Discussion: View Thread

Parenting as an Engineer

  • 1.  Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-10-2018 05:17 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-11-2018 10:41 AM

    Happy Mother's Day to all our CE moms! We are celebrating some ASCE moms in ASCENews this week. See their story.

    I thought this was a great time to talk about some of the obstacles engineers encounter when balancing family and career. Let's hear from the dads too. What advice would you give a young parent thinking about starting a family during their civil engineering career?

    Tirza Austin Aff.M.ASCE
    Collaborate Coordinator
    Reston VA

  • 2.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-11-2018 10:04 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-11-2018 10:03 AM
    As a parent and being married for 19 years I have dealt with a lot. Also owning my company adds a lot to it. Never put your work before your family. If the job starts interfering with your personal life taking time away from your spouse or kids, you need to make the change. Personally, I was about to loose my marriage at one point due to the fact that I love to work and was focusing all my time on work and not the family. That was 5 years ago and since I started focusing on family more, things are better. 
    YOU must not put the job before family ever, man or woman. The job will be there tomorrow. If you need more time on a project, do it in the morning. The evenings are for family. Turn off the phone and have an after hours message. 
    Your family is your core, the jobs will come and go. Life may even have you change companies, home or state. Family is there for life, the job will end some day.

    George Miles P.E., M.ASCE
    Alligator Engineering Inc
    New Smyrna Beach FL

  • 3.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-13-2018 08:14 AM
    Excellent advice, George!  I started my CE career before I was married.  And I took for granted the fulfillment I got out of my CE career, which allowed me to get up and go whenever or wherever the opportunity took me, without a care.  Then I got married and stepkids all at the same time, and I went through quite a transition to full understanding that family is for life, and my career can take a backseat.  Unlike medical professionals responding to emergencies, we in the Civil Engineering field can typically foresee challenges (that are not emergencies if someone's life is not on the line) coming up that allow us to spend more time on a project at off-hours that do not disrupt our family life.  But even if we fail to foresee those situations, more times than not it wouldn't matter anyway.  There are those rare occasions that may cost us a little profit, or being awarded a project we've invested time going after... a small price to pay, though, for being committed to family. And, there will always be more opportunities for projects, and if the boss doesn't see it that way, there's always other employers.  I have since started my own consulting business, and my wife and I are now empty-nesters realizing the benefits of those life-priorities I was able to transition to earlier in my career.

    Charlie Marr P.E., M.ASCE
    Charles Marr Consulting
    Whittier, CA

  • 4.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-11-2018 10:05 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-11-2018 10:05 AM
    If at all possible, earn your engineering license before you have kids. You have a lot more options available to you if you have your license, plus it's that much harder to study in the evenings/weekends if you have kids at home.

    Stephanie Slocum P.E., M.ASCE
    Associate Principal
    Hope Furrer Assoc Inc
    State College PA

  • 5.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-11-2018 10:09 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-11-2018 10:08 AM
    My advice is get a tribe of friends who you can support and can support you. When my kids were small and I needed help getting to daycare on time or once they were in school if they were sick and I was out on a job a good distance away, I had several friends who were my back up system. And likewise I made sure to return the favor when needed. Those moms are still very close to my kids. As an owner of a firm I appreciated that we planned ahead for those functions and obligations we know about ahead of time. There is less stress if those can be discussed and planned for. Our family still has a family calendar on google we share and an old fashioned paper one in our kitchen so we can all make sure we have everything covered and now that the kids are older they can enter their information so we are all on the same page. Find a mentor who has raised kids during the formative years of their career. I became a partner of the firm I was at when my son was 6 months old and my daughter was 3. Then I started my own firm when they were 5 and 7 years old. So I know the good, the bad and the downright ugly of balancing career and family. I look at it as a pendulum sometimes it swings too far one way or the other but overall I try to make sure that it doesn't stay for too long on either extreme. I am also very mindful of making sure my kids have seen the good side of my career so they would not view it solely as a competition for my time or a source of stress on the family. I pulled my kids out of school to see the controlled explosive demolition of an old bridge that was taken down after the new structure was opened that I was involved in and took many hours of overtime. They still talk about that experience today. I have also pulled them out for ribbon cutting ceremonies for new projects. So they get excited when they know I am on a project that will result in a special day for them too.  I take them to ASCE events and they know many of my ASCE family. Just be kind to yourself as a parent and remember to avoid any extremes. We are all doing the best we can. Happy Mother's Day and next month Happy Father's Day to all our fellow civil engineers out there!!!

