My youngest kid was close to a year when I started learning to code. She sat on my lap, I coded during nap times, and she joined me for meetings. Four years later, we’re still doing the same things. Well, minus the nap. She’s grown with my life as a developer. Although I’ve enjoyed sharing these things with her, coding while parenting has had its challenges. Every new stage of childhood has brought challenges and adjustments to how I work and what remote work looks like. Everyone’s journey as a working parent will look different, and it is a journey, meaning it will change, and there will be unexpected, exciting, scary, and mundane moments. Those moments are all part of what makes parenting amazing. You’ll always be juggling something, but finding the right pace and amount of things you can juggle leads to a rewarding experience. But getting to that point takes work and frequent self-evaluation. These are some of the ways I work on finding balance while being a working parent.
Some days feel like they never end.
Work. Parent. Repeat.
You don’t get to sit down; when you do, it’s because you’re responding to emails or slack messages. The workday will feel never-ending because it doesn’t end. Create boundaries so you can have a work_day_ and not a work-life. That means carving out space for work and leaving it behind when that time is over. Being in the office might make this easier because you can physically walk away. No matter where you work, though, it’s good practice to remove work from your reach. This could mean taking applications off your phone, shutting your work computer down daily, and creating a separate space for personal projects. If you work from home and your kids are out of school for the summer, this can be a real challenge, which leads to my next point, cut yourself slack.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
No one will ever get everything right. And there might be seasons where you find yourself having a more challenging time disconnecting from work and being present with your family. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It means you have work to get back to where you want to be. Cut yourself some slack, there’s always tomorrow. Most importantly, you’ve recognized that the situation isn’t ideal. That’s step one to getting back to where you want to be.
Remember Your Accomplishments.
There is always going to be one more thing to do. And there will be days where it feels like you’ve done nothing, at work or as a parent. It’s really easy to get overwhelmed or feel exhausted when you hit that streak. Celebrating the little things can help get you through those moments. Did you tell your kid you love them? Did you feed them and keep them safe? Did you accomplish a small task at work? Even telling a co-worker that you value their support is an accomplishment that is arguably more important than attending agenda-less meetings.Thanks to Vonage for sponsoring this article
I have ADHD, and when people throw a bunch of tasks at me and say they’re all equally important, I can get really overwhelmed. I need to order them based on the real priority of each task. Is sending one more email more important than picking up my kids from school? Are you being asked to do the work of two people? I like the method of starting with three priorities during the week and tracking those every day to help get a clearer picture of what’s consuming most of your time and whether or not that’s contributing to the life you want.
When you start bending your boundaries, doing more than you’ve been asked, and letting other people’s priorities overtake yours, you’ll eventually break. Even if you say, “I can do it this one time,” you let people know you’re willing to compromise. Now, if you’re like me and you have already bent, the good news is that it’s not too late to say “no.” There’s always a next time, and I recommend being clear: “No, I can’t take any meetings outside of my work hours.” “No, I can’t take on another responsibility unless something is removed from my list of tasks.” “No, I can’t take on another meeting without an agenda.”
When I’m exhausted, I have a hard time communicating. I just kind of shut down. It’s something I know that I continually need to be aware of and work on. But it’s important to tell your manager, partner, and others in your life, “I’m tired and need help.” Try to get to a space where you can say, “This week has been a struggle; my kid isn’t sleeping, so I’m having a hard time.” Then you can ask for an extension, a nap, or whatever support you need to succeed in what you’re doing.
As part of this journey as a working parent, I need to find ways to recharge and enjoy my work and my family. For me, starting the day with a workout is incredibly important to prepare myself for the day. Because, let’s face it, school mornings with kids are a ball of chaos. For me, it’s manageable when I’ve spent an hour lifting heavy weights. You might need to Netflix or read a book at the end of the day. Find what helps you to recharge. It’s much easier to keep juggling when you’re not emotionally exhausted.Thanks to Vonage for sponsoring this article
Find a Family-friendly Workplace
Being successful isn’t all on you, though. Finding an employer that creates a workspace that’s conducive to parenting, allows you to keep to a schedule that works for you, and acknowledges and accepts your priorities, can make the difference between feeling like you’re juggling a ball of chaos or like you have harmony in your work-parenting life. Things you might want to consider if you’re looking for a supportive workplace are:
- Flexibility - do you need to adjust work hours to take or pick up kids from school or daycare or attend school events?
- Sick Leave - If your child is sick, how does the company handle that? Do you have to take extra sick time? Are they ok with you working from home with a kid there? Do you have limited sick time?
- Meetings - Are meeting times inconvenient for parents? Do they have them at the end of the day, and do they run over? How do they handle children interrupting meetings?
- Off-hours activities and travel - Do you have to travel for work? What does that schedule look like? Do they provide childcare funds if you do? Are there company-wide activities that are required? Are they during hours that cut into family time?
- Remote work boundaries - Many of us are working in a remote-first culture. But what if half of your team is in a different timezone? Do they prioritize remote-first collaboration? Or do they schedule meetings during your off hours? Define the company’s definition of “remote-first” and ensure they are on board with your boundaries.
Earlier this year, I heard someone use the phrase parenting in their spare time, and it hit me hard. I felt like I was parenting in my spare time, and that’s not what I want to do. Parenting, to me, is more important than anything else, but I was letting that get overtaken by work. Although I value my career, I want to do my best never to work at the expense of my kids. I still have a lot of work to do to get to a point where I’m satisfied, but that’s part of my journey. There’s a self-evaluation that needs to continually happen to ensure that I’m on the right path. And when I’m not, it’s time to course correct. Everyone’s journey will look different, so never compare yourself to how you think others are doing. We’re all in this together, and finding ways to support each other rather than compare ourselves to each other will help to make us stronger.
Bekah graduated from the Flatiron School Software Engineering program in May of 2019 and since then has spent time as a frontend developer, started the Virtual Coffee developer community, and has continued to mom her four kids. She currently co-hosts the Virtual Coffee podcast, tries to work on her postpartum wellness OSS project, and lifts heavy things in her free time. In 2022, she officially joined the DevRel world as the Technical Community Building for Deepgram.