Balancing Work and Parenting: What You Can Do To Make It Lighter
Does finding a balance between your work, parenthood, and personal life seem like an impossible task? Do you feel like you’re drowning in household responsibilities and work deliverables and you just can’t swim your way up? Are you hoping to hit the time-out button but you just can’t? You are not alone. These experiences are our realities today.
The pandemic has altered our usual lifestyles. Its resultant lockdowns have blurred our boundaries between work and home life. Today, the work-from-home culture and online classes for children have become the “new normal.” In addition, technology, which has become a crucial channel for work communication nowadays, has caused work to bleed into our time at home. During these times, things can get quite overwhelming.
Since juggling all our work and parental responsibilities at once is not an easy feat, we constantly try to look for ways to achieve balance. Why is this important?
Work-life harmony and well-being
Work-life balance means we maintain harmony between our professional and personal life, which includes our family and other personal pursuits. This does not necessarily mean allotting equal time for these areas. This is more of how we prioritize the time and energy we spend on these. With a work-life balance, we get to have more mental and emotional energy for work and child-rearing. A good goal, right?
Well-being and work-life balance are clearly connected. Managing work and life better can help improve your physical, mental, and emotional health. In addition, it spurs benefits such as greater motivation, work and parenting satisfaction, a sense of control, reduced stress and possibility of burnout, and increased productivity. Per studies, there is an 85 percent increase in productivity among employees of companies that offer work-life balance programs. These advantages reflect how vital it is to attain a balance between life and work.
Balancing work and parenting two times better
What should we do to make work and parenting stay in tune with each other? Check out these tried-and-tested tips!
1. Define your priorities
You may be pursuing different roles and goals in your life at the same time—may they be work promotion, maintaining your fitness routine, saving for early retirement, nurturing your children, strengthening your marital intimacy, among others. However, it is tough to make the next move if everything around you seems in shambles. This is why it helps to identify your priorities and then allocate specific amounts of time for them. Some helpful ways include considering the Eisenhower Matrix, listing your negotiable and non-negotiable priorities and factoring them in as you make a decision, limiting non-essential activities or distractions, planning your work timetable, and scheduling.
2. Communicate your needs
More and more companies nowadays embrace a flexible work setup. This means they may be more receptive when you negotiate family-friendly work arrangements. You can check your workplace agreement or contract, write a request to your employer to negotiate flex hours, and provide ways on how you can be accountable for work if working offsite or with different hours.
Should you need to excuse yourself from work for family or medical matters, which are valid reasons to file a leave, do not hesitate to inform your employer. You can also try filing a leave under FMLA.
3. Ditch the guilt
You may be presenting a pitch at work and feel guilty about not being able to attend your child’s recognition day. Conversely, you feel guilty about skipping work for a week despite the immense workload because your child fell ill. These are valid emotions. However, it is best to constantly affirm yourself that as a parent and a professional, you are doing the best that you can and you do not mean any trouble.
To ditch the guilt, revamp your thought pattern. Try to be more optimistic and solution-driven. For example, you’ve won the pitch and now you want to make it up to your child. You can try to take an early-out and treat him to a nice meal. Likewise, you can catch up on your pending tasks and support your team once you get back to work. Don’t beat yourself up for making a choice and for the things that are beyond your control.
4. Establish boundaries between work and family
While most companies implement flexible working setups, technology makes it possible for people to remain accessible 24-hours a day. It is tempting to check our emails and open our mobiles beyond working hours whenever a work-related notification pops up. It is best to make it a practice to establish boundaries on your availability. Learn to say “no” to tasks especially outside work hours or on our days off. You can also respond to anything that can wait the next day so your family can have your undivided attention.
5. Connect to your core
Aside from being an employee and a parent, you’re also a full-time human being with personal needs that need to be met. Thus, it is important to set aside time to create a breathing room for yourself where you can stay grounded and connect to your core. These can include getting some creative rest, which means taking an intentional break from solving problems or brainstorming new ideas to allow your mind to unwind and get inspired. This may come in the form of walking, appreciating nature, enjoying some art, among others. You can also keep up a workout routine, practice focus and proper breathing, continue your hobbies, pamper yourself, or spend some quiet time and write a journal. Consider cycle syncing too as it helps boost your productivity.
Making time to rest and engage in recreational activities replenishes your energy and prepares you to face new work and parenting responsibilities head-on. So, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Your well-being also impacts your work and family life.
6. Gear up in the morning
It hits different when you wake up in the morning without feeling rushed. You get to have more time to stretch, strategize, and prepare for another long day. In the same way, making time to plan your family’s weekly meals and your workload management in advance allows you to ease the stress that the coming week can bring about. During weekends, you can shop for grocery supplies and stock up your fridge, plan your dishes, and do some initial meal preparations so when the meal time comes, cooking won’t take much of your time.
7. Don’t always DIY; delegate chores
Don’t try to handle everything at once when you know it is going to make things complicated for you and the people around you. Seek assistance if necessary. This way, you get to optimize things and avoid breaking down.
You can start assigning chores to your children and ask your spouse to help you manage the household. This way, you get to also teach your children basic domestic skills. If your spouse is also working full-time, you can also consider hiring a housemaid if needed.
8. Create transitions into and out of work
Two years ago, many of us used to travel to and from work, giving us time to debrief and prepare for another aspect of our lives. Today, however, the fine line between work and personal time gets blurry, especially since most of us are still working from home. This usually results in focusing on multiple things at a time, feeling overwhelmed, and working beyond office hours instead of resting (or vice versa). As a solution, we need to take a virtual commute by creating transitions. These can be as simple as eating breakfast, listening to music, taking a shower, walking, or taking a pause.
9. Have a support system
Don’t let work and parenting rob you of your social life. It helps to have a safe space where you can share your struggles on parenting and work as well as exchange ideas on how you manage your jam-packed schedule. This safe space can be your circle of friends, workmates, or people from a community.
Make time to have meaningful conversations with friends through a virtual coffee date, by having a meal together, or by traveling. You can also take turns assisting one another’s children and provide other mutual support.
10. Make time for fun
Work is only one aspect of your life. Hence, it should not control your entire life. Make sure that you do not miss out on what’s truly important. Spend some quality time with your loved ones. And what better way to relax with your family than scheduling leisure time together! You can try having dinner together as often as you can, plan a family trip, watch movies together, or teach your children new skills.
Remember that we don’t find time; we make it. And we’ll never be busy with the things that matter to us the most.
We only have one lifetime, and we better make it count by spending our time wisely and focusing our energy on the things that truly matter. Hence, let’s make it a goal to achieve work-life balance by taking a cue from these tips.