30 January 2013

The Balancing Act of a Dual Income Family

Last week my wife returned to work after weeks of maternity leave. Once again my schedule would be hectic, filled with ensuring everyone is prepared everyday.

From 4:30 am to 10:00 pm every work day, my house is filled with scheduled activities. There is not one action that isn't premeditated, even the perfectly ironed and matched outfits that the children put on in the morning. Like so many other families we depend on two incomes. Without both paychecks, we would never make it. With that comes sacrifice. It becomes an everyday struggle to pick up the slack that would otherwise be easily handled by a stay at home parent.

It's often difficult to remain so structured. Sometimes I just want to come home a sleep, my job is physically demanding, but instead I have to give baths, make dinner, or read bed time stories. It's a real team effort. I could never imagine doing it all by myself, which leaves me wondering how single parents do it. Success depends on both parents working together and multitasking.

Percent of households with 2+ income earners, ...
Percent of households with 2+ income earners, and full-time workers by income. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I started thinking. How many other families deal with these struggles? How do they deal with taking over the chores? How do they schedule their time?

Does anyone have tips or comments?

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28 January 2013

No Longer Am I The Diaper Master

Diaper wallet
Diaper wallet (Photo credit: goldberg)
I fashion myself somewhat of an elusive diaper changer with excellent defensive skill.

Let me explain.

My youngest son is now two.  Not once has he managed to pee on me. My reflexes are extremely quick, whenever he started to pee I would close the front flap with lightning speed. Through hundreds of changes and despite several hundred close calls I managed to maintain clean hands every single time. My wife swore that he would get it one but it never happened. I would laugh at her as she would scream in disbelief every time she would get an unexpected shower during a changing.

Now we have moved on to potty training. I was proud of my track record until a few days ago...

The whole family was sitting down watching cartoons when I hear the call for action. "I HAVE TO GO POTTY DADDY!!" I immediately jumped into action. We race to the bathroom and start lowering the pull up. His facial expression changes and he gets that weird stare. As soon as the pull up hits the floor I feel warmth on my hand. My heart sank as I realized my reign was over. I look down and to my surprise I see something....BROWN. The joke was on me....
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27 January 2013

Don't Cry Mom, He's Just Becoming a Man

My oldest son is 11, which means one thing, puberty is now a part of his life. He is more awkward than I've ever seen him before. He's clumsy and his pants are never long enough, not matter how much I try to buy them a little longer for the months ahead. The other day his voice cracked and he was so embarrassed. He gets bashful every time a half naked woman shows up on a commercial on TV (I wish I could watch sports with him without this interruption). In general, his life has become a ball of confusion.

As tough as this transition seems to my son, I think my wife is in worse shape. She was a teenager when her brother was born. Her whole outlook on male puberty has been observed from a distance. She's never seen the rapid growth, voice changes, and overall hormonal chaos in such an intimate manner. Frankly, she is terrified. Every once in a while she will cry for what appears to be no reason. When I ask her what is wrong she replies that he's "growing up to fast" or "acting too much like a man". I try to explain what's going on and prepare her for what's coming next which does little to ease her pain.

To all the moms out there, don't let this happen to you. Realize that they will make major changes during puberty but in the end they will still be your baby, every real man loves his mom. Let him grow.
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26 January 2013

Great Read of the Week

Scott Behson of Fathers, Work and Family originally posted this great read on 14 Jan 2013. Scott is one of the most approachable DadBloggers and is very active on twitter @ScottBehson. His take on how fatherhood spills over into the workplace is interesting. Enjoy.

