Work/Life Balance with Kids

Parent Q&A

  • Thinking about self-care, and wondering what is an ideal vs what is realistic. Any parents that have somewhat found their balance? Tips, advice? How much time do you get to yourself every week for sleep, time alone to check in on world and local news or just read your favorite book, exercise, hang out with friends, have a date? Want to know what to aim for. I realize needs vary from person to person, and sometimes from week to week, but just want to get a general idea of what a family that has found its groove look like. We are the first ones in our social circle to have babies, so we don't have anyone older to talk to about how to not get lost in parenting. We don't have family in town to help, but are willing to hire babysitters, as money permits, we have a 2.5-year-old spirited son (that doesn't sleep well) and a 5-month old. Mostly, trying to figure out what to aim for in the future, as having a baby around and a toddler is hard work no matter what. We love our sons, sooooo much, but at this point even one hour to run errands needs to be negotiated with my partner (we live 5-minutes away!), to make sure we don't leave the other overwhelmed by the two kids. 

    We have what I feel to be a pretty darn good life balance now, and our two kids are 4 and 6.  I'd say our balance has been pretty good for about two years now.  It's really tough when they're still that young, so the best thing I can say is that it gets a lot easier as time goes on.   

    A couple ideas for now:

    You didn't mention anything about tension in your relationship, but our first year as parents was really rough with lack of sleep and generally being overwhelmed.  One thing we did was kind of make a joke out of the fights we had.  We started calling Friday night fight night, and we both came at it with an understanding that we weren't really fighting over real issues, but rather just exhausted and drained by a long week of working and parenting.  Also, anything we said between 10 pm and 6 am didn't count.  I had a real struggle with lack of sleep and it turns out I'm a total jerk when I'm woken up in the middle of the night.  My husband can handle lack of sleep, but turns into a jerk when he's hungry.  If we were getting mad with each other we'd check in and see "Is it hunger?" "Is it lack of sleep?" That helped us maintain our relationship during those first 18 months or so.    

    We would vary the way we did errands.  Sometimes one person would go alone with the understanding that that was a break and they would give the other person some time off from the kids when they returned.  Other times we would each take one kid, or sometimes even one of us would take both kids.  The nice thing about having two kids sometimes, is that when you just have to take one on an errand it suddenly seems easier!

    Make sure that both parents can do all of the kid duties: bedtime, baths, dinners etc.  That gives you a lot more flexibility than some families where the kids really insist on one parent doing it all.

    Ideas for the future:

    We each get some alone time every day.  Our work schedules are slightly staggered, so he gets some alone time in the morning and I get some alone time in the evening.  We also get a larger chunk of alone time each weekend, I go to therapy, yoga, coffee etc. and he will run errands or go to the gym or hang around the house while I take the kids out.  Once a year we each take a solo weekend away.  

    We keep careful track of time we get and time we give, and when we're being snappy it helps to sit down and hash out who has done what that week because it's only natural to notice what you've been doing and overlook what your partner has been doing.

    We don't do outside date nights often, although now that our youngest is older we are interested in exploring some of the parents night out options that various local places do.  We do one weekend away together a year now, where my sister watches the kids.  It might be worth it to fly a willing family member out for that in the future if that's possible.  Otherwise, we mostly do our date nights after the kids are asleep.  We have one night a week we have to hang out with each other no matter what.  It may not be spontaneous or exciting, but it works!  

    Finding balance is tough but totally doable, good luck!

    I was in your shoes 12 years ago (2.5yo and new baby), and this is definitely one of those "it gets better" situations!  That first year with the second kid went by in pretty much a blur, but after that things start to even out.  I still clearly remember the first time I left both kids with my husband and went to the gym on a Saturday morning, because it was such a watershed moment. My advice, which may or may not be what you need: 1) Try to combine me-time things when possible - e.g., reading on the treadmill at the gym, or walking with a friend (this can be done with a stroller in tow if you're really multi-tasking). 2) Think long-term: the day-to-day with 2 under 3 is crazy, but it doesn't last very long - before you know it, that older one will be in preschool, and then they'll both be in elementary school...No matter how much you love your kids, these thoughts can keep you sane. 3) Live in the moment (I know, that sounds like the opposite of #2): Whether you're spending time with the kids or doing something for yourself, be present and try not to think about all the other things that need to be done. And delight in the small things - once I had 2 kids, even a solo trip to the grocery store or Ikea felt like a vacation!  And definitely schedule some time off from the kids each week to recharge - you'll go back to the kids loving them even more after a break.

    The specific life balance and self care that you're familiar with is gone forever. You'll find new balance and new self care, but it will be radically different than before ... for the next 18-20 years. I think your great challenge is being young parents without a friend group to kvetch with, and I recommend you seek out a moms/parents support group and new pals with kids. I honestly think you need to kind of set your expectations that the next 2-3 years are likely to be by far the hardest of your life, barring some huge tragedy. And incredibly fun too!!! Comfort yourself knowing that it's hard for every parent - sometimes super hard. Some escape to work. I am personally a believer in a date night every single week, even if it's just down to a nearby bar for an hour. Sleep at every available opportunity. In a year, you can hand off your kids to another parent with 2 of similar ages for 2 hrs, and reciprocate - or just hang out with other parents of similar aged kids. This is why joining a great daycare community can be an advantage to everyone, including your toddler. Everyone will make friends. Daycare can be very p/t. I don't know where you're located but we ADORED Blue Skies in Oakland - it is spectacular and you'll have very very experienced teachers with deep expertise to go to with questions. They were a lifesaver for us. 

