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Which is harder - parenting or 'working'?

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#1 diary~dad

Posted 29 April 2010 - 12:35 PM

By Joseph Kelly

Since leaving university my career trajectory has been pretty straight - go to work, work hard, hope for a pay rise.  When Maisie, our first, was born I felt the pressure to work even harder as I was now providing for a family.  Shortly before Frances, our second, was born I had changed jobs and felt that I needed to establish myself in the workplace so again needed to work even harder.  

Occasionally Susie would raise the issue of me working part-time to help her return to the workforce.  These conversations always resulted in me doing some quick mental sums: take a 20% pay-cut, complete a full 5 day work load in 4 days, constantly be referred to in all staff meetings and negotiations as "less than full-time" (like it is a rare kind of disease) and spend my "day off" kid wrangling.  As appealing as all that sounds . . .

But recently strange cosmic forces aligned to force me to reconsider the whole "less than full-time" issue.  Firstly Susie and I decided that 12-month-old Rita would be the last in our stellar run of baby girls.  Knowing that we weren't going to be having any more babies in the house made me pretty nostalgic and, knowing how incredibly quickly they grow up, I wanted to find a way to at least pause a bit with baby Rita.  Also, Susie's work had been understandably appreciative of her many skills and very keen for her to give as much time to her paid employment as she could.  For her part, Susie was keen to spend some time applying her mind to problems other than what could be done with half-a-dozen empty toilet roll holders and a fist-full of pipe cleaners.

So finally I plucked up the courage to broach the issue with my employer.  I was prepared for my boss to break down and demand to know how the company could possibly manage without me present for one day a week.  I was also prepared for my colleagues to demand that I not leave them rudderless for a day, that I stay and continue to give them priceless advice and peerless guidance.  I wasn't prepared, however, for my boss to say "Of course you should spend a day with your child, Joe.  What else would you do?"

So having discovered that my boss was far more enlightened on issues of work-life balance than I was, I was forced to consider the reality of what one day a week at home with a twelve month old would be like.  After some careful planning I had a routine worked out:

8.30: Drop Frances at Kinder.

8.45: Drop Maisie at school.

9.00: Drop Rita at the YMCA crèche.

9.00 - 10.30: Workout at the gym.

11.00: Make the baby session at the movies with Rita.

1.00: Have lunch at some impossibly groovy cafe.

2.00 -3.15: Work on my award winning novel.

3.30: Pick up Maisie and Frances.

4.00 on: Make a meal to make Matt Preston weep, feed and bath the kids and have them ready to line up and sing ‚€˜Edelweiss‚€™ as Susie walks through the front door.

When I outlined this plan to Susie it took her close to an hour to stop laughing.  When she did draw breath all she had for me was questions.  "When will Rita sleep? Don't you think you've set a lot of tasks?  Do you know you‚€™ll be lucky to complete one of these tasks? Are you scared of spending time with your daughter?"  

The fact was I WAS scared of spending time with my daughter.  At work, if there‚€™s something I can‚€™t handle I either dump it on someone more junior or blame it on someone more senior.  That approach doesn‚€™t work on an irate one-year-old.  All my years sharpening my skills in the had-to-hand combat of office politics were not going to equip me for placating the endless needs of an infant.  What was needed was an entirely new set of skills.

So over the last couple of months I‚€™ve had a crash course in assessing and meeting the needs of another person.  I have learnt to tell when Rita is hungry, when she needs a nap, when her discomfort is caused by a growing tooth or the need to burp.  I have developed the delicate skill of keeping a little person entertained while not getting her over-excited.  And I have learnt, by trial and error, that ignoring a stinky nappy does not make it go away.  But, most importantly, I have learnt to travel at someone else‚€™s pace.  The measurement of a good day is how happy Rita is at the end of it and not how many tasks I ticked off a list.

