Are you working full time with children? Here are my tips for success.
I am a working mom just coming off of my record year in business. My career is several years older than my child, and my professional drive has always been strong. So how did I manage to reach an all-time high in performance as a full-time professional and full-time devoted parent? The work-life priorities I balance each day are infinitely greater now than at any other time in my life.
There are stories like mine everywhere – parents rising to new heights in their careers while also meeting the demands of co-parenting and even single parenthood. How is this achieved? What is the best advice for working moms and dads to better manage work and family life?
Working full time with children: How to excel at work and parenting
Successful merging of career and parenthood essentially boils down to two things:
1. Flexibility: Identify, choose and accomplish shifting daily priorities
Planning and structuring my work days was pertinent to me before I became a mom. I still prioritize, but as a parent, the most relevant thing I learned is to flex and balance on a day-to-day basis – to be the best mom, co-worker and wife I can be during any given day. Priorities and needs shift by the hour or day, and they differ based on the age of a child, school involvement, sports and other activities – but as working parents, we can make it work.
When priorities overlap or collide, we need to be flexible enough to decide in that moment what makes the most sense and what has to give. Sometimes we make the right choices and sometimes we do not, and we adapt our plans accordingly.
The bottom line: Adopt flexibility as a working parent philosophy!
2. The way we work: There is always a better way.
- Become more efficient
- Work smarter, not harder
- Prioritize effectively
- Maximize time
Working longer hours is not the answer to balancing career and family life. Instead, flip the funnel and turn your day upside down – in a really good way.
Make a conscious effort to eliminate all diversions and nonessential tasks from your work day. Keep daily to-do lists short with top priorities only – no more than five. Keep emails and phone calls brief and precisely to the point, so that you and others can clearly focus on the need or task at hand. Automate repetitive functions and delegate where possible. And rather than trying to multitask, concentrate on fulfilling each priority to the best of your ability, without distractions. You will be amazed at how much and how brilliantly you accomplish your priorities when you cut out time wasters and give each priority the attention it deserves.
The bottom line: Become more productive at work – and spend less time doing it!
Great News: Employers are stepping up to meet you!
Many factors are at work in the business world today, making it easier for parents to manage family priorities, and generating the best jobs for working moms and dads:
- The American workplace has greatly evolved over the past 20 years.
- More women are in the workforce today than ever before.
- Moms are still the primary caretakers, but more dads are emerging in this role.
- Employers are changing to accommodate working parents’ need for flexibility.
Today’s employers recognize that they must adopt more family-friendly philosophies. Below are some accommodations for working parents that are becoming more prevalent among employers:
- Giving employees the freedom to work remotely
- Allowing employees to choose more convenient work hours
- Providing longer paid maternity and paternity leaves
- Offering on-site child care programs
- Letting mothers bring nursing infants along on business trips
One of my clients with a Fortune 500 company recently said, “We have been more conservative in the past, but we know we need to be more flexible to attract top talent.” He’s right, especially with younger professionals poised to assume top roles across business sectors. One source cites that 42% of the newest generation of working moms rank flexibility as being more important than salary.
Considering a job change to find a better fit?
Historically speaking, people change jobs for growth opportunities and greater challenges or because a merger or restructure eliminated their positions. Today, flexibility for working parents is becoming a more prevalent motivation. If you are inspired to take the leap for this reason, be sure to fully explore your needs, as well as your existing possibilities:
- Understand the unique terms of flexibility you need.
- What steps have you taken to find flexibility in your current role? What were the outcomes?
- Can you arrive early and leave early to manage your child’s activities?
- Can you log on in the evening or early morning to meet your deadlines?
Get to a point where you have tried everything in your current role, and if all else fails, I encourage you to look elsewhere. Exploring possibilities shows leadership, which employers look for when hiring. Also, keep in mind that recruiters know the cultures of hiring companies and their philosophies around flexibility. While it can be awkward for a candidate to broach this subject with an employer, a recruiter eliminates the risk by probing on your behalf. After all, we exist to connect people and companies with matching goals.
The act of looking for a better fit keeps the power in your hands. And you never know – you may find that what you already have is good or better than what is out there!
As an executive recruiter for the Accounting and Finance industry, I work with parents all over the country who have five or more years invested in their careers and they aim to keep that momentum going. Regardless of the industries or roles in which we serve, as working parents, we must establish and maintain a healthy and necessary work-life fit. This can be accomplished if we focus on what is most important each day, cut out the excess, and ditch the guilt working parents sometimes feel when self-expectations have to give way to the priorities of the day.
Authored by: Jaime Bergstrom