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Work and Having Children

July 17, 2016 | by Emuna Braverman

My husband and I want to start a family but we both love our intense jobs and neither one of us is ready to give our job.

Dear Emuna,

My husband and I both have great jobs, jobs we truly love. They are stimulating, meaningful, and they pay well. Who could ask for more? The only challenge is that they involve a lot of traveling, often for months at a time, and we'd like to start a family. Neither one of us wants to give up our job, yet we just can't envision a parenting arrangement that would work. We would be grateful for any suggestions.


Dear Torn,

It depends on what you mean by "work". I know someone in a similar situation. The parents alternate child care depending on their schedules, and if both are traveling, they bring the baby to the grandparents in another city (Actually the grandmother also travels frequently for work so the buck stops with the granddad!). The child in this case, is only a few months old, and I'm really not sure how this system will function in the long run, especially with the grandparents aging and living far away.

On the other hand, the only reason I believe that the arrangement above has any hope of success is due to the involvement of the grandparents. Is that an option in your case?

If not, I'm going to say something that is not politically correct and I hope you don't perceive it as harsh. I think that if you really want to raise a family one of you needs to change jobs.

If you just want to give birth to a child, then your current arrangement will suffice. But if you want to create that interconnected system of bonds and love that we call a family, one of you has to be available with some regularity to parent your child.

Life is full of tough choices and tradeoffs. Despite what the books say, no one can "have it all". Sometimes the obvious must be stated. Raising a child is an intense and lifelong commitment.

Of course women (and men) can work outside the home and still be good parents. Of course there is wonderful day care out there. But if your job takes both of you away from your family months at a time, maybe this isn't the best time to have children (Frankly, I'm not sure it's healthy for your marriage either but you didn't ask me that!). I know this probably isn't the answer you were hoping for. Real and significant choices require real and significant compromises. I think children are worth that price but that is something you and your husband are going to have to decide for yourselves.

To Ferberize or Not to Ferberize

Dear Emuna,

Should I sleep train my baby? I'm getting pressure from all sides - some who say I have to and some who say I shouldn't. What do you recommend?


Dear Confused,

You don't mention how old your child is. I might suggest a different answer depending on if you have a 5-month old or 5-year old! But in general I don't think this is a right or wrong issue.

Like breastfeeding, I believe it's up to you, the mother, and what you can handle.

If you just can't bear to hear your baby cry, then pick him or her up. I don't think you are spoiling your baby by soothing or comforting or even feeding him. We spoil children when they manipulate us into giving into demands that aren't actually good for them and not with too much love. I believe that this falls into the latter category and not the former.

On the other hand, if you just can't function, are a shadow of your usual self, feel like you may lose your mind - or some combination thereof, you may need to sleep train or, as the newly created verb says, "Ferberize" your child. There are many mothers who will testify that a few nights of "torture" changed their lives and they have the support of many pediatricians.

But there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to child-raising, as you are just beginning to learn. Even if you follow the technique perfectly, it may not succeed. Your child may not settle down and sleep through the night.

At this point you have to close your ears to what other mothers say. And this is only the beginning of a long life of competition that continues through toilet training, reading, bike riding, school acceptances and on and on. This is your chance to decide early not to be swayed by what other mothers say or what goes on in other homes and to just treat your child as the unique individual he or she is.

It is also an opportunity to adjust your expectations in accordance with your child's behavior and norms. While nothing can actually make up for lack of sleep, it's a lot less painful when we don't expect to have a lot of sleep than when we do.

And finally, welcome to parenting! If you think it's hard to sleep now, just imagine how hard it will be when they start driving!

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