While at work I might be ‚€œless than full-time", I‚€™m happy to say that at home I am now ‚€œmore than single skilled‚€Ě.   In fact, my skills in looking after Rita have come on so fast Susie thinks I can add a few more skills to the list ‚€“ playing in the garden and hanging out the washing being just one of the suggestions.  I think being a parent is hard enough without having to add to the task.

Do you mix work and parenting?  Which do you find harder? Are there skills you have as a parent you apply at work?

#2 chloemo

Posted 29 April 2010 - 12:39 PM

I wish my at home experience was like that it would be lovely,
Some days go as great as that,
others are a total shamble.

The same with work you have your good and your bad days.

#3 taddie

Posted 29 April 2010 - 12:54 PM

When I first became a parent, nothing was harder. At work you've had years of training and practice, if things get too hectic you can break for coffee, you get to take lunch, sit in the sun outside, distance yourself from  problems. Workmates can be reasoned with (most of the time), rules exist, workloads can be scheduled. If you decide you really are not cut out for the job or it begins to no longer suit you, you can quit.

Babies fit in with none of the above, they are a force unto themselves. It does take time to adjust and perceive the babies needs so you can meet them before the crying starts, even though before becoming a parent you think a babies needs will be obvious and easily met. Much of the time you are a team of essentially one, or your partner if you have one is even more clueless than you are original.gif

I've just come back to work after a year on maternity leave and while it was an unexpected return I'm already relishing sitting at a desk, dressed well, doing work meaningful to someone besides myself, with a lunchtime to spend shopping and actual interesting adult conversation. I realise I'm going to miss this when the new baby is born in a way I wasn't aware I would before having left once already.

I do find I use the same calm and slightly patronising tone on my 1 year old that I will use on a particularly recalcitrant workmate, does that count as skill crossover? I'm also finding that a year of not being able to leave the house without considering a thousand things in advance (sleep schedule, food required, nappies wipes clothes bibs dummy toys shoes and that's before even considering my own requirements) has made a difference to my ability to organise things in the workplace - my ability to multitask has expanded it seems. Not sure what else will crop up as it's still too soon to tell original.gif

Edited by taddie, 29 April 2010 - 02:35 PM.

#4 kglslks

Posted 29 April 2010 - 08:52 PM

Love it.

My DH has DS now 20mths since he was 12mths one day a week. It has opened his eyes (and I still back their bag and remind DH of gymbaroo and what is in the treasure bag!) and created a very close bond between them.

I highly highly recommend it, mostly for the bonding aspect.

#5 Obesa cantavit

Posted 29 April 2010 - 09:03 PM

I go to work two days a week to be able to:
1. go to the toilet by myself.
2. sit down and eat....by myself
3. have at least 10 minutes of silence an hour
4. be able to concentrate on one thing for more then 5 minutes at a time
5. to actually stay clean for more then 10 seconds.
6. to only have to think about one person, instead of 4.
7. To not have to referre fights.
8. to not have to manage my day around sleep and feeding times.
9. to talk to somone over the age of 6.
10 ummm, thats all I can think of atm

My job is challenging, but in a completely different way to parenting 3 young ladies. However, the logistics of one in school, one in childcare and next year one in kinder, and trying to work, is frightening.

#6 No girls here

Posted 30 April 2010 - 07:33 AM

I work part time.

I had a really difficult baby and as a result I returned to work (only 1 day per week then) when he was 3 months old just to have a bit of sanity.  At that time my work day was definitely my "day off".  I had a whole hour to myself at lunch time, didn't have to listen to whinging all day long and I appreciated the adult conversation too.

Now I have a 6 year old and 4 year old, and while I do spend most of my time with the kids when I'm at home I don't have to occupy them every single minute of the day.  The only reason I work now is financial.  I find my days at home easier.  I would love to be SAHM, for one thing my 4 year old would be in preschool which would give me quite a bit of time to myself  - looking forward to school next year!

