Good job, Parents! September 16th is Working Parents Day, created to recognize and appreciate the efforts of all those who are juggling many responsibilities every day. Since as parents, you never really get a day off, it’s a nice excuse to pat yourself on the back for doing everything you can to maintain a healthier balance between work and family. We know it’s not always easy, so here are some tips focusing on areas where you can make helpful changes.
First, Put Work/Life Balance on Your To Do List: Sounds obvious, right? But if you don't pay attention, you can easily get overwhelmed by everything going on in your life. You love your family AND want to do the best job possible for your employer (or yourself, if you're the boss). But some days it can be a challenge to do right by both. Whether you work full or part-time, go into work or work from home, there are big and small things you can do to create more harmony. And your efforts will pay off, resulting in less burnout, less stress, and more energy, more productivity, and more rewarding connections with your spouse and kids.
FOCUS ON FAMILY
Family always comes first. This is who you are working so hard for. And it’s only natural that your work and home worlds will often merge into one. With back-to-school this year looking more back-to-normal with mask mandates being lifted and children getting vaccines, a lot of pandemic-related parental stress should dissipate. The overload of kids being schooled at home, non-stop Zooms, and more family togetherness than anyone was used to, can make way for new habits, fresher perspectives, and more satisfaction.
Communication is key: Every family member wants to be recognized and heard. Even the pets! Sometimes this will mean explaining what your job is all about and why it can take you away from the family due to daily responsibilities, workloads, travel, etc. Keeping everyone in-the-know allows family members to support and understand each other better. Take the time to listen, answer questions, and dispel any worries.
Set up a week-at-a-glance calendar: Hang it up where the whole family can see and contribute. The goal is to feel more in control, better organized, and ready for each and every day.
- List everyone's activities for that week (school functions, parent/teacher meetings, sports games/practices, extracurricular events, doctor’s appointments, carpool needs).
- Refresh every Sunday so everyone can start the week on the same page.
- Assess gaps and get extra help. Ask friends or family to help with babysitting, carpools, playtime, overnights - and return the favor when you can.
- Create a family group text so you can get in touch with each other quickly, especially in emergencies.
- Download a calendar/organize app for everyone to use to further coordinate schedules and make real-time updates.
Find extra time: Anything you can do to clear your plate means more enjoyable time with your kids. In the mornings, get up a little earlier to walk the dog, exercise, pay bills, do laundry, get a jump on office work. The night before, pick out clothes for the kids (and the adults!), set the breakfast table, make lunches. Use your lunch hour or commute time to get more done so you can be more present when you get home: return calls, food shop, drop off dry cleaning, etc.
Turn off tech: It’s hard to disengage from laptops and phones when we’re attached to them all day checking emails, posting on social media, sending texts, and uploading photos. But you need a break so you can be more available to family. Try these tricks:
- Let kids know you’re done with work by shutting your home office door and turning off your computer, or changing your clothes when you arrive home.
- Set rules
- No phones at the table during meals
- Turn off alerts and the ringer.
- Keep in mind: every time you answer/check your phone when you are playing or interacting with your kids, they see that you’re not focused on them - and feelings can get hurt.
- Have a “bedtime” for phones (everyone will sleep better, too.)
- No phones at the table during meals
Find extra time: Impossible? Not really. There are ways to free up some hours:
- Homework never gets done? Set a clock and have kids work within that time frame.
- Hate chores? Split the list with your spouse and older kids. Hire services to take care of house cleaning, the lawn, the garden, walking the dog, etc.
- Too tired to cook? Order takeout, defrost a frozen meal, have breakfast for dinner, go on a picnic. Make it fun and make it easy.
- Can’t get to the store? Order online, arrange for curbside pickup, use delivery services.
- Everybody too busy? Make a set date for family night so you can all look forward to it - and never break it!
FOCUS ON WORK
The last few years have changed the workplace. Being in the office 9 to 5 is no longer expected, with remote and hybrid work the norm. Companies are offering up options to better meet the needs of their staff, giving parents much more flexibility when it comes to how they run their day. Already professional multi-taskers adept at switching gears in a heartbeat, parents still need to set boundaries so they don’t get worn down. Overdoing it can leave you frustrated, angry, distracted, and less happy. How you can make work time work for you:
- Ask for a more flexible work schedule - part-time, 4-day week, job sharing, shift hours.
- Have a set schedule, whether at home or in the office.
- Be clear with your manager and team about the hours you’re available so they understand when you have to leave for family responsibilities.
- End the work day. Turn your attention back to your family and be 100% “there” for dinner, playtime, bedtime rituals, and some one-on-one with your partner.
- Turn off alerts on your phone and don’t check emails/texts or return work calls at night.
- Leave bad days and bad moods at the office so you can more fully enjoy family time.
FOCUS ON YOU
That alarm goes off and you never stop, right? With kids, so many things can easily go by the wayside: sleep, “you” time, diets, fitness, friendships. But just as important as making your spouse, your kids, and your job main priorities, so is putting yourself first. Because if you’re functioning at half-mast, everybody suffers. Even just a small break or self-care activity can ease your day and your stress level, and improve your physical and mental well-being:
- Meditate - Settle your mind
- Yoga - Relax and strengthen your body
- Walk - Get fresh air and a fresh perspective
- Keep a journal - Putting thoughts on paper can lighten your mental load
- Connect - Check in on a friend or family member or plan a get together
- Listen to a podcast - Get inspired
- Watch a Tik Tok video - A good laugh can turn around your mood
- Listen to music - Recharge your spirit
- Take a hot bath - And lock the door!
Don’t Forget Your Health - It’s so easy to overlook in the whirl of everyday activities. Try to keep good, healthy habits top of mind.
- Eat right
- Exercise often, if not daily
- Get 8 hours of sleep
- Drink plenty of water
- Schedule and go to doctor appointments
At the end of another busy day, achieving a healthy balance means you’ve given both your family and the office the best that you can. But even with the best of intentions... things can go wrong, emergencies pop-up, plans get derailed, and going with the flow becomes all important. Just take a deep breath and focus on everything that you do get right - and keep it up.
In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“Finish each day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.
Tomorrow is a new day.”
Meg Schutte is a Bank of Hope Blog contributor.
The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Bank of Hope.