Today in the chart

Balancing Two Full-Time Roles: Working and Parenting

Working parents often experience a rollercoaster of emotions as they navigate balancing a career with family responsibilities.

Working parents often experience a rollercoaster of emotions while balancing a career with family responsibilities. 

“I don’t want to leave my child, but I have to work.”

“I’m looking forward to spending time doing something for myself.”

“I don’t know how I will be able to balance it all.”

“I’m excited to work on my career.”

According to a 2022 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both parents are employed in nearly half of all families, highlighting the widespread nature of this reality. 

With proper support and coping strategies, excelling as a working parent is possible despite the challenges.

Barriers for Working Parents

Whether you work out of necessity, self-development, or both, balancing the duties of being an employee and a parent is demanding. 

Financial Burdens

According to a report released by the US Department of Agriculture in 2017, raising a child costs about $233,610, nearly $13,000 per year until the child turns 18. The median wage in the United States is around $55,000 per year, so the median take-home salary is approximately $42,000. Each child could cost up to three to four months of take-home pay per year with these wages. 

The financial burden of raising children can be a significant barrier for parents who prefer to stay home with their children but are compelled to work due to economic constraints. Many parents work, even when they don’t want to, solely to meet the financial demands of raising a child.

Pressure From Society

Aside from financial constraints, you may feel pressure to return to work. Whether or not returning to work is your choice, you’re in good company. Research shows that over half of women return to work within one year after childbirth, and their return usually occurs within three months. According to a US Census Bureau report, about 76% of fathers take leave, and nearly all return to work in less than three months.

Although these statistics are not all-encompassing of every family structure, these figures highlight everyday experiences shared by many working parents and underscore the broader societal expectations surrounding parental employment.

Feelings of Inadequacy

Although you may be excited about returning to work, feeling a sense of inadequacy creep into your thoughts is normal. How will you balance it all? Can you get enough time to pump while at work? How is your baby doing at home? Are you missing any milestones? Are these racing thoughts ultimately distracting you while at work?

Amidst the hardships of being a working parent, there is help available, and there is hope that it’s possible to succeed. 

Tips for Working Parents

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s easier said than done because being kind to yourself might be one of the biggest internal battles you face as a working parent. 

Molly Trevail, PMHNP-BC, ACNP-BC, Lead Nurse Practitioner of Lavender Psychiatry, says, “This takes time. Some days are just going to be harder and less productive. You have to manage your expectations and be realistic about what can be done in a day, especially when going back to work.” Contemplate what expectations you have of yourself. What would you lose by letting go of some of those expectations that aren’t serving you?

Take Time for Yourself

Mindfulness is not just a buzzword. Mental Health America recommends practicing mindfulness when taking time for yourself, which has been shown to reduce stress and improve coping. While having time to decompress by relaxing with a TV show or a book is important, it’s also crucial to participate in activities that allow you to feel mentally present. This may include incorporating your favorite type of movement or exercise, spending quality time with a family member, playing a musical instrument, doing a puzzle, or anything that makes you feel alive.

Outsource Tasks As Resources Allow

Sometimes things need to be done, but there isn’t enough time. One way to combat this is to outsource tasks. 

A few ways to do this:

  • Financially outsource tasks. If resources allow, you can opt for a meal delivery service, a cleaner, or a dog walker.
  • Mentally outsource tasks. Within your social support system, you can ask someone to help you with the mental load of a task. This could mean asking your partner to prepare everything for your child’s next medical appointment, planning this week’s groceries, or current bills.

In other cases, you may need to forgo unnecessary tasks altogether. Trevail says having a full social calendar is one task she has kicked to the curb. “It’s so much easier to be home and have people visit us while we have a little one. Sometimes I feel guilty about this, but it’s this stage in life.”

Seek Mental Health Support or Counseling

The mental health struggles of new parents cannot be overstated. As many as one in seven women and one in ten men suffer from postpartum depression, which can occur anytime within the infant’s first year. Adoptive parents can also experience post-adoptive depression after this heavy and emotional lifestyle change.

Trevail recommends taking a proper leave before returning to work. In her experience, “I initially planned just a two-month leave, but as time went by, I realized I needed more time. I ended up taking three months, and when I returned to work, I felt much more prepared, rested, and ready.”

She adds, “I do meet a lot of parents that start therapy to help cope with the anxiety and stress that comes along with the transition to being a parent. Therapy can be so impactful to help understand why someone feels the way they do and how to optimize and implement their coping strategies.”

Juggling It All

Society often frames balancing a career and being a parent as “having it all.” It’s valid if this message feels overwhelming. But Trevail also sees it as empowering. “I worked in healthcare for over 16 years before having my daughter. I was very much concerned about how it would all balance out, but it has done nicely. It’s empowering for a parent that wants to have an active role at work, but also the home life they desire.”

Want to learn more about improving your coping skills and bolstering your support system? Lavender Psychiatry can help. Lavender offers online appointments with board-certified psychiatric nurse practitioners to help navigate through your feelings.

This article is sponsored by Lavender Psychiatry.

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