After twenty-five years of full-time motherhood, sprinkled with a variety of part-time, work-from-home jobs, I chose a pandemic year to go back to teaching full time. Impeccable timing, I know. Especially since I still have a teenager—one that spent part of his 2020-2021 school year at home remote learning while I was in the classroom each day. Thankfully, my back-to-work timing coincided with my husband’s switch to remote work per pandemic protocols. So at least one parent was present for supervision and connection during the day.
Even though my son is out of the house as much as he’s home now that pandemic restrictions have lightened, the mom guilt is real. And I don’t think I’m alone. Statistics show that two-income households have increased from 31% in 1970 to 46% today. So, I’m guessing other moms are feeling the same pull as they get back to full-time work—in or out of the home.
The whole situation has led to a deluge of questions. How do you balance work/life with kids? Why is it important to balance work and family? (I think I know the answer to that one. Consequently, mom guilt.) And the most pressing—Is it possible to balance work and family? I’ve spent a great deal of time exploring these questions.
Here’s what I’ve discovered.
How do you encourage work/life balance?
When trying to find an acceptable work/life balance, we should begin with an assessment of our current circumstances. According to the Harvard Business Review, we should consider five important steps when trying to strike a good work/life balance.
1. Pause and find an acceptable normal. This beginning step means taking a step back to see where you are and decide where you want to be. You might need to address questions like “How will you care for your children while you are working?” Or “Is work my highest priority at this stage of life?” If your current normal is work, work, work, decide if that’s the balance that best suits you. If it’s not, be willing to find a different normal that meets your current needs.
2. Check how you feel. Once you assess your current normal, recognize where you stand emotionally. According to HBR, “Awareness of your emotional state is essential in order to determine the changes you want to make in your work and in your life.” People can experience work burnout if they aren’t attuned to their emotional well-being. Learn more about what burnout looks like and how to handle it here.
3. Adjust your priorities. When you determine where you are and how you feel, align your priorities accordingly. Shift your habits and work schedules to reflect your priorities, especially when it comes to spending time with your kids.
4. Look at all the options. Once you’ve decided what you need, explore all the options to make the balance doable. You might explore work-from-home options, flexible hours, shifts in responsibility at work, or even how much you want and can afford. This step may take some creativity. But with some thought, you can find the right balance.
5. Make the change. This step may include public changes, including decisions that, according to HBR, “explicitly shifts your colleagues’ expectations, such as taking on a new role that’s designed to be less time-demanding or allows for a compressed-week model.” It could also include private changes such as implementing self-imposed “boundaries (such as choosing not to work on evenings, weekends or during holidays…), or turning down demands typically associated with your role (such as new projects or travel requests, even when you feel pressure to take them on).”
Ideally, you have the option of implementing these steps and finding the right balance that works for you and your family. But even if these wholesale changes aren’t currently feasible for you, here are some tips to better manage your work and kids right now.
How do you balance work/life and kids?
All Pro Dad offers 10 Ways to Balance Work and Family Life. Check out these great tips for finding and making time for your kids while getting your job done.
1. Calendar Your Kids. Put them in your schedule—officially—and keep your commitments. Help them know they are as important (if not more) than the work you have to do.
2. Give equal passion at home. Put as much passion into family time as you put into work time. They are worth the effort.
3. Focus on your core values. When you keep your core values in mind, you find a better balance. This essential tip keeps you from getting caught up in things that don’t matter long term.
4. Lighten up. There’s a time for serious work, and there’s a time for fun. So, make play an important part of your relationship with your kids. Let them see the lighter side of you. Not only will it strengthen your relationship with them, but it will also feel good to relax.
5. Build a team at work. You don’t have to do everything on your own. Be willing to delegate and ask others for help professionally. This simple solution will open up physical and mental space for your kids.
6. Get a tune-up. In other words, evaluate how you spend your time and eliminate time wasters. This will give you more time with the people you love while still giving effort to your job.
7. Hire a babysitter. As much as you love your kids—and you do—get a good childcare provider. This simple step eases your worry during your work hours and allows you to regularly strengthen your relationship with your spouse or significant other. Then you can enjoy the time with your kids even more.
8. Find an outlet. You also need time to recharge. When your own cup is full, you are more capable of filling the cups of those you love.
9. Be flexible. There’s no such thing as a static work/life balance. Part of balancing work/life and kids effectively means being able to adjust to situations daily, if not hourly. Sometimes work may require extra hours. Conversely, sometimes family may take precedence. When you’re willing to adjust accordingly, you will feel more at peace with your work/life balance.
10. Live a purpose-driven life. Figure out your core values and let those values inform your work/life balance. If you know who you are, it’s easier to determine how and where to spend your time.
Additionally, consider these tips by lifehack.org. Make balance a priority, talk to your family about the best work/life balance for you, establish boundaries between work and family (especially if work is happening remotely), and accept that sometimes imbalances will occur. Find more tips for your well being here.
If you’re looking for more insights about finding the right work/life balance, check out these TED talks.
· How to Make Work-Life Balance Work
· How to Gain Control of Your Free Time
· 3 Rules for Better Work-Life Balance
Finding Peace with Work and Kids
I know spending time with my family is important. I want to have the greatest influence in my children’s lives. I want to teach them important values and help them grow into capable, highly functioning adults. But I can’t do that if I’m not giving them the time and attention they need and deserve. And that goal won’t be accomplished if my own life is out of balance.
For me, knowledge really is power. If I can address these work/life balance questions armed with information and effective tools, I’m more likely to find solutions that assuage my mom guilt and get the job—both of parent and employee—done.When we know how to approach this tricky balance, we can meet the needs of our kids while still fulfilling our responsibilities at work. And that’s the best balance of all. For more details about why balance is so important in life, check out these insights at Troomi.