In traditional societies, taking care of children is a duty that’s shared with multiple non-parental adults or even older children. It’s only in modern times that the nuclear family has had to handle most of this burden while also dealing with the pressure of succeeding at work. Being a good parent while pursuing your career development is a big challenge for many people in today’s world.
A matter of time
Many working parents will have considered external options to help find that balance. A grandparent or other relative who has more time to spare might be available to look after the kid while they’re away. Although less optimal, a sitter or daycare facility can fulfill the same role.
Kids raised in this way can often turn out just fine. But they could certainly benefit from having spent more time with mom or dad. After all, parents are far from absent in traditional societies; they are a constant presence in the village that raises the child. It reflects how we evolved and is the natural model for how children should be raised.
Unfortunately, we can’t turn back the clock on society. We can only make the best compromise possible. And that begins with time management. Being a better parent is a function of time investment. How do you make that call between potentially earning more money to support your child, and actually enjoying more time with them?
Reset and learn
Every parent’s situation will be different; only you can determine how much time you can spare from work without adverse consequences to your job performance. And only you can decide if your overall career progress can afford to take a hit or slow down.
But the choice might not be as narrow as it seems. Taking a step back from work can be an opportunity to focus on learning instead. People do it all the time when they pursue higher education. Summer courses for psychotherapists, for instance, allow practitioners to further their development within a manageable time frame.
If you frame this as a chance to reset, avoid burnout, and learn some new skills, it will help change your outlook. In the short term, you might not be earning as much. You might have to negotiate shortened working hours or a reduced workload. But in the long term, you can come back with improved credentials and an expanded skill set, acquired while spending more time at home with your child.
Of course, many people will encounter practical difficulties with the financial side of that equation. Cutting down on work is easier if you can fall back on a savings account, or have a partner who’s earning enough to offset the difference. Not everyone has that sort of financial wiggle room.
The growing acceptance of remote work across companies in the wake of the pandemic can offer you some reprieve. If you can work from home, you’ll have better flexibility while saving considerably on the time spent commuting. It will still be tough, but you’ll be able to spread your work over the course of the day and give more attention to your child.
Remote work also opens up the possibility of freelancing. It’s a step further away from the regular employment model and towards being in full control of your time and workload. Taking on freelance work lets you focus on the most rewarding projects or clients, and balance how much you can handle along with your parenting duties.
Ultimately, however, you can’t overlook the fact that many employers or prospective clients won’t simply accommodate the arrangements that suit you best. It often comes down to leverage, and that’s where the concept of career capital comes in.
The more valuable you are, the more likely your employer will be to let you have flexible working arrangements. Having rare skills often puts you in the knowledge economy, which tends to be more compatible with working from home. It increases your ability to be selective with freelance work and further improves your prospects after taking time off to study while looking after your child.
Career capital isn’t built overnight. It’s the product of intentional effort over time. A new parent might not be fortunate enough to have that sort of leverage from the outset. But it’s never too late to start working on that.
While you’re at it, your extended family can help share the load as a temporary arrangement. Eventually, after making a deliberate effort in this direction, you’ll have earned that ability to chart the course of your career while also investing more time into your parenting.