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Parenting at CYB: managing the work/life balance

In the first of our August series on parenting while working, CYB employees share their advice on how best to juggle your career with raising your children
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Shaun Curran


08 Aug 2023

How do you juggle your role as a working parent? It’s a question that many continue to ask themselves as they (re)enter the world of work after having children. 

Given that August is the month where this question can often be more pronounced - the kids are on their summer holidays, which means both more fun and more stress! - at Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB) we thought we’d start a blog series on parenting at work. 

In our first blog, our team share their experiences of being a working parent, and give advice on how best to manage the balance between career and childcare - from diary management and goal setting, to practising yoga, skipping snacks and much more.

Sarah Hill, User Researcher 

There’s no shying away from the fact that working full-time and having two small children is hard work - it can be all consuming. But it is also incredibly rewarding, as I: 

  • Feel empowered

  • Contribute to family income

  • Challenge my brain in different way

  • Keep my career going

  • Continue working on things I am passionate about

I had taken a break after the birth of my second son, but CYB’s approach to flexible working has allowed me to return to the workplace (where possible, you should be picky about where you return to work – it is important to feel supported by management and teams who understand childcare responsibilities). 

But even with CYB’s support, to make this work, it’s all about being organised. There is always the unexpected with children; sick days, snow days, ‘been up all night’ days; or the nursery call to request more underpants as potty training has taken a step backwards.

Since becoming a parent, I have got a lot better at prioritising. Having family commitments outside of work means that I am focused on making every hour I am working as productive and efficient as possible. Gone are the days where I could just extend my workday and stay on in the office. Now I need to leave on time and manage my time accordingly. I’ve got a lot better at biting off the least appetising, or more pressing, pieces of work first - ‘eating the frog’ as I’ve heard it described. I use my calendar to carefully plan out and protect my time. Blocking tasks into the calendar for the length of time I expect them to take, allows me to gauge my workload and manage my commitments accordingly.

Compartmentalising helps. Being able to shift your focus entirely from family to work and vice versa. Working from home can make this harder, but it helps to create a workspace that feels different and separate from your living space. It’s amazing how effective something as simple as this can be to shield the noises of family life and create a zone where I feel I am at work and can shift my focus (almost) entirely onto work.

Make sure you have and maintain a good support system around you. I am very lucky that my husband also works from home a lot of the time and is happy to share the parental chores. But there are times he is not around, and our family are not close by, so knowing friends and neighbours that could step in to help is hugely valuable.

But there’s no escaping the fact that having children can be expensive. Childcare, especially for under 3's is a huge family outgoing. So I would recommend having a look at what financial help is out there. Fortunately, there is government support and private schemes that can really help working parents. So always speak to your childcare provider as well as your employer to find out what schemes they support.

Racheal Grant, Senior Performance Analyst 

As a working parent, my journey is constantly evolving. As one of our children is getting older and our toddler emerges into the terrible twos, I have had to find a new way of working that supports my new normal. This includes countless after school activities, an additional nursery run - and lots of toddler energy! But I have adopted 3 key principles to help support a work/parent balance - they are planning, prioritising mental well-being, and setting boundaries.

I always allow time for planning, which helps me balance appointments, school runs, and work tasks. Diary management has become my trusted tool, ensuring I stay on top of parent activities and work-related responsibilities.

Setting mini achievable goals, such as, I want to finish 2 work tasks before I do the nursery run, or I need to make sure I have a full lunch break that day. This keeps me focused and helps maintain the balance of parenting and work. Taking regular breaks is vital for maintaining mental clarity and overall well-being.

I have also learned the importance of boundaries, such as knowing when to turn the laptop off! It's important to spend time with the family and to switch of mentally, and allow yourself time to recharge. In addition to this, understanding the importance of embracing flexibility is key, as no two days are alike. Open communication with colleagues has proven invaluable in seeking support when needed. By following these guiding principles and nurturing open communication, I've found a more balanced journey that allows me more time both personally and professionally.

Ali Salaman, Head of Engineering 

As a father to two wonderful girls, I know from practical experience there are certainly challenges around juggling sometimes conflicting commitments. I’m very fortunate to have an amazing wife that makes what would otherwise be a circus act doomed to chaos a much less daunting thought but I’d like to think I pull my weight with my parental duties too.

My number one rule when it comes to parenting/work balance is to be present in the moment when spending time with my family. Give them the time they deserve so your children can have some happy memories of family time together during their childhood - rather than of stressed-out grumpy parents with no time for their children. 

Of course, life is about balance and occasionally there may be times when you may need to deal with something at work of an urgent nature - just don’t make it a habit. If out-of-hours work communications do start becoming a frequent pattern, it’s a red flag that needs to be addressed and should be raised with your manager or company.

