Watching the world change, part 2

Yesterday, we posted part one of our follow-up interview with Laura Rodriguez' mom, Judy. As promised, here's part two.

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4word: Laura also mentioned that in Houston "there was a significant judgment on women who didn't stay home." Can you tell us more about that? How did you handle the situation?

Judy: As new parents, you think the early years are the most critical. However, some of the more demanding times are in a child’s teenage years, where so many things are changing for her. Your role shifts from meeting physical needs to a more critical emotional support role.  During this time, the mother’s generally more nurturing role is important and should not be underestimated.

As Laura entered this phase, I was able to move from an international job in the Northeast to a domestic job in Houston that significantly reduced my travel time.  By that time, our youngest son was also born, and I needed to slow down.

But the commute was long, and I still struggled to get home for extracurricular events. At the same time, other mothers in that community were more readily available and actively engaged. The church in Houston provided a strong foundation for our family, and we were fortunate enough to hire a full-time nanny who stayed with us for 12 years. My aging parents eventually moved into the same community, which provided more extended family support.

I tried to stay involved through Sunday school and scouting in the earlier years.  My job was eventually moved to the DC area in Laura’s senior year, and Laura stayed behind with her Dad to finish school. With our younger son, the challenges were even greater as we continued to move: three more times during his middle and high school years with two in overseas locations involving heavier traveling assignments. To manage, my husband was able to play a stronger support role. I found these time periods of life to be the most challenging. They were also when divine guidance was the most critical.

4word: Knowing how to set and maintain boundaries between "work" and "love" is an important but difficult topic for our readers. Can you tell us how you managed to set boundaries in your career so that you could be there for your family as well?

Judy: We tend to think our life will be perfect when the perfect job is clinched and the perfect family created. But these worlds often conflict, forcing us to draw lines in the sand based upon changing priorities.

It is easy to say that family always comes first, but this is quickly tested when facing a job change or promotion that will disrupt the home front. Then you start negotiating with yourself and sometimes with God: “But I am doing this for the sake of the family in the long run.”

Sometimes you do not know if you are doing the right thing until later. This is where faith becomes a critical factor. Often we believe we can do things on our own, based upon our own logic. After all, we are “smart people!”

But life is not like tackling a work project. It’s full of many forks in the road, each one requiring consideration for your work, your kids and your spouse. My best advice is to let God help you to set those boundaries, praying for discernment when that line blurs, as it will many times over the course of your career.

4word: Looking back, what's one thing that you wish you had known/been told at the beginning of your career?

Judy: Take time for yourself – physically, emotionally, and most importantly, spiritually with prayer and dedication. If you are centered, you can better serve your family, and the “right” decisions become clearer.

Second, be confident. “Having it all” is relative, but once you decide what “it” means to you, then be confident in your decision. If you are pursuing a full time career, don’t be afraid to speak up for support at work and beyond. Use your extended network, pay the extra money to get help at home or use the latest technology.

Women support groups also provide valuable reference points. Though the challenges in raising a family are still the same, women have more choices and support aids today. Use them! I wish I had that early confidence and support; it would have made that elusive balance much easier to maintain.