Logistically working is harder.  I have to leave home just before 7am and I do 2 drop offs  arriving at work in the city by 8:30am.  If I get away right on 5pm I arrive home at 6:15 (DH does pickups on way home) which gives me just over an hour to do dinner, bath and homework.

For me working does not mean I get time to myself without interruption as I spend a lot of time helping/training juniors who interrupt me all day long, so I don't feel that is much different to being at home with the kids.

#7 Mrs Dinosaurus

Posted 30 April 2010 - 09:13 AM

My DH and I share care of our 11-month old, I work 2 days a week and he "works from home".

It is obviously impossible to work from home so the result is both of us working evenings and/or weekends to catch up. We both agreed we didn't want our baby in long-day care before he was 1, so this is a short-term situation. If it was long-term, I think we would have to reassess me being at work at all for the time being. (Unfortunately he earns 3x what I do so no going the other way).

As for which is easier? Work hands down - the baby doesn't give you any breaks and on the odd occasion he decides to sleep you have a mess worthy of Pro Hart to clean up, try to shower/eat/phone your mum and tell her you're still alive...

Well done for doing it though, DH loves it and wouldn't have it any other way - even with the extended working hours. You never get this time again and babies are so much nicer to spend hours with than in meetings about budget cuts (and how you'll now be doing 2 jobs instead of one for the same money!)

#8 veggiepatchfamily

Posted 30 April 2010 - 09:36 AM

For me if it was as simple as 'parenting' or 'working', then work would have been the easier choice.
But I feel that trying to do both together is by far the hardest one.
Not only am I required to do all the elements of a SAHM I am also doing 3 days a week of work. I do not feel work is a day off at all.
For me it means getting up earlier, ensuring I have everything for a day organise before I leave the house at 6.30am. Going to work, I do not even get to enjoy my work breaks as I am sitting in a little room by myself expressing for my 20 minute breaks. I am on my feet ALL day. Then I come home, and need to get everything done in 2 hours that I would normally have had all day to do, and then cook a healthy and inspired dinner for my husband and my newly eating baby.
I am still getting up any where from 1-5 times a night to my little one, so going to work after a night like that is exausting and sometimes dangerous (I am a nurse).
Whilst I am at work I feel guilty the whole time wishing I was able to be home with my LO like my mother was for us. I worry about what I am missing.
I must go to work for financial reasons and even with DH working full time and me part time we are still under financial stress.
So which is harder?
I am amazed by the people who do go to work with children and still manage a home like a stay at home parent.

#9 Anemonefish

Posted 30 April 2010 - 01:57 PM

Good on you for instituting a 'Dad's day'!  My DH has been doing that with our two since our first was 5 months old and I feel this has really helped him bond with both kids from an early age.  We both work 4 days a week (except that I work school hours on one of my work days) and have different days off during the week.  DD is at school and we take turns doing school runs with another family.  DS is in daycare 2 days a week and my parents look after him one day a week.  I feel that works well for us.  I don't feel that kid days are harder or easier than work days, just different, and it's nice to be able to do both.  I would go mad working 5 days a week, and I'd also go mad being a full-time SAHM.  I do sometimes wish we could afford for me to work less as I'm enjoying DS so much at the moment - 2 days a week would be perfect for me!

#10 nicka

Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:21 PM

I don't think one's easier or harder, just different.  There are good days and bad days.  I'm at home 2 days per week with my 2 sons (1yo and 4yo).

One of my days at home last week consisted of my 4yo constantly whining, and I thought a trip to a coffee shop with a promise of a biscuit and babychino for morning tea (for my 4yo, not me) would help.  Worked on my 4yo, unfortunately my 1yo had other ideas.  He started wriggling and whining no long after coffee arrived and proceeded into a fully fledged melt down.  Had a bunch of suits nearby give me nasty looks and one of them came to my table to try and placate my son.  Packed up in a hurry and hot footed out of there.  No doubt the business folk were discussing amongst themselves that a dad with 2 kids was incapable of dealing with them.

