During our last question round-up, we got so many great questions we decided to split them into two episodes.
This week’s episode focuses on career-related questions. We’ve got a query from a stay-at-home mom who’s rethinking that decision (and wondering if we ever wanted to stay home), a question about saying no to an opportunity you know would be good, one about celebrating a win, one about managing direct reports, one about handling conferences well, and more!
Please give the episode a listen, and as always we would appreciate a rating or review. How do you rate or review a podcast? If you listen on Apple podcasts, you can just scroll down on the page for a show (where it lists recent episodes), and after a few, you will see “Hosts & Guests” and then “Ratings & Reviews.” There will be an option to rate the podcast by tapping the number of stars you wish to give the show, and down below the featured review(s) there will be a link to “Write a Review.”
I just gave Sarah’s podcast, Best Laid Plans, 5 stars. It was easy! Having a high number of ratings and reviews doesn’t just help people discover us (though it does help with that!), it helps convince potential guests that we’re worth their time. Thanks for considering it!
Have a question for us? Feel free to send it to me at laura at lauravanderkam dot com. We answer the majority of the questions people send us, at least over a period of a few months.
8 thoughts on “Best of Both Worlds podcast: Career mailbag”
Such an interesting question from a soon-to-be mom of 3 kids! I can’t even imagine how overwhelming it might feel to provide care, love and support around the clock (including the night feedings) to three little ones! I personally would not think of any job search until the night feedings for a newborn would get a rhythm/stabilize. Meanwhile, i would get some daycare hours for a three year old. Maybe some kind of preschool/church daycare/kids’ gym membership? Just for couple of hours every day. When all novelty of a newborn would settle, start planning from there!
When i had my baby pre-covid, i had to go back to work at 12 weeks. God, it was tough! He had 3-4 night feedings, my sleep was interrupted, i had a long commute, and i was feeling like a zombie most of the time. If I just had a choice, i would have happily returned to work at about 6-8 months after giving birth. I am extremely grateful that my organization now allows to work from home, and my stress level is not nearly as high as it used to be, even though i am doing the same job!
I thought the conversation about loving your kids and your job was interesting and important. I feel like we need more conversations about that. Not everyone is cut out to be a SAHM! It takes a very special person in my opinion. But choosing to work does not mean you love your kids most. I appreciated Emily Oster’s take on this in Cribsheet. I think she basically said the decision of whether to return to your job should be based on what the parent wants to do because the data doesn’t show that there is a measurable impact to the child from staying home v having child care. My kids have thrived in daycare and have learned far more than I would have taught them. So I really think they are far better off being in daycare. And I say this as someone who struggled with my return to work. I’m so glad I pushed through those feelings and got to the other side because I would not be happy as a SAHM! But it is easier to stay with a job when you love it/find it fulfilling!
@Lisa – yep, it’s not for everyone. Isn’t it wonderful that we have a real choice now? I got a letter from a listener pointing out that the FIRE movement’s popularity among some male folks in particular might be a manifestation of the same thing. It makes not having a paid job more socially acceptable for men.
Oof, I realize I had a typo in my comment – I meant to say “But choosing to work does not mean you love your kids as much as those who choose to stay at home.” Wow I messed that up. I blame this stupid cold virus that I’m fighting off. Turns out adults can get RSV! Fun…
That is an interesting point about the FIRE movement! I hadn’t thought about that.
Toddler daycare was what made me go back to work after a brief 15 month stint as a SAHM. I wasn’t super happy not working at all, my 2nd kid was not the type who wanted to hang out at home all day (and now that she’s 10, it’s so clear that was just her personality!) and I was sad she wouldn’t get to experience the awesomeness of toddler daycare. My older kid learned so much there that I wouldn’t have even thought to teach her (or couldn’t because I don’t have a houseful of kids!). Kid #2 was SO HAPPY at daycare. She clearly needed to be with lots of other kids and adults, too. No regrets, and I’m glad I got to try the SAHM gig because it would always have seemed like the grass was greener if I didn’t.
I loved the response about turning down opportunities, and the gentle push to rethink whether opportunities needed to be declined. I made a choice which would seem impossible to lots of people – a high travel job with a 4 year old at home – but it was a) the only way I’d be able to stay in academia, a career I had trained for a decade and b) made possible because my husband and I were able to consider the practicalities and figure out how to make them work. We have one easy kid which helps, and my husband’s job is decently flexible but no local family. I hear a lot of “I could never….” and “My husband wouldn’t be able to handle it…” and honestly, I’ve just started shrugging and saying “it works for us!” I’ll just feel secretly smug that my husband is so great.
@Cb – yep, it sent the alarm bells going off when this listener/reader said she couldn’t do an opportunity that was great for her career at this stage of life. I think that’s worth exploring a little more! That’s great that you and your husband have figured out a way to make your high-travel job work. And yep, just because other people can’t see it working doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for you.
I would recommend the Ask A Manager blog to the first time manager of direct reports. This is a good example article – https://www.askamanager.org/2019/07/how-can-i-tell-if-im-a-good-manager.html.
Most of the content is reader Q&A, and the answers, like Laura suggested, focus on clear communication – with actual examples.