How to: balance work and family life
There is no denying that returning to work when you have young children will turn your life into a juggling act. The key is to figure out what works for you, and how you can create a balance that suits your needs. Here are some tips for reducing the stress:
Make a list of all the things you need to do, for example: washing; housework; feeding/bathing/changing the kids etc. Divide the list into two groups - NON-NEGOTIABLES and NEGOTIABLES. The non-negotiable things are the things you absolutely have to do, such as washing and feeding the kids. The negotiables are things that you would like to, but that can be left if you run out of time.
Share out the housework - choose some tasks for your partner to be responsible for, and the same for the kids. Even toddlers are able to help in small ways, like picking up toys.
FIND A ROUTINE
Establish a routine that works for you. Know what time you need to be out the door each morning, to avoid being stressed out and late for work. If it helps, get the kids day-care/school bags packed the night before, and lay out your work clothes so you are ready to go.
HAVE A 'CONTINGENCY PLAN
What will you do if the kids are sick and can't go to day-care/school? What will you do if you have an early meeting scheduled, or if you are running late in the afternoon? Who can you call on for support? These are all important things to think about 'just in case', as even the best-oiled of routines can go awry.
SET ASIDE SOME 'KID TIME'
Set aside a specific amount of time each day, and each week, to spend exclusively with your children. This may be sitting at the table having breakfast with them, or it may be bathing your child, or reading a bedtime story. Whatever works for you, make this time ONLY about your child. Try not to think about work and other pressures, and spend the time enjoying being a parent.
SET ASIDE SOME 'COUPLE TIME'
The same goes for your partner. Set aside some time when you are both relaxed and able to concentrate on each other. This is critical for maintaining a healthy relationship, especially if you are both working.
SET ASIDE SOME 'ME' TIME
Being a working parent is stressful, and it is important not to forget to look after yourself. Get your hair done once a month, have a bubble bath, read a book or even just get hubby to get the kids up so you can have a weekend lie in. You'll be amazed how refreshed you feel.
Finally, be REALISTIC. There are never enough hours in the day when you are a working parent, and you need to pick your battles carefully. Don't stress yourself out trying to keep the house as clean as it was when you were home all day cleaning it, and remember, on days when it all gets too much, it's not a crime to buy takeaways!