Can parents really “have it all”? Does work-life balance actually exist?
The answer is yes—whether you have no kids, one kid, or ten kids. A fulfilling work-life balance is possible with the right tools, resources, and time management skills. How you approach your life determines how you find a fulfilling balance.
The Pew Research Center found that 52% of moms and 46% of dads struggle to balance work and family, with childcare needs as one of their strongest daily stressors. But you don’t need to harbor those feelings of guilt between splitting time at work and home. You can have it all if you take active steps to build the life that you want.
Below you’ll find the 9 Forge tips for maintaining a strong and gratifying work-life balance as a working parent.
1. Understand your work-life balance goals.
“Work-life balance” doesn’t mean spending equal hours at work and at home. What does your personal work-life balance look like? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you finishing your to do list?
- Are you seeing your family as much as you’d like?
- Are you making advancements in your career?
- Are you sleeping?
- Are you taking time for yourself and your partner?
- Are you fulfilled?
Evaluate your ideal work-life balance goals. What’s most important to you? How do you prioritize your family, partner, friends, work, and health? Consider this when cultivating your own time management tree. Understanding your goals will help you determine where to focus your time and energy so you’ll feel most fulfilled. You may want to consider creating a daily intention journal to help better understand how your daily tasks generate your work-life balance.
2. Leave the office at the office.
You’ve heard this before, and we know it’s easier said than done. It’s a challenge to fully detach from work, especially with constant communication via email, texting, and coworking software. You’re not alone—37% of parents find it hard to switch off from “work mode” when they leave the office.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial that when you’re home, you engage with your family; when you’re at work, you focus on work.
Limit distractions both at the office and at home. Stop emailing or making phone calls at family dinner, and stop texting your kids during the day when you should be working. Focusing on the task at hand will help ensure you are functioning at peak efficiency. Distractions waste time that cut into your ideal work-life balance.
Turn off work emails. When you leave the office, turn off work notifications. This will help you avoid pop-ups on your phone with “urgent” non-urgent messages. You can still have access to work, but you won’t be tempted to check your email or communications while you’re engaging with your family. You should try to avoid doing work in front of your kids so they don’t feel neglected (and you don’t feel guilty).
If you work from home, create a separate working space—whether it’s a physical office space or just a set of headphones that signify you’re working. When you’re in that space, you’re in “work mode.” This puts you mentally and physically into the work mindset and signals to your family that you’re busy (further helping to eliminate distractions). But when you leave the home office or take off your headphones, your family knows you’re ready to engage with them fully.
3. Pay for help.
Do a cost-benefit analysis of your life. How much is your time worth? What would be a most fruitful use of your time, both financially and emotionally? Consider the cost of not only your work but also your family, friends, health, and relationships. For example, is your 5-6pm hour best utilized at work, with the kids, cleaning, or working out? How you choose to spend each hour will depend on your priorities and the benefit analysis of each area of your life.
Think of your life like a business. Anything that isn’t high-priority and high-benefit (but still needs to be done) should be outsourced. If you can afford to hire someone for certain areas of your life, then do it. If you can’t afford it right now, find a way to make those areas more high-priority. For example, you could make cleaning the house a “family event” where you have a competition to see who can clean the fastest. This optimizes your tasks to be productive both at home and with the family.
4. Have a morning routine.
The way you start your morning will determine the entire flow for the day. A hectic, stressed morning can quickly throw off your balance for the rest of the day, both at home and at work.
This usually means getting organized the night before. Lie out clothes and lunches, prep breakfast, pack backpacks, and put keys next to the door. If you prep the night before, you’ll have a better night’s sleep knowing you’re organized, and you’ll start the morning smoothly. This allows you to spend your limited morning time with your family, rather than scrambling to find your keys or pack lunches last minute.
5. Create a shared family calendar.
A calendar keeps everyone organized and on the same schedule. Everyone can see each other’s goings on, from family events and extracurricular activities to play dates and work meetings. Structure your entire life—even scheduling in “breakfast time” and “getting ready.” If everything is on the calendar, you’re more likely to stick to a strict time management schedule.
This is a great way for parents to stay organized with their kids’ lives and for kids to understand where and how their parents are spending their time at work. This creates an open and honest family conversation about work-life integration and balance. You can all see—in a color-coded way—what your balance looks like. If you have too much “purple” work one week, you may need to add in more “red” family time. Remember, as Nigel Marsh discusses, a balanced life is more than just hours spent at work and at home.
P.S. Google calendars are a great tool for this. Calendars can be synched to everyone’s phones to help have quick access to schedules and time management tools.
6. Build special family moments.
On your family calendar, schedule in regular family events that everyone is expected to attend. Whether it’s a weekly movie night or a monthly camping trip, create an ongoing tradition that ensures family time is set-aside from the busyness of life. Make this event consistent so that everyone in the family can expect it, plan for it, and look forward to it. This consistency also ensures you focus on checking off your work to-do list the days prior, so you can be fully present with your family during that time.
7. Keep in touch with friends.
While work-life balance means spending time with your family, don’t forget that “life” also means cultivating friendships. Make time for old and new friends. Hang out with other adults you have fun with. In fact, a study in the journal Personal Relationships found that having supportive friendships was a stronger predictor of health and well-being than even family connections. This is likely because friendships are about fun, leisure, and support.
The same is true for your partner. Focus on date night and keep the romance alive. A strong and functioning family starts with a strong and functioning partnership.
8. Take care of yourself.
Work-life balance also means taking care of your health. Think of an airplane: you have to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. If you aren’t healthy and happy, you can’t be productive at home or at work.
So do things that make you feel good. Take a walk, read a book, put on a face mask. Take at least a half hour every day of “me time” to lower your stress and boost your happiness and productivity.
9. Choose a flexible job.
In a FlexJobs Survey “Parents & Work,” 97% said a flexible job would help them be a better parent and 95% said it would allow them to be more productive in their job. Moreover, 89% said that work flexibility is the most important factor in choosing a job.
You deserve a flexible work arrangement that allows you to create your own life and schedule.
Talk to your employer about flexible work options. If you understand the goals you want for your work-life balance, you can better understand how you need to structure your life in order to meet those goals. Do you want more time every week to spend with your family? If so, you might want a self-scheduling plan like Forge. Do you want more time to visit your kids’ grandparents across the country? Then you may want unlimited vacation days. Learn more about finding the right type of flexible work here.
Flexible work arrangements are growing at an unprecedented rate, so it’s more than acceptable to start having these conversations with your employer. Good employers know that a work-life balance for their employees means productivity and profits for the business. If they aren’t willing to be flexible, it might be time to look for other jobs that will offer you the flexibility you need.
Are you looking for a self-scheduling job that will allow you to build the work-life balance you and your family crave?
Sign up for a FREE Forge Team Member account now to find flexible jobs near you! Start earning money when it fits with your work-life balance needs.