Written by Maciek Motylinski, Co Founder of Beyond Billables
For busy professionals, having children shakes things up in a big way. It really gets you thinking about balancing work with your family responsibilities. As much as friends and family may warn you that parenthood will change your life, it doesn’t sink in until you’ve been at home for a week. Experiencing sleepless nights and juggling new routines that don’t work around your schedule anymore. It’s disruptive, to say the least. It’s a massive challenge and will push you to change the way you manage your career.
Suddenly, you find yourself reassessing your priorities. As time goes on, adjustments or sacrifices might need to be made. But, is it possible to be both uncompromising with your career and the best parent you can be? It’s hard and will depend on the resources you have at hand and the support networks you put in place. For some, it can be hard to ask for help. For others, it’s simply the fact they don’t have the network and support system they need. Either way, you will have to make adjustments, be flexible and be proactive. Most importantly, you must be clear about your priorities. Your values and priorities will drive you towards the right decision and allow you to find the right balance.
There is no doubt that women are most affected. The time on maternity leave will have an impact on your career and transitioning back to work will have its challenges as well. Plus, you are balancing this with your partner’s career. So, whose career takes priority? Will this be a simple question of who makes the most money? Will your partner be able to support the family on a single income? What sacrifices will both parties need to make to ensure your career stays on track and at the same time be the parent you want to be?
It’s a complex problem and no one has the answers, plus everyone’s situation is different. The overriding message here is to make sure you get your priorities right from the get-go. Talk about these things before the baby arrives to ensure you are on the same page. Work towards common goals and values that work for you both as parents but also for your children. There is no point being a stay-at-home mum if you prioritise your career over everything. You’re only going to wind up unhappy. It’s also about managing expectations so that each party knows what to expect in reality. It takes a lot of self-examination, as well as trial and error, to find out what works best for your family as a whole.
We would all love to be there for our children 100% of the time, but anyone who works knows this is not possible. You have to be realistic and more forgiving of yourself. As much as children will consume your life, it should never get to the point where you lose yourself completely. Being forgiving of yourself means being realistic and not stretching yourself beyond what you can deliver on. Being open and willing to rely on people is key. That way, when things do go wrong, you can scramble together a contingency plan without getting too far off track.
For men, particularly in the early stages when mother and child are developing a close bond, there can be a tendency to withdraw into work. You often feel that at least this is an area you can contribute in and keep bringing home the bacon. That this is your primary responsibility. The reality is, you need to be there for your partner and child to pick up the slack. It could be something as easy as getting groceries on your way home from work. It’s important for fathers to develop this bond with their children, so even if you feel useless, don’t let this stop you getting involved. Don’t let a misplaced sense of your responsibilities get in the way of being engaged as much as you can.
Remember, it’s not permanent. You only get to see your kids grow up once, and this time flies by. Before you know it, they will be off to school and you’ll have more of your freedom back. At the time it can seem overwhelming and never-ending. But, you will learn some amazing things about yourself and your ability to adapt and flourish.
So, first get your priorities in place. Once you have that sorted, you can make career decision from a place that aligns with what you and your family value. Whether that means staying in your current role or seeking out an alternative, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are happy with the time you spend at work and the time you spend with family. Above all, you are still giving both the quality of attention they deserve.
Maciek Motylinski is a co-founder of Beyond Billables and is a master of the pivot. He’s played the roles of lawyer, leading international recruiter and entrepreneur – sometimes all at once. Some might call Maciek a career nomad. Not content with settling for average, he’s currently on a mission to smash the legal paradigm and get lawyers to think bigger. To explore more fulfilling options. To push their personal boundaries and try something unexpected. To find out more about Beyond Billables, visit www.beyondbillables.com.