The “Wondering About Work” Edition

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S1: This episode contains explicit language. Welcome to Mom and Dad are Fighting Slate’s parenting podcast for Monday, April 18th. The Wondering About Work Edition. I’m Zak Rosen. I am a podcast maker. I host the Best Advice Show featuring little small nuggets of your best advice. I live in Detroit with my family. My daughter Noah is four and my son Amy is one.

S2: I’m Elizabeth Newcamp. I write the Homeschool and family travel blog that Stats Goose. I’m the mom to three littles. Henry who’s ten, Oliver who’s seven, and Teddy who’s five. And we live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

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S1: Today on the show, we’ve got a question from a listener who feels stretched thin and wondering what to do about work. But before we get into that, we received some very fun updates from listeners.

S2: Yes, I’m so excited.

S1: We love updates after Elizabeth’s discussion about having an unexpected sex talk with Henry. A listener shared her experience.

S3: When my oldest son was a few years younger, I bought a book teaching kids about safe images and unsafe images online, a.k.a. porn. I intended to read it with him for the first time, but since he can never leave a new book unread, unbeknownst to me, he read the whole thing. Later that night, when he was supposed to be in bed, he came into the living room where my husband and I were watching TV with the greatest of seriousness. He said, Mama, I think we should talk. I think you might be addicted to porn. I was like, What are you talking about? And he said, Well, I know you watch Game of Thrones every night, and I think that might be porn. He’s not.

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S1: Wrong. He’s not wrong. My mom still won’t let me watch Game of Thrones.

S2: This made me feel so much better that, like, you just never know how it’s going to go.

S1: That’s the fun thing about life. You don’t know what’s going to come next.

S2: You just don’t know what they’re going to say, even as they get older.

S1: This is such a good story.

S2: This is such a good story. And it just really spoke to my heart and made me feel like, all right, I’m not alone on this crazy journey.

S1: Yeah, I totally agree. And after that same episode, someone found me on Instagram and DM’d me recommending a book called My First Book of Feminism for Boys. And I want to thank you so much, listener, for reaching out. I’m definitely gonna check it out. And if you’re curious to see cute pictures of Noah on Instagram, you can. I am at Muzak re amusing hdr y. Yeah. You all just continue to be so supportive of me. I feel seen and heard. Another one of you wrote in.

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S3: Zach, I empathize so much with your perfectionist daughter. I want to remind you of the importance of letting her see you struggle. So much of what adults do seems effortless. Cooking, driving, turning on the TV and never getting Netflix. And we rarely see our parents struggling to learn anything new. While all of childhood is learning for context, my father, who was very different from you, was very invested in only doing activities that he had already mastered. And for years as a child, I was embarrassed to try and do anything that I wasn’t really good at, which was everything. Obviously, it might help if you try to learn an activity together that you’ve never done before. Skiing, rock climbing. Chinese checkers. It might have more weight for her to see you fail than just to assure her that there are things you don’t know.

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S1: Brilliant, brilliant. Super helpful advice. I love this, and I’m definitely going to take up Chinese checkers tonight or something like it.

S2: Just like with not reading the instructions or anything, it’s just like, let’s do this. I don’t know what I’m doing. This is such good advice. I was thinking about this too, that like when we do things with our kids, we become like their inner monologue. Like so much of what we say right when they’re little, they say it out loud and then eventually. And so seeing you fail at things and be, like, truly frustrated but also able to kind of continue and be gracious, I think helps them develop kind of that inner monologue. I mean, I’m basically falling through life, so my kids see me.

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S1: Who isn’t?

S2: Yeah, multiple things all the time. But I think this is such good, like to plant these or say like, we’re going to learn this together and I don’t know how to do this either, you know, or something that she is good at. I was thinking to like, is there something that she really loves that she could teach you, right?

S1: Absolutely.

S2: Great advice, you guys. I’m loving it on my show.

S1: The Best Advice Show. I did an episode with Noah in which she taught me how to peel grapes with her teeth because she believes and she’s right, that if you peel the skin off the grape, first of all, it’s a fun thing to do, but it also cuts down on the bitterness and it’s just like pure sweetness from there. So that was like one of my favorite things.

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S2: I used to do that to feed the kids grapes when they were little, like, I don’t know if I read that you shouldn’t have. I know you’re supposed to cut them, but I was peeled with my teeth. Eat the skin. Cut it. Yeah. So I would eat like 90% of the grape and give them, like, a tiny bit.

