Tag Archive | balancing work and family

2013 in review

Happy New Year! We are so thankful to the entire “Off the Merry-Go-Round” community for finding and following us, adding your words of wisdom, and sharing your adventures in parenting, careers and life with us. We look forward to even more growth, lots of fun and surprises in 2014!

Click below to recap the success of 2013 with us… and check out some of our blog highlights you might have missed!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Cause for Celebration!

red cakeBy Karen Hendricks

“Off the Merry-Go-Round” is celebrating its first birthday! And we are so grateful to everyone who has joined us on this journey.

Whether you are a parent, mom or dad, or even a grandparent, working in an office or working at home, juggling your family with part-time or full-time employment, we are thankful that you are reading, laughing or stressing with us, commenting, offering advice and adding to this community.

When the six of us embarked on this venture a year ago, we sure hoped YOU would find us… and plenty of YOU did and are still finding and joining us. Thanks a bunch! We love hearing from you and reading your words of wisdom.

Check out this COOL word art, created when we plugged our website URL into Wordle.net. It’s generated from the most commonly-used words over the past year. Any surprise that “family” and “time” are the most prominent words? Pretty fascinating, eh?

one year wordle

When we launched this website a year ago, all six of us had pretty much left full-time employment in the dust. We all worked (certainly inside the home—but outside the home as well!) and our careers were all taking a backseat. Our first stab at a mission and tagline went like this:

Mission: to provide a place of community & inspiration for moms who have left corporate or full-time careers in order to spend more time with their children & families. Re-prioritizing, they are seeking more meaningful, enriched family lives.  

Welcome and congrats for “jumping off the merry-go-round.” Enjoy this blog as a source of community and inspiration for all moms who have scaled back their professional careers in favor of more enriching family time.

A lot has changed in the past year! Several of us have taken on new jobs and larger career roles… and there are times when we wonder if we are truly “off the merry-go-round.”

Most of our subjects here are about balance… trying to maintain balance between work and family, sanity and insanity! But seriously, we don’t want to make anyone feel excluded. Just because a parent is a full-time working parent doesn’t mean he/she can’t still cherish family time. And we wanted to be honest about our situations… we aren’t 100% stay-at-home moms, yet we all strive to carve out family time, to make life as meaningful as possible for our families. We want this website to reflect how much we love and care about our families as our number one priority.

We wanted to reflect this slightly different outlook so we switched up our mission/tagline and are redefined as:

Off the Merry-Go-Round: A place of community and inspiration for parents who cherish time with their children and families.

* Let us know what you think about our change! And we sure hope you stick around for the next year… 🙂

 

Balancing Work and Family during Summer Break: Ideas Wanted

my guys

“My Guys”

By Jen Ashenfelter

Sorry, you’re not going to find inspiration or words of wisdom from me right now. This time, I need your advice—and I’m confident I won’t be the only one to benefit from sharing stories and ideas. I know I’m not alone, so for everyone who has weathered summer break and made it through without losing all of your hair, we’d love to hear from you.

The challenges of being a working mother are nothing new. I’ve been in the game for a little while, but working through the summer while the boys are home is a first for me. In previous years, I’ve had the good fortune of not working during the summer months so I could focus on my boys without the added responsibilities. I have many luxuries with my current job, but taking off the entire summer is not one of them.

I truly love this job and I’m glad to have projects to keep me busy and engaged. I have the opportunity to work from home and my boss, the mother of 3 boys herself, is understanding and flexible. My hours range from 20 to 30 hours a week—makes for a good paycheck and still gives me time to devote to my family and myself. Easy, right?

No problem, I thought. My boys are older and more self-sufficient. I won’t have to see the youngest to the bus stop, so I can get started early in the morning and still hit the pool by 2pm.multitasking nick

I’m organized, clever, and planned for their every need so I could hit the “To Do” list hard. There’s food in the house. Summer- reading books are set. I gave them the “reminder” about all the things they do have so I don’t have to hear those two fingernails-down-the-chalkboard words: I’m bored. I prepared a list of things for them to accomplish, like organizing closets, drawers, and cleaning up the massive Lego display occupying two-thirds of my basement. And I signed them up for a few half-day camps to keep them socially connected. I thought to myself: I got this under control. They’ll be happy. I’ll be happy. This summer is going to be the best ever!

I know what you’re thinking and you can stop laughing now! Wow, was I wrong—at least about last week. My complaints are not new or unique, but talking about them makes me feel better. Let’s have a brief rant session—add your frustrations to the list too.