I try to prioritise key events like school plays, sports days and even dropping your kids off to school. With my youngest child moving up to secondary school this year I realise just how special the time at primary school is, including the drop offs/pick-ups. Our children grow up so quickly and are effectively on loan to us until adulthood, so cherish the time you still think of them as your little babies and make time for these moments you’ll remember for years to come. 

If you’re able to, try to change your working patterns around your home life. I fully appreciate this is simply not possible for some professions, but it is worth considering if you can. For example, you may want to avoid meetings before 9am if you’re planning on dropping the kids off. When working from home, I personally try to pause work just after the kids come home so I can help with the evening routine, and will then jump back onto work when things have quieted down. Lots of you reading this may be horrified at the idea of logging on later in the evening! But the point is everyone is different and has their own preferred way of working that is best for them. CYB's flexible working really helps me with that.

Above all, accept that parenting and working is not easy and no-one has a magic solution to every situation. We're all kind of making it up as we go along - but hopefully some of this advice will apply to your situation and will be helpful on your parenting journey.

Marleen Kinder-Leighton, Operations Manager 

Even as I started back in part-time work after my son was born, if I am honest, at first I found it extremely hard to combine my career and family life. How do you make a big job smaller, or a workload more manageable when you have less time to give to it? And how do you balance childcare in between and find time for yourself or your relationship? This did put huge emotional pressure on me, and at times I felt like I was on a treadmill running an endless marathon. 

I realised I needed to schedule my days at work and at home better. I became super organised. I prepared family meals in advance; my husband and I shared all the chores from cleaning, washing up, laundry and food shopping and child care. I involved the grandparents with childcare too, which was a huge help and saved money on nursery fees too! 

I became a lot more efficient in the way I was working. When you know the nursery shuts at 5pm, you cannot be late and your work needs to be done. There is not much time for chatting with colleagues or doodling around and you just get on with your job. I remember my boss saying that part-time workers are more efficient than full time workers. They adapt to a multi-tasking work and lifestyle which is hugely beneficial to a company. 

In the midst of this new multitasking life I found myself in, I started practising yoga again and more regularly than before. I developed a daily practice with whatever little time I had. It offered me a space to reconnect to myself and time to recharge and recentre.  

I love this old Zen saying: “you should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you're too busy, then you should sit for an hour”. It’s so true, and I would recommend this to everyone to take on board and try it out! In fact, I did introduce lunchtime yoga in my workspace and set up a lunch time running club (another passion of mine). It was a huge success and still going after 15 years! It’s great to see so many companies follow suit. If your people are zen and focused you increase productivity - a win-win situation really.   

Richard Bray, Full Stack Developer 

Being able to work from home and help out with the kids has been great for my family, especially my wife. I’ve been able to assist with childcare for whenever someone throws a tantrum, to aid with nap times, or if my wife just needs to have a quick shower.

However, the biggest issue I’ve had while working from home is maintaining focus on work. They say it takes 15 minutes to get back into the zone after context switching, and for me, it’s sometimes more than that. Thus, a day’s work can feel like just 3 hours of focused work, with the rest being just context switching. Nevertheless, I’ve developed 3 new habits that have somewhat improved my concentration. Please note these are tips that have worked for me and may not work for you. Also, I’m not a medical expert so please consult your doctor before trying any of these.

Disclaimer done, let’s get into it. The first thing I’ve done is to skip breakfast. I’ve thrown away that cereal bowl in the morning and jump straight into work after spending the morning with the kids instead. You know when you get into work sometimes, sit behind the computer, check emails, spend a few minutes on the internet or just doom scroll Instagram before you get started? That was me until I stopped having breakfast. Now, when I sit behind the computer in the morning, I work; no more lethargic mornings, no more wasting time on the internet. I just get straight into it. I don’t know the psychology behind it but it works for me.

The second thing; no snacks in-between meals - and if I need to snack, I only have one banana and three teaspoons of smooth peanut butter (okay maybe five if I’m really hungry). Very specific, I know! Large amounts of food bring on that lethargic feeling, and I’ve found that, after being distracted by kids, the last thing I want to be distracted by is a full stomach. So, I’ve cut that out, and it’s made me more focused and productive.

The third thing I’ve done is to write a list the night before of the 3 things I want to complete the next day. This isn’t limited to 3 things: it’s been as many as 6 before, and it isn’t always limited to work stuff. As I mentioned earlier, distractions are plentiful and so if I forget what I was doing before I got distracted, or need to know what I’m doing today if I start work just before the first meeting, the list of notes I made the night before when my mind was clear helps me get back into the zone quickly.

As I mentioned, these are things that have worked for me. But I hope it helps someone out there. If you have any tips that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them!

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