A mid-life crisis can be simply summed up in one sentence – “I don’t know you anymore!“. It’s funny how love birds who’ve been together for the past decade or two will one day wake up and see a stranger by their bedside. Some psychologists the likes of Carl Jung – the one who first ‘discovered’ the ordeal terms it as “a normal process in the maturity journey.” But the problem is deeply rooted than what it appears at the surface.
Couples and parents coming for advice usually seek a cure before realizing the root of the illness. There is no way under the sun you will one day wake up and hate someone you have loved for all that time. This becomes tricky to realize especially when parenting comes in the picture. Since the parents’ attention is shifted to family, work and self, it becomes a slippery slope and thus they usually don’t see the gap forming; until it’s too late to mend what is broken.
See, working and parenting go hand-in-hand in our current generation. The Center for American Progress surveyed close to half of the working populace to be women. Gone are the days when women would comfortably seat at home raising kids and ‘taking care of the house’.
High living costs have brought about the need for double paychecks to survive the hard economic pressures. Even the top mom of the day is looking for a second job – a side hustle – as a parenting plan to sustain the family. But all these came into the picture and balancing parenting flew off the window and became a foreign concept.
But how did it all start?
A Short History of Parenting Women in Employment
Back in 1862, Virginia Penny started a women liberation movement that would be the hallmark of the 20th-Century. She started by conducting a national survey carrying out one-on-one interviews and researching on the various challenges women go through in employment. She finalized her results when she published the book, ‘How women can make money married or single, in all branches of the arts and sciences, professions, trades, agricultural and mechanical pursuits.’
Her list comprised of more than 500 different jobs. The book’s rights were sold and other versions of the same book published and it simply revved the job industry at the time. Women were deprived of access to higher education making it impossible for them to get well-salaried jobs. Cambridge University only came to validate women’s degrees later on in 1947.
It was World War I and World War II that brought the massive awakening. Long story short, men were sent to war – able-bodied men who used to work in industries. Parenting responsibilities started experiencing a diverse shift from this period. Without men to keep the industries running and provide for their homes, women had to take the challenge head-on. They ended up making the very military clothes that their men wore for battle. At the end of the day, men came back and found the tables turned. They experienced joblessness for the first time as women were thriving as the breadwinners.
This, of course, did not come without challenges. Currently, we have women achieving more degrees, masters and doctorate certificates than men, according to a recent study by Catalyst. We also have the highest number of single families, divorcees, and breakups in the history of families. So, how do balancing work and parenting come in light of all this?
Understanding the Basics of Parenting
If you were lucky enough to walk down the aisle, then the ‘until death do us part’ should still be fresh in your mind. When one begins parenting responsibilities, one thing becomes very clear: “the end is what will justify the means.”
Let’s dig deeper into that to paint a clearer picture. See, you have to understand what the end goal is when looking for positive parenting solutions to balancing career and family. If your end goal is to make lots and lots of money and think your family will be happier this way, then this isn’t the right article for you – it would be better for you if you stopped right here.
If your aim, on the other hand, is to be more present in your family, share all the memories, see your kids grow up, keep the fire burning between you and your mate while still making both ends meet, well, hello there!
Once you have established that your family is your top-most priority before your job, and you also understand that you also need the job to sustain your family, you will make decisions that won’t leave you with the guilty-feeling.
We have all been there, so take these pieces of advice from our experience and those of other top moms. We’ve got your back and we hope the following list will lead you towards positive parenting and still leave your boss satisfied.
1) Priorities! Priorities! Prioritize!
Richie Norton had this famous quote that found its way in the books of several novelists, “You need to make it a top priority to continually make your priorities a priority!” Wow, simple and sophisticated, isn’t it?
That was the first point which we talked about earlier – you have to discover what matters most to you. This includes prioritizing at work, around social circles and events and even at home. For instance, do you need to do laundry every single day or can you set aside a single day for that? Those extra chit-chats you have at the office, can you do that over lunch and get the work done or is gossip time a crucial part of your day? Is it possible to spend more time working at home or will the kids make it utterly uninhabitable for you?
The important thing to understand with setting your priorities straight is that some things will always outweigh others. You might be so stressed up about meeting your deadline that you miss out on the very first time your little bundle of joy makes the first steps. Remember they won’t walk for the first time twice, and what more will you miss if that wasn’t important enough? It’s not a guilt trip, just facts.
2) See Ahead of Time
This is the perfect time to act shrewdly than ever before. You have to look beyond the 5yrs when your kids will be toddlers and even beyond the 15 years before teenage-hood kicks in with a stump. Big people make big moves – you are ‘big people’! It is obvious knowledge that the higher up in the food chain you are, the more luxuriant and capable you will be.
You should be making moves to progress in your career path as early as now. Sacrifice even if it means taking online lessons for an MBA and take those opportunities presented at the workplace. If you decide to study at home, you could do it when the kids themselves are engrossed in their homework. Make sure they understand the value of what you are doing – they might not see the reasoning and meaning right there and then, but the best parenting books will tell you actions will always prevail over words. In the end, they will also learn to value what they do.
