When you are both a parent and in the workforce, it can feel like you leave one job just to come home to another. Parenting and caring for a home is a full-time commitment in itself, and one that should have the best of us, not just whatever energy we have left at the end of the workday. But the world doesn’t run on best intentions – so what can you do practically to achieve a healthier work-life balance? Read below for tips to help you put your best foot forward in both the workplace and the home.
A generation ago, the workday was essentially finished as soon as you left the workplace. Thanks to technology, that is not today’s reality at all. With emails, Slack, texts, phone calls, Google groups, and other forms of instant communication being sent directly to a cell phone that we almost always have within reach, your boss or teammates can add to your to-do list clear into the night hours. This can be a particularly hard boundary to set, but for the health of yourself and your family, it is a crucial one. Let your coworkers know the hours that you’ll be available, and stick to those hours yourself! If the ding and red bubbles of notifications make you too twitchy, get into your settings and turn them off. Or log out of those programs. Or even turn your cell phone off altogether!
Use Your Commute
Maybe you’re in the car for upwards of an hour every day. Maybe it’s only a couple of minutes. Maybe you work from home and the commute is a thing of the past! Either way, you need a buffer of alone time between work and home. If you’re calm and happy when you arrive home, that will set the tone of your family and your evening. Children in particular will tune into your anxiety and weariness. Use your commute to decompress and file away the workplace issues of the day. Listen to your favorite music, either calming or cheery. Put on an audiobook. Stay away from any talk shows or commentary that might rile you up. Perhaps even just drive in silence. If you work from home, take five minutes after wrapping up to collect yourself and your thoughts before putting the parent hat back on.
A useful and necessary conversation to have with your partner, particularly if they work outside the home as well, is what the division of labor looks like at home. The burden of taking care of the practicalities of a household should not rest on the shoulders of just one person. You two are partners, you are a team. Talk together about who does what as the evening starts. And don’t forget your children! While schoolwork and extracurriculars might take a good chunk of their evening, your children are capable of helping out around the house as well. Even the youngest children can help set the table for supper and take care of their clothes from that day.
While it might not be feasible to hire a live-in maid for most, there are so many various service companies available today that you can outsource one or two things. It might require some budgeting, but if there’s a particular item on your plate that is truly adding an undue burden on you and your family, there’s no shame in having someone else take care of it! Perhaps a maid comes in once every two weeks. Maybe you handle groceries through curbside pickup or delivery. You can use a meal delivery service that will plan your meals and send you the ingredients straight to your doorstep. Can a neighborhood teenager take care of the lawn mowing or the dog walking? There are even services that will handle your laundry for you.