Juggling childcare, parenting, and careers
Becoming a parent requires monumental decisions. After the metamorphic choice to have a child, a cascade of additional questions follow: how will you become a parent? What will you name your bundle of joy? What stroller, carseat, crib, pack and play (and a million other things) should you buy?
The next life-changing determination, will both parents return to work? If so, what childcare option will you access? Or will one parent stay home? Will one parent work part-time or from home in order to juggle work plus child-rearing?
It’s no surprise that many young couples are opting out of becoming parents. Having a child transforms your entire life. As Jay Weik of Toledo Mindfulness Institute says, “When you’re single, you are the sole artist of your life; you hold the paintbrush. When you meet someone to invite into your life, you willingly share the paintbrush, allowing that person to add his/her own strokes. When you have a baby, that baby pukes all over your canvas!” he finishes, laughing.
These three local mamas discuss their decisions about work and child-rearing. Each one has found a situation that works best for them and their families.
Rebecca Shope: full-time working mama
Rebecca Shope, partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP, with an undergraduate degree from Heidelberg University and a law degree from The University of Toledo College of Law, specializes in employment, litigation and family law and is mother to Liam (9) and Eva (4).
Rebecca tracks her professional trajectory, reminiscing, “I started at Shumaker in 2008 at a time when I didn’t have children…I had my eldest, Liam, in August of 2010. I am fortunate to work for a company that valued family and allowed me flexibility as I was returning from maternity leave. The fact that my law firm was so understanding made the transition much easier.”
“It’s extremely important for companies to understand the struggles that both women and men face when attempting to balance family and work,” Rebecca continues. “Smart companies, like Shumaker, will understand that part of retaining good employees is helping them through this transition period. I believe this is why we are seeing more and more companies implement policies on paid parental leave and flex time.”
Rebecca explains that working full-time with a flexible company is the ideal situation for her and her family: “I am able to maintain an identity that is separate…from my title of mother. When I’m at home, I’m able to set work aside–for the most part–and cherish the time I have with my children.”
Yet Rebecca struggled with her choice to return to work, measuring herself against her “amazing stay-at-home mom friends.” She confesses, “The hardest part was overcoming the initial guilt. I knew that I needed to be in the workforce to feel personally fulfilled, but I found myself constantly comparing myself to other moms.”
“But why was I allowing my perception of how others might feel about me in the workforce to define me as a parent?” continues Rebecca. “Interestingly enough, I learned my perception was significantly flawed; I found that all mothers share common feelings of guilt, insecurity, and daily chaos at some point in their motherhood journey. The best thing we can all do is to surround ourselves with fantastic spouses and supportive mothers and stop the self-criticism.”
Sara Wegryn: Juggling work with caregiving
Sara Wegryn, licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC) and mother to Lyla (6) and Kaydence (4), is expecting her third baby girl this fall and juggles various schedules to spend as much time with her kiddos as possible. She explains, “I’ve done the full-time work and mom gig, plus teaching dance, when Lyla was a baby and it was insane. I never got to see her. I feel like now I have a decent balance of work and play…I’m pretty happy.”
Sara works two full days a week as a counselor at NW Ohio Psychological Services, during which her youngest attends daycare, and the other three days of the week, her 4-year-old is with her the entire day. Sara also works two nights a week, meeting with clients after work hours, and she teaches tap, jazz, and pre-primary ballet one night a week and on the weekend. Her husband works full-time with a rotating shift — which makes life even more interesting. “The things we do for our kiddos!” she laughs.
But Sara says it’s all worth it to be able to be home and spend as much time with her little ones as possible, to do activities like ballet in the middle of the day so their “evenings aren’t jam-packed with sporting events.” She adds, laughing, “Plus, during the days I’m home with Kaydence (4), I can be in my PJs until we have something scheduled!”
The nights Sara works are difficult as she only sees her first grader, Lyla, for a couple hours, and her daughter still struggles with her mom leaving. Sara confides, “The back and forth is a killer,” she adds, “but it’s better than not seeing her at all!”
Mara Luna: Full-time caregiver to four children
Mara Luna Delos Reyes, is a full-time caregiver to her four children — Lorenzo (9), Diego (7), Estella (5) and Eva (3) — and has an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and a graduate degree from Kent State University. She opted to stay home with her children because she grew up in a household where both parents worked full-time, and she wanted something different for her family. Mara clarifies, “My parents could rarely–if ever–attend daytime events at my school, volunteer in my class, or chaperone my field trips. The time I spent with my parents was limited.”
“As a full-time caregiver, I help my kids get ready for school, pack their lunches, pick them up from school, and take them to activities,” Mara says. “Our schedule is crazy most days, but I value the time we spend together. I coach my son’s first grade soccer team, I volunteer as a Cub Scout Leader, and I take my girls to ballet and music classes. I like getting to know my kids as individuals and getting to know their friends, teachers, coaches, and teams.”
Mara adds that after her first baby, Lorenzo, was born, she knew that, with her husband starting a medical residency, they would potentially need to move. As well, “financially, it didn’t make sense to continue working, spending time away from my baby, and using most of my paycheck for childcare.”
Reflecting on her chaotic days with four children, Mara says, “Some days are crazier than others. It’s often difficult for me to keep up with home responsibilities — like cooking, cleaning, laundry — [and] my house is never clean!”
“Some days I feel like a single parent,” continues Mara. “Other days I feel like I have it all together and I can even go out with my ‘mom friends.’ Then one child has a tantrum, two children won’t stop bothering each other, another child tells me just before going to bed that he has an assignment he forgot and it’s due tomorrow, and then I get a text from my husband that he’ll be home late and it’s too late to get a babysitter.”
Mara sums up parenting with a truth that all parents can agree on: “Parenting is HARD WORK! No matter who is doing it, and no matter how you do it.”