Fast Company | Reva Seth

Here’s How “Metric Parenting” Can Help Relieve Working-Parent Guilt

We track our fitness goals, nutritional intake, and spending, but few of us track our parenting activities in quite the same way.

“I am not going to be a good minister unless I’m happy at home and my family’s happy and there’s some balance,” she said.


There are several important lessons about work-life balance in McKenna’s decision, but one of them involves what I’ve called “metric parenting”—a way of using the same tactics to meet goals and deadlines at work in order to get more of what you want in your family life. Doing that well can help alleviate some of the guilt that can come with being a busy working parent.

While interviewing more than 500 parents for my second book (full disclosure: Catherine McKenna was one of those parents), I noticed many were doing something peculiar: Without always realizing it, the working parents I spoke to were deliberately setting goals like “being more present” or “cultivating my child’s curiosity” and turning them into tangible objectives they could work toward achieving. They regularly scheduled time to review their progress, and many of the parents with two or more children even had some way or another of tracking their engagement with each child.

What’s more, I found that over the five years I followed my interview group, the subset of “metric parenters” (as I’d come to think of them) seemed to report feeling happier with the ways they were balancing their families with their work. Interestingly, almost all were doing this unconsciously: They were simply taking what they knew to work in their professional lives and applying it in their personal lives.

It may sound like overkill, but if you’re already a successful professional, why not take the skills you’ve developed at work and put them to good use at home, too? Here’s are a few tips to help you apply the principles of metric parenting in your own life.


Just as you’d define what success looks like on the business, financial, or professional fronts, articulate what “being a good parent” means or looks like to you—at this point in your life and in your child’s, knowing that might shift over time.

Even easier, start with your parenting pain points: Maybe you feel like you’re on your phone too much during family time, or you wish you were more available for class trips. Whatever it is, get clear on what you’d like to change, or what you’d like to have more of.

Then actually write these goals down. If it isn’t documented somewhere, you’re less likely to follow through. And if you have more than one child, it can be helpful to segment out your targets by each child.


According to recent Pew research, many working parents feel they aren’t doing well enough when it comes to their families.

Metric parenting can be a good antidote. Once you’ve established your parenting goals, brainstorm three to four tactics or actions you could take toward each one. What would make you feel like you’re accomplishing those goals? Then schedule them in. McKenna, for instance, is scheduling four evenings at home with no online access for two hours.

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