Balancing work and family time is hard year-round, but working parenthood becomes especially tricky in the summertime. When the kids are out of school but you still have to work, it can be easy to fall into the guilt trap. Though it’s more commonly experienced by mothers, who are socialized to think that they need to be the most involved parent and the most productive person in the office at the same time, most parents will fall into this trap at some point or another.
You feel guilty for not spending enough time with your children (especially when they’re out of school), or guilty for not achieving as much as your colleagues at work; maybe you feel both these things at the same time! If you find yourself struggling with parent guilt, there are some simple—but life-changing—strategies you can try in your life to help better balance your time and keep your priorities straight.
- Organize your calendar to better manage your time. Some working parents swear by the color-blocked weekly calendar. Start with your most important and least flexible responsibilities and priorities (for example, work and family time). Block out the time you need for those, then schedule your lesser responsibilities and leisure activities for the week from there. You might also want to consider making use of a family calendar to keep track of everyone’s schedules in one place.
- Find quality childcare. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child! A good support network, from friends to family to childcare providers, is invaluable for a working parent. For the sake of flexibility, many families opt to hire a part-time or full-time nanny. A nanny can provide one-on-one attention and hours tailored to an individual family’s needs, which is often more convenient than a daycare with a set schedule.
- Limit distractions and time-wasters at work and at home. If at all possible, don’t check your email at home, and try your best to avoid multitasking when you’re with your kids. The best way to balance work and family is to fully devote yourself to the present moment. When you’re at work, focus on being productive; avoid time-wasting websites and idle coworker gossip. Many people don’t realize how much time they spend distracted or wasting time in a given day; you’ll likely be amazed at how much you can do in eight hours when you fully devote your brain to it. When you’re at home, don’t let yourself get caught up in workday stresses.
- Create special, weekly family activities and traditions. This is a great way to promote family bonding and plan dedicated time together. For example, make a point to have breakfast as a family one weekday morning, or establish a family game or movie night—whatever fits your family’s schedule best.
- Spend time with your partner—and yourself! A little relaxation goes a long way. It’s important not to neglect your relationship with your partner in favor of your family or your job. After all, your relationship is the foundation for your family and the life you’re building. At the same time, try to ensure you get some time to yourself each week, too. Even little things, like trading off lead-parent duties with your partner one night a week or allowing yourself to get lost in a book or bath for an hour before bed, can vastly improve your mental state and allow you to better connect with your children.
- Let go of the guilt. Parenthood is difficult enough without mentally punishing yourself. We see this all the time—working parents feel guilty for not being with their children 24/7, and stay-at-home parents feel guilty because they aren’t working. Unfortunately, guilt is an unpleasant distraction, and it can keep us from enjoying the time we do get to spend with our families, partners, and friends, on our leisure activities, and on our work. It’s difficult to get rid of, but many parents find that simple exercises, such as making use of a mantra in times of stress or doing a 10-minute meditation, help them refocus.
Remember, every parent has trouble balancing their responsibilities. Keep in mind that balance is a skill; it takes patience, dedication, and practice. Put some of these strategies to the test and let us know how they work for you!