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Parents - How do you do it?

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  • Parents - How do you do it?

    So it might be more appropriate to have this in Off Course, but I'm really looking for people who ride competitively in my discipline.

    My husband and I are discussing whether and when to have children. We're getting stuck on the logistics of child care. We both work full time as attorneys, and I have a serious horse habit. I have my horses boarded at a larger show barn. None of the people I ride with can serve as role models for doing the kid, job, horse thing. They either don't have kids, did the horse thing after the kids were older, or have one spouse who doesn't work (full time). My husband does not believe that it is possible for both of us to work, me to ride competitively, and us to have children. I sincerely hope he isn't right.

    So, I'm coming here for support. I'm looking for people who have babies/toddlers/youngsters, work full time, and still ride and show. Are you out there? If so, please tell me how you do it. What sort of jobs do you and your spouse have? How do you handle child care? Riding (how often)? Showing? What have you had to sacrifice to have kids?

  • #2
    I'm not going to lie to you-- it is not easy. Sometimes, it is impossible.

    I am a freelancer, and work out of a home office. I have two kids, aged 6 and 2. My husband works in healthcare and generally works long hours.

    Here is what I have learned-- the hard way, by making a lot of mistakes-- in the last 6 years:

    1. Make sure you are boarding at a great barn where you don't have to worry about care

    2. Make sure you have a good, solid pro to work with whom you like and trust

    3. Make sure you have a horse you really enjoy, and that can take a joke, helps. Example, some weeks I can ride 4x, sometimes I don't ride for 2 weeks straight. Very helpful if horsey can tolerate that without losing its marbles...

    4. Having the option to put the horse into partial or full training is a very good thing, especially if it is young or green

    I think it helps if you have expendable income to pay for training, pro help, and babysitters. That has been tough for me-- while I can afford board at a good facility, I don't have a lot left over for pro rides, lessons, clinics, etc. I also have never been able to shell out a good chunk for a horse that is really nice and made, so I've mucked around with projects on the cheap and in the end only gone in circles, or backwards!

    Also if you can get creative with your schedule-- you are ok riding early in the morning, or late at night.

    Having a supportive spouse is probably the biggest piece to the puzzle!!! You need a partner who realizes that parenting is a 50/50 gig. You also need to be willing to let your partner have time to pursue their own hobbies/interests (which, may cut into your own riding/showing time.)

    There ARE people who can and do show and ride regularly, and even heavily. I just wanted to give you a realistic perspective, as it can definitely be challenging at times.
    We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


    • #3
      Well it was like 100 years ago now but yes, I worked full-time, ended up having two kids and continued to ride and show, very occasionally. I did more schooling shows and 2, sometime 3 recognized shows a year. I kept my horses at home, showing and focusing my time on one (others were youngstock). I worked for the veterinary pharamaceutical industry which was the greatest change I made in order to have kids - relatively normal hours, decent pay, and no on-call duty. I rode at night, met my husband at a training barn once a week to take lessons (he'd get my daughter from me and leave me the truck/trailer/horse) and rode on the weekends. It was difficult, lots of juggling and sometimes resentment from my spouse because of all the babysitting he had to do. As the kids got older, I rode more and was gone more. I transitioned my job from an office and travel position to working out of the house for the company after I had two kids which allowed me more flexibility. Eventually I became a consultant, instructor and relief vet to make ends meet and continue to maintain the flexibility of hours to be able to ride. Big, big key for me other than a helpful spouse was lights. Every place we owned had an arena with lights so I could ride at night after the kids were put to bed.
      Ranch of Last Resort


      • #4
        I have not done it myself - I "acquired" a kid (then age 9) when I married my DH, which is certainly not the same as managing a baby or toddler - but for the first few years, while I was able to ride, showing competitively was really out of the question until we hired a nanny (who was originally hired for the summer, as SS needed to be cared for during the day when both DH and I were at work, but became such a godsend that we kept her on even after he went back to school in the fall.)

