Taking a career pause

by Up North

While scrolling through a list of new books available at my local library, I came across “Work Pause Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood Without Killing Your Career” by Lisen Stromberg. I was intrigued to find out what the author meant by a work pause and if it may be applicable to my own career path.

The author defines a pause as “temporarily reframing of one’s priorities to place the personal before the professional.” Stromberg notes there are different kinds of pauses that she labels Cruisers: staying in the paid work force with a downshift to part time work or a flexible work arrangement, Boomerangs: leave the workplace completely and then recommit to their careers by returning to their previous industry, and Pivoters: leave the workplace completely and pivot to a new profession. She notes a pause can happen with young children, older children, or when one is taking care of a parent.

The book gives a name to the career/life path I’ve chosen to take and discusses many others who are also creating their own path. Stromberg states that we have a bias against caregiving in this country and that often a career pause isn’t the “choice” it’s often made out to be.

I have downshifted my career to be my children’s primary caregiver. I started my career at a large firm, worked PT at a smaller firm for a couple of years, was primarily a SAHM for 1.5 years, and now work at a large firm with a flexible work arrangement. There are trade-offs to the path I’ve taken. On the plus side, I’ve had more time with my children, more time for my own interests, and have been able to “stay in the game” professionally. Some of the downsides are having less challenging assignments than I would likely be given if I didn’t have a FWA, having others assume I am not as committed to my career, and watching others pass me by career-wise. I enjoy working and would like to focus more on my career when my kids are a bit older. I hope that reading this book will help me to do so.

Here’s a link to a review of the book:

Work Pause Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood Without Killing Your Career

If you’ve taken a pause in your career, in what way did you pause? How has it worked out for you?

For those of you who haven’t taken a career pause, what do you think of those who pause? Should work places do more to accommodate caregiving pauses?

The Sandwich Generation

by AustinMom

I am a typical member of the sandwich generation that the article below describes – caring for an elderly parent and raising minor children. As regular Totebaggers know, I lost my father about eight months ago and, as an only child, have been taking on more and more caregiving responsibilities for my elderly mother, whose health is also declining. Thankfully, my parents worked very hard to ensure they have sufficient resources at this stage in their lives and I am not providing financial support. I provide almost all the emotional support to my mother as well as handle most of the major decision making and a fair number of day-to-day tasks such as bill paying and grocery shopping. And, I attend all doctor appointments and try to be present a significant amount of time during any hospitalization and visit almost daily when she is in any type of rehabilitation situation.

This article talks more about the statistics and less about the physical and emotional challenges of the sandwich generation. While some articles look at these issues, I find they fall into (1) how to prepare financially so that when you are the elderly parent you have sufficient income/wealth, (2) resources for you to wade through to find a community/facility/services appropriate for the elderly person, or (3) caution caregivers to be aware of their own symptoms, usually focusing on mental health. But, there doesn’t seem to be much about how to balance or appropriately handle all the different directions you are being pulled.

I have been looking for those articles because lately I am just feeling exhausted and very pressed for time. While I am thankful that my mother has been around this long in my life, I also feel that I am missing part of my children’s lives as they will soon be entering college and moving on. And at the very same time, I know my children are looking at my actions for what is reasonable and ethical behavior for handing elder care.

The Sandwich Generation

So Totebaggers – Are you part of the sandwich generation? Do you feel that you are always blazing the new trail or that one is there that is easy to follow? Are you that primary caregiver? If not, how to you feel about the other family member who is providing all this care?

Look who’s asking for work/life balance

by Rhode

So Paul Ryan did something I didn’t expect – he asked for work/life balance.

Paul Ryan’s Remarkable, Personal Demand For Becoming Speaker

While he is known as the “family man”, he’s also considering a position that will require a lot of dinners with donors, hand shaking, and kissing babies. A powerful position requiring more career and less family time.

If the Republicans accept his terms, and he becomes Speaker of the House, do you think his family-time request will become mainstream? Could this change our national view on work-life balance?

And because I have to ask – what does this mean for the Republican party?

Family-Friendly Perks

by Regular Poster

My husband had a recent period of employment by one of the technology giants. Given the reputation, I expected that our lives would be much improved (in what way, I don’t really know). However, as a spouse and mother of small children, it was unpleasant to hostile. He went there from an environment that had been very inclusive (a start-up that had frequent gatherings, invited partners to important company announcements, celebrated employee milestones, etc.) Visiting the new office required registration and a badge, and after 18 months I didn’t know the name of a single co-worker.

While it is a luxury to complain about how generous benefits and perks are not working out well for your family, this recent NYT article rang true.

Silicon Valley: Perks for Some Workers, Struggles for Parents

The “great benefits” technology company he worked for had amazing things going on – I think. All of the information was contained on a secure company wiki. That means I could not find out about anything without asking DH pointed questions. There was no employee handbook. I think there was a gym benefit, there might have been some other things we could have used. In order to sort through health insurance options, I had to look over DH’s shoulder — he took seriously the admonitions about company security and not allowing me to navigate the wiki. In the end, we never used our vision insurance because it was just too complicated for me to manage.

But these examples exaggerate how family-friendly tech companies are, especially after the newborn phase… Some benefits, like free meals and on-site laundry, have a flip side of discouraging people from leaving.

In our experience, the family friendly programs seemed to be geared for employees in the first few years of parenthood. There was generous leave for new parents – sounded awesome, but we are past that stage. There was emergency child care coverage – but they would only pay for a specific day care center – and had to be booked in advance (somewhat negating the “emergency” part of the program). It was complicated – the center required for us to have vaccination records on file. The two times we tried to use it was unavailable for three children – and was a non-starter once kids had to be in school.

In any case, he ended up leaving because he didn’t like the work he was doing. He is now employed with a far more traditional employer with fewer benefits and a higher salary. He is home for breakfast and dinner. I have to say it is an improvement.

Totebaggers, what has your experience been with “family-friendly perks”? What would you want a company to offer? Would you stay for any of these benefits? A lot has been written about Google’s failed foray into on-site childcare — do you see that ever becoming a benefit that high-demand employees can expect?

A New Mom’s Questions

by Rhode

I’m returning to work next Monday. My husband is taking 8 weeks paternity leave starting today.

How did moms and dads handle the transition between leave and return to full-time work? Any tips?

Also, now that my mom is moving, I’m staying with my in-laws when visiting NJ. I’m not terribly comfortable there. It is emotionally draining to be a better version of myself. With my mom, if I want to cry in a corner I can. With my mother-in-law, I need to be stoic and bite back any strong emotions. I don’t even feel comfortable enough to wear my pajamas to breakfast. Any tips from Totebaggers on how to get comfortable in their home? Any tips on how to let them help me parent my son?