Working While Parenting Will Never Be the Same — Lets Talk About That
Mindset. Strategy. Pivot.
I could go a million ways with this post, and I might, because I’m passionate about this, and I want the best for all of us. But I also want to be clear, and offer up ideas and solutions, so let me outline three key takeaways from the get-go:
- The mindset you adopt right now, amid everything scary and uncertain, will define what happens now, next, and after this is over.
- The strategies you employ and the actions you take will accelerate or impede your future.
- The intentions you set, the choices you make, and the future you envision depends on whether you go with the flow or fight what is happening around us.
I’m not trying to scare you or provoke you. It’s the opposite. I want to empower you to decide, create, and act. I want you to have options, resources, and be able to capitalize on the opportunities that will come.
Let me tell you a short story.
My friend Jan called me yesterday. A former colleague, who’s fun and generous, she always has a great attitude, makes others feel good, and is uniquely spiritually grounded. What I mean by spiritually grounded is she’s 100% authentic, very comfortable in her skin.
On the surface, she usually knows what to say and do, how to be a friend and leader, and has really great timing. Behind the scenes, she has tapped into a higher power and her inner knowing; she trusts the universe to provide for her and her family, and her confidence and calm is reassuring.
We recognize that in each other and it allows us to go deep when we talk. We rarely relate to each other at a surface level, and in times like these, that depth of understanding is a gift.
She’s nearing retirement and contemplating her next chapter. I thought that’s what we would talk about, but instead, she surprised me when she said, “Help me understand something. Have women overcorrected? Has feminism gotten out of control?”
As I said, we start with the hard stuff. I asked Jan to explain why she was questioning that, and what she meant.
“Daycare. I suddenly have a big problem with daycare. I see parents trying to figure out how to work, even with everything that’s going on in the world. It’s like the obligation they feel to work is seemingly more important than being with their babies right now. Even though we all will remember this — what we did, how we responded, who we were with, for the rest of our lives, parents are just so focused on work.”
“Are we so obsessed with having it all that we don’t even see what we are giving up?”
There’s a lot to unpack there, and before I share, I’d like to offer a gentle reminder that I’m #teammom, all the moms, all the days, no matter what. This includes her; this includes me, and this includes you.
But I do have some thoughts, and they aren’t the garden-variety “pick a team, SAHM, WFHM, or WM” type. Also, I don’t have all the answers, but I am a fixer. In the best of times, and in the worst of times, my instinct is to fix things. Right now, my instincts are on high-alert and I want to fix everything.
With that, I’m going to go there, and I know that this is a sensitive subject, and so I ask that we talk about it respectfully. Let’s be kind, open-minded, and as always, trust ourselves to know and follow our truths.
One more thing: Let’s start from the place that we all, all moms, and all dads, want the best for our families, the best for our careers, the best for each other. Let’s start there. If you can’t get there or don’t wholeheartedly believe that, maybe this isn’t the conversation for you.
So, I don’t think feminism is off-course. I think it’s fantastic, has always been amazing, and leads to real, tangible progress that advances humankind.
Feminism, to me, is not “women want everything men have”; it’s “women are capable of anything, just as men are.” It’s the idea that all people are equal, worthy, integral, and filled with potential. We all matter, and we all make life better, and because of that, we deserve equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal access.
Next, I do think some moms and dads are missing an opportunity to connect more powerfully as a family, to be introspective, to press reset on their lives, and maybe re-evaluate a bit. But that’s ok too. Do what you can when you can. Maybe you have your reasons.
Now to the issue of daycare. We didn’t choose daycare for our family, but for some families, it makes sense. When daycare doesn’t make sense is when it’s a convenience, a way to opt out of parenting, or seemingly necessary because mom or dad won’t contribute their fair share or aren’t fully committed.
The decision to become parents is monumental, as is parenting. We must have a vision for our parenthood, just as we would be intentional and set goals for any other important aspect of our lives. We don’t have to know everything about every stage in advance, but we do have to understand how we want our experience to feel, what kind of life we want to lead, and what we want to pass on to our children.
Our children are 7, 7, and 5, and they’ve never had one day without mom, dad, or both in the home with them. That was a conscious decision that remains one of our proudest accomplishments. It was also very, very hard at times, and has had and continues to have far-reaching financial and career implications.
We would still choose it given any other option, every time, but we have had to make sacrifices, be strategic, unite as parents, and often, it requires a lot of creative thinking to make it work. We don’t have parents nearby to help either. If you are interested in how we did it or how you can do it, please reach out, I’m happy to share or brainstorm if it’s one of your family goals.