        The other women I know who continued to show competitively while managing small kids and careers *all* had household help. (I am sure there are women out there who manage without that - but I don't know any.)

        If you are in a position to have some help, I think it is very possible to continue riding and showing (and for your DH to do whatever he likes in terms of hobbies as well.) Hopefully your DH does not expect you to give up your horses to be the one to perform the majority of the childcare (?) while he goes merrily along with his current schedule...
        We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


        • #5
          Wow, that's a tough question! You've gotten good advice so far. Basically you need to accept that it won't be the same and you will have to make some sacrifices and maybe lower your expectations and goals.

          One thing that has not been brought up is the emotional toll it sometimes takes. Not that it will be this way for you, but I wish someone would have warned me about how difficult it can be to deal with the guilt of chosing the horse over your child sometimes. Feeling that way along with the friction that commonly arises in the marriage (you going to 'play') can leave you feeling quite alone and guilty, among other mixed feelings.

          The above along with the fact that many moms, including myself, don't always have the energy at the end/beginning of the day for anything else. You will get less sleep and your days will be more demanding...without the horse in the mix.

          I still ride, but at a much lower level, no out of town or all weekend shows or all weekend clinics, and I traded in the sporty model for an ammy friendly fjord.

          My bottom line: there aren't many who ride in this stage of life bc it's that hard to do. It's entirely possible, but both parties need to be ok with some sacrifice tower in the middle and find balance.


          • #6
            Um I had no household help. We discussed it but my husband didn't really feel comfortable with it. He watched the kids when I fed, took care of the horses and rode. Neither of us had relatives close by nor friends with kids. Both of my kids learned early on to nap in the back pack when I would hold horses for the farrier, how to entertain themselves in their play pen that I would set it up with cover on one end of the arena, and of course how to play quietly at one end of the arena (sand is wonderful to little boys with tonka trucks) while I rode. I was considered selfish by many. Those first few years with kids (moved when daughter was 7 and son was 4) and horses were really tough but we managed and even collected a few ribbons and awards. When we moved here, where my parents live, it did become easier. My parents were willing to help with horse care and babysitting. It was like night and day. The plus side to it all - my kids both ride and are into horses (16 & 19 now); horses have been well equipped to handle bikes, stollers, basketball games, volleyball games (have courts for both in the yard), loud music, etc; and they help out with chores. Since having children I've earned scores for bronze and silver............the other "key" I didn't mention is that I don't sleep. Seriously, I have terrible insomnia so I figure I might as well do something productive if I can't sleep - be it work, clean the house, ride, clean tack....the list never ends.
            Ranch of Last Resort


            • #7
              ...forgot to share the positive...you will have a child!!! I know it's hard to imagine, actually impossible until you're a mom, but it's most amazing blessing you will ever experience Being sane helps you enjoy it even more, which is where riding can come in, provided the above guidelines are realized


              • #8
                Exvet, I've heard about diehards like you, lol! Seriously though, I was planning on attacking riding the same way you did, but I learned I'm just not that type. Could have had something to do with the fact that my little one had serious reflux (constant fussing and feeding) along with chronic ear infections (more fussing but NOT eating). I wish I could have done more with my daughter nearby vs always having to be hands on trying to keep her comfortable, but each child is different and that's the reality a parent needs to be willing to accept.


                • #9
                  How many hours do you spent at work/commuting during the week? How many hours do you spend at the barn every week? How many hours of sleep do you need to get every week? When you add all that up, how many hours are left?

                  If you have children, you will need full-time daycare to cover the baby/child for all your work/commute hours. Most daycares close at 6 or 7, so you or hubby will have to be home by then, or you will have to hire a nanny. You will presumably need a sitter for the weekends.

                  You will be freakin' exhausted and torn by guilt over whether you should be working, with your child, with your horse, or with your husband. That's a given. (But it's not a dealbreaker for everyone; some people can deal with the exhaustion as "the price to pay.")

