Returning to work after parental leave can be difficult -- from exhaustion to finding a "new normal" routine, becoming a working parent is a major adjustment.
While the exhaustion fades after a few years, bedtime battles, behavior issues and activities make work-life balance for parents a special juggling act. Though keeping it all together may at times seem an insurmountable task, the good news is that many others -- including your colleagues -- have gone through, or are going through, many of the same growing pains.
That’s why employee resource groups, like working parents support groups, in the office are so important. Connecting employees with others dealing with similar issues can help troubleshoot work-life struggles and alleviate some of the stress of being a working parent.
Don’t have a working parents group at your office? Forming one at work may not be as hard as you think. We talked to Matt Schneider, co-founder of City Dads Group to pull together some tips to help you get one started.
1. Talk to HR
Reach out to your HR department to find out anything you need to know about establishing a group in your office, as well as to see what type of support they may offer. It's a good ideas to get buy in from HR first, before contacting other employees. Ask about what they can do to help you get the word out to other employees, whether they’ll “sponsor” the group by paying for lunches or snacks for the group’s monthly meetings. Also use this opportunity to set a cadence for meeting back with HR once your group is up and running.
2. Cast a Wide Net
Word of mouth is a great way to let your co-workers know about the group you’re forming, but you need to make sure the word spreads beyond your group of friends. Send a company-wide email, post something in the break room and take advantage of the company intranet or any social platforms your company uses to post details for your peers to contact you.
3. Include All Parents
When establishing a parents group, Schneider says to be sure to include both moms and dads as both parents are actively engaged in raising their children. “The way every family divides up tasks is different, but the assumption should be that both parents need access to the resources available for parents,” he adds.
4. Decide What Type of Group You'll Be
Will your parents group be a morning breakfast gathering, a brown bag lunch or other type of group? Maybe it’s defined by a certain topic like new parents, parents of children with special needs, single parents? Do you want to just provide a place where parents can swap stories and complain, or is your goal to affect change within the company and advocate for family-friendly policies? Use the information you gather from connecting with other employees to help define the type of group to form based on what works best for those who are interested.
5. Stay In-Tuned to the Needs of the Group
The needs of parents in your group may change over time as children grow, work schedules change and more. Check in with your group every few months to make sure the group continues to meet the needs of its members, including the current schedule, group make-up, topics and activities. To the extent that you’re able, try to set your agendas a few weeks in advance of your meetings and always solicit input about what topics members of the group would like to tackle in a given month.
6. Schedule a Regular Check-In with HR
Once you’re up and running, designate a member or members of your group to meet regularly with a member of your company’s HR team. This is not to pay tribute to or to marching orders from your HR overlords -- your group should be run by parents, for parents. However, you'll want to play nice with HR because, as a representative group of parents, you can work with HR to advocate for family-friendly policies and workplace supports for parents and other caregivers.