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S1: I love it. I mean, if you like grapes, it tastes much better.

S2: And it’s.

S1: Fun. Yeah, it’s so fun. We’re going to take another quick break, eat some grapes. And when we come back, we will get into today’s listener question.

S2: If you’re new to our show, welcome. Whether you’re a parent, educator or just interested in this wild journey, we’re so glad to have you here. And mom and daughter fighting. We share our parenting triumphs and fails, offer some advice and share recommendations of things we love. We’re here twice a week on Monday and Thursday, so subscribe to Never Miss an episode.

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S1: Okay. Let’s hear our listener question. It’s being read, as always, by the fabulous Sascha leonhard.

S3: Dear mom and dad, let me start by saying I’m in an incredibly privileged position. I have the opportunity to be a full time mom to our two kids, a son who is almost five, and a daughter who is almost one. While not exorbitantly wealthy, my husband and I have inherited wealth and my husband is in a career where he’s very well compensated. We live in our hometown and have both sets of grandparents nearby who like to help with the kids. We never sent our son to full time daycare because the grandparents wanted to help and we were happy to have them build a strong bond with him. I have continued to work part time since our son was six months old. Full time work wasn’t doable, even with all the grandparent help. Now with two kids. Grandparents who are a bit older. Different childcare availability for our daughter and other. All that temporary personal life commitments. I’m feeling spread too thin to continue even my part time work. My husband travels for work with some regularity and my part time work does not pay well. Quitting seems like a no brainer, except I feel my work with low income neighborhoods is important and rewarding. I also see value in my kids seeing me work. I often think about what Rebecca says about how being a mom is the least interesting thing about her. I worry that it will be the most interesting thing about me if I stop. I may feel better about continuing my job when my daughter starts a three hour preschool program in the fall. I’ve been paying for babysitters and relying on grandparents for me to do my job. But right now we are headed into summer. My son will be starting kindergarten in the fall and I want to spend time with them and not constantly manage camp child care schedules and the nagging reminder of what I’m not getting done for work. I should say that my husband is a great dad and supportive husband regularly carves time out of his schedule to help and just wants me to be happy in whatever I choose. I’m just incredibly torn in which direction to head. Thank you for any advice you can lend. I love the show and the perspectives you give. Thanks. Wondering about work.

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S2: Oh, my gosh. I relate to this question so much. Sometimes I like to think of my life as kind of like a cat, like I’ve had all these different lives and that it’s okay to move from one to the other and move back and to leave things that I really liked and to also leave things I didn’t really like. And from that perspective, I want to say. You are not making a forever decision here. You are making a decision for right now. And I know I feel like a broken record because I always say this, like, you can change your mind. You can go do one thing and then decide. Now I understand there there are consequences, right? Like, if you leave your job, that same job may not be available. And if you stay in your job, then you will not have the same period of time available. But that’s kind of life. And I want to say to no matter what you do, you are going to be leaving things behind that you can’t get back and that you will miss. Like I miss working a lot, but I also really like being stay at home. Like I find a lot of joy in being a stay at home mom with my kids. I miss being in an office and I think that’s okay. Like I exist in this place where that’s okay. In a very similar way, I was not put. I don’t feel like she’s being pushed but had this moment where I was working as an attorney for NASA and we were living in California and I was pregnant about to have this baby, but we were also about to move. And just this idea of like having a baby and moving in my job had offered to let me take my job remotely with me, but I just started to think about like, what does my whole family need right now? And Jeff and I had a big conversation about that, like, what do we want our family life to look like as we make this move with this baby? And once we laid that out, it became very clear that for that period of time, what made the most sense, because I had some desire to do it, was for me to stay home. And I feel like every time we’re up against those decisions, I try to think about that again, like sitting down and talking about what does our family need and what is going to to make that work for us as a whole. Right. And sometimes that means that I’m giving up things like work. Sometimes that means that Jeff is giving up things. But trying to look at that and also saying like, I feel very emotional about this because it’s so, so hard, like thinking about it’s okay that I feel like I’m leaving these things behind because when I’m at work, there are things that I’m going to miss. So how do I find that? I also want to say that there are a lot of opportunities to fill those holes. Like if you decide to stay home, you will find ways to fill that void you missed from working and this idea of having your kids see you work. There are so many opportunities to volunteer and fit those sort of things into your everyday life that your kids can see. And again, it’s not forever. So you can stay home for this phase, be that this summer, be that this, you know, two years, three years, whatever, and then decide to go back and do something else. You can decide to stay home for six weeks and then decide.

