Finding Quality Time With Your Kids as a Working Mom

quality time with kidsHow do you deal when your work AND your child both need more attention than usual, at the same time? I saw commenters talking about this problem yesterday, and it’s been on my mind lately too, so let’s discuss the challenge of finding quality time with your kids when you’re a working mom.

My older son is only three, but we’ve already had a few times in his short life where it’s clear he needed more quality time with us — particularly me, it seemed — in a big way. I’m at the point now where it seems like if he’s continuously acting out, and if I can’t blame the three S’s (sugar, sleep, and screen time), then odds are good that it’s time to try more quality time. Sometimes this isn’t a problem — but now it’s the holidays, and there are a million things going on both professionally and personally, so spending the entire weekend building with Legos isn’t exactly what I want to (or can) do.

I often find myself thinking of Anne Marie Slaughter’s 2012 piece in The Atlantic about Why Women Still Can’t Have it All. My own life is nowhere near as crazy as Slaughter’s, of course, but she quit her “dream job” at the State Department when her 14-year-old son, who was acting out, needed more of her attention. (She also has another son, who was 12 at the time.) So I think it speaks to a bigger problem that all working moms suffer from — across all stages of childrearing. (Slaughter speaks about her decision in this short video.)

So how do you do it? How do you manage to give both your kid — and your work — the attention they each need? I’m no expert, but I have a few working theories:

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An Ideal Maternity Leave

ideal maternity leaveWhat would an ideal maternity leave look like?  If you could design your own maternity leave, how would you do it?  Reader E wonders:

I am currently 6 months pregnant. Anyways, next week I am having a meeting with my supervisor/team to plan out my leave. I luckily work for a very flexible company and will be getting 12 weeks fully paid right off the bat. Beyond that, it is pretty much entirely my choice on how much time I’d like to take off… I can take off up to 6 months total without anyone having any hesitation. Anyways, I don’t know exactly what I want to do. It is my first child, I plan on breastfeeding, and I just don’t know how much time to take off, do you know of any resources out there to help me with this? Also, I was curious if there is a post about navigating the process of discussing maternity leave with bosses. What should I be prepared with besides how much time off I plan on taking and also a plan for who will cover what work while I am done. Do I need anything else?

Great question, E (and congratulations!).  It’s awesome that you have such flexibility with your job and your boss. We’ve talked a bit about what a family-friendly job truly is, pondered (over at Corporette) whether to negotiate future maternity leave at the job interview stage, and I’ve written before about how I planned my blogger maternity leave, but not this.  I’m curious what the readers will say, but here are some of my ideas right off the bat, sort of in chronological order: [Read more…]

“Family-Friendly” Jobs — What Are They, and What Questions to Ask to Find One

family-friendly jobsHere’s a fun question for the hive:  What do you consider a “family-friendly” job? Have you changed your career or job to seek one? What questions did you ask while interviewing — and which ones do you wish you’d asked? Do different perks and accommodations matter as your child moves through childhood — you need one set of things if you have small children, and another set of perks and allowances if you have older kids? I’m curious to hear what readers say.

For my own $.02, I went from a BigLaw job to a nonprofit with an 8-person staff, thinking it would be a family-friendly job. I wound up leaving after two years to focus on the blog, but part of me thinks I would have ended up leaving anyway because, looking back, I think the job would have been perfect for someone with older kids but not young ones. The staff was so small that not only were we not covered by FMLA, but it would have been difficult to imagine taking anything but a very basic and quick maternity leave of 6-8 weeks — there was no one else to give my work to! Furthermore, the 9-5 hours, which seemed so great compared to BigLaw, would have been difficult to manage with daycare drop-off and pickup, and last minute scrambles in the event of a sick kiddo would probably have grated on my boss’s nerves if they occurred too often. There was travel required for the job, as well… and at the end of the day the salary would not have been enough to sustain our lifestyle in NYC.

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Childcare Arrangements: Pros + Cons

childcare arrangementsWhat are the pros and cons of different types of childcare arrangements? How do you decide on whether to hire a nanny, choose daycare, ask for help from family members, etc.? We’ve talked about taking business trips as a mom, but we haven’t had a conversation about this yet. How did you decide what was best for your family? Or, if you’re pregnant, how are you evaluating the options for how your child will be cared for when you’re working? Let me start by saying: Whatever you end up doing is the right choice. Truly, there are pros and cons to everything, so try not to listen to people (online or otherwise) who feel super strongly about the issue. Here are some key differences among childcare options that I’ve noticed:

Nanny

The Pros: Your child gets individualized attention, in your home; you can be very specific about what you want re diet, activities, feeding, and more. You can negotiate for housekeeping and cooking as well.

The Cons: Hiring a nanny is expensive. Interviewing and payment can be a headache (especially if you are trying to figure out the “nanny tax”). If the nanny gets sick or is unreliable, you’re SOL. Even if you are specific with your guidelines, there’s no guarantee the nanny is doing what you ask (e.g., serving carrots instead of cookies, limiting TV time, etc.). By the time your kid is 3 or 4 you’ll probably want to pay for preschool on top of nanny services for socialization/school readiness.

Nanny share: This setup has many of the same pros and cons as above, but with added pro of socialization and added con of finding a suitable family and dealing with tricky conversations such as the extent to which they’ve baby proofed their home.

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Business Travel – As a Mom

mom business travelHow do you handle business trips as a mom? Is there anything you can do to prepare your kids for your business travel? How do you balance everything? Reader A wonders:

I am a working, single mom and happen to be taking my first of quite a few “extended” business trips next week. My sister and parents are helping out with my lovely 4-y/o for the 4 days/3 nights I’ll be gone, but I want some tips on how to make the whole thing easier. I’ve read the pieces on business trips on Corporette, but haven’t been able to find one on the Moms side of things. Can you help?

Interesting! Whenever I have to travel away from my family there is a mix of dread (I have to leave them for X days!) as well as eagerness (I get to leave them for X days!). I’m curious to hear what the readers have to say, but here are a few tips:

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