By Anja van den Berg
Welcoming a new life into the world is a simple human reality. However, in today’s world of work the practicalities of becoming new parents are much more complex.
The transition from female employee to mother and then to working mother is a significant shift in a woman’s life. Moreover, today’s working fathers are just as likely as working mothers to say that finding a balance balance between their job and their family life is a challenge for them, Pew Research Center has found.
When it comes to getting back into the work swing of things, most new parents don’t see themselves in this positive light. Instead, according to the Pew Research Center report, they feel guilt.
Armed with pro-tips, advice, and sheer determination, moms and dads everywhere are performing the ultimate juggling act by blending their work and life together to create a routine that works for their careers and their families. Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, author of Seven Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business, prepares new parents for the transition:
- Build your sense of self by aligning with your partner
Dual-career couples need to craft a plan for an over-arching, shared life vision of which two mutually enhancing career plans are a part, says Wittenberg-Cox. “If you stick to trying to manage two independent career tracks you risk ending up competing rather than collaborating. That’s a guaranteed confidence killer. It’s also not great for your relationship.”
Wittenberg-Cox advises that you explore the answers to the following questions:
- What kind of career do each of you aim for?
- What are the short, medium, and long-term goals?
- What are the career patterns for the next decade in each existing career?
Pace yourself — and your partner — for the long haul. Well designed, you can both have it all — but maybe not both at the same time, or not all at once.
- Communicate with your boss and lobby for what you need
Once you’ve got your plan and your pacing down with your partner, it’s time to start building a communications plan for your boss. Don’t expect your boss to understand your inner thoughts or resolve the inevitable conflicts. Pitch a pace, a plan and a solution. Don’t be scared to ask for flexible working options. Figure out the right working pattern: you have to think outside the box. Flexible working does not just mean part-time work; it can be so much more than that, such as, for example:
- compressed hours;
- delayed start or finish to allow you to pick up or drop off your children at school;
- project working only so that you work full-time on a project and then take time off;
- working from home; and
- job sharing.
Be prepared to give something more back to your employer when you can, and make sure you make a good business case for working flexibly.
- Understand (and challenge) the corporate culture
The systems and cultures of firms today still assume that 24/7, up-or-out, linear careers are the default setting. That is the norm. Everything else, including the 86% of women between 40 and 44 who will have had children, is a deviation that companies are grudgingly catering to. Some companies do have great policies, but managers who aren’t very open to applying them. Make sure you know what the corporate rules of the game are in your company.
The transition to parenthood is an enormous transformation. The accumulating research is pointing to just how sensitive and important this period is for families. With a little knowledge and some foresight, parents-to-be and their loved ones can better plan for the transition.
Greater Good Magazine:
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/careers/returning-to-work-after-children-advice
Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2019/03/when-returning-to-work-new-parents-should-focus-on-3-things
Pew Research Centre: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/04/01/working-mom-guilt-many-dads-feel-it-too/