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S1: Forget it. It’s not a permanent decision.

S2: Exactly. And one of the things I think you can do is, you know, talk to your work if you’re already working part time and the pay isn’t isn’t that great to support what you need? Like, is there some way that you can still stay one foot in the door with them if this is something you feel is really valuable? I mean, I just think there are so many ways in which you can still participate. I have found a lot of value in different volunteer things that kind of flex as my children’s interest. So being able to help out at the school and do a bunch of things, being able to help like find volunteer opportunities that we can all do together that I couldn’t have done because that time was occupied by me being at the office. But I think at the end of the day my advice is sort of the letter seems to me that you want to stay home and you’re very worried about not staying home because of these things that other people have told you. And so I think you should maybe give it a try and see if the benefits from it outweigh those feelings of the loss of your. I know you’re worried about the loss of your identity, which I think happens in any transition. Right. You’re kind of like, who am I? I was very worried about that because I had spent a lot of time at law school and then a lot of time working to build up my career and who and what I was doing. And what I found is that I was able to apply a lot of those skills and be this mom to my kids and this person, to my friends and this other person to the world that is also very valuable. Again, I still do miss working. I mean, I miss like going to an office with a dog and like those sort of things.

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S1: Is that what you miss the most? Just this, the kind of adult camaraderie, adult having.

S2: I definitely miss the intellectual labor of being a lawyer, but I have found other ways to fill that void. Like I have so much more time to read now and read about anything I want because I the reading for pleasure didn’t happen because I was always reading for work and I would get in like a fun read, but I would never read like an intellectually stimulating book about nature or about something that I was super interested in because. My brain just had no more space. And I found that it freed up a lot of that kind of time. Yes, my kids don’t get to see me necessarily going to an office, but they do get to see me doing things like doing the tours together and reading to get like me sitting on the couch and reading a book that I want to read, which encourages them to sit down and read a book. They get to see me taking time to go to the gym or to go on a walk or to spend time with my friends and learn some about that, right? Like about these other life skills. I do often worry like, are they going to expect someone to stay home? So we talk a lot, you know, a lot about like these are family choices and like that my value to the family, it can be kind of more in physical acts than necessarily in monetary acts and like how we all pitch in to be this family. Doc, what do you think?

S1: No, it’s a it’s a really important topic. And as you acknowledge, wondering about work like it does come down to this is your decision. Some family is like, you know, everyone in the family needs to work out of necessity. As you’ve said, that’s not the context in which you’re making this decision and therefore. I think you should make the decision for you and not for how others might perceive what you’re doing, like you say. I also see value in my kids seeing me work. Speaking from my own perspective. Like I didn’t notice what my parents did, you know, work or otherwise when I was growing up. It’s not until they’re grown that they’re going to realize the amount of work you did, either inside the house or outside the house. So they might not be seeing the work either way right now. But you are doing a ton of work right now at home. That’s a ton of work. And they are going to once they have that perspective and perhaps have their own kids are just are adults, they are going to see that you are doing work. So I don’t think you should go back to work just so they can see you doing that. You’re working either way. It just depends on where you working. And then you also say, Yeah, I worry that it will be the most interesting thing about me if I stop again, if you can. I know it’s hard, but you have to separate that perception piece from this decision because it’s going to be you for 8 to 10 hours a day, hopefully less than eight. Let’s do like a six hour work day in this fantasy. But it’s you going back to work, so do it if it’s like this is something that you really are hungry to get back to and you’re, you know, you want to have that feeling again of going into the office or, you know, working remotely or working with a team or, you know, being stretched in ways that you haven’t been. Stretch, like Elizabeth said, do it, dude. And if you hate it, quit. Because again, you have the privilege to do that, which is awesome. I think that’s really, really amazing. So really no decision other than having kids is permanent, you know? And. Yeah. So experiment with your life.

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S2: Yes, experiment with your life. I’m going to like make myself ish.

S1: Yeah. Make a mug.

