Wanting to balance work and family seems like a cliché, but almost every mother I know, feels guilty about having two very different lives. At work we worry about not being present with our kids at home. At home, we worry about all of the things we didn’t finish by the end of the day. When I was working full time as a program manager there were days when I would wake at 2 AM and reply to emails. I have memories of nursing my son and writing policies with one hand on my phone. I tried to convince myself that I was ambitious and committed when in reality I was barely holding on at home and work.
In an effort to try to have it all we let our kids stay up late to get a few more hours with them. We answer emails over breakfast. The result is overtired children and an inbox that keeps getting larger and larger. When parents come to see me feeling stressed out and at their breaking point, I encourage them to make small changes throughout the day. Here are a few things I have found helpful in reducing stress and enjoying family time.
Put Yourself First
I can’t say it enough. If you are not taking care of yourself, eventually you will not be able to take care of anyone else. While many people know this; it is really hard to do. Let me put it another way, everything you do is a model for your child. If you shout at others or steal, you teach your child its ok to steal and hurt other people. If you take time for yourself, you teach your child about the importance of self- care, something that is the foundation for a happy peaceful experience no matter what life throws at you. Parents need to take every day to do something that is enjoyable and relaxing. This can be 5 minutes of meditation, a workout or belting out your favorite song in the car before going in to work. Just make sure that it leaves you feeling happy and relaxed. Aim for a few minutes every day increasing the time over a 30 day period.
Quality not Quantity
Everywhere you turn today, people are stressing the importance of family time. While experts may agree that it’s important to eat meals together, working parents shuttling kids from soccer practice to music lessons are just trying to find a way to get everything in. I love family meals and think it’s a great time to catch up with one another but I know it’s not always in the cards for busy families. I encourage parents to have at least one family meal together each week with everyone involved in making the meal. Even your 2 year old can help mash potatoes or your teen can help you prep vegetables before leaving for a game. Have the meal be an experience, light some candles and talk with one another. If your children are not the most talkative put some funny questions in a basket or play truth or dare. Laughing at the table together can be a really bonding experience.
Get Your Children Involved
Children at a very young age really love helping other people. My son gets the biggest smile on his face when I tell him what a great helper he is. While it might feel like you can never get your kids to pick up their toys, you can get them to help you throughout the day. Have older kids help with grocery shopping by dividing the list and play your own version of Super Market Sweep. Have your toddler help sort the laundry and your kindergartener place washed fruit in containers for the week. If you can find one or two activities your children can help you with it creates more family time while reducing your To Do List.
Focus on these 3 concepts and you will find you are able to focus better at work and home. You will be better equipped to stay in the moment and stress less about that To Do List!