You don’t need to have biological children to have empathy and recognition for how crucial family/work balance is to building healthy communities.
Having had a least one foot (and often my whole body, head, and heart) in the field of public education, I believe that not having the flexibility in our workplaces necessary to accommodate those who are both professionals and parents forces people into rigid molds that don’t allow them to be their best—and adds stress to every area of life.
At times it is easy to see the irony in addressing equity issues in public education. I find myself running learning labs to raise awareness among educational leaders of unconscious biases against and lack of opportunities for women and minorities—while the children of the amazing people (including single mothers) I work with (often students in our system) are missing out on quality time with their own over-worked, under appreciated parent.
It is important to promote dialogue around this issue, advocate for healthy balances that don’t harm the careers of millennials and generation Xers, and affirm the experiences of colleagues who experience stress trying to balance work and family life.
Here are some ways that I support coworkers balancing work/family priorities:
Empathy and validation of their situations and acknowledgement of the very hard work they put into both worlds can go a long way. Emotional and intellectual validation of the identities and experiences people bring with them into the workplace is a key factor in disrupting dominant cultural norms that have the power to exclude people.
I strive to speak up in departmental meetings about the need for an organizational culture that supports working families without disrupting the career development of working parents. I use some of the privileges I have (male, white, educated, career-track, etc.) to advocate for workplaces that allow people to be dedicated professionals and parents.
I try to offer project partnership to colleagues who are parents to the extent that my workload allows. I find that the partnership and thought process of this work helps increase my capacity to be a better leader on equity issues, which improves my work performance and builds deeper bonds of trust with coworkers who can lend assistance to my future endeavors.
Seattle, where I live, has some of the most expensive childcare and daycare services in the nation. There has been some community organizing around and political advocacy for affordable, high-quality universal preschool. This is a conversation we need to be having as a nation, as well as continuously offering culturally relevant, rigorous, and results-driven education to every young person –something that will only happen once we begin to see every child as our own. First Published on MARC blog, November 5, 2014