Escaping the Middle-Class Parenting Trap

What one stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) and his family are doing to create a better long-term work-family balance, with all the trade-offs and sacrifices this entails.

A few months ago, Oren Miller wrote the following on his excellent blog, A Father and a Blogger. He was nice enough to let me repost it here, and even provided a short follow up to the article. He’s a great writer, and a good fellow-dad-blogger friend. Enjoy:

Escaping the Middle-Class Parenting Trap

Guest blogger Oren MIller shares his work-life story
Guest blogger Oren MIller shares his work-life story

Our family is going through some difficult changes now.

To escape our ironic lifestyle, to be able to see her kids more than a tired hour per day, my wife has found a new job. This job will allow her to work from home a lot, which is the good part. The bad part is that there will probably be a lot of travel, too. And the worst part is that now, because it’s a new job, she must leave home and travel to the end of the world (Seattle), and stay there for a couple of weeks (then return to Baltimore for a week, then again to Seattle for even longer).

It’s not going to be easy for me, it’s not going to be easy for the kids, and it’s definitely not going to be easy for my wife, who will have to settle for Skype to see her kids.

But it’s worth it.

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How We Maintained Work-Family Balance During a Spike in Work Demands

About two months ago, I wrote about my wife’s new show, and how her work hours would spike for several weeks. I discussed our family’s plan for handling this time period, considering my work commitments and increased duties at home. The show is over, so now it’s time to see how we did, and what lessons we learned.

My wife's career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling
My wife’s career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

(On Monday, I’ll be commenting on this week’s Pew Study’s findings on breadwinning moms and dual-career couples- SB)

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that my incredible wife Amy is a musical theater actress, and, depending on the project, her work schedule is often demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible.

About two months ago, Amy began work on an excellent new play, “The English Bride”. The play was very well-received (see this review!), so much so that it will run at the 59 E59 Theater off-Broadway, NYC in the Fall.

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Taking My Own Advice on Fatherhood, Work and Family (or, helping my wife Lean In)

My wife just started a new show, leaving me to shoulder the load for a while so I can help her “Lean In” to her career. Four ways our family is preparing, plus a plea for advice.

My wife's career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling
My wife’s career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

I’ve written before about my wife’s career as a stage actress and the work-family challenges it presents:.

Amy is a musical theater actress, and her work schedule is demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible (but, even in her brutally competitive field, she is talented enough to be working all the time!).  If she’s called for an audition, it is often scheduled for tomorrow! and it cannot be rescheduled to fit her preferences.

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How Starting My Own Business Helped Me Balance Work and Family

“Sharing Experiences” is a series of posts in which a variety of dads, all in different work-family situations, share their experiences. I hope this series can forward the important conversations we have here, and spark ideas we can apply to our own lives. 

Making the Career Change at 40

A guest post by Brian Shields

Our guest blogger, Bian Shields, recently became an entrepreneur to better balance work and family
Our guest blogger, Bian Shields, recently became an entrepreneur to better balance work and family

Last year was a big year for me. I finally made the leap, I started my own full-time business.

I actually tried this 1 year earlier, but things didn’t go so well.  After a few months, I was offered a good job with a solid company near my home.  So I took the job, only to leave 10 months later.

So Why Did I Leave the Corporate World?

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Negotiating for Work Flexibility

Part 4 of a 4 Part Series- Putting it all together

Use my advice, and even the pointy-haired boss may approve your request (bless you, Scott Adams)
Use my advice, and even the pointy-haired boss may approve your request (bless you, Scott Adams)

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a series of articles about negotiating with your supervisor for a more flexible work arrangement, in which you can get more control over where and when some of your work is accomplished.

Like any request or negotiation, the key is to see the situation from the other person’s side and then communicate so that you dispel most of their concerns and show them how they benefit from the arrangement (a la Fisher & Ury’s “Getting to Yes” or Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”).

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Negotiating for Work Flexibility (part 3): Fairness Concerns

Why Bosses Say “No” to Flexible Work Arrangements (and what you can do about it).

