Why Part-Time Work is not necessarily the answer for Work-Life Balance

I often thought that finding a Part-time job was the answer to our challenges.  It would allow me to bring in additional family income, keep my head in the work game, and allow us to address the lack of before and after school care options for our severely special needs child.  My search attempts were futile though as the only part-time job opportunities I could find were marginal jobs that wouldn’t get us that much further ahead.

In some ways it is just as well, for even if I did find a satisfactory part-time job in my field, I am pretty confident that my stress levels; which are already high, would go through the roof and take on a new meaning that wouldn’t be pretty for anyone around me.

The reason being is that unless you live in the Netherlands, working part-time does not actually alleviate time pressure for most women but rather increases it. Here is why, just imagine this scenario…. The husband is the primary breadwinner in the family who often is expected to work long hours and sometimes even travels, the wife works part-time and they have a couple of young children.

In this scenario, who do you think takes on the primary responsibility for coordinating any childcare requirements – dealing with a sick child, appointments, extra-curricular activities, play dates, lunches, field trips, etc., and the household logistics – meal preparation, grocery shopping, cleaning, etc.,?

In most households it is the woman who shoulders most of these responsibilities because she has ‘extra’ time given her part-time status.  This does not mean the husband does not ‘help-out’ or take on some of the care giving and household responsibilities but study after study reveals that it is the woman who typically carries the weight of the family when working part-time.   As a result, leisure time is often scarce for these women and when they get it, it is often scattered, interrupted by work, household duties or children. Men, on the other hand, often have more leisure time and enjoy longer stretches of unbroken time.

So what is the answer – not working at all or working full-time? I am not an advocate for woman to opt out of the workforce, especially educated woman, as the answer or solution to deal with the many challenges associated with raising a family in our western society. Instead, I advocate that both parents should have the option to work full-time in meaningful professions. To accomplish this though a huge shift needs to happen that involves changes to many workplace cultures, government policies, and cultural attitudes; which ultimately translates into men taking on more household and child-caring responsibilities, decreased working hours for both women and men, affordable child care options, and a huge cultural shift in values and priorities.

It can be done and Denmark is one example where over 80% of women with children are employed, most with full-time jobs and they have just as much leisure time as Danish fathers, and more leisure time than others in any other country.

Since it is not in the cards to move to Denmark or the Netherlands, nor can I wave a wand and make the necessary changes within our society, I do believe that there is room for improvement within our household on how we can tackle this desired work-life balance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toilet Training and the Yellow Party

Yellow PartyOn the weekend we hosted a dinner party with 4 other families and since we are all parents of young children, no topic ever seems to be off-limits, including those relating to bodily functions. Two of the 10 children are in the midst of toilet training and as these two parents shared their current trials and tribulations with us, the rest of us who are past this stage shared our words of wisdom on the matter.  Essentially be patient and despite what many of the text books say rewards do work but you need to find the one that works.  The conversation triggered  many memories from when we went through this stage with London, including throwing a Yellow Party.

I can’t remember exactly when we first started the whole toilet training endeavor but we know it was just before her 3rd birthday in March.  When we started, most of her little friends in her daycare class were going through the toilet training process as well, and we thought there would be nothing better than a little bit of peer pressure knowing that others in the class were using a toilet instead of diapers. However, we quickly learned that apparently when you are 3 it doesn’t matter what others are doing around you, you decide when you are ready to do something and not a minute before.  At first we subscribed to the industry experts and avoided the reward based approach by trying the encouragement route saying things like “how good she must feel when she would pee in the toilet.”  We felt ridiculous trying not to own the process but rather transfer the success onto her and truthfully I don’t think any of it had a positive impact. Instead what worked was telling her that when she no longer needed a diaper we would throw a party.

She promptly asked “can we have cake?”

Sure.

And when the time came in early May, we decided that we would call it the Yellow Party for we figured it would be easier to get the local Bakery to put those words on the cake instead of ‘Congrats on losing the diapers’ or ‘Yahoo, a successful Toileter!’  The bakery never questioned our request and no one was the wiser.  At home we celebrated London’s success on losing her diapers.

The beginnings of a one car family

One Car Family

Before moving to Calgary we maintained two cars. We lived in a suburban community north of Toronto and both of us commuted into the city (1 hour each way for my husband and 30-35 minutes each way for me) and based on our work locations, transit and carpooling were not viable options.  Even on the weekends based on how the community was designed we still needed to have two have cars available; which pretty much was the norm for most if not all two-parent families in our area.  In fact I can only think of one family in my social network that was a one car family.  Every once and awhile we talked about how we could make it work for our us but we just couldn’t think of a way given the location of our jobs, the community layout, and the extra challenges associated with needing to transport a child in a wheelchair.

