Our family is lead by two strong type A personalities. We are dual-career executives in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. We are busy, active, and driven in all areas of our life. Our family reflects that. We sit on multiple not-for-profit boards, run a family scholarship, and are creating a charity.
We have two daughters from my (the mom) first marriage, aged 26 and 19. We have a daughter from Brad’s (the dad) prior relationship, aged 11. And we have an 8-year-old from this marriage. The complexities abound with our eldest recently diagnosed and wrestling with a long-term disease. The 19-year-old in her second year in a college apartment and roommate troubles. The 11-year-old splits time with her mom (who is an awesome co-parent) but lives 60 minutes away. And our intellectually advanced 8-year-old who skipped a grade and is running the entire household. Not to mention all of the activities, lessons, and dr. appts all of these people have to attend.
Meanwhile, we, me, thought it would be fun to write and launch a book. The book is a foundation for my final career, once I retire from the pharma industry. Launching a book is not just the writing, it is the publishing and marketing work that makes the difference between success and dud. We built a company, website, newsletter, and media platforms. Most of this was done with fabulous marketing and publishing partners, without whom nothing would be done.
The challenges are many and cannot be diminished. Our biggest challenges lie in the coordination and scheduling of our entire life, deciding how to parent our brood of children, all with different needs; and how to make sure we are honoring our marriage and time together while taking care of ourselves. Coordination of the calendar is massive and is a concerted effort. We use a series of tools to keep ourselves on task and abreast of all of the moving parts. We have calendars everywhere, a family calendar provides visibility to big activities, and we discuss the schedule constantly. We also have a nanny, recently hired, she manages the kid’s activities, she helps Brad and I fill in the gaps for childcare coverage. Her help is invaluable and our life would be a mad disaster without her help.
The parenting approach challenge is real, and there is no quick fix to this issue. Brad and I are not experts, but we do have a commitment to the marriage and each other. We are committed to working together, discussing our issues, and attempting to align on an approach that fits the needs of everyone. The eldest with the health issues present a range of trials that we were not prepared, nor planned for. We are learning as we go and we get help. There is help from the plethora of doctors and we get help through therapy. We go to therapy, individually and as a family, as needed. We have had support from family members and friends. The healthcare issues come on top of all of the routine parenting problems. Each one of our children is at a different age, different stages of development, and has a different set of needs and experiences. Adjusting our approach to meet the needs of the child and agree upon an approach with each other takes constant discussion and revisiting. It could not be done if we did not have the foundation of an unshakable dedication to each other and our marriage, without this the whole thing would unravel quickly.
The challenge of taking care of our marriage cannot be diminished. We invest time and effort into this institution, unlike anything in our lives. It is our number one priority, without it, the family does not exist. This is a second marriage for both of us and we make sure to care for the marriage. We take time for us. We schedule weekends away, overnights, and date nights. We even sneak in a few hours here-and-there together. This can be something as simple as running errands and getting lunch, or sitting at our local pub for an hour and a half while the kids are at gymnastics. We communicate constantly and if someone is not communicating, the other draws it out of them. We also use mechanisms to disarm the other, funny phrases or habits, that let the other person know that there are love and joy to be had and it is better to let go of any anger or frustration.
How else do we cope? We have and get help as we need. We do not try to do it all. We openly communicate with each other and our kids. We take a vacation, rest and refresh, both as a family and as a couple. Are we the best at this? No, but we are doing our best. If we were to give advice it would be three things;
1) build a foundation of commitment
2) communicate, communicate, communicate
3) know when you need help.
If you do these things you are at least in it together and know that you have someone partnering with you in this lifetime, doing the best you can to love, care for, and raise this family.