Balancing work and family can be a difficult juggling act. Too much or too little on either side of the scales can lead to issues at work or at home. But it’s not impossible. With our 10 simple tips, you can become a master at managing the seesaw of work and family life.
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Manage your time effectively
Remember all those time management strategies that you use for projects at work? Well, now’s the time to put them into action for all aspects of your life. Make sure that you are using all of your time as wisely as possible. Balancing work and family involves planning.
Get organised by creating a family calendar. This helps keep everyone’s activities in one place. A paper calendar can be kept in the family kitchen where everyone can access it. Alternatively, you could set up an electronic calendar which can be shared with all the family.
Don’t set yourself impossible goals
Be realistic about what you can achieve with the time you have available. It’s easy to take on too much and then feel under pressure to deliver. You simply aren’t able to take on as much work as you were before you had family responsibilities. This can be difficult to accept at first.
However, it is much better to make it clear to your colleagues how much you can feasibly complete at work rather than taking on too much and being unable to deliver on your promises.
You also need to be realistic with family life. Don’t let social media feeds fool you into thinking that everyone else has everything sorted.
Be prepared to change your plans and adapt to dynamic situations. Things don’t always go to plan when kids are involved. You may have arranged to attend that Skype meeting at 4 o’clock this afternoon. Your toddler with teething pain may have different ideas.
Speaking from experience, I can say it is not easy to have a sensible conversation with a business colleague over Skype with a toddler in the background. This is especially the case when said toddler is constantly trying to pass you toys and then shouting at you when you aren’t as enthusiastic about playing as you usually are.
Plan your evening meals
Meal planning is a great way of balancing work and family. There is nothing worse than having a full day at work, picking up your little angels from childcare, and then arriving home to realise you need to cook an evening meal from scratch.
The easy way out is to order a takeaway, but this isn’t the healthiest option. Plus, it can seriously put a dent in your monthly budget. See our Family Budgeting article for some handy money-saving tips.
To avoid this dilemma, plan your meal times in advance. At the weekend, cook up a large batch of the family’s favourite meals and freeze portions ready for later use during the week. This can cut out stress and means you have more time to spend with your family in the evenings.
Use time-saving technology
Wherever you can, take advantage of time-saving technology. If you’re able to get a dishwasher in your kitchen, get one. If you can have a tumble dryer, do it. Housework is the last thing you want to have to think about when you get home from work.
Ordering your grocery shopping online saves you the time and effort of having to go out to the supermarket. After all, taking children to the supermarket can be an epic all-day adventure. Getting shopping delivered is much easier and quicker.
Find childcare you can rely on
Being able to rely on your childcare arrangements is vitally important. To be able to balance the responsibilities of being a parent and an employee, you need to be able to know that your childcare will be available when you expect it to be.
You also need to know that you can rely on your childcare setting to look after your little one with the same love and care you would give them. You can’t concentrate on work if you’re worried about how your child is getting on.
But if you know they are happy and having fun, it’s actually quite nice to feel you can concentrate on something else for a while.
Communication is absolutely key to the success of balancing work and family life. Make sure that you communicate with your employer about your needs as a working parent. If there are any issues that may affect your work, it can be really helpful to discuss these in advance.
Communication with your partner and children is also really important. Letting them know when you will be at work and when you will be available can help your family to manage their expectations of you.
Make sure you communicate with your partner about finances, as well as time management. Check out ‘How to not mess up your finances in a marriage’ for more about effective family communication.
Try to avoid distractions, such as social media and random TV shows. These can quickly eat into your time. You don’t want to find that you’re falling behind with your work and yet still haven’t managed to spend any quality time with your family.
Arrange fun family activities
When you do get to spend time with your family, arrange to do something fun together. This doesn’t have to be expensive.
Your kids don’t need fantastic trips out to extravagant places whenever you spend time with them. They will be happy just to have your company and know that you are there for them. A trip to the local park or watching a film at home together can be just as much fun.
If you’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new little one, you may want to have a read of our article ‘Are you ready for the cost of having a baby?
Make time for yourself
Finally, make sure you reserve some time that’s just for you. Time to relax and unwind enables us to be better parents and employees. Carrying on without a break just increases stress and ultimately leads to burn out.
Take some time to have a soothing bath, go for a relaxing walk, or read a favourite magazine. Balancing work and family is a tricky business. But it can be done. Feeling refreshed after some time out for yourself will mean you feel much more capable of keeping everything else in balance too.
Last updated by Robert Edwards, May 2022