NABS presents: The different perspectives of working parents
It’s tough for working parents. Our NABS research on this topic tells us that a resounding number of parents (85%) feel guilty because they have to balance work and parental commitments, one in ten (11%) have had to leave a job because of the additional pressures of parenthood – and more than half (57%) know of someone who’s had to leave a job for that reason. But juggling demanding clients and the demands of children mean parents may develop multifaceted talents that can bring immeasurable value to the workplace.
The complex nature of balancing parenthood with work was a key reason behind a NABS-hosted panel session at Engine HQ with working parents from across the industry – all at different stages in their career and parenthood journey – to debate, discuss and answer questions on how they’ve survived and thrived.
Pete Edwards, chief strategy officer at Engine introduced a panel that included: Karen Blackett, CEO at Media Com, Steve Hatch, MD at Facebook UK & Ireland, Vicky Janaway, account director at WCRS, Sam Phillips, chief new business and marketing officer at Omnicom media group and Emily Samways, business director at Karmarama. All of the panel spoke candidly about the trials and tribulations working parents face on a day to day basis.
How working parents manage the transition back to work can be very important. Emily Samways, who balances her career with being a mum to two sons, had this to say: “In times of change it’s very easy to lose the focus you may have had before you had children, with much of your time spent feeling guilty about balancing your home and work life. But you need to stop feeling guilty. It helps to put your life into levels of priorities and work to that as your goal.”
Vicky Janaway, who recently returned to work after giving birth to her son concurred “If you’re feeling guilty about not being at home, there are ways around it. Flexible working and an understanding boss – as I have at WCRS – means that I’m able to negotiate compromises.” Vicky’s compromise was to return to work for three days a week, which has now expanded into four. “Don’t be afraid to ask those difficult questions,” she advised.
Hatch, a parent of two, offered his perspective as a father: “Because I’ve not physically had the child, returning from paternity leave felt a bit like I’d just been on holiday. Everything was the same and bar the passing congratulatory comments, no one really asks how you’re feeling. Which I think is a big problem for working fathers. A lot of the time we don’t realise that fathers have gone through changes too, and perhaps there needs to be bigger support for them.”
For mothers, who tend to have longer maternity leave, coming back to work can mean there have been changes within the business in the meantime. When Blackett returned to work she had been promoted in her absence, to EMEA CEO: “When I returned it was important that I spoke with my boss about how I could make being a parent and work fit. If I had to fly to Italy for business, I would want an early flight and returning flight the same day, minimising my time spent away from my son.”
“It did mean that I had time away from my family, but I made sure if I did it then I’d do the same hours working from home. I was judged on my output, not hours in office.”
One of the most important lessons Blackett learned was of being true to yourself “Working parents need to be honest and authentic. Do bring your home life to work, don’t be ashamed to talk about your kids, and most importantly ask for help – build a support network of neighbours, friends and colleagues who can step in and help if needs be.”
Phillips, mum to three kids, pointed out that juggling work and family comes down to managing your own time: “When I started back at work I was honest with myself. I knew I couldn’t fit my workload into fewer working days, but I made sure that I set my own rules to allow maximum time with my kids. This meant, for example, that I went into work later, so I could do the school run.”
Time management was one of the key qualities a working parent needs, but also a skill that more often than not they excel at once becoming a parent. “My emails became shorter, but to the point. But also I became way more empathetic to the needs of my colleagues and employees,” Phillips said.
There is no particular secret to being a working parent, and you will most likely learn as you go along. What is key is that you have an awareness of self and prioritise to help you get the blend and balance between work and life that suits you. Couple this with the right support from friends, colleagues, and organisations and it is possible to succeed and be the best that you can be.
Watch the video from the event here.