Monica’s note: Today’s guest post deals with the topic of balancing work and family especially the tips and tricks that make it all possible (most days)!
by Shana Thompson
I’m a single yet attached, divorced mother of three children with shared custody of one child and split custody of two. If that doesn’t make for some interesting weekend logistics, I don’t know what does.
I currently have the luxury of being able to work from home. Of course, I put in long hours – any self-employed person will tell you that when you work for yourself you’ll put in a seemingly infinite number of hours. Much more time than most put in to a traditional office job.
That said, I’ve been in those traditional settings as well. And they’re no joke. No matter where you work, finding a balance between that work and your family is nothing short of exhausting.
I’ve by no means got it all figured out. But over the course of the past decade, I’ve begun implementing a few strategies which have helped to ease the burden of balancing work with family life.
Your self is important, too.
First and foremost, it’s essential to remember that you matter. Yes, that pressing deadline is hanging over your head. And the dog ate a wicker basket. And your child has the flu. And your husband’s car broke down.
Don’t lose yourself as you care for others. You know the analogy about the oxygen masks on the airplane. There’s no need to reiterate it here. Long story short, it applies to balancing your home and work lives, too. No one will benefit from an exhausted, weakened you.
Take a few minutes to yourself, even if it’s just to take a walk around the block. Your family and your boss will be all the better off because you did.
Allow yourself a transition time.
If you work from home, you know this isn’t always easy. And if you commute, the rush hour traffic can give you more stress than your work day dished out.
I’d encourage you, together with your family, to establish a routine of transition. When everyone gets home from work or school, allow yourselves just thirty minutes or so before beginning the second shift.
You can use that time to share details of your day. Use it to shower or walk the dog. Whatever you do, remember that cooking supper can wait, and so can the kids’ homework. Take a few minutes to recharge and before long it will be down time everyone looks forward to.
Take advantage of your free time.
This may sound obvious but allow me to explain. Do you remember when your children were babies? When they’d finally nap you’d use the time to do the dishes, mop the floors and catch up on email responses.
Maybe we all went about it the wrong way.
Instead of viewing a blank spot on your schedule as available time, view it as time for you. Use the hour to chat with your sister or to take a bubble bath. Catch up on that book you were reading or spend some time meditating. Free time doesn’t have to be time that you fill doing errands or more work. Why not just use it to relax?
Become a multi-tasking goddess.
“But I’m already multi-tasking until I feel like my head’s going to explode,” you say. Yes, but that’s not what I mean. You can do it better.
Need an oil change? Bring your daughter along. The two of you can grab an ice cream cone while your car is serviced.
Are you due some networking? Make it social. Invite a few colleagues for coffee and get a bit of work done while you all sip your caramel lattes.
Be creative in the way you approach necessary tasks and you’ll find that you can get more done in a smaller amount of time.
There are things you can’t miss. You’ve got to be in the office for that 9 am meeting, and you absolutely can’t miss the office holiday party. Your kids’ sports games and the spelling bee are must-go events. But is your second cousin’s daughter’s best friend’s ballet recital mandatory?
At the beginning of each week, take a look at your schedule. Then start to color code your life. Must do events are red, the things that aren’t necessary are blue. Circle the maybes in yellow. As you go through your week, decide what’s important and what you can miss to free up time for your family.
Talk to your boss.
If you’re a daycare provider or a surgeon, there are obviously limitations to how much work you can do remotely. But if you’re in a position which would allow you to work from a home office, talk to your boss about the possibility.
I worked, for a time, in sales management for a wireless company. The hours were retail hours: they started early and ran late. As a result, I had little time for my kids, and the hours were killing my free time.
I spoke with the owner of the company and together we figured out that a lot of my time in the office could be better spent doing other things. The sales staff would handle sales while I’d do inventory, a task which would keep me at the office until the early hours of the morning.
I began to take a day each week where I worked from home, scheduling my staff and following up on sales leads. The washing machine and dishwasher ran as I worked, and I was able to spend time with my family.
The day has 24 hours, no matter who you are. No one can get it all done and while you have responsibilities which you absolutely can’t shirk, there are ways to lessen your load. Prioritize and take time for you, and gradually you’ll begin to balance your work and family life.
Shana Thompson is a freelance writer who works from her home in North Carolina. When she’s not writing content for small businesses, she can be found geocaching with her three kids in the Appalachians. Visit her site at www.STx3Content.com.