Taking on more hours with a baby on the way
June 1, 2014 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I've been offered a job I'd like, but the hours are longer and there's a commute, and we're expecting a baby. Would I be crazy to take it?

Specifically, the job I've been offered would be a 40 hour week (I'm currently doing 37.5) and will involve an extra 5-6 hours of commuting a week, so I'll be away from home from around 8am-7pm (at the moment it's nearer 8:45am-5:45pm).

For personal and career reasons (not to mention money) it'd be a good move. However my partner is expecting a baby in a few months, and I'm well aware that very few people on their deathbeds express regret at having spent too much time with their families. However I don't want to carry on spending my working days being bored, and there's a reasonable chance that within 2-3 years I'll be able to find a job closer to home again.

So, the actual question; how much of a mistake do you think it would be to miss those extra few hours a week at home? How much parenting would actually happen between 8 & 8.45am and 5-6pm?

(Some extra detail; this is a first baby, my partner will take a year of maternity leave and then work part time; I may have an option to go part time in the future, but it depends on all sorts of things. My job is technical and fairly specialised, so things within a sane commute don't come up more than once every year or two, and this is a particularly good opportunity. Moving house isn't an option, for various reasons.)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (24 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can't answer the rest of your questions in terms of the prioritization of this work opportunity, but I can take this one:

How much parenting would actually happen between 8 & 8.45am and 5-6pm?

A lot. 8-8:45 is smack in the middle of "baby is awake and playful"time; it's also "get kid ready for transport to daycare" when/if daycare becomes a thing because of your partner's work. 5-5:45 is right about when a person can reach a serious breaking point in taking care of an infant; it's also when dinner would be prepared IF there were someone who was available to make it, i.e. if you were home to deal with baby, your partner could make dinner and vice versa. If you don't get home til 7 you very likely won't be having dinner with your family. It could be a really big deal in terms of being connected and supportive of your partner as your family acclimates to being three.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:21 AM on June 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Don't do it. I only work an hour from my newborn and I hate it. I hate capitalism for making me have to work at all. If I had to see her 1 hour less every day I'd be exponentially sadder.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:32 AM on June 1, 2014 [8 favorites]

Unless your partner had serious help nearby - a nanny, family, best friend - I can advise you not to do this during the first year.

Look into getting a part time nanny or similar if you take the job.
posted by jbenben at 9:33 AM on June 1, 2014 [8 favorites]

I'd ask your partner how she feels about it. Is she the independent type? Does she want you to take the job? Does she think she can handle it?

I was a Navy wife far from family when we had both our kids. I survived long deployments and duty rotations when my husband was gone for 24 hours every 3 days. It wasn't always easy, but I made it.
posted by Requiax at 9:58 AM on June 1, 2014

I'm going to go against the trend here and say it depends on your partner. (And your baby.) Each of my one year mat leaves my husband stepped up his work, because I was focused at home and he didn't have to worry about daycare deadline/sick kid days/etc. it worked well for us. This is probably why:

- he took our kid out on weekends (nursing schedule permitting) so I could breathe, even if it was just a drive to get coffee at a drive-through or a walk around the block. This time, which became baby/grownup swim and gymnastics, was also a time he was primary parent which was great for everyone

- he helped at night, esp during the worst phases

- I wasn't solely responsible for chores, and if you can afford it I'd suggest a cleaner (we couldn't but man)

- my babies weren't screamers, although my first was a terrible sleeper

- I really just gave in to baby land and did not try to be perfect. If that meant my wee baby spent some time nursing in front of all of Babylon 5 despite the AAP's edict on screens, oh well. If I chose to strap on an Ergo and go to the bakery for cannoli and got back and realized my yoga pants were on inside out, oh well.

- I have great friends and the second time around I had great mom friends, which was huge
posted by warriorqueen at 10:02 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hmmm. I would take it you have help--a grandmother or caregiver who can pitch in. If not--only you guys can say whether the long-term benefits and money outweigh the short-term struggle.

If you do take it and you don't have help, one thing you could do to make things easier for your wife is to completely prep lunches, dinners, and snacks for her, every day. And then you clean up when you get home. Meal preparation and clean-up is when I start to lose my mind when I'm on a long day or days of kid duty.

