Career questions and family balance/life with baby #3

Hello! We are expecting #3 this year. I (mistakenly) thought that the pandemic would make companies embrace remote work as a new model, but not mine anymore. I have a return-to-office mandate for 3 days/week, but this forces my husband and I to always be flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to preschool vs. elementary school pick-ups and after school activities. Some days, we don't decide until 15 minutes before, who is going to take our child to soccer practice (and it is only one kid who only has one activity at the moment), depending on who has the 'less important' work afternoon. I am really stressing now about what happens when #3 comes. I was planning on putting baby in full-time daycare, but I did not expect that remote work would not be an option anymore. Such an open-ended question, but when did you make major lifestyle/career changes just to juggle everything? Between my husband and I, we are about 60/40 in terms of bringing home income. I have always been the more flexible one because I am an individual contributor, but now we toy with the idea that maybe I should reconsider my full-time setup (that will require in-office days once maternity leave is up) - either dial down to part-time, quit?, find another job/career that offers more flexibility (but maybe less pay)... it's all very overwhelming. Wondering what people have done, and also, how old baby was/kids were when things finally made them reconsider their status quo.

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I'm sorry that your company is mandating 3 days in-office. I strongly recommend that you look for new opportunities. There are many companies that have embraced remote work. There are also companies that are family friendly and will work with you to develop flexible schedules. I have several employees who take time in the afternoon during the traditional work hours to shuttle kids around and they either start the day earlier or work later to put in their 7.5 hours. With school age kids, I also recognize that summer is its own beast and we have to make an extra effort to work with working parents.

As a working and often solo parent myself, I don't know how I'll be able to manage without this type of flexibility, and I remember how incredibly stressed I was when my boss did not understand my needs. It was terrible for the kids as well, since kids had no idea who was picking them up and when! Now that I'm the boss, I offer flexibility to all employees (with or without kids) in good standing at my company. In return for flexibility, I do expect employees to give their all when they are working and I do pay attention to metrics and employee performance regularly while also keeping in mind any extraordinary life circumstances that may be happening. 

I also have some employees who have chosen to work part-time to focus on kids during their early years or due to elder care / other family needs. Some of those employees have returned to full-time when their youngest child began attending school while others decided to remain part-time. 

If you love your career, I think it's helpful to stay engaged even if it's part-time. 

If finances allow you to focus on kids for a few years and if that will make you happy, do it! I also have hired people who have taken a few years off from working and getting back to work. If an employer holds taking some time off to focus on kids against you, it's not a great place to work anyway. 

Good luck!

I have no advice about the career piece but I have found having an au pair to be life changing, if that's something you would consider. My friends who have 3+ kids and both work full time tend to have a nanny or an au pair or an afternoon/evening babysitter . good luck with all the transitions!

We have two kids, ages 5 and 1, and I have the same thoughts running through my mind all the time. Our income is about the same split and my husband caters to Sydney hours Monday-Thursday so I am left with everything PM related. With us about to enter Kindergarten with our oldest and him being involved with afternoon activities (which he badly needs, as we are almost certain he has ADHD) I am going offline around 3:30 at least 3 times a week and then trying to make up for it after the kids go to bed. My work and team are being really flexible but I am so physically and mentally tired. I'd also love to hear others' problem-solving and mindsets around this.

You are wise to think about this before the new baby is born. My two children (2 years apart) are now young adults, so let's say I speak from wisdom. When my children were born, my (then) spouse and I were both working professionals in leadership roles that required travel. His field paid more than mine (also about 60/40) and had potential for much bigger payout down the line.

I never intended to be a stay-at-home parent, but that's what happened. My children were both challenging from the get-go. My (then) spouse showed no interest in modifying his schedule to help with the children. I quickly became overwhelmed and exhausted trying to manage a return to work after maternity leave, mostly because despite my best efforts, I could not establish consistent, reliable childcare, and my employer (the field in general) was not amenable to a part-time or flexible schedule (definitely not remote work). Over the years I worked independently on intermittent projects. 

If I have one regret, it is that I did not find a way to keep a more consistent foot in the door of my professional career. By the time I could breathe and was not running on fumes all of the time, I had been out of the work force for almost 20 years and was basically un-hireable in my career (employers did not take into account my intermittent, independent work). At the end of the day, I would not trade the time I've had with my children for anything—and they both continue to need a lot of support as emerging adults—even as I have struggled with identity issues over giving up my career.

My advice to you is to get reliable support (and backup support) in place, even if it means your take home after childcare and work expenses is little to none, and work consistently part-time.

It’s been a long time for me, but we had a similar situation and I ended up quitting to stay home with the kids. The thing that decided it for us was that we felt like we were going to end up divorced if we continued with the status quo. Neither of us wanted that and it really was a huge relief to have one of us dedicated to all the childcare/family related stuff. It added financial stress, of course, but that was more manageable than the daily stress of making it through the day. At least it was for us.

 It was the right decision for us, but here are some things to consider. It was an enormous burden for my husband to take on full financial responsibility for our family. It was also a huge job to be a full time caregiver and luckily, my husband was extremely appreciative of all the unpaid work that I was doing. We were both fully aware of the burden and stress that the other was taking on and that was really key. 

I also underestimated how hard it would be to get back in the workforce when I was finally ready. If I could do it again, I would try to keep one foot in the door, although I’m not sure how I would have fit that in since it was a busy time.

Looking back, this was absolutely the right decision for us. I loved having those years as a family and being able to have the kind of family we wanted. I think if you are both on board, it could be really great. It was for us. 

