Balancing work and family can seem like an impossible task. I struggle with this every day, especially once summer comes and the kids are home ALL THE TIME. As a mother of two young children, figuring out how to juggle everything has become a personal quest of mine. A recent article in The Atlantic looks at some of the numbers in recent studies on work-life balance in the U.S., and it makes an interesting read. Why do so many struggle with this balancing act? Is there ever a happy medium?
The reality is that the process of balancing is dynamic, and it changes as the situations change. Here are some tips to help put this seemingly impossible task into perspective:
- Recognize that family life has seasons. The demands on your time and energy will change as new members are added to the family and as kids get older. Homework becomes more independent for kids as they get older, meaning less homework for mom and dad to help with.
- Schedule family times, just as you schedule business meetings. It might sound cold, or not spontaneous, but it works– especially if you are like me and live by your calendar. Plan some vacation time now and write it into your calendar. It doesn’t have to be two weeks at the shore, but you do need to have fun together as a family. A weekend at a cabin, a walk through town or your neighborhood, or an evening at an ice cream store works, too.
- If the traditional family dinner hour doesn’t work for you, set a 8:30 meetup in your family room with a snack. The idea is to connect at least once a day for a short time because it is cumulative: all those short times build on one another to maintain relationships.
- Turn off the electronics during that connection time! Think face-time instead of screen-time. You can’t give your full attention to anyone if you’re getting texts.
- Say “no” to a few things. Choose not to “do it all” and just do one extra-curricular activity per family member.
- Delegate and get help when you are overwhelmed. You can’t do everything. Sometimes you need to break down and ask for help. I finally did just that. After years of taking care of children, keeping a clean house, and managing a growing business, I finally had to break down and admit I needed some help– in one area in particular– my landscaping. Now, I must add that my husband is a huge help in keeping the house organized and picked up, and is a great with the kids and their schedules, but does he know the difference between a weed from a Spring bud? NO. To him they all get pulled out. So, I hired Joanna. She came in, took one look at what I was attempting to do with the yard, talked with me for awhile about what I wanted to see, and went to work. What a difference a professional makes! I never knew my landscaping could look so good. Delegating that task was the best thing I ever did.
There will be times when family has to be the priority over work: sudden illnesses, crisis situations, school activities, etc. There will also be times when work has to have priority over family because of deadlines. Balance is that shifting of resources to adapt to changing needs and keeping your focus on the priorities you’ve set.
If you work outside the home, the bulk of your waking hours is spent on the job, away from your family. When you are at work, that has to be your focus and your priority. When you are seeking work, you need to spend time on the things that will help you get the job: resumes, networking, and research.
Most of us would say that we work to provide for our family and that our families are also a priority. Deliberately investing your energy into connecting with your loved ones on a daily basis with occasional longer times together helps you maintain that critical balance between work and family. Delegating, limiting commitments, and asking for help allows you to focus on what is important.