Career-minded professionals who choose to become parents face multiple challenges every day, at work and at home. Working parents can sometimes feel as if they are straddling parallel worlds, having trouble managing their time effectively in either world, and they can feel exhausted and guilty as a result. In fact, only 43% of respondents to a recent poll said their job provides reasonable flexible working accommodations for working parents. While it takes a concerted effort, it is possible to balance your career and raising a family.
These tips and best practices can help you achieve and maintain a better work-life balance, regardless if you’re a marketing manager or job site superintendent:
1. Create your own balance
If you could design your work-life balance, what would it look like? Considering this question and evaluating possible scenarios can be empowering. Of course, to a large extent, the way you balance your career and your family depends on your employer’s expectations, policies and flexibility. Given the recent pandemic, flexible work situations are more common offering employees improved work-life balance. Still, taking initiative, brainstorming, and proposing alternatives can give working parents more control over their environments.
Proposing creative solutions to your manager and demonstrating how those solutions would benefit the company or department could result in a net positive for everyone. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, but be prepared to consider alternative suggestions, too.
2. Plan for the unexpected
Whether it’s a problem at work that needs a resolution before you can leave the office or a childcare emergency, expect the unexpected. Who can you rely on to pick up your child if an afternoon meeting runs late? What are your backup options if your childcare provider closes temporarily due to illness? What if your child is sick and cannot go to daycare/school?
Identify the members of your support network (spouse/partner, parents, siblings, friends, etc.). Be upfront with them about how they might be able to help, should the need arise. Discuss how you might handle various situations, but understand that situational flexibility will also be needed. It is impossible to plan for every potential scenario, but creating contingency plans can go a long way to reduce everyone’s stress if, and when, such a scenario occurs.
3. Organize your time
Time management is perhaps the most important skill for working parents to master and refine. Creating consistencies at work and at home with calendars can ensure you stay on top of important meetings and appointments while being able to attend your children’s games, performances, parent-teacher conferences, etc.
Establishing a routine for your workday — such as dedicating the beginning of the day to responding to emails and trying to schedule meetings for the middle part of the day — can make it easier to be there for your children’s events. Additionally, implementing routines at homes — such as meal planning, dedicated homework time and family dinners — can provide a comforting structure for you and your children.
While you are focusing on the demands of your job and your family’s needs, don’t forget to also carve out time for yourself. Whether that means blocking your lunch hour to take a walk, waking up before the rest of your household to engage in some exercise, or finding time to read a book or watch a favorite sitcom at the end of the day, making time to do things you enjoy could ultimately help you be a better parent and a better employee.
4. Practice delegating
Most working parents at some point in their careers find themselves overwhelmed with the sheer volume of their responsibilities. Unfortunately, too many people in this position struggle in silence, trying to be all things to all people — to the detriment of their careers, their family relationships, or both.
Banish the idea that delegating to others at work or at home is a negative thing. Delegating tasks to capable co-workers, employees, family members or friends will not hinder your success. Doing so can help you focus your efforts so you can address higher-priority items and be present for the things that truly matter — at work and at home.
Creating balance, planning for the unexpected, implementing time-management strategies and delegation are all techniques that can help you improve your work-life balance. However, above all, understand and embrace flexibility as a necessary component in your work-life toolkit.
Author bio: Nicole Marie is Senior Content Executive at Michael Page, an international recruiting firm for project managers. Before joining the recruitment industry, she worked in media and journalism. She now covers employment trends and insights in a variety of industries such as construction, technology and marketing.