Whilst every family is different, there are several common issues faced by working parents. Here are some of the top problems that crop up time and time again for working parents, and we look at why they are such big issues for us all and how to tackle them.
There are limited roles that fit around school hours, and those that do don’t tend to pay particularly well. The popularity recently for zero-hour contracts and shift working with days and hours changing weekly can make it hard to find a job that fits in with family life. Whilst flexible working requests must be considered, many are turned down as unsuitable for the business needs. Preparation is key here, putting forward a flexible working request that is well thought out and emphasises the benefits to the business will make it more likely to succeed. Using technology effectively can help you make a business case but it’s also important to have a good support network around you to help with the balancing act.
Choosing childcare that you are happy with and that is affordable is a big issue for working parents. If you’re working hard, and raising a happy child, trusting others to care for and spend quality time with your child whilst you work can be difficult emotionally. There are the logistical problems of fitting drop-offs and pick-ups around your working day. Costs are a huge problem, with work often giving little return financially after childcare costs are taken into account, especially for parents with more than one child to arrange care for. Then there’s school holidays once children get older.
Having a good network of friends and family to help out is a great help but it’s not necessarily the solution to this problem, especially for parents who have recently moved for a new job and don’t know many people locally. Understanding the needs of your family, the ages and stages of your children, and the pros and cons of the options available can help you make an informed decision that will mean you’re more relaxed and able to focus at work.
Striking the right balance between work and home is a complex thing. Many companies expect employees to put in extra effort and those who clock out on time can be seen by colleagues as lazy and by managers as less worthy of a promotion. Leaving after breakfast and arriving home just in time to say goodnight can make parents feel they are missing out on quality time with their kids. Taking time off to see your child’s teacher for a progress report or see them perform in the school play may not be possible. Couples finding time to see one another is a big part of striking the right work-life balance as working parents often alternate working days or shifts to reduce childcare costs and this can lead to issues within the relationship as you don’t get any time together. Single parents report difficulties finding time to fit in any sort of social life when so much time is taken up with either work or home life. Setting aside regular ‘you’ time and looking after your health and the adult relationships that matter to you can increase productivity at work and give you the energy needed for quality family time. Make every second at home count, get the kids involved in meal preparation and share the household chores to maximise the time you have to connect with your children and help them develop skills that will promote a happy home in the longer term.
Often termed ‘mummy guilt’ it is not limited to just mums; parents of both sexes are finding work comes with a large dose of guilt. Not giving 100% at work whilst worrying about home life and not giving 100% at home, whilst worrying about a work issue means that neither role is fulfilled to the best of a parent’s ability. Missing the school run can often mean a parent isn’t part of the clique and their child can find they are left out of social activities. When your child can’t bring their friend home for dinner once in a while, there is more guilt to add to the pile. Guilt is a waste of time so make a promise to yourself that you will let it go. Leave work at the office for a better home life and give your childcare provider emergency contacts to call should a problem arise. This will leave you free to focus and give your all in your job, with the satisfaction of knowing you are doing the best for your family and have nothing to worry about.
Working for yourself can be seen as the perfect way to both work and still be an involved parent but it comes with its own problems. Having to be child-minder, house-keeper and put in the required working hours means quite often a self-employed parent is doing 3 jobs for little in the way of reward. Exhaustion and stress can be overpowering when a parent takes on too much and this has repercussions for the family unit. Set aside a working space or write down your hours and stick to them. Be organised in the home and don’t be afraid to ask for help with it all.
Remember there is no golden rule for how to run a family. Make sure you communicate with all members of yours if things aren’t going well and find solutions that work for you. Whilst it might seem like an impossibly difficult situation, it won’t be forever, and try putting a note in your diary for 6 months time and see if things have got easier. If not, review and make some changes and do it again.