And a strong network of other parents and kids would be huge, if you can help her develop that even in advance of baby arrival. I can manage anything if I have plans to hang out with other moms at judicious intervals throughout the week.
posted by Ollie at 10:02 AM on June 1, 2014

Yikes. Parenting is 100% of the time. So this is tough. But realistically, people do the thing you are contemplating and it is not a disaster. It adds a degree of difficulty though. Only you and your partner can decide if the sacrifice is worth it for the hoped for payout.
posted by SLC Mom at 10:05 AM on June 1, 2014

How firm are the forty hours per week you were offered? Might it turn into more? Some jobs have a way of requiring more time to "go the extra mile" so make sure it figures in to your calculations. Personally, I stayed with a lower paying job seven miles from my house rather than a higher paying job 30 miles from my house with an annoying heavy traffic commute so that I could have that extra time with my newborn into toddler-hood. I had daycare dropoff responsibilities as well.

If you think you can do your part on the weekend or whenever you are at home, then it's possible that you can take the job. Just be aware that being a new parent is going to be twice as exhausting as you expect and if the job is sapping your energy, it'll make parenting that much harder. You will also end up with a lot of night shift duties taking care of the baby so your partner doesn't go insane.

Either way, you and your partner should be in total agreement on whatever choice you ultimately make.
posted by Roger Dodger at 10:18 AM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

My husband is working a similar schedule, and we have a 3.5 month old baby. There's no way around his schedule, and it's pretty damned hard. Our baby has an easygoing temperment, and it's still rough. She IS a baby, after all. Eventually, she's going to have her afternoon meltdown and I'm stuck handling it alone. It doesn't help that she looooves Dad - so when he works late, she is panicky by the time he gets home.

Also, my husband already hated his job before the baby was born- but now he really hates it. Because he doesn't get to see the baby as much as he wants to, and because his co-workers are fairly unsympathetic to his situation. After all, why does he need to go home and help his wife with the baby? That's what she's there for, right? The one without a Real Job? The attitude is seriously: "Dudes don't care about babies, so get back to work."

It really has nothing to do with how "independent" your wife is. (In other words: if your wife can't handle it, it doesn't mean she's a dependent whiner. And it doesn't mean that she's a inferior mother.) The work is difficult and neverending, even though I'm very glad to do it. It's possible for your wife to handle it all - I'm managing - but frankly, it sucks donkey balls. My daughter is delightful, but her care and upkeep are nonstop.

And that's not even getting into the fact that I have to do most of the housework, too. Because my husband is frigging exhausted after his workday and commute. He's at least as tired as I am, and probably more so. He handles the gross stuff like trash and cat litter, and I do almost everything else. If I have a tough few days with the baby, the entire house gets nasty very, very fast. We start running out of basic supplies. The tub sprouts a sheet of mildew overnight. The cat will pee in a corner and I won't notice for days. Etc, etc.

Also, my baby has biweekly occupational therapy appointments for a birth injury. If your baby needs some sort of extra medical attention, that'll be another layer of hectic misery for your wife to deal with mostly on her own. (When my daughter has her appointments, my husband goes to work at an insanely early hour, so that he can go with me. If we both had a car, I could take her by myself. But surprise, he WANTS to go to his baby's appointments.)

How much parenting would actually happen between 8 & 8.45am and 5-6pm?

Lord, my friend. I know you haven't been there yet, but that's almost a hilariously naive question.

If you desperately need this job for whatever reason, you'll probably survive. However, I think our situation sucks, and so does my husband.
posted by Coatlicue at 10:22 AM on June 1, 2014 [13 favorites]

Will taking a new job mean fewer leave options in the short term? Will you be able to take some time off when the baby is born? Will you have sick leave available? If you have accrued a lot of sick and vacation leave at your current job, that's worth quite a bit more than money. I'd make sure to negotiate this leave situation up front -- make sure you'll be able to be with your wife and baby at birth.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:26 AM on June 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

Granted, I'm 14 years removed from the baby days, but I have a foggy memory of referring to 5pm as "The Witching Hour." Tired kids and parent, tantrums, baths, dinner...I vaguely recall that it was the roughest part of the day.
posted by kinetic at 10:27 AM on June 1, 2014 [7 favorites]

It's a tough call.

If you try to make a decision according to a "hierarchy of needs," I think the one input that you have to discard is self-actualization, or at least put the current and future well-being of your family at the top above all else.

So, will taking this new job help you provide for your family in the future? Will it be an investment, or some sort of hedge against the future risk of being unemployed?

Is staying at your current job risky? Or are your skills in high-enough demand? At what point in the economic cycle is your current company? What are your professional goals over the next 5 years?

If you do take the job, are there tangible benefits for your wife? It's going to be a long commute, and your wife will be pretty tired by the time you get home. The first year after having a kid can be pretty stressful. Are you prepared?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:04 AM on June 1, 2014

The extra 9 hours or so a week (job + commuting) will feel like a lot since your baby will only be awake (or at least, only supposed to be awake) for 1-2 hours while you are home.