    BTW, try putting your son to bed earlier to cope with not sleeping well ... or call a sleep expert. All can truly help. 

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Depressed and resentful that my husband works too much

Dec 2009

I have been with my husband for 10 years, married for the last five. We have two young children. He is very successful in his career and I feel very grateful that he has a well paying job, we have a nice home, and we are in a good financial place. But...

For the last couple years, as he moved forward in his career, he works longer and longer hours and travels constantly (as in, often, a few days per week.) He's in advertising, so needs to go to this or that place for the productions. This is an industry that doesn't seem to put to much value on ''family time'' and the days are long.

When traveling, he often doesn't finish work till late, so then goes out and it's all expenses paid dinners/drinks at fancy places...often till late because they wrap up late...while I sit at the table with my kids and mac and cheese night after night. I can't help but feel irritated by this. I do trust him, and he checks in constantly while he is out/away and talks about how much he misses us, but it's so lonely being the only one at home so often.

When he is in town, it's long nights and sometimes weekends depending on work demands, but I will say that when he's off work...his family is his priority and he spends his time with us. He is a loving and gentle man and in other than this, he is very good to us.

We moved around a lot, to follow his career, although now I think we are settled for awhile, but the moves have been tough. I quit my job to be a stay at home mom, and am now living further from family and friends. It's isolating.

I am depressed. I find myself resenting him for the hours he works, for missing some of our kids' events, for never being able to schedule things more than a few days out (and even sometimes that is hit or miss.) Just when I think he'll be around for a bit, boom, it's more travel and late nights. We fight about his schedule constantly, and he says he's caught between a rock and a hard place trying to keep his job while still being a good dad/husband.

I am at a crossroads. I know he's working hard to provide for the family, and yet I would trade in some of the financial security for our family to feel whole again. I'm beginning to question if the job will always come before family, if my resentment will just keep building. Am I being fair? Is this selfish? I'd love to hear from any other women with traveling or workaholic husbands, and how they cope. Married But Alone

This sounds so painfully lonely, and sad. My heart goes out to you., and your children The questions you ask sound tailor made for couples counseling. Remember the two of you are a team, and if half the team isn't happy then that's something worthy of serious attention. Good luck. joanne
It sounds like you may need to ask yourself some tough questions. Are you willing to give up your financial security to have more time with your husband? Let me tell you, that may not be as good as it sounds. My husband has a low-paying job that never requires traveling. I am the family breadwinner, but I don't make all that much money either. Our lives are extremely stressful with both of us working and there never being quite enough money for things we both took for granted growing up.

If you don't want to lose your husband's income, here are some possibilities. You may need to develop a hobby or activity so that your life doesn't revolve around your husband. Make plans for you and the kids that don't involve him. Go out to nice places for dinner with the kids -- you have the money for it! Skip the mac and cheese! Treat yourself to a nice spa overnight, where they have hotel daycare. Make friends with other moms in similar situations. I love to travel on vacation, but my husband hates it, so I find friends to travel with. Us moms and kids have great times together. I think if you went traveling and had some of the fun you think your husband is having, you might feel less resentful. You don't have to wait for him to be around to have a life! Go for it!

I imagine many of us in the Bay Area are in a similar position to you - our real estate prices are so expensive that at least one member of the couple has to work ridiculous hours. My husband has a similar work schedule to yours. I also work, but both my kids are in school/pre- school and I'm able to drop them off and pick them up on their schedule.

I can't say that I never get lonely or depressed, but I don't blame this on my husband's job or him not being around. I try to figure out (when I feel like this) - what is it that I really want or what would make me feel better?

Most of the time, I want friendship or a night out (to swallow my food) or some exercise or other people in my house for adult conversation. So I've tried to fill those needs when they come up by getting a sitter for a night, so I could have some time away from the kids or switching off with another parent (it's often easier to take care of 4 kids when two of them are not yours, so the kids play together - than just 2 of your own) to get a little exercise time.

See if there are other parents with workaholic partners in your area. At least you can share dinners once in a while and laugh about the fact that mac-n-cheese is your regular dinner. You don't talk about missing being treated as a professional, but if you feel your kids are ready for preschool or a day program 2-3 days per week, it's worth looking for some sort of volunteer or work opportunity during that time - IF it would make you feel better.

I can't stress how important exercise is for me. Just taking a 20 minute walk once per day or swimming laps and taking a shower a couple times a week is a life saver. Best of luck to you

Well it all depends on one aspect you haven't mentioned. Do you work? If you do you are justified, if you don't then you need to find a venue to feel better about yourself.

For the first 2 years of my son's life i stayed home and my husband worked a job like your husband, minus the traveling. He was gone (and still is) 13 hours a day (sometimes more). At the time he spent 2 hours in the morning with our son. Now that his hours have changed, he sees him 1/2 hour to 1 hour a day. He spends his entire week end doing things with us.

There are so much expectations out, nice houses, perfect families...and then lots of divorce because of too many unrealistic expectations. I think you can choose to have a different life if you both agree. But if you ask him to simply work less it's not going to go well. he is holding up his end of the bargain very well and you'd be surprised how many husbands DON''T. First you should figure out WHY you feel that way. if it's because you feel alone and unfilfilled it's not his job to fix that. So socialize more, volunteer, work a little. Whatever it might be try to own it and fix it.

