There is no perfect balance when it comes to parenting and having a demanding job. Or any job. There is only trying. Because as a parent, one day you’re doing it right and the next day, that balance is thrown out the window.
The ups and downs go something like this: you spent all day in meetings and get approval for a huge project and then race the clock to pick up your toddler before daycare closes. Your babysitter cancels and you’re set to give a big presentation in an hour. You get home from work and realize there’s nothing for dinner, but at least there’s enough formula for the baby’s nighttime bottle.
It’s in those moments of chaos that you wonder, what’s got to give? How can I balance my career that makes me happy (and provides a paycheck) with my sweet family and our busy life?
Here are a few tried-and-true suggestions to help ease the stress of balancing work and home. Even with these tips, the craziness will ebb and flow. But realizing that is half the battle.
There is nothing more frustrating than opening the fridge and realizing you have no idea what to make for dinner when everyone is hungry. Set aside half an hour each weekend to plan easy meals and shop. Do some research on Pinterest for easy meals like these Instant Pot recipes your kids will love. Try shopping early Sunday morning to beat the rush. Don’t have time to shop? Try a grocery delivery service. No time to plan? Try a meal kit service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Having all the recipes and ingredients ready for you makes dinner more fun and less stressful.
Use Your Village
The old saying “it takes a village” is 100% true. Find your people and let them help you. Your instinct when they offer will be to say no. Say yes. Have you shopped with a toddler that won’t sit in the cart? Coming from a mom with experience, say yes for 30 minutes of quiet. And when you’re in a bind, ask for help. What’s one more kid if they already have two and no plans for the afternoon? When you have free time, offer the same help for friends. Seek out that village when you need advice They’ve gone through the same things as you, too.
Set Expectations at Work
In our always-on world, it can be hard to step away. Establish a work schedule to create clear expectations of when you are in the office and need to leave for your family. No one will schedule a meeting when everyone knows you leave at 4:30 to get your toddler. Many parents get back to work once your kids go to bed. With no phone calls or emails coming in, it can be the most productive time of day. Just make sure to set aside at least half an hour to wind down to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Plan a Vacation
Ok, so vacations with kids can feel like trips and aren’t guaranteed to be very relaxing. But stepping away and focusing on just your family for a few days can be good for the soul. You’ll feel energized back at work and probably home, too. Remember, the memories you create with your family will last much longer than any work accomplishment.
Worried about being away from work for an extended period of time? If you’re able to set boundaries with yourself when it comes to work, check in once or twice while you’re gone. After 20 minutes, put your phone away and put it in the back of your mind. If you know you’ll be sucked into your email, leave your laptop at home and stay unplugged for the whole trip.
Practice Self Care
It seems backward to take time away from your child or family to do something just for you. But stepping back will refresh you and make you a stronger caretaker, friend, and partner. Prioritize yourself and take an hour to read that book you heard about, get a manicure or meet a friend for brunch. It’s amazing how just an hour of me-time eases stress.