Today, as I write this blog, I am navigating my newly developed skill set of homeschooling. I’m uncertain whether my kids will return to school as planned or if we will have to find support for another 4+ weeks. I’m navigating virtual school and tutor sharing with neighbors, while sleep-deprived because my two-year-old has decided to outgrow his cage, I mean.. crib. Not once during all of this has my professional career slowed down, and I know that I’m not just speaking for myself when I say it’s been challenging working to grow and outpace the competition in this pandemic situation.
An article recently caught my eye around working parents reaching their breaking point when it comes to balancing careers and parenting. This motivated me to openly share my personal thoughts on the topic and how we can better support each other as we work to navigate these unprecedented times with dynamic school, work, and government guidelines.
To all the working parents out there that are struggling right now: you are not alone. The struggle is real, and it should be acceptable to talk about it in the corporate world. It’s time to turn the tables on downplaying the great mental (and sometimes physical) load many of us working parents’ shoulders; instead, let’s speak honestly about it and support each other. It is my belief that this understanding will drive more loyalty and retain talent in our organizations, so we can all just be more darn human.
In a previous blog post, I talked about embracing the messy, imperfect life – I am confident that this will be a critical time of personal growth and reflection for all of us. To build upon that idea, I cannot stress enough that you need to stop using social media as a parental measuring stick. No one has it all together right now. Families that seem to are most certainly paying a lot of money to ensure that they do or they have a village to help. Many are struggling to keep up. My laundry is piling up, the house is not in an organized state, we may have run out of milk a few times, and our dining room is now a virtual classroom. Do not compare your behind the scenes with someone’s highlight reel.
Most of the time I can focus on what matters, except for when my gas tank is on empty and I turn into a monster mom who is fighting for my untenable views of perfection and I (or my family) have to put monster-me in check. Accept that we can only control what we can and cut yourself some slack from your perfectionist goals (reminder, we are in a pandemic).
In our current environment, we’re trying to mentally cope with an unforeseen and unprecedented event, while still trying to resume some sense of normalcy and navigate a dynamic situation in both our personal and professional lives. In order to be our best selves either at work or at home, we need to take care of our own minds and bodies and prioritize self-care. I often say “you cannot pour from an empty cup.
Practicing self-care is easier said than done. Here are a few personal recommendations:
If you are finding yourself on edge, stressed, and seeing your inner monster come out, perhaps it’s time to schedule some much needed me-time on your calendar to take care of yourself.
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing all of us to rethink our priorities whether simple decisions like am I ready to go out to eat in a restaurant or more critical ones like whether or not we are ready to send our children back to school. I recently was talking to colleagues and I heard some half-joking comments that one parent might have to give up their careers to support virtual schooling. Please, please, and especially for the women out there who are so often the ones to leave the workforce for familial obligations, make sure you have open and transparent communication with your managers and leaders before you make a drastic decision. Employers, managers, and teams cannot provide support if unaware of challenges that you may have, so I encourage you to make them aware of your current situation as appropriate. Outside of the workplace, ensure that you are speaking with your partners and your support system about ways they can support. There is NO shame in asking for help. It’s unprecedented times and we need to have modern day villages that work to fill in the gaps and offer much needed support.
For those of you who are not parents, beyond the parenting years, or have a stay at home partner, I implore you to show empathy to your colleagues and employees that may possibly be hanging on by a thread. Believe me, most of us parents would rather be in the office versus navigating learning pods, trying to find qualified tutors, dealing with tech issues, or figuring out what common core math is. If you don’t understand the above, ask someone to explain or share their experience with you to gain some awareness around what working parents are currently experiencing. For managers, please check on your employees- they may not be comfortable sharing their struggles. If a parent tells you they will miss a meeting or asks to reschedule due to family duties, do your best to accommodate them and let them know that they have your support.
Working parents are going through a monumental experience right now where they are learning much about themselves and their ability to deal with ambiguity and change, prioritize, be more flexible, and still get things done. I am concerned that we will lose some of these now battle-tested employees if we don’t have a full appreciation for what is going on outside of the workplace. With open communication and empathy, we can all unburden some of the mental load that working parents are feeling and support ourselves, our colleagues, and our employees to be the best version of themselves and together get through this challenging time.
Contributing Editor Credits: Chelsea McGovern
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