Being a Father Makes You Better at Your Job

A few years ago, I was in a big, fat stinking hurry for some thing that I am sure I thought was important at the time. Nick was just old enough to get his coat, hat, gloves and shoes on by himself, and I needed him to do so quickly or else we’d be late for the thing that was soooo super-important that now I can’t even remember what it was.
Thanks to Nick struggling to put on his winter coat, I learned a valuable lesson that helped me be a better father- and be more effective at work
Thanks to Nick struggling to put on his winter coat, I learned a valuable lesson that helped me be a better father- and be more effective at work
So, of course I see Nick presumably fooling around and taking his sweet time getting his jacket on. We’re running late. This thing is very important. We need to get going. So, I snap at him about his jacket.
He’s a great kid and I hardly ever raise my voice to him, so he is struck by my tone, and he sheepishly says that he can’t get his sleeve on. “Of course you can,” I bark at him as I start to shove his sleeve onto his arm. But his arm won’t go through- something was blocking the sleeve. That’s when I realized I had put his hat and gloves in his sleeve earlier that day.
Nick was trying to do the right thing, but couldn’t get past an obstacle.
I apologized, tried to make him feel better, and slowed down to his speed. Somehow it turned out ok that we were 5 minutes late for that super-important thing.
My mistake was a powerful lesson that taught me to be a better dad, but also helped me in other facets of my life.
This gets me to the point of this post.
Ever since becoming a father, I’ve learned to be more patient, more tolerant, and less of a “type-A” person. I’m far happier, more relaxed, and have learned to better separate what’s worth worrying about and what isn’t.
I’ve also learned to listen better, to empathize more, and to see things from other’s perspectives. I have a better understanding that what comes easily to me does not always come easily to others. I’ve learned how to be more precise when communicating and giving instructions, and, perhaps most importantly, learned how to help people handle change and other stressful situations. (Thank you, Nick, for making me a better, happier person)
All of these fatherhood-acquired skills and perspectives also serve me well at work. My college students usually try to do the right thing, but get stuck by real and self-imposed obstacles. They are just being introduced to information and perspectives that I’ve been focusing on for almost two decades. They have different learning styles, and come to my classroom with different experiences and perspectives. I now better understand my students, and have gotten better at reaching them. Thanks to being a father, I am a far more effective college professor.
At work, I have also had opportunities to supervise other professors as department chair, run committees, and be an informal leader on team project work. As a now-tenured professor, I have also been called on to mentor new faculty.
My work colleagues also usually try to do the right thing, but get stuck by real or self-imposed obstacles. They have different specializations, personalities and communication styles. Many of my colleagues have a difficult time trying new things or working in new ways. I now better understand my colleagues, and have gotten better working with them. Thanks to being a father, I am more effective as an informal leader at work.
I suspect many of you have similar experiences, in that the perspectives and skills you acquire as a father spill over into your performance at work. Through fatherhood, many of us have learned to be more organized, efficient, empathetic, and to better differentiate what is/is not truly important. These skills apply to all aspects of life, including at work.
Now there is evidence that fatherhood enhances and enriches us in our work roles. According to a tremendous study by the Boston College Center for Work and Family (much more on BC’s work to come in posts later in the year), in which they surveyed 963 working fathers:
  • 64% of working dads agreed that involvement with their family gave them knowledge/skills that made them better employees
  • 61% agreed that family life made them use their time more efficiently, helping them be better employees
  • 82% agreed that family life made them feel happier, helping them be better employees
We almost always talk about the conflict between work and family. This definitely exists, as there is only so much time that can be devoted to each, and time spent on one almost always means less time spent on the other.
However, we often neglect to mention how our work and family lives can enhance and enrich the other (a future post will focus on how work skills can translate to successful parenting). I bet most of us are better employees because of our fatherhood experiences.
…Just remember to be patient with kids (and coworkers) putting on their jackets.
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A Father's Perspective on Women in Combat

English: Official portrait of Leon Panetta as ...
English: Official portrait of Leon Panetta as United States Secretary of Defense (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made a decision that will change the course of history in this country, he lifted the ban on females in combat units. 

The change has been long awaited by feminist and female service members who think that the ban is discriminatory. In some ways I agree with them. Some women, although a select few are capable of handling the stresses and physical requirements of combat. Truth be told some of the best Soldiers that I've met in my military career have been female. The issue that I have with this change in policy is the fact that it overlooks the big picture.

The worry that I have as a combat Soldier, and a father, is the potential for an even higher rate of sexual assault and rape within the military. To suggest that putting women in combat units will somehow make it better is outrageous. I am aware that women have been serving alongside combat units (attached) and I have seen firsthand how this can become a problem. You are putting females in a situation where young men who are away from home and under the most extreme are expected to restrain themselves from becoming unruly. I would love to say that the military has a level of discipline to sustain such a change but, in my opinion, we have a long way to go. It is my hope that the Generals and personnel in charge of the transition realize the extreme cultural change that has to take place within the ranks to make this a successful venture. It would take a complete overhaul in the way the combat branches of the assess, deploy, and utilize troops.

Then there's is the argument of selective service. Although the draft now lies dormant at some point we may need to re-instate it. With a gender neutral policy on combat jobs, some would say the next step is to have all citizens who meet the requirements register with selective service. NO COMBAT VETERAN COMES HOME WITHOUT WOUNDS. I look at my daughter, then think on my memory of combat, and with all my heart declare that I will never let her see what I have seen.

Maybe with time our military will be ready to accept the change that has been made. I just have a hard time seeing it now...
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21 January 2013

Children and Secondary PTSD

English: signs and symptoms ptsd
English: signs and symptoms ptsd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Thousands of fathers and mothers go through tragic events everyday. Whether it be the struggle of war, near death situations, or other life changing occurrences it is inevitable that some will suffer with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). With a decades long war thousands of vets return home with lasting effects of hardship endured during combat. Natural disasters have torn the very fabric of some of our communities leaving families overwhelmed and searching for answers. Difficult situations put people in a state of mental confusion that results in behavior that would normally be out of character. As with any other disorder that parents struggle with, the children are affected.

It is believed that nearly 40% of all children of a parent who struggles with PTSD will develop Secondary PTSD or STS (Secondary Traumatic Stress). These children experience the some of the same symptoms as there parents. Much of the changes in behavior comes from an attempt reconnect with the parent by reenacting what they see. They develop the hyper awareness, anger, and even flashbacks that their parents have as a lasting wound of trauma. It is also common for parents with PTSD to avoid the ones that they love, leaving children with a sense that they are unloved or unwanted. These children tend to have significantly lower grades and social anxiety at school.

So what do I do if a loved one has PTSD

Don't be afraid to talk with the children about it.Use the home as a safe place to discuss how certain behaviors make them feel. If their parent is receiving treatment be as honest as possible, don't be afraid to say that mom or dad is sick.

If the child needs help GET IT! Don't be afraid to get professional help, it may save your child from lifelong injury.
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