You can't have your cake and eat it too...everyone i know that has that type of life, including us, either both parents work crazy hours, or one works insane hours. And in the advertising industry it's very normal. That said, you are unhappy. really you are a bit envious and a bit bored it sounds like. Either you should socialize more, work a little or even volunteer a little, depending on what is actually possible. If it's too awful then you need to talk to him and maybe you could reevaluate your in, he could take a job that pays less and gives him more family time and you could supplement by working or you could downsize, sell your house and rent while the kids are growing up and need more family time

You said you trust him, you said he spends all the free time he has with you. Those are great signs. Obviously he works hard to provide a good life for his family since you are financially stable and have a nice home. That has a price. And it's that he is gone often. . anon

Sigh, nothing is ever perfect, but I would count your blessings. I could only wish for such a situation. My partner is hard working (I think), but earns almost nothing, gives it all away in child support, and I end up supporting the him and my two kids here (and doing most of the housework). At least he is good to the kids, has few bad habits, and is around sometimes. another mom
OH boy, does my heart go out to you! I have totally been there and came out of it in ways better than I could have imagined! Now, I work as a life coach, helping parents cope with the many transitions we go through on our journey from giving birth to the empty nest. Back then, I found great comfort and great friends by finding others in similar situations. I started up a ''lonely hearts club'' for Mom's whose husbands traveled a lot or worked late and I found they were easy to find once I started asking around! We would get together every week for dinner at each others houses and boy did it help! It wasn't fancy dinners but it was fun, supportive, relaxing and busy, all at the same time. Don't overlook neighbors, single Moms or Moms whose husbands play or coach sports (they are ''seasonal widows''). I think you are doing the right thing by reaching out to other Moms, they need you as much as you need them! Take Care and Good Luck!
Hi, I would be depressed too. And your story, although different from mine, has a common thread: As a mother I thought a big part of my job was to endure any situation independently. So in essence, I took on the kids' schedules, the kids' homework, the kids' social lives, planning our family vacations from a-z, maintaining the home and preparing meals for the family. In the end, it was far too much and I had a mental breakdown. At that time in my life, others told me I was a perfectionist covering way too many bases, and neglecting myself all the while. So here I type, a more balanced woman, wife and mother. I am a work in progress, but I must say with mindfullness, many positive changes have come my way. I am so much happier and far more balanced. My husband appreciates me more as well -- he sees that I am investing in myself and he respects me for that. My husband and I are in marital therapy, I am making time for my physical health (I started yoga which I would recommend), I am considering what my interests are beyond my family. I am investing in childcare and giving myself more time and space. I hire a sitter regularly (expensive but worth it) to go out with my husband, sometimes in the company of friends. If you are depressed because your husband is absent, you deserve to ask him for what you need. If he cannot give it to you initially, then at least create space for yourself. Best to you
Hi; Sorry to hear about your depression. You could go to a doctor to make sure there is nothing wrong with you; but it is understandable why you are depressed.

By your message; sounds like you have a lot to be grateful for. Trust me, not being able to buy your child clothes or meals out or worrying how you will pay rent is a big streesor that you dont have. Also, your husband is involved when he can so that shows you have a good man who really cares.

Your good man is also very motivated to succeed in his career. If he gave this up; he would be the depressed one. A mans career and being able to provide for his family is a strong sense of identity. If you convinced him to switch careers to accomodate you then it is very possible he will end up bitter and no longer the man you love today.

With that said...can't you use some of that money for yourself. Tell your husband you are interviewing nannies/babysitters so you can have free time both when he is away and during the day to do things that nurture you. Your husband needs to accept that you need your personal time and you can use this to connect with friends, exercise (very good for depression), volunteer or make new friends. This will go a long way to easing your depression. Getting out of the house and letting someone care for your kids will go a long way.

Since money is not an issue, this should be a good start. Also, your husband may not be too happy with this and it may cause a shift in him knowing that you are not always at home 100% of the time caring for his children. Take a stand and let him know there are changes coming. Also, can you leave him alone some time with the kids? He needs to walk in your shoes (slippers)! AA