                  If you have children, you might find that you want to be around more than you had thought, to enjoy the darling baby stage, and the wonderful discovery stage of the toddler/preschool years, and the fun of the school-age kid, and then there are the horrid days when babies/children are whiny and you just are stuck with them even thoug it ruins your whole plan for the day; meanwhile birthday parties are starting as are after-school activities and sports, and maybe you want to go to museums or parks or playgrounds on the weekends, or attend a kid's soccer game or gymnastics meet, and then when they're school age you will definitely need a nanny or an after-school program and a chauffeur if you're still both working full-time. Somone has to get everyone up in the morning, pack lunches, have groceries on hand or or pick up take-out for dinner for people too young to fend for themselves, check homework, read the notes and instructions that come home from school, and read to the kidlet/tuck them in at night, then wash out lunchboxes and repack backpacks with gloves/hats, folders, lunch, etc. Unless your spouse is totally on board, things could get tense. Even if your spouse is totally on board, you are likely to have no time for the spouse, or will be too tired to deal with the spouse or your children, on many nights.

                  I don't think it's possible unless you hire another "mom" to do the parenting stuff and work and ride competitively. If you have the resources to hire a wonderful full-time nanny, I think that would be the way to go. Otherwise, I don't know how you'd pull it off. Just one opinion, of course.


                  • #10
                    While many women balance careers/kids/hobbies, I think you have to look at YOUR career, and YOUR hobby. Are you 9-5, or like so many lawyers (especially women), do you put in 10+ hr days, plus commute? Can your horse habit survive with significantly less time? Or do you have disposable income to keep the horse going when you're busy with the kid, or keep the kid cared for while busy with the horse?


                    • #11
                      I'm an attorney, too, and my husband has a pretty hgh level job with a company.

                      Quite honestly, I found it nearly impossible to be a partner at a big firm and be the parent I wanted to be. (And I wasn't *also* trying to maintain a serious horse hobby!) I could go into more detail, but suffice to say that if you try to "outsource" most of your parenting to a nanny or day care, you probably won't enjoy your kids or your job. And there will be an unbelievable number of "emergencies" that are very stressful--sick kids, sick nanny, day care holidays, school vacations, etc.

                      I ended up cutting back to part-time and then contract work. I have time to go to the barn several times a week--for my daughter now, not myself.

                      Everyone is different, so you may find your life works differently. I will say, my kids are BY FAR the most rewarding, meaningful, important, wonderful thing in my life, so I'm glad I took that leap of faith even though at one time I thought I didn't want to make the "sacrifices" needed to have kids.

                      Good luck making the right decision for you.


                      • #12

                        Board close to home!

                        Get in and get out! No chit chat or long lessons. Show up, saddle up, and ride. The shorter you make your visits the more of them you can make it seems The fam will let you if they dont have to be 5 hours long each time!

                        Three days a week is PLENTY if you have someone to turn out or they are 24/7 turn out.

                        Things suffer like grooming and extra hacks but otherwise you can manage it.

                        Try just sticking to one horse, spreading your time out will overwhelm you.

                        I try and do weekend rides during nap time
                        ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                        • #13
                          I'm going to say that your husband is right.

                          Now I'm going to tell you how you will go about making it work. You'll have to figure out if these are things you can do.

                          1. Money helps. You can have the horses in full care, you can have a trainer ride a couple of days a week, you can find a good childcare provider. You can afford to get takeout every night and to have a gardener and perhaps someone come in to clean. That makes a ton of difference. It will cost you thousands of dollars, though, money that you may or may not have.

                          2. If you and your husband work for the same firm, that will either be a huge help in flexibility or a huge liability as you both have busy crush times at the same time... while the child is fussing and wants someone to play with. I've been in both circumstances.

                          3. As the kid gets older, the need for your time will wax and wane. I am finding that my daughter needed less of my time in the 7-11 age range but now that she's hitting teenage years she needs more again.

                          4. Your husband can take the kid sometimes - but he needs downtime too, and he will want to spend time with you as well.

                          5. If you can pay a trainer to keep your horse fit and tuned, you can keep yourself fit with off-horse kid-compatible activity. So you may become one of those people who rides a couple of times a week and arrives to ride at the show. If you can afford it, that can actually work.

