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  • Writer's pictureScott Behson

Taking My Own Advice on Fatherhood, Work and Family (or, helping my wife Lean In)

My wife just started a new show, leaving me to shoulder the load for a while so I can help her “Lean In” to her career. Four ways our family is preparing, plus a plea for advice.

My wife's career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

My wife’s career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

Amy is a musical theater actress, and her work schedule is demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible (but, even in her brutally competitive field, she is talented enough to be working all the time!).  If she’s called for an audition, it is often scheduled for tomorrow! and it cannot be rescheduled to fit her preferences. When she’s rehearsing, it’s usually 10-6, six days a week (plus a driving commute to/from NYC).  When she’s in a long-running show, she works at night and on weekends. On the plus side, she’s usually home during the day, and does far more than her share in parenting and maintaining the household. However, in general, entertainers work when others don’t, and the world it not set up to help parents with non-traditional work hours. As a result, the evening routine usually falls to me, and my opportunities to work or play at night are limited by my ability/willingness to get a babysitter.  With Amy’s four-show weekends, a lot falls to me during days/times in which school and activities can’t pick up the slack (when Nick was younger, the lack of evening and weekend daycare was a big problem). Also, as Amy is sometimes unreachable and usually unable to leave work on short notice, I need to arrange my schedule in order to meet Nick’s bus or cover emergencies.  We don’t have local family- my parents, in-laws and sister are all a good drive away.  While they are awesome and extremely helpful when they visit, we don’t get built-in day-to-day family assistance.

Well, now it is once more unto the breach.

After three years in a long-running off-Broadway show- it was 8 shows a week, but minimal rehearsal time and we’d pretty much gotten the routine down- Amy’s got a new gig. She plays the title role in “The English Bride”- a new (really good) three-person play at Centenary Stages in NJ that will also run off-Broadway, NYC in the Fall.

And rehearsals started two days ago. The rehearsal schedule is pretty intense- just 2 ½ weeks to get the show up and running. In general, rehearsals are 1-9, with tech week going even later (plus, the theater is about an hour’s drive away). This means Amy will be working the entire time Nick gets home from school until after he’s asleep.

Oh, yeah, and Nick has “Spring Break” from school next week! So, yay! One week in which there’s no school to help me out.

So now, it falls to me. I wish I had some sort of “work-family issues for dads expert” to tell me what to do…

Thank goodness the boy and I get along so well. We're gonna see a lot of each other

Thank goodness the boy and I get along so well. We’re gonna see a lot of each other

Oh, right… Well, now it is time I start taking my own advice, and seek your advice, too. Here’s my family’s initial game plan, and I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments section:

1. Shifting Where and When I Work

Except for Mondays when I teach class until 4:30, I can usually arrange my schedule so I can be home to meet Nick’s bus. This means I’ll be bringing lots of work home, getting the bulk of it done after Nick’s asleep. But also, he’s almost eight, so I can get stuff done even when solo parenting. I am unbelievably fortunate to have such a flexible job. I’m still going to give work my best effort, but I am going to take full advantage of the flexibility my work offers and of all the credibility and good will I have built up to carry me through these two months.

2. Getting Organized

Amy’s always been great about keeping us organized, but now we’ve taken it to new heights. By going through our March and April work calendars, Nick’s school calendar, and our family calendar, we’ve identified where the toughest stretches will be, and when we absolutely need help for picking up Nick after school, making sure he can get to his activities, and watching him at night.

3. Marshaling My Resources

Thanks to #2, we identified the days and times we most need help well in advance. This made it easier to call on my fatherhood network and line up help from our friends, family and neighbors. There are a few days Nick will get off the bus and go home with one of his friends from around the corner. We’ve scheduled in our two regular sitters for a few evenings each. My in-laws are going to come for a weekend (my in-laws are awesome, so this is a blessing and not one of those in-law horror stories you sometimes hear about). The local Y has a reasonably priced spring break program and we’ve signed Nick up for a few days there.

4. Pacing Myself

I’ll be patching together help from family and friends to handle being the primary caregiver while holding down my full-time job. But I also gotta take some time for me.  So, there will be a few times we’ll bring Nick to his best buddy’s to allow me to play volleyball, have a breather and generally not go insane. And there will be some days I’ll try to work fully from home, so I can save on commuting time and have a more relaxing work day with an unshaven face and sweatpants. Just like on airplanes- you have to put your own oxygen mask on first before you can take care of others. I’m a much better parent when I get to take some breaks.

All in all, the next 7 weeks or so will be pretty intense, and there will be times I’ll feel over-stretched and over-stressed. Amy will be working very hard and will be really missing Nick. But, we’ve been through this before (14 shows/week during Grinch!), and we have a plan. As I wrote in a previous post:

Part of the reason Amy and I have been a successful married couple/co-parents is that we fully discussed and are on the same page about how our lives together would include commitments to our family and each other’s careers

I could always use some more advice and ideas. Got any for me? Please help me out in the comments section.

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