Cindy Krischer Goodman

School’s on: Working parents take a team approach

From left: Lawrence Davis, Samahra Morant, 10, her mom Sommer Davis, and Sommer Davis and Lawrence Davis’ daughter Savannah Davis, 5, in their Homestead home.
From left: Lawrence Davis, Samahra Morant, 10, her mom Sommer Davis, and Sommer Davis and Lawrence Davis’ daughter Savannah Davis, 5, in their Homestead home. skaestle@miamiherald.com

At the beginning of each assignment Deloitte accountants take on, the team meets to discuss their worklife concerns. One parent may need to come in early and leave by 5 p.m. to pick up a child from aftercare. Another parent may want to start his day at 10 a.m. and stay past 6 p.m. Under a new approach to family-friendly work arrangements at all Deloitte offices nationwide, an accountant’s teammates become an important part of the village that allows the financial professionals to balance work and family.

Among all working parents with children under 18, more than half say it’s difficult for them to balance the responsibilities of their job with the needs of their family, and 1-in-5 full-time working moms say balancing the two is extremely difficult, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center analysis of the national Current Population Survey data. As the new school year kicks in with new schedules and routines, most working parents understand the importance of creating a support team within their workplaces and their personal communities. Here’s how successful working parents have built their teams.

Workplace: The least-stressed working parents have their employers on their team. In fact, at least 4-in-10 mothers and fathers say they cannot be successful as parents without a supportive boss, according to Bright Horizons’ Modern Family Index, a 2014 survey of 1,005 American parents who work at least part time.

For Adriane Rosen, a Davie mother of two, having a boss who allows her to work from home as needed is crucial “when plan A, B or C fall through.” Rosen, a product manager/producer at CBSSports.com, relies on her parents and in-laws for after-school childcare. But on the days when the unforeseen happens, a child or grandparent is sick, her boss supports her working from home. “I know I am fortunate that my team includes an understanding supervisor,” she says.

When the boss is not understanding, parents often cultivate relationships with co-workers on whom they can rely in a pinch. Barbara Baker, an assistant in a Cutler Ridge medical office, remembers the day she needed to attend an unscheduled parent-teacher conference but saw a line of patients waiting to be checked in. Her co-worker, another working mom, stepped up and filled in.

“All the girls in the office help each other out. We’re a team. We all understand that it’s difficult to balance work and family,” Baker says. Having someone at work to vent to can be beneficial, too, she says. “When your child has a problem at school, it helps to turn to someone sitting nearby for advice. It’s therapeutic.”

Community: Many working parents reach into the community to build their team by joining carpools, courting neighbors and trading favors with other parents and friends. A parent who travels often for work may ask for help driving their child to after-school activities in exchange for doing a weekend pickup from a “Sweet 16” party, for example.

Gloria Schultz, a litigation manager for a global company with Fort Lauderdale offices, travels regularly for business and says other parents are a crucial part of her team. Her twin 13-year-old daughters play lacrosse, soccer and basketball for their school and city teams and often get rides with their friends’ parents. “We rotate and help each other out. Whoever is available takes kids to games or practices. We communicate by text. Even down to the drop-off and pickup from parties, it’s a rotation between moms,” Schultz says.

Peggy Sapp, president and CEO of Informed Families, a Miami outreach agency to help kids grow up safe, healthy and drug-free, says working parents should take the opportunity now to build connections: “Some people think they are too busy, but it is worth it to take time at the beginning of school. Introduce yourself to other parents or offer to meet over coffee at Starbucks. Anything you can do to create a bond now is going to make it easier than a cold-call later when you need some help.”

Family: With nearly 70 percent of mothers in the work force, both parents play a role on a well-functioning team. Fathers are called on to make dinner, pick up the kids, or even leave work early to handle emergencies. Although Rosen’s husband, Mike, works an hour from home, he often drives his son to school in the morning. And because he returns earlier than Adriane, he drives the children to evening sports practices and games.

“It’s split at home, it truly is,” Adriane says. “I value that … it’s hard enough to juggle everything.” For others, family members are critical to their support team.

Sommer Davis says her husband, Lawrence, a long-distance truck driver, is on the road for months at a time. For Davis, raising two daughters and succeeding as a public information officer for the Miami-Dade County Water & Sewer Department requires her parents’ involvement. Each morning, she drops off her daughters at their grandparents’ home. They bring them to school, attend school functions and pick up the girls from aftercare as needed. “My day starts early and ends late, but I am fortunate I am able to rely on them for assistance,” Davis says.

School: Sapp says the new school year is an ideal time to bring a child’s teacher to the team. On back-to-school night, she advises parents to put teachers’ contact information into their phone, along with contact information for after-school providers, bus drivers, coaches and any other school faculty who could be relied on for support. Parents of teens should encourage their children to find at least one teacher who they can rely as a safety net.

As this school year kicks off, parents shouldn’t start too late to assemble their team. They may need it sooner than they think.

Columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman writes regularly on work life and workplace issues. Connect with her at balancegal@gmail.com, @balancegal or worklifebalancingact.com.

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