All I can say is I know someone who worked in Advertising for 25 years and his work hours and travel sound the same as your husbands. I think that is expected for that industry. I think it is also an industry that spits you out when you can't keep up with that schedule. If your husband hates his job then I'd encourage you guys to rethink his career choice. But if he finds the work exciting and satifying, I suggest you get some counseling together to see if things can be balanced a little more to make you happier. There are other careers also that have extreme time or travel demands and people make it work when they want it to. Good luck!
I hear you, and I'm so sorry you're experiencing this. My situation is similar, though my husband comes home around 7pm but works on house projects in the basement till 2 or 3am and all weekend long (installing solar panels, a radiant floor heating system, seismic retrofitting, etc -- all by himself). So I feel totally alone. I used to get so depressed, angry, frustrated, disillusioned, sad -- this is not the marriage I want. But something has happened in me -- I don't like it, but it's how I'm coping. I've become indifferent. When he's around, I am happy that he is such a wonderful Papa. And, I am incredibly grateful that he's such a good provider and caretaker. But I have stopped waiting for him to be present, and I have started feeling that when he is around it's like icing on the cake. Nonessential, but marvelous nonetheless. So that when he's absent, I don't feel depressed. It's weird to feel so indifferent, but it's working. I love my son so much that I can be completely happy with him, and I try to treat every moment as if it's special, and I don't think about waiting for my husband for something to be special. I make nice dinners for the two of us (baby and me, with leftovers for daddy). I go to the ocean and play with my son and my dog, and for the most part I've actually stopped feeling sad when I see all the two-partner families happily playing together. I have made an effort to join a mama's group and sometimes I get together with other families (I always feel a little bad that my husband didn't join us, but then I remember to feel grateful for the fun outing). It's not what I want in a marriage or a family. But it's what I have, and things seem so much better now that my emotional life is not dependent on whether he is present or not. When he's around, I feel I can really embrace our family time. When he's gone, I try to forget about him and just be 100% present with my son. I try really hard to connect with other people (though my natural tendency is to be more solitary). And, I always try to be grateful. I have so much to be grateful for, and just remembering that helps me feel happy. Studies have shown that the more grateful you are, the more happy you are, and I can certainly attest to the truth of that. I hope that things will change in the future, but my emotions are not dependent on that hope, either. Things are much better for me now! Grateful and Happy
It is time to schedule a talk with him. Tell him how unhappy you are and ask to negotiate for a better future. Do the negotiations by brainstorming with abandon and being respectful of each other. If he feels he can not change his career path, work together to spend more time together (start taking trips with him often and finding alternative child care people, etc). Find time for each other and then the family to keep the bond strong and feel connected. Perhaps have a calendar to go over each week to schedule time together and for him to attend functions for the kids. You must be persistant and tell him this is not going to blow over. That it is critical now and must be addressed and worked on together as husband and wife. hope
I used to be in much the same boat as you -- husband working all the time, little ones at home, moved far from family and friends. I worked too which was also stressful since we had part time childcare and I did almost everything at home on top of my 40 hours/week at work. And I had given up a high-powered job that I loved to get a mellower job so that someone could be with the kids more. But, from the start we had an end date (when he got tenure) which made it more survivable.

Instead of fighting all the time about his schedule, can you talk to him? Ask if he envisions his life to be like this forever. Ask if he would be willing to do this for 3 more years or 5 more years and then get a mellower job. Then work on saving as much as you possibly can during those years. Pay off your house. Save for the kids' education. Build up a nest egg.

You might also want to see if you can go back to work, at least part time. Having more of a life yourself might make you feel better.

BTW, when he is on the road, going out to those dinners and drinks with co-workers and clients are part of his job. He probably wishes he were at home eating mac & cheese with you just as much as you wish you were going out to fancy dinners. Anon

I'm not sure I have much advise for you but here's a true story. My cousin's husband was very much like yours worked and traveled all the time. family moved at least 6 times as he was transferred around, finally was promoted so they settled in one area and he didn't have to travel so much. became more of a family man with a more balanced life. then his company was bought and the new owners gave him an ultimatum - take a demotion for less pay and previous hours with the old traveling life-style or take 6 mo severance and leave. He took the severance. He did find a job in spite of the economy but he earns half what he did before and they will probably lose their nice house.

It's hard to choose between financial security and a decent life. This may or may not be time to make that choice given the times. you say ''I know he's working hard to provide for the family'' this is a big deal for many men and there's a lot of pressure to do what it takes.

You also say, ''I would trade in some of the financial security for our family to feel whole again.'' Would you really? how much security? would you then look for a job to share the burden? Would you be able to earn enough to come out ahead of the hourly costs of childcare?

YOu mention feeling resentment, it may not feel liek it but resent is a choice you make. you can get yourself a life to occupy you while he works, as long as you wait around wishing you will be resentful but you do have to. If you feel like you can't plan because his schedule is unpredictable then schedule stuff that can include him or stuff you can just cancel. You have my sympathy, I'm not in your space but if I was, I don't think I'd like it much. But you do have options other than the ones you mentioned. anon

