Finding balance in work and life has been an ongoing issue, especially as technology advances has removed the barriers of time and place for work. Much is being written today about the challenge of turning work off and truly taking time away from work. A recent article in USA Today discussed how companies are even forcing workers to use time off. The challenge is real and does require serious action.
This issue is especially true for parents. Children need both quality and quantity time. There isn’t a perfect formula for balance but here are a few keys to help.
5 Keys to Work-Life Balance as a Parent
- Clarity and focus.
In the pace and demands of both work and parenting, it is essential that you establish clear objectives and have laser like focus to meet them. Distractions in work and in parenting can cause you to spin out of control trying to keep up. Define success and be intentional about where you put your energy. You can’t do everything at work and you can’t do everything at home. But you can meet clearly defined objectives in both. Setting goals and objectives and establishing timelines will help you not try to do everything at the same time (which isn’t good for your team either!). And in parenting, there is no substitute for focused time with your children. Be clear, your season of parenting has an end.
- Being fully present at work and at home.
Be intentional about focusing on work while at work and on your children when you are away from work. One of my parenting rules when I worked and my girls were home was they could call me anytime they needed me and I would take their call. They seldom called but this rule helped me focus at work knowing that if they needed me for anything they could reach me. They rarely called but this gave us both confidence and security.
When you are home, put away your work! It can wait. Put away your technology devices that will pull you into work. Often looking at your phone and what you thought would take a minute has suddenly taken an hour. My husband and I have a rule in place that if we see the other being distracted by technology we call it out and we agree to put up our devices! Trust me, the world will go on. Your work may require you to check back in after the kids are in bed but even then be cautious. It isn’t a badge of honor to say you are working all the time. In fact, research is showing, that unless you take a break from work, you will lose momentum and not be effective.
- Ask for help.
You can’t do it all. Anything you can get help doing, get the help. Years ago, my husband and I both were working hard in ministry and in parenting. We sat down to work on a plan to help both to be more effective. During that time, we decided to get help with cleaning the house and with yard work. That decision helped us both focus more on time with our children when we were home.We also taught our girls that everyone in the family including them had jobs to do to help. I also learned to put several numbers in my contact list and when I need help (catering for special events or guests, healthy food pick ups, a friend who can pick up your children when a work emergency happens, and more!) I have learned to ask. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness but of strength.
- Lower your expectations.
If you are a type “A” perfectionist, you are going to be challenged in finding work-life balance. Something has to give or you will be miserable and that will make everyone else miserable. Try to simplify things, get things ready the night before so mornings are calmer, build in margin in your life because you will need it, and remember time is more important with your children than material things. Mealtime together is one of the most important times for building healthy families. It is a time for families to reconnect after being apart for the day and to share about things going on in each other’s lives. BUT mealtime doesn’t mean a three course home cooked meal. It can be pizza and a salad or take-out from your favorite restaurant. The key is being together with uninterrupted time to talk and share.
- Planning ahead.
Whether in work or in family life, being intentional about strategic planning is a key to success. When our girls were young and our ministry opportunities were expanding, Rodney and I started taking an annual retreat to pray and plan. This long and short term planning made a significant difference in us being proactive in planning. We would walk away from our retreat with our calendars already committed to family time and key family events as well as key ministry opportunities. We also walked away with a list of requests we would have to say we simply could not do. Now that my girls are married with children of their own, I am so thankful we planned ahead so we didn’t miss any of the key events in our girls’ lives, and I don’t think we missed anything in work and ministry either. Planning will help you keep your mission and life purpose as the key to how you live and work.
Work and parenting will always have surprises and interruptions. There simply isn’t a perfect formula. Ultimately, a life well lived is one surrendered to God. He gives us wisdom and direction in parenting and work and He also gives great joy and peace in both.
“Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands – establish the work of our hands!” Psalm 90:17
How are you balancing the demands of work and family?