I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, I talked to so many people about becoming a parent and not one person shared a negative experience with me.
Honestly, I wish they had because it didn’t help prepare me for the challenges ahead – sleepless nights with a crying baby, feeling overwhelmed, alone and unsure of myself. I vowed if someone asked me about becoming a parent, I wouldn’t sugar coat the challenges of parenthood or how hard it can be.
I’ve spoken to many parents about the challenges of raising tiny humans. Often it’s more about us then our kids. We place so much pressure on ourselves to manage it all, have a career and be a ‘great’ parent.
But when everyone in the household seems stuck in continuous revolving door of illness and sleep deprivation, it can feel like you are stuck in several full-time jobs you don’t remember signing up for.
Much joy comes with parenthood and I tell myself that it won’t always be like this. They won’t always need me to help them with everything and one day I will miss this time.
Sometimes it’s helpful to remember you’re not alone in the trenches of parenthood. In my experience, taking a moment to be silly and dance around the house with my family is one way I’m able find the joy. We asked some of our ANZ parents how they are juggling work and family, here’s what they had to say.
There are always challenges. Imagine trying to cook dinner while you have a crying toddler at your feet, who is unhappy with the chosen pasta shape. While your primary school aged child refuses to do their homework and all you can think about is your upcoming work deadline. This starts to paint a picture of a normal day as a working parent.
Melbourne based Pamela Silluzio and her husband manage an activity filled household with two daughters, aged seven and 10. Nights often find the parents attending activities from hip hop, acrobatics, swimming, karate and art classes.
“My husband and I both work full time. Over the past year he’s had to travel quite a bit for work - nine weeks away so far - and travel is likely to be ongoing in this role,” Pamela says.
“The work-life juggle is very real for us.”
“Now that the expectation from both our workplaces is to attend the office 50 per cent of the time, it’s meant a big shift in how we manage things at home. Each week we need to sort out who’s in the office on which days - based on meetings, workshops and other commitments. Who is doing school pick up-drop off, kid’s activities, appointments, lunches, etc.”
“It’s often hard to fit homework into the time we have left, but I believe that the skills they gain from extracurricular activities are just as important - if not more so. I’m not too strict about it. Often dinner is eaten late, bedtime gets late, chores get missed.”
“There’s a constant guilt that I work too much, don’t spend enough time with my kids, or feed them three nutritious meals a day. I think ‘mum guilt’ is a big factor for a lot of us.”
Naveen R works for ANZ in Bengaluru, India, with his wife and nine-month-old baby. He says his parents are in Mysore, 130km away.
“Being first time parents, we are finding challenges in managing work and personal life. There is no ‘me time’ for my wife or I, so personal wellbeing is a bigger challenge.”
“Baby still needs to get adjusted to the feed and sleep clock, so we continue to see multiple wake-up times in the night and baby always wants to be with mother!”
New Zealand-based Robert Colhoun and his wife have three boys aged two, six and 12 and he describes “getting out the door” as one of the major challenges of the day.
“The eldest are at school and the youngest thinks he should be too! He always thinks he can keep up with his older brothers. My wife comes from a corporate background but is currently a stay-at-home mother. I can’t imagine both of us working and juggling school, sports, commitments etc. Our house is always noisy!”
“The boys lost their Nanna nearly two years ago and there are many triggers that bring these emotions back up for them. This is particular tough for my wife, who without her mum, is trying to deal with emotional kids still processing this.”
Naveen says a key part of his battleplan for dealing with the new life is availing himself of the company’s Employee Assistance Program
“I have also discussed parenthood with my leadership team, who have been of great support and made changes to a few of my responsibilities and with Flexible Login times. So that it gives me ease to start managing both work and life.”
Robert says a key strategy for him is enjoying the ride and realising these things don’t last forever.
“And ironically soon we will miss the chaos. I think having our youngest has made us appreciate more how quickly they grow up and as cliché as it sounds to enjoy the small moments with our children.”
“Leaning on friends in the community has been so important, we are lucky to meet lots of other parents in similar positions through school, sport etc. And being able to share the load through playdates, transport is critical to making things function.’’
“I personally need to get some exercise in to feel calmer and more in control. I soon know when I’ve missed it and definitely don’t feel like the best Dad or husband when I do.”
Pamela says communication is key for her.
“I have a big planner board - I’m a sucker for pretty things on Instagram - that maps out everyone’s week. My husband largely ignores the chart, but it works for me and the kids think it’s fun to write down what they have on and I see them checking what days Mum or Dad are going to work. I think it helps that they have that visibility – like many families, COVID had a big impact on us and there is still some anxiety about Mum or Dad being away for the day.”
“Because there is always so much going on, we try and make the most of family time where we can. We have family movie night every Friday ... The girls set up the room with blankets and pillows and we eat popcorn and chocolate from the special movie night jars. At the moment we are working through 80s classics. The Back to the Future trilogy was a big hit.”
Tips for success
Robert says it is hard to give one piece of advice as all families are different.
“Parents have to choose to do what they believe and feel is right for them and their whanau (extended family). Of late I have been focusing on being present, enjoying the now and the time with my family. I don’t want to wish it differently in 20 years time.”
Pamela says parents need to learn not to be hard on themselves.
“We’re all doing our best and navigating each day as it comes. It’s ok if the sink has dirty dishes in it, the washing isn’t folded and the kids sometimes have cereal for dinner. Make some time for you when you can and try to enjoy the little things."
“Surround yourself with good people and don’t waste your energy on things that don’t make you happy - it’s taken me a long time to realise that! My eldest daughter turned 10 last week; the time has flown so fast and I’m trying hard not to miss any of it.”
Naveen says patience is crucial.
“This time will pass, rather than blaming the situation or the partner, it is better to sit together and split the baby work. For example, take baby for walk in the evening which gives your partner some time to relax. Take small, short breaks on Friday to Sunday and go for a day outing and the environment change will make you feel better and recharged for the next week.”
Sarah Soncini is a Journey Expert, Data Capability, Founder and Chair of the Mental Health Network at ANZ.