Our Team’s Best Tips to Help Working Parents Stay Sane

Watching Column Five grow has been a delight over the last decade, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that many of our personal families began to grow, too. As many of us have transitioned into parenthood, small talk has shifted from happy hours to changing tables, and we’ve bonded over navigating life as working parents.

We’ve been lucky enough to cultivate a strong, supportive community (of both parents and child-free C5ers), which has been tremendously helpful. But we know there are plenty of working parents (or soon-to-be working parents) who could use some support or guidance. That’s why we decided to ask our C5 parents for their insights, tips, and advice on everything from daycare to the best desk to work at with a baby. 

THE THINGS WE WISH WE’D KNOWN AS WORKING PARENTS

You can read all the books, but there are plenty of things (both big and small) you’ll wish you’d known. Here’s what we wish we knew from the jump.

  • “Find a daycare option early—like early, early. Like when you’re still in your first trimester. Daycare for infants is hard to come by, and if you plan on going back to work when they are still little, you’ll need to be on a waiting list starting long before you give birth.”
    Kaede Holland, Director of CRM and Stepmom to 9-year-old Lucy and a new baby on the way (coming 2019)
  • “Don’t worry so much. Kids aren’t as fragile as people might think. I think the infant and toddler bodies are meant to handle the bumps, scrapes, bonks, and owies that come with growing so rapidly. My son falls like a champ and gets over it so quickly it’s impressive.” Cale Dunlap, Senior Developer and Dad to 17-month-old Mason
  • “If you don’t have an FSA, get one.”Chad Giacopelli, Director of Interactive and Dad to 2 1/2-year-old Cody
  • “Trust your gut. Just like over-analysis paralysis can happen in project work, it can definitely happen in parenting. If it feels right, if it makes sense, if it’s with love, if it suits you and your family, be confident that you’re doing enough right.”Matt Deakin, Producer and Dad to 4-year-old Eve
  • I wish I’d known about nap time. To be the best parent and worker, you need to nap during the day when the baby is also napping. It’s hard to deal with the reality of constant middle-of-the-night wake ups for feedings, crankiness, etc., and then work a normal day’s schedule—you need those naps!”Tamara Hlava, VP of People and Culture and Mom to 11-year-old Adeline
  • “Use your time off well. After my two-week paternity leave with our daughter, I took the third week and worked from home half days so I could gradually get back into the swing of things. I plan on doing this again when our son is born.” Brian Wolford, Senior Producer and Dad to 2-year-old Nora and a new baby on the way (Spring 2019)
  • Utilizing more of my PTO when the kids were smaller would’ve been a better decision. The first 3 months were the toughest as it relates to balancing work and home.”Travis Keith, Account Director and Dad to 3-year-old Jack and 1-year-old Teddy
  • Be honest with as many people at work as you can about how you are doing. That doesn’t mean TMI, but share your life. Stay whole, be authentic.” —Tamara
  • “I wish I’d handed off more responsibility and delegated better in the lead-up and aftermath of becoming a dad. Trying to figure out how to navigate challenges in work and personal life, while not realizing how much more difficult I was making things for myself (and everyone who had to work with me) until it was too late left me feeling stretched thin, depleted, and pretty humbled. Thankfully, I feel like I learned a thing or two in the process and grew a bit as well. I’m hoping that I can apply some of that to navigating what life is going to be like with kiddo number 2.” —Josh Ritchie, Cofounder and Dad to 2-year-old River and 1-week-old Finn

TIPS FOR MOMS

Transitioning back to work can be uniquely stressful for moms, who may be physically recovering. Don’t beat yourself up, and keep these things in mind.

  • “Start figuring out your leave as early as you are comfortable with your work knowing you are pregnant. We all know the U.S. sucks for maternity leave, but some states have better laws than others. See if you can figure out how to stay at your full salary by supplementing your leave with saved up vacation and sick time.” —Kaede
  • Buy great (bigger) bras, and spend a little extra on transition clothes. Most of us don’t go back to the size we were exactly—everything shifts! Breastfeeding while working also sucks. Unless you are a pro at the pump, it’s gonna have real challenges, like swollen boobs and getting someone to deliver the baby to you midday some days.” —Tamara
  • It’s OK to focus on you, too. It can be so hard to go back to work after having a baby. But, if I can be fulfilled in my career, regularly challenged to grow and learn, and help people do good work, then I feel like I’m being a good role model to my son.” Andrea Bravo-Campbell, Director of Creative Operations and Mom to 2-year-old Oscar
  • If you have any birthing or pregnancy trauma, it can take a toll and take a lot of emotional energy. Talk to a professional, do the work to be present and whole for yourself, your marriage, and your child.” —Tamara

TIPS FOR THRIVING AS WORKING PARENTS

Managing work and life can be a roller coaster. Here are a few ways to survive without losing your mind.

