Jacqueline Shakespeare, an operating partner at business transformation consultancy Sullivan & Stanley, writes about finding fulfilment as a working parent.
Being a working parent can feel really tough, much tougher than we expect sometimes. But why is that?
As humans, we are comfortable living in a world where a specific action causes a predictable outcome – a simple environment. We run and become fitter; we read books on a chosen subject and become more knowledgeable. We can easily understand this straightforward environment and can operate in it without difficulty.
But the world isn’t always that simple and predictable. We are regularly faced with complicated situations where knowledge alone isn’t enough to predict the outcome.
As a result, we need to draw on our instinct to help us. This is the world of surgeons, architects, criminologists and midwives. People who need the foundation of knowledge, but also use their experience to help them achieve their best.
Humans comfortably operate in both of these environments. We make sense to our rational selves and we broadly understand them. As working parents, much of our world sits within one of these two environments. We read to our children and their language skills develop; they fall over and we know how to comfort them.
However, our overall environment isn’t one where there is a simple or even complicated relationship between our actions and our outcomes. It’s complex, meaning cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect; using our knowledge and instinct alone is no longer enough.
Our children are constantly growing, maturing and having different needs. What worked last week may not work this week.
One of our parents may become ill and we need to spend more time with them; our partner may secure a new job and isn’t at home as much. We can never truly create stability; as soon as we feel like we’re getting it right, something changes and alters everything again.
This is why being a working parent feels so hard to get right – and keep it there.
It’s a natural human tendency to try and manage our overall environment as though it were a simple or complicated one – the circumstances we understand and feel more comfortable operating in.
We pull on our knowledge, instinct and experience. We try harder but don’t get the outcome we would expect, and we struggle to understand why when it’s simply because our overall environment is a complex one.
To be the parents we want to be and to achieve the fulfilment we want in our work, we must have solid foundations in place and then we must always be ready to respond to change; experimentation is key.
We need to be constantly harnessing different ideas, testing them out, finding out what works at that moment in time, so we can find our own personal contentment.
In her new book, In This Moment, Jacqueline shares her winning combination of mindful principles and practical skills which provide the foundations for working parents looking to find calm and fulfilment in their lives.