In our case, we didn’t choose to give up or postpone our careers, but how we think about work shifted. My husband and I are very ambitious; we have big goals, and earning and contributing are very important to us, but we are also utterly committed to parenting. We know how fleeting childhood is, and we wanted to give ourselves wholly to the parenthood journey.
If you feel similarly, you know it’s a dance. There’s tension there — A tension between advancing up the corporate ladder, finding the time to build a business, continuing on a particular trajectory or going for big dreams vs. being present and at home with your children, seeing their milestones, witnessing their growth and development, having the flexibility to move things in your schedule to accommodate their needs, bringing in enough income to support them now and invest in their futures, and finding time to nurture your marriage when you are both working and parenting.
But it can be simple too if you let it. If you choose the best, most highest vision for your life, and make decisions and take action in accordance with living that vision, it’s not so complicated.
Some of you might be feeling like what was working and what wasn’t, that tension between work and parenting that was underlying before, has moved to the forefront. With quarantining, you may have crashed into all of it head-on.
It’s coming up for a lot of people because the cracks in our systems are showing. If we don’t have a home environment that feels good, right now, it feels worse. If we can’t find breathing room, we know we aren’t managing our time as effectively as we could. If we don’t have routines, processes, and systems in place to facilitate family, health, and career success, we’re scrambling. If we don’t have organizational or team support, we’re feeling alone. If we don’t feel optimistic about the future, it’s hard to be motivated right now.
That’s ok. Tomorrow is a new day, and we can figure this stuff out. Maybe no one showed you how. Perhaps no one taught you, modeled it, or even pointed out that it was a thing, and it was necessary. Still ok. When we know better, we do better, right?
Mamas, dads, here’s the truth. COVID-19 is disrupting everything. You know this. You sense it. You see it in your own homes, on Zoom calls, and when you chat 6-feet away from your neighbors across the fence.
There’s the obvious, a looming health threat. There’s the next most pressing, a viable economic threat. Then, there are the more existential threats. It’s forcing us to confront our beliefs, our patterns, and our fears.
For example, we might be thinking about our addiction to tech, even as we rely increasingly on technology and social media to communicate for work, to connect to our extended families, to order our groceries, to understand the pandemic, and more.
We might be examining our hygiene behaviors, or beliefs about wellness, shifting from working out in a studio to working out at home, from food being abundant to some foods and supplies being hard to find.
We might be homeschooling for the first time, even as we recommit to our jobs, businesses, and clients, trying to secure our financial lifelines, while we embrace our children’s needs.
And we may be in such close quarters that our emotions and attitudes are contagious. We want to be the rock for our family. We want to set the right tone, promote kindness and comfort, and model staying in the moment, but our desire to take care of the future and do all the things is insistent too. It’s a lot, and it may be disrupting sleep, causing conflict, or mean just feeling yucky.
Feel your feelings, then focus on gratitude, ground yourself spiritually, connect broadly, stay the course with your kids and your business or career, and turn off the news. That’s step one.
Then you need to create a broader strategy to manage this transition time. Why transition? Because life before COVID-19 is over, and life after will be different. But we will come out of this, and when we do, anything is possible. Focus on the possibility.
In the same way that it will take time for the market to recover, everything on a personal and family level will take time to rebalance too. You’ll have to re-establish your routines, get back into the swing of things, and find your new groove.
You can’t know what life on the other side looks like yet, so instead of over-investing in figuring that out, let’s identify what’s different about now, what trends are likely here to stay, and how it might impact our future.
1. Everyone is working from home right now.
That’s something that won’t go back to normal. Some of you love it, some of you hate it, some of you are surprised by how easily you adapted, some of you are still struggling. But we know it’s here to stay.
Companies have been resisting this tidal wave for years, but now have no choice but to adopt it, and create policies around it. Some might even be starting to see the benefits. And here’s why. Because for some people, those with children or aging parents, who are finding solace by being near the people who need them, their tie to an office just became even looser.
For others, who had unbearable commutes or toxic work environments, their productivity just jumped, and they won’t be willing to endure that stuff anymore. And, for those who need more flexibility for other reasons, they now know that remote work makes life better.
Once you know what’s possible, it’s nearly impossible to return to what was.
Yes, the economy is going to take a hit, so perhaps in the short-term, employees will do what they have to do to keep their jobs and comply with working in an office, but companies better be planning for the long-term. And the long-term writing on the wall says if your people want to work remotely, enable them and then help them succeed.
