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How to Stay Sane as a Working Parent

I have found that staying sane as a working parent means focusing on managing what matters (not “juggling it all”).

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“I was so moved by your presentation. I have to ask though… Do you have ten arms? How could you have possibly written a book, developed an app, created all those videos and run a company WHILE being a mother of young children?” These were questions recently asked of me by another working mother at a convention where my company, Inspiring Diversity, competed as a finalist in an innovation challenge.  She continued, “Work is really ramping up now, my daughter is just turning one, and I feel like things are getting out of control. How do you do it?”  

I smiled in response thinking about my wonderful kids and supportive working husband.  

Managing what matters is certainly challenging and I don’t want to create any illusions that it is easy for any working parent – myself included.  

Luckily for me though, my mother (Po-Ling Ng) has been my primary role model who has shown me what it means to propel your authentic self and others to success while managing what matters for yourself, your family, your community and your organization.  

She is the inspiration for the framework and for my company’s approach to building inclusive, collaborative, and high-performing organizations and communities.

My mother, Po-Ling Ng, was widowed at the age of 32 and was left with four very young children to raise on a social worker’s salary.  Instead of giving up, she persevered for her purpose and vision for her authentic self by obtaining two master’s degrees and devoting her life to the community, helping everyone from young children to senior citizens.  Fast-forward four decades and over a hundred awards later, we cannot even imagine all the lives Po-Ling has changed for the better. In 2014, she was brought back to Beijing, China by the Chinese government and awarded for her impact on overseas Chinese. 

So, what has been my mom’s secret to staying productive, sane, and on an upward trajectory???

In fact, it’s never been a secret.  It’s just taken intentional reflection to succinctly summarize her approach to being a successful working parent.

In 2015, as I prepared my acceptance speech for being honored as a Corporate Trailblazer, I suddenly realized that my mother’s name (Po-Ling) succinctly summarizes key considerations for propelling yourself and others to success:

P: Purpose – persevering for your purpose, priorities, passions, and personal vision for your authentic self

O: Others – helping others to succeed and addressing pain points

L: Lead- driving change and action

I: Inspire – exuding confidence and conviction for what you believe in and inspiring others to follow you to make things happen

N: Network – establishing, building, and leveraging relationships to drive change

G: Grow – embracing adversity, diversity, change, failure and always pushing yourself to be better and re-inventing yourself

I have found that staying sane as a working parent means focusing on managing what matters (not “juggling it all”). I continually reflect on how what I am doing is aligned with my priorities.  For example, my priority with respect to my children is to be a “present” parent, who is there for them when it really matters and who provides them with the “presents” or “gifts” of opportunity, empowerment, and inspiration.  

Just like my mom, I am mindful about creating opportunities to role model for my own children what it means to persevere for my purpose/personal vision and demonstrate how we can stay sane while propelling our authentic selves and others to success! (More on my mother and the PO-LING POWER framework can be found here.)

I concentrate on those high-impact worthwhile activities that give me energy as well as help me and others to grow. For example, I have actively supported my children to transform into reality their brilliant idea to write animal stories based on the principles in my business book. Now, they are proud young authors of two books, including the recently published best-selling children’s book “Meet the Persevering Penguins and Pals”.

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