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Tea for Two?


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October 20, 2006

Tea for Two?

Lauren Young

Tea For Two

My post on having another child has clearly struck a nerve with readers of this blog. While I’m always interested in talking about this topic, an email from one reader named Donna sparked a week-long investigation into the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Donna works part-time three days a week, and she is mom to an 11-month-old daughter. Her parents help babysit. She writes: “I am 37 and am five days late with my period. My husband and I had just decided to wait until spring to starting working on #2. I've been stressed for that last few weeks regarding the decision whether to have 2 or 1, to wait or not, and so I don't know if the stress is contributing to my late period.” She’s trying to figure out if she could still work part time with two children.

She’s not the only one who is stressed out. Last weekend I went to a baby shower--a good friend from grad school is expecting No. 2 to arrive in early November. There were at least four pregnant women in attendance, and since most of them are working parents, the conversation over tea and scones ranged from deciding whether or not to have another child to the juggling act of parenthood and work. But most of the time we talked about having more kids.

One very pregnant mama named Ivanka told me off the bat that she's struggling with her decision to go back to work. She left a lucrative career in investment banking (and 90-hour weeks) to join a nonprofit before she had her first child, now 2 . She says her current work life balance is pretty good: “I have a nine-to-five job, and I can leave in the afternoon to go to doctor appointments.” But with No. 2’s arrival around the corner, she is seriously questioning if it is worth it to go back to work, even if the job she has offers some flexibility. “I know this child will be raised my nanny,” Ivanka says, pointing to her belly with a frown.

Lee, meanwhile, downshifted from her job as a lawyer to work as a legal recruiter when she had her first son, now four. Her second child is already 14 months, but she feels like she doesn’t know him as well. “I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my second son is being ignored,” Lee says

Because this is top of mind, I’ve been asking other working parents all week why—or why not—they’ve had more children.

Here’s a sampling:

My son’s doctor said he wanted a second child, but his wife, also a prominent physician, didn’t. “She won,” he says. They talked about adopting or taking in foster kids, but neither ever seemed passionate enough about it to do something. In hindsight, he wishes he pushed harder.

A colleague here has a five-year-old. While his wife left her career to stay at home when their child was born, she didn’t enjoy the stay-at-home-mom gig much in the beginning. But now that her son is heading for school, she’s considering another child (something he’s wanted all along). It helps that they’ve moved away from New York to a much smaller city where the quality of life is better. But a lot of their renewed interest in expanding the famila has to do with the hardship of being an only child as parents age. “We’ve realized, mainly because of stuff with our own dysfunctional families, that it’s hard to deal with this stuff as an only child,” he says.

So here’s a plea to the parents with two kids (or more) out there:

Please share your insights with us. How have you coped with work and your second (or third, fourth, etc.) child? Or did you stop working? If so, why?

12:50 PM

Choices

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Here's my story. I have no kids, but my brothers and sisters do.

I know my sister with 3 kids (two boys 9 and 4 and one girl 2) would love to be able to stay home with her kids, but economically it's just not feasible for her. She would love to also have a baby sister for her little girl, but is struggling with whether she can afford it or not (the not is winning at the moment).

Her children have always been in daycare and I know she feels guilty about the amount of time they spend there, but she also doesn't have a choice, seeing as there is no one else able to take care of them.

She's also considering going back to school and getting her Masters and this is also quite a dilemna—as she will now have to juggle working full time, going to school, finding time to study, and also finding time to be the primary caregiver to her family at home.

I help out as much as I can: night feedings, babysitting so she can run errands/get some time to herself/just sleep, taking time off work to be with them when they are sick/need to go to an event/have days off of school, stayed up nights when her children are sick, overnight hospital stays with the kids; but the brunt of the caregiving is still in her corner—she has told me that even with my help it's still a struggle trying to balance everything.

My older brother struggles with work and home life too. He's got five kids (three boys-20, 19 and 6 and two girls-16 and 13) and has been working very hard for all their lives to provide for them. He wanted to be a career military man, but left the military when his wife wanted him at home.

He works at the very least 40 hour work weeks, but most often he also works a massive amount of overtime, just to make sure his family has what they need/want. His family at times will say that he then has no time for them, but when you work 6-10 p.m. most days, what time is left for anything else?

My little brother and his wife have two boys (11 and 5) and were considering trying for girl, but they are still pretty much struggling with that decision too (leaning more towards no at the moment). For them the fact that he's career military is having a big impact on their decision making.

My oldest sister has five kids (two boys-23 and 17 and three girls-14, 11 and 9). She's been working since she was fifteen to take care of her family—the majority of that pretty much lived as a single parent, and defintely the primary caregiver.

My nephew and his girlfriend just had a baby girl. He's working long shifts and his girlfriend is considering whether to go straight to work or go to school first. He has said that they don't want the baby in daycare, but I'm wondering if they even have a choice.

We were all talking one day about how the new generation (us) can't seem to do as much as the previous generation (our parents) did and someone pointed out that our mothers were stay at home Mom's for the most part and we sure as heck didn't have as many activities as present day kids do.

I guess the whole point of this post is that parenting is a juggling act, better done with a support system in place—and there also seems to be a whole lot of shuttling of kids back and forth to games, activities, etc.

Posted by: J at November 2, 2006 04:52 PM


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