How to Balance Work and Parenting
Working and parenting both require considerable amounts of time and effort. Between emails and meetings and homework and soccer games, you might end each day feeling frazzled and exhausted. However, with some careful thought and planning, it’s possible to excel at home and on the job. Focus on your family, always maintain professional integrity, and make time for yourself as well in order to keep a good balance.
Being a Good Working Parent
Choose a job with flexibility.If at all possible, look for a job that has flexible hours so you can work around your kid’s school schedule. Many employers will even allow their employees to work from home part of the time, such as after you pick up your child from school or on days they don’t have school.
Find good childcare.Having a good daycare or school for your kids can set your mind at ease. You don’t want to be at work worrying whether the kids are okay, so choose the best options in your area. Research schools and daycares and read online reviews, talk to other parents, and set up visits to choose what’s right for your family.
- You can access a list of local accredited daycares online via the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Have a Plan B for when the kids get sick or caregivers fall through.You might get a call one morning saying that your kids’ daycare is closing unexpectedly for the day or that school is cancelled because of the weather. This might fall on a day when you have a meeting that you simply cannot miss. Have a few babysitters on speed dial who can step in when you and your partner are unable to stay home.
- Take advantage of programs available through your child’s school. Find out if their school has before- or after-school programs or camps during winter, spring, or summer breaks.
- You can also ask local relatives to keep the kids for you.
Make mornings easy by preparing the night before.Instead of rushing each morning fretting over what to wear or make the kids for lunch, do it the night before. Pack lunches, set out and iron clothes, and know in advance what you’ll make for breakfast.
- Remember it’s okay to do easy breakfasts in the mornings like cereal or a bagel. Some mornings are more chaotic than others, so have easy foods on hand.
- You can also buy clothes that are wrinkle-free so you have to iron less often.
Put all the family’s events and appointments on your calendar.If you have an online calendar that you use for work, use it for family events, too. This will ensure that you remember soccer practices and dance recitals and plan accordingly. It will help keep track of what nights you can work a little later and when you need to leave early.
- You can keep a calendar on the fridge so that the kids remember, too.
- Remember that your kids can’t do too much and you shouldn’t either. Try to put them in only one or two extracurriculars per semester.
Enlist the help of family and friends.Things happen at work sometimes, so let your family and friends help you! Put them on pick up lists at your kids' schools and daycares so they can be there on the days you can’t. Say ‘yes’ when they offer to babysit. And remember, it takes a village; let your kids have fun and learn from other adults you trust.
- Work with parents of your kid’s friends to arrange carpool schedules and alternate watching the kids before or after activities.
Stay connected to your kids throughout the day.If they have a phone or tablet, text them to check-in when they’re at school. If you can’t make it to an event of theirs one night, give them a note or small gift that morning showing them that you’re proud.
- You can even put little notes into their lunchbox so they can read them when they get to school.
- Keep a picture of your family on your desk at work to remind you of what’s important.
Help your children with their homework.Being a part of your child’s homework time gives you a chance to connect as well as stay apprised of what they are learning. Sitting with them while they complete assignments and asking questions about what they are learning will let them know that you are invested in their lives.
- Be sure not to micromanage or complete your child’s assignments for them! Simply be there in case they need help or have questions.
Allocate family time each week.At the end of the day, family is the most important. Spend time with your kids each week doing something fun for the whole family. You can let your children decide what you’ll do or you can surprise them with a trip to the movies or bowling alley.
- Plan fun things like game nights or building forts with pillows and blankets on Fridays.
- You should also try to have dinner with your family as many nights during the week as you can. You can use this time to discuss their day.
Be visible in the office.Since you have kids, you might be out of the office more than your coworkers who do not. Though this is understandable, make yourself as visible as possible. Take the long way to break room to get coffee so you can see as many folks as possible and arrive early to work when you can.
Let your coworkers know how to reach you.Provide your contact information, like your cell phone number and email address, for your coworkers so they can reach you when you’re out of the office. Tell them when you’ll be available and how quickly you can be expected to respond.
- For instance, if you have to stay home because one of your children is sick, tell your coworkers that they can reach you between 8am and 5pm by phone, text, email, or Skype.
Train one of your employees or interns to step in for you occasionally.Use your resources and help to develop others by training them on your projects. Show them some of the things you’re working on and teach them how to do it. Have them take notes in a meeting that you don’t necessarily need to be at so you can free up more of your time for other work.
- If you know that a certain employee is really interested in an aspect of your work, enlist them to help with that. This gets some work off your plate while also helping them meet their goals.
- Review your other responsibilities and delegate tasks when possible. Got some copying or shredding to do? Ask an intern or administrative staff.
Ask for flexibility at work in clever ways.As a working parent, you'll need a bit of leeway sometimes to balance your competing responsibilities. If the kids get sick or if Thursdays are super busy for you with their schedules, working from home that day might be beneficial. Ask your boss if you can do this by offering them something in return.
- Don’t just say, “Working from home will give me more time with my kids.” Instead, say, “The time I would save commuting on Thursdays would help me get those financial reports in to you quicker and with more detail.”
- You can also ask for flex time. Perhaps you would like to work later on Mondays and get off early on Tuesdays. Ask your boss if this would work for the company.
Have a talk with your boss if your responsibilities become overwhelming.Though many supervisors understand how hard it is to manage work and a family, some do not. If you feel that you have too much work to do, are constantly working nights, and have very little time with your family, have a talk with them and come prepared with solutions.
Keep a calendar and task list.Working parents often have tons of meetings, events, and tasks to do during any given day. Keep your work life organized by keeping a calendar with all your meeting times and locations. Make a tasklist at the beginning of each day and complete major tasks first and minor tasks as the day goes on.
Managing Your Life Outside of Work and the Kids
Create a chore list for the kids.Besides work and the kids, you also have to make sure your house is in order. But don’t do it alone! If your kids are age four or over, they can do chores around the house. A four year old can clean up the toys in their room and a sixteen year old can mow the lawn, do the dishes, and take out the trash.
- Set up a plan with your partner, too. Perhaps they take laundry duty while you cook dinner.
Spend time with your partner.In finding the perfect work-kid balance, don’t forget about your partner! Have a date night at least once a month and make time for just the two of you daily. Remember that they are your biggest support system in this, so rely on them and treat them kindly.
- Get a babysitter once a month and go out dancing or to dinner and a movie.
Take care of yourself.In all the madness, don’t forget about your most important relationship - the one you have with yourself. Take some time out just for you each day, whether that’s a thirty minute run, a hot bath, or an episode of your favorite show.
- Try to shoot for at least eight hours of sleep a night.
- Eat a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meat.
Video: How To Balance Work and Parenting - Barbara Turvett
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