Work-life balance tips for parents

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It’s the ultimate dream for many of us. But is a better work-life balance achievable or realistic as a working parent?

“I don’t know how you do it!” … It’s my Nana’s favourite thing to say to me. But the inference I always get from the statement is, “I don’t know why you do it.” She came from the generation of women who stayed home, who were always fully available for their husbands and children, and who probably think the phrase ‘better work-life balance’, sounds ridiculously self-indulgent.

But as we all know; the demands on modern women are completely different to the ones on our grandmothers. We are usually equally liable for mortgages, utility bills, car payments and childcare costs. And that’s before we take into account having any kind of social lives, holidays or… you know; fun.

Sometimes it feels like our work-life balance is completely out of kilter, or totally non-existent. The fact that we became parents doesn’t mean that we’ve abandoned all ambition does it? So how can we continue to strive for success or more importantly, satisfaction, in our careers whilst not feeling like we’re perpetually letting our kids down? Psychotherapist Amy Morin tells us that the secret is to get good at letting things go. And when she says things, she means big things. Things like guilt, our own high expectations, our pride.

The pandemic has offered us all a chance to re-evaluate our lives and see how they operate within the context of our families, our communities and wider society. The restrictions on our freedom have encouraged lots of us to really examine what kind of work-life balance is needed to make us truly happy. It’s why we’ve seen record numbers of city dwellers, famed for working crazy hours at the office, upping sticks and moving out to the suburbs and the countryside.

But maybe we don’t need to do anything this drastic. There are some simple tweaks we could make to achieve a better work-life balance, and possibly save our sanity in the process.

  • Look at where you can cut yourself some slack. Rather than taking on everything yourself around a hectic work schedule and your kids after-school commitments, look at ways you can outsource tasks. If you can afford it, you’ll never regret spending money on a cleaner! You could also look into local laundry or ironing services and just use them on an ad-hoc basis, when life gets too busy. It’s worth looking into meal delivery services like Hello Fresh. They save so much time on meal-planning and prepping, as well as vastly reducing your food waste. Win win!
  • Don’t make lists; make priorities. I say this as the world’s most prolific procrastinator. Having spent years making lists and having the least attractive jobs remain on there for days/weeks/indefinitely; I now only make lists of priorities. Until the top job on the list is done, I can’t move onto the next. Tackling the most annoying jobs first makes more efficient use of your time.
  • Turn emails and notifications off your phone at night. It’s not feasible to head off to work and block all phone calls from your kids school or childcare provider. However it’s totally reasonable to agree a cut-off time with work phone calls and emails. Set your boundaries and stick to them, that way you can be fully present with your kids when you get home from work.
  • It’s all about the prep. Set yourself up to succeed by doing as much of the prep for your work day the night before. When the kids are in bed, rather than switching the laptop back on, try first to sort out all the practicalities for the next day. Packed lunches, PE kits, all the things that send the stress levels sky high if we try to attempt them amidst the breakfast chaos! If you’re reading this thinking you’re way too exhausted to sort packed lunches at 9pm then how about setting the alarm for half an hour early on work mornings? Go with what works best for your body clock.
  • Stay off social media until the kids are in bed. It’s tempting to say we are super short on time, whilst still losing hours each week mindlessly scrolling through social media. You’ll feel less guilt about being away from your kids while you’re at work if you’re truly engaging with them while you’re at home. We all love a bit of Instagram scrolling or Twitter trawling, but set yourself limits on when you’ll do it and for how long.
  • Instead of focusing on the negative implications you think your job has on your kids, think about the positives. You’re setting a great example being a working parent! You’re doing your best to provide for them, not just financially but emotionally. Remember some of the great experiences you’ve been able to afford to have together because you work hard. Drop the guilt and give yourself a pat on the back for all the effort you put into both your work and your home life.
  • Talk to your partner, could they be sharing the load better? Nothing breeds resentment like a working parent feeling they are carrying all the load at home while their partner kicks back and relaxes. Talk to your partner about the division of household tasks and see if there are ways you can make each others lives easier.
  • Look at the ethics of your employer. Do they support a good work-life balance or are their policies detrimental to achieving that? Just as you have with your partner, communicate with your employer too. Try to look at ways you could work more flexibly if that’s possible.

*Enjoyed this? Then you might enjoy this post on how to feel instantly happier!

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