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How to Balance Being a Parent and Professional

Balancing career and parenthood takes planning and flexibility and can teach you new skills at both work and home. Before taking on this new responsibility, it helps to talk with others in your field who have been there.

We asked three of our professionals to share their insights on a good work-life balance.

Kim Dresdner, Urban Planning + Design, Dallas, is mother to a son born in 2018.

Holly Saez, Water Resource Dam and Levee Design, Dallas, is mother to a son born in 2015 and a daughter born in 2017.

Ross Ward, Oil and Gas, Dallas, is father to a son born in 2018.

How did you prepare for being a parent?

Holly, pictured at right: I don’t think I prepared too much because I didn’t really know what to expect the first time. I did make sure I had the necessary items (diapers, crib, car seat) and selected a daycare before my son was born because I knew I was going back to work.

Ross: As a first-time parent you really have no idea what you are getting yourself into regardless of preparations. At the beginning, sleep is the first thing to go; that is the only way to fit it all in. Working remotely has helped me meet client demands while at home. I turned off email notifications on my phone so I don’t look at email until I’m ready. This helps me disassociate work from home until after wife/baby are asleep.

Kim: I’m not sure if there is a good way to prepare. Prior to my little guy arriving, it was easy to envision how a normal day might go with a baby, but once he came, that vision went out the window. I feel like other moms have it much more together than I do, or at least they do a better job of making it seem that way. I just try to roll with the punches and enjoy each baby phase despite my lack of sleep, fewer showers than I would like and being spit up on almost every day.

What is the most-challenging part of having new demands?

Ross, pictured at right: Juggling all the responsibilities. There have been days where I leave the house before my son is awake and get home after he has gone to bed. Those are the tough days. On the flip side, there are times where my work to-do list piles up for the sake of the family.

Kim: As my husband put it, there is no pause button!  If you aren’t feeling well, it doesn’t matter. The baby still needs you.

Holly: Sleep deprivation and having to adjust my schedule to meet those of a newborn. Some mornings were extra difficult, and getting out the door on time was a challenge, one that I often lost, especially in the first year.

How have you worked with your supervisor on adapting to new and sometimes-unexpected responsibilities?

Kim: I’m glad I work with other parents. Both my group manager and my direct supervisor are very understanding and know what it’s like to have to drop everything and run to daycare to get your kid because they are sick and have to go home. My husband has a lot more paid time off than I do, so he typically will stay home with our little guy if he is sick. If that doesn’t work out, I can work from home. Sometimes, that means logging in after our little guy goes to bed at night, but we make it work.

Holly: I talked to my supervisor when I was expecting my first child about coming back part time after maternity leave, which has afforded my family and me much-needed flexibility with young children at home. I am usually able to adjust my schedule if needed due to illnesses or other unexpected emergencies. When work gets busy, I can come in on days I usually have off or work from home, as needed.   

Ross: I dealt with it indirectly. Freese and Nichols has a great flexible work schedule as an option. Also, our group is really good about understanding the challenges of young kids. Many of the engineers in my group have kids and are working through the same challenges.

How has your time management changed now that you’re a parent?

Ross: I am more selective about what meetings I attend. We can sometimes meeting ourselves to death. I also work early and late to be available when my son is awake.

Holly: Overall, there is less free time in the day. I try to keep the most important things at the forefront and limit commitments outside of family and work for now. I try to work efficiently when I’m at work so I can pick up the kids from daycare on time and focus on my family when I’m at home.   

Kim, pictured at right: I basically do the bare minimum in terms of personal care in order to drop him off at daycare and get to work on time. My husband usually picks our son up from daycare, and I make every effort possible to get home to spend a little bit of precious time with our son before bedtime.

What’s your best advice to young professionals who want to be parents?

Holly: Juggling a newborn and a career can be tough and rewarding. Knowing your limits and learning how to stay within those limits helped me deal with everyday stress. You don’t have to do absolutely everything all at once. Some things can wait, and that is okay. Also, speak with your supervisor about expectations at work if and when something unexpectedly arises.

Kim: Sleep as much as you can now. Be prepared to be constantly sleep-deprived, and if you end up having a baby who sleeps through the night at six weeks, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  

Ross: Just go for it. There is never enough time or money for kids, but they are such an amazing blessing. Since our son was born, we couldn’t imagine life without him. All the memories of spare time/money before him fade away. Build up your PTO (paid time off) so you can take a lengthy time off when they are born and really young. They grow way too fast. 

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