Nobody said it would be easy. How many times have we heard that before? And how many times, as working parents, have we thought it? Well the good news is, you don’t have to be a professional juggler to achieve work life balance. There are ways to make things easier on ourselves and our kids. Here are some suggestions for better balancing work and family life.
Create structure. School time is school time, work time is work time and family time is family time. Breaking days into segments can help your child understand the differences between what happens during specific times of the day. It’s similar to the kind of structure kids get at school, and it’s great because it gives kids (and parents) a sense of security, knowing what to expect and what is expected.
Follow the rules. Rules apply to children and parents. When rules are consistent across the board, kids feel parents understand them and live by the same values. What are some common rules that help? No electronics at the dinner table. No texting during family time. No work phone calls during family time. Turn off phone ringers. Store electronics in a separate area during designated family time.
Get outside. Fresh air invigorates children and adults. After a long day at work, take some time to play with your kids in a park, in the neighborhood or in nature. Professionals note that being outside increases energy and productivity, and playing with the kids outside provides emotional benefits as well. Being outside can encourage bonding, exercise, exploration and most of all, fun.
Talk about work. Surprised? Some experts believe that talking about your job in simple terms helps both kids and parents connect the dots. What did mommy do all day? What did daddy do? The caveat here is to avoid talking too much about work, describing negatives like office drama and being generally down about your job. Talk about what made you laugh, assignments you enjoyed or other parents you work with.
Hold and hug. We all know physical contact with children is just as important as emotional. Children might need some extra holding after being at school all day. Give them that physical connection. It’s good for you, too.
Make any time quality time. This is your chance to be creative. For example, you might find that some of the best conversations and games you have with your children take place while you are in the car on the way home from school. Or maybe you can’t go right home. Got a doctors’ appointment? Chat in the waiting room. Read together. And laugh. There’s nothing wrong with laughing in public.
Listen. Sometimes children come home chatty and want to talk about what they did in school. Sometimes they are cranky or sleepy. Other times, they are quiet. Listen closely to what is being expressed loudly and clearly and what isn’t. It’s important to get a sense of your child’s mood and needs, and sometimes those are expressed silently.
Plan. Give yourself and the kids something to look forward to—a family vacation, a day trip, visits to the library, parties or other events you will enjoy together. Show the kids on a calendar exactly when these events will take place. Doing so will cement the plans as well as give kids a sense of time.
Yes, we really can have healthy home and work lives if we learn to put some practices into place. These are only some of the things that have worked for me in achieving work life balance. I am sure you have others. What are they? Feel free to post more ideas.