Saturday, January 26, 2013

Work-Life Balance

One the toughest challenge for many people in their careers today is finding a way to strike a healthy balance between their life at work and their life at home.  My career field of engineering is heavily marked by its consultant-style of work.  We're hired by clients like a City or State DOT that have high expectations and sometimes unreasonable demands. On the consultant side, you either make them happy so they hire you again or you "disappoint" them and you lose a source of future revenue.  Everything tends to work out well the majority of the time, but there are plenty of cases where life can get... challenging.

Now that Andy and I are raising Dominic, my world has an entirely new perspective.  Like any good parent, I want to spend time with my child.  With Dominic's daily schedule, his primary awake hours are from 7am to 7pm.  If I work past 6pm any night, that means I'd miss his entire 12-hour block of time.  When thinking about the long-term, the idea of working late can impact many other things as well.  The thought of sporting events, concerts, after-school functions, and much more that are important to Dominic are all times where I want to be there to support him.  I know we've all seen those movies or TV shows with the workaholic parent that always lets their down kid by not making it to the big game.  My workplace, like many others, highlights the people that go above and beyond to get the job done.

Oh, you worked 55 hours this week?  That's great, but did you hear what Joe did?  He worked 80 hours, skipped his kid's 5th birthday party, cancelled the family vacation, and lived in the office for 3 days to get the job done.

If you're Joe, you might have just done something great for your career.  If you're not Joe, you might feel a nagging pressure to do more.

My goal is to be on the opposite end of that spectrum where my children can depend on me to be there for them.  Of course, what does that mean in regards to work-life balance and developing a career?

A great thing about my company is that it supports young professionals.  I've worked with the program for several years now taking part as an individual, local lead, and national lead.  Last fall, we were at a weekend event where the Presidents of our company had a Q&A session.  At one point, someone asked how they handled their work-life balance.  Their responses were unexpectedly honest.  One of them hadn't spent a night at home in 3 weeks because he had been traveling all over the country and to Australia.  The other elaborated and told a story about how work-life balance was all about making choices.  Earlier in his career he had a major interview to win a big project.  However, his son had a minor surgery scheduled for the same day.  His choice was to go to the interview.

To me, work-life balance isn't something that can be attained with a single decision.  It's an ongoing series of choices.

  • Do I leave work after just 8 hours today?
  • Do I work 40 hours or 50 hours this week?
  • Do I stay at work another 90 minutes or do I go to the gym tonight?
  • My child has a pediatrician appointment.  Should I take off time for it?
  • This project has a deadline and needs 3 hours of work, but it's already 4pm.  Do I stay late?

In the past, answers to these questions were much simpler.  I could work a little late, and Andy could easily flex his schedule for a later dinner.  These days, a small change is a much bigger deal with factors to account for like picking Dominic up from day care.  Additionally, we hope to adopt another child in the future which will add another layer to the work-life balance puzzle.

After being back in the office for a month, it's been a big shift.  I've consciously made the choice not to work a lot of extra hours so that I could come home to Dominic and Andy each night.  In a way, I tried to set the expectation at work that my family comes first and I wasn't going to immediately work late every time it was needed.  It's been tough as many of my work friends are overloaded and putting in extra hours themselves.  However, this is the choice I have been making that is in the best interest of my family.  Up to now, my work-life balance has been fairly stable.  In the future, that could easily change.  Monday will bring another work day and more choices to be made.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Oh No, the Shots!

Daddy plays with Dominic
before the "event".
Dominic's 2-month birthday last week was definitely a fun celebration for us, but alas, this milestone also brings with it the first round of vaccines. On the one hand, we've been waiting for this to happen so that we could take Dominic out to some more public places that we've avoided up until now. But still, no one enjoys shots, and it meant we had to watch Dominic get his for the first time.

We've been to the pediatrician's office a few times now, so at least the environment was known and somewhat comfortable. And for the first time, Dominic was actually awake when we brought him in! That whole falling asleep in the car seat thing? We're so past that... at least once the car stops moving :)

Blissfully unaware...
...and unsuspecting...
The shots themselves were both better and worse than I expected. Dominic definitely started screaming right away when they poked him, and it was one of his worst screams I've heard to date. Since he's normally pretty docile, any screaming is bad; this was definitely excruciating to hear! But luckily, it was over quickly. There were three shots, and I was incredibly impressed with how quickly the nurse got them done. In fact, I only saw him do two of them - not sure when the third got in, but I was glad it was quick!

