How to Talk to Your Employer About Parenting Challenges

Mother multi-tasking with infant daughter in home office

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The reality of a global pandemic has meant a great deal of change for both parents and children. Even as vaccines become more available and restrictions lift, life doesn't necessarily return to normal for everyone. If you find yourself struggling to manage your work responsibilities due to parenting challenges, it may be time to tell your employer.

Why This May Be Necessary Right Now

While you may not have had to discuss parenting challenges with your workplace before, there may be a need to do so with the additional stress we're all facing. If you're feeling overwhelmed, unable to concentrate, or simply can't find enough hours in the day to manage all your responsibilities, that's understandable and you shouldn't have to face that burden alone.

In October 2020, about half of parents with kids less than 12 years old reported in a survey that they were dealing with parenting challenges during the pandemic. This was up from 38% in March 2020.

It is likely that parents are burning out after many long months of navigating increased work and parenting responsibilities at home.

A 2020 study of adoptive parents found that they were often worried about the health and emotional well-being of their kids, while also navigating larger concerns like the state of the economy. With such stressors to balance, it is easy to grasp why parents may need to talk to their employers about their challenges.

And even as the pandemic fades, other personal situations may arise that cause work/life imbalances. A 2020 journal article used the "family stress theory" to outline how stress may impact family members, including risks for maltreatment of children, based on the resources, perceptions, and coping strategies of parents.

Talking About Your Parenting Challenges

Despite how odd it may feel to discuss personal parenting challenges with your workplace, taking that step may be beneficial for you and your family. The ultimate goal is to make sure you are taking care of yourself and your loved ones.

"When dealing with significant childcare and parenting issues that are impacting your job, enlisting the help of your boss to problem-solve is a great strategy," says psychotherapist Haley Neidich, LCSW. While these can be difficult discussions to begin, the opportunity to proactively address potential issues is well worth navigating such unfamiliar territory.

Neidich says to keep communication positive and solution-focused rather than overly concerned with all of the minute details. She says, "this demonstrates to your boss that you're committed to your job and hold your responsibilities in high regard."

Telling Your Boss

Talking to your boss about parenting challenges can feel intimidating, so it helps to think critically about what you hope to achieve in that discussion. Neidich recommends coming to the meeting with requests, but says, "you may be surprised by how creative your boss may be in helping to collaborate on a solution that allows you to be present for your kids and work."

Working while parenting impacts productivity. Neidich says, "if you believe that your boss may be questioning your dedication and commitment to your role, feel free to verbalize directly to them that you're not looking to be let off the hook and that you truly want their support to problem-solve."

Neidich admits that there is a marked lack of support in the workplace for parents. The fact that you make be seeking such advice for how to address a very basic need is telling. Policy and cultural shifts are necessary, but in the meantime, you still need help.

"You can also initiate this change by bringing a positive attitude and creativity as you problem-solve with your boss," she says.

Parents of all genders were more likely to report challenges balancing work and parenting in October 2020, as compared to March 2020. But mothers were more likely to report feeling like they could not give 100% to their job, decreasing their work hours, and turning down assignments or promotions. They also said they were treated more negatively when dealing with parenting challenges that impacted their work.

Disclosing to Your Direct Reports

While navigating parenting responsibilities while working from home, discussions with your direct reports may prove to be necessary since your time and attention could impact their workload or communication, too.

"Being direct with regard to the issues that you are having is key and so is figuring out a solution that allows you to actually show up and give your all when it's most important," Neidich says. When having discussions with those who report to you, it may be helpful to consider if there are better times or ways to work together effectively while parenting and working from home.

Sharing Details With Your Coworkers

Depending on the nature of your work, colleagues may not need to be kept abreast of your parenting challenges. But if you are comfortable with certain coworkers and feel as if it may be beneficial to share your parenting challenges with them, it may help.

Haley Neidich, LCSW

As a working parent, you have the right to feel supported in the workplace so that you can be present both at home and in your role.

— Haley Neidich, LCSW

Dos and Don'ts

Do

  • Think critically about what you need to navigate work and parenting.
  • Be open to solutions that may look different from how you may have been managing parenting and work responsibilities in the past.
  • Consider if it is reasonable to complete the same level of job duties while parenting if you can afford to adjust your work situation.

Don't

  • Delay discussions with your workplace if only due to discomfort.
  • Assume that proposed alternatives to earlier work arrangements are bound to fail solely because they have not been attempted before.
  • Hold yourself or your children to unreasonable expectations.

A Word From Verywell

Despite your apprehension, it may prove worthwhile to be as frank and honest with your employer as possible. Hopefully, with some planning and creative solutions, you will be in a better position to balance both your parenting responsibilities and your job.

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Igielnik R. A rising share of working parents in the U.S. say it’s been difficult to handle child care during the pandemic. Pew Research Center. Published January 26, 2021.

  2. Goldberg A, McCormick N, Virginia H. Parenting in a pandemic: Work–family arrangements, well‐being, and intimate relationships among adoptive parentsFam Relat. 2020;70(1):7-25. doi:10.1111/fare.12528

  3. Wu Q, Xu Y. Parenting stress and risk of child maltreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic: A family stress theory-informed perspectiveDev Child Welf. 2020;2(3):180-196. doi:10.1177/2516103220967937