Being a working parent is tough on you and your children. Many parents feel guilty about working, and wish they could spend longer with their children.  However, with some thought and pre-planning, there are quite a few things you can do to minimise the effects and build a great relationship with your children.

Flexible working

It is important to consider whether working arrangements can be adjusted to fit in more with your children

  • Is working necessary? Work out why you are working. Is it for your sanity, long term career prospects or to pay for the mortgage? Have a good long think about whether you could live somewhere cheaper or survive with less money for a few years until your children are in full-time education (or even until they are independent or leave home!)
  • Flexibility:  Where possible choose jobs that allow flexibility, even if it means less money
  • Part-time work. If you have a partner consider both having part-time jobs to spend more time separately with the children. Could you find work during school hours and find a way of supplementing your income in the evenings?
  • Think carefully – are you working to pay the child-care costs and for two weeks holiday a year? Just consider whether the other 50 weeks are worth the sacrifice and hassle to you and your child.

Time management

One of the biggest frustrations many parents have is having to do the jobs at home on top of working. It helps to take a look at the household tasks and find ways to maximise time spent with the children

  • Share jobs at home with your partner if you have one
  • Get help: Consider a cleaner or gardener if you can possibly afford one. Where possible plan for them to work mostly when you are out so that you can focus on the children when you are home. Consider enlisting someone to drive one child to an activity or share lifts so you can spend quality time with your other children.
  • Ask for housekeeping vouchers for presents.
  • Get children to help with household jobs – involve them and work alongside them – this includes cleaning, shopping, car-washing and maintenance, cooking washing-up and laundry. See these as added opportunities to interact. Change your perspective so jobs= quality time.
  • Give the children jobs at home – show them how to do it and help them get into the habit of doing it regularly. Reward them with extra time with you, doing something they love.
  • Train your children to clear up after themselves and to put their toys away
  • Teach your children to be independent. Take the time to help your children understand how to do jobs properly and how to fix things. Knowing how to clean a house, fix the car or do DIY around the home will really help them in later life. They will also cherish time spent with you showing them new skills and doing things with you.
  • Prune out unnecessary activities. Work out what is really important when you are at home. Is it essential that you take that call, or could you ring them back later when the children are in bed? Is it imperative that your child goes to activities every day, or would it be best if they were able to relax at home sometimes? Do you need to play golf every week, or could it be a fortnightly event?
  • Plan your evening routine so that everything is ready the night before
  • Help your children understand the morning routine so that the children know what they need to do and by when, and they can refer to a list if they need reminding, rather than having you nag them.
  • Be there when children get sick but take care not to give them too much one-to-one time or they are more likely to complain about illnesses and want to stay off school. Make ‘vomiting’ or a ‘high temperature’ the only reasons your child stays at home unless you are certain that they are ill. Insist they have a rest during the day, and visit the GP at the earliest opportunity. Give them lots of attention when they are fully recovered.

Make the most of quality time together

When you do finally get to spend time with the children, make sure it is quality time rather than just being in the same room or house.

  • Schedule family time each week (such as Saturday afternoons) and make sure that nothing interferes – including mobile phones or TV. Play games or spend time chatting or doing things at the kitchen table
  • Create family rituals – Have regular family nights such as Friday night watching a movie with pizza. Have rituals around birthdays, such as everyone waking the child in the morning, and singing ‘Happy Birthday’. Or at Christmas –getting the whole family involved in putting up decorations and deciding when and where presents are opened.
  • Make weekends work-free time if possible. If you have to schedule work, plan when you are going to do it, and try not to think about it (and feel guilty) until the allotted time.
  • Plan projects together – such as building a birdhouse, setting up a water slide, building something, creative art or making things.
  • Make holidays family time. Have an absolute rule that holidays away from home are work-free time. No phone calls, no e-mails, no contact. This is the best opportunity all year to build relationships, memories and quality family time and an important aspect of creating an effective work/life balance
  • Plan outings together- as a family –preferably with built-in one-to-one time such as picnics, boat rides, walks together, farms, the beach, swimming pool, meals out, flying kites – anything that involves you just being together, relaxing and having fun.
  • Spend quality time with the children when you are on an outing.  Play with them and be with them. Create memories together and take photos. Make every minute count.
  • Spend 15 minutes a day quality time with EACH child. Ask them what they want to do during the time and keep that time protected. If your life is too busy to manage this – change your priorities – and remind yourself why you decided to have children.
  • Focus totally on your child when you are with them. Get out of the habit of thinking about work or what you could be doing. Listen to them and find out everything about their world, friends, hobbies, school and  favourite things
  • Share your passions – talk to them in simple language about things you enjoy and your interests. Tell them about your work and take them along sometimes.
  • Be there for the tough times. Listen and pick up cues about any problems your child may have. Help them work out what they want to do and remember to check on how they are handling things. Don’t be tempted to take over and solve their problems. If you want them to be resilient and resourceful be there to support them in the skills they need to tackle their own troubles.