Dear Depressed (Husband works too much), I felt compelled to write to you because your story could be mine, and you are not alone in feeling the way you do. I have struggled with my husband's schedule for many many years while everything else is good. I realized many years ago that the work/travel hours were not going to change and it was a turning point because I started to let go of the resentment as it was, subtly, affecting our children and home life and corrosive for me. I too am a professional who stopped working to stay home with the kids as our combined work-life was impossible to sustain. Basically, I decided that my job was the home and family front. I began to relax into this job, with the kids, and began doing a lot more for myself, pursuing some other creative interests through classes over the years (UC extension/ASUC, cooking, literature, photography, exercise etc.), and making my home really livable. This takes a while, and while life can be somewhat isolated, there are great aspects to it. Raising children, having a loving home, being in a marriage, these are worthwhile things in life to surrender to and it can take many years to do so because we are educated and trained to do everything but value this. empathetic anon
I feel for your I was in your exact position 4 years ago. Yes, your husband's work will be a priority.....and it's difficult to complain to the neighbors or other moms if you are driving a nice care and finances are fine. If your husband is missing all important child events and starts canceling holidays, etc....I would be worried....but tread water when you confront him. I started complaining to my husband (now ex) and it was a risk I took....because he was very sensitive and thought I didn't appreciate the money/lifestyle he provided. I was a stay at home mom and had to look within myself and decide if this is what I would want for me and my life and also my kids. If you went back to work....would your kids have good support from family. Or, would they be with a nanny? You have to decide what you want for yourself. If you want changes in your family need to confront them and talk to your husband....but realize that there's a possibility he may not support you or change his lifestyle. I decided to go the nanny way to take time for myself...but I continued to by unsatisfied cuz my ex was still not there for kid events or weekend holiday fun. Finally, I had to ask for counseling ww My ex was completely enthralled in his work..traveling for 2 weeks straight to various projects and reading technical books and taking business calls at night. We went into counseling and the marriage ended up ending. I was devastated for my boys....who are still very young as well. Despite my worry for the boys, I am much happier as a person. I have a luxury of having enough money where I still don't need to work much. If you would like to discuss more...please email me. steph
I'm married and both my husband and I work full time. We try really hard to make things 50-50 and share equally in both providing for our family and raising our kids when we're home. So I don't blame you for feeling resentful. Boy, this raises my hackles as a feminist. It's so common in our society! Here's my thinking: the best parenting is done as a shared job. It was a mutual decision to have kids and raising them needs to be a mutual task, shared in partnership. This requires some sacrifice on the part of both people. You've sacrificed everything. Your husband has sacrificed nothing. He's going way beyond the basic job of providing for his family. It's easy to get lost in careerism. Time to pull him back. This is just my personal opinion but it's not okay for your husband to continue advancing his career. He's pursuing his personal career goals at the expense of his relationship with you and his family. Time to ask him to reprioritize and scale back his job, even look for a different career, so it's more in line with family life. He can always ramp up his career again as the kids get older, leave the house. As he downscales, you could take a part time job to help balance things. Advocate for your kids and yourself. All the best. anon
Hi! Me, too. Before we had our daughter (we are currently expecting our second), my husband and I were workaholics with successful careers. We'd do fun things together whenever schedule permitted. But as soon as we got married and had our daughter, I realised a definite shift in my focus, while my husband has unfortunately lagged behind. It has been over 2 years and we are expecting our second in a few months, and I still have to bitterly fight and struggle with the skewed work-life balance. At times, I feel bitter - bc he is the one forging ahead with his career, while mine is on hold. But I know this is a false emotion, because I would not trade taking care of my kids at this critical stage for anything in the world. And, also for their sake, I want a home where there is plenty of family time, a regular work schedule that does not eat into our time together, and an obvious focus on building us as a family versus job/financial security. In the end, to me, building a strong family and social network where the kids have memories of a golden childhood is far more meaningful than building individual careers, living in isolation, just so we can have a fat bank account. My husband argues that being an entrepreneur this will always be his life. I disagree, and feel despair. If he does not internalize the importance of shoving everything aside so he can be with us, even if that means having less ''stuff'', less money, I am not sure how I will provide for my kids the way we were by my parents - in fabulous memories of parties, picnics, vacations, fun together. I feel like my husband has to be strongly rebooted into understanding that it is not acceptable for him to arrange our family life around his work. It is a tough situation, bc mine like your's is a wonderful, sweet, gentle man. But things will have to change around our house. I cannot continue with the way things are, and I am determined to bring about that change in mind-set before our second arrives. Mostly this is accomplished through extensive talks that we try to have regularly..Hang in there. I hear you loud and clear... Sympathizer
Hello Married But Alone, I'm so sorry that your husband and you haven't been spending the amount of regular, predictable quality time together that you desire. It's great that you are listening to yourself and taking action by seeking advice.

One next step you can take is to figure out exactly, and specifically what you want and don't want in your ideal life with your husband and children. Then you can start to write down a list of what you want in that ideal life. Keep refining! Don't settle for: I want my husband and I to spend more time together, instead write: I want my husband to spend time with me and our kids between 6pm and 9pm every weekday, and all waking hours of Saturday and Sunday, except for the 5 hours when he will go to grandma's, and also pick up the dry cleaning. You get what I mean. Wrap yourself up in this beautiful dream.

The next goal here is to make sure you communicate with him so that he understands you are not attacking him, you are simply communicating exactly what you want - to be with him because you love him! Acknowledge his feelings, and also that his job is a huge part of his identity, his competence, and his survival. Then ask him how he feels or thinks about the situation. Make sure you absorb his ideas from a neutral place, not reacting to them, just letting them sit in your mind, the way you hope yours will sit in his mind. When you discuss ideas in a caring way, and approach with empathy, your ideas have deeper impact.

One third step you can take is to find ways to slowly create the life you want without changing someone else. For instance, maybe you could find a way to come and bring the kids on some of his trips, so you'll be together in the hotel room. Or have a friend watch the kids, and go with him alone sometimes. These might not be your solutions, but nurture your dreams and find the path which calls to you! I wish you well on your journey! Lauren

hi, i just wanted to validate your husband's feelings of feeling caught between a rock and a hard place. i'm a mom, and i also work in advertising, at an agency where there are both super-high expectations AND lots of people waiting in the wings, eager to take my place.

before i had my son, i worked all the time: nights, weekends, you name it. since becoming a mom, i constantly feel like i'm screwing up both at home and at work. at work, you just can't be the person who consistently says no, i can't stay late or no, i can't go on production or no, i can't take on any more projects. it will leave you extremely vulnerable, especially in this economy. just as in your situation, my income is our only income, and it's scary as hell to have that weight on your shoulders.

