Striking a Balance: How to Succeed as a Working Parent

Striking a Balance: How to Succeed as a Working Parent

Hey folks! I’m Brooke Arevalo, Sr. Director of Finance at Kicksaw and mother of five. Like so many other professionals out there, every workday I attempt to strike that perfect balance between career and parenthood. Each day presents a fresh challenge, but over the years, I’ve picked up a few tips that have made my experience easier, and I want to share what I’ve learned with other working parents out there. So I wrote this blog post!  

When I first became a mother, I was not sure how my career would fit into the equation anymore. I wanted to be home near my kids, but I was not willing to give up my career. Figuring out how to pull this off took some work, but I discovered that with remote work, a great support system, and some intentionality, it is absolutely possible to “have it all” in this sense. You can thrive as a remote working parent — I’ve done it for over a decade, always with at least one child in the background. It’s a challenge, but so is parenthood, and so is a rewarding career. Both are well worth the effort, though, and in this blog post, I hope to provide you with some tools that will help you find that perfect balance for your own family.

Find Your Balance

As a working mother of five, the biggest question I always get asked when I begin to explain my busy life is, “How??” Here are some ground rules that help me create an environment that supports both my career and my family, and that I know will prove useful to you as well:

  1. Set clear boundaries between work and home. After a decade of juggling kids and work, I’ve learned that this is perhaps the single most important thing. When you are with your kids, be fully present. When you are at work, be fully present. Some days, I don’t get through all of my work by the time I enter Mom Mode, but I still force myself to close the laptop. I can always come back to it after they’re in bed if it’s really necessary. But most of the time, it’ll be fine to get to in the morning. Set that boundary and respect it, for both yourself and your kids’ sakes. 
  2. Don’t do it alone. As much as you can, work with your partner to share the parent load (moms, I’m looking at you in particular here). And if that isn’t an option for you, look to other family, friends, or babysitters for additional support. It truly does take a village. I personally have an amazing, supportive husband who recognizes that my career is just as important as his. When I have a work trip, he takes care of all five kids while I’m gone, just as I do for him, and we support each other in a myriad of other ways too. There are lots of resources out there that can help you figure out how to talk to your partner about this if you are struggling with parent/household load, and I strongly encourage you to find the help you need there if that’s you.  
  3. Become a master of time management. Be strategic with your calendar. Working from home means that it can sometimes be difficult to pull yourself away, even for a lunch break, so you need to be proactive about making sure your family doesn’t get squeezed out of your schedule. My work calendar tends to fill up quickly, so I always ensure that I block my calendar for daily things like “pick up kids from the bus stop.” I’ve even had “Potty training: Do Not Book Meetings” on my calendar in the past! Setting clear expectations goes a long way.
  4. Get organized. It’s crucial to find a way to keep everything straight in both your personal and professional life. As an Enneagram 1 (shoutout to my fellow reformers), I am naturally quite organized in life, but of course, as we’ve added more children to our family, it has become harder to keep up with everyone’s schedules as well as my workload. To cope with my increasingly nearing chaotic life, about five years ago, I started the very simple practice of writing out every task I needed to do each day. I still do this today. Each month, I duplicate the prior month’s task list and start over. I keep recurring items on the list, and any time I have actionable items come up, those go on my list too. As much as I’d like to think that I’ll just remember to take care of everything, that’s only wishful thinking, and my little list ensures I never miss a beat! Plus, it’s quite satisfying to check items off a list.
  5. Vacation. Take time off from work. Seriously. I am very fortunate because Kicksaw has a minimum of four weeks vacation each year, and you better believe I use every last bit of it. Time with my family is invaluable, and I will never get these years with my children back. Work will always be there when you log back on. As Charles de Gaulle once said, “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”
  6. Get creative. You can plan and organize to your heart’s content, and sometimes things still do not work out. So get creative. Summers are always a particularly difficult time to juggle work and children, so this summer our family is trying something new and working remotely from Europe for a month! 

How to Support Working Parents

Working parents can only do so much to ensure their success — it is equally as important for coworkers and employers to find intentional ways to support parents on staff. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Respect their calendar. If an employee’s calendar says they are unavailable (because they are picking up children, running their kid to a dentist appointment, etc.), plan your meetings around these blocks and not during them. At Kicksaw, we do what we can to support working parents, and one way we accomplish this is by valuing transparency. I’d much rather my colleagues be open and honest that they need to take their child to soccer practice, or that their kid is at home sick, than feel the need to lie and cover it up. Particularly when working in a fully remote environment, it’s critical to have this freedom to be transparent!
  2. Provide flexibility. If it’s possible, allow your employees to set hours that work best with their schedule (perhaps early mornings or late evenings when children are asleep). As long as the work is being completed as expected, don’t make the “when” important.
  3. Be an example. The best way to ensure that employees feel empowered to prioritize their families is by setting an example. If you take a peek at our CEO’s calendar, you will see a “Breakfast with my Son” time block on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Leadership should set the precedent that prioritizing time with family is something that won’t count against an employee.
  4. Be empathetic. Life with children is full of unexpected snow days, sick days, and school productions. Be gracious with your employees when they need to pivot or reschedule. 

Striking the right balance between work and parenthood is tough. Some days it is easier than others, some days you’ll fail at both. Finding a company that values the individuals and work/life balance is crucial to success — Kicksaw always puts its people first, and it is one of the many things I love about working here. This Mother’s Day, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a working mom at a company that empowers me to have a rewarding career while still spending quality time with my kids and providing them with the care they need. And to all the working parents out there, you’re crushing it!

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