The summer holiday is a good time to reflect on what worked and did not work during the previous academic year, allowing you to start the new one feeling refreshed (hopefully!) and with new goals. Doing so will help you to achieve work-life balance. This means giving equal importance to your career demands and your personal life. Work-life balance is more than a catchphrase: it’s a necessity.
Here are some tips to achieve work-life balance:
- It’s OK not to be perfect
There is no such thing as the perfect parent. It is important that we let go of that idea. You are not a superhero. There will be times when things won’t be perfect. Accept that this is fine, you are not failing, you are doing the best you can. And remember that for the most part, the idea of parenting we see in social media is not real. Don’t fall into the trap! Perfection is an unrealistic goal, trying to achieve it will only lead you to feeling stressed and unsatisfied.
2. Ask for help
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Remember the saying “It takes a village to raise a child”? It is true! And even more in the case of working parents and single parents. We all need help sometimes. Coordinate with other parents and family members. Take turns accompanying children to and from school, share birthday parties, and coordinate playdates so you can all have some free time.
3. Be flexible
Understanding that there may be moments when your family needs you more and other moments when your work demands your full attention is essential. Be flexible and be ready to re-prioritise when things change.
4. Do not neglect yourself
If you want to be able to take care of others, you must take care of yourself. If you are not feeling strong, you won’t be able to do well at home or at work. Remember to sleep and eat well, and exercise regularly. Many of us feel guilty when we have some ‘me time’, but we must learn to ignore that feeling! Think that taking care of yourself is the first step to take care of everything and everyone in your life.
5. Do not feel guilty because you work
Use the time that you have with the kids to enjoy them, do things together, and support them. Do not waste your time wishing that you didn’t have to work. Those thoughts are not helpful, especially if you have no other option but to work. You can be a working parent and a fantastic parent, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
6. Learn to say “no”
For many of us saying no is difficult. Maybe for you saying no is packed with guilt, you are a people pleaser, or you are afraid of disappointing others. However, think that your time and resources are limited, and you should put your energy and effort on the things that are important to you and your family. Whenever a request that you don’t want to do or can’t do comes your way, say no. The sooner you do it, the better so that you avoid unnecessary stress. Some ways of saying no are: ‘Sadly, I have something else going on’, ‘I wish I were able to’, ‘I don’t have the bandwidth to do it right now’, ‘Thanks for thinking of me. However, I am not able to’, or ‘I’m sorry, I’m not able to fit this in’. The more you do it, the easier it will become!
7. Set expectations at home and at work
The start of the academic year is the perfect moment to spend some time alone and decide what you want to achieve in the coming months. Similarly, it is a good time to hold ‘expectations meetings’ at home and at work. At home, establish with your family what will be expected of each one of you, the rules and the organisation of the household for the Autumn months.
At work, depending on your role you can have a similar discussion with your colleagues and team members. Doing this will reduce the likelihood of having to say ‘no’ as well as reduce disappointments, frictions, and arguments.
8. Change one unhealthy habit
Many of us have habits that are not the best for our physical and mental health. Perhaps you drink a bit too much, don’t exercise enough, eat too much processed food, or spend too much time on Instagram. Whereas it is not realistic trying to change all our bad (or not that good) habits at the same time, it is realistic to try to change one. Decide one habit that you would like to change, and go for it!
We wish you and your family all the very best for the new academic year. If you feel you need some extra support, remember to contact your REC Parenting therapist. You can also get in touch with us at email@example.com We are here to support you and your family!
With many children already on holidays and many others about to start, parents are facing the challenge of how to deal with having them at home while you still need to work. This can be a tricky and stressful moment, especially if you cannot rely on your extended family, summer camps, or friends to lend you a hand.
