WORK + KIDS: DOES IT WORK?
28/04/2017 | BY SARAH CARLIN
In conversation: The working parents of SMACK
By Sarah Carlin
This week was Take Your Kids to Work Day, a global initiative that encourages parents to take their children into their workplace. The idea is simple: children get a glimpse of what the working world is like and hopefully the early seeds are sown as to what kids do – or most definitely don’t –want to do when they grow up.
So with our directors Lubna, Aalia having 3 children between them and Sel-Vin eagerly anticipating a new arrival, we decided to ask them about how they feel about juggling work with family life…
From left: Lubna's daughter Sofia, Aalia's children Zane & Olivia
On the difference between what they thought being a working parent would be like and the reality…
“The reality is that it’s hard to find a balance. Prior to becoming a parent you're just taking care of yourself - now you have whole new person that you're responsible for and need to take care of,” said Lubna. “Sometimes finding any headspace can be tough. It's a lot harder than I thought it'd be. But having a good support system in my husband and family has helped immensely.”
And for Aalia, what was noticeable was just how different her two worlds became. She said: “Getting ready to walk out of that door to give the pitch of your life – only to head back in to change a pooped nappy is the reality – and not one you necessarily dreamt about. However it helps you prioritise and appreciate the opportunity to both work and parent,” she said.
Although not yet a parent, Sel-Vin is already anticipating how his life will change once the baby is here, saying: “The thing I’m most nervous about is the increased responsibility of being both a parent and a business owner. As anyone would, I want to succeed at both, but the uncertainty of knowing how to do that – i.e. being clear on what my child will need and how much time that will take – is the most nerve wracking thing.” Perhaps having learned from the other working parents around him though, Sel-Vin is clear on parenthood being about ‘expecting the unexpected’, saying that he “plans to take each day as it comes.”
On what can be done to make the workplace more parent friendly…
For Lubna, making the workplace more parent friendly doesn’t begin with individual employers, but government. “Childcare costs are prohibitive to some, and prevent them being able to rejoin the workplace. These are the root issues that need to be solved,” she said. And Aalia agreed, saying “You can't have gender equality in the workplace until the government helps parents out properly with the expense of childcare.”
These issues notwithstanding, however, they both agreed that there were simple steps that employers can take to make it easier for employers to get back in and get ahead and of course, they’re doing it in their own business. SMACK, for example, offers flexi-time to all its employees and feels the business runs better for it. Aalia explained: “Employees who receive these sorts of benefits work all the harder for it. Suited and booted 9-5 is so last century “At SMACK I'm proud of our stance on getting the job done being the priority - not the hours you work.”
On finding that elusive work/life balance…
“I think struggling to find work/life balance is inevitable for any parent,” said Aalia. “The secret is to stop it being a battle between work and life. Find fulfilment and happiness in your work and life and as a parent carve out time that belongs to just to you. Losing your identity is easy when you're giving all your time away to working and parenting.”
Lubna agreed, saying “It’s important to take a step back. Figure out your top three priorities and make sure they are more dominant in the way your time is divided. And remember, everyone has their own ideal balance. What works for someone else might not work for you and your family.”
On how working parents can be a real asset in the workplace…
“Working parents as a whole are probably more focused and time efficient as they want to make the most of their time at work so that when they are home they can give their children their undivided attention,” said Lubna. “My biggest motivator as a parent is that if I'm not with my little girl all day I want to do something in my day job that's meaningful and is going to make her proud.” Aalia concurred, saying that she felt many workers managed to hone their people skills as a result of becoming a parent, and there was also another unexpected benefit: “Crisis management skills and the ability to deal with upsets can become more attuned in working parents,” she said:
On the career advice they will give their children…
“Do something you're passionate about, work hard, keep learning, believe in yourself, don't be scared and be kind.” - Lubna
“Understand your strengths and weaknesses. Fail and learn. And most importantly do what you love.” - Aalia