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What Does It Take to Get a Great Career AND Be an Amazing Parent?

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For so many parents it can seem that it's like Sophie's choice: should you climb the career ladder or be a great parent? For many of us it seems like never the twain shall meet, but what does it really take to ensure that if you have started on a career ladder you can get the best of both worlds? It's more than just the balance.

Be Where You Are Valued

Many parents, particularly mothers, find that as soon as they announce they are pregnant, their needs will slowly go by the wayside because they are going to be considered as flaky individuals who will have to leave at a moment's notice for something. Therefore, for any parent who has actually been in an environment where it's all career-focused, now might be the time to ask yourself where you would fit best. 

It can be easy to color an industry based on outside perspectives. For example, if you are starting a career in digital marketing, you may think that because it's all client-focused and you've got to burn the candle at both ends, every organization is like this. What we have to remember is that when we start to ask critical questions regarding our career, it's not just about the things we want to do but also about recognizing where our attitudes and mindset will be most valued. 

This is why so many parents go into something like teaching because it's not just suitable for their skill set but they align well with young children's needs because they're also in education. Figuring out where you belong, even if it's not the 100% perfect career choice for you, can help to mitigate quite a lot of the stress. When we choose a career that aligns with our values and priorities as a parent, we can feel far more fulfilled in both aspects of life.

Set Realistic Expectations

If you are determined to push up the career ladder, then you will do it regardless. On the other hand, if you are doing your utmost to prioritize balance, you have to understand that to be a great parent and excel in your career simultaneously involves setting realistic expectations. You need to find a balance that doesn't just work for your family, but for you as well, and this may mean looking at a career path that is realistic in the short term. 

We have to remember that planning for the long term is just as important as our needs right now. If you've got a particular career in mind, it could be far more beneficial for you to lay the foundations over the months and years because when it comes to a point that your children are old enough to look after themselves, you can start to tip the balance in favor of your career because slowly your parental responsibilities will naturally go down. This is something so many of us forget about because we are on that treadmill of work and parenting and can’t look to the future. 

Even if you've got young children, there will come a time when they will be more self-sufficient at home which means that if you are looking at the big picture and planning a major career progression you can make peace with being at the bottom rungs of an organization, and you can take the opportunities to work at home too, because if you are going to make massive leaps and bounds in your career that potentially involve time away from home, now is the ideal time for you to put things in place so that you and your children are ready. 

We should always communicate with our children anyway and encourage independence no matter how little because it means they won't rely on us for every single thing and will reduce our potential to “helicopter parent.” 

Ultimately, with this attitude we won't need to make massive career changes right now because we've got the opportunity to play the long game. Realistic expectations through things like the SMART acronym (ensuring your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) can be very beneficial because it doesn't just help you to plan your career trajectory more gradually but it also means that you won't burn out worrying that you won't have achieved a certain thing by a certain age. 

As we spend time in the right organization, we can “get under the hood” and see how things work, and the more time we spend there, we will naturally begin to increase our responsibilities and career progression will happen more organically.

Your Career Will Still Be There in the End, So Make the Most of Family Life Now

If you are determined to progress in your career right now, you still need to remember that your children will need you less as time goes on and this means that right now flexibility and adaptability may be more crucial for you to manage both aspects of your life. But you can involve your family in your career planning process and ensure that you are able to align your goals with your family's needs and priorities. 

It's important to prioritize self-care because we can become distracted by so many aspects of building our career that this soon overtakes our family's needs and we struggle to notice it. Whether you are a stay at home mom or career mom, you need to remember that a great career is one-third of your life and one-third is sleeping, which means that the other third is about you and your family. Self-care is crucial and if you spend a lot of time worrying about your career progression, will this help you in the long run? 

Choosing a career that ensures we can be a great parent at the same time is not about getting the best-paid job possible (because the more we get paid, the more responsibility we’ll have), but if you remember that your family will also give you a great sense of fulfillment whether you have the high-powered career or not, this may be all you need to ensure that you do navigate the career dilemma effectively. 

What do you think? Is this a dilemma you've had in your life? How did you navigate it? Let us know in the comments below.