Same day this week.  Took kids to playground, did weekly groceries, both kids managed to feed themselves lunch, did some more playtime, vacuumed, washed dishes, more play time.  Busy but relaxed day.

One thing that really annoys me is the attitude amongst male staff members that my "day off" is a holiday.  Yes, I've been working part-time for 4 years now.  No it's not a novelty, I'm caring for my kids.  No, your jokes about me playing golf on those days are no longer funny (not that they ever were).  I'm sure that if any of these comments were made to a mother working part-time it would be considered harrassment.  I chose to have kids and I chose to work part-time so I can spend time raising them.  Get over it.

Edited by nicka, 30 April 2010 - 02:23 PM.

#11 BucketONuts

Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:26 PM

Do you mix work and parenting?  Which do you find harder? Are there skills you have as a parent you apply at work?

I headed back to work full time after 6months maternity leave...it was a 1.5 hour trip to work one-way and after two months of trying and even with them giving me flexible hrs...i.e. 7:30am - 3:30pm I still got home exhausted and tired and sometimes in tears. So I quit that role and moved to one I thought was ideal , less than 1/2 hr from home, higher salary and work hrs of 8am - 4:30pm . But it turned out to be a disaster. A teething 7 month old , little to no sleep, a moster of a boss who would constantly ignore all my explanations about daycare timings and late fines..made the whole thing worse. While I learned a lot and did my job faultlessly, my stress levels were so high I couldn't eat..I lost 10 kgs in 4mths..

Luckily for me after a year in that role I moved within the company to a fantastic role that I am so happy to have. It worked out in the end..but yes it is hard to make the transition..You head back to work proud of your acheivement "I produced a human being and have sustained it for all this time!!" But at work that could be just ignored or shoved under the carpet eh!! I think going back to work full time was the hardest part...maybe part-time would've worked better for me..Well its all in hindsight now!!
With #2 I will be taking a year off and luckily I will coming back to a role I like!! Yay!!

#12 koiles

Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:35 PM

I've been reading your posts for a while now but it's just blown me away reading that Rita is 12m! It seems to have gone so quickly!

I went back 3 days a week (at a different employer as my previous one wouldn't accommodate my PT request), when DS was 6m purely for my sanity. DS has been such a difficult baby that I go to work to get a break from him really as awful as that sounds. For financial reasons I would have had to return anyway, just not this soon. The funny thing is though when I was pregnant I'd planned on going back FT, but now although I need work to keep me sane, I couldn't go back FT. He's in childcare 2 days and my FIL comes to our place to look after him 1 day. My DS is just full on, on the days I'm home I get nothing done.

Work gives me the chance to accomplish tasks. I love opening up Outlook and being able to tick the box to say something has been completed. Such a small thing but after 6m of feeling like nothing is getting done it's an amazing feeling. I'm working in a much lesser role than I was pre-baby (if I'd gone back to my previous role I don't think I'd be coping so well) so there is zero pressure, I can do the job standing on my head and going in to work really is not just a day off but a holiday too. I leave my cups in the sink and they 'magically' get cleaned (we have a cleaner I'm not just a filthy pig who leaves it for other people laughing2.gif), there is a neverending supply of biscuits, there is always milk in the fridge and a newspaper to read at lunch time. That doesn't happen at home!

Our house is far from perfect. It's always untidy, our wardrobe is now whatever is in the clean clothing basket on the floor they never quite make it into the drawers, there's usually 2 days worth of dishes in the sink and if it can't be cooked in a slow cooker we don't eat it. But work hasn't changed anything - this is the same situation as when I was home full time. I think the reason it's working so well for us is that DH and I are both on the same page. He doesn't expect me to keep the house looking like a showroom and on the weekends we'll take turns watching DS while the other one does jobs around the house. Initially DH was quite critical 'so what have you actually done all day?' but the very first day he stayed home and looked after DS all day I received an apology coupled with 'now I know why you can't get anything done' lol.