Keep the atmosphere at home light and pleasant

  • Have meals together whenever possible – keep them calm and enjoyable– no heavy chats. Maximise the number of meals you share by having a family breakfast if you can
  • Plan down-time together. Make sure that when children and adults are home it is calm and stress-free not over-scheduled with activities
  • Encourage and allow individuality where both children and adults are able to have their own interests and quirks.
  • Be cheerful. When you walk through the door children will be excited to see you, so don’t be bad-tempered  or tired – Make an effort to smile, find out all their news and spend some nice time together
  • Be positive -Keep any complaining about work or your partner to a minimum when you are with your family. Children pick up on negative attitudes and will feel guilty and responsible if you are in a bad temper
  • Make an extra effort to be happy and fun when you see your children. If you will only see them for a short time in the day notice all the good things they are doing, and try not to criticise them or have ‘serious conversations’. If you need to talk to your child about their behaviour plan ahead to do it at a good time, maybe at the weekend, and not when it will ruin a family meal or evening together.
  • But be consistent with discipline. Don’t let children behave badly just because you rarely see them. Be firm but fair about what you expect

Time away from your child

  • Spend ‘couple time’ with your partner – working and bringing up a family, particularly where there are money problems, can be really tough and put a big strain on your relationship with your partner. Your child, your partner and you will suffer hugely if you end up separating. So spend some quality time with your partner and keep your relationship strong, even if your child finds this hard. You will also need to build in regular planning time and solution time to address any problems.
  • Spend some time for yourself – when you are working and feel guilty about how little time you get to spend with your child, it can be easy to ignore your own needs. But you will be more effective as a parent and more willing to continue giving if you make sure you have a few hours a week to yourself doing something you love. You need some regular guilt-free downtime! Children also need to understand that adults have needed too and that not everything revolves around the children. Don’t make them feel that being a parent means total sacrifice to meet a child’s needs, or they will never want to become parents themselves!
  • Work out what you need if you find yourself overwhelmed – look at every aspect of your life and think about what you need, rather than want, to have a happy family life.


Children of working parents are statistically less likely to achieve academically so help your child to enjoy learning

  • Help with homework. Ask them to tell you about their homework – show them ways to find out new things about topics they are interested in.
  • Be involved in their education. Always go to parent’s evenings at school or nursery –and ask teachers what you could do at home that would help them most.
  • Attend sports days and assemblies and make them feel important whenever you possibly can. Schedule your work time so you can go to their sports matches, plays and anything else that shows your support for their non-academic skills.
  • Take them on outings to supplement their learning – museums, art galleries, science museums, etc. but make it interesting – get them to choose their favourite painting or sculpture, set up a quiz or get them to find out five interesting facts about the exhibition.
  • Whenever possible read books to your children (starting at one-day-old) or get them to read to you when they are proficient. Snuggle up beside them and make reading a pleasure.


For working parents, it is essential that you have really good parenting skills, as it can be so difficult if you don’t know how to discipline the children or how to motivate them to behave. When the children see little of you if you don’t give them good attention they will misbehave to get your bad attention.

  • Model the sort of behaviour you want from your children, particularly anger management
  • Stay calm – don’t waste the precious time you have with your children being angry with them. Find ways to deal with misbehaviour calmly and fairly without shouting or smacking.
  • Learn when to say no and when to give in.
  • Have a united front where you and your partner talk about and agree on rules, rewards and consequences and back each other up when enforcing the rules. Make sure you are consistent so your children don’t see one parent as the fun one and one as the disciplinarian.
  • Don’t be over-indulgent with money or technology just because you are working. The most important thing you can give children is your time. Children should earn most of their money so they grow up to be independent and happy to contribute. Giving them the latest technology will encourage them to spend time in front of a screen rather than interacting and talking. Time spent with you is the best reward you can give your children.
  • Listen to your children
  • Praise your children for specific things they do – tell them exactly what they did that you liked – at least 10 times a day.
  • Tackle sibling rivalry – your children are more likely to fight if they feel this is a good way to get your attention. Be extra vigilant and notice and praise every time your children get on well together. Encourage your children to work as a team rather than getting them to compete against each other.
  • Don’t insist that children stay up late to suit your work schedule. If you manage to get back home before children are asleep be sensitive to their need for sleep and slot in to read a calm bedtime story or have a quiet conversation about their day. Don’t whip them up into a frenzy just before their sleep time
  • Expect respect from your children. Do not allow children to treat you as servants or money-providers. Have consequences for rude or disdainful behaviour. If your child becomes demanding or expects everything to be done for them you need to nip it in the bud. Consider increasing your children’s responsibilities, planning some volunteering opportunities or helping your child learn that people need to work for money. Give them the satisfaction of earning to pay for what they want.
  • If your child complains to you about their other parent help them deal with relationship difficulties so they develop emotional intelligence, assertiveness, negotiation, compromise and social skills. Never gang up with your child against your partner. Help children remember the good things about your partner, and stress the positives in their relationship, whilst helping them to understand how to have effective conversations to explain how they feel and what they would like to change.
  • Go on a parenting course to learn good parenting techniques and positive discipline so that you enjoy your time as a Mum or Dad. If you are going to spend money on your children this will be the best investment you could make, as it will have such a positive impact on their happiness at home and your relationship with them.

Are there any of these suggestions that you will try? Also what advice did you find worked for you as a working parent? Please let me know using the reply box below 🙂 Common parenting mistakes.

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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