Flexibility is not just important for working parents, it’s important for everyone. Flexibility in your schedule is what allows you to know you have autonomy over your life, that you can schedule your day to maximise your productivity and work around inflexible commitments relating to those dependant on you. Without flexibility you can feel stressed out, over-worked and time-starved. Cue, quality of life.
For working parents, flexibility is the most valuable currency there is. Being able to pick up your child from school a couple of times a week, attend a child’s concert, take them to an activity, be home with them for dinner, these are important and it’s flexibility that enables these moments to occur. It is the quality of time that matters more than quantity.
Children spell love with four letters T-I-M-E ~Max Lucado
How do you maximise your flexibility to spend time with your child?
Whilst there are workplace policies in place for flexible and part-time working arrangements and these can help, there can often be a stigma around actually taking the time, or an incongruous culture to still work set hours, even though policies state otherwise. Taking matters into your own hands as a working parent is the key to having the work-life blend you desire. And there are a few things you can consider:
1) Outside of any constraints, what is important to you?
It may seem like an obvious question. My kids are important to me, my career is important, my partner is important to me etc. But I’d like you to dig deeper. What do you consider so important that they are non-negotiable and when you look back on your life they are things that you will regret if you don’t meet them? Take a holistic approach, because when a key area is missing, it will impact your state of mind and therefore the quality of time you experience with your child. Exercise 30 minutes a day, being at school pick up three times a week, hitting key milestones in work projects or career progression, having a regular date night? Go ahead, make your list now.
2) Where is communication required on what is important to you?
Again, it may seem obvious and yet if we’ve never paused to reflect on what is important because we are engrossed in doing the do, we may not be clear on our non-negotiables. This results in not communicating what is important to us and then feeling frustrated because our needs are not met. This may take the form a meeting with your manager, conversation with your partner or a conversation with yourself. In the book, The Four Agreements – A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz, one of the agreements is to not make assumptions and have the courage to ask questions and express what you really want.
3) How empowered do you feel to make flexible working arrangements that suit you?
Observing your beliefs about work flexibility and how others may react when you communicate your needs will either empower or limit you. If you first don’t believe flexible work arrangements are even possible, you won’t set out to explore the possibilities. Understanding your own self-talk and how it is supporting you or not, will be a key factor in creating the flexibility that works for you and your family.
Have you successfully created work flexibility arrangements? Please share your story below.