after changing jobs several times in search of a more family-friendly situation (which i don't think exists), i ultimately chose to take on a role that's pretty dull for me, but offers more predictability on the home front. it's depressing to see other people pass me by, but have to hope that eventually i'll be able to go back to working on stuff i care about. in the meantime, i'm trying to focus on the positives: i'm providing for my family and spending more time with my son than a lot of other parents who work in advertising.

your husband may be able to work less, but it will come at a cost. greater marginalization/vulnerability at work, maybe. or doing work that's not as great...which can also make him less marketable in the future, since getting new job offers always comes down to ''what have you worked on lately.''

it's tempting to consider a less challenging agency, but if your husband is on the more senior side (ACD or above), an agency that pays less or has lower expectations can actually end up being more stressful and time-consuming, since the work still has to get done, but there are fewer motivated/talented people to do it.

allllll that being said, your concerns are TOTALLY valid. i would feel the same resentment you do. i think you should try and approach the subject knowing that he probably feels equally bad/guilty/stressed/depressed about it, and discuss the risks versus the benefits of reducing his time at work.

again, i know you wanted to hear from people who were in the same situation as you, but i wanted to let you know that it's really, really, really hard on both sides of the equation. AdMom

It would be great if you could accept that your husband is and will not be available as much as you would like. In many ways you need to reframe your situation - you are a single Mom. Enjoy him when he is there as a perk and create your own life. Join or create a Mom's group (with some single Mom's), plan a regular weekly dinner with your kids and another family, plan vacations without your husband. It is more common that you think. Just don't plan on him being there. Make some more friends. Take the kids out to eat more. Your kids will not be young much longer and what a tragedy if you miss their childhood resenting the mac & cheese.

My husband is not available also. I choose to stay. It is not the perfect nuclear family but my life is full and rich. He is happier I'm not mad all the time. a Wife...

I would trade for your situation in a heartbeat. Have you ever lived with not enough or barely enough money? It's the worst. Your life sounds wonderful to me. The only issues you have are a little loneliness and perhaps jealousy of your husband's more social and exciting life. These are not difficult issues in the scheme of things, especially in a comfortable financial position. How about hiring some help for a few days or evenings a week and finding an interesting class to take or a social group to join? There are many moms out there who have to spend a lot of time alone with their kids -- you could try to find them via BPN, craigslist, Studio Grow, etc. and start a group, maybe trade off having dinners out or at each other's houses.

I think you should appreciate what you have -- a loving, faithful, and hard- working husband, a nice home, and a comfortable financial position. Sounds like a dream to me. My husband is a co-owner of a small business and works seven days a week, so I'm alone with my child a lot in a rental house where I spend a lot of time worrying about how we'll ever buy a house or pay for college.

I know it's extremely difficult that your husband is gone so much and I feel for you regarding that. But try to figure out how to make it work. Try to be creative about it. You are very, very fortunate to be in the situation you're in, and in my opinion you should be grateful and proactive, not just tuned in to the negative part. anon

My husband works long hours, and we went for years when if I saw him a couple of hours a day, that was it. Frankly, my advice is to accept it. At least for now. A couple of things may make your life easier. Is there a chance that as he gets more advanced in his profession and senior in his company, the demands will lessen? It may not be the right time to change jobs - but maybe thinking ahead a few years? If you have financial security, can you spend more on yourself, get someone to look after the kids so you don't feel so isolated? Getting a job, even if it creates more logistical issues, may help. Maybe lower your standards for parenting? You could be making it harder for yourself by thinking you have to be two parents. Kids are resilient. I will also say that it gets SO much easier when the kids get older. My relationships with my kids are very special, in part b/c I had that alone time with them. There's a silver lining - I actually enjoy having time alone without a husband to make demands on me.

I know I don't sound too sympathetic, I just feel like I had to face the same hard reality and it would have been better if I had accepted it earlier. It sucks when your life choices require compromises you thought you'd never make but sometimes you don't have good options.

One last thing - are you using the word depressed colloquially or clinically? If it's becoming a mental health issue, deal with that first and foremost - I found for a long time I thought the issue was my husband's hours but it was more complex than that. --Tough Love

hi, you might want to check out the book by mira kirshenbaum on ''our love is too good to feel this bad''--because, as some people have said, you do want more time with him because you love him and i'm guessing that being with the kids is not only work you want to share but a joy you want to share, with him. it is really hard, but if you two can come up with concrete things that he can do to make him more involved, you will both be happier...the book had lots of great suggestions. good luck, it sounds like it can get much better and will.... anon
I scanned responses, without intention to contribute. But someone has to say it... A nice house is not worth a good relationship. Period. On the one hand, thinking it does will make you afraid of reality, of change, of hope. On the other, it's a priority that will extinguish love, insidiously.

