Since the dawn of time, working parents have always had to juggle competing professional and personal responsibilities.

Before COVID, the stress of striking a balance between being a productive worker and a present/engaged mother or father resulted in feelings of guilt, anxiety and concern.

During the middle of the pandemic, professionals with offspring experienced something different but equally demanding. With the advent of work-from-home orders and remote learning, parents have been forced to add around-the-clock carer and full-time educators to their crowded schedules.

Now with the kids back at school, for now, it's time to take a hard look at how parents can divide their time without being spread too thin. Additionally, what companies should be implementing to retain these workers and make their lives easier?

This article explores all the different avenues to help working parents navigate a post-COVID world.

Discuss your needs

It took a pandemic for companies to realise that flexible working works and doesn't hamper productivity.

If your workplace hasn't already enforced flexible working conditions, start a conversation with your boss about entertaining a less regimented nine-to-five schedule.

Also, it may help to clarify that flex work extends beyond granting workers the freedom to attend to caregiving responsibilities but includes times most appropriate for meetings.

For example, if you're a remote worker, having a meeting scheduled first thing in the morning is less than ideal when there are small mouths to feed and little humans needing attention.

Be kind to yourself

2020 tested the mettle of parents worldwide, with many wondering how they could achieve everything in a day while continuing to be gainfully employed and providing their little ones with the appropriate love and care.

Last year's takeaway has shown us that we have set more realistic expectations for ourselves. Realise that holding yourself to pre-COVID standards isn't possible.

Last year's takeaway has shown us that we have set more realistic expectations for ourselves.

Over communicate

To avoid miscommunications and frustration felt by others, let people know the details of your schedule. It also helps to be open about home responsibilities that could occur during work hours so that others are more understanding and compassionate about your additional duties.

It might be a worthwhile endeavour to block out times in your calendar so that colleagues don't try to arrange meetings at times that don't align with your timetable.

If you have a spouse, discuss childcare matters with them to prevent the parental responsibility falling squarely on your shoulders. This should include establishing a"parental load" so that both of you remain productive professionals and alert parents.

Prioritise self care

Last year, feelings of despair and burnout were all too familiar among parents. Unsurprisingly, working moms and dads desperately need a break because working two jobs is mentally taxing.

Although many things might be currently out of your control, what you do have power over is how you structure your day, so take some time out for a bit of self-care. This might include daily meditation, a quick power nap or a child-less walk around the neighbourhood.

Although many things might be currently out of your control, what you do have power over is how you structure your day, so take some time out for a bit of self-care.

Seek out support from other working parents

Your situation might be unique to you, but the good news is you're probably not the only working parent in your company.

Being able to relate to other parents' struggles is tonic for the soul, so why not form a group that offers support, gives advice, provides resources, commiserates with you and doles out funny memes?

...why not form a group that offers support, gives advice, provides resources, commiserates with you and doles out funny memes?

What can companies do to improve the situation of working moms and dads?

A company that refuses to make much-needed concessions for their staff isn't merely jeopardising the welfare of employees but triggering a drip in the talent pool. When faced with an inflexible work schedule, workers might permanently leave because they can't cope.

From the small to the complex, below are a few examples of how companies can change.

Expanding family-friendly policies

Before COVID, family-friendly policies existed but weren't always utilised by the people needing them the most out of fear of losing their jobs.

This needs to change because people have the right to take time off to care for dependents, which starts by creating a more inclusive work culture.

Beyond that, employers might consider additional paid time off and other extras to help parents achieve a more sustainable work-life balance.

Child care assistance

Not all employees can send their children to daycare, and this could be due to financial reasons.

If companies were to regard childcare benefits as an operational expense that contributes to better productivity rather than a perk that's nice to have, the blurred lines between home and work life might not be as challenging.

For companies without a budget for this, benefits as simple as a relaxed schedule go a long way.

Not all employees can send their children to daycare, and this could be due to financial reasons.

Make flexible working truly flexible

2020 saw great strides for flexible working, but for some companies, this was driven out of necessity rather than preference.

That said, some employers have softened their attitude toward the flexible working concept. However, for the rest, there is a limited understanding of the differences between working from home and flexible working.

Some employees face the reality of having to work the same hours, just in a different location.

What needs to be grasped is the essence of flexible working, which outlines when employees are available or otherwise engaged with personal matters.

What needs to be grasped is the essence of flexible working, which outlines when employees are available or otherwise engaged with personal matters.

What does the future hold?

The future for working parents is slowly changing, but more needs to be done to make the work-home life situation tenable. As we head towards the next chapter, which includes more hybrid styles being adopted, the needs of all employees must be better accounted for.

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