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'How Can I Tell Work That My Kids Come First?'

How do I establish better boundaries at work? How can I communicate to work that I'm stressed out and frustrated and the bang just isn't worth the buck? Finally, are there any sole breadwinner moms out there with full-time stay at home husbands who'd like to create a support group?
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Mother With Baby Working In Office At Home Looking At Laptop
Mother With Baby Working In Office At Home Looking At Laptop

Reader Sole Breadwinner Mom writes,

I'm the sole breadwinner and my husband is the stay at home parent to our three kiddos. Work has been more stressful than usual -- a lot of turnover, onboarding challenges with new employees, new boss.

What has me so upset is that we had a very sensitive, high-priority medical appointment for my son and work scheduled a sensitive, high-priority in-person meeting with a client. I approached my boss about potentially missing the work meeting so I could attend my son's medical appointment, but I could tell from her body language that she wanted me at the work meeting. When I explained the situation to my husband, he became very frustrated with me. I got a babysitter so my husband can do the appointment with my son, but it's still a huge source of stress.

How do I establish better boundaries at work? How can I communicate to work that I'm stressed out and frustrated and the bang just isn't worth the buck?

Finally, are there any sole breadwinner moms out there with full-time stay at home husbands who'd like to create a support group?

Dear SBM,

I understand why you're so frustrated, but, unfortunately, there aren't that many ways to satisfy two masters (the kids/husband and your boss) at the same time during the work day. I think the babysitter solution was a good one, and babysitters are a good idea in general as this working mom and I agree. Since your husband is a SAHD, generally, doctors' appointments would be expected to fall on his shoulders when they are during the 9-5 workday (or whatever your workday is). Is there a reason he didn't want to take your child himself? This, as well as the resultant need for childcare for the other two kids (or taking them along) would be generally expected for the parent whose job is to provide childcare.

If the appointment was something you couldn't live with yourself for missing, though, you would have had to tell that to your boss and try and head off her disappointment by compensating in some other way. In general, you can compensate for absences during the workday by working late, working early, trying harder in some way (e.g., to get clients, to come up with awesome ideas for the company), or whatever else you can think of. If you want to work from home, come up with some awesome reasons that you should, and bust your ass working on those days, and set your alarm for 4am so you can send your boss a pre-written email so that she thinks you're working at 4am. Well, maybe not, but that's a pretty good idea if we were in a sitcom.

In terms of boundaries, it would be nice to say that you should be able to have less on your plate at work, and I could guide you to how to ask your boss for some more slack, but the reality of your job may be that this honest expression of emotions may get you fired. Instead, my advice is to stop taking on more than your job description, and stop overpreparing or saying yes to new obligations, unless such things ARE your job description. When I became pregnant, I stopped doing about 50% of my work just because I felt sick, and nobody noticed. This indicates that for the prior 28 years, I had been overworking, overpreparing, overediting, overeverything. If you try to do the bare minimum at work, it is possible that nobody will notice and you'll realize you were trying to hard. Try this for a couple days and see what feedback you get.

If you truly feel that the bang isn't worth the buck at your job, though, and you try to scale back (while appearing accessible and a team player, which is some good trick in a corporate environment) and things don't feel better to you, then you may not be in the right career. You and your husband may need to talk about ways for you to stay home or work part-time while you scale back or switch careers. If you were able to spend less money, would you be able to change careers? Life is too short to hate your job.

Did you want to be the sole breadwinner? Are you happy with the current dynamic? I ask because you seem to feel stressed and unsupported. I encourage other women to leave comments if they would like to contact you, and if they are in the same boat. But I also encourage you to speak openly to your husband if you're not happy or feel overwhelmed in the current setup. My dream is to be the sole breadwinner so someone else, specifically, my husband, can deal with more childcare than I do. But then again, I work for myself, which I cannot recommend highly enough, so more work hours for me just means more stuff I like doing, whereas for you it means more time with your passive aggressive boss. On that note, have you considered starting your own business?

Thanks for writing in, and till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, Some People Just Aren't Cut Out To Have Bosses. Because We Are Difficult, I Mean, Free Spirits.

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This post was originally published here on Dr. Psych Mom. Follow Dr. Rodman on Dr. Psych Mom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. Order her book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Your Divorce: Healthy, Effective Communication Techniques for Your Changing Family. Learn about Dr. Rodman's private practice here. This blog is not intended as diagnosis, assessment, or treatment, and should not replace consultation with your medical provider.