Juggling the responsibilities between home and the office is never easy for both working parents. Work-life balance often feels stretched and things aren’t any easier in the post-pandemic era. And no matter how much we reason with our bosses, work-life balance suffers based on ground realities that are seldom in your favour.
For both working parents, paying attention to children at home is as important as the next board meeting. For all things that matter, this is non-negotiable. Your internal compass needs to point you in the right direction when it comes to enriching your child’s life by spending quality time with them.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much money you bring in each year if you can’t spend quality time with your child. And this applies to both working parents. For kids to be happy and well-adjusted, both the mother and the father need to be equally involved in the parenting process.
As a senior corporate executive, author, and working parent, Carol Hagh explains, parenting can be broken down into four different types of work based on how strategic the work is and how much it requires direct parental involvement.
There’s pastoral care, decision-making, logistics and household support.
Hagh says that both working parents need to prioritise pastoral care and decision making. This can have a more positive impact on children and will require far less time every week.
Let’s take a look at what each work entails and how both working parents can leverage the same by paying attention at home without compromising on their careers.
1. Pastoral Care By Both Working Parents
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Most studies unanimously agree that good parenting comes from showing love, communication, support, setting boundaries, and teaching the right values to your child. While researchers may call it different things, the collective term for these concepts is ‘pastoral care.’
It’s that time of the day when all your attention goes towards the wellbeing of your child.
Pastoral care requires parents to spend an hour or a half with their child with complete focus.
It’s the time you spend with your child without any specific agenda or result-driven work.
Depending on your schedule, you can earmark the time with your child during breakfast, in the afternoon or after dinner.
You should also speak to your spouse if you want to spend time together or individually depending on the schedule.
Providing pastoral care can be difficult if a parent has too much to do.
Running errands, completing household chores, completing office assignments, all can get a little too overwhelming to incorporate some time for your child.
However, you still need to manage at least 30 minutes to spend with your child without any work calls or distractions coming in your way.
Pastoral care becomes all the more important with older children once they start having less and less time for you. Nevertheless, when you do find time with them, do ask questions about how your day was. What happened in their favourite show or if their assignment was completed on time.
Ask them about their friends, about a funny incident in school. And make sure to listen and encourage them with either appreciation, praise, or simply a hug. While your little one may not show it, he does appreciate it a lot.
2. Decision-making By Both Working Parents
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While the small things will be taken care of, you need to be there for the big decisions in the family. As a parent, topics like medical treatments or college financing require financial and moral assistance from parents to the child. All of this requires time and attention, and lots of research that you are directly responsible for.
For simpler tasks like selecting a tutor for your child, or decisions like choosing between the different extracurricular activities in school or allowing your child to go on a sleepover, you can delegate the decision-making process to someone else.
This could be your spouse or partner who can take a call on this, or involve the child’s godparent or an extended family member to help with some of the less critical decisions.
Studies indicate that co-parenting not only helps the one parent in making the right decision, but is also beneficial for the emotional well-being of the child, especially once they grow into adolescence.
You can also always check with your partner time-and-again to ensure that your parenting priorities are aligned. Even if your styles may be different, it’s imperative that you both agree on the same results for your little munchkin.
At the same time, children need to learn to be independent and make their own decisions. This helps in building their confidence and self-worth, while also making them realise the consequences of their actions.
For instance, your child can decide on his own whether he needs an umbrella or not depending on the weather report. Similarly, he should be able to finish his work well within the deadline by creating his own to-do list.
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While pastoral care and decision-making processes require the most time and attention from a parent, Hagh says that activities like planning, transportation, and other operational aspects can be worked around and does not necessarily require your direct input.
For instance, your child joining the music club after school hours will need you to drop and pick them up from the classes. Plan and purchase the necessary musical instrument, manage their schedule, pay for the classes and the instrument, as well as ferry them to the tutor and back. All of this takes time and effort, which may not be always possible for both working parents.
Instead, you can look at prioritising logistics based on your child’s needs. Given the competitive world out there, you have to understand that there’s no need to sign up your child for every class out there. Children need to have fun and learn and aren’t bound by a clock. Sign up for only those activities that your child truly enjoys, which do not burden him/her or you throughout the week.
Also, take as much help as possible to avoid stretching your work hours to handle personal chores. Ask family members, friends, bus services, avail carpools with other parents to help you out with the logistics.
At the same time, prioritise those logistics that require a pastoral care element. For instance, the drive back home from the music class would be a good time to catch up with your child about his day. However, you can always ask a friend or another parent to drop your child at the music class, if it’s clashing with your work hours.
Make sure to speak to your friends in advance about the same so do not see it as a burden.
4. Household Support For Both Working Parents
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Household chores take a lot of time for parents at home. And while it’ll be easy to dump everything once in a while to spend quality time with your child, it’s not really the ideal long term solution. The New York Times suggests that parents spend almost 6.5 hours a day doing housework. This barely leaves you with any energy to engage in a different activity or spend time with your child for pastoral care.
That’s why you need to prioritise the activities around the house and offload the rest as much as possible. This can include getting hired help for household chores. Or, asking friends and other family members to contribute as well.
You can also use this as an opportunity to instil discipline in your children. Household chores may not sound very exciting but create the right environment for self-discipline. This will need you to involve your child when conducting household chores. Set a schedule and designate small responsibilities around the house to the little one.
Tasks as simple as arranging the pillows, putting food out for pets every day, or even helping arrange the dinner table, will instil self-discipline. Older children can be more hands-on with the tasks like taking care of the laundry or doing a trip to the grocery store for necessities.
Use this time to speak to your child in a more candid tone about their day. They are occupied doing the task and will often tell you about the good and bad details if you create a comfortable and safe environment. You also need to have a few unplanned cheat days added to your schedule. This will allow you and your little one to let loose and gorge on some junk food, or make the living room messy.
All these activities will only help you bond with your child, without burdening your professional life. Both working parents need to coordinate each other’s schedule and priorities to better spend time with each other and the kids.
This will take time and effort, as well as lots and lots of planning. But what’s most important to know is that every second of it is worth the effort.