Becoming a working parent is no easy thing – far from it. Choosing to have a child and balance a day-to-day job can be a stressful, demanding, exhausting way to live your life, and it can equally be a thrilling, enjoyable, and wonderful way to balance out your desire for a family with your need to advance and continue your career.
So if you’ve just become a working parent, are considering becoming one in the future, or know all too well the experiences that being a working parent entails, then check this list out!
1. You schedule absolutely everything.
One of the most important things you realise when you become a working parent is that you need to schedule everything. You’re not just dealing with your own schedule or both you and your partner’s – you’re dealing with another person’s, someone who doesn’t need to go to work or maybe even to school yet, but who needs your loving attention most hours of the day.
Therefore, scheduling is key. You learn that sitting down one night to actually go through the next few weeks is incredibly helpful, as it allows you to juggle your career with downtime as well as making sure the child’s needs are well met and that someone familiar is always there. You learn that it’s not easy, but in the end it is worth it, despite the sleepless nights and potentially endless spreadsheet/timesheet making.
2. Your sleep is a precious thing.
When you becoming a working parent, you learn that your sleep becomes even more of a precious, guarded commodity. Yes, sleep is a vital need at every stage of your life, but the pleasure of sleep is never quite so enhanced by the act of becoming a parent, particularly a working one at that.
You find yourself rejoicing at early bedtimes and praying that your child sleeps through the night, to give you a few blissful hours of uninterrupted, restorative dreamtime. The idea of sleeping in, or even better, having someone take your child for the night, is an oasis of delight you cling to desperately. Yes, adults are supposed to need a full seven to nine hours, but as a working parent with no time to nap during the day, you’ve learned that four is just about survivability, if not at all pleasant.
3. Your guilt levels – occasionally – skyrocket.
We live in a culture of dichotomy – we’re expected to be perfect and perfectly balanced at all times. You can’t stay at home all day, but then you can’t be wholly committed to your work, even though, in a strange way you’re expected to be both. Therefore, with all the pressures of society bearing down on your as a fresh working parent, it’s not unexpected that there are times when you feel guilty.
Some people will say that they ‘don’t know how you could leave your child at home’ with someone else, even if that someone else is a trusted family member or loved one, and even though you might have been expecting this, it can still hit hard and painful. Still, you know better than anyone that being a working parent means being able to further your career and still be a parent, so while this wave of guilt stings for a little while, it ebbs away and you get back to rocking your own personal balance, not society’s idealised one.
4. Your family time becomes preciously guarded.
When you become a working parent, your actual family time really does diminish in the face of… well, everyday life, let’s be honest. When you’re not working or sleeping, there’s very little actually in the waking hours that you get to spend with your family, and it can be a real strain on your physical and mental health.
Therefore, you start to guard your family time. Weekends become no-go zones for anything related to work, and even though you might be exhausted and crying out for a lie-in, you become more determined to do something with your children on that weekend, even if it’s something simple and enjoyable. Holidays too, become more protected, and you realise you would do anything to safeguard those few weeks free from work.
5. You start to develop stronger boundaries.
Before you had kids, you might have been fine dealing with multiple workloads and assignments, even if they extended out into the weekend or after hours. Sure, no problem, you can handle anything! However, as soon as you become a working parent, you’ll probably find yourself starting to develop a spine of steel when it comes to your working hours and leaving work very firmly at work.
Yes, it might be a shock for your boss or superior at first, but developing tougher boundaries between the realms of work and life outside of it mean that you become mentally healthier and spend more time with your loved ones. Your boss will probably even develop a respect for you too for being able to let go and learn about your real and true priorities.
6. You become a master at multitasking.
Multitasking has become a little bit of a strange thing in recent years – scientists tell us that it’s impossible, and yet so much of our day to day lives depend upon being to juggle a lot of things at the same time, and being able to wear a lot of different hats (figuratively, of course) at the same time. When you become a working parent, the problem merely exacerbates.
However, you soon learn that rapidly switching your attention is a trick that can be learned and which soon becomes effortless after repeated practice. Mentally going over shopping lists and grocery runs while rocking the little one to sleep? No problem. Balancing a checkbook while reading a bedtime story and going over dinner plans with a loved one? You’ve got it. You learn about the art of juggling and become an expert at handling everything life throws at you.
7. You become great at asking for help.
Admittedly, a lot of us have trouble in asking for help. We believe we can handle everything perfectly and efficiently, without any need of external support. However, when you become a working parent, that isn’t true. Well for most of us anwyay. You learn that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness at all – in fact, it’s the strongest people who do it.
You begin to learn to rope in available family members for babysitting shifts whenever possible, and even begin to outsource some of your pressing tasks and mundane activities to loved ones. They’ll most likely to happy to do their fair share, leaving you time to sort out your life and spend solid time with the people you love the most. Win-win situation, right?
8. You realise how important ‘me time’ actually is.
Strangely enough, one of the most common things that working parents have learned throughout becoming parents at work, is that the need for downtime and ‘me time’ is much more of a pressing, almost daily need. You might not have noticed it before, given that after work, all of your other time was usually ‘me time’, but now you’re a working parent, you realise how important it is.
It’s not selfish to want it, either. Recharging your body and mind, even for half an hour a day, can be a buoying experience, allowing you to separate yourself from the responsibilities of home and work alike, and allowing you to simply be. You learn that carving out time for yourself is a necessity for undoing the pressures of stress, and it’s something you crave and fight for dearly – especially when someone’s parents say that they will take your child for the night…
9. You begin to identify with your parents so much more.
This one isn’t to say that you didn’t identify with your parents before – of course you’re likely to have done so at one point or another – but when you become a working parent, it’s so much more likely that you begin to strongly understand and identify with everything your parents had to go through when you were a small child or a newborn.
You begin to identify with the late nights, the juggling of workloads, and the constant battle to deal with everything that arises with a young child. You begin to discuss things with them – ideas, beliefs, techniques, of how to balance work and home, of how to get your child to sleep, how to look after them, even something as mundane as how best to change their nappy – and begin to understand and share the same experiences as they had, and as their own parents had. It can be a wonderful thing, even if it involves exhaustion and dirty nappies.
10. You realise everyone has their own opinion …
Everyone has their opinion on how to raise a child, about every aspect of their lives, and when you become a working parent, these opinions only rise quicker to the surface. Every parent out there will have an opinion about how you are raising your child and the fact that you are continuing to work whilst raising a child.
The most important and valuable lesson you learn when you become a working parent, is simply that other peoples’ opinions don’t really matter. You know what’s best for your child, and if working whilst raising that child is what you need, then that’s absolutely fine and something you really should be doing. By all means listen to advice from loved ones, but don’t feel under obligation to take it. When you become a working parent, you learn that as long as you can do your own personal balance, then you’re already ahead.