    Marsia Geldert-Murphey P.E., F.ASCE
    Chief Operating Officer
    Jim Taylor Inc
    Belleville IL

  • 6.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-11-2018 10:45 AM
    My advice would be: Family is worth it. The "happiness" you will find in your career pales in comparison to the joy in raising a family. Having a family to share your successes and failures adds life to your career and makes it something that is worth doing. 

    Prioritize your family and spend time with your spouse and children and, yes, even your extended family if you have them. Life, and especially a career, is empty without the relationships we share with loved ones. I've never regretted for a moment the choice to prioritize time with my family over a "more exciting" (read: more demanding and time consuming) career.

    Luke Antonich P.E., M.ASCE
    Gillette, WY

  • 7.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-11-2018 10:47 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-11-2018 10:46 AM
    ​I actually took the PE nine months pregnant with my first child.  I think the proctors thought the stress of the exam might put me into early labor. :) 

    Best advice I could give any working mom, engineer or not, is look for a company that has a good family vibe.

    Nancy Hayes P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Manager
    El Paso TX

  • 8.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-11-2018 02:17 PM
    I knew I wanted to be a civil engineer before my husband and I met at school, but I also always wanted a family. And the two were never mutually exclusive in my mind. When we were dating, even before our engagement, we talked honestly with each other about career and family. You can never be fully prepared for children, but you can have the conversations to fool yourself into think that you are! In the long run, it was those deep, sometimes painful conversations that meant there were few surprises when we actually did have a child, then another.

    When I started down the path of ASCE leadership involvement, I didn't make that decision in a bubble. My husband and I both gained our licensure, me my PE and he his RA, when there were children in the house. My daughter was three when I passed my test, and 7 when my husband passed all his, only we had an 18 month old son as well! It took a lot of balancing and having each other's backs to study and work towards those goals. It's something that now we have to work out when there are deadlines, or travels that take me out of town/state. And it's something that I try to show my kids is worthwhile to me, and makes me a more balanced individual. It's showing them that I love them, but I also have a certain degree of passion for my career. Plus it helps to have a three month look ahead dry erase calendar board in our kitchen!

    Lastly, I have been very fortunate to have women role models all around me. They drive me to do more and be more. Find those women in your company, and learn from them. They will help guide you through any of the challenges you face.

    Tzufit Boyle P.E., F.ASCE
    Water Resources Engineer
    Boynton Beach FL

  • 9.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-12-2018 08:00 AM
    Instead of balancing career and family concurrently, I would advise sequencing.  In my experience, you can't be at the top of your game in both at the same time. 

    As DINKs, my husband and I agreed that when we started a family, one of us would stay home.  His career was on a better trajectory when our first baby arrived, so I hung it up.  5 years later I re-connected with my former employer and worked part-time from home for a minimal amount of hours just to keep my foot in the door while remaining a full-time stay-at-home mom.  Fortunately there was no continuing education requirement at the time in the state we resided, so I just paid the renewal fee to keep up my P.E.  3 years after that, we had an unexpected role reversal when my husband became a stay-at-home dad and I went back to work in the office full time.  In another unexpected twist 10 years later, both of us became employed with kids still at home.   

    Of the four combinations described above:
    • The highest degree of life satisfaction was the stay-at-home-mom years.  It was a privilege to take care of my family in this way.  
    • The best and most rapid career advancement was during the years when my husband stayed home.  I was able to dedicate long, intense hours of concentration at my job knowing he was managing the home front.  My performance was rewarded with many promotions and opportunities. 
    • The most challenging has been our current situation - both working with kids at home.  Family life has never been worse. We are unable to meet everyone's needs effectively.  Our productivity at work suffers when we are worried about what's not getting done at home. 
    If you can live near extended family, do it.  We have never lived in the same town as our parents and siblings, but that might have helped.

