The end of the year is a time rife with clashing commitments. Kids school plays, conflicting Christmas parties, deadlines that all fall on the same date and simply cannot be met in the time allocated. It’s tough and rough and we are all burnt out and absolutely READY for a break – but the year just keeps on coming.
Working parents have it particularly tough as they try to balance their own needs and the needs of their tiny humans together. As a business that works mostly with small businesses, we see a lot of these conflicts up close and personal, when working parents have to make tough decisions and tough calls about what time they can dedicate to their life and their partner and their kids, and what time has to go to the business. And sometimes those decisions aren’t nice and aren’t the best thing for anyone involved, but they’re still the call that needs to be made.
What I am struggling with and seeing more and more of is that our priorities are in the wrong order. Your child’s needs, your life outside your work, is important. It’s valuable, it’s not secondary or unimportant simply because it’s not making you a crust. Afterall, I’m sure a lot of you went into business thinking that by doing so you would allow yourself more time to actually be with your kids and give you the flexibility you wanted for your family – right?
The conversation was recently had (loudly) in my vicinity, where by an older male colleague “congratulated” a young working mum on out-negotiating her 5 year old who was disappointed and upset that her mum couldn’t make her end of year play due to a meeting that just ran over time. Not only does it raise questions about the inflexibility of the work environment and the expectation that she would cancel something important to her family because of her supposed “dedication” to her work and expectation of her male colleague’s, who wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the notion of abandoning their child in the face of yet another meeting; but it causes me to ask the question as to why the meeting simply couldn’t run on time. Are you making these decisions about where your time is being focussed based on your own work, your own actions, or simply on the incompetence of others and their inability to be efficient? Of course, the male colleague responded with something suitably ridiculous around “oh I never made anything at my kids’ school” and “My father didn’t either” – as if that’s a reason why we should continue with the same tired patterns of work-life balance.
Yes, I know, there will always be things that you miss out on – that’s the very nature of life itself, there is always something going on that we are missing out on – but missing your kids swimming carnival because a meeting ran over an hour, or because you were trying to finish the last of your email (which we know will never actually be finished) seems a bit ass-about to me. All you’ve got to do is get your priorities in order – say yes to the 15 minute standing meeting so that you can make the swimming carnival. Leave the emails till tomorrow as they’re never going to be done anyway. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Or, shockingly, start saying no a bit to work, so you can say yes a bit more to that upset child out the front of day-care wondering why Mummy is running late. Again.
Work is an important part of life. It’s how we make the money to live our lives. But it’s not our whole life and we need to make sure that we appropriately prioritise our time for those things that are just as – if not more – important.