                          6. If you have family or friends nearby with kids of similar ages, that I suspect would be hugely helpful. I didn't.

                          One thing for sure is that having kids means you give up some control over your life. Your child will need more of your time at various points and it won't necessarily be predicable or negotiable. When I was pregnant, I was riding and then one day my body told me I couldn't any more... it just left me exhausted.

                          I used to show and compete regularly... post kid, I do not. However, we probably wouldn't have bought a horse property if not for the kid, and there are other enjoyable things that I do. I regret not being able to ride and show more, but I also enjoy some of the doors opened by being a parent.

                          I have not given up my identity as a competitive rider. I still make it to a couple of shows a year and I still have dreams of progressing to the upper levels some day. My time and resources right now allow me to practice dressage but not really to develop new skill.

                          I am fortunate; I am a computer professional and I have flexible hours and employers/clients who value whatever time I give them. I thus can move some of my work time to evenings to preserve more daytime for my child and my horses. However, I do need sleep too.

                          So there it is: unless you have hours of free time a day in your current schedule... it won't magically appear when kids arrive. Kids eat time, money, and mental energy. But, obviously you have some desire for a child, and that's good too. It may be that this would be the time for kids and that you'd do more with horses again later. Or it may be that there's another job out there for you that would allow you to cut hours back to get riding time that way.

                          I have to add that it's pretty fun watching your child pop over crossrails at her first little horse show.
                          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                          • #14
                            A couple of articles for you:



                            These articles are not horse-related, but about career/life balance for professional women.
                            If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks for those articles Poltroon. I've read Slaughter's article, and I actually went to a Continuing Legal Education event where it was the focus. They had a panel discussion from attorneys in various positions discussing how they did it. My friends and I came away very discouraged because there was only one woman on the panel who didn't have a full time (or more) nanny or a husband who worked only part time. And that one woman had just come back from maternity leave and didn't have much to offer yet. More discouraging were the women with grown children who talked about how they were able to have it all, but then further into the discussion, you learned about all the problems their children had (the one woman shouldn't have even been on the panel since she sent her children away to a boarding school, but I digress).

                              I appreciate all of your insight. Until we pay off our student loans (5 more years!), we won't have the disposable income to hire much help. If I found a pasture in which to retire my pony, that would free up a lot of income to have support help at the barn. We were both at larger firms. A year ago, I took a job with a judge. My hours are now 9-5, but I took a 50% pay cut. The eternal catch 22; I now have enough time to ride but not enough money to show much.

                              What I have learned from you guys so far is that I need to hire exvet to come help me.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by OhioRiderEsq View Post
                                T More discouraging were the women with grown children who talked about how they were able to have it all, but then further into the discussion, you learned about all the problems their children had (the one woman shouldn't have even been on the panel since she sent her children away to a boarding school, but I digress).

                                I appreciate all of your insight. Until we pay off our student loans (5 more years!), we won't have the disposable income to hire much help. If I found a pasture in which to retire my pony, that would free up a lot of income to have support help at the barn. We were both at larger firms. A year ago, I took a job with a judge. My hours are now 9-5, but I took a 50% pay cut. The eternal catch 22; I now have enough time to ride but not enough money to show much.
                                You've hit the nail on the head here yourself-- you just CANNOT have it all. It's a myth.

                                Something always has to be sacrificed. So you decide what sacrifices work for you. And you will probably have to make several. Hubby can and should do the same, so that everyone achieves some sort of balance. (Cause you will hate him if his life remains unchanged while yours undergoes a massive upheaval, and like I said, parenting is 50/50.)

                                It might mean you work part-time, but then don't have the money to show... but you do still get to ride. Or you work full-time, but the horse in full training and the kid in daycare, and you get to show but not ride as regularly. Or whatever.

                                Anyway good luck, it is worth talking/sorting through these things before bambino comes along...