    Jeanne L. Finger, PE, PMP
    Senior Engineer
    City of Spokane Water & Hydroelectric Services
    Spokane, WA

  • 10.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-13-2018 07:16 PM
    This is a topic on which there is no universal truth.  What is right for one family isn't necessarily right for all.  As much as I love my children, I needed (and still need) the social and intellectual outlet that my work provides.  A five year hiatus would not have worked for me.

    My husband and I raised three now adult children - each an amazing person in his or her own way - with both of us working full time, except for maternity leave after our first was born, and periods during which we alternated staying home after placement of the two children we adopted.  "Parenting for us was always a shared responsibility, something I believe is key.  Early on, we established a routine in which I left for work early and my husband got our child(ren) off to daycare and later school. I would pick the kids up and get dinner on the table in time for them to make evening soccer practice.  At one point, when the after school program proved to be a bad fit for my older son, I shifted my work schedule even earlier, so that he could come home directly after school. 

    We both had enough flexibility in our jobs that at least one of us could always arrange to stay home with a sick child, attend a school awards program, chaperone a field trip or be the "helping parent" at the cooperative preschool they all attended, of coach a soccer team. If one of us had a special situation at work, or business travel, the other would adjust.  Sometime, "adjusting" meant using a few hours of vacation time to make "solo parent duty" a little more manageable.

    In fairness, another factor that made this work for us was our daycare arrangement.  When looking for daycare for our older son, we had the good fortune to select a daycare arrangement with a woman who, along with her daughter, we now think of as part of our family (to the extent that she has a standing invitation to all holiday dinners, vacationed with us last year, and will be joining us for dinner today).  She cared for all three of our children in her home until they started kindergarten, and the provided before and after school care in our home when our daughter started kindergarten.  We are all better for having gotten to know her, and being exposed to her heritage as a first generation immigrant and naturalized citizen.

  • 11.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-18-2018 04:01 PM
    I think it is important to ask about work/life balance when interviewing for a job. I am single and wanted to be a foster parent and knew that I couldn't work long hours or travel frequently. One construction company looked confused when I asked about work/life balance and said there was one employee in another office that only worked 40 hours a week. Not a good sign!

    I took a pay cut for the job I have now with the local government, but they are understanding, allow me to be flexible and I can be home every evening to spend time with my little girl.

    Dana Brosig A.M.ASCE
    Grand Junction CO


  • 12.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-21-2018 10:31 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-21-2018 10:31 AM
    I am enjoying all the different and valid perspectives on this important topic .  My early days were busy climbing the professional organization ladder at the local level.  I married and all the best plans in the world to start a family on our schedule found us finally expecting our first child after five years.  Planning is great but nature doesn't always follow your plan.  My next pregnancy followed almost the same course.  My third came along two years later.  I launched my own company when my daughter (the third child) was six weeks old.  

    I made the decision to pursue harmony and not balance.  When I was with my children, my goal was to be very present!  They predate smartphones so I know that is more challenging now but there were plenty of distractions back then too, just different kinds.  From the earliest days, I taught my children what behavior was expected in different circumstances and that made it easy to bring them with me on many of my business trips and conferences.  They have seen many parts of this country and many parts of the world because of this investment.  Sometimes I brought along a friend to help when I was in meetings - sometimes guests of others at the meeting offered to help.  My children have friends around the country and the world because of these experiences.

    I also defined the rules for my company that allowed all employees a lot of flexibility as long as they met their professional obligations in a timely fashion to the highest standards.  We were family friendly before that was a thing!  This allowed me flexibility as well and I had the chance to be very engaged in all of my children's activities.

    Admittedly, I am a very high energy person and always have been so perhaps my story is not typical but hopefully there are nuggets that everyone can find and apply to their own experience.

    Marsha Anderson Bomar AICP, F.ASCE
    Duluth GA
    (770)449-6542 EXT 104

  • 13.  RE: Parenting as an Engineer

    Posted 05-23-2018 03:56 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 05-23-2018 03:56 PM
    Dear Marsha, 

    Your description is very correct and impressive. Is this why children grow up to be what their father or mother professionally were? In your case, your children would definitely channel their profession toward engineering; you being their idle.

    Ala Al-Kazzaz C.Eng, M.ASCE
    Procurement Consultant
    World Bank
    Holly Springs NC