How to juggle efficiently between work and family time?
55% of respondents of a work-life balance survey has said that work demands eats into their family life. In a world where technology has blurred the lines of work and personal life, “work life balance” has become a popular buzzword in our society today. Leaving your office for the day no longer means leaving your work behind for the day. With more pressure now on parents to cover for childcare commitments, housework and other logistics concerns, it’s not surprising to see this juggling act of pursuing successful careers alongside a fulfilled personal and home life.
It’s not uncommon to feel guilty because you’re not spending as much time with your children as you would like. Your aim as a parent, is to work hard to provide the best for your children. But sometimes, the best thing that you can provide for them is also your time. The time you spend with them when they’re just discovering the world to when they enter their tween years and to when they will finally embrace adulthood, is something that money cannot buy. And all extra hours you work, will not answer the “what if’s” that will come to you. Sacrificing one for the other is not the trend anymore.
Decide on your priorities.
Expectation: The job with the higher paycheck will make life easier for you and your family.
Reality: The job that pays you 50% more will also require you to work 80 hours instead of 40.
Especially in a country where financial stability is key, most people tend to chase the money rather than the lifestyle. And it’s a very slippery slope to go on. Once you start earning more, you crave more. Every raise you get is quickly forgotten and you start seeking more responsibility a.k.a a higher pay. And before you know it, you’re pretty much working non-stop but is it for the right reasons? Are you prepared to work longer hours, see less of your children to earn money that you won’t be able to spend on and with your children?
It’s remarkably different how having children can affect how and where your wages are spent. We only have 24 hours in a day and 7 days in a week, time is not infinite. Some parents compensate for the lack of time spent with their children by splurging on toys and gifts. Others make up for the lack of time spent by cherishing every available moment with their children. Parents know their children best, and they know if their children thrive better when they are taught to be independent from an early age.
One positive Habits of Mind, “Thinking Interdependently” focuses on enabling children to learn from their peers and to work as a team. Children who are taught to embrace independence from young, perform better compared to their peers with “Helicopter Parents”. Ultimately, there are no rules on what is right or wrong in parenthood.
Include loved ones in your routine.
Expectation: Spending time with them over dinner is enough.
Reality: Spending 1 hour over dinner doesn’t compare to spending the weekend with them.
According to Dr Mathew Mathews, a senior researcher at the Institute of Policy Studies, said that work expectations are higher and parental roles are also evolving. “What we have here now is that more men are expressing the fact that work and family life is in conflict. We notice that in the newer wave of the survey, and I think it speaks to the fact that increasingly, wives also want their men to step up and be involved in caregiving roles which previously more of them shied away from but today the expectation is higher on them.”
Parenthood is about finding the right balance between work life and family life. The general consensus is not to bring work home, which also includes checking emails, replying WhatsApp messages from colleagues or finishing paperwork at home. Make it a point to turn off your gadgets and focus on your family. How about bringing the children our for ice-cream or watching their favourite cartoons with them? It seems like a small act for you but to them, it will mean the world.
The idea is to do their “fun thing” as a family, instead of you focusing on your “work thing”. Almost all parents will agree that when you have young kids, it becomes increasingly difficult to pursue your own interests or hobbies. So why not adapt to the situation and get the children involved in these activities? If you’re a Yoga enthusiast, there many classes for parents & children. If you’re into sports like cycling, attach a pedestal harness and bring your child out for a ride. If you’re into baking, why not get the kids to help with preparing the ingredients? When you get the children involve in your routine, that can be a pretty good form of compromise!
Define your time.
Expectation: You can work 50 hours a week, help your children with their homework, run errands, do the house chores.
Reality: You’re exhausted and cranky after work, the time you have with your children is too little and you hardly have time for yourself.
Finding the perfect balance between work and family time is all about personal perception. It helps to be realistic too. It’s almost impossible to be a ninja-parent unless you’re acting in a Marvel movie. Invest in a family organiser so that you’ll be able to see at a glance, the whole family’s activities for the week. Allocate blocks of time for certain tasks so you can complete your tasks faster, allowing you more time to relax and enjoy the remaining with your family during the unslotted blocks of time.
It’s not about choosing one over the other but it’s about balancing them better. Katherine Heigl once said “Even if you plan a marriage and your family, you are never quite prepared for the reality versus how you imagined it. In a lot of ways, it’s better and in a lot of ways, it’s worse. But that’s life, right?”
When you have this sorted out, your personal feelings and your sense of responsibility towards your priorities should take precedence over everything else. You’ll realise where exactly are you willing to compromise and what are you not willing to give up. Planning keeps your family goals and career vision in sync with your life as it changes and as you change along with it. The end goal is not to win the award for “The Best Parent”. It’s to ensure that you enjoy the journey of parenthood and keep learning on how to get better at it. There’s no one-sure-fire way to raise a family.