The post-vaccine reward!
True to form, Dominic calmed down pretty quickly. Five minutes later he was cranky ("I'm hungry!"), but no worse for the wear. I got him home, got a nice big bottle, and now he's upstairs sleeping peacefully.

So now he can travel a bit more, and we're glad for that! Dominic's likely to make a trip back in to Brian's work this week or next, and maybe we'll even venture out further at some point. Either way, I'm just glad the shots are done! (at least until 4 months...)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

2 Months!

With today being January 12th, Dominic is 2 months old!  Ever since he was born on November 12th last fall, he's had a busy life as he's been through his first Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, our wedding, family visits, meeting friends, excursions to our offices, and much more.  To celebrate today, we decided to go with the low key approach.  Of course, that may have been more for us than for him  :)

Hanging Out in the Crib
The morning started off well.  As Andy normally takes care of him in the morning during the work week, I got up with him at 7am today.  Being the good little guy that he is, he patiently waited while I got him ready for the day before we sat down for a snack and a Skype session with Grandpa and Grammy (my parents).

One interesting thing about today marking 2 months is that we're going to cross the age barrier.  Since November, we have essentially measured Dominic's age in weeks.  After 8+ weeks, he's already up to 2 months which means we'll be counting the months for his age.  He's always been our little baby that is "X" weeks old.  In a way, the fact that he is already 2 months old feels like it snuck up on me!

The rest of the morning was actually really relaxing while Papa slept in for a little while.  Dominic hung out on his exercise mat for a bit and played with some toys from his overhead gym.  At one point, I tried to give him some tummy time, but he took that for nap time instead.  (Good thing he already has really strong neck muscles for his age.)  Eventually, I got him settled down for a brief mid-morning nap in his bouncer.

Activity Time
Nap Time

While we don't want to be the parents that mark every tiny occasion with pictures, gifts, and demands for attention, we kind of wanted to mark today as a little milestone.  So when the Amazon box arrived this morning, that means Dominic had his birthday present!

"Birthday Present"
Yep, his "birthday present" was a humidifer.  I can already tell that we'll be those parents.  The ones that get him language lessons and a savings account for his 5th birthday while Jimmy down the street gets an iPad and a puppy.

In truth, this just happened to arrive in time for his birthday, but we decided to roll with it.  Also, just how adorable is a polar bear humidifier?  Pretty sweet huh?  Props to Papa for finding this one on Amazon.

For the rest of the day, we'll treat Dominic to all of his favorite things: bouncing, swaying, rocking, eating, and sleeping.  With the potential for story time and a visit from Crazy Bird, we hope that Dominic will enjoy the rest of his 2 month birthday.

Friday, January 11, 2013

OA&FS Holiday Party

Last weekend, we had the great opportunity to go to our adoption agency's yearly holiday party.  It was a fun experience on multiple levels.  Along with Dominic and Andy's older brother Josh, we spent a couple hours in Seattle with many other adoptive families.  We were able to talk with families that had already adopted, some families that had adopted and were in the waiting pool again, and some families that were in the pool eagerly awaiting their first placement.

After only being able to take part in two adoptive family gatherings while we were in the waiting pool, we enjoyed going to another gathering of adoptive families.  We're still incredibly busy taking care of a young Dominic and adjusting to our life as parents, but it is really worthwhile to spend time with other families who have had similar experiences.  Many of the people we've met are just wonderful and fun to talk to!

Looking ahead, we still have some work to do until Dominic's adoption is legally finalized.  Until then, we've been keeping busy.  Now that the holidays are over and we're into 2013, I have started back at work full time.  It's been a big shift and I'll likely have a post about my new parent-based perspective on work-life balance.  In addition, Dominic's 2-month birthday is tomorrow!  We've been pretty busy and quiet on the posting front (especially me), but there will be some fresh updates in the coming days.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Feeding the Cats

A couple friends of ours were out of town this weekend and asked us to take care of their cats. Sounds to me like a perfect opportunity for a Dominic lumberjack photo shoot!

"This is a really comfy bed."
"Um, who's this guy?"
Everyone's a critic.
Dominic tried to mimic the face on the art, with limited success.
Time for a few pull-ups!
Dominic got jealous of the kitties.