I work 80% and cannot imagine both of us working full-time, and we only have two kids. The couples I know who make two full-time jobs work either have one job that's not super demanding so they're able to do it in less than actual full-time hours, or a lot of help, either family or paid. Or a lot of evening/weekend work, which isn't sustainable. We have family help, all schools within walking distance (we didn't consider preschools/daycares we couldn't walk to, and lucked out with our public school placement), and an 80% job, and we still struggle, because even with full-time childcare there's always something - a doctor's appointment, an extracurricular, a parent-teacher conference - that takes time away. We have also found creative ways to bring in help, like swapping dropoffs/pickups with neighbors and setting up a babysitting coop - highly recommend building a community of neighbors who you trust to watch your kids! When we signed our kid up for soccer, we requested a neighbor for his team so we can carpool/bikepool to soccer, and we hope to coordinate all future extracurriculars with friends/neighbors because they only get more demanding as kids get older! Good luck, it isn't easy!

Congrats on the new baby!! I highly recommend Best of Both Worlds podcast/community for advice on this:

If resources permit, hiring more childcare is one option.... Both podcast hosts have nannies that work on a later schedule (e.g., 11 - 6/7) to cover school pick ups, after school activities and sick days  and to help with household management, but that's not the only option. They generally advise against going part time, unless you're sure your workload will be reduced to match your new hours. 

We haven't used this approach... our elementary school age children are in full time aftercare until 6 pm to minimize work conflicts. 

Our first child was born in fall of 2020 and had medical needs that kept her in the NICU for a month. That was the height of the pandemic, too, so we decided I would stay home for school year 2020/2021 (I’m a behavioral support staff member). I don’t think daycare would’ve taken her anyways while she was on supplemental oxygen. Then baby #2 was born December 2021, so we decided I would sit out school year 2021/2022 as well. We really debated me returning to work for 2022/2023 but we had fallen into such a routine by then (and we do just fine financially with just my husband’s income) we decided to give it another year. I’m so glad we did because with the “tripledemic” last fall my oldest was out sick from her part-time daycare (which we decided to enroll her in for socialization and enrichment) pretty much every other week and that would have made me going to work really hard.  Now I’m returning 2023/24 because it feels right, and we know we’ll probably have to take turns staying home with sick kids and probably find a reliable back up babysitter, too. My husband’s work is more flexible than mine, so he will probably stay home more frequently than I will. If you can afford to stay home and it feels right in terms of the cost of childcare and the logistics of having to take time off to take care of sick kids and other issues, go ahead and do it. If it feels right to work part-time, go ahead and do it. People figured this out before the pandemic forced us all to work from home and by golly we’ll figure it out again.

Hello, I think it largely depends on how much of your childcare you want to do yourself and how much income you need. 

We had our 3rd baby last year, and didn’t make schedule changes until start of this year, which looking back was too late! Our oldest started having bevhaor issues and I knew we needed a change. Our weekly schedule was taking its toll. I would start a few hours of work after my husband finished work. Everyone was stressed.

A few discussions with a behavior therapist, new work schedule and everyone is happier!

I started back up with a more flexible job where I make my schedule and mostly work on the weekends a few hours, and not every weekend. Then I have one on call appointment a month and that has worked great for us. 

not having one of us work during the week is all the difference for us! 

i say evaluate your situation now, figure out where the stressors are, how your schedule is impacting your children and how things will change and then make a plan. With a new baby coming it will be an adjustment for the children and they will need reassurance and time and attention to know you love them just the same and that yes things are changing but everyone is still together and love each other. 

I hope you find a good solution for you all!

My job first started with 2 days in office per week, but starting last fall we went back to 3. I have two kids, ages 4 and 20 months, and I really don't know what I would do if I had to go in the office more. 3 days felt like a big jump. The perks about my department are how flexible and understanding everyone is. I have also been in my dept for a while and have moved up so I feel more comfortable knowing that I don't need to prove myself as much anymore. I usually leave the office ~4PM at least 2 of the days each week so that I can get home and throw dinner together (my commute is less than 15 mins) before leaving the house at 5 to pick up the kids. One of my kids doesn't need to be picked up until 6PM and we usually get there at about 5:30 so that is a huge help. Basically my advice is to find a job that is flexible and understands family needs. My supervisor has 2 kids and our overall group director is a mom so everyone really gets it. This morning I didn't get into the office until 9:30 b/c of a late start and that was totally fine. 

I'm happy enough in my job for now, but I do have daydreams of finding something different, however when I look at jobs I struggle with finding something that pays enough since everything is so expensive here (we are barely making it with 2 kids in preschool/daycare). I also worry that another job wouldn't have the same flexibility, which is definitely added value to me. I definitely will not be making any big changes until my little one is older and things feel a bit easier.

We also struggled with this situation, with two little ones at home. I ended up leaving my job for a remote position, which actually ended up paying more. I work east coast hours, so husband handles the morning drop off, and I can have a few hours free in the afternoon for errands, meal prep etc. before picking up the kids at 5pm (after school care is a must). I also have a friend expecting #3 who left her academic in-person position recently for a full time remote job (which she somehow landed in advance of having baby and negotiated a start in August). It may be worth looking for different career opportunities-- sometimes it works out better than you expect.

I have (only) one small child and was recently offered my dream job with the requirement that I go into the office 2-3x/week. I turned it down. In my opinion, when a company requires senior staff members (which I am) to be present, that’s a red flag. I think it represents a culture that is unwelcoming to parents and particularly to women. I don’t want to work in an environment like that. I found another position where I’m 100% remote and it’s made balancing work/life infinitely more manageable. My advice is you do the same. Good luck!