Part 3 of a Series: They Have the Wrong Idea about Fairness

Despite some prominent examples of companies with progressive cultures when it comes to work-family balance (see this list for examples), most company cultures and supervisors are not particularly supportive, especially of dads trying to balance work and family. Most companies demand long work hours and promote “face time” or “time at the office” as proxy measures for performance and dedication to the company (see this article for an excellent discussion).

No one documents bad supervision better than Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

It is brave to stand out and make a case for a time and place flexibility for your work.  However, it is not impossible, and, depending on your situation, it may be well worth it despite the risks.

Like any request or negotiation, the key is to see the situation from the other person’s side and then communicate so that you dispel most of their concerns and show them how they benefit from the arrangement (Fisher & Ury’s “Getting to Yes” or Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”). The first step is anticipating why your supervisor may say no and proactively address these concerns.

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Negotiating for Flexibility at Work: Bosses Don’t Know the Facts About Telecommuting

Part 2 of a Series: They Don’t Know the Facts About Telecommuting

Despite some prominent examples of companies with progressive cultures when it comes to work-family balance (see this list for examples), most company cultures and supervisors are not particularly supportive, especially of dads trying to balance work and family.  It is brave to stand out and make a case for a time and place flexibility for your work.

“So, Peter, what’s happening? Ummm, I’m gonna have to ask you to come in this weekend… That’s great. okay?”

Like any request or negotiation, the key is to see the situation from the other person’s side and then communicate so that you dispel most of their concerns and show them how they benefit from the arrangement (a la Fisher & Ury’s “Getting to Yes” or Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”).  The first step is anticipating why your supervisor may say no and proactively address these concerns.

About a week ago, I wrote about one major reason why supervisors may resist flexible work arrangements- they may believe they’ll lose the ability to monitor and assess your performance, and how we can address this concern.

In this article, I’ll discuss a second major reason why supervisors may resist more flexible work arrangements- They don’t know enough about the benefits of telecommuting and just how common it is becoming.  If you want to work out a flexible work arrangement with your supervisor, you may need to educate him/her on telecommuting.  Here’s some information to help you do so.

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On Prioritizing Time and Money: “Ten years ago I turned my head for a moment and it became my life”

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article. It was also republished at the Dads Round Table.

Poet David Whyte wrote a great book, “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America” aimed at helping people find meaning and balance in their careers (and here I thought poets just lived in their mom’s basements while pulling a few shifts at a hipster coffee shop).  There is a one-line poem in his book that, 18 years ago, led me to reassess my professional goals:

“Ten years ago, I turned my head for a moment and it became my life.”

Today, this poem makes me think about our roles as fathers and providers, and the needs of those who depend on us.  Not what they want, but what they need.  Here’s my stab at a priority list (in order):

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Negotiating for Flexibility at Work: Why Bosses Say “No” to Flexible Work Arrangements (and what you can do about it).

Part 1 of a Series: They’re Bad at Evaluating Performance

Let’s face it, despite some prominent examples of companies with progressive cultures when it comes to work-family balance (see this list for examples), most company cultures and supervisors are not particularly supportive, especially of dads trying to balance work and family.  Most companies demand long work hours and promote “face time” or “time at the office” as proxy measures for performance and dedication to the company (see this article for an excellent discussion).

“So, Peter, what’s happening? Ummm, I’m gonna have to ask you to come in this weekend… That’s great. okay?”

It is brave to stand out and make a case for a time and place flexibility for your work.   However, that’s not to say that it is impossible, and, depending on your situation, it may be well worth it despite the risks.

Read more

New York Times Op-Ed Piece Commentary: Susan Lambert is Right, But This is Not Only a Women’s Issue

I generally agree with the sentiment in this excellent NYT op-ed piece by Susan Lambert of the University of Chicago from last Thursday (Sept 20, 2012).  In it she argues that women on the low end of the wage scale are hurt by unpredictable and inconsistent work schedules (e.g., waitress shifts) and women on the high end of the wage scale are hurt by increasingly long time demands.

However, I find it limiting that her piece is written as if these are challenges unique to working women.  It seems to me that men face many of the same problems with their work schedules and demands, and that they would also benefit from the proposed reforms Dr. Lambert argues for. 

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