Balancing Work and Parenting: Tips for Working Parents
So you have an important client meeting to attend this morning but it’s also time for your child’s PTM? Are you spending sleepless nights worrying about that upcoming offsite as that would mean not being able to tuck your child in bed? Let us face it, balancing work & parenting is a tight ropewalk. If you find yourself ridden with guilt all the time and if you are considering giving up your well-paying job, one that you also enjoy, it’s time to take a step back and BREATHE. Read on for some handy tips for working parents.
More so for women, the question of whether can they indeed have it all keeps raising its ugly head every now & then. The implication clearly seems to be that in wanting both aspects, they are asking for too much. But why must this really be the case? In fact, the question itself is distracting, one that forces you to make an either-or choice. Tough as it may be, the fact is that with some effort & planning, you can achieve that elusive work-life balance. Here are some tips for working parents
1. Let Go of the Guilt
First things first, LET GO of that working parents’ guilt! While you may still be beating yourself up for the fact that you couldn’t make it to your child’s performance when the child was in first grade, on account of a work commitment, the fact is that the child doesn’t as much recall the episode. In fact, each time the working parent’s guilt raises its ugly head, remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing all this in the first place. Timely reminders about how you are doing it for the well-being of the family, will go a long way in preventing you from taking rash decisions- be it over pampering the child with gifts or worse still giving up on your job. Research shows that children with working parents grow up to be more independent. Now that is an important life skill that you are passing on to your child!
Needless to say that when you aren’t guilt-ridden you will do a far better job on all fronts.
2. Refrain from being a super (wo)man
It is true that we spend a lifetime trying to be perfect at everything that we do. The fact however is this is an aspect that we need to unlearn. Now that doesn’t mean that you need to do a poor job at parenting or at your work. What you need to do instead is to allow yourself to be human. If you do not set yourself unrealistic goals, you will also not face the brunt of living under its heavy load all the time. What it will offer you is the freedom to do your best. Among other things, it will involve learning that there will be some good days & some not-so-good ones. What you also need to reconcile is that the perfect work-life balance will not be achieved every single day. So on every working day, you will not have the opportunity to do everything that your heart desires. However, if you are able to take your child for an outing on the weekend, that is good enough. Essentially if over a period of time you find that balance, or better still if there is a healthy work-life integration over a reasonable period of time, that is good enough.
3. Ask for help
If there is one piece of advice that you need to follow when it comes to achieving some sort of a balance between work & life, it has to be this. Simple as it may sound, the fact is that we aren’t great at asking for help. How many times have we heard the statement that it takes a village to raise a child? Yet the village may not always know that you are in need of help. Also asking for help will not make you a lesser parent. Seek the help of your support system or a good daycare where you know the child will be in great hands. That will relieve you of a lot of mental burdens, allowing you to discharge all your responsibilities without the accompanying overwhelm. Ensure also that the responsibilities are split with your partner so that one person does not always feel underwater.
Similarly, if you are a working parents and asking for help at work will not make you less of a worker.
4. Set up a planner
Now for some pinpointed practical tips. Just as a work calendar keeps you updated at work, make use of a planner/calendar to mark important dates. These could be a PTM, doctor’s appointment, birthday party, school performance & more. With these dates handy, you will be in a better position to avoid scheduling overlaps as far as possible. Also, that way you will feel more in command & will be less likely to miss any important dates. Use a Google calendar & sync it on your smartphone. That way between you & your partner you will find a way to remain on top of scheduling challenges. The calendar will work particularly well if you are discharging parental duties single-handedly.
5. Stay Connected
One of the peeves of working parents is that they do not get to spend enough time with their children. This is a challenge you need to live up to creatively. Think about small steps such as using your lunch break to make that video call with the child. Having just come back from school the child may be happy to share the day’s happenings with you, and also feel connected to you. It goes without saying that hearing the child’s chirpy voice in the middle of the workday will also give you a much-needed boost!
6. Quality time
Enough has been said about this aspect & yet how many of us are able to implement it? Let us face it in today’s day & age we are addicted to multitasking. So you may be listening to how your child’s day went while trying to reply to an email. The net result – you have a disgruntled child and the mail didn’t turn out as effective as you would like it to be. Add to it the fact that you reel under the pressure of trying to do everything but feel that you are not being good at any, and you realize the magnitude of the problem. Instead, it will work much better if you relegate specific times for specific activities. It will work well, for example, if you switched off work notifications for the hour or two you get in the evenings with the children. If need be, you could reply to that email once you have tucked the children into bed. That way both aspects will have your undivided attention & you will face less overwhelmed.
There can be no better way to keep overwhelmed at bay than to organize yourself. Taking half an hour, the night before, for example, to do small tasks that could play havoc with you in the morning when you are running out of time can go a long way. Also, look at the to-do list for the next day and delegate responsibilities. No marks for guessing that with a smooth morning, the rest of your day will go far better too.
8. Involve Your Partner
Unless you are managing parenting duties by yourself, involve your partner. Split the chores, as far as possible find a way to map your travel schedules, and more. That way you will have that much more physical & mental space to carry out your responsibilities.
9. Speak to your boss
If your schedule is extremely hectic, you will also benefit from speaking to your boss & working out a viable solution. Now more than ever organizations are opening themselves up to ideas that employees need flexibility and that remote work etc are possibilities that do not play havoc with productivity. With options such as flexible hours, remote working & more, you should be able to find the perfect work-life balance that works for you.
10. Me Time
Now this may seem like counterintuitive advice, given the fact that you have a hectic job & time is in short supply. On the contrary! Taking that little time out for self-care will ensure that you do not feel burnt out & can therefore run the marathon that is child-raising. Self-care, in fact, is an important aspect of balancing work & parenting. Think of it like this- you are absolutely drained at work & rush back home in the evening as you need to be with the child, plagued as you are with guilt from having spent many hours away. Only, when you get back home you find yourself shouting at the child for some minor indiscretion. This results in the child crying for an hour while you nurse the guilt of being an inadequate parent. Now contrast this with a scenario where after a long, depleting day at the office, you call the child’s daycare to say that you will be half an hour late. You use that half hour to grab a coffee and uplift your energy and spirits. With this newfound balance, you now head to meet the child. No marks for guessing that the evening goes by much better than if you brought your frustration home. Above everything remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup, so looking after yourself is paramount. It is only when you are feeling well within, you can be a good mother, a good wife, a good employee, or any of the other myriad roles that you play.
To Sum Up
While these may seem like seemingly small tips in the face of the huge overwhelm that you may be feeling when it comes to managing work & home when you are working parents, the fact is that small steps can go a long way in bringing a sense of order to your life. Needless to say that enthused with the fact that you are doing a good job, you can go even further in bringing a sense of purpose and energy to your life & give all aspects of life, your best! Now that is one of the biggest benefits of work-life balance.