Meet the couples that are doing it rightPaying the bills, getting the kids where they need to be, having a strong partnership—it can make even the most put-together woman on the planet want to throw up her hands every once in a while. Here are four modern examples of truly creative problem-solving.
... And mom makes four
Name: Kate Meacham
Location: St. Louis
Family info:Husband Mark, 36; son Logan, 2; mother Janet Williams, 61
Spouse’s occupation:CEO and mechanical engineer
Taking stock: I spent my 20s working toward becoming a doctor who also does clinical research, and both my husband and I always planned to work full-time. Before Logan was born, Mark and I figured that we’d hire a nanny, but after a week of seeing the way my mom cared for him—she had this gentle way of holding him sideways that always calmed him down—we started to wonder whether she should move in. My mom had always been great at running a household, but I was skeptical: Would I get frustrated if she tried to mother me? We agreed to try it for one year and then reevaluate.
This isn't working: The most challenging part of the living situation was figuring out when and how to create boundaries and maintain privacy. I would also get frustrated when I’d come home after work and she’d do the typical mother hen thing, asking me a million questions, like, “I noticed that you joined a gym—does that mean you’re starting a new workout regimen?” And we bickered over what to make for dinner—she thinks a meal isn’t a meal without meat, but we’re okay going vegetarian sometimes.
More from MSN Living: The reality of being a working mom
The new normal:One day when I found out that she got up to care for Logan in the middle of the night so I could sleep, it finally dawned on me that my mom was doing these things out of love—and I’m so grateful I get this second chance to have a close relationship with her. I called on some advice that was given to me by a colleague who had raised her son as a single mother. She said that as long as you're creative and flexible, you can always make it work. When something isn’t working with my mom as the caretaker, I use my professional training as a doctor to analyze the problem and then work with her to come up with a fix. Through persistence, we’ve agreed upon household rules, such as no surprise visits to our bedroom after 8 p.m. To counter dinner battles, we’ve created a family cookbook with meals everyone likes. And instead of asking me a million questions when I walk in the door, my mom gives me a half hour to decompress. In the end, the fixes worked out—we’ve all settled in nicely. Mom even sends me daily anecdotes, pictures, and videos of Logan while I’m at work. It's great to have someone else taking care of him who I know is as crazy about him as I am.
A bad time to get laid off
Name: Erin Meijer
Location: Huntington, NY
Family info:Husband DJ, 29; son Benjamin, 17 months
Occupation:Social media manager for a global asset management company
Spouse’s occupation:Stay-at-home dad, part-time youth soccer coach
Taking stock: When DJ and I found out we were pregnant, we decided he would stay home, since his job required a lot of travel and mine could more easily float us financially. We figured that we were set, but nine weeks into my maternity leave, I was laid off. When I broke the news to my husband, I was post-partum, hormonal, and crying so hysterically that he thought that someone had died. I was stressed about how we’d make ends meet, since we were in the middle of a terrible recession and I knew that finding a new job wouldn’t be easy. I was also so exhausted from being up all night with Benjamin that I didn’t have the mental energy to update my résumé and network, yet without my salary, we couldn’t cover our expenses.
This isn't working:After about four months, I did land a new job, but it requires me to commute 1 hour and 45 minutes each way to and from Manhattan. Moving closer to the city isn’t an option since it would be more expensive (plus we’d lose money if we sold our house now), and we don’t want to move away from my mom, who lives in our town and helps in a pinch. In the end, we decided that readjusting our financial expectations would be the only way to make it work. I began clipping coupons, bringing my coffee to work, and cutting back on buying new shoes. And we refinanced our mortgage at a lower interest rate, which ended up saving us over $500 a month. Though initially I was worried we’d feel too crunched financially, these tweaks have given us the breathing room that we so desperately desired.
The new normal:The only downside to all of this is that it’s a struggle for us to make enough time for each other, but we make it a priority and do things that are totally free. For example, we love taking trips to the park, walking on the beach, and walking around our neighborhood. We even make time for a date night once a week while Grandma watches Ben—right now that involves playing co-ed beach volleyball together. I am grateful for the bond that my husband is forging with our son, and know that he is teaching our son how to be as good of a man as he is.
