Ever since my husband and I began dating, his work-life balance has been under scrutiny (namely my own!). He has always been goal-oriented and driven. While this is part of his charm, it also has been a source of stress in our relationship. Through the years he has come a long way in how he allocates his time, especially once our boys entered the picture. The amount of time he spends at home may never quite meet my expectations, but he is the person I chose to spend my life with and I plan to make the best of it. It also helps that he is an incredible person. I often have to remind myself of this when my coping mechanisms of managing home life by myself are pushed to their edge. Thankfully, going to my edge happens a lot less frequently.
I recently sat down with a young (and fabulous!) mom whose husband is starting out on a similar career track as my husband. She wanted to hear about some of my experiences raising my boys while my husband’s job moved us and tested our resolve with its time commitment. I hope that when all was said and done with our conversation, she felt empowered to use the ideas that felt right for her. If you have a similar situation that you are dealing with, I will hope the same for you. Below our some of the main points of our discussion:
- BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR PARTNER’S CAREER: When I met my husband I knew his career was going places. Unfortunately, I never knew one of those places would be Wisconsin (no offense Wisconsin). I was operating in all sorts of denial. Initially, his job seemed to move between two locations; Chicago and the suburbs of Chicago. This was great for me. We lived next to Wrigley Field for a few years (as a die-hard Cubs fan this was a dream come true) and then made an easy transition to the suburbs when we started our family (easy for me anyway, I think my husband dragged his feet a bit on this). Life was good. My family was close, I was living in my home state and my husband continued to do well. Then, one day seemingly out of the blue (it wasn’t), he was promoted and we needed to relocate to Wisconsin. Even though it was only three hours away, it might as well have been the moon because I was so distraught. I did not handle any of this well (understatement). Looking back, I now understand that moving, change and growth were inevitable parts of my husband’s career path. Therefore, I encourage you to sit down with your partner and discuss what possibilities the future may hold. I’m not saying it will make a move magically easier, but it will come as less of a shock when that possibility becomes a reality.
- IT’S NOT WISCONSIN, IT’S ME: Again, absolutely no disrespect to Wisconsin, but in all honesty, the first year we lived there I was miserable. Unfortunately, I made up my mind well in advance that I was going to be miserable where we moved to, and no surprise I was. It took me a long time and a lot of growing up to adjust my attitude. Eventually I started to see a lot of great benefits to the area in which we lived. First of all, our neighbors were kind and so were many of the people I met. I made some wonderful friendships while we were there. We also lived ten minutes from an amazing botanical garden. I would take the boys there to run around its giant, open spaces or sometimes go by myself and journal among the flowers. We also were minutes from the zoo and downtown Milwaukee. I could easily take the boys in to my husband’s work and have lunch with him. Those were some great memories. In the end I learned it was never Wisconsin’s fault, it was my attitude about it that made me unhappy. Once my attitude changed, I embraced Wisconsin with an open heart. So, remember that when you move, home is what YOU make it.
- GET HELP!: This is especially true if your kids are small. If you wind up moving to a place without close friends or family, do your best to find a babysitter or a preschool. My saving grace when my boys were small was going to the gym. I was able to drop the boys off for an hour or two a few times a week at the daycare there and it was a lifesaver. Don’t judge yourself for needing help. If you are able to give yourself a break, you will be happier and so will your family.
I hope some of these lessons I’ve learned through the years will help support you in any moves or challenges in your future. Life is what we make it, so do your best to embrace what’s put in front of you with a good attitude. Your happiness depends on it.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent