Dear Coach Joan,
This should be one of the happiest times in my life but honestly, I am miserable.
I started a new job when my wife was 6 months pregnant with our long-awaited first born. Two great things, or so it should have been. But it is now almost a year later and it is not the joyous situation I had anticipated. My job ended up being much more demanding, with a lot more out of town travel than was anticipated. And my wife is discontent and upset with her job as a CPA. She worked hard for the credential and now it’s especially brutal during tax season. Our little boy is great, but we wonder how he’s being affected with two stressed out parents.
You know the old expression, be careful what you wish for. It clearly applies to your situation. Too many of your dreams came through, all at the same time and it feels like too much.
First, take a few deep breathes and remind yourself that this too shall pass. This intensity will not and cannot go on forever. And there might be both small and large things you can do to take the reins of the situation and slow things down to a more manageable pace:
- Talk to your manager: Explain that you really are enjoying your job and mention aspects that are going well. Mention key contributions and positive impacts you have made to the organization. Then, explain that you signed up for a job that did not require extensive travel and though you understand the reasons for the travel (could be new accounts, or….) but that with a new child at home and a spouse who also works full-time you really prefer less travel. See if there is a way for your workload to be changed to require less travel. Do not be demanding, but inquiring and appreciative of their consideration.
- A vacation: Perhaps you and your wife can book a much needed vacation. Yes, together! Sometimes that is what a family with a new baby really needs. Sometimes I hear from clients that they feel like they are really missing their child’s development and by taking a week off, as a family, it can be a bonding, wonderful experience. It can even be a staycation (an at home vacation) without the demands of the regular workdays.
- Part-time or flexible work schedule: Perhaps you or your wife could opt for a more flexible schedule. If your family finances allow it, maybe one of you could work just 3-4 days a week. Sometimes a day or two working remote, from home, can really ease the stress by not having a commute and being able to work in casual clothes. More and more employers are trying to be flexible with employees (especially the ones who have proven to be productive) during the demanding childbearing years to elicit longer term loyalty to the company.
- Discuss the options as a family: At this stage, it means you and your wife (your baby is too young to voice an opinion!) should really sit down and explore the options together. This won’t be the first time in your lives that you’ll be facing stress or problems. You know the expression, Little kids, little problems, Big kids, big problems. So it is really good to establish a format and style of problem solving together. Also, think longer term about the solutions. If, for instance, you opt to work part time for a year, then the next year it can be her turn. Naturally, that is just an example as you have to see what options, realistically, are available for you.
Mike, best of luck and I am hopeful that you and your wife can explore and find options that take the heat off this intense period of life.
Onward to your continued work/life balance. It will be an ongoing exercise throughout your career and family building years. The earlier you take the reins the better.