Here are some ideas that you may find helpful:
- Set up expectations and limits
Setting up expectations is helpful so that everyone is clear on how things are going to work. Have a family meeting to decide the rules. Discuss expectations (e.g., organise your room, load the dishwasher, going out rules…). Decide the structure of the days so that the children know what to expect. Explain to your children the hours that you need to work each day or the specific times. For example, “I need to be at my desk and not disturbed between 9-12. Once I am done, we can go to the park”. Doing this everyday helps your children to manage their expectations and gives them stability.
You also may want to set up rules about when it is OK for your child to disturb you while you are at work (e.g., “You can only come into my study or wherever you are working if someone rings the bell, or if you have hurt yourself”). Avoid telling them to come in when there is an emergency, because you and them may have different ideas of what an emergency is! Clearly define what counts as an emergency.
Setting up expectations will help your children to be less upset if you are not with them, and you are less likely to get frustrated if they are not respecting your needs. Sometimes parents end up being ‘entertainers’ because we think that we need to fill every moment of our child’s life with ‘valuable’ experiences. We end up constantly organising plans for them. Remember that there is also value in children getting bored because that way, for example, they are more likely to develop their creativity. Similarly, it is good for children to be able to decide what they want to play with and how they want that play to look like. We all need to learn to be with alone with ourselves and this is not something children will learn if we are organising every single moment for them.
And remember, do not feel guilty if you are working over the summer holidays. You are doing what you have to do and the best you can!
2. Adapt your schedule to your child’s needs and routine (if at all possible)
If you can work flexibly, try to adapt your work to suit your child. For example, if your teenager sleeps until midday, use that time to work and when they wake up you can have lunch together. Or if you have a baby that naps in the morning and afternoon, use that time to get on with work.
3. Have a space only for you (if at all possible)
Working while the kids are at home may be tricky but working in the same room as the kids is definitely not easy! If possible, have a space in the house that is only yours while you are working and make it clear to the children that they cannot come in unless there is a real emergency. If possible, avoid working in the kitchen because someone is always likely to come in to get some water or a snack.
If you have to work with the kids in the room, encourage them to do activities that are not too loud, like reading, making a puzzle, building with Legos… Another option is for you to wear ear plugs!
4. Loosen up the rules
The holidays are a good moment to loosen up a bit. We are not saying to go totally crazy because children still need rules, consistency, and a routine (especially the little ones) but we can perhaps relax them a little. You may, for example, allow some extra screen time, let your teenager sleep in a bit longer, or let your 10-year-old go to bed 30 minutes later than usual. However, remember to make it clear that rule-relaxation only applies during the school holidays. Otherwise, your troops may rebel come school-time!
If you do relax the rules, start to go back to ‘normal’ a few days before school starts again so that your child has time to adjust.
5. Find your village
They say that ‘it takes a village’ to raise a child because it is true! If you have friends or family around with children, offer to organise a rota: you take their kids some afternoons or mornings and they do the same for you. Or if their children are doing the same activities as yours, organise a rota for drop-offs and pick-ups. Ask other parents how they organise themselves, they may give you useful tips and ideas.
Decide what your priorities are for the summer regarding work and family life. You probably will not have time to do everything, so planning ahead and deciding what needs to be done and what can wait will help you avoid frustrations and disappointment. Try to be realistic with your time. I don’t know about you, but I am way too optimistic with mine!
Plan ahead and be flexible. If things are not working out as you had planned, be creative and work out other solutions or strategies.
7. And above all…Enjoy your child!
The holidays are a time when we don’t have to follow a strict timetable and children have less obligations. Therefore, we are less likely to argue with our children about homework, sleep time or music practice. Use this time to chat with them, have a laugh, do things together that you both enjoy.
Sometimes, as parents we fall in the trap of thinking that we need to be always doing something valuable with our children. While this is great, remember that there is also value in ‘not doing anything’. Spending a lazy morning in bed, watching a movie in the afternoon, or playing videogames together, are all valuable moments. During these moments, you enjoy each other’s company and strengthen your bond. Now, that is valuable!
However your summer is looking, we hope that you have a great time and you and your family have time to recharge and enjoy yourselves.
Photo credit: Nappy on Unsplash