Being a parent is tough. Whether you work full time, part time, from home, or not at all, it’s still hard. The many myths about parents circulating through the workplace it only make it harder. However, working parents make some of the best employees and leaders.
Here’s a guide to some of the most common misconceptions about parents at work and why they’re not true.
Parents need more accommodations than other employees.
Asking for accommodations or flexible schedules is not unique to working parents only. I’ve worked with men that negotiated all air travel needs to be booked in business class or higher due to injuries. I’ve worked with twenty-somethings that requested to work a four day schedule so they could go back to school part time or pursue a volunteer opportunity. I’ve seen older adults in the workplace scale back their schedules so that they can spend more time at home with their significant others or to care for an ailing parent. Almost everyone has to cut out of the office every now and again for a doctor’s appointment or other personal matters.
Accommodations and flexible schedules seem to be synonymous with working parents, but in reality, they are not. Nearly every type of employee takes advantage (and is thankful) of accommodations in the workplace that allow work-life integration.
Parents aren’t committed to their jobs.
This one is really surprising because it’s quite the contrary. There is actually strong evidence that parents are more committed to their jobs than many other employees. Traditionally, companies have rewarded men who become fathers with the “fatherhood bonus”, usually resulting in about a 6% increase in salary. Once you become a family man, you’re viewed as more dependable and more committed to your job since you now have to provide for a family. Women, on the other hand, experience the “motherhood penalty”, and many earn 4% less per child than they would have if they had remained childless. It’s based on the assumption that they are more distracted or will work less. However, working parents are some of the most efficient, focused employees out there. The constant juggle of managing a career with family commitments makes them well-equipped to prioritize and really be strategic about utilizing resources. Furthermore, parents are less likely to job hop than other employees. Stability is key when raising a family and the challenges associated with transitioning to a new work place or relocating are only considered when absolutely necessary.
Parents aren’t good team members.
Since parents have after-hours commitments, when they need to leave the office at 5 or aren’t able to come in before 9, most people think that the singletons on the team need to make up for it. In today’s technology embracing world, this is hardly the case. While many parents do limit their physical “in office” hours, most spend time on weekends, early mornings, and after work working. Limiting hours in the office isn’t unique to parents, many people with long commutes or global work spend only core hours in the office and complete a lot of their work at home before or after-hours. Besides, parents aren’t the only employees to take vacations. All team members usually have to cover for each other. Parents may be more inclined to take vacation during major holidays due to children’s school schedules, but putting programs in place that rotate vacation time periods during different holidays can help make sure that no one has to endure year after year with no time off during their favorite holiday.
Don’t forget, parent’s are hugely efficient at scoping out job needs and responsibilities and getting work done timely – and usually within business hours. These skills can help any team be more productive.
Parents are at work only out of financial necessity.
Why would anyone want to leave their children behind and come to the workplace if they didn’t have to? Actually, a lot of people. Caring for children is a wonderful experience, but everyone needs a break. Many parents that pursued careers prior to becoming parents may still be interested in their field of work, finding the work intellectually stimulating and interesting. Sometimes, you need to connect with other adults and feel current in a world that doesn’t revolve around child rearing. Money is nice, and may be a main motivating factor for many people, but it’s certainly not the only reason that parents are there.
The one issue that leaves parents at a significant disadvantage in the workplace is addressing last minute needs or a crisis that may crop up towards the end of the workday. This has little to do with anyone’s capability to deal with the issue, but more to do with the structure of childcare available for working parents. Most parents simply can’t extend their childcare past a certain hour without advance notice. While this may be challenging, I’d highly encourage dual working families to try to stay flexible and the parents help each other if one is experiencing an office fire towards the end of the day.
Alternatively, you could tackle the challenge by responding to the team with, “I’d like to take a few hours to evaluate this further. If it’s urgent enough, let’s plan a call tonight to review next steps, otherwise, we’ll regroup in the morning.” Most employees don’t want to be on a 9pm call and you’ll probably be able to restart in the morning.
Featured photo credit: Ed Gregory via stokpic.com