Friday, April 26, 2013

Balancing Work and Single Parenting

BigLittleWolf posted about a single mom who is looking for advice on how to manage her work life with life as a single parent - without the other parent around. I don't mean to hijack her post, and I strongly recommend anyone looking for such advice should go read all of the thoughtful comments that have been left - and add your own.

It did get me thinking about my first few weeks with my brand new employer, post-separation/cross-country move.

I was on a long-term temp assignment, with the potential for permanent employment so of course, I was eager to please and impress.

Just before the end of a workday, one of my bosses gave me an assignment I was to tackle first thing the next morning and have reviewed by another lawyer in the department. I was so excited for the opportunity!

Of course, the next day, before I could get to work, I got a call from the day care center that Riley (not yet 3 at the time) was sick and needed to be picked up.

While I had moved back to L.A. to be close to my parents for their support, on this day, neither could help. My dad was in a deposition, and my mom wasn't available, either.

I was so bummed when I had to call in and say that someone else would have to complete the assignment, and I was really afraid that I'd just blown my chances. They said it was fine, but I still felt like I let them down.

It did take another week or so before I was given such an opportunity again, but eventually, I was hired on permanently, and five years later, promoted.

While there were other instances where I had to miss work for a child's illness or had to leave early or take a long lunch to be there for the girls, thankfully, almost everyone in our department also had children and understood.

Someone said in the comments of BLW's post that if your employer doesn't understand, they might not be the right employer for you. While I agree with that wholeheartedly, I also know that we aren't always lucky enough to have options.

Just keep showing up, and be fully present. There will be times when you can chat (and hopefully bond) with colleagues about your kids, but you should not be the one to bring it up if you're starting a new job as a new single parent. I had heard horror stories about single parent discrimination in the workplace, so I was sure to keep my focus on the tasks at hand.

While I made it clear at the beginning that I would have to end my workday at 5 p.m. to pick up the girls from child care in time, I tried to give my all up until 5 p.m. And there were times I asked my parents to pick the girls up if I knew it was important to my boss, and my boss appreciated that.

Just the other day, one of the lawyers was talking about how he thinks of things he needs to do at home while at work, and vice versa. I realized quickly that I couldn't do that. I could only do well, both at my job and as a parent, if I was focused on what was in front of me.

I was recently featured in the article, 9 Secrets of Busy Moms, and I talked about how I can't multi-task. That goes hand in hand with being fully present.

Of course, there are times when I have to answer a work-related email while with the kids, or one of the girls will call me when I'm at work. It's not that they don't blend together ever, of course, and you have to prioritize the urgent and time-sensitive matters (both at work and at home). But for the most part, I have learned that I'm more efficient and can achieve better balance when I stay focused on accomplishing one thing at a time.

And if you are stuck in a dead-end job with people who don't understand, keep looking for a new one! Finding a great place to work has been a key factor for me in feeling like I have crossed the threshold from surviving to thriving as a single parent.

1 comment:

Rose ASL said...

Thankyou for that advice. I am trying so hard to break out of my natural tendency to daydream and be "fully present" in my classes. Doing so at home is more difficult, but I'm working on it. That's why I chose ASL as a second language, and took one of my two courses in each accelerated semester in the classroom instead of online. I do better with the online classes, but I need the classroom experience, and I can see that it's helping.