So when we decided to make the move to Calgary, we wanted to find a home in the inner city where we only needed one car and then either one of us could easily take transit as needed.   The first step was finding an affordable home in  a central area where a bus ride to downtown would be easy and quick.  Somehow we managed to find a great house and only 20  minutes away from downtown via a bus ride.

The next step was for one of us to find a job in the downtown corridor.  Note: My husband and I were in a friendly competition who could find a job first as the other one would have to stay home for the time being.  My husband  recently won this challenge 😦

As Murphy’s Law goes his new job of course is not located downtown but rather just south of the airport.  Even if you are not familiar with Calgary, airports are rarely located downtown, so needless to say our wonderful plan of having the person with the job take transit went out the window. Sure he could technically still take transit but it might take him 1.5 to 2 hours a day each way.

As a result, my husband takes our one and only vehicle to work. The girls were already taking a school bus to school so there was no adjustment on their end.  I am the one most affected and so far it is actually working out quite well except for my one attempt to take the transit last week and ended up having to pay $25 for a cab ride home. I ended up going in the wrong direction and didn’t have time to make up for my mistake. and the situation was totally rider error in not reading the bus directions properly. Doh!

There is no question that when Reilly has an appointment it requires a lot more planning and coordination, especially on my side.  For once London is on her bus, we then take my husband to work and Reilly and I would either go to her appointment. At the end of the day I would collect both girls off their respective buses and then go pick him up. It is not the most convenient process but I keep reminding myself that the 30-40 minutes it takes me to drop him off and go to our destination is pretty much equivalent to what it used to take me just to get to work back in the Toronto area.  My husband has also has started to make car pool connections with a work colleague who lives in the area which is great and also plans to bike to work in the summer months (not so great as I worry about the route he would take).

Although there are some inconveniences with only having one car,  we love the fact that we are a one car family (or at least I do).  I love it because we are saving quite a bit of money not having to maintain a second car (insurance, gas, maintenance, license costs, etc.) especially since we are down to one income, and also that we are doing our bit to reduce our environmental footprint, and it is also probably saving us some additional money on indirect expenditures such as unnecessary shopping trips.  Cough, cough, sputter, not that I was guilty of that in the past. Nope, definitely not 🙂

It will be certainly interesting to see how we fare over the coming months but I think it will only get easier as we get better at planning, making social connections for car pooling arrangements, taking advantage of the better weather eventually coming to us, and becoming more familiar with the Calgary transit system 🙂

Another Weight Loss Special – The First Week

runner2I joined a gym for the first time in many, many years a few weeks ago.  We were having another cold snap with temperatures in the minus twenties and although I have no issues in running in sub zero weather once it gets down to this particular mercury dip (-20 and beyond) count me out. So committed to losing weight I joined the gym. I was gung ho for the first couple of weeks but then Reilly got sick and then we had a an over night EEG planned and I got out of sync. I have gone here and there but all last week I had another excuse not to go. Although I did run 4 times last week but the scale is not moving.

Yesterday afternoon I told my husband that the gym is not for me, I can’t stand running on the treadmill and I am not a big fan of fitness classes so I was going to cancel it and think of something else to do.  In the mean-time I was going to try to make the most of it since I am paying for it.

So I dragged my sorry ass to a spin class in the evening, dreading the workout.  I have never had this particular instructor before and I have to say she was awesome for setting up a challenging routine and really making us think twice about turning down the dial before it was time.  Although I would have much preferred to be cycling outside she made an important point that there is no way most of us would ever challenge ourselves to the same extent if we were riding outside.  Unfortunately she is right.  I took up her challenge and gave it my all, to the point I had to take an Advil before I went to bed as my legs had already started to ache.  It made me think about my running and although I am doing speed work and hill repeats, I obviously need more in place to move the scale downward.

I have to say though I am tired of having this goal of losing weight in front of me. I am tired of opening the closet and being restricted to a couple of outfits for I no longer fit into all my old clothes, I am tired of not being able to wear my wedding rings for they are currently too  tight and I am tired of not wanting to get my picture taken for then it means I have to see face reality and process the disconnect I have in my mind.

So here is what I am going to do about… I am going to lose the weight so I can take this item off my goals list and realize all the amazing benefits that will go along with it! And you never know maybe I can acquire the amazing set of abs above 🙂

Each week I am committed to writing about my progress, I don’t care if anyone reads this but it provides me with a level of accountability that I hope will contribute to my success.

