Having been raised by a single mom, and having been a single mom for many years, I understand the time constraints and challenges that impose themselves upon parents, especially single parents. It often feels like we need to transform into super-parents, juggling multiple responsibilities and tasks simultaneously. From getting the kids bathed and into bed to doing dishes, laundry, and preparing for the next day… the to-do list seems never-ending. And let’s not forget about the pile of unfinished work waiting for us from our day jobs.
The incident that brought the challenges of work-life balance to the forefront in today’s society was when Professor Robert Kelly was being interviewed on BBC.
You can watch the clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mh4f9AYRCZY.
Suddenly, his child burst into his home office, and we all felt (and knew all-too-well) the anxiety he experienced. However, we also felt a sense of relief in knowing that we are not alone in facing these challenges. This video was one of the first of its kind, ultimately leading to deeper acknowledgement of the pervasive challenges and giving parents the unspoken permission to integrate their personal and professional lives.
In addition to struggling with work-life balance, parents can also face numerous additional career challenges that can be emotionally and mentally draining. As we have seen, the demands of both parenting and professional responsibilities can often clash, but the high cost of childcare adds another layer of stress, making it difficult for parents to manage their finances while pursuing their careers. Some parents may also have to deal with discrimination or bias in the workplace due to their parental status. This can be incredibly disheartening and can hinder their career growth and opportunities. Many parents find it challenging to secure flexible work arrangements that accommodate their caregiving responsibilities. This lack of flexibility can limit their ability to advance in their careers and reach their full potential.
Although these won’t solve all of your career challenges, here are a few simple things that you can do now, to move yourself towards career satisfaction and personal and professional balance:
1. Imagine & Reverse Navigate
Imagine the last role that you will ever have before retiring. Is it in management? An executive in a C-Suite role? Owning your own business? A celebrated assistant of over 20 years?
Whatever that vision is, identify the bridge that you need to build between that last role, and your current role. What are the next stepping stones up, leading to where you want to be? Where do you need to upskill? Who do you need to know?
2. Quality Time: With Yourself
Spending a few hours with yourself each week can do you a world of good. On an American SPCC podcast with David Long – Consultant, Hansel Executive General Manager, and Founder of Pandemic of Positivity – he shared with us that he does a “mental check in” with himself, before he turns his attention to his kids. This is an emotionally intelligent response to the interruption or end of a work day and the beginning of any interaction with your children. Checking in with your own emotions can stop an array of negative responses and catastrophes before they begin.
3. Quality Time: You and the Kids
Research has shown that it isn’t the amount of time that we spend with our kids, but the quality of the time that we spend with them that matters.
Stressed from the day? Imagine how a good hug will release that oxytocin, as opposed to the negative effects of a stiff drink or yelling at your family.
4. Quality Downtime – Sharpen Your Skills
Everyone needs downtime. Scrolling through social media and staying abreast of what our friends and loved ones are up to is important. However, there are many courses and certification programs online that require only a few hours of your time. According to Google, the average American spends 20 hours per month on social medIa. Imagine putting just a couple of hours towards a certification or skill of some sort. Potentially, you could achieve a new certificate every few months!
5. Assess for Success
As professionals, we have many blind spots. We don’t always know the highest use of our time and talent, or even where to start when it comes to identifying these. That’s why assessments were created… to help us identify things that we don’t know about ourselves. Assessments are questionnaires that, when answered transparently, are intended to help us understand who we are at our core. They help us uncover our strengths, values, motives, and behaviors, among other things. They also give us valuable insight as to where we would best function in the workplace.
Assessments are based on one, or a multitude of, sciences ranging from behavioral science, to skills and strengths, to psychology. They can be found online (or you can visit our website to find out more).
6. Track Your Accomplishments
Keep track of what you contribute at work! Every month, write down an overview of what you have done for the company you work for. If possible, quantify it. How much revenue have you generated? How much money have you saved the company? How many people have you onboarded or trained?
The more you track, the less you will have to rely on your memory when the time comes to update your resume for a promotion or a new job.
7. Acknowledge Yourself, Stop striving for Perfection, and have a little fun!
Try this exercise: Stop one time every half hour and pat yourself on the back, acknowledging something that you did that half hour. Even if it is simply acknowledging yourself for having patience or getting a task done. See how it feels to appreciate yourself. The benefits of self-love are endless and include raised self esteem and awareness, and decreased anxiety.
It is important to remember the little things in life that you enjoy doing, be it reading a good book or playing pick a ball! It’s easy to lose one’s identity outside of work. Having hobbies and being engaged in your family life will also serve you well if you should ever find yourself in between jobs.
While some challenges may seem overwhelming, there are small steps you can take to improve your career satisfaction and work-life integration. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone in facing these obstacles. Seek support from other parents who have experienced similar challenges and who can share advice and strategies. Look for organizations or communities that provide resources and support for working parents. Additionally, consider exploring alternative career paths or industries that offer more flexibility for parents.
Prioritizing and integrating your family and personal life while still pursuing your career is crucial. Setting clear boundaries, delegating responsibilities, and seeking support from employers, family, and friends can help in achieving a better work-life balance. Again, taking care of your physical and mental health is critical, as well as opening good lines of communication with your partner and children about your needs and expectations.
Remember, it’s okay to make mistakes in parenting and in your career. What matters is how you learn from them and move forward in a positive direction.
Author, Speaker, Coach, Community Advocate
Tracy has spent twenty five years in the fields of personal & professional branding, and business & professional development. In her first book, “The Seven Pillars of Reinvention: Finding Your Passion & Purpose,” Tracy walks you through ‘the right’ career path questions. In her second book, “Faith, Hope, & Options – A Mid-Career Transitioner’s Bible,” Tracy shares her system for career development and identifying your calling.