Having Children Working in this Industry

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by chefsing, Jul 29, 2019.

  1. chefsing

    chefsing

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    Greetings fellow Chefs-
    My wife is 8 months pregnant with our first born child right now and let me preface this by saying that her and I are totally ecstatic for this new adventure in our lives. Knowing many of you have travelled the deep paths of this industry as well I was hoping to catch some advice on trying to help manage a healthy home life without sacrificing any of my work as well. When we first discovered our news I did notice my work slipping for a bit- the mental distractions caused my attention to details fall a bit and my creativity went to nearly zero. After a few weeks and I got my head screwed back on right I was back on top of my game, If not running even higher and harder and better with new motivation pushing me more. However now that the time is coming closer to her arrival I’m obviously having these mental distractions affecting my work again. It is not that I am screwing everything up, it’s more that I’m a workhorse like many of you and take great pride and joy in my craft and work hard to perform at the highest level I can consistently. Selfishly, my craft is my identity. I am super excited and ready to be a father and want to do anything and everything to be present and give my daughter every opportunity I can to succeed in life as well. So the big question getting to in all of this is how have you all found ways to manage your households and be present while still being able to perform at a high level?
     
  2. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I am going to give you an answer that I aren't going to like, but I will preface it by saying that this is speaking from experience and watching chefs I have known. It certainly is, by no means, a definitive answer and I am sure that others will chime in with the opposite of my experience. But, in my experience, something will need to give. There will need to be significant sacrifice one way or the other. I have had too many chef friends who have missed too much of their child's growing up because of this industry. They couldn't be there on weekends for birthday parties, couldn't make it recitals, concerts, sports events, etc. and they regretted it. I've also seen the opposite-chefs who weren't around during important events or super busy meal services because they were at their child's events. So, soon after my daughter was born, I left the restaurant business for a job in institutional foodservice, running jail kitchens and business cafes. Granted, by then I had left the hard core, fine dining world of Chicago, for rural Wisconsin, so the payoff for staying in the restaurant world was not nearly as big or as alluring. I have certainly sacrificed my aspirations of being a "great" "well-known" chef, but I have not missed much of my daughter's growing up. Sure, I've missed a few things, here and there, but not nearly as much as I would have as if I had stayed in the industry. I will also say that I know myself well, and I know that if I had stayed in the business, my family life would have suffered. I know that I would have put the business before my family, like so many other chefs I know. And I just couldn't have done that to my daughter or my wife. Again, this is only my experience and what I have seen. I'm sure that there are others out there that will tell you, that you can balance these 2 things, but a lot will also depend on you, and your mindset.
     
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  3. chefwriter

    chefwriter

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    First of all, Congratulations on becoming a father. What an exciting time in your life. Buy a good camera. These years will fly by.
    I don't have kids but here's my advice anyway.
    Get rid of this right now.
    In a month or so, it's no longer about you. Your new identity and a much more important one, is Daddy and Husband. Your wife will decide how you balance those two roles. I'm not going there.
    So back at work you begin to organize and delegate. In brief, start working smarter, not harder. Make more lists and copies of everything so someone else can do it, whatever it is. Delegate and share the responsibilities and creativity. Re order your daily work to be as efficient as possible.
    Sure you will have to put in hours and effort to do a good job but now is the time to recognize where you are spending time doing something that someone else could do or are simply satisfying your own ego.
    If the thought comes up "But I have to do.... because I'm the only one......" then you have identified an area you should work on.
    You may already know this but catering, dinners, special events, menu creation, etc. will go on forever. The time you have to be a Daddy to your daughter is finite and irreplaceable. I can guarantee your daughter won't give a flying f... if you're as famous as Paul Bocuse and in the end, her opinion of you is what will matter the most.
     
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  4. FloridaMom

    FloridaMom

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    I came upon this board looking for ideas to my four year olds more involved in cooking. My husband and I are both physicians, and we thought the same thing before my kids (boy-girl twins) were born. Do we have it all figured out? Heck, no. Did I miss the Mother's Day lunch at preschool for the last two years? Yes, I did. But the kids are awesome. And frankly, I am probably a better, more creative doctor for the experience of raising them and trying to keep the balls in the air. I also completely agree with putting in the time training your team, then delegating. Somehow, you'll manage. You WILL drop some parenting balls, and you will make career sacrifices, but you won't miss the really important stuff, and your kid will love you for who you are. Being a physician is part of who I am, and my kids love that part, too. Have fun! Also, the first month after they are born is pretty thankless and you might wonder why you did this--if you feel like that, you are probably doing it right, and it doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you or the kid. Then they learn to smile.
     
  5. sgmchef

    sgmchef

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    I agree with Petes assessment of the core issues.

    Time to prioritize! Which is more important?

    You could add Culinary instructor to the list of food related jobs he listed, that involve much more stable hours.

