For working parents with school-age children, this time of year is especially chaotic. The season brings end-of-the-school-year projects, state testing, report cards, parent-teacher conferences, the transition to 10 long weeks of child care arrangements, the awkwardness of explaining to colleagues why you’re out of the office again, the need to follow up with the pediatrician about health forms for September (they’re overdue already), and the worry about whether your child will do better in math next year with a different teacher.
Your task list is endless, your stress level high. And a lot of the work and worry seems to be coming from one place: your child’s school.
As a working parent, you’ve already got two jobs — and having two jobs isn’t easy. But you’re also going to spend a minimum of 13 years with a third critical role: stewarding your child’s education. It’s a position
Revise budget numbers. Parent/teacher conference Wednesday. Edit the marketing overview document. Finish summer camp applications. Give candidate interview feedback to HR. Grocery run — we’re out of everything. Start drafting quarterly forecast. Call the roofer for the estimate. Organize team strategy session. Schedule kids’ flu shots. Get back to Jayesh and Liu on IT plan. Get Tommy ready for math test tomorrow…
If you’re a working parent, chances are excellent that at any given time, your to-do list looks like the one above — and that it stretches on, and on, and on — an endless, and eternally growing, list of deliverables. Is it any wonder that research shows that most working parents feel stressed, tired, and rushed? Or that when you look ahead, you feel more than a little overwhelmed?
As a responsible person and a hard worker, you know how to dig in and get things done. And since becoming
“Mommy/Daddy, I don’t feel so good.”
It’s a phrase that, along with its nonverbal equivalent – that glazed, pale, listless look that your kids get when they’re coming down with something — that you’ve learned to dread. Because whatever the ailment, be it flu, stomach bug, sprain, or other, two things are now certain:
1) You’re going to spend the next 24 hours, and likely more, worrying about and helping your child to get better, wishing you could magically take their discomfort away; and
2) You’re simultaneously going to spend all of that time in a frantic, improvisational rush trying to cover responsibilities at work while taking care of business at home — which won’t, to put it mildly, be easy.
Working parenthood in and of itself presents a massive logistical and emotional challenge, and when your child is unwell, that challenge ramps up significantly: How do you explain
There are three things that all working parents have in common: (1) a lack of time; (2) a feeling that we should be spending more time — at work, with our kids, at the gym, or engaged in any number of important activities that get squeezed when we have too much to do; and (3) an uneasy, guilty, powerless, nagging feeling about all of it.
There’s a better way.
We can’t add hours to the day or shrink our to-do lists — but we can pick our spots. We can choose to do the things that powerfully and positively impact our careers, home lives and well-being in very little time.
Think of them as Working Parent Power Moves.
A Power Move takes seven minutes or less, can be done completely on your own (without any special resource or equipment), and — most important — provides disproportionate benefit to one or more of the core areas of your
There’s an unexpected source of insight, solutions, and resolve for all working parents grappling with the dual failure-is-not-an-option challenges of managing career and kids — and for every organization struggling to find meaningful, practical ways to support its working-parent employees.
That source is the U.S. military.
Whatever your background, or your perspective on U.S. politics and actions abroad, it’s hard to argue that over the past 15-plus years of constant military activity, and the associated deployments, redeployments, and other extraordinary demands made on military professionals and their families, the U.S.’s armed forces now have more experience facing working-parent problems than many or most organizations. As one of the senior leaders in the government’s office of Military Community & Family Policy told me, “The number one reason for military professionals not being battle-ready is worry about the people at home.”
In the face of that ongoing challenge, the
You’ve decided to leave the organization, and the decision was driven by your needs as a working parent. Maybe you’re taking a new job with fewer hours or less travel so you can spend more time with the kids; maybe you’re “up-ramping” and taking on a position with more responsibility, pressure, and pay – so you can afford those looming college bills; or maybe you’ve decided to put your focus on responsibilities at home before looking for a different opportunity.
Regardless of the specific reason why, the question now is how – how to leave in the right way, how to be credible, honest and transparent while acting in your own best interests, and how to preserve the long-term career capital you’ve worked so hard to create.
Unfortunately for working parents, there’s no offboarding playbook, and when you’ve got your kids and family in mind, the raft of emotions attached
“Ask for a flexible schedule — it’s the only way to balance work and family.” “Think hard about part-time. You’ll end up working on your days off anyway — for less money.” “Back in ’86, when my first daughter was born, I learned to completely check out on evenings and weekends.” “Hire more help!” “It only gets harder as they get older.”
Most working parents look to their networks of mentors, coworkers, and professional contacts for advice on balancing the competing demands of work and home. But the off-the-cuff guidance that most new working parents in the U.S. get, even if it’s candid and well-intentioned, isn’t always helpful. Too often it’s contradictory, vague, out of date, unactionable, even downright disheartening. With so many professional fathers and mothers depending on this common wisdom, it’s no wonder workforce opt-out rates aren’t budging and so many working parents report
Unlimited leave. Executive coaches for new mothers. Food takeout vouchers. “Flying nannies” who join their executive employers on business trips. In their efforts to do the right thing and woo talent, organizations of all kinds are reaching for headline-grabbing solutions. But what if your organization can’t offer glossy, cutting-edge benefits? What if they’re too costly, don’t work structurally, fly in the face of your corporate culture — or don’t have senior management’s support?
Not to worry: The most powerful work-life solutions are ones every organization can implement. They’re low-intervention and low-drama. Managers can spearhead many of them, even without institutional backing. And none of them cost an incremental dime.
Over the past decade of leading human-capital and work-life efforts at Fortune 500 companies, I’ve advised management teams and coached individuals struggling to balance the competing demands of work and home. I’ve experienced the problem firsthand as a busy working mother, too.