How Do Working Parents Make It Work?

May 14, 2019

Working parents are not only juggling a thousand family issues; they’re doing it on less sleep while fighting off the cold junior brought home from daycare. On top of that, they’re fighting guilt, no matter how much they love their work. Missing important first events, big games, and third-grade graduation makes even the most dedicated workers feel bad.

And sometimes, they’re doing it alone. In 2018, 11.3 million families in the U.S. were headed by a single parent, 81 percent of them by a female. And two-thirds of single moms work outside the home. Without a live-in partner’s income and support, the working mom’s life is exponentially harder than her counterpart with a resident spouse or partner. SingleMotherGuide.com estimates that the annual cost of center-based infant care averaged over 40 percent of the median income for a single mother, and about 32 percent for care of a school-age child.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that working parents tend to take the long view, according to a survey by Great Place to Work. They asked more than 440,000 employees about how the felt about their jobs. Parents were more likely than their peers to say their work is more than “just a job.” They were also more likely to plan a long-term future with their companies.

They also worry more about fairness and transparency in company policies, and about being left out of social events after work. Happy hours, weekend golf games, and casual gatherings can be the venue where teams bond and managers provide insight into key issues. Working parents worry that they’re missing out on important information and the opportunity to build stronger relationships.

Parents also worry that when they become parents, they’re perceived as less professional or less dedicated to their jobs.  They volunteer less frequently to stay late or travel for business. They’re often sleep-deprived and sometimes sporting spit-up-stained ties. They need extra breaks to pump, call the sitter, or talk to the school nurse. They worry that they’re falling behind, being lapped on the fast track.

If you’re a working parent reading this, you’re nodding. Maybe crying just a little (you’re entitled; it was a long night). If you’re a manager, consider offering extra support for working parents, especially new ones. Here are some ideas.

  • Create a culture that doesn’t penalize workers for leaving at quitting time. Staying late, working weekends, and putting in long hours shouldn’t be held up as expected behavior for high potential employees, and certainly not required.
  • Schedule a specific time to communicate with staff who can’t participate in after-hours social events. Make sure to schedule some events during business hours so they don’t feel isolated.
  • Pay attention to events that may not be obvious to non-parents, but matter a lot to working parents. The first day of school can be an emotional experience. Halloween is a big event. Summers are especially challenging and expensive for working parents who must find creative childcare options when school is not in session.
  • Consider offering extra support. EY offers peer-to-peer mentors for new parents returning from maternity or paternity leave. The mentors help returning parents get up to speed on changes in the business and provide coaching and advice when the transition to full-time work feels overwhelming.

Let’s celebrate working moms and dads over the next few weeks.  And let’s watch for signs of burnout in your team members who have too much on their plate. For some useful resources to help working parents manage better, visit workingparentresource.com.

 


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