When you get to a certain age, you realize that all of your friends are starting to have babies, and taking time off before re-entering the workforce. It’s every common to see a friend take 10-11 months and then head back to work so that they don’t fall too far behind in their career. Being the child of a single parent, I witnessed first hand how hard it was for my mom to take care of 4 kids, and work full time after the divorce.
Maintaining your career as a parent is hard. When it comes to holding down a job, a lot rides on the age of your kids, and on what childcare arrangements you can put in place to make returning to work a possibility. Even in two-parent families, there isn’t always possibility for a parent to stay home and care for the kids. External childcare is now a monthly expense for millions of American families. There are several different options when it comes to structuring care arrangements around your working commitments, and while some may work for some, it’s not a one answer fits all kind of deal.
In terms of childcare, nursery and school hours are a great place to start. Especially when your kids start attending formal education. This essentially buys you a number of hours of funded childcare during the day, freeing up time for your working life. This is by no means the best option for every industry or profession, but if you can find a job that runs in tandem with the school day, then you have a leg up to ease back into work. Personally, as a manager, I try to give anyone with younger kids at home that flexible to adjust their working hours provided that it does not get in the way of client deliverables. When your kids get a little older, after school clubs and youth programs can also be a helpful way of buying time for you, while ensuring your child gets exposure to more opportunities and activities in a formal, educational setting. This is a win-win! I know that we did all sorts of fun activities when we were younger.
It is not a guarantee that you will be able to work to school hours, and that doesn’t solve the problem of what to do over school term breaks. In many circumstances, parents need to look to other options. Private day care centers are one route, although this can get pricey really quickly– particularly if you are looking for childcare on a daily basis. Supportive family and friends can be a good middle ground where feasible, and grandparents especially tend to provide childcare cover for busy, working parents. Again, this might not be a viable option for you or your family, in which case a professional babysitter or nanny may be required. The childcare side can be costly, and it is hard to know which form of childcare would be most suitable for your kids ahead of time.
As employers become more in-tune with the needs of parents, there are now increasingly career opportunities designed to help you to achieve a more workable balance between job and family. Flexible working hours are a common perk that can be made available to parents, ensuring they always have the flexibility to make up their hours. This allows for the build-up of time surpluses and deficits – ideal for those occasions where parents need to pick up their sick kid from school, or attend a meeting about the child’s education. This is something that not every employer offers, but it is worth asking your employer directly if you feel this would benefit your childcare arrangements. Employers are now more receptive than ever to the needs of families, and much more willing to oblige than was previously the case.
An alternative would be to ask if you could work remotely from home. In most office environments, all that is required to do the job effectively is an Internet connection and a computer. This means that employees can now feasibly work remotely, and it means that it might be possible for you to work from the comfort of home. This will enable you to spend more time with your kids, and to ensure they are being looked after during working hours.
For some people, the dependency they structure work around takes a somewhat different character. There are millions of US adults currently caring for elderly relatives, from great-grandparents through to siblings. In-home senior care can be a good solution in these cases, allowing people to get back into the workplace with the peace of mind of knowing their relative is safe and being cared for appropriately in their absence.
When there are family members who depend on you to lead fulfilling, happy lives, things like developing your career can seem trivial. If you do want to get into the workplace, there are services out there that can help you look after your kids, while the specialized support that comes with in-home care for older relatives frees up your mind as well as your time. Don’t be afraid to consider care arrangements in order to fulfill your career objectives – there is no shame in that, especially when you are working to support your family.