What helps if parents both have big jobs?

A recent webinar run by Leaders Plus focused on what dual career couples with small children have learned works when time is scarce and stress is high.




How do couples who both have big jobs manage family life? That was the focus of a recent Leaders Plus event which brought together several couples with different approaches, but one thing in common – young children and little time.

What became clear is that flexibility is all. Not just flexible working and being vociferous about it as well as ‘parenting out loud’, but flexibility as a couple towards each other’s different ways of doing things and towards career progression.

Perhaps, for instance, both careers can’t progress at the same rate at the same time. Sometimes one partner’s career may have to take the back seat and they have to become the prime carer.

Another important rule of thumb is to accept that your partner may not do things the way you do them and to be less perfectionist. That came mostly from the women while the men said they benefited from that trust and from having the space and confidence to do things their way.

Communication was key, with many having weekly scheduling meetings to plan ahead so as not to be taken by surprise. One mum joked about there being three people in her relationship – her, her partner and the diary.

Not demanding too much out of down time at the weekends was another important thing many had learned through trial and error. The temptation can be to pack the leisure schedule full of activities, but it’s better to ringfence days or hours when you just chill as a family, said the speakers. Learning time efficiency – making each moment count – was also a big topic, with several of the dads saying they are very focused on not volunteering for any task at work that won’t result in promotion.

There was also discussion about time for each other as a couple. Some were very strict about it, taking time once a day to hold hands and talk to each others, with touch being an important part of communication.

What came across clearly was how much sharing the load is appreciated on all sides. One mum said if she was asked to nominate a male ally she would put her husband forward. “He has 100% championed me,” she said. “He has been instrumental in my career progression.”

Asked what they would recommend to other couples, the couples spoke about the need to savour the time when their children are small, to be compassionate and to listen to your partner. One dad said: “Remember how brilliant your partner is.” And one mum remarked that the whole experience had taught her “how important it is to hitch your wagon to someone as committed as you”.

* Leaders Plus runs a fellowship programme which helps leaders who have young children and are committed to progressing their career.  It is designed to enable parents to stay on the leadership pipeline whilst still enjoying their children; create a positive movement for change so no parent has to choose between career and family; and tackle a root cause of the gender pay gap by supporting parents to progress in their careers. The programme is now taking applications for its May  2024 Fellowship until the closing date of 20th March.

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