2. Everyone is homeschooling right now.
That’s another thing that won’t go back to normal. Whether you love it or hate it, whether your kids adapted or are falling behind, whether you enjoy the role of teacher or don’t have time for it (or can’t remember advanced math), again, there’s no going back.
Schools haven’t had a giant jump forward in content or delivery for ages. They’ve evolved quite slowly on the whole, and now they are at a place where they are doing things way outside of their comfort zones. But for some people, those who thought schools could be more relevant, take better advantage of technology, or appeal to different ways of learning, there’s an opportunity here too.
It won’t be easy, and not everyone will be happy. Some parents are grateful for the enhanced flexibility of virtual learning; some are nostalgic for the hours they could hand their children off to someone else. Some parents appreciate that their children are safer; some are concerned that they can’t keep up long-term.
We don’t know all the answers yet. Still, we do know that everything has changed, that teachers deserve pay raises, and our children deserve our commitment to figuring out a sustainable solution that benefits education, children, parents, and families.
3. Right now, we are all appreciating what it means to be truly interconnected.
Something one person does in a country half-way around the world can affect you or me. Borders and passports are an illusion. We all are in this together. That’s been the message of climate change for thirty years, and right now, we can see that idea play out in a tangible example.
Once you know something, you can’t unknow it.
Yet some of us have been resisting this idea too, and it’s because we can’t always see the tie that binds. When we are scared or threatened or don’t have enough, we aren’t paying attention to who has it worse, or the butterfly effect.
When we are in survival mode, we don’t look up. We are highly focused on the fire drill in front of us, and we lose our perspective. Some of us are in survival mode right now, and understandably so.
Survival mode is sometimes necessary, but it’s not ideal. Thus, a collective goal might be to stay out of survival mode and shift to thrive mode. Thrive mode is a billion times better. It opens the door to a better future for everyone.
No matter what our leaders are or aren’t saying, the bigger picture reveals the truth. The truth is we are all interconnected, and what we do at an individual, family, company, and community level matter. The ripple effect is real.
Maybe you agree with these three trends. Perhaps you wish they’d go away. Don’t bury your head in the sand. Create a strategy. Ask yourself, how can I adapt to remote working, remote learning, and interconnectivity? How can I take steps right now to embrace the inevitable changes and apply it to my business, to our family and life goals? What’s my ideal outcome?
When this resolves, many of us may have discovered along the way, that the path we are on isn’t sustainable, that the system was broken, or isn’t working for us anymore. And when we arrive at that conclusion, it will be time to pivot.
Change is hard. We know because we’ve been living it. It seems like week-to-week, the old rules no longer apply. There are layers and layers and layers of new things to do or not do, new ways to adapt, new variables to respond to, new apps to download, unique circumstances to navigate. It’s too much in the aggregate, but remember, if we go back to mindset and choose how we feel at any given moment, we can avoid overwhelm.
And, if we focus on our strategic transition plan, to channel our anxiety into healthy curiosity, to move out of victim mode and get into solution mode, then pivoting becomes the next logical step, a choice, not something forced upon us.
So, where do you want to go next?
That is the big question here. Do you want to go back? Maybe the part of you that’s scared is saying, hell, yes, I want to go back. My job was fine, my school was fine, my family was fine, my life was fine. I know what fine looks like, and I’m comfortable there.
But maybe there’s a part of you that sees the opportunity in this and wants something better.
Take a day or two to accept that we can’t go back. Yesterday’s fine is over. Ask yourself again, where do you want to go next?
What was working and is still available? What wasn’t that great, but wasn’t bad enough to change, that now seems intolerable or irresponsible? What were you on the precipice of addressing that got lost in the coronavirus shuffle, but you know you’ve got to tackle it head-on and soon?
For a lot of you, it’s job-related. Maybe you have a job, but don’t love it anymore. Maybe you did once, but you aren’t feeling inspired by it anymore. It wasn’t utilizing all you had to offer or accelerating anymore. You might have been coasting, stuck, or waiting it out.
Don’t wait it out. Take advantage of the new energy around all of this. Start a business that allows the flexibility and freedom to take better care of your family.
Be bolder. Life is short. Anything can happen. A virus can travel all over the globe in a matter of weeks. The medical communities have mobilized and are showing us how we can step up. Step up in your way. Do big things that benefit the world.
Even if you feel like you have too much on your plate. Even if you can’t imagine taking on any more than teaching your kids, keeping your income, taking care of your home, making dinner. Even if. Consider something a little bit better for your future. Then take a tiny step towards it.
I’d love to help. Here’s my calendar link. Let this be the thing that finally moves you to live better.
We have an opportunity to create a new world. Let’s take it.