    It is good that you do have options!

    Good Luck!
     
  6. peachcreek

    peachcreek

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    Congratulations to you and your wife on your soon to be new family!
    I don't think that the specific hours you work the first couple for years after the baby arrives will be an issue. I worked dinner shifts when my kids were infants. I was around all day at home with the kids while my spouse worked regular 9 to 5 hours. My work began around 2pm, so after lunch was a nap then getting ready to drop the baby off at daycare and off to work.I would also be the one to take care of the baby when I got home from work so my spouse could sleep. We started with one, ended up with five :)
    That was our routine till our kids started going to school.
    And there is your answer~ teamwork parenting your new daughter.
    My kids are all big and grown now.
    ....and yes, I do miss those days!
     
  7. chefsing

    chefsing

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    Thanks for your response it resonated well to my current situation. We’re currently in Chicago as well trying to “make it big” in that fine dining world but we’ve been having many hard talks lately about settling up in WI similarly to around where you are. You are correct about the sacrifices and have seen many other chefs in the situations you described. That phrase “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” seems to fit that analogy.
     
  8. PoorlyChef

    PoorlyChef

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    The only thing that really matters once you become a parent is the child. Children need their parents to be present and engaged in their lives, it's a proven fact. Another way to look at. Think of yourself as an 80 year old man, do you want to look back on your life with regret that you weren't very involved in your children's lives? And for what? Work?
     
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  9. chefbillyb

    chefbillyb

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    I remember when I was in my real early 20's. A buddy of mine went for a managers position for a job. The interviewer asked him " What would you do in the middle of your daughters BD if you get a call from work that there is an emergency". The point was a business doesn't yield and a BD party could be put on hold until the problem at work is solved. The interviewer wanted to make sure he could count on my buddy to take care of any problem any time.

    At the time and not being in management I took the side of " Screw work my family is more important"

    Fast forward a few years and I realized what the interviewer was talking about. I could rearrange my family life but a business doesn't yield at anytime.

    You and your family need to realize that balance between both worlds need to be accomplish to have harmony. There were many many times in my operations that took me away from my family at times when all their friends were off and partying. I had to take care of my business and remember to take care of them in the near future. That could be planning a vacation in January because I had to work a busy December. The main thing is to remember that in your business your family also suffers. Always make sure you're taking care of their needs as far as family time. When I had an important family event come up I made sure I had my best employees in place. I wanted them to be about to handle any problem so I was safe to go. I always called this to (Fail Safe) my business.

    That being said, "Balance" is the key. This isn't easy and in many cases most can't accomplish both easily. It takes just as much planning to have a happy family as it does to have a successful business.

    The problem with most Chefs is they don't plan and think about the balance. The only time it comes up is when you're arguing with your spouse over working too many hours and neglecting your family. Don't wait that long.

    Talk to your wife and ask her to help in this balance. You're a team and a team work together. When you have balance and happiness at home your work life will also be much happier and more productive.

    Good luck and congrats on the new family member......ChefBillyB
     
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  10. chefross

    chefross

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    I have never been a parent but I have watched other families for years.

    Chefs are not the exception as doctors, city workers, or just about any job that requires a person to be "on call" at any given minute has gone through the same things with their families.

    The idea of having children is not only to propagate our species but to leave a legacy of your own on your descendants. Children have grown up with one or no parents and still went on to improve their lives.
    I believe that it's not the amount of time with the child but the ideals and values imposed that make the difference.
    Children are resilient and it's the guilt by the parents that make them feel they have to spend more time with the child.
    Make the child understand in their own way that the parent is not always going to be around.
    Allow the child to develop on their own.
    I also don't believe in television as a replacement.
    Again, I have never been a parent, but have and am being witness to some really great parenting these days by some very intelligent and prepared parents.
     
  11. Seoul Food

    Seoul Food

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    My situation is a lot like Pete's. I knew I was going to start a family and I knew I had to change course in my career. Luckily for me I was not a restaurant owner so while leaving fine dining was challenging, i didn't have a ton invested in it. Also I have never been one of those "creative" or "innovative" chefs and excel more in the technical aspects so I never felt that if I changed the cuisine or type of cooking it would be life shattering. I went into corporate kitchen management and don't regret it. Generally the pay, benefits and most hours are better, but like anything else it comes with pros and cones. There is much more bureaucracy and red tape, but in all honesty my body is not what is used to be so working long, hard hours on the line is just not sustainable anymore. You will have to find your own work/home balance. I will always have professional responsibilities to my job but at this point family is much more important to me and my career helps facilitate that. Good luck and hope your wife and child are healthy.
     
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  12. PoorlyChef

    PoorlyChef

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    I had similar views before my son was born. I even argued them with my BFF (he had a 5 year old when mine was born). He just laughed at me and said I'd understand the moment I held my first born my your arms. He was right.
     
