Job security is a major concern for working daughters. We worry about the impact our caregiving responsibilities are having on our careers. We worry that our managers and coworkers think we are unreliable. We worry that our jobs are interfering with our ability to care. The stress can be palpable.
To minimize both your concerns, and any unproductive time you may be spending at work, strive to eliminate these 6 behaviors.
1. Mothering You’re a daughter, maybe a mother too. You’re probably a natural caregiver. But that role does not need to spill over into the office. You do not need to be the office mother – unless of course your job description says you are in charge of company culture. Let someone else plan birthdays, showers, and holiday potlucks. One, you have limited free time; don’t spend it buying cakes and gift bags. And two, your time at the office is better spent on professional endeavors than social ones. Job security ultimately stems from performance, not likability.
2. FixingAlong the same lines as mothering, you don’t need to fix everything at work either. Sure it feels good to feel needed. But again, your true value to the company comes from performing your job and meeting your yearly objectives. And if you don’t work in IT, or you are not the office manager, knowing how to unjam the copier, add a signature to an Outlook email, or find the replacement k-cups, are probably not what you are being measured on. There’s a fine line between helpful and unproductive. We’re not saying never help a coworker – you do need to build positive relationships. We are saying you don’t need to be the person who fixes everything in the office.
3. Oversharing You’re stressed, overwhelmed. Maybe your mother is on hospice or your father is in ICU. That’s not everyone’s business. It’s okay, and even wise, to let your team know you are managing a crisis at home and may need to leave in a hurry. It’s okay to ask for some back up – someone to double check your work, or to listen into an important client call with you because you have something major going on at home. Those are situations that impact the business. It’s not necessary, nor is it wise, to tell your coworkers the details of your parent’s advanced directives or the medical procedure they had done last night. The team does not need to hear that your sister is second guessing your decisions. Share in headlines, not in paragraphs. Your goal is to prepare your coworkers for the impact your caring may have on the company. It is not to create drama.
4. Flying solo Your caregiving years are no time to be a lone wolf. There will be times when your personal responsibilities require you to drop everything at work – for an afternoon, a week, maybe longer. When that happens, you will need backup. And, you will need that backup to know how to fill in for you. Your caregiving years are the time to cc: coworkers on client correspondence, save files to the company server – not on your hard drive, bring a teammate to meetings. Collaboration now is key for coverage later when you can’t be there.
5. Feeling guilty Working daughter guilt is powerful – we know. It’s also highly unproductive. So how do you stop the cycle? Get clear on your priorities. Is earning a living, or paying rent or the mortgage, or buying groceries, or planning for your retirement a priority? If yes, then doesn’t it seem silly to feel guilty about working– even if your family needs you? Is being a good daughter and showing up for your family part of your personal value system? Then why feel bad about prioritizing caregiving – even when it interferes with work. Train your brain to focus on the good and deliberate choices you are making instead of obsessing about what others may or may not be thinking about your decisions. Sure, there are consequences for every choice we make. Accept those consequences – even when it’s a displeased boss or a delayed promotion – as the result of living life according to your strong value system.
6. Marking time Just because you are a caregiver doesn’t mean you can’t advance your career. Maybe you can’t travel for work or pursue a promotion. Maybe this isn’t the right time to change jobs or careers. But that doesn’t mean you should put your career on hold. Think about your long-term and post-caregiving goals. What is the minimum you need to do now to make those goals a reality someday? Do you need to maintain your network? Commit to staying in touch with people. Even if you can’t meet for lunch or post-work drinks, you can send your contacts interesting articles or promote their work on social media. Do you need to learn a new skill? Take an online self-guided tour or buy (and read!) a book on the topic. Your life is not on hold; it has merely changed gears.