How many times have you felt that you’ve had to choose between being good at your job and being a good parent?

As a working mother myself, I’ve been there, done that, and got the mummy guilt t-shirt, so I can empathise with each of you feeling the same way. Working parent guilt can be utterly crippling, and there’s something that frightens me – the number of working parents out there right now feeling this way.

To know that so many working parents around the globe feel this way terrifies me and further validates my concerns that unless we collectively make a change, our future generation of working parents will face all the same woes and bad experiences we have.

So what can we do?

We need to change the conversation. If organisations want to attract and hold on to talent, they need to stop expecting their working parents to choose between being successful at work and feeling like they’re winning at parenting. When the pull to be the perfect parent and perfect professional bubbles over, the knock-on effects can disrupt and complicate both roles – nobody wins.

It’s here that organisations hold a crucial part of the puzzle. They have a role to play in ensuring that their employees’ professional and parental lives don’t have an impact on each other. 

Support for new parents

At Talking Talent, we believe that the return to work is the most important part of the transition for both parents. It isn’t about the length of leave. It’s about feeling confident, supported and valued when returning to work as a working parent.

Whether your parental leave is a few weeks, six or 12 months, it doesn’t really matter. This is an enormous, life changing moment that must be acknowledged from a business perspective. In fact, it should be celebrated!

A successful transition

In order to make the transition successful, parents should be supported to connect with work a few weeks before they return so they can devise a return to work plan that suits their personal circumstances, as well as voice and address any concerns they may have. This will help support their confidence on the initial return.

The manager’s role

The manager’s role in this is key. Managers should feel empowered to create safe spaces to facilitate open and honest conversations with their working parent colleagues about what they’re experiencing before and after they return to work and how they’re managing their new priorities.  This should continue in the weeks and months after the first day back at work.

We know that it takes at least 3 to 6 months for parents to feel up and running again, so it’s important to check back in with them regularly.

Look forward, not back

For new parents, being encouraged to move forward into your “new” career as a working parent rather than looking back and comparing your career before to how it is now, can help you to embrace your new patterns of working and gain success in your career as a working parent.

Invest in coaching

For businesses struggling to engage working parents, HR should consider investing in coaching for both managers and the parents themselves.  This shouldn’t be about blanket training, as every parent is different and every set of circumstances are unique. Managers should be given the tools to manage each parent as an individual.

Nurture an inclusive environment

For working parents to feel valued and included it’s vital to nurture an inclusive work environment.

It’s also important to have an awareness of just how much has changed in the time the parent has had off. Managers and colleagues should be able to fully update them and give them time to get familiar with any changes to the business.

To all the working parents: you can have both, be both and be great at both.

To all the organisations: you need to focus on putting policies and support in place today to support the working parents of tomorrow. Let’s work together to create a different world for working parents.