On May 11, the US Covid-19 Public Health Emergency will officially end. But if you’re like most of the working parents in my coaching practice, so what not yet however many views and daily practices that brought you to the pandemic have expired.
Amidst the unprecedented pressures of the past three years, all of us who combine careers and children have had to use new moves, and lots of them, to “make it work.” Maybe you and your partner have learned to alternate shifts on days the daycare is closed, or you lead each Zoom call with a disclaimer that the baby is in the background — and so on.
Some of these hacks continue to serve us well. Maybe thousands of Zoom-call disclaimers later, you’ll feel comfortable discussing family responsibilities with colleagues and feel more confident at work. Or maybe continuing to work remotely, at least part-time, allows you to stay more involved in the kids’ school activities than you could while traveling five days a week. And some practical solutions during the pandemic (think: virtual parent-teacher conferences) are working so parent-friendly that we’d all do well to keep them.
At the same time, many of our Covid-era routines and beliefs not help us more. In fact, some of these practical and mental movements, now hardwired into our muscle memory, actually make it more difficult so we can do what we really want: succeed in our careers, while being loving and present caregivers, and stay healthy, whole, and ourselves in the process.
To set yourself up for success in combining career and children ahead, I want you to challenge your muscle memory a little. You’ve probably already done some deliberate, careful thinking about how to get the best out of the pandemic, restoring routines and behaviors (like those more regular family mealtimes) that you want to continue. Now, try to go one step further and ask yourself: What no longer serves me?
To encourage that thinking, let’s get specific. Below are four different work-parenting habits during the pandemic and views that I’ve seen held by many mothers and fathers – and you can too, even at personal or professional costs. Scan the list and see which one is right for you. For each one, I’ll then share a low-stakes but effective way for you to reset: to tweak and update that particular habit or perspective so that it works better for you going forward.
Four Habits and Perspectives in Pandemic Times
1. Perform limited child care.
Throughout the Covid crisis, many or most of us have had to work full-time while simultaneously parenting full-time, and that is heroic. But somewhere along the way, the once heroic became normal, and even expected. The fact that we survived without regular or reliable daycare became a creeping feeling that I should be able to move without much helpor worse, collapsed into a belief that good parenting means using as little care as I can.
As a result, many of us today ask for less help than we need or feel guilty when we do. As one of my new working-mother clients – a corporate finance executive – recently told me, “The baby NEED I will be with him in his first year. And if other parents have gone without care during the pandemic, so can I! ” This former high-performing professional, now trying to juggle her child and her company’s budgeting process, was referred to me when, unsurprisingly, her work quality began to decline. -os and, by his own admission, he is fast approaching burnout.
His particular case may be stated, but do you know a little of yourself in it, or are you bullied by your own child care NEED?
New Movement: Make smart, ongoing decisions about the childcare you need.
Instead of holding yourself to unrealistic standards in a wartime environment, ask yourself: What care arrangement do I need now to do my job effectively? Maybe that means the kids stay in the after-school program two days a week so you can make it to in-person sales calls, or maybe now that your spouse has gone back to work full-time. , you decide to extend the nanny part arrangement. to cover Friday as well.
There is no right or wrong here, and different care arrangements work for every family. The point, however, is to break away from being chained to unrealistic standards and start proactively managing current requirements. And no, having enough care does not make you a bad or uncaring parent. It means that if you are with your children, you can with them — and not be overwhelmed, overwhelmed, and/or trying to do a difficult job at the same time.
2. Seeing remote work as The Answer.
You’ve worked from home for two-plus years and never missed a Zoom call, let alone a deadline. Now, your company is pushing for a return to the office…and it feels like you’re being asked to give up a valuable tool that makes being a working parent possible.
New Moves: Think as broadly and creatively as possible about the flex arrangements available to you.
Remote work is a godsend during the pandemic, and it can still be a powerful, core tool in your working-parent arsenal — but it’s not the only in a If an important goal is for your kids to have homework time in the evening, perhaps shifting your hours or working on a compressed schedule might do the trick. Or maybe other, more structural changes are what’s really needed at this point in your life and career – for example, a work sharing arrangement allows you two full days off per week. The more broad-minded you are, the more likely you are to create the specific work-parent life you want.
3. Pass now.
Schools are closed, work is endless, and diversity is weakening. And to conserve what little energy you have left, you learn to take life one day at a time. Goals? No – life is almost over until 5 PM.
New Movement: Actively envision the bigger picture and the longer term.
Short-term thinking is an effective self-preservation maneuver during a crisis. But if this is what you do, then you’re doing yourself a disservice, making life harder and scarier than it needs to be.
Instead, try opening the aperture. If you can create a mental picture of where you want to be professionally, personally, and as a parent years from now, it will make the responsibilities of working parenthood seem more doable today. With a specific positive outcome in mind – an outcome of your choosing – all the small, day-to-day decisions you face will become more straightforward, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that all the hard work you do now. serves an important purpose. With a sense of momentum toward that goal, you’ll also feel more energized and motivated. If, for example, you know you want to one day leading this division, while remaining the central adult in my children’s livesthen you will feel more “together” than just trying to endure whatever stress and strain comes your way in any given 24-hour period.
Don’t have the “picture of success” in mind? Don’t worry. Just take some time to think about how you want your career and family life to be a few years from now, and observe other working parents you admire. Over time, your working-parent goals will naturally begin to crystallize.
4. Framing work as the enemy.
Your son bursts into the background on a Zoom call or starts vying for your attention while you’re reading an urgent message from your boss — and you snap, “Not now! Daddy’s here work will do!” Or the morning you’re at the office, you remind the kids that “Mom isn’t coming home for dinner tonight” with a heavy sigh.
New Activity: Talk about work in a positive way with your children.
When the responsibilities of work and home life conflict, as they often and clearly do throughout the pandemic, it is natural to view and discuss them in adversarial terms. And you’re only human, after all: Your boss’s message is stressful to read, or you’re disappointed about missing dinner.
But try to turn things around and look at it from your children’s perspective. They have watched over you so much these past years. They see your stress and frustration and witness your short fuse. As you nurture them into adulthood, are those really the feelings and attitudes you want them to carry with them in their work and career?
No need to talk about work in pure terms, but think about updating your script a bit. Say, “Mom is going to work” instead of “Mom THERE to go to work” — or talk to the kids about a recent accomplishment at work, or a moment you’re proud of, or what drew you to your field or job in the first place. Find out them of some of the prosperity and satisfaction you find in your work so they can begin to imagine themselves.
. . .
As you read this list, what resonated? Write down your ideas, or bounce them off your partner or a few trusted friends. And then expand the frame. Ask yourself what OTHERS habits during the pandemic that you want to keep strong, forever – and which to avoid, starting now. Trust your instinct. This is YOUR life and career and family, and you know what works. As you iterate and refine your thinking, what emerges is your new, unique playbook – not for LIVE as a working parent in a crisis, but for Successfully now, and in the future.