#ArchiTalks 12: work/life

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price tower by frank lloyd wright, 2005

#ArchiTalks 12 work/life: labor day

When I was due with my third child on September 6th, 2000, someone said to me,

“Wouldn’t it be funny if you went into labor on Labor Day?”

(Baby 3 born on September 13)

Yeah, as funny as it was when I was due with my second child and someone said,
“Wouldn’t it be funny if you had your kid on Memorial Day?”

(Baby 2 born on June 3)

or when I was due with my first child and
“Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to have a baby born on the fourth of July?”

(Baby 1 born on July 12)

What can I say, I really enjoy Autumn…

I had said to an artist friend who had just posted in her blog about “Art and Motherhood”,
“I don’t know what I am going to say about work/life because I feel like all of my blogs are about work/life…”

My great grandmother Schmitt emigrated from Levoca, Slovakia to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s, speaking only German.  My great grandfather spoke seven languages and worked in a bank so perhaps she as a “housewife and mother of seven” did not feel the need to learn English.  My grandmother as the youngest surviving sibling spoke German and English when she entered school and after graduating high school in 1922, she went to work at a utility company. She assumed that she would always work there but at age 26 after she married she was told by her boss that she no longer had a job because she should be at home taking care of her husband. My grandparents started their own business, “Brown’s Tavern” and ran it until my mother was born 14 years later.  At which point my grandmother said that she wasn’t going to raise her daughter in a bar and they moved to a house and my grandfather joined the teamsters, ran a crane, built bridges and Point State Park. When my mother graduated high school she went to work as a secretary “because in 1963, if you were smart girl, you went to college to be a nurse or a teacher and everyone else was some type of office worker until you decided to get married and have children” My mother went to college after she had children and earned an “A” in every class, so much for not being a smart girl.  

Then there’s me: a product of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s and 10’s, still moving forward:

In those days we were told that we could do anything we wanted as women, we could have it all,

“I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan and never, never, never let you forget you’re a man”

enjoli ad

Ya, thanks Don Draper for coming up with that one!

And the thing is that I really felt that I could do it all.  And then I realized after having a child, “I can’t really do it all, at least not the way I want to”  Fortunately, my husband was also an architect so money was not an issue….(cough, cough).

And I am glad that women and men have more options now to choose what they want to do..

Work/Life Balance:  To me, I don’t feel like it’s a balance, it’s a juggling act and I do a lot of things at one time but my first priority is the children and life.  

A friend once asked me about going back to work at an office after having a baby and I had said that I didn’t know, it was difficult when you don’t have family helping you with caring for the child.  And they said, “I don’t want to go back to work and find people who were behind me before, in front of me”

(I am not that person.  There is nothing wrong with being that person, I am just not them.)

I was pregnant with my second and had a toddler by my side at an art opening and a “fellow” architect asked what work I was doing and I said that I was working part time and he said, “I could never practice architecture like that.”

(I am not asking you to.  You can practice any way you wish..)  

I shared studio space with people who said, “You’re going home?  It’s only 7:00.”

(“I have to go home to my kid and pay the babysitter and I am not going to work on this project any longer because they are not paying me to work on it any longer.”)
discreet logic logo 1995
I had always worked in small offices on residential and institutional and commercial and I felt like I could do that on my own and like the people who I had worked for, be able to have a pretty good work/life because there was a more relaxed atmosphere for including their family and a flexible schedule.  I have my own firm because I can have that flexible schedule.  I can meet with clients after hours because those clients are typically working during the day and cannot meet with their architect to design their house.  I can take my children to the building department because when they are small, they are sleeping in a stroller and you wait around a lot there anyway.  That said, did I go to the building department and see people who I went to school with carrying projects around that were hundreds of thousands of square feet of tilt-ups while I had a small residential remodel and addition?  Yes, yes I did, but I was probably never going to be working on a project like that in somebody else’s firm either.  Did I show up for a meeting to do a small project with Discreet Logic with my daughter in a baby backpack because my child care had fallen through?  Yes, yes I did and I got the project.

discreet logic office, 1995
discreet logic office, 1995

I also think that work as an architect spills over into life, and life spills into work.  Do my children know more about architecture than the average person?  Most likely, yes.  Have they been to more Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry projects than most kids?  Probably.  Do I enjoy being with them and do they enjoy being with me?  Maybe 25% of the time they are happy to be with me; they are 14, 17, and 21 now and I have more time for work (and have to pay for college).  But this is the kind of work/life I want to experience with them.  

