Being a working mom means having two jobs, your day job, and your “after hours” job of managing your family. Whilst it’s easy to say, it’s hard to balance work and family life. You’re constantly juggling business meetings, project deliverables and deadlines with housework, doctor’s appointments, school meetings and helping with homework. There is always an endless list of “to do” items.
My family has always been my priority, and I’ve tried to avoid hiring babysitters or leaving my son at day-care longer than needed. That meant asking my boss for a “continuous working day” so I could pick my son up from school, and be with him in the evening. Asking for this special working condition didn’t make me very popular. Plus, it resulted in me having more work than my co-workers, and having to do it in less time whilst earning less money.
So there I was, working like crazy from 8.00am to 4.30pm, rushing to pick-up my son from school, help with homework, doing the laundry and cook dinner. That was a normal day. Imagine what it was like when there was an unplanned situation or special event, for example, when my son was sick.
I had to ask friends or family for favours to look after him. If he was sick during the night I had to find a babysitter very early in the morning, probably waking her up, driving my son to her home, then rushing to work through peak hour traffic to arrive at work trying to look fresh and motivated.
By the time I got home at night I was exhausted. And that’s why I started my “second job”, managing my family.
I’m not the only one who feels like this. It’s a common feeling among working moms. Fortunately there are some simple strategies to help you manage your time, and keep your household running smoothly.
Here are 7 ways to balance work and family life:
1. Develop a schedule, and stick to it
Be clear on what hours you will work, and what hours are for yourself, and your family. Develop a weekly schedule around this, and stick to it. Use a time management planner to prioritise your tasks, and plan your day. Planning, preparation and organisation go a long way to balance work and family life.
2. Be realistic
Your work and personal life are very much intertwined. If you’re arguing with your spouse, chances are you’re not going to concentrate well at the office. Similarly, being stressed from work means you won’t enjoy your family time. Some days are going to feel a little unbalanced, and that’s OK. Be realistic, and stop thinking every day (or week) is going to be perfect.
3. Schedule breaks into your daily routine
It's good practice to schedule time for other activities besides work so your day is more balanced, enjoyable and fulfilling. Prioritise time for healthy habits such as eating nutritious food, exercising, self-love, meditation and other forms of quiet time. For example, book yourself in for gym class during your lunch hour. It will also make you more productive!
4. Time-out in the evenings
Do something basic with your partner and/or family in the evening. It doesn't have to be a special event, or take long, just something where you are together. Such as watering the garden or taking care of the lawn, going for a drive or walk together. As long as you are present with them, relaxed and listening, they'll feel they're getting the attention they need and want.
If you have children, enjoy the bedtime routine (including bath time and bedtime stories). These moments let them know you care for them, and you’re available for them.
Use the rest of the evening to catch-up on the day with your spouse or partner. Consider this like a debriefing session; ask questions about one another's day and offer advice or guidance, or simply listen. The day-to-day detail is equally as important as the grand gestures to sustain a healthy, mutually beneficial and romantic relationship.
5. Eliminate time-wasting activities
We waste a lot of time in our daily lives thanks to television, the Internet, social media, video games, etc. Try removing any distractions that don't enhance your life. Set time limits for activities like web-surfing, watching TV, social media and playing video games. Be selective on what you will do, and for how long.
For example, if you have a favourite TV show that airs on Thursday nights for an hour, schedule time to watch it, but do other things before, rather than watch more TV as you wait.
Consider TV-watching an activity that is time-bound, rather than a way to pass the time. When in doubt, ask yourself “what matters most in my life?”. Reflecting on your core values is a good way to eliminate time-wasting activities, and focusing on things that matter.
6. Include your children in your work
Children should know they are a priority in your life but it is also helpful if they know your work is important too.
Talk to your children about what you do at work, and take them with you to see where you work. Children are likely to be more responsive to your work demands when you share that part of your life with them.
7. Be there for the moments that matter
There will be special moments in your children’s lives that may happen before 5.00pm when you’re still at work, like a football game, a school concert or speech. Most managers, employers and clients have families too and understand these family situations.
Talk to your boss, explain your need to be there. Plan how they can deal with your absence, or complete the task another way or at another time. Perhaps you can work-share with a colleague for those important family occurrences.
Do you have any other tips for how to balance work and family life? Comment below.