January 2024

Leadership, family, freedom: a harmonious triad instead of off-key tones

How parenthood and leadership work

Even though the world should have moved on by now: In professional life, there is no getting around the question of whether and how a demanding management position and parenthood can be reconciled. And this question is not fundamentally wrong, because it helps you to reflect on your own wishes and needs – how do I want to organize my life? What do I want my career path to look like? Fortunately, today it is no longer necessarily an either-or decision when it comes to children and a career. But does that mean everything is always easy? Certainly not.

A family affair – how it can work

My husband and I both work in management positions that are demanding and challenge us both mentally and psychologically. Our careers have also shaped our lives, quite literally: we have moved three times in the past ten years for professional reasons.

But our jobs and relocations didn’t stop us from having two wonderful boys. I therefore know from practical experience that children and a career can be combined – even if both partners hold managerial positions. However, for it to work both privately and professionally, a few basic requirements need to be met.

So test he who binds himself forever …

This oft-quoted saying may not be new, but it’s still pretty true. Even when choosing a partner, both people should have similar ideas about what their life together could look like in the medium and long term. And clarify very specific questions, such as in which city the future center of life should be and who can and would like to take parental leave for how long. Daycare center or childminder? Are there uncles, aunts or grandparents available at the new place of residence who can help out with childcare? The division of family responsibilities should not be a taboo subject, but should be discussed openly.

It takes two to tango: Sharing responsibility

Childcare involves more than just changing diapers and breastfeeding or feeding and the occasional trip to the playground. In addition to logistical tasks such as getting to nursery or school, details such as visits to the paediatrician, birthday presents, play dates and clothes shopping also need to be organized. Not to mention correspondence with kindergarten and school, including registration and transferring fees for the sports club. In a partnership of equals, even these supposedly minor matters can be divided up fairly and, above all, clearly so that not all obligations are left to one person.

Reliability counts

It should go without saying that the defined responsibilities are actually adhered to. This works very well for my husband and me in practice, and we both know that our children are well looked after and cared for even when only one parent is there for them. This is a benefit for the children and a relief for the parent who is busy elsewhere.

Plan B like backup solution

Even the most carefully made plans are occasionally thwarted if, for example, a family member is ill in bed or the kindergarten unexpectedly announces closing days. Then quick yet fair decisions need to be made about who can stand in at home and when, or whether external support such as a babysitter is needed. Parents can also set the course for such cases at an early stage, e.g. ask their employer about the basic home office policy and look around for nice, competent babysitters.

Couple time, not just parental leave

Above all domestic and family obligations, one thing can fall by the wayside: Remembering that you are not just a team of parents, but also a couple. Time for two should therefore be planned in. Especially with busy schedules and demanding jobs, it can be helpful to arrange to meet up with your partner for dinner or other activities together, with a calendar entry. This may sound a little unromantic, but it ensures that these appointments are actually kept.

It is also worth reflecting in pairs on whether the current division of tasks is working for everyone involved. Does everyday life run smoothly from everyone’s point of view, or is there a need for optimization? If so, responsibilities can also be swapped, for example.

Not child’s play, but worth everything

With the right organization and real teamwork as parents, the career/child(ren) double pack can definitely work out. As children’s life phases change, so do the tasks for us parents and the amount of childcare required.

But speaking of effort: it would be completely wrong to see parenthood only as organizing, planning and unpaid work. My advice to all mothers and fathers: don’t forget to enjoy the special time with your children in the midst of all the everyday optimization! My life wouldn’t be half as colorful and varied without my sons. So if you want to have children and a career – both are possible and both are worthwhile.