Toddlers Take Precedent
I am a working mom. I work full time. I run my own consulting company with no-one to provide back-up or coverage. being a one women team means I’m on my own for meetings, so I had better not get sick or have a flat tire because there is no-one else who can step in and pick up my slack from time to time. Being a one person team is interesting. Truthfully, most day’s I love it. Some days, it’s challenging, especially days like today when I’m at my desk before 5am trying to make a 9am deadline. Without support, I simply have no-one to help me in time-crunch situations.
And then there’s days like yesterday…
You see, I didn’t mark an all day / all evening meeting in Mr. MPB’s calendar – somehow I marked the day portion of the meeting, but the not evening portion. And, Mr. MPB, booked an evening meeting for the exact same time, which was odd considering he basically never works in the evening.
Mr. MPB had to be at his meeting. I also had to be at my meeting.
We evaluated every option we could think of including bringing Little MPB to one of our meetings, which we quickly deemed not an option. Neither of us could reschedule our meetings. We couldn’t get a mid-week baby-sitter.
In the end, I did something I never thought possible – at 9am, at the beginning of my meeting, I announced that I would have to leave at 5pm due to evening childcare arrangements falling through.
Some people in the meeting looked genuinely shocked that I’d leave prior to completion of a meeting that had been booked for 2+ months. One person simply said, toddlers takes precedent and with that, the energy in the room shifted and everyone nodded in agreement.
So come 5pm, I packed up my bag, and excused myself from the meeting.
And like that, I did something I never thought I could do. Honestly, I still feel horribly guilty about it, mainly because the mix-up at our house was fully my fault. But, I also don’t regret it, because my toddler does take precedent. Every. Single. Time.
Had I worked for a larger company, it’s likely someone else could have been there in my place. But it’s also likely, I would have been pulled aside and lectured for not having my priorities straight. And you know what, I’m really okay with not having someone lecture me for choosing my family.
In fact, my family is a large part of the reason I work for myself, at all hours of the day.
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Good for you! If there were any young women in the room, I think you set a great example for them, and I think whoever you were working with that spoke up on your behalf is a keeper and the type of person you should keep working with! It doesn’t sound like you need it, but I just want to reinforce that you made the right decision. Work is work, and as long as you aren’t a frequent flaker (which we all know that you’re not!), nobody will remember that you had to leave a little early from this one meeting. I know I’ve been so worried about reducing and backing off of my commitments as I’ve become a parent — I think academia is a little like being self-employed, in that you are your own brand and have to be very entrepreneurial to get the word out about the work that you are doing and bring in funding to support it. But I just find that people tend to get it, and nobody seems to really mind or notice if I take on a couple fewer responsibilities or cut back on travel — I still get invitations to do things, and people still cite my work. I think you’re doing an awesome job of balancing work and parenting and keeping your priorities straight!
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Yes, they certainly do! I was losing sleep last night wrestling with this exact problem. (cancelling something for work that had been planned 6 months in advance) Except I’m going to have to cancel the cosplay contest judging portion of a convention I’m a featured guest at. I’ve judged their contest the last five years! But now my husband has a trip scheduled and childcare fell through and now I need to start writing an e-mail…
I am surprised people looked shocked!
Having worked all my life in a corporate, I love the freedom and flexibility Working for myself brings. I can easily get up at 5:00 PM and say, I need to pick kids from daycare!
I’m of the belief that as long as it goes both ways for people with and without children it’s all good. Stuff happens and we need to leave work. The problem is that in a lot of situations it’s those without kids are always expected to step up and their lives outside of work are not respected.
I had to cancel my first one on over meeting with my new supervisor when Linnea got sick a couple of weeks ago on a day when Leah had a class to teach. It was painful for me, but a good reminder that everyone who has kids gets it. Well done, and glad to header someone in the room ‘got it’.
Props to you for doing this and for people being respectful of your need to balance your career with raising your child. You were firm and decisive about it and that is how women need to be when it comes to showing that we CAN balance work and motherhood. Despite what a lot of people in the corporate world want to believe.
I sometimes wish I was self employed as every now and then, when I have to step up and be a mom in the morning, my employer makes me feel like crap for asking to come in late, even if I’m making the time up for it by staying later in the day which then affects my time with my child in the evening. My husband is self employed so he takes on all morning duties and often will bring our son to a meeting with him because he knows how difficult my employer can be about me taking on morning duties. It shouldn’t be that way. Not everyone I work with is as lucky as I am to have a hard working self employed husband who can manipulate his days to ensure I can stay in my boss’ good books.
It’s a long story, but a few weeks ago, my wife was in the middle of back to school night. She was giving a presentation to the parents of each of her classes individually for several hours. She called me in the middle of a 5-minute break to say goodnight to Charlotte. I answered the phone in hysterics because I lost our daughter at the mall. Security was called. Police were called. It was INSANE and easily the most terrifying 20 minutes of my life. My wife walked right out of back to school night. I mean, it’s your kid. What choice do you have? Kids have to come first.
OMG!!!! I cannot even imagine how terrifying that 20 minutes would have been!! I have tears in my eyes just thinking about it! So glad your wife came right home to be with you all! Also, I’m making the assumption she was found and was safe and all is good now – that’s clearly the most important of all!!!!
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Oh yes—she’s safe & sound. They found her upstairs halfway across the very large mall. She was carrying a bottle of lotion she got from god knows where. She’s still processing the ordeal. We all are.
I am shocked that you and commenters mention that someone in a company would give you crap about leaving at 5pm when you have to. That’s just wrong! They might feel one way or another, but should be ashamed to say such a thing out loud. Until then, we all have work to do.
Well done! I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but like Lyra said, you set a great example.
I’m in the academia, and have very flexible hours, but the decision to put my kids first has definitely cost me *something*, career-wise, but I’m 100% OK with that (my husband is a very equal co-parent, so I’m fine, just can’t work quite as much as some others at the moment).
Yes! Good for you that you spoke up! I know it’s not idea but family does come first and I’m sure many people in that meeting have been in the same situation!
Well done! I’m so pleased you were with a team of supportive people too. One of the reasons I contract myself out is so I can put boundaries in surrounding work and family life. I’ve actually just stepped back a bit with some of my work as the pressure of it all just wasn’t working for me and the kids. I don’t want to be crazy Mum and if I’m working for myself I should be able to choose a more relaxed path. I’m glad it all worked out for you x
I have this issue all the time in my household and so agree with this post!
Love hearing stories like this! I’ve been in similar situations and felt very guilty, but we have to remember that others are more understanding with things like this than we initially assume. Everyone knows family comes first 🤗
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