For me personally, parenting is by far the harder task than working because it is constant. Work are never going to be waking me up at 2am with a poo explosion that needs to be dealt with asap.

#13 LilaG

Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:38 PM

I have always been in a job that you could call stressful, however, I definately find the days I am at home with my 2 year old DD much more stressful and hard work than the days I'm at work.  I find being at work much easier.  Apart from ofcourse the money, its probably the main reason I choose to work part-time, I could not handle being a full time SAHM.  I applaude those who are full time SAHMs, I don't know how you do it.

#14 diary~dad

Posted 30 April 2010 - 02:42 PM

Thanks koiles for reading the posts - I still remember the drive home from the hospital with Rita as though it was yesterday.  Is it just me or are years shorter now???

#15 koiles

Posted 30 April 2010 - 03:39 PM

Definitely shorter! I did a double take and thought 'surely not' then remembered I was pregnant with my little one when you guys had Rita and he's 6m old now oomg.gif.

#16 Guest_Padmé Amidala_*

Posted 30 April 2010 - 03:59 PM

I work part-time and my days at work are much harder than my days at home. I'm a nurse so a lot of my skills cross over - nappy changing, feeding etc. but at home I only have one person to look after.  happy.gif

#17 Lifesgood

Posted 30 April 2010 - 05:12 PM

It's a rhetorical question right?

Paid work is 100 times easier than stay-at-home parenting!

I mean for starters you have an education and years of on-the-job training and experience. It's got more or less set daily hours and a job specification. People to tell you what to do and how to it. Everyone following rules and doing more or less what is expected of them. You get weekends off. A lunchbreak.

It's a walk in the park.

Parenting on the other hand - well you are thrown in at the deep end with no training course, supervisors or instruction manuals (Robin Barker's Baby Love does help a bit though). The job changes every day/week/month/year so just as you think you are getting on top of it you suddenly find all the rules have changed and the employees are not behaving as instructed/expected. It's 24/7, with occasional lulls rather than breaks (while your child sleeps and you run around hanging washing, sweeping the floor and cleaning the toilets, occasionally remembering to shove half a pack of Tim Tams into your mouth so you don't pass out from starvation and fatigue).

It's a living nightmare.

Now as for job satisfaction, that's another discussion altogether.....

#18 bubblegummum

Posted 30 April 2010 - 07:34 PM

I've done a mix of part time and full time work since having children.  I find working much harder but I love it enough to do it.  ATM I'm 3 days p/w and I think full time would just about kill me.  If I had a nanny, gardener, chef and cleaner it would be easier to go to work though.  I think the reason I find my working days harder is that most of the same home duties still need doing - just in less time.  

And as much as I like my work my days with my girls are much more special.

#19 mokeydoke

Posted 30 April 2010 - 07:44 PM

Without stating the obvious, I think it depends on what you are used to.
My DH would find taking 1 day/week off work to look after the kids/manage the household so much harder than I find it. Afterall, I have 6 years experience that he doesn't have! For 10 hours a day he is at work while I am learning every child's every idiosyncracy. I have 10 hours more each day than he does to learn what the baby means when he does 'that', how to deal with a screaming preschooler and how to best organise 4 kids to leave the house.
He's not an uninvolved parent, but he just can't have the experience I've had when he's at work for those hours. He actually doesn't ever plan to leave the house with 4 at the one time. If he had to, he could, but he would find it a much harder day than I do. laughing2.gif I can even manage to meet friends over a latte these days, that doesn't sound too hard now does it? wink.gif

#20 antsy

Posted 30 April 2010 - 10:34 PM

I work part time - 3 full days a week. My kids are 2 and 5 and I only stayed home for 1 year with each. I loved that year and wish it could have lasted longer.

