Working parents today tend to feel a need to do it all: chauffeur the kids to school, work eight or more hours a day, pick up the kids from school, help them with homework, and then burn the midnight oil to complete a work project. Who has time to catch one’s breath, let alone catch some sleep? How can a new parent keep everything under control without pushing over the limit?
Here are four ways for achieving a healthy work-life and home-life balance:
Be yourself, not someone else
People often have the tendency to compare themselves to others. Maybe cereal has become entrenched in your car’s floor mats whereas your coworker’s car is always spotless. Perhaps your kids rarely seem to wear matching socks at preschool and yet you dwell on the thought that other children always seem to be dressed to a tee. Let go of preconceived notions about who you “should” be as a parent. Instead, consider what kind of relationship you want to build with your child. At the end of the day, isn’t that what parenting is really all about?
Make “home” a state of mind.
In many ways, building a healthy balance is about drawing an imaginary line in the sand between your work life and your home life. In some instances, however, it may actually be beneficial to bring the essence of “home” with you to work. To do so, focus on a thought that puts you at peace, such as feeling the dirt between your gloved fingers as you plant basil in your garden, or listening to rain gently beating against your bedroom window early on a weekend morning. When feeling overwhelmed by a project deadline or a never-ending to-do list, use such images to create an inner sense of calm and to help you focus on the truly important projects.
Differentiate your work space and your home space
One way to help build a healthy separation between work and home is to create physical spaces that support the functions of each. For your home, find an area that can be embellished with items that bring you comfort, such as a picture of your family, a quilt your grandmother knitted for you, or a favorite book, advises oprah.com. For your work space, display tools that make you feel productive and inspire you to get the job done. These items might include a leather-bound notebook, a frame with an inspirational quote, an attractive mouse pad for your computer, or colorful pens. Creating space designed especially for work and for home will help you focus on your role in each.
Communicate your needs, with finesse
Working parents fear that family responsibilities will hurt their careers, according to a recent study commissioned by Bright Horizons Family Solutions, a childcare provider in Watertown, Mass. Nearly half of the respondents said they feared getting fired as a result of a family obligation. It’s not only moms who feel the burden. Dads are equally stressed and insecure about work and family conflicts, according to the study.
How can you successfully play the dual role of parent and employee? Keep the communication lines open. Give your boss enough notice in advance when you need to come in late or leave early. If it’s a reoccurring need, meet with your boss to explain the situation and discuss options. The same is true at home. Let your spouse know at least a day in advance if a work conflict means you can’t fulfill a family obligation, such as taking a child to daycare.
With a little finesse, parents can find balance and happiness in their work life and home life.