04-06-2021

Parenting As A Working Professional At Parsons

Too often, we generalize what it means to be a working mom. This term is over-simplified by the pressures to maintain a working America that looks roughly the same that it did 70 years ago when most business professionals were men. So, it is no surprise that societal precedent is causing working America to play catch up to reflect the present realities.

At Parsons, I have found more balance, understanding, flexibility, and collaboration – as a working mother – than I had in my previous roles.

The truth is: it is hard to be a working parent. Harvard Business Review Article What’s Really Holding Women Back? By Robin J. Ely and Irene Padavic notes,

“Women weren’t held back because of trouble balancing the competing demands of work and family—men, too, suffered from the balance problem and nevertheless advanced. Women were held back because, unlike men, they were encouraged to take accommodations, such as going part-time and shifting to internally facing roles, which derailed their careers.”

At Parsons, I was stepping up to the plate before my third child was born, and I was met with recognition. I then worked with my manager to take semi-flexible maternity leave, so I could ease back into the workplace a bit more slowly, with some padding for postpartum exhaustion, appointments, etc.

With any major life event, the transition can be hard and should be planned for; it does not have to be a hindrance. 

Today, my son is now over 6 months old, my first born is reaching preschool age and my toddler is starting to potty train. I haven’t slept more than 4 hours a night all week; one child is teething; one is suffering night terrors; one decided her preferred bedtime is 10:30 pm. Between the 3 of them, my evenings are unpredictable, and I am exhausted.

How do I survive my workdays after nights/weeks like that?

First, I work remotely – which is something that is invaluable for me in this life stage of being a mama to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Working remotely means having true flexibility when needed. For me, it means working an hour or two in the very early morning or very late evening – especially if I have appointments or other delays during the day. I make a point to be online during the core hours (10 am – 3 pm) and not miss any scheduled calls – but I also make a point to schedule my meetings mindfully.

Second, I am not hard on myself, setting my work expectations with my children in mind. For example, drop-off takes an hour – maybe more depending on how chatty daycare/preschool providers are – causing me to sometimes pull in the driveway after 9 am. Instead of stressing, I purposefully do not schedule meetings at 9 am. If it must be early, I make it; if it is flexible, I push for 9:15/9:30, so I am not starting off in a state of stress. (Note, I am sure to make up this difference either working early, at 6 am, or late after the kids have gone down—I enjoy what I do, so this is not a bother for me).

Third, and most importantly, I communicate. I set expectations and constantly keep my manager in the loop. If things are rough that week, I let my manager know. I work around it if needed – and sometimes, I do take an hour or two of PTO because there really are not enough hours in the day to “do it all” and “have it all,” so you must give and take, based on priority. The difference and the point I can’t stress enough – when life happens, you don’t have to apologize for working around it at Parsons.

At Parsons, I am not the only mama who works hard, with family at the front of her mind. One of my colleagues works her day in two chunks – especially since COVID. She commits 4+ hours in the early morning (her time), which works well with her colleagues – benefits of different time zones – and commits a few hours in the afternoon to her kids, who are home. Then she is back on for the remainder of her day when her children’s routine best allows it. She is very clear of when she is available, very communicative, and gets her work done – and does it well. I know her team respects her flexibility, keeping that in mind when scheduling meetings, etc., allowing for a supportive work environment rather than confirmative.

The Parsons team collectively has the mindset that we are in this together, and while we are committed to being business professionals, we do not penalize our colleagues for being mothers, fathers, parents, guardians – we work with each other and are not disappointed.

About The Author

Gretchen Kelsey has a background in small business and entrepreneurship. With a degree in both math and art, she prides herself on being an adaptable business professional, a creative problem solver, and someone who knows a little bit of everything. From being the executive assistant to a tutoring company to playing an integral role in growing a startup financial company to success, developing from one position into another by stepping up to the plate at Parsons – Gretchen welcomes challenges and loves learning something new, and is a creative at heart.

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