Working Parents, You Absolutely Can Conquer Guilt, Fear and Sorrow
Are you a working parent? Are you afraid of missing out? Are you sad or guilty that you don’t spend enough time with your family? Do you feel guilty, on those rare occasions when you manage to leave work on time? If these emotions ring a bell with you then I hope that this blog will help you.
I’m Andy Smith from Change Smith coaching. I coach professional working parents and help them spend quality time with their family and achieve success in their careers.
I asked working parents what their biggest challenge was. The first three responses I received were:
- fear at missing out
- guilt at leaving work on time
- not spending enough time with the children
So I decided to think through those issues on this week’s Thought from the Forge…
First, work-life balance. A lot is spoken and written about work-life balance, but it’s not a metaphor that I find helpful. Especially when we’re considering the challenges that a working parent faces.
First, it suggests splitting your life into two parts and this isn’t helpful when there’s one person - you! - stuck in the middle of this.
Second, whenever I hear about work-life balance in my mind I see an image of a seesaw. And I see a huge amount of effort trying to achieve balance as first one end, then the other comes up. Isn’t that effort better spent on achieving your goals and objectives either at work or at home?
But the biggest issue I have with this metaphor is that every seesaw I’ve ever seen rests on solid, level ground. And when I think of the life of the average working parent, I can’t imagine a less level solid environment!
So, work-life balance doesn’t work as a metaphor for me. What I encourage my clients to think about is rhythm. I’d encourage you to understand the rhythms in your life and try to “get into step” with those.
Let’s see if a quick example will help. I know a couple of tax accountants. Over time, I’ve learned that from about late January into early March they are really busy. Busy dealing with people’s tax returns as we approach April the fifth (which in the UK is the end of the tax year). Then (because many clients ignore their advice), the last two weeks in March and the first week in April are frantic!
So, tax accountants, I say don’t worry about work-life balance in January, February and March. It’s more helpful to recognize that in those three months, you’ll be particularly busy, and so work may have to come first in planning. Can you think about bringing in extra childcare? Or - if it’s workable can your partner step in and take on more of the childcare? You can “dial down” the social life in January, February and March and leave more time for family and for work.
Then, beyond April, the rhythms change, and there is more time available to devote to family.
That’s why I say think rhythm. Think rhythm of life rather than work-life balance. Understand the rhythms that apply to your work and family life.
The second principle that helps you conquer guilt and fear and sadness as a working parent is clarity. Bringing clarity to your life.
For example, one response I had was from someone who said his biggest challenge was fear of missing out. And I get that. I do understand that. But as a coach, my instant response is to ask “what is it that you’re missing out on?”
If you have a fear of “missing out” - or similar fears - then you need to devote some time to thinking. Face those fears head-on. Quite often when we confront our fears they disappear because they’re not real at all! If they are real, what you’re able to do is to identify what the fear is and name it. Another man’s biggest challenge was not spending enough time with his daughter. That’s a fear or regret all working parents recognize. Again my question is “how much time is enough?” (And don’t let yourself accept the pat answer that “you can never spend enough time with your daughter”). Being a working parent is tough. A big challenge as working parent is coming to terms with “trading off” time. The exchange of time at work (with the benefits that brings) with time with the family.
And what helps is to be very clear about what you want from your family time. Identify what it means emotionally, and what that requires as a time commitment. Then do the same thing for your time at work. Do that, be clear about what success looks like with the family and at work, and you can leverage the power of the third principle.
That third principle is time blocking. Blocking time in the diary. If you’ve seen any earlier posts from me, then you’ll know that this is a regular theme for me. Because it’s such a powerful tool!
So let’s go back to the examples we were looking at earlier. Fear of missing out or spending enough time with the children. Here’s an example. Having thought through what that means, you decide that part of it is that “between Monday and Friday I will do two bath and bedtimes”. That’s clear and specific. That clarity means that when planning your week you can identify which two nights and diary them. Once diaried, it becomes much easier to protect that time. And if an unexpected event forces you to change one of those dates, you’re more likely to move it to another night - because it’s in the diary.
And at work, blocking diary time to work and focus on your key objectives at work means you’ll be more productive. Productive because you’ll fit other, less critical things around the critical work. And when you’re productive, you’ll know when you’ve done a good job. That makes it easier to leave work on time with your head held high and without feeling guilty.
So, to sum up, we’ve talked of three principles that help you conquer the feelings of fear, guilt and sadness that many working parents are prone to.
First, think the rhythm of life, not work-life balance. Harmonise the rhythms in your life at work and at home, and you can orchestrate a symphony that sounds beautiful. (Sorry about that flowery metaphor!)
Second, face up to any fears, doubts or worries you have. Force yourself to think at a forensic level of detail what “good” looks like in those respects.
Once you’ve done that, diary time. Block time in your diary for the family and make it a priority.
These are all simple things to do but because they’re simple doesn’t make them easy. Stick with it. I promise that by putting these three principles to work, you will begin to conquer those horrible feelings.
The fear of on missing out on the kids growing up. Feeling guilty about not being there enough or feeling guilty at leaving a busy office on time.
If I can help you with any of these or similar challenges that you face then please contact me. Contact me via my website , or email me - firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone or text me on 07896 519807.
If I can be of help, I’d love to be of help.
Thank you, until next week, goodbye.
Andy Smith Changesmith Coaching