Balancing Career and Parenthood - Part I

Parenthood forces all of us to clarify our values and decide what we will prioritize both professionally and with our children. While privilege determines how much freedom we have to think about our ideals versus our obligations, many families have some room to make choices after we honor our responsibilities. It is important to think through your beliefs and your options to decide how you will create a family you feel good about given your values, your opportunities, and your constraints. Here are 10 important considerations as you shape your vision and simultaneously get through the daily grind of raising children and working.


1.  Identify your deepest values and think long-term.

What is most important to you? Becoming a parent ushers in a very busy phase of life. Raising children is added to an already full plate- maintaining your career, marriage, friendships, health, home, etc. There will always be debate around whether or not you can have it all. I believe that you can have it all over the years, but in the short-term it is impossible to get to everything, and some sacrifices must be made. Which priorities are essential to you and which can be on the back burner or scaled down for a while? How do you think you will feel about your current choices ten years from now, and which sacrifices are you most likely to regret? At the end of the day, your relationship with yourself is what matters the most. What choices will allow you to feel the most peaceful years from now?


2.  Accept that balancing career and family is difficult. 

Maintaining an ambitious, challenging career takes time, both day-to-day and over the years. Likewise, being a thoughtful parent who spends a lot of time with your children is demanding. You can do both, but creating realistic expectations for yourself can help prevent the “I’m not doing either very well” syndrome. If you work part-time, it may not yield the same results as full-time work. Similarly, when your job is especially demanding, there will be periods when you spend less time with your children than you’d like. Be fair to yourself and redefine what success looks like. You are not doing both poorly, you are doing two full-time jobs, and success at balancing both may look and feel differently than what you are used to.


3.  Think through your beliefs and philosophy as a parent.

Developing your parenting philosophy and style is an ongoing, evolving process. As you learn more, meet different parents, and have a variety of experiences, you will develop some overarching beliefs that guide your parenting. You will hear differing opinions on topics that run the gamut, from sleep to breastfeeding and formula feeding to childcare options. As your children get older, you’ll make decisions about mealtime, free play vs. structured activity, and screen time. You’ll continue making choices through the teen years and beyond. Take the time to educate yourself, whether it’s talking to other parents, reading, listening to podcasts, etc., so that you make decisions that feel right for your family and your particular children. Some of these parenting decisions will guide your career decisions, such as whether you want to work from home, pick your child up from school, or how much travel you’re willing to take on. Conversely, your career choices will impact your options as a parent- that promotion may come with increased travel. What is right for your family?


4.  Assess your career.

What do you want out of your career? Does it satisfy short-term needs, like money, connectedness or engagement, or does it also satisfy long-term needs such as fulfilling your life’s purpose? Are you someone who must be in a leadership role? How much time are you willing to work after hours? Think about how your long-term career choices may be impacted by your choices now. And do not allow yourself to be paralyzed by fear- you can spend a lot of time with your children, and take some time off or work part-time, and eventually go back to work full-time if you wish. At the same time, it’s important to stay connected, and be thoughtful about how you’ll re-enter the workforce. And remember, your friends who are parents have their own professional networks that you can tap into if you choose to stay home for a while and restart your career when your children are a bit older. “Lean In” if you want, on the timeline that’s right for your family and for you.


5.  Create friendships with other parents who understand you and your choices.

Your identity evolves when you become a parent. Intertwining who you were with who you are now as a parent takes time. Having a supportive group of friends who have similar values is immeasurably helpful. This phase of life that asks so much of you as a person, parent, and professional brings up a lot of questions and difficult choices. Becoming part of a community and figuring it out alongside your new friends is a rich experience- you gain new friends and have support from peers who truly understand.

Jen Mayer