I find being at home with the kids much easier than going to work. When I am at home with them I get a lot more 'me' time compared to work days. Although there is lots to do like shopping or cleaning, I still manage to fit in heaps of breaks. They are pretty good at entertaining themselves with playing (yes they have a lot of toys but it helps keep them occupied). I often meet up with friends who have kids, we relax and chat while the kids play. I also take them out on fun trips eg to the museum, or a train ride to the city etc, I would much rather be doing that compared to boring old work!! Maybe I dont like my job enough.....or maybe I should have a third kid so I can enjoy a few more years of this!

#21 kp0507

Posted 01 May 2010 - 07:50 AM

I agree with LittleRats,
It's harder than work till they're not babies anymore, then you get quite a bit of down time. My house is clean and tidy, I play with my son but I still have time in the middle of the day where I'm hardly rushed off my feet! Anyone got a 10-2 job for me?

#22 wiggler

Posted 01 May 2010 - 09:17 PM

I have done both. Each has its own difficulties. I think Dad's staying home for a bit is good. I stayed home for the first 2 years with my boys and then DDH became the fulltime SAHP for a bit. The boys where about 2 1/2 and 1 at the time. He had all these plans of what he was going to do. It took him a week to realise how busy they actually keep you and a huge apoligy to me for not actually realising just how much work I did at home and how hard that work can be. He finds being at work work easier than being home and he has a very busy job. I find them boththe same and enjoy both when ever I am in a role. Both DH and I are medical. \\

#23 secret~sammy

Posted 10 May 2010 - 10:53 AM

My partner and I are hoping to have children soon and are actively talking through things like this.

In my perfect world we would both work part-time and stay home part-time once the baby phase is over. But when I look around my friends and colleagues I don't see anyone doing that way. If I think it sounds fantastic but no-one else does it I end up wondering what am I missing?? It's nice to actually hear of someone doing that and it working for them.

#24 Nut

Posted 10 May 2010 - 04:08 PM

Personally I don't think you can really compare.

My husband works long hours and his job is quite stressful mentally. When he gets home from work he just wants to shut his brain down and not have to think about anything anymore.

My day? Well it's often long and with young children I am usually the one getting up in the middle of the night if necessary. DH does the nights if needed on weekends but it's a rarity that either of my children wake during the night.

I do have to deal with it when things go berserk. When one has spilled food, the other has a poo, one is tired and the other is hungry and it's easy to get frazzled. But I get the hugs and kisses, see the milestones, sit and play, dance and sing while my husband deals with clients who are not always cooperative or who's lives are falling apart around them and he has to help keep things together.

Mentally I think being a parent is less exhausting than being a lawyer and I would take parenting anyday. But it can be physically and emotionally exhausting sometimes too. More so for those who have children that fight, scream, throw tantrums.

My children are very easy to look after thus far so maybe I will change my views in years to come. But for now I think they are about equal. They both have their ups and downs, joys and hardships. But I love being a parent and feel privileged to be able to stay home 100% and be with my children every single day.

#25 BetteBoop

Posted 10 May 2010 - 04:20 PM

QUOTE (secret~sammy @ 10/05/2010, 10:53 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My partner and I are hoping to have children soon and are actively talking through things like this.

In my perfect world we would both work part-time and stay home part-time once the baby phase is over. But when I look around my friends and colleagues I don't see anyone doing that way. If I think it sounds fantastic but no-one else does it I end up wondering what am I missing?? It's nice to actually hear of someone doing that and it working for them.

This is what DH and I did. My DD is 3 years old and my DH has done full time work on and off. When she was born, he went to 3 days a week and I was at home but on paid leave.

I returned to work 2 days a week and he did the other days at home. About 12 months ago, he increased his hours to a 9 day fortnight. DD has gone into daycare this year for 2 days a week.

It has been a bit drop in our household income but it has pretty much worked for us.

You both need to be comfortable negotiating with your workplace to get them to consider it. As with working from home, in a lot of office jobs, it's easy to work from home with remote access but you need to push the issue. Show how you would be more productive without having to get to and from work, no need to drop a child into daycare and taking time off if the child is sick etc etc.

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