S2: You don’t get these hours back one way or another, you don’t get it back. And so how do you want to spend them and how does your family need you to allocate them?

S1: Absolutely. And yeah, yeah. Just back to this like experiment piece, I think back to advice again, this is more grotesque marketing for my show, but I’m doing it because like I think it’s really good advice that people have given me on the Best Advice Show. But Gretchen Rubin, the happiness expert, she gave me advice once that says and it’s for everyone to define in whatever way it resonates, but it’s to choose the bigger life. And so what does that mean to you right now at this moment in your life? Choosing a bigger life might be to get back to work, come home and, you know, be the amazing parent that you are and just like stretch out explore. But there is also a totally justifiable way in which choosing the bigger life could be doubling down at home and, you know, doing everything you can and want to do as a parent and everything. Perhaps you fantasized about your parents being able to do, but never could when you were growing up. Like it’s up to you to do it. But think like close your eyes and and choose the bigger life here.

S2: I’m really like captured by this. How she’s worried about mom being the most interesting thing about her. Because, one, I think if that’s what you chose, that’s fine, right? I think it only becomes a problem when you when you feel like I didn’t have a choice and this is not what I want to be doing. And so I’m unhappy in that. But if what you want to do is spend this time being just like the mom that your kids need, want that you can be I don’t want to put anything like on you that you if you stay home, you have to do all these things because it sounds a little bit like even just your presence may cause some calming of your family schedule and maybe that’s what your family needs and maybe that is being the best mom. But I guarantee you that that will give you some time and space that it feels like you don’t have now to figure out who you are and what you want to do. And isn’t that the most interesting thing about you? Right. Like, I just feel like at this phase, even when I gather with my mom friends, like, yes, we like joke about the kids and talk about the kids. But so little of our discussion is like about Mommy. I’m like, yeah, we’re exchanging tips and how to do this and telling funny stories and pitching to each other. But a lot of what we talk about is like that. I have this opportunity now to talk with this group of friends that I’ve created about what’s happening in the world from our perspective, which is something I, you know, would have gotten at work like that chat time to talk about that. But it’s nice that it’s all coming from the perspective of like people that I believe to be very caring and like invested in our world because they’re raising these kids in ways that I can appreciate. Not all of them make the same choices as me with their children. Not all of them like parent the same way. I am not friends just with other school moms like it. I have a nice group of people that I have been able to gather and lean on and see these different perspectives. And I think that some. Thing that I might not have had if all of my time was occupied somewhere else. Now, of course, I don’t. There’s a lot of things I don’t have as a result of not being in an office or work or having kind of my own pursuits in that sense. But I think it’s good to kind of sit with this idea, too, that you can’t have it all like this. This move is not going to fix it may fix some of the problems. It’s going to create other problems. Because that’s life.

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S1: Yep. I mean, regret is inevitable.

S2: When you go out with your, you know, your colleagues and they’ve all done something or had this big win, you will definitely feel those those pangs of of missing that, you know. Yeah.

S1: But I mean, I agree with you, Elizabeth, that like just try going back if like you’re feeling it, like go back for a week, go back for 20 years. Like, if you’re feeling it, try it.

S2: I don’t know if this is like humans or parents, but like once you give yourself permission to try something and then then change your mind, like, life opens up so many things, you don’t have to be completely sold on what you just need to be sold enough that you’ve looked at, you know, understand what you’re getting into. But it’s totally okay to. And no, I feel like you would have no judgment if you go back for the summer and then you’re like, This is not for me. Cool.

S1: Great. You try it out and you’ll probably be better off now that you have. Scratch that itch. That’s actually a great. A great thing. You might be in a position to, like, pretty much eliminate a lot of the regret because you can just go back or not regardless where you please let us know. Wondering about work, what you do. We really, really are invested here. And thank you so much for writing and we hope we’re helpful. Yeah. If anyone has has anything else to say about this, write us at mom and dad at Slate.com. This, I’m sure, is going to be a recurring topic on the show. Let’s take a quick break and we’ll be right back. Okay. It’s finally time for some recommendations. Elizabeth, what do you think?

