Do you feel the emotional effects of being a working parent? Flexible working can help with some of the practical issues that arise when juggling work and home life, but, according to parenting expert and author, Sue Atkins of Positive Parents = Confident Kids, employers rarely acknowledge the emotional side to parenting.
“The real issue facing working parents is the emotional effect of being away from their family for long periods of time, and their feelings of guilt,” says Sue Atkins. “From the parents that I coach, … it is apparent that they battle with their emotional feelings when trying to balance a successful working life with a harmonious family life. The biggest issue raised is that they cannot get their employers to acknowledge the emotional difficulties they are facing.”
Survey results issued in May 2009* by the Chartered Institute of Professional Development showed that the majority of UK employees (54%) agree they have a good work/life balance, but a third (34%) say that their employer did not provide any support in achieving a work/life balance. “This data reflects what I am finding when I coach working parents. Whilst many forward-thinking organisations provide business coaching for guidance through important work transitions, rarely do these employers provide the same level of support or acknowledgement of the emotional difficulties experienced from family issues at home. If the employer isn’t recognising the difficulties or addressing these problems then what can parents do?”
Sue Atkins has some practical advice to make being a working parent easier, more rewarding and far more enjoyable all round:
1. Stop feeling guilty that you are a working parent – turn down that inner voice that says “Good mums stay at home with their kids” and replace it with one that says: “I’m doing my best and I love my kids”.
2. Get the best childcare you can afford – You don’t want to spend time at work worrying about your child so see a range of nurseries, childminders or nannies and find the one that feels intuitively right for you and your child.
3. Let your standards slip – even if you find this really hard, acknowledge that you can’t work and have a perfect home. If you can afford it, get help with practical tasks such as the ironing and cleaning.
4. Reduce morning stress – The Cornflake Hour … get everything ready the night before – packed lunch, clean uniform, homework done, spellings, etc. Don’t waste valuable time hunting for, and doing, things at the last minute.
5. Focus on the positive – When you’ve had a bad day make a list of the positive reasons you go to work and think of what a good day is. When everything goes well, write down what you liked best. These lists will give you balance and a different and wider perspective.
“A parent’s idea of balance is likely to change with time, circumstance and stage of life. It’s important to stay focused on what is important in your own life and family circumstances as everyone is different and unique in what they want out of life. When at work, be there 100% in attitude, energy and commitment, and don’t worry about what needs doing at home. Likewise, when at home, don’t start worrying about the to-do list for the next day at work. Of course parents can work and raise happy, confident well-balanced children, but naturally some parents could benefit from more support than others,” says Sue Atkins. * “Employee Outlook – Employee attitudes and the recession”, Quarterly survey report (Spring 2009), Chartered Institute of Professional Development (pdf of report)