The last 18 months have left many parents and carers feeling overwhelmed, anxious and irritable. The lines have been blurred between home and work, and juggling these two lives has been exhausting – parental burnout is real.
An Oxford university study this year found that levels of stress, anxiety and depression rose in parents and carers during the pandemic lockdowns. And the impact on working mums is particularly striking – 9 out of 10 working mothers say their mental health has been negatively impacted, with more than half of women with children ages 0-16 stating that balancing working from home and childcare had impacted their wellbeing.
So, as children return to – or start – school this week, can balance be restored? And how can workplaces be a source of support?
As a manager, be kind, and as a parent, be kind to yourself.
Understand that this is yet another transition and it’ll take some time to settle. It’s OK to take breaks to ease yourself in, and to do things that help you feel calm.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Keep talking to your manager/colleague to understand what worries, needs or adjustments might exist. What happens at home affects work, and vice versa, so setting some boundaries both at home and at work and communicating this can make a huge difference. After all, we aren’t superheroes – we can’t do it all!
Create a culture of openness.
Creating a culture where people can be themselves is just as important as having the right policies in place. As a manager, be mindful that people’s situations will differ, so keep having discussions around mental health and how your staff might be impacted at that moment.
Consider single parents.
Parenting alone is really hard work, particularly when you’re juggling work, too. It’s not uncommon for people to want to demonstrate they can do it all – perhaps your colleague is shielding work from their reality. As a manager, be compassionate.
Shift working patterns so parents can be there when it matters for their children, and equally, being mindful of meeting times can make a huge difference. If you’re thinking of organising a work social, consider what you can do to bring the whole family in – it can be really difficult and expensive to organise childcare – so being inclusive shows you care.
Create spaces for people to connect.
Online and offline, having a place to share experiences, tips and advice can have a hugely positive impact. Build a community of parents and carers in your organisation so staff know they’re never alone.