It’s 4 pm on a Tuesday and you promised your kid you’d be at their game this afternoon. You need to leave soon if you’re going to make it on time, but there’s this report that also has to get out the door, and your last meeting ran over. You’re sweating bullets, working as fast as you can, just picturing the traffic that’s building up on your route. You don’t want to let your kid down. But you don’t want to let your boss down either. It feels like a no-win situation.
It would be one thing if this were a rare event, but lately it seems to be happening more and more. You’ve taken on new responsibilities at work that you’re excited about, but now you’re worried about the toll they may be taking on your family.
The truth is that juggling work and home responsibilities is one of the biggest challenges faced by working parents today.
How you handle these situations can have a major impact on your career. Leaving early for family commitments can lead to resentment from your colleagues. It can send a signal that you’re not committed, or that you don’t particularly care about getting ahead.
On the other hand, missing out on family life also takes a toll. Your children need to know that they can count on you. That you’ll be there for them. And this doesn’t only apply during their younger years. In some ways, it becomes even more important as they move into junior high and high school. As teens, kids may act like it’s no big deal if you’re not there, but they notice. And on their worst days, they may turn these missed opportunities into evidence that you don’t really care.
The most important word in the English language for working parents – for anyone trying to have a life outside of work, really — is BOUNDARIES. There are several to manage in this situation. Let’s look at a few of the most important:
First – the boundaries you set around your working hours. We live in a culture that is “always on.” We can work anywhere and at any time. While this flexibility has its benefits, it also creates a blurring between work time and home time. To have both a rewarding career and a healthy family, working parents need to know how to define and set clear and reasonable boundaries around their time.
Second – the boundaries you set around the scope of your work.Professionals who are creative and proactive will always find work they could be doing. That is part of your value in the workplace. Early on in your career, that kind of gumption is crucial. It helps build your reputation as a problem-solver, willing to take the initiative to get things done. As you gain more experience, you will have even more good ideas, and see even more opportunities. However, as you move up in your organization, you will also face an expanded scope of work. With these two competing influences at play, the most crucial part of your job becomes strategic focus. You’ll need to be thoughtful about when to take on new work, when to follow a good idea, and when to say no.
Third – the boundaries around your responsibilities. Any time we work with other people, one of the questions that needs to be negotiated is “who will do what.” What part is mine, and what part is yours? Working out these boundaries so that they are clear and fair is key to building productive partnerships – whether that’s with your peers, your boss, your direct report, or even your spouse and your children. Busy people are often tempted to blur these lines. They might take on extra tasks, “so they get done right” or “just to get it done quickly.” Or they might let some tasks slip by without asking about them, because they feel they don’t have time to worry about them. Either approach can cause problems. Either you take on work that others should be doing, which fails to build their skills and sets you up for resentment down the road. Or you let things fall through the cracks that may come back to haunt you later. A better approach is to have the conversation deliberately, so that you and the people you’re collaborating with have a shared view of the distribution of responsibilities.
If you haven’t been setting the boundaries you need to in order to create the career success and life you want, let’s talk. You can book a call with me here: zmcoach.net/call.
We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes and talk about what’s going on for you now, and what you’d like your career to look like. If I can help you close the gap or get there more quickly, we can see what that could look like. If I’m not the right person to help, I’ll steer you to other resources. Either way, the goal is for you to get clarity and value from the call. It’s free, so go ahead and book it now.
Looking forward to talking with you soon!