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The lives of working parents
Gosia Herba
Doing it all.
FIRST ANNIVERSARY EDITION

The 10 best Quartz at Work stories about the lives of working parents

By Heather Landy

Maybe you’re well acquainted with the daily scramble of raising kids while also nurturing a career. Or perhaps you regularly observe these people and their curious behaviors in an almost anthropological fashion, trying to understand why it’s so hard and how they manage to maintain their sanity. Either way, the lives of working parents are something to be studied, celebrated, and hopefully made easier by employers who recognize that well-adjusted parents are well-adjusted workers.

Here at Quartz at Work, we’ve been obsessing on these topics since our October 2017 launch, tracking the latest and greatest benefits for parents, raising questions about who’s getting left out, and exploring new ideas that can lessen the burden for working parents and reshape how we define what a family is. To celebrate our one-year anniversary, we’ve gone back through our coverage of the lives of working parents and compiled 10 of our favorite stories, organized in sections for new parents, exhausted parents, and parents who need an occasional reminder that they’re doing a good job of holding it all together (i.e. all of them).

Congratulations, you’re having a baby!

Will you pause, or even end, your career to raise your family? It’s never too soon for nosy people to start asking this. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer here, Quartz at Work senior writer Corinne Purtill and Quartz data reporter Dan Kopf checked the math and spoke with parents, economists, and experts in work-life balance to glean some guiding principles that should help families sort out arrangements that reflect their own values and financial realities.

Avoid the trap of overwork—your baby’s health might depend on it. Quartz at Work contributor Linsey McNew was working at an agency and regularly putting in 70-hour weeks to satisfy her bosses’ demands, even after she got pregnant, and even after she brought in a doctor’s note advising a weekly workload of no more than 40 hours. Then the worst happened. Desperate for answers, she did her research but found that insufficient data makes it hard to look for correlations between work, maternal health, and infant deaths. Read her cautionary story here.

Back in the saddle. Cassie Werber, a Quartz reporter in London who recently returned maternity leave, has some advice for other new parents worried about settling back into their jobs. “[E]ven in an understanding firm, it’s hard to return to work and feel like the same competent person you always were, yet simultaneously changed in ways you can’t even describe. And it’s hard to imagine your child in the company of strangers. Strangers who will fine you £1 for every minute you’re late to pick-up.” It’s true. But she has some advice that can help make the transition a whole lot easier.

If you have a partner, prepare together for everything that comes next. Traditional models of family life are being challenged like never before, with mothers wanting more at work and fathers wanting to be more involved at home. But the systems and infrastructure most of us are dealing with doesn’t easily accommodate either. To get some ideas for workarounds, we spoke with Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, CEO of the London-based consulting firm 20-first, who advocates a new approach to relationships to ensure that your home life, your professional goals, and the goals of your partner are all kept in synch.

The realities of parenthood

Moms are tired of multitasking. Over at Quartzy, Quartz’s guide to living well in the global economy, writer Annaliese Griffin was intrigued to learn about a new, hands-free breast pump that nursing moms can just tuck into their bras—the pump does its thing while she’s on the go, with nary a stray piece of tubing. It’s what an academic might call a labor-saving device. But it shouldn’t be mistaken, Griffin argues, for the innovations new moms really need.

The economics of childcare are totally crazy. The cost of childcare has been on a huge upward spiral in the United States, particularly for households in the top 10% of earners. Purtill and Kopf team up once again to investigate why childcare has become so much more expensive in America, and why the increased financial burden hasn’t been distributed proportionately across income levels.

With expletives and tears edited out. As a mother and as a founder of a digital health company, Maven CEO Kate Ryder regularly fields questions like, “How do you do it all?” Her husband, Google executive Lee Teslik, is almost never asked about this. When they realized just how differently they’d been experiencing the dynamics around work-life balance discussions, they recorded themselves in conversation about it and shared the illuminating transcript with us.

A major preoccupation of working parents is the provision of the evening meal. Text messages between busy partners can prove it. Why not save some time with Quartz deputy finance editor Oliver Staley’s texting abbreviations for grown-ups? For instance: WFD (What’s for dinner?), TTC (Too tired to cook), LOTO (Let’s order take out), and TLIF (There’s lasagna in the fridge). And there’s more, including similarly helpful suggestions for texting shorthand about paying the bills, picking up the kids, and dealing with a back that’s acting up again.

Keep in mind

Research shows daily family life is all the “quality time” kids need. Drawing on a large-scale study showing that the quantity of time children spend with their parents has no measurable effect on their emotional well-being, behavior, or academic success, Quartz at Work reporter Lila MacLellan argues that working parents can set their guilt aside, and offers some surprising insights about where and when the real work of family bonding happens.

Parents are the people most in need of best friends at work. Gallup senior editor Jennifer Robison shares the data on and offers practical ways in which managers can help. Remember, supportive relationships are good for your mental health and for your employer—and best friends, Robison says, “have an impact on employee engagement that no other kind of friend does.”

Thanks for reading Quartz at Work. Like any working parent, we’re usually pretty busy but we’ll always make time to hear from you. Find us on Twitter or email us at hi@qz.com (subject line: Quartz at Work).