  • Oldest to camp by 9am, pick up at noon.
  • Drop by office to take care of a few things.
  • Youngest to a friend’s house for a couple hours, then home again.
  • Youngest to camp by 5pm which means making something simple for dinner at 3:30 and eating by 4.
  • To the store for last-minute birthday gift.
  • Five minutes after reaching the office, a text from youngest that oldest wouldn’t let him watch television. Really? Three televisions and only two of them. My A-students in math can’t solve this simple word problem?
  • Power outage moments after returning home and finally starting a new article.
  • When? Who? Where? What? Come see this. Can I? Why, why, why? My youngest really should become a lawyer, an investigative reporter, or work for the FBI, because he certainly knows how to ask relentless questions.
  • Flat tire which required two trips, back and forth…over two days, to the shop before it was finally fixed…blah, blah, whine, moan, etc.

Four simple hours of work takes all day! I spent more time driving here, there and everywhere with brief smatterings of writing, phone calls and planning in between. Frustrations mounting, the next person to ask for something while I was typing got the death stare! By the middle of the week, I was tired of trying to keep the plan together and gave in to the constant derailment and unrelenting requests to go to the pool.swim tube Had I actually felt like I accomplished something, it would’ve been a well-deserved break. Regardless, I needed it…and so did my boys. Is it September yet?

Ah, another week on the horizon. There are no camps scheduled, so the shuttle driver gets a short break. The tire is no longer losing air; shh, don’t jinx it. The chores are done. I remain optimistic—yet positive that uninvited challenges will crash my perfectly planned party.  

Maybe it’s guilt. Am I wrong to feel bad when the boys spend too much time playing video games or watching television so I can actually get something done? Clearly, they’re happy and I’m the one with the problem. I know, it’s best to go with the flow. Am I missing something?

I know what you’ll say, “Work after they go to bed.” One is an early bird and the other a night owl, so if I thought I’d be productive between midnight and 7am, I’d entertain that suggestion, but I’d rather hear what else you’ve got…

Here’s where the whole “a place for community and inspiration” really gets interactive—now’s your chance to weigh in with war stories and suggestions for maintaining sanity. What challenges do you face with balancing work and kids being home for the summer? How have you dealt with frustrations, solved dilemmas and managed to live to tell about it? What brings peace to your chaos? What’s your best advice?

Torn Between Family and Career

By Karen Hendricks

Mother’s Day, 2005 – while I successfully balanced motherhood with a part-time position in radio.

It’s probably the most controversial, emotional, gut-wrenching decision every mother will make:  Should I continue my career or stay-at-home with my family?  There is no easy answer, there is no right answer, and sometimes our answer to this question changes through the years.  Personally, my answer has changed what feels like a gazillion times.  I left a full-time position as a television producer—a job I absolutely adored—to stay-at-home with my first daughter.  But a part-time job as a radio newscaster was too wonderful to pass up.  Enter my second daughter and my son. I continued working in the radio business, with a very flexible and understanding employer, until cutbacks ensued.  A part-time position as an event coordinator/PR director was the perfect fit for a while.  That position morphed into a full-time opportunity as a PR director and although I loved the position, it was extremely challenging to be the kind of mom I wanted to be at the same time.  The position demanded more than 40 hours of work per week, and after five years, I made the decision to put my family first and wrestle back control of my time.  Lucikly, I had formed my own LLC a few years earlier, even had a few clients on the side (in my “spare time,” ha ha), and I was able to transition to working at home, for myself.  It is a wonderful feeling being able to set my own schedule, work load and focus.  I think I have finally struck the right balance, allowing me to continue the work that I love, but also being able to devote time to my growing family whom I love more.

I recently picked up the book Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood by Samantha Parent Walravens.  What an amazing collection of dozens of short essays by mothers who have all struggled to answer the career vs. family question.  It was perfectly-timed reading material, as I was developing the idea for this very website/blog, Off the Merry-Go-Round.

Many of the essays tugged at my heart-strings, as I could relate to the writers.  The author/editor of the book, Walravens, sets the scene for the essays to follow, in her introduction:

After ten years of changing diapers and chasing toddlers, helping with homework and volunteering in the classroom, I decided to reach out to other women like myself to see how they were dealing with the disconnect between motherhood and professional ambition.  … Whether at work or at home, they reported feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, most, if not all of the time. 

I saw an opportunity.

By admitting they couldn’t do it all, women could achieve a sense of freedom.  By writing about it, they could achieve a sense of community. …

As these stories illustrate, there is no perfect mother, nor is there a perfect balance when it comes to kids and career.  Caught between the heady “have it all” idealism of our feminist foremothers and the rigid realities of the corporate world, women today are creating new paradigms to navigate the conflicting worlds of paid work and parenthood. 

