It’s been nearly 30 years since Congress unanimously passed a resolution establishing the fourth Sunday of July as National Parents’ Day, a day established for “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.”
Today’s parents come in many forms, but they all deserve to be appreciated and supported. This perennial day of commemoration is a great time for employers to consider how they can celebrate parents in the workplace – and how they can support parents every day of the year.
What do today’s parents look like?
Families come in all shapes and sizes, with many different people playing the parental role. Parents can be grandparents, aunts, and uncles, or other family members. Parents can be single or married. They can be co-parents. They can be adoptive parents. They can be any combination of the above.
According to the latest census statistics, 25% of children live with a single parent, a 112% increase over the last 50 years. One out of every 50 children under 18 in the U.S. is adopted. And 1 in 10 lives with grandparents or other relatives.
All parents face similar challenges – dealing with sick children, handling childcare emergencies, making time for school events, trying to work while kids are playing in the background – challenges that have only gotten more difficult as a result of the pandemic. In fact, 2 Million Working Moms left the workforce between February and November of 2020 according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Additionally, 75% of parents say they could have used more emotional support than they received during the pandemic according to APA’s Stress in America™ pandemic survey.
Can employers help? Absolutely.
How do you support parents?
One of the most important ways employers can support parents is by facilitating self-care and personal development, practices that enable parents to better address daily challenges. “It’s essential that parents care for themselves—first, for their own well-being, but also because any effort they put into self-care also has huge payoffs for their children,” says psychologist Erin Leyba. “When parents ‘fill their own cups,’ they have more patience, energy, and passion to spread to their families.”
As the flight attendants always say, you should put your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. You can help by providing health and wellness options that make it easy for employees to make healthy lifestyle choices, and by offering parent-specific resources, ongoing learning opportunities, mental health coaching for working parents, and even childcare options. You can also encourage parents to build “tribes” to support them and their family unit. Creating employee resources groups (ERGs) for working parents can give them an opportunity to connect with and support each other both within and outside of the work environment. According to a study by Werklabs of 1,000+ professionals, 90% of employees report that offering ERGs is a good indication of an organization’s inclusivity.
“When parents don’t get help, [many] make a decision that they won’t work anymore,” says SAP executive Jason Russell in Human Resource Executive. “If you get the right resources, the right support, you’re able to better juggle the demands.”
But perhaps the most important way you can support parents is to lead by example. For many companies, the shift to working from home has been an opportunity for leadership to lower the bar for perfection. Kids may scream from the other room during your meeting. They may interrupt you during a presentation. You may have to help them solve a math problem while you’re building a new spreadsheet. Normalizing these everyday events can go a long way to helping parents realize they – and their kids – don’t have to be perfect.
How do you build a family-friendly company culture?
As messy as families can be, you need parents in your company in order to be successful. Even your best employees who aren’t parents today may be parents in the future. That’s why building a family-friendly company culture is important.
“Working parents come in all packages. They’re male, female, biological, adoptive, gay, straight, from every conceivable background, and from all parts and levels of the organization,” says Daisy Dowling, an executive coach and leading expert on working parenthood. “It’s your job to make sure that every single one of those parents gets the message, loud and clear, that ‘You are welcome here.’”
This can mean offering family-friendly vacation policies, generous time off for new families, flexible scheduling, parent counseling, and support groups, and health and wellness benefits that nurture the whole family. As you’re building a family-friendly company culture, keep in mind that one of your most important offerings is understanding. Show your employees you understand that life happens, family happens, and show grace when a team member is not as responsive as usual.
Most employees aren’t out to win “Parent of the Year” awards. But they would like to be supported and be given an opportunity to create a work-life balance – not just on National Parents’ Day, but every day. You can help by providing the working parents in your organization with the resources they need to thrive.