When we talk about the challenges that working parents face, we think of sleep-deprived new parents or moms having to find a place to pump breastmilk. And, generally speaking, employers have gotten better about offering improved maternity/paternity leave policies, and finding ways to ease workers’ transitions back after baby.
But what happens if you don’t go back to the workforce while your child is still in diapers? It’s probably fair to say companies will probably be less tolerant of work/life balance conflicts for parents of older kids, even though it’s not necessarily an easier stage for you to manage. In fact, recent research published in Developmental Psychology, found that moms of middle schoolers are the most stressed out.
As toddlers turn into tweens, there is even more pressure for parents to be supportive and present in all aspects of their childrens’ lives. Plus, as the research shows, the middle school years bring on lots of changes to the whole family dynamic.
If you find yourself contemplating going back to work as the parent of older kids, here are some strategies to help you excel:
Don’t take on a job that has old-school traditional 9-to-5 (that’s really more like 8-to-7) work hours if you know you won’t be able to handle it.
Have Your Backups on Board
Whether it’s school pickup time or getting your kids to their after school activities, think about who you can rely on if you’re stuck late. This is where having a network of mom/dad friends can come in handy — just be ready to return the favor in some way.
Look For a Flexible Employer
Many jobs allow for flexible work hours and work-from-home days. Companies that do are also probably the type that won’t freak out if you need to come in late so you can watch your kid compete in the school spelling bee.
Know You Can’t Do It All
Even though you’ve gotten used to the idea of being there for every event, work is a commitment, too. You might have to miss a game, and won’t be able to help with every science fair project, and you have to be OK with that. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a boss who’s laid back about such things, you don’t want to push your luck.
Have Your Family Help, Too
Going back to work is the perfect excuse for encouraging your older kids to be a bit more self-sufficient, and pitch in around the house. They can pack their own lunches, start a load of laundry, and keep their school paperwork organized so it’s easy for you to scan when you get home. If your spouse has gotten used to you running the show at home, be prepared to ease him or her into more of a teamwork approach, too.
Working while raising a family will always have its challenges, but a good portion of the workforce manage to do both successfully. By easing back in and setting realistic expectations for yourself, you can, too.
Find a job that works for your current family situation: Search now.