Today’s article is by my dear friend, Peninah Igaga. Peninah is the founder of MY TINY YEARS, a parenthood space that seeks to inform and encourage parents of little ones. Peninah is also a wife, mother and Lawyer by profession. Today she shares with us practical ways we can balance parenthood and career.
My husband and I have in these last two years of parenthood either shown up late or breathless to a meeting or even just regular work (not every day but for a number of times- this has been the norm).
Now, please do not look at us as those newlyweds that have chosen to continue ‘honeymooning’ for two years or those lucky rich kids who work in their parents’ company. Nope, none of the above. We are simply trying to be PARENTS to a beautiful soon to be two-year-old baby girl (well obviously now a toddler but we choose to still consider her our baby!)
We have learned the hard way that you just cannot be 100% efficient at work once you become a parent! Do not let me start explaining the demands of my job and boss (sorry boss!!) because at the end of the day, we still need the ‘gold’ to care for our little princess.
Don’t get me wrong; we totally adore our little princess and would not trade this ‘mummy-daddy’ experience for another. Despite the difficulties, I looooove being a mother and this is what I live for everyday! As I write this, our little girl has just poured a glass of apple juice all over her pretty dress and is clearly pleased that she is all wet, judging from the huge smile on her face! Give me a minute as I clean up this mess and get her into another outfit that I will probably change in a few hours’ time.
IS IT POSSIBLE TO BALANCE PARENTING AND CAREER?
Are you still here? But of course, you are! You still want to find out how we have balanced parenthood with the pressures of career/ work.
Truth is, we have not. We are still figuring it out- two years down the road and with another baby on the way! Yap, we did not learn our lesson the first-time round.
We however came up with a few ways (what some people call hacks these days) to survive this ‘beautifulhardish’ experience that we chose (and continue to choose) and would love to share them with you:
Where you possibly can, avoid scheduling meetings at the beginning or end of a workday.
Aim for the 10am – 3pm window. You do not want to always be the one who does not attend meetings. At the same time, you need to leave a window for eventualities. Sometimes you may have to call into work late or may have to leave early because of a baby/ child related emergency.
Let your close work colleagues (or even boss) know your children.
When I returned to work after my maternity leave, my aim was to always protect my baby from the ‘evils’ of career and workplace, plus I did not want to be known as the person who had given up career for family and hence was not serious. Well, right now my husband and I have both made sure that our closest work friends and bosses meet our little girl. It is more difficult for a boss to reject a family-related request once they can put a face to the name.
Share responsibilities as parents.
My husband and I sat down one day and spoke about how to make things easier for each of us and for the benefit of our little girl and decided that we needed to share responsibilities. There is no set formula or routine that works for all but partners who are parents need to understand each other’s schedules and try to work around them. If for example one of you can leave work earlier than the other, they can take on the evening routine, while the other takes charge of the mornings. Discuss your specific situation with each other to optimize your time management.
Get organized and plan ahead.
I am a natural planner and love to plan everything. I plan my daughter’s meals and activities for each day, I also plan my day ahead the night before and many other things I may not mention. This has really helped with making things easier when it comes to trying to balance work and motherhood. However, the important thing is to be flexible when something changes so that you do not build up on extra stress.
Spend quality time with your child.
Parental guilt over missed time with your child arises more times than you can count. You may have to cancel a play date to rush to the office for an impromptu meeting. Sometimes you are caught up in a massive project and you get home to a sleeping household. Try to keep these at a minimum. When you get home, forget about work as much as you possibly can. Your child deserves your complete attention given that you spend more hours at work than you do at home. Make your time together valuable.
My husband and I have come to learn that balance is not perfection. To us, balance is accepting that every day is different and may not be as smooth as the last. We have come to believe that no one can ever be a better mummy or daddy to our precious one.
At the end of the day we look at her, all happy, healthy and contented, with a mouth stuffed with ‘appomeyo’ (that is watermelon in her world) and know that we are doing a great job!