Ask a Therapist: How Can I Balance My Life As a Working Parent With Multiple Roles?
As a full-time therapist and parent of three children, I know firsthand that it can sometimes feel like a juggling act! Here are some suggestions that may buy you more time to spend with your family:
Start by simplifying. Author and counselor Kim John Payne advocates for simplifying our households and schedules to create a more gentle rhythm for a calmer family. Do children really need to be involved in so many extra-curricular activities? Do they really need all of those toys? Fewer toys means less to have to pick up and put away!
Flex your job
Many people feel like they work 50+ hour weeks, but do they really? Researcher and author Laura Vanderkam noticed that many working parents have the ability to flex their schedules. If you are one of the lucky ones who can, use it! Can you extend your lunch hour to get in some exercise or an errand? Can you pay bills or make those dental appointments from work? Can you take a few minutes and order those needed school supplies online?
Another way some parents are able to flex their work is by taking it home with them and working for a couple of hours after the children are asleep. This can sound counter-intuitive, but if it allows you to catch your child’s baseball game on a Tuesday afternoon, or sneak in a quick happy-hour date with your spouse, it may be a good option!
Hire a nanny
Having a nanny can be a huge assistance, whether your children are small or school-aged. They come to you, saving you travel time. They can help with household errands, chores, homework, and can start dinner. They can transport children to and from school or activities. Imagine an evening when you get to come home from work without first stopping at day-care or school and having dinner already started! All of that is time saved in which you get to spend with your family.
Email, text, and cell phones make it easier than ever to be in touch with your spouse and/or nanny throughout the day. Being able to touch base lets you stay on the same page when planning things like transportation for children, dinner preparation, and other household tasks. Additionally, apps such as Wunderlist enable you to have individual and shared “honey-do” lists and having a shared electronic calendar enables you to know everyone’s schedule at a glance. A low-tech option my entire family loves is the white-board calendar on our kitchen wall. We each have a different color dry-erase marker that represents us and are able to put important events (tests, activities, bills due) on the white board. Additionally, we put what meal we are having for dinner on the board. These things can really help to keep the family organized.
Have groceries delivered
With grocery delivery services, you can save a couple of hours every week. That time can be spent on a date with your spouse, your child, or yourself! Services like Door to Door Organics will deliver fresh produce to you home. And did you know milk delivery services still exist? We have fresh milk delivered right to our doorstep every week along with other staples such as bread, cheese, and eggs. Select King Soopers grocery stores will deliver your entire shopping list to your home, while Amazon Pantry lets you fill an online box with anything from toilet paper and cleaning supplies to canned beverages and food items.
Hire out chores
Oftentimes in my family, we feel like we work all week and leave household and yard chores to the weekend, only to find it feels like we spend the majority of the weekend cleaning instead of spending time doing things we love. Start with changing your expectations of chores from perfection to good-enough. Then hire out some of the deep cleaning and yard maintenance. These two changes really open up time a family can spend together. Even having someone come in once or twice a month can make a huge difference and still leave some chores for the family to do in order to learn important skills in self-sufficiency and responsibility.
Get creative with time
I share with you one final change that personally helped me immensely: audio books. I have a 30 minute commute to and from work every day. I started listening to audio books (available for free via a library!) and suddenly what used to feel like a chore turned into an hour a day of time for myself! How else can you be creative with your family’s time? If everyone can’t be together for dinner due to busy schedules, can you have family breakfast together?
Try using some of these techniques and notice how you gain more time with your family while still feeling fulfilled at work. For more information and strategies on balancing work and family, check out the books I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (2015) by Laura Vanderkam and Simplicity Parenting (2010) by Kim John Payne.
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