  13. PoorlyChef

    PoorlyChef

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    My brothers and I had absent parents but we turned out fine.

    After we went to alcohol and drug treatment, making really poor choices in our 20's that still affect each of us 20 years later, poor self esteem because our parents didn't care enough to be involved or spend quality time with us and don't forget the bad relationships we churned through because our role models were not around to model positive behavior. Maybe that would have all been avoided if our parents were invested in our lives?
     
  14. PoorlyChef

    PoorlyChef

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    This statement is every parents head scratching moment.
     
  15. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    I know everything there is to know about parenting. I have answers to all the questions about parenting. The reason for this is because I have never been a parent. If I had ever been a parent, I would realize that I don't know jack%@&* about being a parent. Kid's don't come with a manual. Yeah there are books about it...but yeah :~)
    Kinda like when I became a restaurant owner after working in the industry FOH/BOH for 20 years. Knowing all about it and doing it...same thing only different, real different!
     
  16. sgsvirgil

    sgsvirgil

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    I survived more than 40 years in this business, never divorced and raised 4 beautiful children. How did I do it? A bit of luck and a lot of planning and sticking to that plan. However, it never would've happened if I didn't have a wife who was just as dedicated to this life as I am, perhaps more. But the secret for me was that I owned my own restaurant and because I did not have to punch someone else's clock, I had more flexibility. I could schedule the birthday parties around work and go to the recitals and athletic events. But that was part of the plan. I knew from the time I was a young teen washing dishes there was no way I could have a family and work for someone else in this business. My uncle owned the restaurant for over 30 years before me and he was a wealth of knowledge in terms of the do's and dont's.

    I'm not saying those 40 years were easy because they weren't. They were hard. Very hard. It took a team effort on the part of my wife and myself to make it happen. Without her, none of it would've been possible. For almost 50 years, she's given my nights there dreams.

    So, having said all this, here's my advice for whatever its worth on an internet food forum.

    If you do not own the business, leave. Get out while you can. Do something else.....anything else. You can always cook astonishing meals for friends and family and perhaps do a light catering gig on the side. Do not let this life rob you of your family!! I promise you that if you continue on, especially working for someone else in this business, there is a 3 out of 4 chance that what @pete said will become a reality for you.

    Like I said, it can be done but, you have to make a plan and that plan begins with you and your wife being an inseparable, insoluble partnership that goes beyond the bonds of marriage. Even then, you are still far from any guarantees. Bite the bullet. Get your own place. Be your own boss. Its the only way. It doesn't matter if its a silly taco truck like in the movies. But, if this is not possible, start looking for another career. :)

    That's my $.02. I wish you and your family all of the luck in the world and my sincerest congratulations on your new baby.

    Cheers! :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2019
  17. PoorlyChef

    PoorlyChef

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    Well said sgsvirgil, it takes a team.. When human emotions are part of any equation all practicality tends to go out the door.. Especially with a mini version of yourself..

    cheflayne, you seem like a well rounded individual, thank you for taking my retort in a mature and humors manner.
     
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  18. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    It was easy to do. Been there. Done that. Just bought a different tee shirt. :~)
     
  19. pete

    pete Moderator Staff Member

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    I will add to my initial post that I "grew up" in the restaurant business. My parents owned a restaurant, for a number of years, when I was a kid. We lived above it so my parents were always "around" even if they were working and the restaurant was always closed on Sunday, and it was a family day. I had a blast with that place. Even though I was only 8 when the place opened. I was often recruited to wash dishes, prep salad, bus tables, or (my favorite job) during the winter I was responsible for keeping the fire going in the fireplace. It was definitely a family business, and I loved it.

    As I stated in my initial post, what was right for me, is not right for everyone. The best we can do is give you advice. It is up to you to decide, what is most important to you, where to make sacrifices. Do I regret my decision? Sometimes. I see my friends, or cooks that I've mentored making it big and I am envious sometimes. But, for me personally, I would have regretted missing out on my kid's things more. Do I still miss out on some of her things? Yes I do, but not nearly as much as if I had stay doing what I was doing. No situation is perfect.

    No matter what you decide, best of luck!!!!
     
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  20. ChefD90

    ChefD90

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    Most relatable post i have found. Massive congratulations to you and your family!
    In my experience I chose to change my position and looked elsewhere for a professional kitchen that would allow my ideas and creativity without having to go to work at 6am and return at midnight so therefore a demotion was needed so that I would only miss half the family experience rather than nearly all. My mistake was I didn't think of this until my son was 4 and missed too much but now with my 3 rd due in December I'm home every other sunday and see them for dinner 3 or 4 nights a week due to being in a luxury fitness club and spa. My suggestion is to explore other places and what they will slow for you to do. After all your kids are only kids once but we can be chefs for a lifetime if the pressure doesn't kill us first I hope this helps.