As school gets started in most parts of the country, here are some tips for working parents. For those of you who are not working parents, read on and learn how you can give extra empathy to your co-workers.
A recent article in Harvard Business Review* identified these challenges for working parents and how to address them:
1. Rehearse Your Transitions. Going back to work after having a child is tough. One way to make it smoother is to rehearse the changes. For example, a few days before going back to work, do a dry run of when you will get up, how you will get the baby ready, and how the handoff to the caregiver will go. In later years when you are returning from a business trip, rehearse in your mind how you will greet the family when you arrive. This will help assure that you are really there – in every way – when you arrive home physically.
2. Audit & Plan Your Commitments. With a new child, you now need to rachet up your efficiency and planning. Make prioritizing a ritual. Say no to some things that are just not going to work. Delay other activities that are not so important. Coordinate the calendar with your partner.
3. Use “Today plus 20 Years” Thinking. There will always be the immediate things you need to focus on for both your child and your work. As you prioritize those, remember what you are building in the long term for both. You are providing your child with a great future and building a satisfying career. Focusing only on the short term or mid term can be less inspiring.
4. Revisit & Recast Your Professional Identity. Maybe your work was the obvious priority in your life before having a child. Now things are different. Get clear with yourself on who and what will take priority in different situations. When you are at home at dinner are you going to be glancing at your smartphone or really be with your family? When do kids come before work and when does work come before family? This is your new identity.
If you are managing a new parent, be supportive and keep in mind the big transition they are going through. Just because they may need to leave the office early sometimes or arrive late due to family responsibilities does not mean they are not committed to their work. Support them and you can keep a high performer as they enter a new phase of their life.
*Dowling, D. W., “A Working Parent’s Survival Guide,” Harvard Business Review, July – August 2019, pp. 147 – 151.