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3 Ways to Eliminate Working-Parent Guilt

Feeling torn between home and work isn't just a problem for mothers, new research says. Here's how to eliminate guilt and be a happier working parent.

Thanks to Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Anne-Marie Slaughter and countless commentators on every skirmish in the mommy wars, the struggles and guilt faced by working mothers are extremely high in our collective conscious. The stresses of being a working father? Not so much.

But dads aren't immune to guilt. Far from it, according to a new from the Pew Research Center. "Roughly equal shares of working mothers and fathers report… feeling stressed about juggling work and family life: 56 percent of working moms and 50 percent of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance these responsibilities," the organization reports.

That means roughly half of the parents reading this now are struggling to do well by their business and their kids. Is there no solution to this guilt? There may not be easy answers, but there are some strategies that make a difference, according to Jeremy Adam Smith of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, which researches happiness and positive psychology.

A working dad himself, Smith recently offered five pieces of advice to stay happy while keeping all the balls in the air, including these.

Get a Team

"It takes a village," may be incredibly old wisdom, but it's still true despite the fact that very few of us actually live in villages. So you have to assemble your own.

"Who is on that team? There’s the other parent… He or she shares authority with you, and you’ll need their buy-in on major decisions. To get that, you’ll need to cultivate skills like listening, empathy, negotiation, and compromise," says Smith.

But getting the right team together extends way beyond nurturing a supportive relationship with your co-parent. "You’ll manage a progression of nannies, preschools, schools, afterschools, and summer camps. Budget permitting, you may also need to outsource certain functions, like housework and dog walking. Don’t leave all the details to your co-parent; instead, divide up responsibilities according to your complementary skills and interests," he suggests.

And don't forget extended family and friends: "Don’t be afraid to ask for help, including babysitting; take the risk of confiding in friends when you feel overwhelmed."

A Flexible Parent Is a Resilient Parent

If you're stressing out about being a working parent your inflexible ideas about gender roles may be partly to blame, according to Smith. "When I was interviewing couples for my book The Daddy Shift, I found the happiest ones were those who weren’t hung up on ideas about what a man should do and what a woman should do. Mom didn’t look down on Dad if she made more money than him, and Dad didn’t waste time resenting the burdens of child care," Smith reports.

Sharing tasks makes you not only more emotionally resilient but also more economically resilient as well, Smith points out: "Flexibility and redundancy add up to greater resilience in the face of economic shocks."

Stick Up for Family-Friendly Policies

You're the boss so you're actually in a position to advocate for family-friendly policies like paid leave and telecommuting options. Not only is this probably the right thing to do, it'll also make you feel better, according to research. Evidence suggests that "volunteering and activism bring substantial mental and physical health benefits," reports Smith.

These are only a few of Smith's suggestions and he goes into far greater detail about all of them in the article. If you like what you've read here, definitely check it out in full.

What are you more effective guilt-busting strategies? 

 

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Last updated: Apr 4, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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