Phew. I’m tired.
Let me set the scene: You get up, put on your make up and do your hair. You get your kids up, moving, dressed, and fed. Kiss the spouse goodbye. He takes a kid, you take a kid. After dispersing to the appropriate childcare/school and having faced a tantrum or two, you make your way to work. There, you tackle staff training, reports, supervision, treatment plan tweaks, talk to parents and problem solve, all while writing your clinic notes for the day. In that one sentence, your mental and physical exhaustion meter has been met.
But you’re not done yet. You have to go pick up your kids, spend quality time with your children and spouse. Make sure you get some exercise and/or some other way to get some self-care built in. Then eat and sleep at some point.
This is a life of a BCBA parent.
We are in a field that is so adaptable in various aspects of life. So here’s the million dollar question: How do we balance parenthood with work given the power and technology of our science?
The short answer? You kind of don’t.
Here’s the long answer:
The funny thing about life and our environment is that it is constantly changing and we are constantly adapting. There is no course sequence in graduate school on how to work and parent in our field. There is no JABA article on how to keep it all together when your client tantrums all day, then your toddler does the same thing at home that evening. Parenthood magazine doesn’t have a section for clinicians. We are experts in associating everything we do as clinicians to evidence-based intervention and research. This isn’t a bad thing. But it is a source of frustration when a functional analysis is pointless with your 2-month old infant’s crying behavior.
At some point, you have to come to grips with the fact that your children and your family dynamic is its own single-subject design.
Here are 5 things we’ve learned that have contributed to some semblance of balance with work and parenting:
Schedules, routines, planning: This is a must. If you weren’t organized before kids, you will be now – unless you like chaos. Whether it’s planning your day, planning who is picking up/dropping off, work schedule, you have to have to time scheduled. We do too many things in one day to try to do it all well.
Family Time: We set aside time to conduct assessments and complete supervision, so why not do the same with our family and spouses? Set aside specific days/times/activities that you only spend with family. Sitting with the family and watching a movie while you check your email doesn’t count.
Self-care: You are only as good as you feel. Yup, the cliché is true. Whether it’s exercise or some other “me” time, commit to it. We focus on everyone else, but we can’t run from an empty engine.
Efficiency and boundaries at work: If you have an 8-hour work day, set 3 realistic goals and achieve them, the rest can wait for the next day. We have to work smarter, not harder so that we aren’t constantly bringing work home. Set boundaries/non-negotiables at work, such as always leaving at a certain time or not checking emails after 8:00 pm.
Science and sanity: Escape extinction works like a charm. I know it. You know it. But if your 4- year old keeps crawling into your bed at 3 am and you don’t have the energy to implement escape extinction, it is OK. There are no Skinner police that are going to come running into your house giving you a ticket for not following behavioral principles every single day. Just like with the parents we support, we have to consider if what we are expecting ourselves to do is actually realistic.
This list could go on! This is why we created called The Behavior Momma Community. It started as an adult tantrum in my car on my way to pick up the kids. Between sobs, I said to myself, “I can’t be the only one struggling with this”. Over the years, as our community grew, I learned that I’m not! We love The Balanced Behavior Analyst community and hope to be a supporting member to help those of you that are parents and clinicians!