Working parents know that the juggle between work and family is more often than not a struggle, it’s a total nightmare. I’m not convinced it has to be this way.
Our wellbeing is suffering because we have to be and do so many things that we never had to before the pandemic.
For women who are working and caring for children it isn’t as clear cut as it used to be.
There is no definition. Are we living at work or working from home?
If you have older kids then they’ll probably feel the same about homeschooling too.
But the global crisis we are experiencing now is a bizarre opportunity to change cultural expectations and attitudes that permeates workplaces, communities and families that women and men can (and do) work and care for their children equally.
It eases the rigidity of outdated stereotypes about mothers and fathers and men and women. It chips away, very effectively, at the narrow notion that men work and women care.
‘And, just like that, on one ever asked a stay at home mum what she does all day ever again.’
How is your own work-life balance right now?
My answer? A constant work in progress.
It isn’t static because neither work, or my kids, are. Whether I’m struggling or juggling changes daily, sometimes hourly. And while I’m loath to pretend I have achieved the elusive nirvana of total work-life balance, when I take a step back, for the most part I am able to work and parent without my mental health being compromised. (Mostly, sometimes.)
Here’s what I’ve found helpful…
Flexibility. This is the absolute game changer. Of course there are certain tasks and projects in which total flexibility isn’t always possible because of client deadlines but being flexible and adapting to what each day throws at me is something I have to be open to.
Planning & preparation. Whether it’s getting clothes out for the next day, writing a focused and realistic to do list, homeschool prepping the night before or putting the slow cooker on in the morning for dinner is really worth doing. I find meal planning for the week a lifesaver and if you have the next thing in place then you’ll find the day much more manageable.
Structure & routine. This can feel a bit boring and inconvenient in the short term but by setting a regular waking up time, relatively consistent meal times, and decent bed times with a good hour or so of calm time beforehand. Fresh air and daylight, particularly in the morning, is great for the body clock. Also sticking to some kind of plan during the day so everyone knows what they’re suppose to be doing is really helpful – even if it’s ‘free play time’ or ‘work time’. Be as broad or as specific as you like.
Part-time work. I find working traditional office hours and trying to be a present and engaged parent is, frankly, impossible. By challenging the notion that big, serious projects must entail a full-time commitment is something that I feel very strongly about and something that I felt that I wasn’t able to do even when I was employed but I do all the time now I’m self-employed.
A supportive co-parent. My husband and I try to approach work, home and the childcare equally. It used to be an attitude but now it’s a reality for us and thousands of working parents and it’s the only way to keep life going and stay sane.
Lower your expectations and cut corners. Yep, sometimes you’ve got to just let things go. Don’t sweat the small stuff and ask for help. I found that writing down a list of all the things that were taking too much time, energy or I loathed doing was helpful.
Once I had my list I then looked at each point and tried to work out if I could do anything better or differently. And if I couldn’t change it then I just had to accept it.
Is there anything you can buy to make life easier? Can you hire any help?
Another way to save time or actually make time is to outsource tasks, especially when it comes to your business, this can be the only way to keep it going, keep yourself visible and grow your business.
So, as you can see, I am no poster-parent for getting the work-life balance just right. There have been plenty of times when I’ve been the opposite, when it feels like I’m drowning in work and family stuff and can’t meet all the demands.
Occasionally those times just need to be ridden out: accepted as inevitable.
Make time for you and take a deep breathe, you’re doing just fine.