I know it’s a bit of a cliche, but when I first became a mother — giving birth to my oldest child five years ago — I didn’t know what to expect. Before that point, I’d been focused largely on my career and was already seeing many of my professional dreams coming true. I finished my MBA and landed a project management job I loved at Architech.
Then my little bundle of joy was born, and my whole life changed.
It wasn’t that achieving work-life balance wasn’t a struggle before my son was born, but suddenly it became more difficult than ever to balance career goals with family responsibilities. It was harder to meet work deadlines and to keep up with the demands of the job alongside managing mom guilt and the ever-changing needs of a little one. Just wearing the dual hats of parent and employee was exhausting, and I learnt quickly to understand the signs of burnout and address them appropriately.
Of course, then I upped the stakes and had a second child — a baby girl — back in 2021.
I’m well aware, though, that I’m not alone in this journey. Transitioning back to work from maternity or paternity leave, and then trying to balance work and parenting, can be a struggle for any parent, especially those going through it for the first time.
Having been through that experience myself, I want to offer new parents — or those expecting to be new parents in the near future — a few tips to help them along the way. Hint: it helps to have a supportive employer like Architech to make this transition smoother.
Managing Work-Life Balance
Ever since the pandemic began, the lines between work and home have blurred more than ever.
That means finding a healthy work-life balance is more important as well. But work-life balance isn’t some magical formula, and it’s not about splitting your time equally between work and your personal life. In actuality, it means different things to different people. But for the most part, I think we’d agree that it’s about having a career that supports the different ebbs and flows of life. A career that allows you the flexibility and support to juggle it all and find some “balance” in the chaos!
Sometimes we also need to be intentional in our actions to achieve this. For me that’s meant:
- Setting priorities, in both my home and work lives. As a first- time parent, it can be especially hard to prioritize anything other than your child., I know it was for me. But over time, you come to realize that you cannot wear all your hats at once. There needs to be some prioritization in order to be successful at anything. Prioritizing your career, your growth and your own mental health, only makes you that much better as a parent. But that doesn’t mean work always has to be number one, and it doesn’t have to look the way it always has either.
- Negotiating flexible work hours to better fit work and life into your schedule can help make it easier. That might mean returning to work part time for a period after your baby is born, which is what I did after my first child to help with the transition. Or it could mean doing the bulk of your work outside of the traditional 9 to 5 hours, so that you can be there for drop-off and pick-up, or easily share your parental responsibilities with a partner or family member. Today’s remote and hybrid workplaces make this easier than ever — as long as your employer supports that kind of flexibility.
- Establishing boundaries, to keep work from seeping into your personal time, is also important. No matter what hours you work, you need to be able to leave it behind after you’ve punched out, to focus on your life and family. That means not checking your email while you’re breastfeeding your baby and not trying to get an hour or two of work in after you’ve put them down for the night. And don't forget to make time for yourself too. Narrowing your life down to only work and parenting is going to burn you out fast.
In fact, all of these steps can help you not only better manage work-life balance, but avoid burning out too.
Burnout is a definite possibility when work demands get to be too much. Add in the stresses of being a parent and navigating the blurring lines between work and home and it can be almost impossible to avoid. But setting boundaries and having a work culture that supports those boundaries will help you do exactly that. And so can recognizing the signs that you might be fighting burnout in the first place. Those can include:
- Reduced productivity and loss of creativity
- Anxiety and lack of sleep
- Lack of concentration
- Fatigue and feelings of listlessness
- Low mood
- Feelings of detachment or cynicism
Thankfully, for me personally, Architech has provided a supportive culture that not only respects home life, but embraces it — making it easier to set the types of boundaries that are key to avoiding burnout. Here, our families are an extension of the Architech family, with many initiatives to help underline that culture, from the Monthly Kids Book Club — which gives parents a topic-specific book to share with their kids — to a work-from-home budget that helps busy parents with things like meal kits and childcare costs.
That kind of support — and finding an employer that cares as a whole — goes a long way in combating burnout.
Finding an Employer That Cares
As a mother of two, and Senior Project Manager now, I’m pursuing my career goals even as I take care of my family. And, working at Architech, every day I see the difference it makes to have an employer that cares. For example, having the flexibility to make my own hours allows me to focus on family life when I need to, so that when I do shift gears I can be more present and productive in my job.
In my opinion, that flexibility and a positive work environment in general are things every parent should look for at an organization, if they have the ability to do so. And the research supports that too. Gartner has found that flexible hours increases worker productivity, while other studies demonstrate that a positive workplace culture can reduce stress.
I know it’s been a game changer for me. When I returned to work after my first child, I came back part time as a project manager, but went directly back to full time after my second child. Architech supported me throughout those changes and helped me to continue achieving my career goals.
In fact, as a 100% remote company, Architech offers all of our employees the opportunity to work flexibly — making work-life balance easier to achieve. They also maintain a supportive culture that’s all about putting people first, with the aforementioned work-from-home budgets as well as employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on supporting everyone across our organization and within our individual communities. From the Build a Better Future program, to the Wom=n in Tech Committee, and more, Architech goes the extra mile to offer support for every member of the #dreamteam.
Some Final Advice
My final piece of advice for working parents? Give yourself grace.
Let go of this idea of a perfect work-life balance and just take it day by day. And no matter where you are or what you’re doing — whether it be family life or work life — be present in the moment. That’s what’s got me through.
Interested in exploring more about life at Architech? Check out more Talent and Culture articles, crafted by our #dreamteam.