How to Be a Career-Loving Parent: Get Smart (Part 4 of 4)

If you love being a parent and also love your job, let me be the first person today to tell you a secret: that's totally ok!

It's time to discard that guilt-ridden, implicitly apologizing term "working parent" and opt for a label that allows you to embrace all the facets of your identity and to pursue excellence in more than one domain of life. You can be a career-loving parent instead! If you need more inspiration and instruction to stop apologetically referring to yourself as a "working parent," you'll want to check out the first installment in this series.

The first step to becoming a career-loving parent is knowing your work-life style. When you know your work-life style, you're better able to determine whether you'll be happier integrating your personal and professional lives, or if you're the kind of person who's happier when there are clear boundaries between your work self and your home self.

Once you know your work-life style, you can move on to the next step, which we covered in the third installment: exploring your work options. In the modern world of work, you have more options than ever. You don't have to choose between a full-time job or being a stay-at-home parent. You can choose to work flexible hours, part-time, for yourself, or any number of other alternatives to the standard paradigm of work.

Once you've determined what your work-life style is and you've decided what you want your work life to look like, it's time to get smart. You can optimize your new, liberating life as a career-loving parent by following three key bits of advice:

  • Look for win-win-win-win-win opportunities. If your work-life style is integrator, you probably already know how to do this, but even if you're a separator, you can borrow this technique (and if you have no idea what an integrator or a separator is, you might want to check out part 2 of this 4-part series). Look for ways that you can incorporate your knowledge, skills, and abilities from work into lessons or other quality time spent with your kids. Identify lessons you've learned as a parent that will make you or your team more effective at work. Find opportunities to apply your career skills to help at your kids' school or at church or on a sporting field. When you open your eyes, you'll see win-win-win-win-win opportunities everywhere.

  • Beware the Double-Edged Sword of Flexibility. I capitalized that because I thought it sounded like a legendary weapon from a Tolkien book. The point here is to fine-tune your flexibility instincts. Two-way flexibility (i.e., employee-to-employer and employer-to-employee) is one of the keys to successful career-loving parenthood, but make sure that what looks like flexibility actually is. If you find yourself doing a ton of unpaid work for your employer, that's not flexibility. Conversely, if your employer is paying you to be at your kid's band concert, that ain't flexibility either. A truly flexible work arrangement benefits all parties involved.
  • Block time for important stuff. This one often comes pretty naturally to separators, but integrators would do well to steal this idea. Know when you're working and when you're not. Otherwise, some domain of life won't get its due. Use your calendar to let your family, your coworkers, your boss, and yourself know when your full attention is on work and when your full attention is on parenting. It's natural, especially for integrators, to have a lot of time that's divided, but make sure you have focused time as well. You'll get by without focus, but only focus will enable you to accomplish great things at work and at home. If it helps, think of FOCUS as an acronym that stands for Follow One Course Until Successful.
  • That's the smart person's recipe for happy career-loving parenthood. Once you've identified your work-life style, chosen your work option, and observed those three key bits of advice, you'll be well on your way to a meaningful, fun, and fulfilling life at home and at work. Of course, the devil is in the details. In later installments, we'll dig further into those details:

    • How to identify your work-life style

  • How to find the work option that's right for you
  • How to find and take advantage of win-win-win-win-win opportunities
  • How to manage a flexible work arrangement, and
  • How to focus.
  • For now, however, know that it's possible. Stop apologizing for loving your work AND your family. Stop feeling guilty for not being at work when with you're with your kids. Stop feeling guilty for not being with your kids when you're at work. Start embracing who you truly are: a career-loving parent.

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