Her motivation was right on target with my motivation for starting Off the Merry-Go-Round.  The rest of the book was a page-turner for me!  I’ve gathered a few highlights that especially spoke to me:

My four years of motherhood have taught me that there is no such thing as a perfect balance, particularly for those of us who have been both blessed and burdened with a first-rate education and a work life we care about, or need.  We cannot help but think about the road less traveled.  Stay-at-home moms will wonder about where their career might have gone if they had continued to work, and will encounter the economic vulnerability that comes with not working.  Women who work full-time will feel the guilt of being absent for so many of the tender moments that childhood brings, as well as the pressure to try to “do it all.”  Those of us somewhere in the middle – part stay-at-home mom, part career mom – experience some combination of the two:  regret about not doing more at work, regret about not being fully engaged at home.  (Carrie Lukas, page 22)

The days are truly long but the years are short.  I started to think about all the times I answered an email while my children told me about their day at school or was too busy working to read them a bedtime story.  And while at the time what I was doing seemed so necessary, so important, I was ignoring the posted speed limit for that particular place and time.  (Sara Esther Crispe, page 41)

Today, with the advent of blogs and all other forms of online communication, millions of moms are rewriting the definition of success by telling their own stories.  The real stories from the trenches of motherhood have emerged. (Alaina Sheer, page 81)

Then, there are the people who tell me that with today’s economy the way it is, it is no longer a viable option for women to be home with their children.  I’m here to prove that it is still a wonderful choice readily available, especially for women with intellectual prowess.  We live simply, but with a much higher quality of life…. (Bracha Goetz, page 93)

Learn more about the book Torn by visiting Samantha Parent Walraven’s website.

How have you answered the career vs. motherhood decision?  What happened as a result–regrets, fears, support, contentment?  We look forward to reading your words of wisdom and building a sense of community on Off the Merry-Go-Round.  Please leave your comments and replies below!

Finding Family Fun–Off the Merry-Go-Round

Jen with “her guys.”

By Jen Ashenfelter

Riding the “career carousel” is a different experience for everyone; some love it, some loathe it…and a few ride somewhere in between. This is my story and I can tell you it’s ok to get off the merry-go-round and be happy…

One step through the gate…anticipation builds. The distant music is joyous and enchanting, quickly pulling you closer to its source. Anxiously you search, competing with the crowds and traveling with focused determination to reach your destination. At first sight, you fall helplessly in love with its breathtaking beauty and dazzling detail. With the giddy excitement of a child, you eagerly hop on full of energy and expectations. After close inspection, you carefully chose a horse—deciding whether to remain steady or add a bit of movement. The ride is slow at first so you enthusiastically wave to the crowds. Feeling the rush as the speed picks up, you firmly grasp the reins. Eventually, the crowds and the music become a blur and you grow tired of the monotonous motion. You think: What happened to this wondrous ride? I expected more than this one-trick pony moving in circles.

At home with my first baby, Nicholas, at 10-months-old, April 1999.

When the ride is over, it’s ok to get off.

Long before I decided on a career path, getting married and having a family was what I wanted most. That’s not to say developing a career and landing my dream job were not important. I married after college graduation and wanted to build a firm foundation with a resume full of experience to draw from in the future before starting a family. International travel, global publications, corporate initiatives, and management presentations—the ride was everything I dreamed it would be. And after 8 years, it was time to go. The day we knew our first child was on the way, I was prepared to get off the proverbial “merry-go-round.”

The option to take another ride on the merry-go-round always presents itself.

Several years later, I heard the music again. Knowing what to expect when I reached the carousel again, this journey was less deliberate and I searched for a slower ride. All the horses were attractive so I tried a few on for size. However, there was something about that last horse—adorned with lots of pretty ribbons and bells; it seemed innocent underneath. I hopped on and took off in a measured gait thinking I had this trot mastered. Each time around, the pace quickened so slightly I hardly recognized the change. The next thing I knew, the ribbons had unraveled and I was racing again.

My youngest, Christopher (in blue), is a joy to watch on the soccer field.

The second ride is not always as smooth as the first. These alluring and hypnotic attractions can easily create distraction from what we really desire.

By this time, my first born was now in middle school and my baby was in elementary school. Where did the time go? That horse was moving so fast I started missing these little boys step off the school bus, learn a new karate move or score a goal during a soccer match. I became frustrated when they got sick, and was cranky when they needed my attention. Despite the speed, I became restless at work, impatient at home and full of doubt that I could ever win the race.

Jumping off at full speed is scary, but you won’t fall.

Finally, tired of holding on for dear life and disappointed that I veered off course, I hated everything that about that horse. The reins snapped and I jumped. The fear of falling hard was immediately replaced with comforting relief and the promise of a new journey that would lead me back home to my family and focused on the career I established many years before.

Hopefully, our stories will inspire you to get “off the merry-go-round.”

Yep, I jumped off twice…and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. There are open, caring arms in that crowd around the carousel who understand the need to take that leap of faith. Our mission is to create a supportive community where women can share information and creative ideas that enrich our family life and celebrate…us.

WELCOME to Off the Merry-Go-Round!  Please share a comment below–thanks!

Nicholas earned his first-degree Black Belt, 2012, after 6 years of hard work! I am so thankful to be there for my family’s big moments… I cherish each one.