Working Parents: Getting The Balance Right

By

Joseph Tan

04-09-2015

5 min read

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It’s time to look after the relationships that matter most to us

In this day and age, we are struck with the desire to do it all, to have it all and to enjoy it all. We work hard, work smart and work tough so that, at the end of the day, hopefully it will all work out.

The image we have is that of a juggler attempting to balance as many balls as possible – keeping them all up in the air and making sure that nothing falls. The hustle and bustle of life feels like one continuous cycle.

We want to be an excellent employee and an excellent parent and an excellent spouse and an excellent community leader and an excellent golfer… the list goes on.

Life was much simpler when I was a free-spirited student, but it got more demanding when:

  • I got a job.
  • Then, I have a job, and I got a wife.
  • Then, with the job and the wife, we got a child.
  • Then, with the job, the wife, the child, we got another child.
  • Then, with the job, the wife, the child, and another child, I got a new business.
  • Now, with the job, the wife, the child, another child, a new business, I am getting…

Life has become more complicated and the challenge then is to make it all work, but is this a plausible proposition?

Let’s take a deeper look specifically at the proposition of being a successful professional and also a successful parent. Is it possible to have equal success at work and at home?

The fundamental priority

The test of leadership is not in whether you can have it all, but whether can arrange your resources so that important needs are met.

Think about it – why would you need a leader when you can have it all? There would be no need for leadership if everybody could have everything without any consideration for budget and resources.

As a parent, your leadership at home also requires you to choose. If there is no need to make wise choices, then there is no need for the application of leadership.

What makes choices for parents even more difficult is this – the time when your career is flying is also the time when your child needs you the most. To most of us, this phase hits us when we are in our 30s.

The boss may be impressed by you, and yet your three-year-old at home is wanting to impress you as well.

Bringing everything together is no mean feat, because it requires a partnership approach.

Here is the key: the strength of your marriage is the foundation by which all other priorities are set. Yes, here is the hard truth – your relationship with your spouse is more important than your relationship with your boss.

If you don’t believe me, compare your wedding vows with your job description – I have no doubt that your commitment to your spouse is on a higher level. Yet, do we live accordingly?

The sad observation is that there are couples today who live as if the only document guiding their lives is the one related to their competencies and not about their commitment to each other.

From a point of leadership unity within your marriage, you will both have to consider the following:

1. What is your plan for building the character of your child?

There is no quality time without quantity. Leaving the child with a third party may not necessarily shape their character and values to your standards.

Academic tutoring can be outsourced, but character building and discipline requires direct involvement from the ones who love the child the most – you and your spouse.

2. What is your plan for defining your career growth?

Contrary to popular thinking, your career growth does not depend only on your conversation with the boss. From my observation, any significant career growth must involve a joint understanding between the husband and the wife.

The one commodity which you ought to treasure is not how much salary both of you can earn together, rather it is about how to best invest this non-refundable resource called time.

The fact of the matter is this: we spend time on what we value.

The foundational principle

The pragmatic mindset (let’s do what works) is one of the major factors causing stress to couples nowadays.

While it is important to make practical choices with regard to the daily routine of parenting, there are certain family decisions that can only be made if a foundation of decided principles is in place.

The subtle danger of modernity is this: there are so many activities that can occupy our family lives that we as parents do not commit to the hard work of deciding on what our core values are in the first place.

We become so busy that we are no longer purposeful.

Here are three practical steps to get back to the basics:

  • Spend a weekly dating time with your spouse (and do not talk just about work!).
  • Establish a mentoring relationship with an older couple and learn from their ups and downs.
  • Since the company you work for has a vision/mission statement, why not create one for your family?

Principles are set not during the hustle and bustle of our professional and parenting lives, they must be created beforehand. Before the stress comes, you owe it to your family to get your house in order – in fact leadership is about getting one’s own house in order.

Whether it is the living room or the board room, it really doesn’t matter. What is important is that the priorities are first set, then the rest will fall into place much easier.

Conclusion – It is not about parenting

Parenting is not an end in itself, rather it is the outcome of a life of leadership. If you and your spouse do not regularly practise the art of united leadership, then your followers (i.e. your children) will not be motivated to follow you in obedience and respect.

The expectations imposed upon working parents today is not diminishing – at home or at work.

Yet, we must be careful not to be so balanced that we neglect the priorities of what is really important in life (not just work).

Our relationship with our bosses lasts for a season, but the relationships at home last for a lifetime.

Keep this perspective in mind and parenting will no longer be a balancing act, it will be a joyful adventure.

Joseph Tan is CEO of Leaderonomics Good Monday. His passion is to work with performance-focused leaders to capture the hearts and minds of their employees through a strengths-based and accountability-driven approach. Together with his wife, he has a passion for working with parents to exercise the art of leadership at home. If you would like to enhance the engagement level of your organisation (or your family), email people@leaderonomics.com for more details. For more Be A Leader articles, click here.

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