And this too: advertising is hardly a profession to sacrifice family over. I know that people burn with ambition, and selling is satisfying at a gut level, but these passionate feelings are cold as ice compared with family. To the person who posted, you already understand these things at some level, which is why your question exists. Let this understanding grow, and give it to your husband. You will strengthen your relationship as well as yourself. Brian

Hi Realize you recvd lot's of hits:)add my 2cents. Work is num.One priority in this house,I'm extremely grateful for the work.Some responses sounded judgemental albeit very good advice I needed to HEAR.Remember ''walk a mile in my shoes.''I love the money,but money doesn't make me HAPPY.My family and friends are far away,it's hard being alone ALL THE TIME.It takes time to develop a good support system.I'm from another country,took me FIVE years in transient land-ieBay area to have good friends.Try to talk to one of your close friends Daily.I get resentvle too.Alleviate some of that on'daddy's night' during week, any night that works. Grab a bite with friends or just exercise there's YMCA/late night Yoga.My dh takes wkend mornings, his childcare routine-morning breakfast,I try for one day on the wkend, mostly doesn't work out. You really have to lve house to get time for yourself-I Realize your goal is more family time.Taking turns with children's activities-not feasible,his schedule is crazy, I make lot's of home movies. Get out more and do more things.We drive over to fisherman's wharf for dinner.Eat out few times/week all the kiddie spots.We love the rain forest cafe.It's fun. I just have to accept the loneliness,create my own life,he's not going to change. If my husband worked less hours(less than 75)he'd be miserable.Enjoys being in his zone tremendously,all that excitement,in same breath tells me how much he misses us,work responsibilities are beyond his control.He's not allowed to work wkends anymore, although he just worked this SAT,that creates resentment. Like you, we have fought over his schedule, constantly.If you want to spend more time together,money not an issue get a good counselor.from Our experience u've got to go through about 5-6 to find a good match. It's really worth it.My husband trys to make time for counselling,always late/misses some. Counsellor reminds me to practice little exercises throughout the week discourages that resentment.Reminds him to walk a mile in my shoes.I gave up a beautiful exciting life,I too get depressed the more he works. Talking to someone will always make you feel better.Your kids husband need you happy, you have a good man like I do, they're really hard to find. Take good care of yourself joining Lonely Mom's Club soon
I'm a mom and have worked for the past 16 years in advertising. My perspective:

Advertising thrives on competition (especially Creative). There is a lot of ego involved too. The unfortunate result of this is the constant need to watch your back. Teams are pitted against each other on projects and the ''winners'' go off to produce work. There really is always ''someone in the wings.'' And that someone is probably 10 -15 years younger and will work longer days for 40-60% less. Advertising simply is not ''family friendly.''

This is not to say there aren't a ton of (mostly male) creatives with families. When I first returned from maternity leave, I complained bitterly to my husband about the ''ad guys.'' How could I compete? While I was running to the pump room and rushing home to tuck my newborn in, they hung out at the office endlessly and schmoozed over drinks with the bosses. I had one coworker (with 3 kids) tell me he came in on weekends ''to get away from the family.'' And another (2 kids/who I was competing against for a project) tell me he came in one weekend not to work, but because our new (male) directors were there. This caused me tremendous distress...

Until I got over it.

I decided for me, my family was more important than my career. Competing against the ''ad guys'' simply was not sustainable for myself or my marriage.

I now do work that is less sexy with less production. But, there's more management and I'm exercising parts of myself I hadn't before. I don't expect I will be able to easily step back into ''the good stuff.'' As the other ''ad mom'' said, you are judged on what you did last week. Oh well.

As I look at my life balance, this is where it needs to be.

It took me awhile to get here. It's not easy to shift from evaluating an agency/position based on ''what kind of work you'll get out of it'' to ''when you'll get out of work.'' I still give long explanations to fellow ''creatives'' for my current decisions (did I mention the amount of ego involved?)

I encourage you to speak up and let your partner know you are unhappy and that you need more (my husband told me this and I listened!) And seek a good counselor.

Ultimately I think having a family means sacrifices from both partners. [Funny when you choose to have a child you feel like you're ''adding'' something to your life/marriage - but it means giving up things too!] Good luck. Another Ad Mom

Full-time working mothers: How do you make it all work?

Jan 2005

I am a full-time working mother of a toddler trying to find that work life balance. I have a wonderful job that I love and am good at (and make a great salary) with a good, understanding boss as well as a great, helpful husband who works closer to the house and helps out a lot with our child as well as the household chores and grocery shopping. We love being with our child but during the week have only an hour or two by the time we get home from work, pick her up at daycare, make dinner, etc. It is hard to do anything after work anymore (pre baby I used to meet friends for dinner, etc.) but we like coming home to be with our child. I am also tired all the time!!

But I just feel like I never have enough time for friends anymore and since our only real free time is the weekends, we have to make choices - do we see friends, run errands, just spend time as a family, workout, go out to dinner or cook at home??

How do you make it all work and fit it without giving up too much? We only have one child right now but really want a second and know it only gets harder. Are there working mom support groups (I was in a mom's group earlier but most were SAH moms so our issues were very different when we got together and I had less in common with a career) where you can get together with other full time career moms and talk about these things?

My husband and I both need to work and really like our jobs. I just want to feel like I have more balance as a working mom.

Thanks full time working mom

I don't have advice, but your letter could have been written by me, to a tee! I feel for you and would love to hear what others have to say on this. wr
My husband and I have been studying under a international speaker of human transformation and he says it succinctly and honestly, ''You can't have a pleasure without a pain''. It's a universal law. We simply can't have it ALL at one time. Something gets sacrificed.

So, you pace yourself, plan way ahead, you pay people to do your errands, etc. to free up the time you have to do what you really want with friends and family. A second child will make this very apparent.

