To be successful at work, you need to be a bit driven. You have to focus on your goals and go above and beyond in order to achieve positive results.
However, if we take that attitude home and apply it to parenting, it isn’t a great fit. Because, let’s be honest, children are chaotic and unpredictable and they seldom stick to a plan.
At work, we are used to controlling the controllables and measuring our successes. But parenting is fundamentally different. Children are exuberant and playful and have a totally different cognitive approach to life. They don’t think like adults – they can’t, because their brains aren’t wired that way.
If we approach family life stuck in efficiency-focused work-mode, it’s easy to get frustrated with our children (and ourselves) when they don’t do what we want. And parenting can feel like a relentless repetition of chivvying reluctant children from one task to the next.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are my five top tips for being a great parent (while still having a successful career!):
Make space for playfulness
Playfulness is an essential ingredient in happy families. Children need it and adults need it. If you take the playfulness out of parenting, all you are left with is drudgery. Playfulness fuels children’s development, makes parenting enjoyable, strengthens family bonds and boosts everyone’s wellbeing. Creating more space for playfulness will give you room to breathe, to relax, to laugh a little more (and shout a little less) and enjoy being a member of your family.
Prioritise quality moments
Families are made up of relationships, not tasks. Building relationships is not about large quantities of free time, it’s about quality moments. Relationships are about chatting and laughing and slowing down for a few minutes to listen when your child has something to say. Because it’s through stopping to listen that we connect with our children on a deeper level and get to know them.
Effective discipline strategies
Mustering the energy to manage wayward children on top of working is a big challenge. Effective discipline strategies are a gamechanger for working parents. When we are busy, it is easy to slip into the trap of ignoring children when they are being good and then over-reacting when they get it wrong. Parent smarter and set children up to succeed by targeting your attention towards the behaviour you want to encourage, not the behaviour you don’t like.
Learn to live with uncertainty
Guilt and blame are huge psychological weights to carry. To feel happy as a working parent, you have to accept that doubt, failure and lack of control are integral to parenting. We have to forgive ourselves (and our children) for not being perfect and learn to live with that uncertainty without it knocking us off course.
Don’t try to do it all
Sometimes, when it comes to parenting, less really is more. Running around picking up after children who are old enough to do things for themselves is not an act of love, it’s an act of developmental sabotage. And it means you will never have enough time to enjoy being a member of your family. Help your children develop good self-esteem and independence by encouraging them to do things for themselves, to make mistakes and to learn from their failures.
About the author
Anita Cleare is a parenting speaker, writer and coach who supports working parents to balance successful careers with being a parent. Her book, The Work/Parent Switch: How to parent smarter not harder shows working parents how to use the bits of time left over when work is done to focus their parenting energies focus on the right and create a happy and harmonious family life.
Anita’s award-nominated parenting blog ‘Thinking Parenting’ has been listed in the Sunday Times Magazine as a must-read for parents.