As you can see, I’m back from maternity leave and resuming my role as Editor of Benefits Canada—and I have a beautiful one-year-old daughter to show for it. I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to spend the first year of my baby’s life with her. Many people don’t have that choice: in the U.S., for instance, there is no nationally mandated paid maternity leave.

Those of you with children know what it’s like to become a parent for the first time: the mind-numbing sleep deprivation, the constant demands of a newborn and, most of all, the stress of adapting to a life that’s so different from the one you knew before. Now imagine dealing with all of that and having to function at work the next day.

Balancing job responsibilities with the daily routines of childcare, mealtimes and bedtimes can be a source of anxiety for your employees. A 1999 study by Professor Jiri Zuzanek of the University of Waterloo in Ontario found that women who are both working and raising families report higher levels of stress. In Canada, more than 84% of employed women ages 25 to 44 with at least one child under the age of five at home said they feel more rushed than they did five years ago. More than 62% of fathers in that age bracket and parental situation said the same.

It’s no wonder that working parents often struggle for work/life balance. So how can employers help? From employee assistance programs to childcare subsidies and on-site daycares, there are many different ways to support working parents.

For example, you might allow employees to take paid time off for their children’s medical appointments and sick days. You might allow them to reschedule their work hours to accommodate childcare arrangements or to work from home, either occasionally or on a regular basis. At the manager level, just checking in with a new parent to see how he or she is coping shows that you understand the challenges of learning to balance the competing demands of work and family. The solutions you choose will depend on your company’s policies and corporate culture, but there’s always something you can do.

Parenthood is an amazing experience, but it’s also a lot of work. And when your day job conflicts with your day/night/all-the-time job, a little support—and flexibility—from an employer goes a long way.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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