Supporting Working Parents: Key Takeaways - Luke O'Rafferty

Luke O'Rafferty, a Data apprentice on the Elevate programme, recently attended the Community event 'Supporting Working Parents', here is what Luke took away from the event:

A mix of parents, parents-to-be and line mangers-of-parents-to-be joined a Multiverse Community panel session to discuss a variety of key topics regarding supporting working parents.

Balance

Part of the challenge or successfully balancing work and parenthood comes from a place where we believe we are smart and should be able to work it out for ourselves. That may be true to a given extent, but we can leverage our networks to help ourselves by asking peers “how do you make X work?” or “what is your routine for Y?”

We can help ourselves by asking peers “how do you make X work?”

It is widely recognised that the systems and processes around being a parent can be incredibly complicated. Finding/forming groups where you can ask questions, alongside seeking out resources such as those from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, can be invaluable.

It is important in becoming a parent to define your own narrative. Many around us, particularly on return from parental leave, will be waiting to find out what we are looking for next. We must fill in the blanks for our colleagues in setting both boundaries and ambitions. It is easy for people to think that you will want the “easier” project, so be explicit and tell them you want the challenge/extra hours/etc. when that is the case.

We must fill in the blanks for our colleagues in setting both boundaries and ambitions

This is where we can see how important it is to balance family, work and career. As well as setting out our goals, we have to keep focus on a career that may have stood still for a period. That might look like booking out some space in your calendar to reconnect with your network and catch up on conversations missed.

If you are making changes to work patterns then make sure to be specific about what you won’t do as well as what you will. For example, if you were to drop to four days a week then be realistic about what work you won’t do as a result.

Networking and communication

This clarity of communication is important in so many aspects to accomplishing the right balance of being a working parent. For example:

  • Being well organised and booking holidays around schools early. Remind those without school-aged children about any restrictions on your time well in advance to allow for a fair discussion. For example, if you want to do the pick up from school in the week then talk to your team about it to avoid meetings being set at a time you can’t attend
  • Find “safe” space to talk about issues or challenges at home that might impact work.
  • Identify individuals that can advocate for you when your attendance to events/socials is limited outside of work hours. If decisions are being made in the pub after work, then find someone who can have your corner rather than feel you have to make sacrifices to attend.
  • Consider how and when you get space to talk with others at work, such as a scheduled coffee session.
  • Form appropriate networks around the intersections that make you an individual. The Dope Black Dads network formed out of what was originally a simple WhatsApp group of black men who wanted to discuss fatherhood in a group of like-minded people. None of us are just a parent so reach out and find those who can help you.

When things get tough

Many working parents will feel guilt at some point when they can’t achieve as much as they hoped in one or both of their family or workplace. We should recognise that guilt as a sign that we are both committed parents and conscientious colleagues. However if this guilt becomes overwhelming Daisy Dowling had these suggestions for coping mechanisms:

  1. Challenge your inner guilt with “really?” If working late this time is “really” so bad then should you be calling social services? Probably not, so keep your perspective.
  2. The to do list can seem never ending. When it becomes too much start yourself a done list. Keep it easy to access and when it seems like there is always too much to do, reflect on how much you have got done, whether that is getting a project over the line before the deadline or got the laundry done once again.

Recognise… guilt as a sign that we are both committed parents and conscientious colleagues

What can work do

Work can support working parents in a wide variety of ways:

  • Understand the rights of parents and help provide them with relevant resources
  • Provide a variety of workable models for flexible working — four days a week isn’t the only option.
  • Organise communication channels for expectant parents, those on parental leave and parents to share and compare notes.

Thanks

Thanks to the panel for sharing their insight in an engaging session, and to Multiverse for hosting.

Libby Dangoor — Chief of Staff at Multiverse
Daisy Dowling — Author of Workparent: The Complete Guide to Succeeding on the Job, Staying True to Yourself, and Raising Happy Kids & Founder & CEO at Workparent
Marvin Crichlow — Project Manager at Southwark Council & Co-host of Dope Black Dads podcast
Nikki Masterman — Managing Director & Owner of Inspired HR

Find the recording of 'Supporting Working Parents' here!

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