Managing expectations as a working parent

When I first started taking my daughter to work my boss gave me some great advice: don’t have too many expectations.

In one sense this goes against everything I believe in – what’s a life without goals! But at the same time, I get it. Life with a newborn can be chaotic and unpredictable. What he was really saying was ‘don’t worry if things don’t go to plan.’

Now I’m a bit further along the journey I am conscious of making sure I set realistic expectations. I’m at work, after all, so I do need to get things done!

I’m often asked how I cope with working and looking after my daughter at the same time. A lot of it comes down to having realistic expectations. This post is about how I manage expectations of myself, my clients, colleagues and my family as a working mum. Although I take my daughter with me to work, I think most of this will be relatable to any working parent.


I have always been relaxed as a mother, so this one has been relatively easy for me. (Ok, maybe not always. I didn’t speak to anyone for the first few days of my daughter’s life. As usual I blame hormones!)

I don’t set targets for how many hours I should work a day or week, but I do keep track of my daily, weekly and monthly goals and to-do lists.

My Bullet Journal is also useful for helping me to switch off at the end of the day. I finish each day by writing a to-do list for the following working day. If I think of anything else on my day off I just jot it down and forget about it.

Part of the magic of the Bullet Journal is that it has provision for scheduling or moving tasks that don’t get completed. This usually involves drawing an arrow over the bullet that has been scheduled/moved. It’s all psychological, but even though I might reschedule a task, I somehow still feel accomplished. Who doesn’t feel accomplished when they cross something off their to-do list!


Many of my clients are unaware that I work part time (or ‘flexibly’, that seems to be the new buzz word) or that my daughter comes to the office with me.

If a client is coming to the office to meet me I make sure I tell them in advance that my daughter will be with me. I haven’t yet had a client who has a problem with this, but I prefer to be upfront.

I also make sure that I give clients a timeframe for the completion of their work. I allow more time than I think I will need for each task and much more time than I would have taken pre-baby. There are two advantages to this. One, I often finish work sooner than expected, which is always a good look. Two, I don’t have clients chasing me for work as they know when to expect it. This is the real bonus for me, because I need to manage my time carefully and want to avoid any unnecessary phone calls!


Taking my baby to work requires a lot of support from my colleagues.  Not only do they watch her for a few minutes while I see clients, have meetings, make phone calls or go to the loo, but they also inevitably take on some of the work that I’m not able to do. I’m not always available to do certain things. If the phone rings just as I’ve got my daughter to sleep, you can guarantee that I won’t answer it! If I’m breastfeeding and a client shows up to sign a document, someone else will take care of that for me.

The majority of our work involves teamwork, so in some ways this is no exception. But I’m grateful for their support and I’m careful not to take advantage. I know my colleagues love having my daughter around and it’s no trouble to them, but they also have a job to do.  I don’t just assume someone will watch her, I always ask first. I also try to do some of the more mundane work for them or offer to help when I can.


I’m also realistic about my expectations of our family time. Given that we spend three days in the office, I make sure to focus on my daughter on our days off and on family activities on the weekends.

My daughter does not get my full attention all day every day. That’s not to say I sit her in my office and ignore her (quite the opposite actually, I don’t stop talking to her!) but I’m usually multi-tasking. There are days where I feel like I’ve just roped her along for the ride and haven’t spent enough one-on-one time with her, but I try to make up for that on our days off.

Tuesday’s and Thursday’s are ‘mummy and Lilly’ days during which I focus on Lilly and avoid working. If I need or want to, I will work during nap times or after she is asleep for the night, but I never let myself work while she is awake.

Although she is too young to have this expectation herself, I think it’s important to spend time together and to establish good habits for the future.


29 Responses

  1. I remember trying to fgure out the balance when I worked full time and part time. I never quite felt like either was getting enough of me. So I quit. Ironically I STILL don’t feel like the kids get enough of me.


  2. I always feel like my kids don’t get enough time, but they are happy, smart and know I am here for hugs always! I think it is great that you have the opportunity to take her to work! #fortheloveofBLOG

    1. Your kids are older, aren’t they? Well, older than mine! As they grow up they want to be more independent and will want to spend less time with us 🙁 but they know you are there when they need you to be. That’s important too. And they’re HAPPY! That’s most important of all!! Thanks for your lovely comment, as always x

  3. I sure understand this. The struggle is real. I have no idea how to give my all to my family and my work. I have written a few posts to this effect myself. Great post with great tips. Thanks for sharing it!

  4. Wow I am still amazed you get to take your child to work. I wish more businesses would see the benefits to this arrangement here. Having realistic expectations is so important, hard but so needed of both ourselves and others. Thanks for these great reminders. #KCACOLS

  5. Well done to you for finding a way to do this that works so well for you! It’s so great that you are putting what you are doing out into the world so that other women can ask the questions as to what works for them – even if it isn’t what everyone else is doing. Love stopping by your blog!

    1. What a lovely comment. Thank you. I think we often have a tendency to see things as too hard before we even give them a go. Anything is possible. Well, maybe not anything, but most things!

  6. Work/life balance is so difficult. We want to give our all to everything we do – most importantly to our kids – but we are left feeling as though we’ve not given enough. It’s tricky, but it sounds like you have a great system! Way to go! #eatsleepblogrt

  7. Sounds like you’re struck a reasonably good balance through life. It’s never easy juggling everything but as long as you can spend time with your daughter at this special age then that’s the main thing! #KCACOLS

  8. This is a really interesting post and I love it because it shows how it’s possible, with support from employers and people in general, to be a flexible working mum. I work flexibly too. I don’t take my kids to the office (although I have on occasions when I had an important meeting during maternity leave), but I work from home a lot while looking after them. I’m very lucky I have an employer who allows me to work from home and also adjust my office hours on occasion to deal with unanticipated childcare issues. I hope these employment practices will become more widespread and help more mums go back to working outside the home (if they want to). Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Yes, it is possible! As you’d know, there is a lot of trust involved, but as long as we’re all working towards the same goals/objectives it works.
      I hope these practices become more widespread too. I’m glad that your employer is flexible too – it makes all the difference, doesn’t it!

  9. it sounds like you have such a supportive employer. ive never brought my son to work and now that im back i have just the friday off with him. its lovely to have set mummy and child days like you say. thats when i try and put down the laptop and focus on my boy #KCACOLS

  10. Tie management is something I really struggle with. I also bring my kids to work, and I work at home as well and it is a STRUGGLE! I really enjoyed this post and am looking forward to taking your advice, i need it! #globalblogging

  11. Great advice from your boss! I think its the same being a SAHM. I am so used to working that when I was “thrown” into the life of a SAHM, my life was seriously shaken. I had no idea how to organise myself. I finally realised that I needed t have no expectations and go with the flow! Thanks for sharing. #globalblogging

  12. Lucy I am loving your blog! It’s so helpful reading about how you manage being a working mom and interesting to learn how it could work if I could bring my son to the office. I think managing expectations is so important, especially at work. I like the idea of writing down a to do list at the end of the day, now all I need is a really cool diary! I’ve been needing one of these since I returned to work but it has been a massive whirlwind I finally feel like I am ready to start getting organised. Thanks for sharing with #GlobalBlogging!

    1. Oh thank you so much! I hope I have something valuable to add to the conversation, even if no one else is doing the same as me!
      Have you thought about a bullet journal? I only really use mine for the to do list part and I love it!

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