If there is no option to take full-time or part-time parental leave during the first few months, and your current job does offer that option, that would be a very strong factor in favor of the current job.

But, if you do have the flexibility to spend extra time at home during the first 2-3 months of the baby's life, and your wife is on board with you being gone during a lot of the baby's awake time (which could work if she has a lot of friends or family around, or is the social type who would enjoy finding a mom's group and playgroups), then it could work.

The first year of life with a new baby is really tough, and the advantage of having an existing job is that they know you and will probably cut you some slack and give you some flexibility in your schedule. So if you and your wife aren't both confident that you want to do this, consider being kind of bored but taking the opportunity to focus on your home life for a while, and then look out for other jobs once things stabilize at home.
posted by chickenmagazine at 11:38 AM on June 1, 2014

I don't think it's a mistake if you are both on board for it. Those are some long days for your wife though (and for you, if you are low on sleep as might be the case), so you need to get ready for it. Those times of day (that you mention) are times when babies tend to be awake and you may not see much of your baby on weekdays/nights, but if you can truly take weekends off as well as vacation time it might not be too bad if you can protect the time with them that you will have. My son went to sleep at 7pm in the early months so if that's true for your baby you really won't be seeing much of them and that will be hard. Some parents in that situation shift the schedule to make up for it but it depends on the baby. It would be nice if you could come home and do the bedtime routine with baby most nights to get some quality bonding time in.

My advice:

Seriously consider getting a mother's helper/part-time nanny and a cleaner if you take the job, someone who will come over and do the dishes, get groceries, do laundry. Even if you switch off with your wife you'll both be really really tired each day and then it'll be hard to have quality time together or any time to yourselves. Are you both happy with how household chores are distributed now? Be really clear about who will do what and be open to changing things as time passes. What chores does your wife hate the most? I always resented offers of babysitting, I didn't want less time with my baby, I wanted less time doing the dishes (in the very early days, later on babysitting was awesome).

A mom-friend of mine confided that her husband (a really sweet, loving and devoted dad who works fulltime while she stays home with their two kids) had only changed ONE diaper since their 4 month old baby was born. Don't be that guy. Do as much as you can when you're around, expect not to have much if any free/you time for the first couple of years and don't wait to be told by your wife what needs to be done because that gets old really fast for both of you. Get in the habit of picking up groceries on your way home from work (or on your lunch break), schedule your baby's doctor visits/check-ups for days when you can be there (take sick days/vacation days), and take the lead on planning dates or dinners. If you're in the states you can get so many things shipped to your door, automate everything you can like diapers, household items, etc. Find some healthy takeout options so you can both avoid cooking as needed without gaining extra weight.

I would get some of those baby-proofing your marriage type books to get an idea of the things that might lie ahead once baby arrives. Baby-hood is temporary but if things decline or resentments grow it can do longterm damage to you and your wife's relationship and if your wife is stressed/depressed and alone with the baby all day it will not be good. Many women do just fine all day alone with a baby, or are really adept at getting out and about with a baby but it's easy to get isolated and overwhelmed.

Also my son was a terrible sleeper and my partner and I were just shattered in the early months and it was really hard on my partner, who had to go in to work feeling like a zombie. That is the part I am worried about the most with your job, where you need to drive safely and be able to problem solve and be fairly alert all day. If you leave all of the night parenting to your partner so you can function she may resent you, and she will have some LONG days ahead of her where she should really not be alone all day, but you may be truly at your limit too if you end up sleep deprived and working longer days and if I were your wife I'd be worried about possible accidents. So talk to your wife about ways to work around that. One option is sleep training (I know someone who swears that 3.5 months is the ideal time to do it) but it's not for everyone and doesn't work for all babies. Another option is splitting up your sleep schedules to give everyone a good 4-6 hours of uninterrupted sleep as needed, sleeping in separate beds might be necessary. Your wife can nap with the baby during the day but it doesn't really compare to truly restful sleep imo, and some people just can't nap. Who knows, you may get a nice sleepy baby and luck out but with these things I think it's best to expect the worst and hope for the best.
posted by lafemma at 12:13 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you use the extra money to pay for assistance for your wife?

