Some may try to deny it, but the reality is being a parent does affect your work.
Take my last 24 hours for example. My preschooler kept me up all night, because she is nighttime potty training. Not a lot of sleep was had because she got up almost every hour to pee.
I am exhausted!
I had to shift my plans for my next YouTube video. The next video I had planned was fairly technical and I was just not feeling up to it.
I’ve frequently heard from fellow parents about the sense of pressure to do it all. There’s a prevailing belief that even though parenting takes up a lot of time and energy, our work shouldn’t be affected.
I want to poke holes in this idea that you can totally do it all, unphased. Don’t get me wrong, you can do it all. You can work and be an awesome parent.
But, it’s unrealistic to expect that you can bring a child into your existing work life and that your work will be completely unaffected.
The Shame Cycle
When caregivers are less productive or are feeling tired, they can carry a sense of shame. The shame can come from feeding themselves the message that they should be just as productive as they would be without the caretaking responsibilities.
Therefore they assume something must be wrong with them if they aren’t on top of things.
Oftentimes folks will try to cover up the shame. So, on the inside people may be carrying a negative narrative that something is wrong with them. Or they’re not measuring up. But, on the outside they’re trying to pretend like they have it all together.
By not showing it on the outside, it reinforces the narrative for others that you can do it all.
When in reality we’re all quite aware that our work is affected because we’re a parent.
Let Me Say Something You May Not Be Able To Say
I understand that I have full freedom to share my opinions without repercussions because I work for myself. The only employer who can call me out for being less productive is:myself.
If you are working for someone else and you acknowledge that your productivity is being impacted by your caregiving, then you might worry that you’re putting your job at risk. So often this is an issue that people don’t feel like they have permission to talk about.
Let me name a reality that you might not be able to vocalize in your workplace:
Caring for a child is a full-time job.
Even if you have a co-parent, family help or paid childcare. At any point your childcare may fall through, or your child might get sick. And you are the point person to make sure your child is cared for. You may need to prioritize your child over your work.
Any work you take on beyond caregiving is doubling up on your work.
How My Work Is Affected
This was particularly apparent to me during the pandemic. Even after daycare reopened, my little ones were home with me about half of the month due to symptoms or exposures.
But this is still true now. It’s not unusual that my husband or I need to cancel our workday because one of our kids is sick.
When this happens, I have a choice: let go of the work I was going to do, adjust how much I invest in it, or to “make” time I don’t have to get it done.
It’s not unusual for me to swap a work day for my evenings and spend one or two evenings a week staying up til midnight to get work done. This is reality.
I Know I Am Privileged
One thing I’m nervous about in making this video is that it might come across as complaining. When in fact I’m genuinely, incredibly grateful that I have the ability to set my own schedule, pivot, or drop things as I see fit.
I started Private Practice Skills because I wanted that flexibility especially while my kids were little. It’s a huge privilege.
Are You Feeling The Pressure?
I wanted to write this article because I hear of so many parents shouldering a sense of pressure. This messaging says that they’re supposed to maintain an equal quality of output in their work while they bring a child or two or three into their lives.
And though you can totally do both work and parenting, it’s unreasonable to expect that your work output will just flow with the same ease as before.
I want to call that out for any of you who might be carrying that kind of expectation.
Each Experience Is Unique
In this article I have been talking in generalities and lumping all experiences of caregiving together. I am aware that there are so many differences in each person’s situation of parenting/caregiving.
A solo parent is going to have a very different experience than someone who is co-parenting. Likewise if you’re shouldering the main financial income for your family you will have a different story than someone who has a partner who is earning the income for the household. There are all kinds of nuances to the working parent stories that are out there.
Also, it’s worth pointing out that I only work 2 days a week right now. I know for some folks, the only option is to work full-time in order to pay the bills. And for others, the only option is to not work at all because childcare costs more than their paycheck will cover.
Be Kind To Yourself
Whatever context you’re in, I want to emphasize that being a caregiver is completely a full-on job. (Let’s be honest, it’s harder than any job I’ve ever worked before because you can’t clock out).
So I encourage you to be kind to yourself if you feel tired, unproductive, or find it challenging to keep up with your work tasks. It makes sense that you feel that way. It’s healthy to acknowledge that as your reality and to invite self-compassion.
More Of My Thoughts
If you are interested in hearing more about the overlap of parenthood and work, check out the video below. I share some ways that motherhood has impacted me as a therapist.
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!
Photo by Jep Gambardella on Pexels
Photo by Sarah Chai on Pexels