If you are working parents, then the juggling act in getting the work-family balance right can be challenging, to say the least. Managing pressing work commitments with demands from your family to be with them, leaves many working parents frustrated and guilty. Single parents have no choice and as many as 44% of full time working mothers wished that they could work part-time but they cannot.
If we are looking at a workable model of a country committed to making it easier for successful working parents, Sweden is an excellent example. The government offers generous maternity and paternity leave, flexible working hours and very affordable childcare. This helps parents reach their full potential at work and at home.
If you are not living in Sweden, here are 7 ways successful working parents can get the balance right.
1. Be Flexible
Being flexible can be applied in many areas of work and home life. For example, each working parent should consider the possibility of working from home or having flexible hours at their fulltime job. Many employers are now offering these facilities so it is definitely worth exploring. Parents can save valuable time by not having to commute on certain days of the week. You can also opt to work shifts which fit in better with your family commitments. By starting early, you can finish earlier so that you can attend your daughter’s school play or take her to the dentist.
Flexibility can also work to the family’s advantage in that both parents and kids can adjust to meet urgent demands and be willing to change schedule. This may happen when a business trip occurs or when a child is sick and needs to be cared for at home.
2. Exercise with Your Kids
You may think that adding in an extra activity such as regular exercise is just going to make matters worse and add to all the stress of meeting work and home demands. There are loads of studies which show that physical activity helps reduce stress. Think of it as making your family time that much more enjoyable because you are relaxed. If you can involve other members of the family as well, then this is a great way of bonding and spending quality time with your kids. It is making you more efficient and confident and that will carry over into the workplace and your home.
3. Separate work commitments and parenting
If you decide to work some hours at home, be sure not to mix the two. Taking a conference call while helping your kids with homework is not advisable. You may also have to switch off your iPhone as you arrive home so that you can really spend quality time with your children. Many work positions demand that you are on call all the time. You may have to decide to take urgent work calls after the kids have been put to bed.
4. Get your friends and neighbors involved
Lots of time and effort can be saved by sharing tasks with your wider family and neighbors. You can offer to help with carpooling when you can while relying on someone else to rally round when your child needs to be picked up. Knowing your kids are safe and well can save you enormous amounts of worry and stress while at work. You will have to be committed to returning the favors, of course.
5. Get your kids involved
I grew up in a home where we all had to do chores because both parents were working. My mother was a part-time pharmacist at the local hospital. We quickly learned how to heat up the stew at the right time, light the fire and have tea ready on cold winter evenings.By teaching your kids to be responsible for various chores, you are taking off some of the pressure and you are also helping them to become self-sufficient. Encouraging teamwork and responsibility is a great way to prepare them for living in the adult world. It can also be made fun and creative as suggested in this Pinterest board.
6. Spend Quality Time
Your quality time with kids as working parents is precious. Just think that a five year old has already used up 260 of the 940 Saturdays she has before she leaves for college!
One surprising fact emerged when kids were interviewed as to what most concerned them about their working parents. It was not the actual amount of time but about 30% wished their parents were not so stressed out or tired. When the parents were interviewed, only 2% of them thought stress might be an issue. Here are some tips to make sure that quality time is what it says on the label.
- Forget your work emails and help kids prepare for bed by getting them to switch off their devices, turn down the lighting and read them a story.
- Organize special dinner nights such as tacos or pizzas and get your kids involved in the preparation. Ask them what they prefer for next week so they feel they have a choice.
- Try walking instead of driving if the distance and weather permit. You can talk to your child a lot better when you are not distracted by bad drivers. It is also much more relaxing for both of you.
- Make a firm commitment to be present at important matches and school events. If you have built in enough flexibility, this should be possible.
- Organize making dates with your kids so that they feel special, at least once a month. They will treasure that time with you and it is great to catch up with they are doing. Ask about school and tell your child about your work.
- If appropriate, you may be able to show your child where you work. Your office may organize a “Bring your child to work day” so that they will feel more involved and understand why you are so stressed out!
7. Use Shared Calendars and Back Up Plans
Everyone knows what everyone else is doing. This makes it much easier to plan. Having shared calendars is essential as well as having a back up plan when someone falls ill or there is an unexpected glitch or a gremlin in the works. Mobile technology is a great help here! Kids and parents know the drill when something goes wrong. Time management apps are superb for keeping track of everyone’s commitments. You can sync them across multiple devices. Kids will appreciate being in the loop and also become involved in their parents’ lives which is just another part of growing up.
Let us know in the comments about how you successfully juggle work and family commitments.
Featured photo credit: 2012 Bring your Child to work day at ED 04262012 77/ US Department of Education via flickr.com