3) The Team Spirit
The biggest lie women in America and other parts of the globe have embraced is that being an ‘independent lady’ means they will not rely on any other person. They end up carrying the weight of the whole world on their shoulders which ends up in sicknesses such as depression and even cancer.
You need to embrace the spirit of teamwork. In fact, your ability to embrace help from others just goes to show how strong you are. So, if anyone offers to help you: be it a family member, your hired nanny or even your partner, just show them how grateful you are and appreciate the efforts. They’ll be more willing to work next time.
4) Don’t Fail to Plan
Now here’s where even the smartest of women and even men at times trip. It is impossible to begin any project without laying out plans because it will fail. The same goes for marriage, responsible parenting and even work. Planning is key and we can’t tell you how to plan yourself since you know your schedule best.
Nonetheless, here are a few tips and points to bring you into the limelight:
- Have a calendar planner where you list all the expected activities. This can be hung on the door of the fridge or somewhere the kids can also access and include their special events too. You’d hate to miss that coming Talents Show at your kid’s school.
- Review the coming week’s plans as the week begins, probably on Sunday night as a family, and update it if necessary.
- Don’t carry out all the activities in the morning as you will be overwhelmed before work. If there are some things you can do before going to sleep – like packing the kids’ lunch, ironing their clothes and the likes, do them then.
- Planning also involves setting time aside to reflect together as a family – it does help.
5) Be Present
This works both ways, whether at work, studying or at home. If it’s time for family, turn off the gadgets. Authoritative parenting may demand this rule to be applied including other strict measures to encourage discipline. It would be better if you led by example and be the role model.
Being present simply means you are keen enough to notice how your son’s moods have changed of late, notice the glow in your daughter as though she got her first secret kiss, and realize the furrows forming on your husband’s face due to stress and the likes. These are the opportune moments to organize those fun family activities and make the best of them. You also get to understand your kids better during such times.
Being present at work is simple, do what you are supposed to do and get out of the office when that’s done. You’ll be surprised at how much time you’ll save by just being there in the moment.
Remember what we talked about mid-life crisis, it begins when you are ‘absent’ even when you are present. Then the withdrawal becomes mutual and the couple no longer notices each other. This is why you should read on the next point.
6) Reciprocity Rule
You have heard it being said, ‘do unto others as you will have them do unto you.’ This is essentially the motto for permissive parenting which rarely works out for them because they end up giving their kids ‘poison’ in the name of unregulated freedom.
But the motto still holds: if you want your partner to show you more love, start by doing the same. If you want your kids to be more open to you, open up to them and give them room to air their thoughts. If you want your lover to be more present, be MORE present. We cannot emphasize this enough.
It is impossible to show love to someone else without first loving yourself. This basic parenting principle will see you being the happiest parent with zero guilt – okay, let’s say 0.99% guilt for those times you treat yourself like crazy. The human brain operates at maximum capacity when it has been given time to ‘reboot‘.
This simply means you also need time to treat yourself without anyone interfering. This could be through immersing yourself in the best books, doing a bubble bath for hours with a glass of wine, swimming or a gym session or whatever it is you do to make you less cranky. Be good to yourself and you’ll feel so good that it’ll be a down-hill ride being good to the rest.
8) Managing Tricks
A top mom knows that positive parenting solutions involve shrewd managing techniques. You might not be so lucky to land yourself a job that gives you all the time you need at home with 6-figures. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean you have to be absent from your kid’s life. Technology has made it a practical possibility to be there even when you aren’t. Gone are the payphone and landline days when mobile phones and Wi-Fi were akin to Venus and Pluto.
Make frequent checkups back home and know their progress. Sing a silly song to that charming kiddo till you see that smile that makes you brighten up. You’ll get all the energy to finish your day even when everything seems to be going south. Just make sure you aren’t being a bother at work with all that love bursting from you.
9) Throw Better Punches
Take it easy, we don’t advocate violence here. Just telling you to make better moves!
If you can wisely approach the HR department or your supervisor to revise your terms, approach them strategically. It would help to know whether other team members have been given similar offers.
You could also present them better offers like FlexMatch which gives them the tech to allow you to work from home. Make sure you aren’t being emotional about this, even though you are, but rather show them how it’ll increase efficiency even for them and let the dominos fall.
10) Be Real
You’ve heard all about setting SMART goals, but are you doing that? If you aim for the milky galaxy and land on the moon, it might wreck you. This is especially so with the overwhelming perfectionists on social media who make you think your life is the most miserable of all.
Don’t make comparisons – you’ll never be them and they won’t come close to being you. SO, be as real to yourself as you can be and if possible, start considering plans to work for yourself or find a freelancing gig.
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t end up judging yourself or being guilty. We do understand that work can overwhelm you at times and even miss out on some important occasions. But always aim to make the best of every moment and give yourself fully to your family.
Remember all that work is for your family, therefore, learn how to balance parenting and career. What have you been neglecting so far, family or career? What amends are you planning to make?
Share your insights on the comment section below.