I remember 10 years ago when I first had the idea for a programme to gather working parents together. I was hearing from virtually every working parent in my executive coaching sessions that they were exhausted and struggling with the juggle of work and home. The mothers said that every other mother looks like she’s got it ‘handled’ and that they must be the only one not doing it ‘right’ or ‘well’ – and the fathers felt that the expectations on them had increased significantly.
I thought ‘I’ve got to get these parents together to talk’ so that they can understand that they are ALL struggling, that their issues as working parents are almost all the same, as well as sharing together strategies and skills on how to solve these challenges. This will help them to feel normal, to know and understand that what they are facing and coping with is what millions of other working parents are also facing. And so I did – and the results have been amazing.
Almost every working mother or working father who attends our ‘How Do You Do It – Working Parent Programme’ says that one of the most valuable things is meeting other working parents and hearing about their struggles, as well as sharing tips and strategies to fast track their success – so that they know that they are not alone. Working parents are often ultra busy at work trying to get everything done so that they can get home to the family on time – and then they are so occupied at home doing all the family chores in order to get to work – that they end up having no socialising time at all. This means they often end up doing it the hard way, isolated from other working parents like them rather than learning from each other to make life easier.
Being able to share in a group with other working parents in the same relevant context really normalises their experience for them and they can breathe a sigh of relief! While 1:2:1 support is still useful, it cannot replace the camaraderie and unifying feeling that is generated when working parents are able to talk and share strategies and solutions with each other about the benefits, trials and tribulations of living the working parent juggle.
Another advantage of getting these groups together is the internal (and external) networking and support that it provides. Because it’s sometimes seen to be a risk to talk about your family/children at work, most participants are not even aware of who else in the organisation is a parent. So these groups provide face to face contact time, allowing working parents to find (or be) role models and mentors for each other. It provides ongoing networking/support throughout and often beyond the programme, as most of the parents want to continue to meet up after the formal course has finished.
Recently, some of our client organisations have also been inviting their external clients to attend the Working Parents programme along with their own internal people. This different type of networking opportunity works particularly well with working mothers, who are often very comfortable with connecting with clients in this authentic way.
At our How Do You Do It programmes, we encourage working parents to get together and share their experiences as well as their solutions to common issues. Many testimonials from past participants support the proven value and impact about the power of this cohort over a period of time.
I quickly found out that most Dads were confronted with the same issues I was facing as a working dad. Having a group situation to discuss ideas and strategies for my family life were invaluable.
One of our strong points at How Do You Do It is that we run group programmes over a period of time – usually once a month over five-six months. This means that the learning and strategies are embedded over time and strong bonds are formed and maintained in and /or outside of the organisation.
It would be good to hear some stories from any working parents about how you manage your work/life juggle. What are your thoughts or experiences on getting working parents together to share challenges and brainstorm solutions etc? Would you like to be part of a relevant group of networking parents or would you like to know more about how we would do that? Do you think it would be good to set up in your organisation? We look forward to hearing your comments.