For working parents, balancing the demands of work and child-rearing is… not easy. Almost constantly being pulled in different directions can leave many feeling like they’re underdelivering in both areas. In our experience, feelings of guilt, overwhelm, and stress are commonplace in the world of working parents.
This can especially be true over the summer holidays when working parents have a little more on their plates than usual. A period when nurseries and schools – institutions that would usually keep children occupied during the working week – are shut and we’re left to six weeks of hands-on parenting with (in most cases) reduced support.
This article aims to address some of the more difficult feelings working parents might experience over the holidays and beyond. As, despite there being so much (possibly too much 🙈) advice on parenting out there, there seems to be very little guidance and encouragement for working parents to look after their own wellbeing, where they can.
So, here are 5 things working parents should absolutely not feel guilty about, and why they should absolutely not feel guilty about them!
The demands of working parenthood can leave us stretched thin. And on top of this, we are likely feeling the stress, anxiety, and/or guilt that so often accompanies an endless to-do list.
When moments of overwhelm strike, we suggest taking a beat, noticing your feelings (without judgment), and asking if you can give yourself what you need right now?
For a time-poor working parent, this might look like mindfully making a cup of tea, perhaps this is leaving the room/exiting the situation momentarily and doing some deep breathing*, or perhaps this is taking a walk around the block for however long we feel able to get away - this applies in both a work and family context. Finding an effective way to soothe our nervous systems at times of high stress can help relieve the intensity of our ‘overwhelm’ and, in the long term, avoid burnout.
And when you do have a spare moment to do some planning, delegate/outsource where you can, prioritise tasks, and remember you’re doing your best in a dynamic and ever-changing environment.
It’s perfectly natural to compare ourselves to others sometimes, albeit unhelpful for our sense of wellbeing.
It might seem like, on Instagram, at the school gates, on mumsnet, etc, other people have this working parent malarky down. But it’s important to take what you see/what you’re told with a pinch of salt and remember that we never really know what happens behind closed doors.
Every family has its own unique circumstances and challenges and comparing yourself to others only leads to self-criticism - after all “comparison is the thief of joy.” Your journey is yours alone and, because of that, you’re exactly where you’re meant to be, doing exactly what you’re meant to be doing. Basically, you go!
Still, to help avoid comparison (where possible) we suggest limiting your social media use, choosing to follow accounts that give a more honest view and make you feel seen, and managing the amount of contact you have with individuals who make you feel guilty or inadequate.
Hey, we're only human. It's completely normal to occasionally drop the ball - whether that’s forgetting to sign a permission slip or realising you've had a coco-pops stain down your top the entire working day. Daily life is always a series of ups, downs, and plot twists, and these little hiccups are just part of the trade-off of being a working parent.
When things occasionally and inevitably turn out not-quite-right, try not to be hard on yourself. There’s no need to mentally beat yourself up, call yourself a bad parent, or dwell on what went wrong. These things happen and it’s important to have realistic expectations of ourselves and remind ourselves that ‘good enough’ is okay.
Working parenthood can be relentless, and it's okay to admit that sometimes you need a break from your child.
Wanting a break doesn't mean you love your kids any less; it means you're taking care of yourself so you can continue being the best parent you can be. Your patience, capacity, mood etc all impact how you interact with your child - so, we believe, happy parent, happy child. Whether it's a solo walk in the park, a movie night with friends, or simply zoning out with a good book, everyone benefits when you prioritise self-care - when and if you’re able to carve out a bit of time/find childcare.
For those in the early stages of parenthood, especially mothers, it can also be important to reclaim our sense of identity outside of being a parent. That is not to deny the part of us that’s a parent, as this will always be there and, of course, it’s something we embrace. But it’s remembering we’re not only a parent - that our fulfillment and happiness is valuable independent from everything else too.
Repeat after me: asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Whether it's reaching out to your partner, a family member, a friend, or a professional, seeking assistance is a smart move that, taking in the big picture, benefits everyone. You would probably be surprised how many people would be happy to help if you let them know you were struggling and really needed someone to babysit, pick up your dry cleaning, or help with a project.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and there's no shame in tapping into that support network. Unfortunately, the system’s not set up for us to do everything on our own: trying to raise children and hold down a stressful job completely solo is something that society makes less and less accommodations for i.e. the average salary being too little to support dependants and achieve the “minimum acceptable standard of living” in the UK, work and school hours not marrying up, making ‘pick-ups’ impossible for full-time workers etc
So, please remember, being a good parent does not mean doing it all alone.
Our final thoughts.
As a working parent, finding the right balance is an ongoing process and will require adjustments over time. So, embrace the moments of overwhelm, ditch the comparisons, let go of perfection, relish your well-deserved breaks, and never hesitate to ask for help when needed. You're writing a story that's uniquely yours - one filled with love, resilience, and the occasional spilled bowl of coco pops.
*Check out a few free meditations to help listeners find a sense of calm, quickly, or consider signing your team up to our app, Luminate On Demand, for a full library of guided meditations and breathing exercises.