August 27, 2020

Working as a parent during COVID-19: Facing the challenges and coming out stronger

The months since coronavirus altogether rearranged our lives at work have been challenging for everyone. Working parents face their own unique challenges, as their work-life balances have had to shift suddenly and completely.

Working parents: we see you. We know you may feel like you’re falling behind, or worrying about how your career will be impacted, or struggling to maintain the relationship you want with your children while managing your professional responsibilities. We know it’s isolating, and may even feel unsustainable.

While the responsibility for making life at work manageable in this moment is shared by the employer, there are a few mindset shifts that working parents can strive for in order to meet the challenge and become stronger in the process: embrace vulnerability, ask for what you need, and understand yourself and your limits.

Embrace vulnerability

Be emotionally open, to the point of risk.

Give yourself permission to remove the armor we all wear at work. The defenses we put up at work might make us feel safer, but it’s a false sense of safety, as hiding behind them prevents us from growing — defense mechanisms like avoidance, displacement, or rationalization are never as productive as facing a problem head-on.

Additionally, no one can read your mind — no one knows how unsustainable this may be for you unless you’re willing to be vulnerable and share. Have open and candid conversations. Answer the question “how are you” truthfully. Continue to talk about the stress you’re feeling, even if it’s uncomfortable to do so. And don’t think of it as complaining — you’re giving others the information they need to help you.

By embracing vulnerability, you’ll be building a deeper level of trust and a support network that’s willing to move forward, together.

Ask for what you need

Be open to receiving help.

Every situation is unique. Parenting right now is complicated, and it’s different for everyone. The challenges faced by single parents are different from those partnered parents are experiencing. Your experience as a working parents can also be shaped by a co-parent’s work schedule, division of labor in your household or your family’s economic situation.

That’s all to say, there’s no universal answer to: “What do you need right now?” If your manager hasn’t already started a conversation about accommodations and support, don’t be afraid to take the lead in bringing up the topic with them or your HRBP. You may have to engage in some negotiation, but the ideal outcome, a plan that works for you, is within reach.

Understand yourself and your limits

Know what you’re capable of, and what’s beyond your control.

You’ve probably adjusted your expectations of others to accommodate the difficulty of these past few months, but have you done the same for yourself? What it means to deliver at work might mean something different right now — and that’s okay. Be willing to have an honest conversation with your manager about their expectations and yours.

The pressure you feel to perform beyond what’s possible right now might be entirely invented, and you can eliminate it to set goals you can feel great about meeting.

By challenging yourself to be vulnerable, while setting realistic expectations for yourself, you can begin to create a more manageable life at work.

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