In the 1970s and early 1980s, Colorado experienced a boom in its oil, mining, and electronics industries. In the mid-1980s with the drop in oil prices and the closing of mines, our state experienced a full-scale recession by 1987. Technology firms in Colorado Springs were not immune to these economic influences with many going from boom to bust. It was during this turbulent time that Laura Kleinschmidt, a wife and mother, launched her career in micro-electronics. Now as a grandmother, Laura reflects on her experiences as a working parent sharing the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom of experience.
In part one of parenting perspectives with Laura, we learned about her reasons for deciding to work; and in part two we’ll learn about what worked well for her family and what she would change if she could do it again.
Q: As a working parent, what would you say worked well for you and your family?
A: I would not say what worked well for us was always a good overall solution. I didn’t cook much, and because I didn’t cook I didn’t teach my daughter to cook. It cost more to eat out and we didn’t have that many choices. We ate lots of pizza.
As my daughter got older she was able to be home alone so the problem of finding sitters went away but I always worried about her.
After starting on second shift, which is from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m., I went to first shift for awhile but after a couple of years I went back to second shift. Being on second shift again was hard on my marriage. We found that we didn’t have time to discuss problems as they came up so we spent a lot of time arguing on the weekends.
Q: What would you have changed to improve your experience as a working parent?
A: I would curb our desire for stuff and maybe work part-time instead of full-time, finding later in life that stuff is unimportant and time together most cherished; that understanding comes with age I think.
Q: What resources did you rely on in the Colorado Springs Area and who would you recommend to other parents?
A: In my mother’s generation, very few mothers worked outside of the home and in my generation it was just getting to be more the norm. When I needed child care, there were not many available and my daughter didn’t like them one bit. A few of the bigger companies in the area talked about offering day care within the building, but that did not happen where I worked. It would have been nice and would have changed the stress I felt struggling to leave work on time to get to a sitter. All in all there was not the support system for working mothers that there is today.
I recommend having a family support system and to hold off working if at all possible until the child (-ren) are in Kindergarten. The early years are so important and you lose the connections of trust and gain the values of someone else if the child starts day care as an infant.
Q: What advice would you give as a working parent to other parents that have to work or are considering entering the work place?
A: When entering the work force be aware that the first job may not be the one that you stick with and be sure that the company is kid-friendly. Secondly check your motives; are they to exist or to buy stuff? Lastly make time for the ones you are working for; it is the kids that miss out on a happy, well-rested you.
Q: What would you like other working parents to know about you?
A: I worked in the micro-electronics industry for thirty plus years and ended my career as an engineer. It is easy to get caught up in work where one’s accomplishments are tangible. It is easy to focus on the needs of the job first, then the needs of the family. I am enjoying my next career as a stay-at-home grandmother realizing through hindsight that it is the time I spend with the people in my life that is most cherished.
Hindsight provides valuable lessons in life and whether it is our history or the history of our people, learning from the past allows us to improve the future. Thank you, Mrs. Kleinschmidt, for taking time to share with us your thoughts and experiences as a working parent.
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