In our busy, modern world, juggling work and family isn’t easy. While the monthly pay packet is obviously welcome, the feelings of guilt certainly aren’t. Guilt that you’re too exhausted to play with your kids. Guilt that the housework isn’t getting done. Guilt that you weren’t able to finish the piece of work your boss asked for because your child was unwell.
But you absolutely shouldn’t feel guilty. Nor should you feel alone. Finding a family work life balance is a struggle all working parents face. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to lightening your load, there are some things you can do to better balance home life with work life – as shared by real-life mums and dads in the same boat.
Balancing work and family during the Covid-19 pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed life for all of us. And even though lockdown is now easing across the United Kingdom and Ireland, the current advice is still to work from home if you can. While the past few months have given parents the opportunity to spend more time with their children (a silver lining at a difficult time), the situation has also resulted in new challenges, as mums, dads and guardians attempt to juggle home schooling with their work commitments. You’re probably in a well-worn routine by now, but if you’re struggling to maintain momentum, get back on track with the following tips for coping with new changes in routine during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“For the first few weeks of Lockdown, my husband and I were all over the place, which meant the kids were too,” says Masha, mum to Alison, 8, and Darryl, 3. “Slowly, though, we’ve managed to establish a work life routine. I wouldn’t exactly say things have been easy, I’ve been late with quite a few deadlines for example, and finding the motivation each morning has been tough, but my boss has been very understanding, and I do appreciate this rare extra time we’re getting to spend together as a family.”
Work life balance examples: suggestions from other working parents
Stop comparing yourself to others
“I used to think that I was the only one struggling to cope with a family work life balance – all the other working mums I know seemed to be fully on top of things,” says Charlize, mum to Andrea, 2 and Adeline, 4. “But when I actually plucked up the courage to talk to them about it, I realised they were just as stressed out as I was. Once you realise that superhero parents are (largely) a myth (I’m sure there are a few out there), everything gets a whole lot easier mentally. You can only do what you can do.”
Online shopping and other life hacks
“Instead of looking forward to the weekend I used to dread it. I’m a single parent who works more or less full-time, which means I have to try and cram food shopping, a week’s worth of washing and ironing, bill sorting, etc, into my Saturday and Sunday, leaving me precious little quality time with my son,” says Maria, mum to Paul, 5. “A friend suggested online grocery shopping as a way to lighten the load and it really does save so much time and hassle. And it’s better for my finances, too, as there are no unpleasant surprises at the till, you just adjust your virtual basket to suit your budget.”
“Forget Netflix and chill, I’m a firm advocate of Netflix and ironing,” laughs Michael, dad to Evie, 4 and Lila, 7. “I spend 45 minutes each night getting everyone’s clothes ready for the next day. I have a movie or TV series on at the same time, so it doesn’t feel like too much of a chore, and you’d be amazed at how much easier it makes mornings. We actually have time to have a leisurely breakfast together before I leave for work, which is wonderful.”
Talk to your boss about flexible working
“I was fed up of feeling burnt out all the time, so I spoke to my boss about flexible working and to my amazement she readily agreed,” says Eleanor, mum to Sasha, 4 and Aidan, 8. “I do the same amount of hours each week, but over fewer days, giving me more time to devote to the kids. And my work, if anything, has improved, as I’m more motivated to get things done. I also know a mum who job shares and another who’s able to work from home twice a week – they both say it makes a world of difference. Chat to your employer, they may surprise you.”
Deprioritise the housework
“I used to come home from work and turn my attention immediately to the messy kitchen. Or the laundry basket. Or the kids’ toys everywhere,” says Nia, mum to Abram, 3 and Ryan, 5. Then it hit me: I’m not getting this time with my children back. Now the chores wait, rather than my kids – and I, and they, are so much happier for it.”
If you’re at or around the point of returning to work after parental leave, our back to work article shares helpful advice from other parents on how to cope with the emotional highs and lows.
Work and life balance = happier you!
Ultimately, just remember to be kind to yourself – it’s not self-indulgence, it’s self-preservation. Sometimes late nights with poorly kids will affect your concentration; sometimes work deadlines will overrule bedtime stories – that’s all part of the work life ‘balance’. Stick to whatever works best for you and just embrace this hectic, messy, heavily improvised but hugely rewarding part of your life. You’re doing great.
Visit our parenting hub for more information and advice on the highs, lows and everything in between of parenting. We’re here to help.