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A Parent's Predicament: Does Winning at Work Mean Losing at Home?

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New parents are often thrilled and excited during the first weeks of parenthood, but once the maternity and paternity leave runs out, there can be some disconcerting decisions -- especially when it comes to going back to work. With American mores changing, both mothers and fathers now have to deal with the challenges of work/life balance.

But does having a child mean that a parent needs to pass on a promotion -- or give up time with a child in order to advance his or her career?

Recently, a new dad asked this very question in a GovLoop forum.

Parents and non-parents alike responded with ideas about how a parent can keep up in today's busy working world.

"The 'mommy track' vs the 'career track' isn't a debate that's only open to one gender any longer," said Deb Green, a Program Manager in one federal agency. "In my opinion, it never should have been. When I went on maternity leave, I took my time coming back. It gave folks an opportunity to demonstrate they could do a higher order job without me. And that was important professional development."

Amy Ngo, who works at the USDA, said it all comes down to quality over quantity, "From someone who loves working and loves being a parent, it's not the amount of time you spend with your children, it's the quality of the time you spend. When you're at work, give 100% and when you're with family, give 100%... It can be done. Use the workplace flexibilities such as alternative work schedules and telework to get you the desired balance you need. Work is not a place you go, it's what you do. Let your great work show. Try not to worry about the amount of hours 'in the office'."

Others agreed that today's technology goes a long way when it comes to making it possible to have a healthy work/life balance.

"I changed to a 9/80 schedule this year, have every other Monday off, ensuring I spend some quality time with the kids. I love it. I do have the BlackBerry handy and answer a few emails throughout the day but it makes me feel more involved as a parent," said Michael Stevens, an employee at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and president of the Los Angeles chapter of Young Government Leaders. "My advice is you only have one shot to get the parenting thing right. You are influencing your kids NOW in regards to success in life in the future. Work with your agency and find the right mix of work/life balance. It's a big topic in government and agencies should have an open ear to anything you propose."

In the end, parents have to decide what works for them and their families and remember: There is no one-size-fits-all solution.