By Nan Nan Liu | Strong Female Leaders

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How to Succeed as Working Parents of School-Age Kids
Ever notice how discussions around working parents often focus on the needs of new mothers and ONLY new mothers?

In politics alone, women leaders such as Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are pushing for policies that grant longer maternity leave and breastfeeding at work. However, the push to help working moms stops there; even though parenting continues on long after a baby’s arrival. In fact, some parents would argue that more parenting issues occur for school-aged children than for babies.

Fact is: later-stage working parents experience the same core vulnerabilities as new parents do, having to balance between career and family.

Motherhood is a dynamic and challenging obstacle course that is filled with shifting work-life patterns. It transforms according to our children’s changing needs, and lasts from Kindergarten to High School. (Hey! Let’s not undermine the emotional care required by High School kids.)

Childcare continues to be in demand as kids grow; and the American education system isn’t cutting it.

With summer, mid-winter and spring breaks and various non-student days interfering work schedules, working moms of school-aged children need the same amount of childcare as parents of pre-school age kids. Unfortunately, they don’t have the same amount of workplace support. Bosses and colleagues who were accommodating of a new mother’s needs grow less aware of older-children parents’ needs. Yet at the same time, job responsibilities increase as working moms move forward in their careers. The invisibility of mothering older children leaves working parents in more difficult situations.

There is an upside though.

While the demands of work and family persist, working moms get savvier at integrating the two, by becoming forgiving of their mistakes, getting better at time management, and focusing more sharply on the task at hand. Many working moms have gained confidence in their identities, and let go of the “perfect mom” syndrome. Their kids also started to express pride and interest in their jobs.

How can parents prepare for the transitions that will inevitably arrive as their kids get older?

One, families should prepare and budget for childcare after their kids start school. This includes after-school care, summer care, snow days, parent-teacher conferences, and other unexpected occasions. It also helps to have two alternative backups. As elementary school children grow into teens, they may need tutors and drivers. While all these caring appear costly, they are also worthy investments in both your career and your family’s well-being.

If parents do not receive support at work, they can cultivate their own networks, in order to alleviate stress, learn about great resources such as after school programs, shared childcare and carpool duties, and seek help.

And for employers?

Please consider instilling policies that support working moms with children of all ages. The flexibility to attend kids’ performances, step out for emergencies or solve a quick pick up issue can really help working parents thrive. This in turn reduces turnover and increases productivity.

Parenthood is an evolving path that never ends. In order to create better workplace cultures, family relationships and communities, we must acknowledge the needs of parents throughout their children’s lives and offer adequate support.

Children are our future. So, in a way, we are in this together.

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