Seven Flexible Working Tips for Parents

By Sarah Phibbs-Moss 9th September 2019 Leadership

Having children can feel like a disruption – to your career, and to life in general. However as flexible working becomes more common, the future of work seems to be embracing the potential of working parents, and the perspective they can bring.

When I returned to work, the “maternity pause” allowed me to switch off enough to be switched on when I returned. The time away allowed me to see the wood for the trees within my role and the organisation itself. When I returned my vision was stronger, more focused and my attitude to time management had seriously shifted for the better.

Here are seven tips from executive coaches Amy Franks and Vic Bryson for working parents:

  1. Even when you've told everyone several times that you work Monday, Tuesday and Thursday until 2pm, they will forget. Make it easy for them with a clear email signature and voicemail recording.

  2. Don't pretend to your work colleagues that you're in meetings when you're really on the school pick-up. The pressure of preserving the fiction adds an additional layer of stress that no-one needs. And your colleagues can probably guess the truth. Own the reality of your flexible working.

  3. Never say “sorry - my baby brain!” or in any other ways refer to your brain as such. Why? Because people come into work with all sorts of tiredness and ways of being scatty/slow/missing a point, yet they don't label themselves as having a somehow work-inappropriate brain. In fact, many people don't highlight or apologies for weaknesses, full stop.

  4. Practice phrases (verbally and in email) such as “I work flexibly around childcare.” The aim is to let your clients know you're so organised and together that you can do both. You've got this.

  5. Look for opportunities to integrate your parenting with your work. If you're trying to coach your team more, practice coaching your kids; consider using the odd story about your kids in your work presentations; think how “Agile” you could make getting ready for school; even use your kids' felt-tips for marking up reports. These opportunities remind you that your life is a whole – that work and family are not competing interests but add up to form your whole journey in a certain direction.

  6. Remember it's natural for kids to miss you when you go on a business trip, or to be sad that you're not there for a bit. You probably miss them too. Distracting or comforting them with promises of presents often makes us feel better, but many trips down the line, it can create expectations that feel like demands. Instead, consider coming alongside them when they're sad you're going and accept their emotion.

  7. Parenting places huge demands on us, it's unrealistic to think that those additional demands won't affect or cost us in our professional (and domestic) lives. So be kind to yourself when you fall short of your super-working-parent ideals. There's not a working parent in the world who hasn't done this. We're all trying, doing the best we can with what we have. Forgive yourself, kiss the kids and move on.

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