                                But yeah the whole "Women can have/do it all!" story is such BS and frankly all it has done is hinder us and make us crazy....
                                We couldn't all be cowboys, so some of us are clowns.


                                • #17
                                  I have 2 horses that I showed last year, and my daughter is now almost 2. It was the hardest year of my life since I also changed jobs that I had to travel quite a bit to go to many trainings. That being said I rode and competed both of mine at Regional Championships. I have a great trainer, but my horses live at home, so easier to ride whenever I had a minute, but more work. I think the 2 horses were too much, but I love them both so I pushed through. My husband really helps out a lot, but I would warn you about the inequity of this for your partner. Oh, and the guilt is also a real thing. I would just keep family time on the schedule, and be sure to create opportunities for your husband to persue his interests. Also, you have to be happy with what you can do instead of focusing on what you used to do before you had your child. I used to ride 6 days a week and go to all the clinics and shows. If I did that now I would never see my child or husband. So now I can ride 4 times a week during the show season, and whenever I can in the off season. I only clinic a few times a year, and sometimes do just one day. Last year I did fewer shows but both days. Not sure how I will do it this year. I still have big goals as I am working on my silver medal, but it will most likely take longer. My biggest regret is that I waited so long to have a child, as I only get to have one now. So my advice is to jump in and do whatever works for you and your family! Good luck!


                                  • #18

                                    This is my point of view, for which I should probably don a flame suit.

                                    From your initial post, you and your husband are trying to decide "whether or when" to have children and that you have a "serious horse habit".

                                    Raising children is a full time job that never ends. The things that your parents never told you: raising children today costs a boat load of money, even without the cost of a nanny. When your children turn 18 years old, they will still be dependent on you for money (even if they are working outside the home.) Start today, saving for college, if that is your expectation for them (be prepared that your expectations and theirs just might not be the same.) Neither of our sons live with us, but both of them put themselves into situations where they want us to bail them out financially (no jail, but over spending and not paying bills.) BTW, they are 32 years old and 30 years old.

                                    My DH and I had to decide "whether" we would adopt children, because I was not able to get pregnant. I was on the "whether" side and my DH was on the "when" side. We went with his side. Granted, my boys were adopted, but you are not guaranteed a bed of roses, even with biological children.

                                    I love my boys and my 2 grand-boys. Was it and still is it a struggle? You betcha! I was able to ride, but not to show, while they were growing up. You need to be willing to give up your fun stuff for theirs. Traveling soccer requires a whole lot of your time. Getting a mini-van to transport the team around is a must, too.

                                    I guess that my point is that if you are still in the "whether" phase and you love being able to work/show your horse, then think strongly about your choices. Everyone (my parents and DH's parents) put pressure on us to have/adopt children. My Dad actually asked me, "Who is going to take care of you when you grow old?" I know one thing for certain: I will have plans in place to take care of myself, because I cannot count on my boys being there for me. The knowledge of this is very painful, but true. Being a parent is the most difficult and important job that you will ever have. If you are the least bit hesitant......

                                    My hat is off to everyone who has managed to juggle raising their children, working a full time job and riding/showing. You are amazing!
                                    When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                                    • #19
                                      Not a mom myself, but my good friend who is a lawyer says that her generation were the victims of a great experiment in having it all. They waited until their mid-30's to start a family, and eight years, hundreds of thousands of dollars in fertility treatments later, they have two beautiful daughters. They have full time help even though one is about to graduate from HS and the other is middle school age, but they can afford it.

                                      Your priorities might change drastically when you do have kids. As another friend said regarding their beloved pooch after their baby was born, "Barney's a dog now."

                                      One last question, if the father takes care of the kids, is it babysitting?
                                      A helmet saved my life.

                                      2017 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!


                                      • #20
                                        OP- Your description of the panel you attended sounds spot on. At my former big firm, it was very discouraging to realize one day that all of the female litigation partners had hubbies who had much more flexibility -- the hubbies were "consultants" or real estate agents or other things that made it possible for them to stay home when the kids were sick, shuttle them back and forth to school and activities, etc.