I think it is so great you have a job you love. That is so important. If you are happy, your children will be happy. Staying at home isn't for everyone and don't let them tell you otherwise. Enjoy your job, your child, your husband and your friends. If you can work 30 hours instead of 40, go for it. anon

Being a working mother can be tough (especially in the beginning) but it is worth it, especially given your overall situation. Don't give up on your career. My kids (now in elementary school) are happy, well-adjusted, and proud of what I do outside the home. Finding the balance is a challenge. Your child must be your priority. Your social life, personal time will come back. It will just be different (motherhood changes everything). I don't know of any local working mother support groups (we just don't have that kind of time!), but I have reached out to other working moms through my office and I also subscribe to Working Mother Magazine ( Good luck and hang in there! a fellow working mom
It is tough, no doubt about it. The only way we've been able to work it out is by having one parent work slightly less than fulltime. I work 4 days a week. I have a friend whose husband reduced his schedule to 4 days as well while she stayed working fulltime. I spend my day off doing errands, grocery shopping, dealing with repair people, paying bills, etc. so we can spend more family time on the weekends. We also ''outsource'' as much as possible - we have a cleaning service every other week and a gardener twice a month - so we don't have to do chores we hate on the weekends. We don't do any social activities during the week. Our childless friends we really don't see much at all, but we try. We do see our other friends with kids a lot because that allows us to combine family time and friend time. We get together for game nights or picnics or other family activities. I would love a moms group with working mothers. If you start one, I'll join! Juggling Mom
Hello- I don't have the magic solution to the ol' work-life balance, but I started a group that might be of interest to you.

It is a play/support group for working moms and dads. We meet once a month, on the weekend, so the kids can have fun and be their wacky selves. We do things like potlucks, field trips to Habitot or the Zoo, etc. We also have some mommy and daddy only events like movies and moutain biking. The children are almost all in the official toddler range.

All of the parents work, in some capacity, and we all struggle with the ''do I go grocery shopping and buy diapers on Saturday, or spend quality time with my family?'' debate.

Check out our group and send me an email if you are interested:

Good Luck! deniene

I completely share in your frustration! We have a 4 year old and an 18 month old and both work full time. The only friends I have in the area are co-workers and many of them are significantly older than me (I am 31). By the time I get off work and home with the kids I have to cook dinner, clean up, get the youngest off to bed, dishes, re-braid hair 4 year olds hair, and convince her to get to sleep!! My husband feels neglected and I feel like I no longer have any type of life and I secretly look forward to going to my office since it's the only time I have to myself. (Except when I lock myself in the bathroom.)

It would be nice if there were working mom's weekend groups. However, there would need to be a lot of members since I am sure other things will come up and people will not regularly attend!

You may also look into a play group ring -- I am not sure what they call it -- but I have read that some families alternate watching all of the kids. This would ensure you a full house perhaps once a month and 3 weeks of some time off for a date with the hubby or window shopping! jounjian

I am also a full time working mom with 2 girls 5 & 7. My short answer is that juggling parenting, family and work is somthing that changes from week to week and month to month. Some days I have it under control while on others I feel very run down. Personally I exercise everyday before everyone has to get up. That means getting up an hour earlier than my children and being ready for the day before I wake the family. I have a treadmill at home which helps. Exercise is the thing that keeps me sane and healthy. I try to go to bed no later then 10pm and earlier if possible. I am tired alot of the time, but exercise definetly helps. Next, I am learning to say no. You cannot do everything and somethings need to be put aside. Third, I keep our meals very simple and use the time to be with the kids (my 5 year old loves to wash lettuce and wash tupperware, so we talk while we are ''working'', my 7 year old will read to us too) It doesn't always work, but sometime kids just want you there, you don't have to be engaged 100%. By the time I get home and put them to bed, I feel as if I have worked harded than the entire day! But that is the way it is for now. Next, I also do errands during work (if I am out of the office I may have to stop by Target on my way back, for instance). I also do my weekly grocery shopping early saturday and my laundry on Sunday (and if I get it folded and put away I am way ahead). The point is, I need to have my responsibilities structured so that they get done, and then I can do the fun things. I suspect that I will struggle with finding the balance or juggling the responsibilities until my children have children, but these little things help me. Focusing on what is important is key and learning to give up some things (temporarily) helps. My job is flexible but demanding and I am my own manager, but somehow it is working (probably because that is the way it is). A few last thoughts, look forward to spring when the days are warmer and longer and you can go for a walk before dinner or take dinner to the park (can't we eat samwiches or have take out for dinner?). Have fun and laugh with your kids. Decorate your walls at work with their art (mine looks like an art center) and talk about your kids so they stay in your thoughts all day. Good luck and if you every get wind of a great piece of artwork of someone juggling, let me know, I want to hang it up. Susan
I think that women have been sold a bunch of hooey about having it all. In my opinion, you can't have it all, all at once and stay sane. Working part-time works for me. I can always pick up my career again, but my children will only be young once. anon
I am the single, full-time working mom of a preschooler. It is very easy to feel in a rut during winter. In my experience, it works to make plans for a couple of weeknights per week. Such as, Tuesday evening at 7pm I will run errands; Thursday evening at 7pm I will go to the gym; Friday evening we will have carry- out for dinner and go for a flashlight walk. It also gets easier when your child is a little older as well as during daylight savings when you and yours can play outside after dinner. --a mom