I think all parents could use one of these trophies from time to time. Cause being a parent- let alone a working parent- is a juggling act that is deserving of an award.
Being a working parent is no easy feat. It requires a great deal of organization and stamina. I started my interior design business right out of university, after working on this crazy little television show, and pretty shortly after I had my first child. 8 years of a business and almost 5 kids later the art of juggling has become a skill I am very familiar with.
For the purposes of this blog post I am calling "working parents" those who either work out of the home for someone else, or run their own business either full or part-time (bloggers you're in here too!). However, this nomenclature is not to underscore the amount of work it is to raise kids full time at home- it is absolutely the most important full time job I believe that exists today and it is a ton of hard work.
With that said, here are my top tips for how to balance it all without falling flat on your face:
1. PLAN YOUR IDEAL WEEK
This is a non-negotiable, do not pass go, do not move any further without sitting down to plan this. Here are some tips on how to plan it practically, but I also want you to consider the word "ideal" with an attitude of abundance. We live in a market today where being a working parent can look VERY different from generations past. So even if you work a "traditional" 9-5 job, might there be ways you could negotiate it to look less traditional ie. working from home a few days a week, extending your hours some days so you can take other days off, or simply starting your day early so you can end early and personally do school pick ups. I realize this might not be an option for everyone, but it is an option I think one should explore, or not write off completely before exploring options. The most important thing on this point is that you think about what IDEAL means for YOU, really dig deep without being limited, and adjust accordingly. It might lead you to realize that the situation you are in needs to change.
2. MANAGE YOUR OWN EXPECTATIONS
I think the pursuit of "having it all" can be kind of dangerous. I absolutely love Heather Havrilesky's take on it in this article. I agree with her wholeheartedly- I think working mothers / parents CAN have it all- you just have to adjust your expectation of what "IT" is. And "IT" is going to look totally different from one working parent (or any parent for that matter) to the next. Don't compare. I often get asked how I do it all- and I will be honest with you, I have no magic potion, no secret, no easy answer. I simply work hard, know the "why" behind what I do, and have gone through a ton of trial and error and adjusted every time. For me, it always comes down to the work I have done planning / visioning what my ideal life looks like, and every time things fall out of balance or I don't feel like my actions align with my values, I readjust.
3. MAKE FAMILY TIME AS IMPORTANT AS ANY WORK APPOINTMENT
This is huge, and admittedly, a muscle I constantly have to strengthen. Essentially, make spending time with your family just as important as any major meeting, presentation, client appointment or conference. In my own life, I will prepare whole-heartedly for work related meetings and events- but how much effort do I invest in spending time with my husband or kids? Too often I don't put in nearly as much effort. I'm not arguing that one has to make every ounce of quality time a production or major event- but that you schedule it, stick to it, and dare I say put your phone on silent in the same manner you would in a work meeting. In a practical sense this could look like taking Sundays off with your family, scheduling a weekly date night, etc. etc. etc. But the point is that it is scheduled, and prioritized highly.
4. EDIT YOUR LIFE AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Okay, I do have an answer to the question how I do it all: I have edited my life A TON. In my business, I have delegated / outsourced as much as possible to keep me working in my strengths. In my home life, we have a part-time nanny and occasionally hire cleaning services. As a result of trial and error, I learned I could not do everything without compromising or feeling like I was failing at everything. I also argue working parents need to edit their lives of other things: activities that might waste time (I had to remove Angry Birds from my phone because I could not believe how much time I was spending killing those darn pigs!), friends that might suck your energy, or the amount of TV you watch.
5. EMBRACE THE IMBALANCE
I know I have used the word "balance" on this blog like it is something you can achieve. But make no mistake what I have learned, especially as an entrepreneur with really young kids- is that imbalance is far more regular and if I constantly tried to keep my life exactly balanced at all times I would not win. Instead, I embrace the imbalance, knowing that the pendulum always swings back: busy times are balanced later with family vacations, no day in my life is identical to the last, and that trying to control everything- including my kids- is a harmful and unrealistic goal. So I embrace that juggling work and kids won't always be graceful- but with proactive planning and a sense of humour you can thrive- not just survive.
What are your tips for balancing work and family life? Love to know in the comments below.