With many women in leadership, the decision to start a family can be challenging. Channeling all of their energies into a successful career, it is likely that the rest of their lives have been carefully structured to best facilitate these ambitions. Another hurdle can be society’s view of them. Unlike their male counterparts, these influential women can be judged for spending long hours away from home. The good news is, with the right support and planning, blending a successful career and starting a family is completely doable.
As the husband of a corporate executive, I am completely familiar with the challenges of having both a career and a family. Before rebooting my career, my wife and I decided that it was in the best interest of our family that I take on the role of full-time, stay-at-home father. In that role, I attended to the needs of our children and to the complex duties of running our household so that she could continue to pursue a successful career.
My wife Mirka, without a doubt, would like to spend more time at home. Through the years, she has missed out on many big “mom” moments so that she can provide a better life for our family. That said, I am quite pleased with the tools that we have discovered to make the most of her time with our children.
In our family, we each keep calendars to stay organized and better connected. Each of our children has their own Google calendar that is shared with both my wife and me. Mirka can then just look at our shared calendars to see what the kids are up to that day or week. Doing this helps her to start better conversations because she has the information to ask specific questions, like “How did your climbing practice go?” Rather than, “What did you do today?” The children appreciate not having to recap their entire schedule, and my wife feels better knowing that she is involved in their day-to-day activities.
Texting and Video Calling
Cell phones are a great way to keep kids connected to their busy parents. I recently bought our daughter a phone so that she can call or text her mom anytime. She also uses it to send pictures and recorded voice messages when my wife is overseas.
Over the past several years, video calling has also come a long way. It’s now much easier for parents and children to see each other in real-time, even when they are thousands of miles apart. For example, when my wife is traveling, our daughter Viktoria plays the piano to her over a video call, so that Mirka can hear her practicing. During our son Dominik’s last state championship swim, we used video conferencing so that Mirka could share in this important moment in real-time. Viktoria has even tried to play board games and card games with Mirka via video. They have found that Memory or Battleship work well on these calls.
Although we have not tried this method, we know a family that keeps two journals; one which the children write in and the other that their mom keeps as she travels. When their mom comes home, they switch journals. The children can then read what their mom has written and vice versa.
The trading of journals allows this family to share their experiences through the power of the written word. Each is keeping what amounts to a personal diary that the other is free to peruse. It’s a diary that has no lock. It accomplishes more than recounting the events of the day, which is what tends to happen in a phone or video call between parent and child. Those are important, of course, but the journaling adds the big-picture perspectives and feelings that arise during their time apart. It’s another form and format of connection.
Although these are all useful tools, there are many more ways busy women in business can stay connected to their kids. In my book, Lean On, I explore the challenges of being a busy career mother, the stigma of being a stay-at-home dad and tips for making it all work for your family.