Parenting in shifts
Name: Melanie Butterworth
Location: Chicopee, MA
Family info:Husband James, 34; Harper and James, 10-month-old twins
Spouse’s occupation:Supervisor at a residential home for troubled teens
Taking stock: I initially didn't think I was going to go back to work for a long time after having my twins. My husband's nighttime job provides frequent overtime, so it was financially possible, and we share a two-family house with my parents, who had offered to help whenever we needed them. I thought the plan was great, but was surprised when I developed post-partum depression after the babies were born.
This isn't working:Taking care of twins was more than a full-time job, and I was exhausted, cranky, and missing adult interaction. During the first three months, one of them was up at every single point throughout the night, so I barely slept. I was breast-feeding constantly. I also felt confined to the house, in general, because they hated being in their car seats and strollers, so whenever I’d try to drive them somewhere, like the mall, they’d cry hysterically. And then I’d start crying, because I felt so helpless. I would stay home in my pajamas with no makeup on all day and feel sorry for myself. After those difficult three months, I realized that I wanted to go back to work two afternoons a week simply to get out of the house and have some time to myself for a few hours.
The new normal:Even though we’re sort of trading shifts, our schedule means that we don't have to put the babies in daycare and I actually get to see James a lot. I took Zoloft for a few months, which helped a bit with my post-partum depression. I also found a mommy playgroup in my area when the twins were about seven months old that has completely changed my life. Getting out of the house and talking with other women, along with meeting new baby friends for the twins, has made a world of difference. Both James and I were pretty fit before the twins came, so we made an effort to get back to the gym after the babies were about six months old. That has helped immensely with both our physical and emotional well-being. Raising twins is still a daily challenge—and poor James keeps such odd hours that he gets only about three full nights of sleep—and they're expensive. The other day I was shopping and really wanted to buy a pair of headphones, but I held back because money is tight. But we take pleasure in the little things, like the fact that our babies now sleep through the night and can smile, laugh, and cuddle with us—feeling the love come back from them is so rewarding.
Bullying hit close to home
Name: Kimberly Galberaith
Location: Teaneck, NJ
Family info:Partner Jodi Capeless, 47; daughter Grace, 9; son Jack, 7
Occupation:COO of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, a nonprofit
Partner’s occupation:Stay-at-home mom
Taking stock:Jodi and I have been together for 22 years—we had a civil union on our 16th anniversary, and are now waiting for New Jersey to legalize gay marriage. We had always wanted to be parents, and eventually decided to adopt kids. But life hasn’t always been easy for them, since they’re adopted, biracial (they have Caucasian moms and African-American dads), and have gay parents.
This isn't working:There have been some moments that have been pretty heartbreaking. Once when Grace was 5, a kid on the playground said to her, “I don’t want to play with you because you have brown skin.” She let the comment roll off her back, but I had to have a chat with the child’s father, who made the girl apologize. I was shocked that in this day and age there is still prejudice. Another time, in second grade, a girl asked Grace, “How come you have two moms? It’s weird.” Grace replied, “Actually, it’s really cool, and I know you’re just jealous because my family is unique.”
The new normal: When Jodi and I found out about this, our hearts skipped a beat, but we took that moment to tell our kids, “You guys are so lucky, because it’s not just the two of us that love you, but also your birth families.” It was all we could really think to say given that something similar is more likely than not to happen again. Luckily, Grace has turned out to be a tough kid with a thick skin. We live in a socially liberal location—in fact, we call our neighborhood the “gayborhood” because we know 12 couples in this area that are gay, half of whom also have kids. Our families don’t live nearby (my relatives are in Florida and Jodi’s are in Massachusetts), so our friends have become our family. We babysit for each other, and none of the adults judge us, which is a good reminder for our kids that things do get better. Jodi was even PTA president at the kids’ preschool. We love to do weird, random, fun things together as a family. We go to Renaissance festivals. We ride scooters. We have our own personal Thanksgiving Day parade around the gayborhood—the four of us will dress up in crazy costumes (ball gowns, turkey hats, etc.) and march around with balloons. We think it’s important to have a sense of humor and teach our kids not to take themselves too seriously.
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