  • Standing desk plus MOBY wrap has been a huge help. The ability to hold your baby, but keep your hands free has helped a lot in finding more time to work during the day. Also, my singing has improved immensely.” Charlie Noard, Designer and Dad to 4-month-old Elora
  • Live and die by your calendar. I put everything in my calendar now. Whether it’s work-related or personal, everything has a time slot.” —Travis
  • Eat healthy—it’s more important than ever! Sweat and get exercise, even just 15 minutes. Put down social media and electronics for part of the day.”
    —Tamara
  • “Find your community. Several of us have started families in recent years, so our #parentbods (formerly #dadbods) Slack channel is a great place for questions (e.g., Got a babysitter rec? Is this normal?), adorable photo/video sharing, and sleep-deprived solidarity.” —Andrea
  • “Talk to other parents. I’ve learned a lot from other parents at C5 who have experience with things like sleep-training their kids or knowing which tricycle to buy a toddler.” —Brian
  • Have a routine. Routine is crucial for scheduling, and nap-time is valuable for hyper-focused work. My wife and I both work remote from home, so we’re fortunate to be working parents together. We have a shared understanding that when one parent is on a client call, the other is ‘on duty’ and vice versa.”Jeremy Fetters, Director of Client Services and Dad to 2-year-old Emery.
  • “Consider how you spend your time. My goal each weekday is to spend time with my family in the morning, then go to work for a good amount of time (usually about 8-9 hours) to do what needs to be done. When I’m done at work, I try to truly be done, so I can be present and engaged with my family at home. Aubrey Marcus’ book Own the Day, Own Your Life helped me develop some perspective on thinking about work-life balance in terms of the daily or atomic unit. I’m a fan.” —Josh

Our team also agrees it’s important to communicate with your employer about your needs, specifically ways to make your work schedule more accommodating. While not every parent may have the luxury, working remote or having a flexible work schedule can be a huge help. 

  • “Consider changing your hours. Ever since my daughter Nora was born two years ago, C5 has supported spreading my 40 hours across each week in a way that gives me most Mondays off so I can watch her. This time with my daughter is something I’ll never get back, and I’ve created so many special daddy-daughter memories on those days.” —Brian
  • “Think about your needs. Trying to be in the office all day, every day on top of daycare drop-offs/pick-ups and daily routines ran me ragged. Working remote some mornings, afternoons, or whole days allows me to manage both my C5 work life and my home life with more intention and balance.” —Andrea
  • “Do what works for you. A flexible work schedule has been the greatest perk of all time. That said, working from home with small kids doesn’t work (for me).” —Travis

WHAT PARENTHOOD TEACHES YOU ABOUT WORK

In addition to learning how to change a diaper and make it to your morning meeting, there are a few unexpected lessons that come with being a working parent. These insights have been eye-opening and, surprisingly, made work life a little easier.

  • I tend to stay pretty cool during the work day now. That’s because I am carrying the secret knowledge that I am probably the only one in the office who has touched someone else’s poop already that day.”Ross Crooks, Column Five Cofounder and Dad to 3-year-old Jules and almost 2-year-old Frances
  • You don’t have control of who your baby is or whether they like kale or not; likewise, you don’t have control of the people at work. They are individuals playing out their own path and developing at their own pace. We may not all be special, but we are all unique! :)” —Tamara
  • While it might sound a bit crude, parenting has taught me how unimportant a lot of things at work really are. I think we tend to blow things out of proportion. Having a kid helped put things in perspective and has also given me much more drive to be successful and someone who my kids can look up to.” —Travis
  • “I’ve always believed—and at least tried to operate in such a way that reflects my belief—that you get the best out of the people you work with if you’re encouraging, supportive, humble, and so forth. I am trying to take this into my role as a dad. Thankfully, I don’t work with 45 toddlers who do exactly what I say not to do just to get a reaction out of me. On that note, I think I’m learning a lot about patience and how to better manage my emotions because of my son, and for that I am grateful.” —Josh
  • Parenting has taught me just how much your mood/attitude can project onto others. If you are calm and happy, then more often than not that is how people will feel around you. If you are stressed and upset, then expect people to respond in kind.” —Charlie
  • Being a parent puts the world into a whole new perspective that makes you appreciate time a lot more—and not sweat the small stuff as much. I’ve learned how to be much more patient and manage my time better. I’ve also learned just how remarkable the human body and brain really are. Whenever my son teaches himself something new, no matter how simple it may be to us adults, it absolutely amazes me.” —Cale
  • My biggest surprise as a working parent is how much being Eve’s dad has started to feel like my ‘real job.’ Things like my career path, daily tasks, work fulfillment, company culture, career ambition—these things definitely still matter a great deal to me. But compared to the purpose, fulfillment, and ambition of raising and guiding this little human, C5 feels more like what I do on-the-side. I never really expected to feel this way, or that I would enjoy feeling like this, but it kind of takes over.” —Matt
  • “Every once in a while my daughter will barge into my office when I’m on a client call. I thought it would be disruptive and unprofessional, but when it’s happened the client loves it, and it reinforces that we’re all humans trying to do business together.—Jeremy

MOST OF ALL, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

Being a working parent isn’t easy, and sometimes you need to put your personal priorities first, whether that includes work or not.

  • “I stopped working for a year when my daughter was age 1-2. That was the time I focused on doing lots of classes and outings with my child, so we could sync up and focus on early childhood development, pre-literacy, and neurological pathway development—plus, just pure play time for us to bond and grow to understand each other more. It was such a blast, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. But I’m also a worker, and having a baby at 40 didn’t change that part of my personality. I like to work, and I only work at great companies that deliver on my values, so I feel a great sense of connection to my work. It was nice I could honor both parts of me.” —Tamara

Remember that communication is key in any relationship, personal or professional. Be open and honest about your transition, reach out to the people around you, and take the steps you need to stay sane. If you’re curious about what those steps might be, here are a few other things we’ve done to make life easier for our working parents. These may be ideas you can implement at your workplace, too.