We were all designed to do two basic passions in life: have great relationships and engage in a meaningful job. Parenting is an example of the first, and career, an example of the second. However, most of us doing both find that there are lots of conflicts involved.
Kids don’t say, “Mom, I’ll do my homework and cook dinner tonight so you can work later.” And work doesn’t say, “Look, take off early and go to the soccer game, the partners meeting isn’t that big of a deal.” So we end up feeling somewhat frazzled and frustrated, with the sense that we might not be doing either of these all that well.
Here are some tips that can help.
4 Tips for Finding Balance When You’re a Career-Oriented Parent
Tip #1: Parenting trumps work. This is just a core value. There is no way around this if you understand the developmental needs of children. A child’s neurological design is to have two parents who love them, help them trust, feel safe, provide structure for them and help them develop their identities and interests. They are more vulnerable than the companies that we work for. They need parents. They didn’t choose to exist, we made choices to raise them. This isn’t about any sort of guilt message at all, but at the end of the day, a secure and well-functioning child is a lot more important than a career.
Tip #2: Age makes a difference. Having said that, I have seen many people actually do it all, and do it all well. They are great parents, and they have meaningful careers. One of the things to remember here is that in general, the older the child, the less time needed to parent. As any parent knows, there is a big difference in the time involved to do the right job with a 2-year-old who is home all day, as opposed to a 12-year-old, who has school and sports afterward. So it does get easier to spend more time on a career, as time moves on.
Tip #3: Do what only you can do. Make sure you are putting the highest quality “parent time” in with your child. There are functions that simply just belong to you alone, and functions that you can share or outsource with others. Here is the principle: relational time is more important than functional time. Relational time has to do with having the child talk about their day, activities, friends, wins and losses. It is about affection, wrestling, coloring and playing with toys. Functional time has to do with the task aspects of parenting: rides to school, doing laundry and chores. Functional is necessary, but it is not as necessary that the parent do it. So share those tasks with friends, neighbors and other family members, as much as possible. You are the only eyeball-to-eyeball parents your child has.
Tip #4: Share parenting with the other parent. Great parents pitch in with each other. Share bedtime, homework, play time, etc. Make it equitable. Dads need to cook and clean up. Moms need to be engaged in sports. Everyone should do everything. You’ll need a calendar in the kitchen to stay organized, but this works! If you need some additional support in this area, please read my post that includes a few tips for healthy parenting.
You can have it all, as long as you understand that you can’t have it all as much as you may have originally thought. Live in reality, budget your time, be disciplined and put the child first. Best to you!