I was asked to provide comments for an article related to separation anxiety that occurs when parents return to work and children enter some form of childcare. Here's where my reflections took me. Being an individual with a career is one thing but being a working parent trying to focus on balancing two important roles -- dedicated professional AND parent -- causes many people to be stretched.
When working with parents returning to work, I often encounter people feeling both stress and guilt. This is a life event that triggers lots of deeply held values - beliefs about what it takes to be a good parent and what it takes to be a good employee.
The fundamental place that people need to focus on is your WHY. Getting clear on why you have chosen to become a parent as well as why you chose to work. Notice the key word is CHOICE.
Having a child is a transformative experience. When taking on the role of parent, you automatically shift your relationship with your work or career. Fundamentally, that is something that must be acknowledged. When returning to work it is vital to remember that it is unrealistic to work like you once did -- i.e. overtime, unstructured schedule, late dinners, etc.
Coaching is a process of helping people become intentional about their needs and choices. Therefore, when working with parents who are returning to work I ask them to envision how they want to focus their time and energy. I remind them that can very much be the creators of their own reality. By being intentional and embracing the difference that being a working parent involves, people can significantly minimize their guilt and increase a sense of synergy between these two roles of life.
The kinds of questions we would explore would be... To feel no guilt or shame in being a working parent, what needs to be put in place? What needs to be in place to ensure you are confident and comfortable regarding your child's care when at work? What will help support you be productive and focused while at work? What structures and systems will you put in place to assure that when you are with your child you can be focused and calm? What will you say YES to and NO to in order to achieve a good balance between your work and parenting roles? How will you as partners share the work at home - both maintaining the home and spending time with your child? How will you ensure that you and your partner sustain quality time as a couple when the return to work occurs?
Bottom-line, being clear about your plan and communicating both your intentions and new boundaries that exist given this dual role of worker and parent, you will create conditions to be more creative in how you juggle the two roles. Without thought, preparation or communication, you fall risk to being reactive to everyone's needs and expectations of you. Have a plan, work the plan and adjust the plan as required. You will learn along the way and your child's needs will shift and change over time, requiring adjustments to your plan. Stay intentional and hold the roles in accordance with your values. Doing so will keep you grounded and authentically connected to what is important to you.