As we celebrate Working Parents Day, 16th September (today) is an appropriate moment to shed light on the unique struggles working parents face at the workplace.
Balancing the demands of a career with the responsibilities of raising a family is a remarkable task, one that requires empathy, understanding, and support from employers. You can say that the key struggles that are faced by working parents can be split into three: career impact, mental wellness, and family responsibilities.
For many working parents, the choices they make regarding their careers can have a profound impact on their personal lives. As a working parent myself, having navigated the corporate landscape, I know firsthand the complexities of decisions surrounding career paths are not made lightly.
The pursuit of professional aspirations sometimes requires challenging trade-offs. “Trade-offs,” are the difficult choices that working parents may face when aligning their career aspirations with the needs of their families. These can be particularly challenging, as they often involve making sacrifices in one area to support the other.
Career advancement opportunities, for instance, can become more challenging when parental leave or reduced work hours become necessary. This challenge is especially prevalent among the primary caregiver, who may find themselves at a crossroads where pursuing their career goals might mean compromising on the time and energy they can dedicate to their family. These trade-offs can lead to a plateau in career growth and a potential loss of earning potential.
These decisions can be emotionally complex and require careful consideration to ensure that career and family are nurtured in a way that aligns with one’s values and priorities.
Regardless of the choices made, working parents frequently experience emotions of guilt and stress. The intricate task of managing professional responsibilities alongside family duties often triggers an inner conflict. Guilt may surface when time spent away from the family is required due to work commitments. Conversely, when work obligations encroach on family responsibilities, such as a working parent missing important family moments, it can also evoke feelings of frustration and guilt. In this delicate balance, it can often seem like a no-win situation. Feelings of helplessness may arise as a consequence.
Stress, on the other hand, arises from the relentless juggling act. It’s crucial for working parents, including myself, to recognise the signs of burnout and prioritise self-care to maintain our mental and emotional well-being.
Who among us, as working parents, hasn’t faced the unpredictability of a child waking up unwell or the sudden closure of schools during weekdays? These unforeseen challenges coupled with the ongoing demands of parenting can easily throw a curveball into even the most meticulously planned workday. Balancing these family responsibilities with the unwavering demands of the professional world is a constant tightrope act.
Employers can play a pivotal role in alleviating the struggles faced by working parents. It’s important to note that while time off is crucial, it’s not the only thing working parents need. Here are five impactful ways workplaces can provide comprehensive support:
1) Flexible working arrangements: Offering options such as remote work or flexible hours allows parents to better manage their dual roles. This flexibility empowers us to be present for our families while excelling in our professional endeavours.
2) Mental wellness support: Providing access to mental health resources and programmes can be transformative. Counselling services, single intervention support, stress management workshops, and mindfulness initiatives can significantly improve the well-being of working parents throughout their employment lifecycle.
3) Culture of understanding: Fostering a workplace culture that recognises and appreciates the challenges faced by working parents creates a more inclusive and empathetic environment. When employees feel understood, they are more likely to thrive personally and professionally.
4) Investing in People Managers: Empowering People Managers through coaching and mentorship programmes tailored to the unique needs of working parents is an invaluable investment. These programmes not only provide essential guidance but also cultivate People Managers who can effectively navigate the delicate balance between career aspirations and family responsibilities. By investing in the growth and development of People Managers, organisations foster a supportive environment where working parents can thrive both personally and professionally.
5) Strong community of support: Encouraging the formation of support networks among employees can be a game changer. Whether through parent resource groups, mentorship circles, or family-friendly events, building a sense of community helps working parents feel more supported and understood.
Recognising and addressing the challenges faced by working parents in Malta is not only an ethical imperative but also a strategic move for businesses. While time off is essential, it’s clear that comprehensive support goes beyond just granting leave. As we celebrate Working Parents Day, let us commit to creating environments that empower these employees to thrive both at work and at home.
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