally and limited my career. When you share duties, neither parent can be 100% focused on what was best for one’s personal career. If you are good at your job a completive business world, being able to devote 100% is often the difference for those who excel and climb to the top and those who stagnate. It is a choice for most of us that starts back in school. If you put in the effort, get good grades and are at the top of your class, you can reap the reward of your hard work when it comes to better schools, more opportunity and better career options. Unfortunately “making that choice” when continuing to climb the corporate ladder is often at the expense of being a good spouse and parent. In the end, not having balance is a high price to pay. I sense it is even felt by those who try to maintain “balance” but are unsure even that was the best choice? My wife maintained her professional life, but to do that has to sacrifice some of the traditional wife/mother (and now grandmother) role to maintain a career. In her case, she was not able to devote the same amount of time and effort as someone made the choice “stay at home mom” and devote 100% to homemaking.
In my opinion, I am more satisfied NOW to have chosen a balanced approach to career aspirations and parenting. As I’ve told my children, I wouldn’t trade a single moment when I was ‘the only parent’ at home every other weekend with them (Brenda was a retail Pharmacist and worked until the store closed). Being a dad who could fix meals, change diapers, do laundry, give baths and be there to play games and read books … AND have the privilege to hug them and tuck them into bed at night was a blessing (although at the time ‘in disguised’) … just as it is driving the 6-hours back and forth to be Annalyn’s “Bompa” and the last minute emergency babysitter.