If it may lead to more lucrative positions down the road, or in some other way benefit your family well being, I would say consider it if it will pay for someone to replace your absence those extra 10 hours.
posted by mitschlag at 12:55 PM on June 1, 2014

I wouldn't do it, for a few reasons:

- Having a baby is already a huge, unfathomable change. Adding a new work routine won't make that easier.
- Eleven straight hours alone for your partner with a new baby is really, REALLY long.
- If you take the new job, are you giving up a permanent job for a period of probation? People are not, generally speaking, at their working best when they are living with a newborn. I'd be nervous about trying to impress on very little sleep.
- If you're further from home for the commute, you're also further away from home in the case of emergencies.
- There is really no way to know what you're getting into with this baby thing. Assuming the best case scenario, this might be quite manageable. But consider what it would be like if there are any kinds of problems. Even really common ones like a colicky baby or post-partum depression for your partner up the stakes. Not to mention something serious, like a hospital stay for either of them.

There are a couple conditions that could mitigate the above:
- Your partner's due date is far enough in the future that you can get settled in at the new job, establish a routine and pass any probationary period before the baby is born, AND
- The new job pays so much more you can afford to pay for help in your absence.

Otherwise, you say jobs like this come up every year or two; starting a new job with a one or two year old, when you've got the rhythms and responsibilities down, will be much, much easier than dealing with two big life changes within a few months of each other.

Having said all that, of course it can be done. I was a solo parent to my kid from birth, so there wasn't even going to be someone coming home from work at 7 o'clock every night and we both survived it. It really, really sucked, though.
posted by looli at 2:37 PM on June 1, 2014 [3 favorites]

My husband did about exactly this schedule when our second child was newborn. (Actually, come to think of it, he still pretty much does, but my kids are older now and it's easier.) I'm not going to lie, it was rough; it was helped a lot by the fact that the second child was a pretty easy-going baby who nursed well, but it was still rough. If this had been my first child, who was a very complicated baby, it would have gone Not Well At All. Here are the things that made it work:

1. When my husband came home, he was IMMEDIATELY on primary parenting duty. immediately. He would walk through the door, I would hand him the baby and go lie facedown in bed for ten or fifteen minutes.

2. He did all of bedtime for both children.

3. When he was home, he changed ALL diapers. All of them. 100%. Even if we were out as a family and the men's room didn't have a changing table. this is actually a great strategy that I strongly recommend under all circumstances, particularly if your wife is nursing; not only does it split up the endless parenting tasks, but it gives you the chance to know your baby physically from a very early age, and helps stave off the "mom does everything, so mom is the only one who knows how to do anything, so mom does everything" vicious circle.

5. Once a week, once the baby was about 3 months old, I left the house for the evening as soon as he got home. I would leave dinner on the stove and pumped milk in the freezer, and the rest of it would just be on him.

6. He would get up with the baby when baby woke up in the morning. Alden would cry, I would grab him to nurse, and my husband would get up and quickly pee/shower/shave, then grab Alden and head to the kitchen, and put him in his high chair or wear him in the sling while he made and ate his breakfast. I would get 20 or 30 minutes in bed alone and unmolested, and the first shift of the morning would be Dad Time. This continues to this day.

In short, you have to be aware that you're going to have to work extra hard to make sure you pull the Dad Share of the parenting weight. This isn't just to be fair to your wife; it's also to be fair to your kid, and ultimately to you. The degree to which you're involved for those first weeks and months is going to set the tone for your involvement for the rest of their lives. It's not even so much about being around a lot, as it is making sure that when you ARE around, you're the primary parent. Be a dad by default, not by request.
posted by KathrynT at 2:37 PM on June 1, 2014 [9 favorites]

Given that this is your first kid, I would say don't do it. Other, higher-paying jobs will still be there in a year or two when things have settled down. It's hard to fathom in advance how exhausted you both will be, and the's so much stress when you're learning how to parent, without REM sleep.

Assume it's going to be really, really tough, and then you can be pleasantly surprised if it's only moderately grueling.
posted by ravioli at 2:43 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take the new job without a doubt. I unhesitatingly worked long hours when my kids were babies and thank God I did. Those were the critical years in my career development. Division of labor, not confusion of responsibilities, is the trick to maximizing success and security.
posted by MattD at 2:45 PM on June 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Given that your wife will be taking a year's maternity leave, can you move closer to work? If this is a long term career for you, it'd be worth doing it now.
posted by kjs4 at 4:49 PM on June 1, 2014

So, the actual question; how much of a mistake do you think it would be to miss those extra few hours a week at home?

Hi, I did this for our first and it was a terrible, terrible mistake - so much so that I actually took six months off altogether for our second (which has just been the best).

