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power points

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As executive coach Daisy Dowling worked with high-potential employees hitting their stride in their careers, she found them torn over family issues. They saw promotions on the horizon and were enticed. But they also worried those promotions meant even more time away from their children. They were tired, ground down by trying to do right for both the employer and their children.

“I could executive-coach someone until the cows came home but if that person also had six-months-old twins that weren’t sleeping, or was having trouble finding decent daycare, my impact was going to be limited,” she writes in her book Workparent.

There were also no easy answers, nothing much in the career and psychological literature about sustainable work success with children. She was a careers and leadership expert, but felt empty-handed.

She coined the term “workparent” to offer a positive label for those people working hard to earn a living and build their careers while raising children they love. “It captures the beautiful and complex reality that each of us lives, day-to-day – as one whole, complete person performing two distinct and important roles,” she explains. As she morphed into a specialty of helping working parents to lead more successful and satisfying lives, she found there was only one guiding rule for them to follow: no judgments, ever.

“Being a working mother or father is hard enough already without catching that kind of flak. Just as important: Stop finding fault with yourself, too. Beating yourself up because you just had a difficult daycare drop-off or because you ordered pizza for your family’s dinner again is totally self-defeating,” she says. Save your energy for more useful activities.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then Ms. Dowling stresses, you are the mayor. You need to maintain a workparent support team to assist. That means getting past the notion that requiring aid is taboo, a sign of weakness and incompetence. She warns expectant parents against the common rookie mistake of depending on too much from any one member of your prospective villagers. Be realistic to the point of pessimistic – even if it’s your own mother promising to back you fully. Build a complete team, and take advantage of all the support your employer can offer.

It can be particularly tough, she notes, to be a single workparent. But even co-parents struggle, and in book The 80/80 Marriage consultants Nate and Kaley Klemp offer a new model for balancing careers, family and love. Bringing up children in the past often involved one parent carrying a disproportionate child-care burden – what might be termed an 80/20 or 90/10 marriage. In recent years, we have gravitated to a more equal, team approach, a 50/50 arrangement.

But the duo urge you to move on to an 80/80 marriage. No, it doesn’t add up mathematically. But if each partner thinks of the other partner first, as suggested by an 80/80 formula, they argue you can reach the outer limit of love, connection and creative potential.

This involves a mindset shift from fairness to radical generosity, each member of the couple doing their utmost to help the other out. It requires breaking habits that were ingrained in the 80/20 or 50/50 model. It redirects energy from conflict to creativity.

“Radical generosity isn’t an occasional generous act. It isn’t an idea you think about every now and then but rarely act on. Radical generosity is the extreme aspiration to do much more than your fair share and to turn this mindset into an ordinary way of being in a marriage,” they say.

Workparenting is tough. Radical generosity won’t solve everything. But for some people, it’s a new concept worth trying.

Quick hits

  • It takes a lot of work to have a solid opinion, insists Shane Parrish, founder of the Farnam Street knowledge network. The reading is extensive. You have to talk to competent people and understand their arguments. You have to think about key variables and how they interact over time. Doing the work required to hold an opinion means you can argue against yourself better than others can. He notes only then can you say, “I can hold this view because I can’t find anyone else who can argue better against my view.”
  • One of the only true shortcuts in life is finding an expert and apprenticing under them, advises Atomic Habits author James Clear.
  • Here are five reasons not to quit your job, from consultant Amii Barnard-Bahn: You currently have a sponsor in place helping you advance in the organization. Your company may have unforeseen opportunities. You’re crushing your goals. You’re not ready. It’s a great time to negotiate.
  • You are less likely to enjoy your leisure time if you view it as wasteful. New research finds the enjoyment of leisure time is reduced when or if people think of that time as wasteful. They also are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and stress.
  • Pay attention to trajectory in conversations, suggests executive coach Dan Rockwell: Is the conversation moving forward, backward, or in circles? When conversation moves in the wrong direction, change your words.

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