Week # 1 Tasks:

  1. Book an appointment with a Dr to get blood work done.  I missed my annual physical due to moving to a new city and it would be interesting to see if anything shows up given how much unavoidable stress I am under.
  2. Run 30 km
  3. No desserts! This one is going to be very, very hard.
  4. Go to the gym 3x – either for a Spin class or weight work-out.
  5. Drink only water as my beverage of choice – except my two coffees/day 🙂
  6. Meditate 10 minutes a day

Weight Loss Goal:  17 pounds

Goal completion Date:  June 24th!!!!

Leveraging your strengths to help build tomorrow

We moved out to Calgary for a few different reasons with one of the goals being that both Mike and I can pursue fulfilling and rewarding careers. Now having said that I don’t think that goal was completely realistic but we thought we had a better chance of accomplishing it here then back home in Ontario.

We have quickly learned that it might be almost impossible for both of us to work traditional 9 to 5 jobs (or a slight variation of that) simultaneously. The challenges involve finding consistent and reliable before and after school care arrangements for Reilly and her increasingly complex medical issues which result in endless appointments. Oh and you can’t forget about the crazy sleep schedule, or lack thereof, we would have to maintain while trying to hold down two full time jobs and create a healthy overall family life.

Either one of us would be more than happy to take a part-time job (20-28 hours) so the other one could bring in the necessary full-time income but based on our particular business backgrounds, part-time jobs using these skills don’t seem to exist.   As a result, I have spent numerous hours searching for alternate part-time work that would leverage my strengths but the only thing that comes up is lunchroom supervisor positions, Starbucks Barista or retail jobs. At this point in my life, I absolutely can’t bring myself to do these types of jobs.   I do not take this position because I think I am better than those who do these jobs but rather because I know I would be resentful and miserable that Rett Syndrome has taken one more thing from me.

Consequently I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to make sure I really understand who I am and what makes me tick so I can create a plan that will allow me to fully embrace our situation while actually feeling engaged, if not satisfied and fulfilled. As part of this journey, I took the following free VIA Inventory of Strengths Survey to see if it would reveal anything of value.

The VIA Signature Strengths Survey measures 24 character strengths that are taken from Christopher Peterson and Martin E. P. Seligman work on creating an authoritative classification and measurement system for human strengths.  After completing this survey you are given  your 5 greatest character strengths.

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My Top 5 Strengths

1.  Love of Learning – this one did not surprise me at all.   All you need to do is look at my bedside table to see the stack of books that are always on the go or the Education section of my resume.

2. Perseverance  – this strength reflects finishing what you set out to do. There is no question this strength reflects me, I have always been a goal setter and have worked hard to achieve them – whether it be work related, running marathons or other personal projects. 

3. Bravery  – this strength also resonates with me.  I have never shrunk away from threat, challenge, pain or difficulty and have often stepped forward to voice an unpopular opinion when it was the right thing to do. Having said this I would be more than happy to step backward from this strength.

4. Perspective  – I do like to think that people seek me out to help solve their problems, or brain storm on possible options and that I provide value.  This is definitely a strength I would like to develop further.

5. Judgment  – in most situations I do pride myself on being a highly rational and critical thinker that is open to other ideas and inputs.  In a business setting I would have to say that this is a core strength of mine and something I really enjoy doing.

Last 2 Strengths

23. Spirituality – although I do leave the door open for spirituality I don’t devote any time to nourishing this part of my life so it is only fair that this strength appears near the bottom of the list.

24. Self Regulation -I had to chuckle at seeing this one.  As much as I want to lose the extra weight there is no question self-regulation is a huge weakness for me. Not just with food but in controlling my emotions as well.  Sigh.

In reviewing my top 5 strengths I am not surprised with any of them nor the bottom two, for they truly represent where I have focused my energy and resources in the past.  The great thing about Strengths is that you can choose which ones you want to develop and build upon unlike Talents that are considered to be innate capabilities that you either have or don’t have.  So although Self Regulation is currently a weakness of mine it doesn’t mean I can’t make progress in this area. I can either consciously work on developing this particular strength or leverage my top strengths to help overcome or compensate for this obvious weakness of mine.

Once you figure out your signature strengths, the ones that truly feel authentic and real to who you are, then you have the ability to reach your full potential or at least be more happy and fulfilled in the process of working towards that goal.

The next step for me is to to understand how I can fully leverage them in my current situation so instead of feeling sorry for myself, resentful and misaligned in life I can feel empowered, satisfied and fulfilled.