Reasons why it was terrible:

1) exhaustion. If you have a challenging baby, as we did, you will be so, so tired and mentally subpar. I was working long hours but not in a new job, and I needed every ounce of cunning, insider knowledge, shortcuts and networks I had built up in my job to keep my performance steady. I was fucking exhausted every day, but not as exhausted as....

2) my partner. Until you have looked after a baby that spends six or more of every twelve hours crying you literally cannot comprehend how hard it is, emotionally, physically mentally. And if you're planning on breastfeeding your partner will be up all night, too. Do not think of looking after the baby as the easy part at home. Going to work is infinitely, infinitely easier. Every parent who has done both will tell you the same. Your wife will be making a huge sacrifice and the burden of the work is going to fall on her anyway - adding to it is grossly unfair imho. Remember: going to work is so so much easier than looking after a baby. The boredom you speak of will be a blessing when you have a baby. The other thing about going to work is...

3) you won't be there. Yes, you won't be there to take on a fair share of the caring and housework, and yes, you won't be there to see your kid as much, but more importantly, you won't be there to see if something is going wrong. If something happens, mentally or physically health wise with baby but especially wife, you may not notice until things are very serious. Don't think post natal depression can't occur in your family. It can.

Those are three really big reasons. But more generally, you are about to enter a great, but very challenging year/couple of years. Now is the time to take one for the team, not yourself. A huge burden is about to be put on your wife; focus on how you can take some of that on, not your own needs. It's a great investment that will pay dividends for years to come in your marriage and your relationship with your kid/s.
posted by smoke at 4:58 PM on June 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

You won't be bored at work
Good move for your career
More money

Longer commute
Longer work day
New responsibilities to learn
Increased usage of PTO/sick time giving a poor impression when you don't have the years in the company to build a reputation of not being a slacker

I always look at the total salary offered divided by the time away from home (commute + work day) to figure out the REAL hourly rate of work. When you compare the current (45 hours/week) and potential (55 hours) job does the new job still come ahead hourly by a significant amount, like a 30% bump? What does your partner think and are they willing to sacrifice so much for that money? Will they have access to most of that money for sanity savers like delivery, babysitters, and weekends away with their friends? Will the new position maybe come with a bump in vacation days so you can have at least one long weekend a month and maybe a week off every couple of months to give your partner a break, can you negotiate one day a week where you telecommute - you won't get much done and will have to work harder the other days but you will at least be a support for your partner.

I've been both the "stay at home" parent and the "work insanely long hours" sole-support parent. It is MUCH, MUCH easier to go to work than it is to stay at home.
posted by saucysault at 8:00 PM on June 1, 2014

The stay-at-home parent will be super tired by the end of the day, and will really want you to take the baby the minute you walk through the door, or will resent the hell out of you if you don't.

You know you are already tired at the end of your day, and you can reasonably expect that you will only be more tired at the end of a longer day/longer commute.

Add sleep deprivation to living with a baby to your tiredness (and your partner's tiredness).

Add the idea of trying to learn a new job and impress new bosses while being sleep deprived.

A more ideal scenario would be you take a new job when the baby is about a year old, when you have all started sleeping well through the night again, and you have started to feel like you've got this parenting thing down.
posted by vignettist at 4:06 AM on June 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

How much parenting would actually happen between 8 & 8.45am and 5-6pm?

Regardless of what you end up doing, promise us all you'll come back to this thread and reread your question a year from now. Because then you will be as amused as the rest of us are.

Now, to your actual question: you should be prepared for a wide range of awake-times that your small person will have. My daughter is about a year old, and she sleeps from about 6:30 PM to 5:30 AM. That schedule used to be 6PM to 6AM. If you were to be working a job that kept you out of the house for 11 hours a day, there is a very real chance that your hours would line up perfectly so that you would never see your kid, or would only see him/her during the bedtime ritual (which you will soon learn is a time when you cannot interact). Not seeing my daughter for five out of seven days would kill me. I'm out of the house 10 hours a day, and that's 3 or 4 too many for my own well-being. I'm doing everything in my power to cut back on working hours, because small children change so quickly that they cause you to realize exactly how much of their lives you are missing by sitting in a cubicle or stuck in traffic.

You should also remember how little free time you are going to have post-baby. Mine is currently measurable in minutes per week, and that's with a nearly-toddler; with a newborn, it was more like sleep-eat-clean-change-the-baby-work-clean-cook-sleep. The 10 hours a week you're talking about don't seem like a whole lot to you right now, because you are awash in free time. There's no good way to convey to you just how jarringly that is going to change. You're going to value your free time with a fierceness you cannot yet fathom.
posted by Mayor West at 5:17 AM on June 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

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