Laila & Barry
When Casey was born, Laila and Barry wondered how they could both stay involved with work and still take great care of their family. Initially, the couple solved their work family dilemma by having Barry take on the role of the stay-at-home parent. In part this was because shortly before Casey’s birth, Barry had lost his job, so this seemed like the logical solution for the family. After taking the summer off, Laila returned to full time work as a teacher in a private school when Casey was 3 months old.
Barry reflects on that first year of intense involvement and notes how it created a strong foundation on which the family could build. “Just being there and accepting them is extremely important for children. I learned this lesson well when they were babies.”
When Casey was 16 months old and just before the birth of their second child, Reeve, the couple put their Shared Care plan in place. Laila re-negotiated her position at work so that she could work 60% and Barry began working 24 hours each week as a landscaper. Three days each week Casey was cared for at a family day care provider. The other two days Laila and Barry shared looking after their child; Barry in the mornings and Laila in the afternoons. This arrangement continued after the birth of their second child with Laila returning to work part-time after taking a 6 month leave. While the parents worked Casey went to preschool and Laila organized an informal childcare arrangement for baby Reeve with other parents at her workplace. The couple continued to share care two days each work.
Both parents acknowledge that Shared Care enabled each parent to play to their individual strengths. Barry pointed out, “Laila’s strength is scheduling, where as mine is flexibility. I do more fun, spontaneous activities with the kids.” Laila added, “We also accepted a life of simplicity.” However, in many ways this lifestyle choice suited them.
As with all families the children grew older and as this developmental shift took place Laila and Barry adapted their Shared Care arrangements to meet these new changes. Laila increased her workload to an 80% schedule and then to 90% while Barry worked a 35 hour week at his present employment as a museum carpenter. Both parents continued to Share Care after school, augmenting it with other after school arrangements and activities.
Throughout the years both Laila and Barry can see how their involvement at home has had a positive impact on their work. According to Laila, “I am a much better teacher when talking with parents. Having time with my kids and time for work made me feel good at both and not guilty about either, even though I did feel stretched in many directions. ” Barry describes one of the transferable skills he has learned as being “the patience factor.”
In addition both parents can identify the long-term effect Shared Care has had at home. “We are very close. If one of us is grumpy everyone knows. If someone is really overwhelmed we can count on each other. We are all more sensitive that everyone gets overwhelmed at times and everyone needs a helping hand.”
Looking back Laila and Barry can see that they wouldn’t have wanted to set up their lives any other way. Together they have crafted a work-family solution where they have lived and modeled a way of life that has kept them both moving forward in their careers while also continuously prioritizing family.