You can’t get far these days in the world of parenting blogs without reading about so-called “mommy guilt.” The seemingly rapidly spreading epidemic is caused by the double bind that today’s parents find themselves in. No longer is it expected that a woman will give up her career for motherhood, and parents are re-writing the rules so quickly these days that the impacts and realities are just starting to be understood. Making working parenthood work is a cultural phenomenon in progress, with millions of families around the world participating.
You’re not alone if you find yourself struggling with the daily balancing act. You are also not crazy, incompetent, or unstable. Working parenthood is a lifestyle with enormous responsibilities! It is also one with enormous blessings. We have put together a survivors guide to help you thrive as you navigate this journey and find your own version of “balance.”
Learning how to make being a working parent work is all about planning and trial and error. If you come to the conclusion that a change in your work schedule would make a positive impact on your life, ask for it. When you do, back up your request with a well thought out argument for how the adjustment will help you optimize your time and benefit your team. Will working from home on Fridays allow you the flexibility to stay at the office later during the week when things are more fast-paced? Always offer a trial period for the new arrangement to add more strength to your proposal.
One of the top reasons parents, especially mothers, decide to stay at home is the cost of childcare. Making small adjustments can save you thousands of dollars a month and allow you to stay in the workforce with less stress. Can a grandparent help out once a week? Can both parents work together so that your little one is picked up early on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Take a look at where you can trim and enjoy the savings.
On the flip side, if you are able to afford more childcare and have a demanding job or hours that are unpredictable at times, arrange more childcare than you need. Buy the flexibility so if you need to stay let, you have support. If you are home early, you can pick up your child early or ask your sitter to help out while you are also at home.
Just because “mommy guilt” has become such a buzz-word doesn’t mean that guilt has to automatically become a part of your experience as a working parent. Make a conscious decision that you are going to show up the best that you can at work and at home and own your decision to do both without guilt. Love your life and your options without apologies.
If you are journeying as a working parent with a partner at home, do everyone a favor by establishing healthy routines, patterns, and agreements early on. Have detailed discussions around the necessary household tasks that need to be completed each day and how they will be divided. If you agree to take something on, follow-through.
Having child-free time is VITAL for working parents. Maintaining hobbies, fitness routines, and social lives are critical aspects to avoiding burnout and mental health issues. Schedule in time for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help to make it happen. If you are parenting with a partner, prioritize the relationship by spending time with each other on your own and without discussing the children.
The prevalence of working parenthood and dual-income homes has skyrocketed in the last 40 years. Therefore, the rule book is still being written about making it work. Don’t assume you have to figure it all out on your own. Instead, consider yourself to be on a research mission that is going to last for the next 18 years. If you know a working yet active parent in your organization, have conversations with them about how they have best navigated their dual roles with management. If there is a working parent on your block who seems to have things really worked out, start conversations to learn more about how they do it. Always be open to learning more and trying new things.
Go out of your way to develop special memories with each other. Use a day of personal time to take a child out of school and go on a special outing. Surprise the children with a trip to an amusement park. Make the other parent breakfast in bed on a random weekend. Get creative with how you spend your time together and the time apart won’t seem so daunting.
There are few “successful” working parents who don’t swear by the importance of learning how to set boundaries. This means with your children, your boss, your friends, your children’s school, and anything and everything in between. Establish what your priorities are each week and each month and make decisions that support these important things. Learn to say no or to negotiate early on.
There is no doubt that making your career one of your priorities in life can be challenging as a parent. At the same time, it is worth it because of the personal and professional satisfaction that is gained. In a recent Bright Horizons Modern Family survey, for instance, 74% of the mothers surveyed said that they work because they love their careers. This enjoyment is a helpful thing to plug into when things get tricky. Resentment is less likely to take over your day if you can easily see all of the reasons why your efforts are worth it.
Want a bit of science to back-up the grind you are currently living through? Studies abound showing that being a working parent adds value to your children in both the long and short term and that it also adds to your worth as an employee. One study conducted by Kathleen McGinn concluded that girls with working mothers end up earning higher wages as adults, while boys with working mothers took a larger hand in the day-to-day running of his eventual household. On the reverse side, male and female employees with multiple children have been shown to be more productive employees and being a parent helps an individual develop a range of skills that add value to how they perform on the job. In short, if you frame things the right way, you can see the ways that your hard work is creating a win-win for everyone involved.
It takes a lot of effort and energy to be a working parent. It also takes a lot of self-love and self-compassion. Every day is going to be different and some days will be easier than others. One of the easiest ways to get back on track on the hard days is to wrap yourself in compassion and remind yourself of all the amazing things you are capable of. There is no better behavior to model for your children. Shake it off and start again!
For further reading: