How to Be a Great Parent When You Work Long Hours or Occasionally Have to Work Overnight Shifts
Figuring out the ins and outs of great parenting can be difficult if you also work full-time. Feeling guilty or overwhelmed with the responsibilities of work and parenthood is perfectly normal.
The pace of society doesn’t allow most parents to have a balanced work-life schedule. Society’s issues are not your fault.
There’s nothing wrong with being a working parent, even if that means you work long hours or overnights. Studies have shown that employees who are parents tend to be more efficient and more productive at work.
According to the Harvard Business School, the daughters of working mothers are often high-achieving, and their sons are more likely to participate in household chores. A more recent study shows that children of working parents are just as happy as those whose parents stay home with them.
Because you’re a parent who cares about showing up for your kids, that already makes you a great parent.
Here are some tips on how to be a great parent to help you feel like your great parent.
If Possible, Find Room for Flexibility
If your work allows, try to negotiate for flexibility, like changing your working hours or having a hybrid schedule of working from home and the office.
To do this, look at what benefits are available to you per your employee contract. You should also see if any of your colleagues or competing companies have employees who have successfully initiated the flexibility you’re looking for.
Try suggesting a trial period to make the task easier for your boss. Some extra flexibility can go a long way in helping you get a better sense of balance between your work and parenting duties.
Take Advantage of Your Commute
One way to balance your long work hours and home life is to take advantage of your commute. Commutes are stressful because they’re essentially wasted time away from your kids. One way to combat this is to schedule work during your commute.
For example, if you have a daily or weekly team or client call, is that a call you can take during your drive to work? Would having that call during your drive give you an extra hour at home?
Similarly, if you take a subway or bus to work, can you use that time to work on non-urgent work-related things like emails?
While working during your commute can be beneficial, it could be even more advantageous for you to use your commute to decompress and spend some time 100% devoted to yourself.
Use your commute time to listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or favorite playlists. Great parenting requires grounded emotions, so taking time to decompress can help you show up better for your kids when you get home.
Establish Balance with Your Partner
If you co-parent with a partner, household management tasks and emotional labor should be divided equally between partners, especially working parents. Good parenting skills involve sharing tasks equally in a way both parents feel is fair.
Depending on the relationship with your partner, this could look like each of you having specific chores, taking turns on chores, or some other method that works for your relationship. A little help can go a long way in freeing up your time with your kids.
Be Careful with Your Commitments
If you’re struggling to balance work life and parenting, you should be extra careful with your commitments and deliberate with what you say yes to.
Sure, your kids’ school wants you to volunteer for something or other, and your colleagues want you to come to the after-hours happy hour networking event. Just because the opportunities present themselves doesn’t mean you should do them. Your time is precious and a finite resource, so use it wisely.
Have an Established Routine with Your Kids
Especially if you work overnight, you should have an established routine with your kids, like putting them to bed at night and waking them up in the morning. A deliberate, consistent routine will help your kids feel more connected to you and secure in knowing when you are showing up for them.
Talk About Them at Work
Keep your parenting life alive at the office. Have pictures of your kids in your workspace, talk to your coworkers about their achievements and milestones, and don’t be afraid to let them know just how central your kids are to your life. You might even help a new parent at the office learn some good parenting skills.
Your kids are, to some degree, the why-motivation behind your actions. Keep that motivation alive and well.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. If your finances allow, perhaps you can hire a nanny to help manage childcare.
Live-in nannies may, in some cases, be more affordable than traditional childcare methods. A live-in nanny can add more stability to your child’s life and sanity to yours by helping you manage daily tasks. If a nanny isn’t accessible, perhaps a close friend or family member can lend you some regular support.
A couple of hundred years ago, the entire village or tribe played a role in helping look after the children — the burden was not solely on the shoulders of the parents. Society has evolved past those traditional communities, but you can try to get some semblance of that in your own life by asking for help without feeling guilty about it.
Intentionally Connect with Your Kids
In the time you do have available, connect intentionally with your kids. No matter how tired you are or how crazy your day was, being a great parent is, in part, about actively connecting with your children.
When they’re young, connect with them while playing with them, taking them to the park, playing with their toys, or playing a board game. You could also have a daily connection routine with older kids, but maybe you can add special connection times, like going to see a movie together.
Your kids aren’t going to be young forever, and if you’re not careful, you’ll miss their childhoods. Connecting with them doesn’t have to be full of grandiose gestures, just simple, consistent ways you show up.
Go to Their School Events
Speaking of showing up and being a great parent, prioritize attending their school events, like school plays, recitals, or sports games. This can be part of your flexibility agreement with your boss since some schools have functions in the middle of the business day.
Showing up for them in this way is something your children will remember throughout their lives.
Take Care of Yourself
Finally, prioritize taking care of yourself. Balancing your work and home life can feel draining and exhausting. Prioritize self-care like sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
A hefty exercise routine isn’t necessary. Even 20 minutes of something is better than nothing. Exercise can be another way you connect with your kids. Maybe you go with them to take your family dog on a walk. Maybe you help your daughter practice soccer drills or practice wrestling with your son.
You’re going to be tired; that’s just the reality of being a parent. But the more you take care of yourself, the easier it will be to show up for them.
Stay Hopeful — You’re Doing Great!
There’s no such thing as a perfect parent. But a great parent cares and one who tries. You’re doing great.