Parents are the true superheroes of the workforce

Sarah Hollingsworth

25 May 2023

Life as a working parent is a juggling act. Many parents aspire to have it all – the career and the family. But how do we walk this tightrope between two areas that so often compete for our attention?

This has been made particularly difficult recently as families continue to bear the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis – from dealing with job security to the rising cost of childcare. It’s not getting any easier for us to have it all.

I often find myself reflecting on these complexities of balancing work and family life, and this is particularly apt today as it’s the UN’s Global Day of Parents – a day to appreciate all parents for their “selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.”

I’ve been at Harvard for ten years now and I’ve had two beautiful children in that time. Having recently returned to work after my second maternity leave, I know just how tough it is for parents right now. The emotional rollercoaster of whether you can afford to pay for childcare; the worry of whether you are still able to drive your career at reduced hours; and not forgetting the overriding mum guilt on being away from your children. It’s a lot. And it’s not easy.

But Harvard has done an awesome job in helping me feel supported in my transition back to work which has helped hugely.

Harvard is a People First business, focused on creating and maintaining an environment where anyone, from any background feels safe, inspired and able to thrive in their own career. And that includes parents.

Its industry leading parental leave meant I was able to spend precious time with my young family. Now I’m back at work, Harvard has helped me get the work and family life balance just right which I am so grateful for.

Every family is different, and I don’t have all the answers. But there are things you can do to help make working life easier on yourself and your family. Here are my top tips:

  1. Be kind to yourself! – It’s easy for parents to burnout quickly while managing home and work. Make sure you’re giving yourself regular breaks and you’re cutting yourself slack when things feel tough.
  2. Set boundaries – Work out what boundaries best work for you and your family – whether that’s checking in with childcare once a day or not at all. Know your boundaries at work and set clear limits about your hours so it doesn’t impact your home life.
  3. Take a breather if you need to – Some days will be harder than others. That’s ok, we all feel like this from time-to-time. When this happens, make sure to take a step back to give yourself a breather.
  4. Make sure you reach out to other parents regularly – It’s not just about having people around you who say “you got this”, but having people who you can talk to that have gone through the same thing as you and know how you feel.
  5. Try a soft start if you are nervous about coming back to work – You could do this gradually if children are going to nursery for the first time. For example, only coming back for a few days a week, or starting later in the day.

On a final note, I’d like to say parents shouldn’t be celebrated on only one day of the year. We should be appreciated every single day of the year because we bring a huge array of skills and passion into the workplace. Some even may say we have superpowers. Who else can survive on broken sleep, have a day job, and still be organised enough to sort tea-time, toddler clubs, swimming lessons and the rest? Parents, that’s who.