Suggestions on balancing career and family

Here are some hints from the panels of experts and working parents assembled at the Home and School Institute's conference on ''Working Parents and Achieving Children'':

* At a job interview, mention the fact that you're a parent after a job offer has been made, says Kathleen McDonald, personnel development adviser at Exxon Chemical Company. Also detail the arrangements you've made for child care, says Michelle Basen of Parents With Careers, but ask about leave policies, overtime, and the presence of other working parents at the job. ''You need to feel comfortable in this job,'' she says, ''and some offices are more responsive to parents than others.''

* If you feel the need for a change in policy - like granting personal leave so a parent can take time off to stay with a child - talk with others who may share your need, says Ms. McDonald, and go as individuals to your supervisors with your solution, other solutions, and some idea of how others in the industry are handling it. ''Then sit back for six months or so and see what they do,'' she advises.

* ''Open up to other parents on the job,'' says Judy Mann, a Washington Post columnist and mother of three. ''It can be really helpful to have a sympathetic ear and realize that others are facing the same situation.''

* Consider putting your career in a ''holding pattern'' during certain periods of child rearing, says Ms. Basen, when your family seems to need you more. ''Most of us don't have the option of quitting, but we can decide to stick with a routine job for two or three years, earn our social security, and put our energies into the home front. Later on we can be more aggressive in our careers.''

* Choose a less demanding path for your career - or a less demanding career. ''If you're a lawyer, you've got to realize that for the first seven years out of law school when you're trying to make partner in a firm,'' says Ms. Mann, ''you simply won't have time to raise children. Some jobs are more flexible than others.''

* Make a weekly date with your spouse to talk about the children, says Washington Post columnist and new father Bob Levey, who says it's the one chance he has ''to get one inch ahead of the constant flow of events.'' Talking about the children regularly is particularly important for husbands, says Mark Kiefaber, a parenting expert, who says that men ''have no one else to talk to about real child-rearing issues.''

* Never quit a job because you want to catch up with the housework, says Ms. Basen. ''Chores can be shared with the whole family. But if you're feeling that way, try to figure out why you really want to quit. It can't just be the laundry.''

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