Until I was laid off from my engineering job in December, my entire work career has followed a typical schedule - early commute with no time with the family in the morning, and an arrival home around dinner time for maybe ~3 - 4 hours of family time before bed/wake up/repeat. This was my schedule for all of my married life, and it was something that I definitely took as a given - I had to maintain this schedule to keep my job, provide for my family, all those cliches and phrases that we tell ourselves every day.
While I was slogging through this routine, Kara was also learning the new life that initially consisted of taking care of our first two kids, born only 19 months apart. This was a change for her too, as transitioning from a career in teaching to a stay at home mom is not an easy task.
As our two oldest kids started school, Kara also started branching back out into different opportunities for work and volunteering in our community. At that time, we talked a lot about how challenging it was for her to make this work without feeling like she was missing out on something she should be doing for our kids (the mommy guilt). When our youngest was born, it was another reset on Kara’s daily priorities, making it hard to continue to pursue those work opportunities and personal goals.
In talking to Kara, I tried to understand the feel of that back and forth in priorities that she went through every day. With an infant in the house, it was easier for me to understand the strong (and wonderful) “pull” of the needs of a newborn. There’s not much room for anything else...take care of the baby, end of story.
The harder thing for me to fully grasp was how this still exists later even as the kids are older and can do most things for themselves. I was still in “work mode” and figured that you could just get the basics done (breakfast on table, sharp objects put away, scary stairwells blocked off) then start working on whatever “me” tasks are on the list for the day. Kara quickly dispelled that thought, but I was still deep in my daily commuter routine and couldn’t conceive of what she spoke.
When Kara made the decision to start studying to become a health coach, she also took a part time job at a local direct primary care physician’s office. This timing also coincided with the momentous day when all three children were in full day school! All time constraints solved, right? Free and wide open work days for both Kris and Kara, right? Wrong! The day to day morning stuff is still there (breakfast, pack lunches, get ready for the bus - oh wait, the bus isn’t good, have to drive kids). Also, Kara’s job was right in our town, making it oh-so-convenient to continue on with the ability to volunteer and be available for anything else that comes up - doctor’s appointments, field trips, you name it! The guilt on pursuing her dream job was still there, as I was continuing to work an unfulfilling job that still managed to keep me away from the house for 10 hours each day.
2020 was going to be the year for Kara’s health coaching business to take off. By the end of 2019, she was adding clients and starting to gain a presence at events throughout our community. Yes, the kids still demanded some focus, but they were all in school full-time, so Kara could now devote most of her time to her new career. Fast forward to March 2020, and the whole Gibbons family was perched around the kitchen island doing work, school, and just life in general. I worked from home from that point through July, and really started to understand what Kara had always talked about. Now, mind you, I was still working full-time at this point and had some built-in meeting times and daily tasks that would pull me away from the family. I did start to feel probably just a pinch of what Kara had been feeling for the last 12 years -
“Dad, can you read to me?”
“Maybe later, I have a conference call in 15 minutes”
“Can we walk to the park?”
“Yes!.....but, after I send this email…”
“Can you grade my handstand?”
“Looks awesome!” (as I continue to stare at my laptop)
Admittedly, these examples present the worst of the distracted nature of “work from home”. I was certainly able to experience so many amazing things with my family that would simply not have been possible a year earlier. That said, there was definitely a feeling of not being totally present for any of my roles during this time - not fully a husband, a father, or an employee during the traditional eight hour workday.
Here we are now in 2021...I was laid off from my engineering job in late 2020, and Kara and I are now working together to build KSquared Health Coaching. Working from home with only each other as bosses is a new challenge to navigate. We’re still contending with the COVID-19 world, and our kids are still doing school from home. I think I can now finally understand what Kara has been so gracefully working through since our kids were born.
I wake up every day with an agenda, a task list, and a plan of attack that involves total focus on our new business. This plan usually blows up by 8AM or so. I’m starting to feel this guilt now too (daddy guilt?), but also have to acknowledge that some work things have to get done no matter what fun (or not so fun) diversions that come up during the day.
Like so many aspects of our lives, I’m having to learn balance, but it’s now a balance of time for things that are equally important - maintaining a strong, loving, and supportive relationship with my family and building a business with Kara that will also support our family while helping the community and our world.
This is a beautiful “problem” to have, as I know I can find the time for both of these areas in my day. I might not be able to grade every handstand, but I am so happy to be here at home to have the opportunity to grade most of them.