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6 Habits of Successful Working Parents

6 Habits of Successful Working Parents

All parents work. But for those of us who work outside the home as well, it can be like working two or more full-time jobs. It’s easy to get overwhelmed…and no one wants to admit that they are barely hanging on. By putting some habits into place, though, you can get yourself on track and become successful. Here are six habits of successful working parents to get you started.

Have backup systems in place

Murphy said, “Anything that can go wrong, will.” That means the day of the big presentation, the kids are going to have the stomach flu. Or your car will break down when it’s your turn to drive for soccer practice. Or you’ll walk into the office not realizing that the baby spit up down your back.

Successful parents can’t plan for every possible contingency. But they can have backup systems in place. What does that mean?

  • Have back-up caregivers in place or the ability to work from home when the kids are sick. (Do not, under any circumstances, bring sick children to work. Not only will you distract your co-workers, but you could cause them to get sick as well.)
  • Set up the carpool rotation so there is an alternate ready to go, if necessary, each day.
  • Keep baby wipes stashed in your car, desk, and at home to handle spills and what not. Baby wipes remove everything–they can even get melted chocolate out of car seats.

Murphy was a rocket scientist (really!). He knew that redundancy and backup systems are essential to success. Follow his lead.

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Know what is on the calendar

Schedules can overwhelm us. Johnny has to be at karate right after school, but your spouse assumed you would be taking him, and now Johnny’s stuck at school. Or you make your way halfway across the city to pick up your 8-year-old, just to find out she has taken the bus home (yes, that happened to me).

One of the fastest ways to lose control is to be blind-sided. You can limit your risk by making sure you are on track every day. What does that mean?

  • Put school calendars into your calendar. Most school districts even have electronic calendars you can pull in. Check it every day for events.
  • Know who is taking whom where. Check with your partner or other drivers the day of the event to confirm.
  • Make sure your children know where they are supposed to be when, and who is taking them. And make sure your children know to speak up!

Keep on top of your calendar, and you will not be blind-sided often.

Focus on kids during family time

Go into any fast food restaurant, and you will see a family with the parents on their phones, while the kids eat or run in the play yard. Or you have probably seen the parent walking in the parking lot, talking on the phone, while his child is playing softball.

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Family time is time spent with family. It’s important for your kids to know that you pay attention to them in positive ways. What does this look like?

  • Put the phone down. Not checking Twitter or Facebook during dinner won’t kill you.
  • Don’t try to work during the game. Be fully present. See little Sally make her first base hit.
  • Make meaningful conversation with your kids. Your kids will know if you are half-listening or giving generic answers.

Family time should mean your focus is on your family. Don’t let other things get in the way of this quality time.

Know that balance is not rigid

We all know that sometimes work takes more. And sometimes (like with a sick child), family takes more. Don’t wear yourself out trying to make sure you spend equal amounts of time with both.

Balance doesn’t mean splitting the pie the same way every day. Balance means that you are flexible enough to know that sometimes work takes more, and sometimes your family takes more. What does this look like?

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  • During weeks you have big projects, let your family know you will be working longer.
  • During weeks when your workload is light, interact more with your family and knock those pesky things off your honey-do list.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep every night. Although balance is flexible, taking care of yourself is mandatory.

(If you are consistently working too much, here are a couple great articles to help: 8 Ways to Stop Working Long Hours and 10 Reasons You Should Stop Working Long Hours Today).

Balance isn’t about rigidity. Find the flow.

Let kids learn from their mistakes

You get a frantic call at the office from your daughter. She’s left her art project at home. Could you please bring it? You can hear the panic in her voice. At the same time, your boss is waiting for you to start a meeting.

As working-outside-the-home parents, it is easy to feel guilty and try to make our children’s paths smooth. But kids build resiliency when they learn from their mistakes. Mark Twain said, “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

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It’s hard to watch them make mistakes. But we need to let them suffer some consequences, too, or they will not grow into responsibility. What does that look like?

  • You help your child prepare for the day, the night before. You show them how to check schedules, and get things ready.
  • You don’t rush to fix things. Let them figure out what went wrong, and what they could do differently the next time.
  • You don’t bail them out. If a project is forgotten at home, let them take the lower grade. Knowing you won’t bail them out makes them more aware of their own responsibilities.

Children can learn from their mistakes. Think about what you are teaching them if you consistently bail them out. Let them learn to be responsible.

Think outside the box

Parents are creative beings out of necessity. It is one of our strengths, and we should use it whenever we can, including with our jobs and family. Bringing our parental creativity to work can actually give us an edge. Bringing our work skills home, too, can give us an advantage. What sort of things transfer?

  • Delegate. You do it at work, do it at home. Use machines to make your life easier (crockpot, microwave, etc). Have other people do your tasks (housecleaning, shopping service). Get your kids involved with chores. Everyone should contribute, and even the smallest child can help.
  • Use people’s strengths. Ask a friend who bakes to do the bake sale cookies while you hook up her new computer.
  • Apply time management to home. You know how to batch tasks and keep a meeting on track. Do the same at home.

Apply what you have learned at work to home to keep things running smoothly.

Working parents don’t have to be at a disadvantage. By adding these six simple habits to your day you can set the stage for being a successful working parent.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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