SARAH MACONACHIE

WORK HARD PARENT HARD

As a working mother, balancing work and family responsibilities can be a challenge to say the least. When I went back to work after children, I dreaded not having flexibility. I knew I wanted to work, I missed the stimulation, having something to work towards and something for “me” but I also didn’t want to put my children into Daycare from 6am-6pm every day. My husband supports with pick ups and drop offs, but in our case the majority of the load comes down to me. In most cases it is the mother the bares most of the responsibilities with children, but times are rapidly changing and more dads are taking on this role and lots of families share the load as best as they can.

I’ve had 3 positions since having children. The first allowed me to work 3 days, but had very inflexible hours. It was back to real basics compared to what I had been doing pre children, and I hated that 4pm feeling when I desperately wanted to pick up my daughter but felt chained to my desk with eyes on me from every direction watching to see if I got up and left early.

My second position was Part Time and I working from home 4 days a week. It was flexible in terms of hours but the work load was really not feasible Part time- so I ended up working 5-6 days a week and was only paid for 4… what a stitch up.

Is it possible to have true flexibility and be successful?

YES!!!

After I had returned to my second role post twins, I decided I wanted something for me. I wrote down a list of what I wanted and needed (manifesting) and I found a dream job. I was upfront and direct with what I needed, and my manager (also a mother) was great. My role was great. Completely flexible- I worked 7 days a fortnight, I would come and go as I need to according to drop offs and pick ups and I made up any hours outside of work. There was no guilt about getting my daughter from school, there was no guilt if someone was sick and I need to work from home. I performed well, I got everything I needed to get done, it was GREAT!!!

This role gave me the confidence to take it one step further and start my own business which I love.

So why is it so hard to find flexible work that suits parents?

You need to be open to alternative work arrangements.

One of the key aspects of embracing flexibility is being open to alternative work arrangements as a parent and as an organisation. This could mean working from home, having a flexible schedule, or taking advantage of part-time or job-sharing options. By being open to alternative work arrangements and actually sticking to them you allow yourself to work on your terms and be successful at work as well as at home. It means companies also need to really embrace this ethos and encourage true flexibility across workplaces also.  It’s all very well saying you support flexible work, but it needs to be filtered across the business and accepted by all leaders and team members.

Be proactive and voice what you really need.

Another important aspect of embracing flexibility is being proactive in seeking support and voicing what you really need. This can include reaching out to family and friends, or seeking professional support such as therapy or coaching (with me!). When you are returning to work or applying for jobs, think about what is going to really work for you and be completely honest and transparent. The happier you are with your flexible arrangements the happier you will be at work and the harder you are likely to work. Feeling resentful isn’t good for anyone so work out what works for you and talk about it to those who need to be across it.

Seek out Opportunities for Growth and Development

In a study conducted by Pew research, they found that 50% of mothers said advancing in their career is harder because they are a parent, and 39% of dads agree that advancing in their career is negatively impacted by being a parent.

Working parents also need to be proactive in seeking opportunities for growth and development, both professionally and personally. This can include seeking out mentors and sponsors, participating in professional development programs, and taking on new challenges and responsibilities. By investing in your personal and professional growth, you can build the skills and confidence you need to succeed. You should still be able to maintain flexible working and continue progressing in your career.

Prioritise self-care.

Getting burnt out as a parent is easily done. We tend to juggle a million things at once and prioritising self care is essential to not burn ourselves into the ground. Exercise, meditation, spending time with friends, and taking time for self-reflection are all things we should be incorporating into our weeks. By taking care of yourself, you will have the energy and resources to be a successful working parent and role model for your children.

Have a growth Mindset

Embracing flexibility requires a Growth Mindset, which means being open to change and being willing to adapt to new circumstances. The demands of work and family life can change, and what works for you today may not work for you tomorrow. By being open to change and embracing new opportunities, you can continue to grow and succeed as a working parent.

When you manage to find a position that truly works for you, you won’t look back. It is hard to find the perfect integration of work and parenting, but it is possible and requires a bit of give and take. Be open with your communication around what you want and need and remain flexible yourself. I hope you manage to find a gem like I did that allows you to love your job, progress and work flexibly.

I think flexibility is essential for working parents. Pick ups/ drop offs, appointments for you, appointments for your children, there are so many things needed to squeeze into a week and if you don’t have flexible work arrangements it can make it so hard. It’s still a big learning curve for many, but flexibility is the future of working and the more we can implement this, the more parents can return to the workforce and it’s essentially a win win for everyone. If you need some support to implement flexibility across your organisation, I do a great workshop for leaders!

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