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fallingwater by frank lloyd wright, 1995  (k. frey)

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price tower by frank lloyd wright, 2005

So on this work/life Labor Day post, take a breather, let your work be your career but don’t let it be your entire life.  

taliesin west by frank lloyd wright, 2011

If you enjoyed my blog, please follow the links to other architect’s views on work/life.

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Work Life
Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Work | Life - Different Letters, Same Word
Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
Work / Life : Life / Work
Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Work/Life...What an Architect Does
Jeff Echols - Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The One Secret to Work - Life Balance
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
work | life :: dance
Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
Living an Integrated Life as a Small Firm Architect
Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
#ArchiTalks: Work/life...attempts
Collier Ward - Thousand Story Studio (@collier1960)
Cormac Phalen - Cormac Phalen (@archy_type)
Nicholas Renard - dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
Andrew Hawkins, AIA - Hawkins Architecture, Inc. (@hawkinsarch)
Jeremiah Russell, AIA - ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
what makes you giggle? #architalks
Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
Turning Work Off
Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Work/Life -- A Merger
Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design / The Missing 32% Project (@miss32percent)
Work Life Fit: A New Focus for Blurred Lines
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Work Life
Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks: Imbalanced and uninterrupted
Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
ArchiTalks #12: Balance is a Verb.
Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
I Just Can’t Do This Anymore
Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
An Architect's House
brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
Brady Ernst - Family Man Since 08/01/2015
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Father, Husband, Architect - typically in that order
Tara Imani - Tara Imani Designs, LLC (@Parthenon1)
On Work: Life Balance – Cattywampus is as Good as it Gets
Jonathan Brown - Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Architecture: Work to Live
Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
midnight in the garden of [life] and [work]
Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Work = 1/3 Life
Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@simplybrinn)
David Molinaro - Relax2dmax (@relax2dmax)
Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
Daniel Beck - The Architect's Checklist (@archchecklist)
Work Life Balance: Architecture and Babies - 5 Hints for Expecting Parents
Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
Work is Life
Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@thatarchstudent)
studio / life
Lindsey Rhoden - SPARC Design (@sparcdesignpc)
Work Life Balance: A Photo Essay
Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Work / Life

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  1. Oh, I hear you on taking children to the Building Department- this summer I had to do just that. Usually I coordinate with my husband, but with him traveling, I didn't have an alternative. They sat in the lobby while I finished the submittal. They are older, so they were fine, and actually proud that they were helping me carry all those roles of sheets and helping me with "work".

    And oh yeah! Our children know more about architecture than average children- our "play life" does include "staring at buildings/ feeling walls" and all sorts of crazy things!

    Loved your blog- thanks for sharing some candid thoughts.

    1. I think the culture of bringing your kids with you to the building department has changed a bit from 20 years ago and frankly, if someone is going to bring their dog into a government building, I am not going to feel bad about bringing small human beings to the counter. I mention these situations because I know archimoms who felt so uncomfortable bringing their babies or children to the building department because of the stares and attitude of people that they literally didn't practice architecture on their own because of it. I think most moms can admit that the process of trying to get back to work is difficult enough emotionally, physically, and financially without having to deal with people's judgement about how you should practice architecture.

  2. I enjoyed your post and think i can sympathize somewhat. I have been staying home with our children for the past seven years while trying to run my own firm. It has been much easier the last couple of years as they are all school aged now and my daytime hours are more productive. But taking children to client meetings and job sites is not always the easiest way to run a business.

    1. no, and parenting, like architecture is not the easiest job in the world either, i think i am using "motherhood" as a stereotype, for the person who takes care of the children most of the time, but of course like i mentioned in the blog, "i am glad that men and women have more options now". but in terms of the physical characteristics of a being a woman versus a man, most likely, you will not be turned down for work if your wife is pregnant with a child, if you choose to breastfeed your child, in the old days there was no place to go to pump and even today people say, "why can't they do that in the bathroom?" well, i don't see too many people preparing food in the bathroom if they want to eat it themselves. i am glad that many dads are taking care of their chlldren, and I will probably blog about that in the future. it is interesting and i have read other research where men will bring up that they have to take care of their children if they can't meet now where women have viewed it as a sign of weakness and career death to bring that up in a meeting.


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