It’s not the 1950s anymore – we’re no longer living in a world where every family can afford a white picket fence and 2.5 kids while Mom stays at home and Dad’s blue-collar salary covers all the expenses and a yearly vacation. We’re in the post-COVID 21st century where many families rely on two incomes from college-educated parents just to pay the bills.
Understanding how to balance parenthood and a career is more important now than ever. It can be difficult to figure out how to dedicate your time and energy so you can raise your children and move forward in your career. But with the right perspective and some solid planning, you can find a way to do both.
Follow your passion
You’ve doubtless heard it before – it’s best to choose a job that you love. And there is some truth to this advice. If you absolutely dread going into the office (or the Zoom call) every day, it may be harder to find the motivation to grow your career. For many people, having a job that they love makes it emotionally easier to split their time between work and home.
But here’s the thing. Finding a job you love isn’t the only way to have a satisfying career and a good work/life balance. For many people, what they love about their job is the paycheck – and that’s totally OK! If you go to work for the sole purpose of having money to buy nice things, take vacations with your kids, give to charity, or retire early, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Have a plan, but be flexible
Whether you already have children or you’re planning for the future, one of the best ways to prepare for parenthood is to figure out how you want to split your time between work and home. Having a plan is good, and it can help you transition quickly into being a working parent.
However, even the best planning in the world can’t account for everything. Just look at how different the job market is now compared to the pre-COVID world. There are more remote work opportunities than most people would have dreamed of prior to 2020, and conversations about fair pay and workers’ rights are changing the landscape in many industries.
So make a plan, but hold it loosely. Be willing to reevaluate when circumstances change and the world doesn’t look like it did when you made the plan. Keep yourself open to new opportunities, even if they’re things you wouldn’t have considered five years (or even five months) ago. Sometimes a lateral career move can end up leading to more opportunities than a linear promotion track provides.
Being a successful working parent looks different for everyone. And it should – every person is unique, and so is every family. The lifestyle you envisioned before you had kids may not be what you actually want once you have a family, and that’s OK!
You know yourself and your children better than anyone else does. You are the best person to decide what your children need and how to provide that to them. Trust yourself – you are more than capable of figuring out how to balance your work and parenting tasks.
Focus on values instead of goals
It can be easy to get caught up in the idea of parenting goals. For example, let’s say you want to be a stay-at-home parent. But once kids show up, you realize that that’s not the right option for you. Maybe it’s not financially viable to live on your partner’s income. Or maybe you’re a single parent. Or perhaps staying home isn’t the right call for your mental health.
Many people, especially women, tend to feel guilty or ashamed if they end up not being a stay-at-home parent. But life happens, and even the best of intentions can’t always guarantee a certain outcome.
Even if parenthood ends up looking different than you planned, that doesn’t mean you failed. Instead of looking at the outcome, focus on your values and priorities instead. The most important thing is to do what’s best for your family, and as long as you do that, it doesn’t matter if you followed your original plan or not.
Take practical steps to live your values
A healthy work/life balance isn’t just about having the right perspective. It’s also about making practical decisions to balance your time and energy:
- When you’re at home, be off the clock. Unless you’re in a truly life-or-death industry, work stuff can wait until tomorrow.
- If you work from home, separate your work area as much as possible to help you and your kids distinguish between work and non-work time.
- Use your PTO – take vacations!
- Build a routine and stick to it.
Creating a firm boundary between work time and family time can help you feel less stressed and more satisfied as a parent and a professional.
Make the decisions that are right for you and your family
Balancing your career and your parenting responsibilities isn’t always easy. It can be difficult and emotionally challenging, but it’s not impossible. The key is to trust yourself and be flexible – you know what’s best for yourself and your children. Stay open to new work opportunities, including lateral moves. And always let your core values guide your decisions.
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