Parenthood has been described as a number of things. Herding cats. A rollercoaster. But it’s really most like solving a Rubik’s Cube. Parenthood is a series of decisions, some that are more challenging than others and some that affect the next decision you make. Sometimes those decisions, in parenthood and when solving that colorful cube, require research and advice. And, invariably, once you believe you’ve solved it, someone switches all the colors around again to keep you guessing.
The decisions that come with parenthood start early and often, from diapers to preschool to dating and college applications, and in between all the big decisions are little ones.
As a working parent, it’s some of those little ones, those everyday decisions, that prove to be the most difficult. Should I pop open the back hatch on my car, slide in, and finish up some client research during my son’s football practice? Can I schedule a meeting later in the day so I can attend a parent breakfast at school? Will the kids notice if I work on a project on Saturday morning? A number of the decisions facing working, married couples require very little internal debate, while for single parents, the entire responsibility falls to one person.
When my son’s eye hurts at school and he needs to come home (this really happened), or when the kids are on break from school, or when my daughter is performing in a concert or hoping to land a tumbling routine for the first time, I need to be there. But, I also need to be there when my clients have events, when they require insight on campaign performance, and when our teams gather to strategize. It’s one heck of a balancing act, but I know I’m not alone.
According to Working Mother magazine, 23 million children are being raised by single parents in the U.S. This means there are millions of people making big and little decisions alone every day. Some of us swap vacation time to care for a sick child. And some of us pass on promotions, knowing they might require more travel than we’re comfortable with. Many of us work into the evenings, and sometimes on weekends, to make up for any time our full-time parenting duties borrowed from our full-time career.
It is this never-ending pursuit of work-life balance, and the specific responsibilities of single parenthood, that place more emphasis on the benefits offered by employers. Single parents look at employers with a different eye, knowing the daily demands they can anticipate from the home front and factoring in the ones they don’t. It’s precisely why I so value the flexible personal time offered by my employer.
As part of the public relations team at Fingerpaint in Scottsdale, I know that if I need to take a few hours to attend an event for one of my three kids, I can. And, I should. Not only would I not be penalized for it, I’m encouraged to do it. The time is allotted for employees to use and is viewed as a workforce investment.
Our leadership understands that childhood is fleeting and has embraced and fostered a culture that helps with some of those big and little decisions we face every day as working parents. And, it makes a difference.
Research conducted by Pew Research Center indicates that we all judge our parenting abilities more positively when we spend more time with our children. If we’re absent too much, making decisions that favor our careers over our families too often, we feel it. And then we feel guilty about it and resent having to choose. Employers are beginning to recognize that and are instilling more family-friendly policies.
According to Inc. magazine, unlimited paid time off, for vacation and personal time, is an ever-more-present benefit that companies are offering, in part because they’re realizing they have to in order to woo top talent away from companies that already offer it. Not only does productivity improve among staffers, but this extra time also seems to boost morale.
I know I appreciate the flexible personal time offered at Fingerpaint. It makes those little decisions—about attending a networking event in the evening or bringing my pint-sized trio into the office on a half-day of school—less painful.
As parents, we have enough difficult decisions to make. Balancing work and family shouldn’t be one of them.
Lisa Van Loo, who is part of Fingerpaint’s public relations team in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a seasoned media professional who has been working in the Phoenix market since 1999. She began in sports radio, transitioned to broadcast writing for local and national markets, and eventually landed a sought-after job as a reporter at Gannett’s Arizona Republic newspaper. An award-winning PR pro who isn’t too fond of math, Lisa feels at home working on sustainability, education and real estate.
Lisa never leaves home without a notebook and pen, and she is relentless in her pursuit of squeezing every minute out of every day.