Q. I strongly identify with your portrayal of having to meet the demands of being a single parent. How were you able to satisfy both responsibilities in a way that was conscientious and considerate to both parties?
A. There is no such thing as a perfect parent or employee. Accept that you will have some days where you feel like a terrible parent and other days when you are shorting everyone at work. Fact: often you will feel you are “underperforming” in both roles. Here are FIVE ways not to sabotage your work life balance:
ONE: Give yourself a break. A Father Knows Best family, or putting your feet up in the corner office happens on TV. Life, especially with kids, is messy.
TWO: You are the brain in the middle. See the devil on one shoulder, the angel on the other. Tell the demon demanding you work, “I’m taking time off early today, but I worked extra hours last week.” Tell the angel, crying out for you not to leave a screaming child, that the very same toddler will be happily playing within minutes after you depart.
THREE: Guilt is not a productive emotion: That doesn’t mean you can’t change you mind and make modifications in child care or work commitments. Nothing is static.
FOUR: Get as much childcare help as you can afford. If that nagging voice is telling you that your child does need more attention then beg, barter, or steal a better arrangement. You may have to slow down to speed up, but nothing is more important than your knowing your child is in good hands.
FIVE: Give yourself permission to choose different priorities during different seasons. You can pick mommy time for a certain period in your life, and career focus in another. You won’t lose as much ground as you fear on the mommy track. It is recoverable. If you do choose to put work ahead of some kid time, remember your kids are likely to benefit from the resources and the example you provide.