Working parents make up a large percentage of the workforce, with parents accounting for about 40% of workers. Experts estimate that roughly 90% have one parent who works outside the home, and for 62% of families, both parents work outside the home.
Parents face many challenges balancing work and life, and unfortunately, COVID-19 has made the lines between work and home life more blurry than they ever were before. As a working parent, how can you find a healthy balance between your work and home life?
Rest assured, balancing work and home life is possible. It just might take doing things a little differently than you’re used to, and maybe changing the ways you think about work, life, and caring for yourself.
As you juggle the demands of work and parenting, here are some things to try that might help you strike a balance.
As the adage says “If everything is a priority, then nothing is.” If you try to give work and family the same level of priority, you will inevitably either fall short of meeting your responsibilities or burn out (or both).
Instead, prioritize what’s most important on any given day. One way to do this is to brain dump all of the tasks and responsibilities on your mind - take out a sheet of paper and write down everything you can think of. Then identify the top three things you want to prioritize that day. Focus on getting those tasks done, and leave the rest for a later day.
Whether at work or at home, we all go through busy seasons in life. Some of the struggles that working parents might experience can come from a desire to balance work and home life 50/50 each day, giving each area of life equal time and attention.
Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic. There will be times when you have to give more of your attention to work and times when family demands more of your time. Recognize that work-life balance is about finding balance amid fluctuations in responsibilities, rather than striking a perfect balance each day.
Asking for help can be very challenging for some people, especially if you’re used to being the one who offers help to other people. But, finding balance as a working parent requires that you aren’t afraid to ask for help.
Whether it’s asking a friend or family member to help with childcare duties, hiring someone to come clean the house once a month, or asking your partner to take on more responsibilities at home, asking for help can make the difference between drowning in overwhelm and having things under control.
Taking care of yourself is truly one of the most important things you can do as a working parent. Although it’s become trendy to talk about #selfcare as doing things like getting a massage or meditating, true self-care can be things as simple as going to bed early enough to get 6-7 hours of sleep, making sure you eat 3 meals each day, and staying hydrated by drinking more water than coffee.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Taking care of yourself allows you to care for others better and create space for yourself outside of work and family.
Setting boundaries has become a popular topic of conversation in recent years, and for good reason. Having bad boundaries can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed at work and at home.
The key to setting boundaries is to be explicit about your expectations and then stick to those expectations. At work, this might look like saying things like:
Setting boundaries at home is important too! A boundary with family might look like:
In trying to do it all, make time for yourself, and boundaries, you’re bound to have feelings of guilt or fears that you’re not doing enough.
The tricky thing about negative emotions is that the less we try to feel them, the stronger they can become. Instead of telling yourself “don’t feel guilty!” try acknowledging and pushing through those feelings of guilt. Recognizing that guilt can be a sign that you’re comparing yourself to the unreasonable expectations that society places on working parents. Talk back to your guilt by saying things like “I’m doing enough. I’m doing my best.”
None of us can get through life’s journeys and challenges without the support of other people. There is no shame in asking for help. Whether you’re struggling to stay afloat, wanting support developing healthy coping strategies, or just want someone to talk to, getting the support of a professional can help you feel calmer and more in control.
By working with a therapist or coach, you can get support in prioritizing your needs and juggling your many responsibilities. As a career coach, I often help my clients develop new coping strategies for balancing the day-to-day demands of work and home life. Finding balance is possible, and you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.