Like lots of working parents, you may have resolved to recalibrate how you manage home and work in the new year. As CEO of Sittercity, the company dedicated to making child care finally work for millions of families, and a mom to two school-aged girls, I’m always on the hunt for hacks that will make the balancing act a little easier.
Here are the tips and tricks I’ll be using to make the most of my personal and professional life this year:
1. Have a back-up (child care) plan.
If there’s one thing that’s been reinforced time and time again since I began my tenure at Sittercity, it’s that working parents need a strong support system in order to thrive at home and at the office. Reliable caregivers are a critical component, and most of us have one or two we depend on regularly.
But working moms and dads need to think beyond their go-to sitters. Trust me: child care fails happen — nannies get sick, sitters have scheduling conflicts — that’s when my list of back-ups becomes invaluable. Having access to trustworthy sitters who can step in ensures that I can keep my work commitments and say “yes” to opportunities with confidence this year. (P.S. Having trouble finding the right caregiver? We can help!)
2. Lean on your village.
Time is often in short supply as a working parent. But with a little help from your partner, sitter, neighbors or parents, managing your family’s to-do list is a lot easier. Ask someone to do your daughter’s bun for dance recital picture day when you have to be out of town for work. See if your neighbors are willing to organize a shared school pick-up schedule. People are willing to help if you’re willing to ask! Sharing responsibilities with my village not only makes life easier, but gives me extra time to spend with my girls when it really counts.
3. Live by a shared calendar.
One working-parent hack that keeps our family on the same page? Sharing an online calendar. This tool helps us stay ahead of the game when it comes to planning for work, social, family, and school events. It also allows us look at our month holistically and determine when we can sneak in a date night or plan a special day with the kids as well as when we need to lean on our support system.
4. Be there for the big stuff.
Cheering your child on from the sidelines at soccer practices and volunteering to attend all classroom parties isn’t realistic for most working parents — and that’s OK. But kindergarten graduation? The year-end dance recital? The big game? I do my best not to compromise on the moments that matter most.
If there is an instance when you have to prioritize work over your kid’s big day, communicate openly with your child about it. Last year, an important conference fell on my daughter’s birthday. It’s the first birthday I’ve missed, but I explained the situation to her, and we planned a special “alternate birthday” for when I returned. I also made sure her actual birthday included some extra celebration — even if it was sans mom.
5. Plan special moments.
While you may not be able to do school drop-off and pick-up every day, focus on making some magical moments for your kids in 2018 — and you may not even have to miss work to do it. For example, my daughters attended Sittercity’s semi-annual Hack Day contest last year, which they still talk about months later.
Get involved with planning your office’s Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (it’s in April every year) and help make it an amazing event for everyone. Or, if you can swing it, schedule a day off and take your child out of school or daycare for some one-on-one time with mom or dad. It doesn’t need to be fancy — play at the park, have lunch at your kid’s favorite restaurant, see a movie or head to the library. The day will be a treat for both of you.
6. Seek out professional support.
I spent 2017 navigating my new role as CEO. Let me tell you, it’s been a learning process that helped me realize just how valuable it is to have supporters who provide guidance, understand your daily challenges, and are ready and willing to celebrate your wins with you. It can take some courage to put yourself out there to other professionals, but it is so worth it: When I accepted the job at Sittercity, I tried to connect with every CEO I knew (and some that I didn’t). I also joined a group called Collaborative Gain — my council gets together on a regular basis, but the members are also available for informal chats. Your circle of support doesn’t have to be as formal.
Join a LinkedIn group that’s focused on your interests, or take an online seminar led by an industry expert. Much like leaning on your village to manage family life, surrounding yourself with other professionals who are tackling similar issues is invaluable, and leads to incredible support and insight in your career.
7. Take risks.
Often, when a career opportunity comes our way, working parents — and moms especially — want to finalize all the details before they commit. How will child care look with a new schedule? Will taking on additional responsibilities disrupt our family’s plans? Taking risks and then leaning into the professional and personal networks I have built have helped me manage new career challenges and opportunities while maintaining balance at home. Take some leaps in 2018 and trust that you’ll figure out the details.