Being a working parent is a huge challenge, even for the most organized mum or dad. When it comes to trying to balance a career and family – juggling school drop-offs and pick ups with getting to and from the office, being able to find childcare for school breaks, and trying to plan time off to attend presentations and parent-teacher conferences – it can soon become totally overwhelming.
Even if you’re at the top of your game, you can find yourself exhausted and stressed out, making it less likely you’ll enjoy the time you do have with your family – and let’s not even mention the Mum-guilt that so often creeps in! If you’re at the end of your tether, and you know something needs to change – stop and breathe, and take comfort in the fact that it’s definitely possible to combine a successful career with a family life. We’ve got some great tips to show you how!
They key to balancing a career and family is to be super organized – and we don’t just mean writing a few lists to try and keep track of everything. Planning ahead for the busiest times of day makes a huge difference; make sandwiches and packed lunches the night before, make sure everyone has their clothes and bags ready to go, and do a final check for homework before bed.
If you find it hard to remember everything, there are tons of great organizational apps that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet; Asana is great, as it allows you to create tasks and then sends you an alert on the day, while Evernote is brilliant for writing to-do lists and adding in voice notes and pictures.
Ask About Flexible Working
If you’re struggling with your current work schedule and would like it to be more flexible, talk to your boss – it’s that simple. Most employers realize that happy staff are far more productive, and would much rather you’re less stressed and more able to focus on your work. If you find the morning drop-offs difficult, ask whether you could come in an hour or so later, and then make up the time at the end of the day. If after-school care is a problem, try going in early and then finishing in time to meet your children at the school gates.
You could also enquire whether you could work from home at any point during the week – you could work around school hours, and then finish off any incomplete tasks during the evening once the kids are in bed!
Being successful in your career is about being willing to constantly change and grow, and taking on a period of study is the best way to advance in your role. It might feel like you’ve already got a lot on your plate, and working while studying can be difficult enough without taking into account busy family life – which is why studying online is such a great option. With no physical lectures or seminars to go to, you’re free to complete assignments around your other commitments – and the best news is that digital courses are now available in pretty much every subject.
A good example is that nurses can study for their DNP nurse practitioner qualification online, which enables them to progress to the role of family nurse practitioner – a job with greater pay and more family-friendly hours.
Reach Out To Other Parents
The chances are, if you’re struggling – so are plenty of other parents that you might know, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them and try and work out some sort of mutually-beneficial childcare arrangement! Start by finding a family which has a similar schedule to you; your kids could already be friends, or you could try looking through local or any activity groups you might go to.
Once you’ve talked over the idea, set up a rota for school pick ups and drop offs, and even try out after school care – the kids will love having other people to play with, and it will save you a fortune in childcare fees!
Make The Most Of Friends And Family
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and they’re not wrong – so don’t be afraid to lean on your partner for support when trying to balance a career and family. Have a conversation about working hours, and find out whether you could alternate who takes control of school runs and after school care – if you can come to some sort of arrangement, then great!
If not, Grandparents may very well be another great option for some – most would love to spend more time with their grandchildren, and your kids will love being spoiled a little more often! Just make sure that you set clear boundaries on what is and isn’t allowed – you don’t want their studies to suffer because Grandma let them watch TV until you pick them up!
Let Go Of The Guilt
One of the worst things about trying to balance a career and family is the nagging sense of guilt at what you’re missing out on; it’s never a good feeling missing out on dinner or bedtime, or not being able to attend presentations or parent-teacher conferences.
If you’re constantly feeling bad, try changing how you think – the fact that you work means you bring home a wage that allows your kids to have and experience things they might otherwise miss out on; extra curricular activities and clubs aren’t cheap, and then there’s the brilliant opportunity for travel that you can provide. You might also be able to tuck some money away for the college years – and we all know how pricey they can be!
Be Present – Without Being Present
Feeling like you’re not connected enough to your family is a common problem with busy working mums – so if you can’t physically be there, make the most of all the wonderful digital and technological advancements that have happened over the last few years. If you have young children, send pictures and videos throughout the day, and ask their childcare provider to send you some of them in return – and if you have older children, send them a text or two during the day just to check in.
If you can work it so your breaks coincide, give them a call – whether they’re having a bad day, or they just miss you, hearing the sound of your voice can be hugely comforting. While you might not be able to do much about missing dinner, you can help with bedtime – either record a story in advance, or hang out over FaceTime and tuck them in in ‘real-time’!
Check Your Priorities…..
They key to success, with both career and family, is to prioritize; you’ll
never win if you’re trying to do a hundred things at once and constantly
getting distracted. At work, set yourself clear goals and stick to them –
working methodically through a to-do list is far more productive than trying to multitask and ending up achieving nothing.
Try to avoid chatting to colleagues over email, or gathering around the water cooler for a chat – while it’s nice to have a good relationship with your workmates, remember that it’s not great for productivity and can become a time-suck. Make sure you take proper breaks and definitely don’t be tempted to work through your lunch – this is the worst thing you can do, and can lead to burnout – but at the same time, don’t take long leisurely lunches either!
While you’re at home, recognize that your time here is limited, and work out what’s most important to you; avoiding distractions such as the TV and your smartphone or laptop is the best start – you’re not at work anymore, so don’t be afraid to disconnect completely! Once the kids are in bed, this is the ideal time to spend with your partner – your relationship is just as important as the one you have with your children, so make sure you allow enough time to nurture it!.
And Schedule Plenty Of
If you’re not around as much as you’d like, it’s important to make time
for family activities when you can, so schedule plenty of these in. Create a family calendar, where you set specific dates and times to spend with both your children and your partner; a weekly dinner on a Saturday night is a great idea, and can be followed up with a fun movie night
or trip to the cinema.
Make sure you book in plenty of one-on-one time with your kids as well; taking them out separately allows you to bond with them better, and gives them the opportunity to talk about anything that might be bothering them. Concentrate on their hobbies and plan around things they like; ice-skating, sports and the theatre are great ideas, or keep it simple and take them for ice cream or to play in the park.
Finally, make the most of bringing in a good wage, and book some brilliant holidays – adding these to the calendar will give everyone something to look forward to, and make all the times you’re not there that bit easier.
Are you currently trying to balance career and family? What do you think of these tips above? Or perhaps you have some of your own tips to share? Do leave a comment below.
*This is a collaborative post