These days everyone is busy. It seems we have an epidemic of busyness sweeping across the developed world. Every minute is filled with something and we don’t sleep as much as our bodies need to.
I don’t think that anyone would debate that becoming a parent puts another layer on top of the existing busyness.
Now, not only do you have your own schedule to worry about, but you are entirely responsible for someone else too.
If you choose to or have to return to work when your children are young, then you are essentially returning to your pre-child commitments with the extra responsibilities that parenting brings.
Being prepared and making some mind-set shifts can help you to make the greatest success of balancing the two roles and will see you prosper in the workplace whilst being the mother you always imagined you would be at home.
Here are some tips to help you:
1) Set your own boundaries but try to remain flexible
Clearly setting and stating your boundaries both at work and at home provides clarity to your family and your colleagues and clients. If everyone knows that you will be in the office until 5pm every day and that you have child care commitments after that, then they are unlikely to create a late afternoon meeting with you.
If your family knows that you will be home by 5.30pm each evening then they can rely on you being there and look forward to your return.
It is always important to build a degree of flexibility into our boundaries and plans though, as you can be sure that the company MD will visit on your afternoon off and your child will have a raging temperature on your work day.
2) Be there when you are there
Try to avoid doing child related activities when you are at work and work related activities when you are with the family.
I always remember having a difficult conversation with a peer when I was recruiting a school hour’s position. He was against it and believed that what I would get was a mum who would be on the phone booking dance lessons and organising playdates and after school care all day long.
On the flip side, my children don’t like it when I come home from work and they want to show or tell me something and I tell them to wait a minute as I quickly make a call or send an email.
Often now I will do one last email check in the car so that I can be 100% present when I walk in the door.
3) Outsource and insource
I am sure most of you have thought about getting a cleaner, asking a friend to do drop off one day and you do another or perhaps getting the ironing done. Anything to make life easier. However what is often forgotten is that we can also “in-source”.
Those little people of ours are more than capable of helping out around the house and can in fact prosper when they have their own responsibilities. Emptying the dishwasher, putting clothes away, tidying their bedrooms and helping with food preparation. The list is endless.
4) Have a centralised scheduler
For many people this will be an electronic app on phones or other devices. For me it is a large paper calendar, which I get printed for the family for Christmas. Every commitment is on there and we can all easily see who is where and make sure we do not double book. Our nanny is also able to glance at the kitchen wall and know what is upcoming.
Similarly, having a shared calendar at work means that should you have to re-jig your working days one week then your colleagues will be able to see this and will not end up double booking you.
5) Ignore the negative Nancies
We know they exist. Some in the workplace and some outside of it. You will hear all kinds of comments about your own choices and decisions. Many will be supportive, but some will be critical and hurtful.
I have been accused of neglecting my children and asked why I had children if I wanted to work full time.
For me, it is water off a duck’s back. I am happy and so is my family. We have made a decision that works for us. Other people’s concerns or downright nasty comments are not welcome here and do not affect how I operate or feel.
6) Deal with the guilt
It will happen. At some point. Perhaps the negative Nancies will get to you on a day when you are tired. Maybe you will miss a milestone event in your child’s development. Or maybe you will mess up at work and feel guilty that you cannot contribute hours like the rest of your team any more.
Whatever the source and the reason, I suggest that you acknowledge the feeling, accept that guilt is a negative and pointless emotion that will not help you in any way, take a deep breath and let it go.
Perhaps you can learn from your experience. Maybe you can do things a little bit differently in future.
Or it could be that very occasionally you do have to miss out on something, as it is simply not possible to be in two places at once.
I am all for making my own life as easy as possible. If someone can help me, or I have the opportunity to streamline something then I will accept with eagerness.
I find time and time again that clear communication all round leads to happy, healthy and strong relationships both at home and in the workplace.
Do you have any other tips to add to this list? Please share in the comments below.