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S2: Well, you know, I’m always looking far ahead, trying to prepare for kind of the next thing. And for us, that is summer camp. And I found these very cute summer camp journals and they’re called the best summer camp journal ever. I agree with the name. They are really great. Here’s what I love about them is that they’re not just your regular journal. I mean, they do have like lists your favorite activities about camp. How did you feel today? Lots of pages. It also has pages for you, the parent, to fill out before they get there. So you go ahead and write them a note about camp. It’s definitely geared towards overnight camp, but you could certainly take it to any camp. It also has a place for you to put all of your addresses in there so that they never get lost. And it has fun things like give everybody in your cabin or in your group a superlative and has some, you know, fun examples that are all very kind, very fun. I think it’s just a great way. I think it’s a great way. If you are looking particularly for camp for the first time or you have someone that’s nervous, this is a great way to kind of set them up to record their camp experience, but also send all of those things that you want to send, you know, including some letters like, yes, you’re sending mail, but how great to like have a letter built in. Hey, I wrote this for When You’re Feeling Homesick. Hey, I wrote this for when you’re feeling this way and all those prompts to be there so you don’t have to think about any of that. So anyway, it’s called the best Summer Camp Journal ever. Comes in a variety of colors so you can pick your kids favorite. They look lovely. I can’t wait to give it a try.

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S1: That sounds really cool. You’re just on your shit, Elizabeth. Like you’re thinking about summer camp. But it’s spring just started.

S2: You’re incredible just in this. Don’t worry. There’s plenty of things falling apart around here.

S1: I’m sure there always are, but that’s a great one.

S2: What are you recommending?

S1: So I’ve been thinking a lot about Raffi. This week we’re going to have the host of a new Raffi podcast on our show in the next couple of weeks. And so I’ve just been doing some research and I thought back to this incredible. A story written in New York magazine from 2015 called Finding Raffi. It’s by Sheila Heti. And I don’t know if there’s like long form articles that just always stay with you, but this is one of them, mainly for the lead. Like the first paragraph is something that I’ve thought about a lot since reading it, and that was like seven years ago. So if you are looking to go deeper into Raffi, I think this piece is an amazing place to start and I thought I would read the first paragraph to you. I’m ashamed to admit this, but the main thing I wondered after meeting Raffi, the beloved children’s entertainer. The one man Beatles of my childhood and many childhoods was how often, if ever, he had sex with his grown up fans. That is whether those who had loved him in their childhoods would want to have sex with him now that they were adults. This question came about because I had a moment when we were talking over tomato salad and soda water in a restaurant high up in a hotel overlooking a glittering November, Lake Ontario. And we were discussing whether we would meet up the next day to play backgammon. We share a love of the game. This plan didn’t ultimately come off, but 20 minutes after the topic had passed, while still conducting the interview, the thought flashed through my mind. What would it be like to have sex with Raffi? A tremendous of volts of electricity went through my body and my body said yes. In effect it said Yes, Sheila, you are a pervert. So you should read that whole piece. I mean, she’s incredible. But this is a really intimate, not intimate like they don’t have sex. I’m going to spoiler, but like an intimate look at Rafi. So really good piece. And if you’re going to listen to the podcast, which is also called Finding Raffi, this is a great supplement to it. So we’ll put a link to that in the show notes.

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S2: That sounds amazing. As this interview came up about finding Raffi, I was like thinking about all of the childhood people like this. Of course, we we had finding Fred and, and those kind of influences and thinking like to our kids happy.

S1: I was thinking about the same thing blip that blip you guy.

S2: You have it. I just feel like none of my kids association are with real humans.

S1: You know, maybe it’s like YouTubers now, like there isn’t this monoculture anymore. And so. But I don’t know. I mean, yeah, my daughter’s too young to kind of have an icon.

S2: I was thinking like, are they missing out then on this, like essentially love or infatuation with something they loved and felt comfortable with as children now as adults, you know.

S1: Right, totally. There’s going to be more Raffi coming up on the show in the next couple of weeks. For now. That’s it for our show. We’ll be back in your feeds on Thursday. You can subscribe to our show, so don’t miss it. If you rely on the show for parenting advice, consider signing up for Slate Plus. It’s the best way to support the show. Members will never hear another ad on any other Slate podcast. To sign up now, go to Slate.com, slash mom and dad. Plus again that Slate.com slash mom and dad. Plus, this episode of Mom and Dad are fighting is produced by Rosemary Belson and Jasmine Ellis for Elizabeth Newcamp. I’m Zak Rosen. Thanks for listening.