Do you ever feel like you’re in a constant struggle being a working parent? Like you’re being pulled in so many directions you don’t know where to start? Between managing a career and being a parent, life becomes the ultimate balancing act. It’s easy to want to “do it all” or at least have the intent, but how do we manage? How do we meet the needs of our children while trying to meet the demands of work? We hear all about the importance of work-life balance, but how?
Between the constant growing and developmental needs of a child, overwhelming doesn’t even begin to touch the surface when we describe what it’s like to manage a career and family. I’ve had parents and colleagues tell me, “I feel like it's a constant struggle to manage business while parenting, especially because the child is always changing and in new stages with new needs,” and they are absolutely right. Yet, we constantly see parents on Instagram seemingly pulling off #parentgoals. And let’s be honest: we compare ourselves. But, we need to remind ourselves it’s ok to take a breather and re-examine our why. It’s important to ask ourselves, “what exactly do I need to feel that my work-life balance is sustainable?” and then go after it. All too often, we make sacrifices that lead to feelings of resentment, and while there is no doubt a time will come where we feel defeated or utterly exhausted being pulled every which way, giving yourself permission to feel and lean into this could be the most powerful and encouraging thing you can do for yourself.
Parent guilt is a very real thing. But, so is the feeling of success managing the duality of these roles. You can have your cake and eat it too, or in this case have a career and family simultaneously while effectively managing your own needs. It just takes dedication and consistency in finding your rhythm. Here are some tips I frequently offer my clients to help balance parenthood with a career:
One of my favorite and most used apps is the Cozi app. I check it daily and every Sunday review what the week has in store while seeing what everyone else has going on so I can efficiently plan my day. The app is free and everyone gets assigned a color so it’s easy to identify who is doing what and when. This also allows my family to see what I have going on so they can be mindful of my time as well. You can schedule reminders to help keep you and the rest of the family on track, too. Organize and prioritize all around and save yourself the headache and mental breakdown of forgetting a playdate or work deadline.
When I was a kid, I remember listening to a specific radio show with my dad on the drive home from school. It was one of the few times where we both had to stay present and could bond over something together with little to no distraction. It was “our time” and even now my commutes consist of “me time.” Use the time in your car to interact and bond with your kids or yourself. This can look like playing your favorite podcast, Spotify playlist, or even audible with your kids or by yourself on the morning or afternoon commute. Tune in however you can, but avoid work distractions during this time and be intentional with how you use those precious few minutes getting to and from places
I know we’ve all played the game of “just one more,” whether that’s answering another work email or agreeing to participate in another school event. While it’s great to say yes to as many new activities as you can in an effort to try new things, it’s perfectly acceptable and encouraged to say no to both work and social obligations, particularly if you’re running low on energy. Remember you can’t pour from an empty tank, meaning your rest is needed to recharge and refuel. If you have a conflict in your schedule, figure out which one you know two hours from now you won’t be mad at yourself for canceling or rescheduling. There are only so many hours in a day and you are only one person so don’t overload yourself.
Finding a support system for you and for your child, whether this means finding childcare or setting up a schedule with your partner and/or relatives is vital. Don’t shy away from asking for help, even on a part-time basis. Link up with other parents you trust who have children at your kids’ childcare center or school and offer to split rides in the morning, if possible. Community goes a long way. Building your village can also include using services to help you out. If you find you are low on time to run to the grocery store between picking up the kids and running to another practice or event, then use apps or platforms like Instacart to save you time. Most major retailers like Target, Walmart, and even Amazon offer same-day grocery and prescription delivery to take the worry out of simple tasks. Delegation is key here. Don’t be afraid to embrace technology and let it be your friend, not your foe.
Being a working parent is a beautiful thing. You get to pursue an interest in something you choose and you bring home real-life experiences that can be shared with your family. You’re showing your children that you can have individual professional goals while still being present to love and spend quality time with them. There should be no shame in deciding to work as a parent, just as there should be no shame in deciding to stay at home with your children. Parenting is a full-time gig, we all know this, but you can balance both roles by setting healthy boundaries for yourself and sticking to a pace that’s comfortable for you. This decision is yours and I assure you this will not “ruin” your child, or even you. You are building a foundation where you can share your talents or passions that existed before you earned that honorable “Parent” badge.
Remember progress, not perfection. Basic needs like sleep and nutrition are crucial. Be well-rested as often as you can to avoid burnout (and snapping at your loved ones) and make sure to take your lunch breaks (being hangry is not fun!). Use any time reserved for yourself completely guilt-free. Give yourself the opportunity to be fully present and slow down so that throughout your day you don’t feel as stressed out about being away from your children and can look forward to returning home and doing your nightly routines. Make sure to pay attention to your expectations as well, because if you set the bar too high you could get emotionally sabotaged at the end of the day because you didn’t do what you set out to do. This only adds to your stress and anxiety levels, so be realistic about what you have time for and make a plan with your family. Also, be open and honest with your job. If you have a family obligation and the boss asks you to stay, you can say no and have them ask another colleague. Finally, always remember to find joy. Make sure you take time out of your day to express gratitude for the things you have and are going through. Every experience is a chance to learn something new about yourself and this awareness only benefits your children and family by allowing them to see your growth. As Dr. Brene Brown puts it, “imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”