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Motherhood, career and well-being: 10 ways to make it work

Published by: LifeWorks,

A working parent’s employee experience can be difficult. With so much to juggle at home and work, stress can rise and well-being can suffer as a result. But with planning it’s possible to fulfil both family and career goals and maintain total well-being while doing so.

1. Build a support network at home and at work. Experts and parents agree that having support from others—friends, family, other parents, your partner, your children, and the people with whom you work—will make your life as a working parent easier and more rewarding.

2. Develop long-term career goals. Ask yourself: What do I care about most? What kind of position do I wish to attain? How important are salary, vacation time, development, promotion opportunities, travel, benefits, and the commute to work? What else is important to me? This will help you understand how you want your career to blend with your family life.

3. Talk to your spouse or partner about what you want to achieve. How will you work together to achieve each of your career goals? What compromises or sacrifices will each of you need to make so you can both achieve your goals? Many couples find creative ways to support each other’s careers.

4. Discuss your career goals with your manager or with a mentor. Schedule a time to have this discussion and come prepared with specifics in terms of time frames, benefits to the company, and what you need. Since a manager or mentor is likely to be further along in their career and may have brought up children, ask what else you should be thinking about when you are planning your career progression.

5. Find out what’s possible in your career track. If you are interested in moving into a more challenging position but know you’d like to take time out to have a child (or two or three), discuss it with a trusted role model or mentor about your goals and how to achieve them. What would be expected of you if you got a promotion? Would you be able to meet those expectations with a young family? What are the trade-offs you might have to make to do the job and meet your obligations at home? How flexible is the organisation likely to be? How flexible can your partner be? What other support can you find?

6. Keep up contacts and friendships at work when you are on parental or maternity leave. Find ways to keep up with what is happening in your company, the industry in general, and the economy overall while you are away. Read newspapers, magazines, and online news sources, and get together with colleagues when possible to keep up-to-date. That way you will have less “ramp up” time when you return.

7. Remember that “work will always be there.” Today people are working well into their 60s, which means you may be in the work force for many years to come. Part of keeping your career on track may mean allowing yourself to take breaks, sabbaticals, and detours from your job in order to find balance at home.

8. Set family goals with your partner and work as a team. What’s most important? Having breakfast as a family? Eating dinner together? Plan ways to make the important things happen no matter how busy you are. The more you share home and family responsibilities with your partner, the more you’ll achieve as a team. Learn to stop feeling that you have to be in charge all the time and let go of some of the burden of feeling responsible for life at home.

9. If life feels too hectic or stressful, shift your standards. Sometimes all it takes are some small adjustments to your work routine to make you feel happier and more fulfilled. Leaving the office early one day a week to spend the afternoon with your child or taking a long weekend to visit the grandparents, could improve how you feel about life and work. Make peace with the “to-do” lists as well. Accept that sometimes the laundry won’t get done and sometimes there will be dishes in the sink – simply take the time you need for yourself.

10. Be organised. Be sure the calendar you use to organise your life includes all the important work and family commitments. If you use a personal agenda planner or an electronic calendar for work commitments, write down family dates on the calendar as well. Sync your digital calendar with your partner’s so that a family event that shows up on one will automatically appear on the other.

Remember: Turn to colleagues for support during times of overload.
Be there to support them in return.

The key to getting your work done and being able to go home to your family at a reasonable hour is to work as efficiently as possible when you are at work. How can you achieve that?

Try to be as focused as you can at work. Keep interruptions to a minimum. Maintain a “to-do” list and stay focused on the tasks at hand. If you can, arrive at work early to get work done when others aren’t there, or catch up with work after the children are asleep.

Talk to other parents about how they find balance. Every family has its own rhythms, routines, and time-saving techniques. Ask other parents how they manage their time and share your tips. Timesavers such as shopping online or paying someone to clean the house can make a big difference.

Simplify as much as possible. Try to keep your life simple. Plan easy meals. Resist signing up for too many activities. Don’t be afraid to say “no.” Also, practice mindfulness, or living in the moment. Playing with a child while checking your email doesn’t bring joy to anyone. Focus on the person or activity at hand.

Learn to recognise and manage stress. Symptoms of stress include sleep problems; trouble concentrating; headaches; stomach-aches; neck, shoulder, or back pain; heart palpitations; and lack of energy. Try to identify the source of your stress and address it. Make time for yourself. Get exercise. Make time for lunch or a walk with a friend. Turn your computer off when you’re not working. Put your smartphone away. Get enough sleep. And seek counselling if you need it.

Talk to your manager about flexible work arrangements. If your job allows it, you may be able to telecommute, share a job, work part-time or flexible hours, or work a compressed working week. If your job does not allow for flexibility, you may be able to talk to your manager about other ways to rearrange your work schedule, especially when you’re under pressure at home.

Try not to be hard on yourself. Combining work and family is challenging,
but it can also bring satisfaction and opportunity.

Finding support couldn’t be easier

Find the child care provider that’s the best fit for your family, and make sure to have a backup plan. Arrange for someone to care for your child from time to time so that you can connect with your friends by yourself.

Let family and friends help Ask for their help. Find ways in your community or through work to meet other mothers who are home with their children.

Find a mentor. It’s helpful to have a mentor or role model to bounce ideas off as you make career choices. You might find someone within or outside your organisation.

Look into sources of support online. Many websites have networking groups or discussion forums that let you share ideas with other parents who are navigating work and family responsibilities. You may also find helpful blogs to follow that address work/family issues.

Take advantage of the programmes and benefits your company offers. Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or counselling service has resources to help with managing stress and to support you integrate your work and personal life.

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