Your children are sleeping. It’s finally that quiet moment in the evening when you have some time for yourself. You might watch a movie, read a book, sip a martini, or spend some much-needed R&R with your partner. Sounds idyllic.
We hear about the importance of work-life balance everywhere. We’re told it’s a must-have if we are to look after ourselves. In reality, when the children are asleep, it is time to catch-up on the chores, get the next meal prepared, or finish that report for tomorrow’s meeting.
Work-life balance for parents, especially with preschoolers or younger children, can often be a juggling act. But finding that balance is important as it benefits all the family, and it can also improve your physical and mental health.
We reveal the importance of work-life balance and how you can keep it all together with our 13 tips for parents. We also discuss:
- What is work-life balance?
- What are the benefits of work-life balance?
- How to positively shift the balance with simple changes to work, life and play.
What is work-life balance
Work-life balance is the way you divide your time between the different aspects of your everyday life. How much time you spend on work and how much time you spend on other activities, such as family and leisure.
Many definitions of work-life balance regard work as the duties performed for a paid occupation. However, we should also recognise the tasks and responsibilities performed through unpaid work, such as housework, study for work and charity work.
Attitudes on the importance of work-life balance have changed over the years. With the internet, it’s easier to work from home. And yet, if you spend a lot of extra time on work at home, it still doesn’t achieve that equilibrium between life and work.
While it often seems unattainable, there are small changes that you can adopt to create more quality family time. The benefits are well worth it.
What are the benefits of work-life balance?
Combining work and family commitments can be a struggle. The National Working Families Report (2019) found that in Australia, over two-thirds of parents and carers find it hard to attain a work-life balance. But there are many positive benefits when work and life flow together.
- Improved physical health: Take the time to look after your personal wellbeing.
- Better mental health: Manage stress and anxiety.
- Contentment: Feel satisfied and happy with work and life.
- Greater productivity: Do more with your time.
- More quality family time: Be present for your children.
- Stronger relationships: Strengthen your connections, especially at home.
- Achieve personal commitments: Focus on what really matters to you.
Children benefit most from your attention when work-life balance is achieved. It’s easier to maintain routines and they can tell you about their day, how they feel, show you what they’ve achieved and sneak in a few extra cuddles to make them feel connected, safe and secure.
Achieve work-life balance with these 13 tips for parents
1. Talk to your employer about their policies on flexible working arrangements. You may be able to sell them on a working arrangement that works better for you both, such as:
- Flexible hours.
- Different start and finish times.
- Working from a different location (if your workplace has multiple sites).
- Job sharing.
- Working from home every now and then.
2. Change your working habits. Reflect on the way you work and consider if there are any habits that you could change. Like your availability by phone or email, whether you take work home to finish, or if you’re consistently working longer hours to get things done.
3. Create rituals for smooth transitions between work and life. Meditate, go to the gym, switch your thinking process or simply change clothes—take the time between to focus on what’s ahead.
4. Ask for help with chores. When doing the housework, invite the whole family to do it with you. Take the washing up, for example: toddlers and preschoolers love to get their hands all wet and soapy, so encourage them to rinse and wash their dishes.
5. Give your children your undivided attention. It’s okay to be doing separate activities. You can read or chat on your mobile while they play. However, when they need you to listen and interact, put the book or mobile down and give them 100% of your focus.
6. Say “No” more often. It can be difficult saying no to your boss, or a friend that wants some help or volunteering your time to a worthy cause. Carefully weigh up new commitments. It’s better to do a few things well than to spread yourself too thin.
7. Let go of the guilt. Accept that there will be good and bad days and focus on the here and now. If you’re at work, be present at work. If you’re going home to your family and partner, focus on them and leave the work behind.
8. Set aside gadget-free time for the whole family. Switch off all mobiles, tablets, TVs, PCs and anything else that has the potential to turn you and your family into drones. Do something different instead like play a board game or start a new family project.
9. Organise your day the night before. Get everything packed and ready-to-go, including lunches and meals. You may even find preparing make-ahead meals on the weekend saves you time and stress during the week.
10. Create and plan a family calendar. Work out your priorities together, including chores, school and family events like birthdays, extra-curricular activities, special family at-home-nights and date nights with your partner.
11. If you work from home, separate your work from your leisure. Allocate a designated workspace, get dressed to “go” to work, keep a schedule with breaks and let your clients know when you’re available.
12. Include some me-time for yourself. Everyone needs a little alone time to pamper themselves and do the things they enjoy doing alone. You could spend it getting your hair done, meditating, lifting weights at the gym, reading or a spot of fishing.
13. Ask your daycare centre how you can feel more connected with your child during the day. You may discover they use an app like Storypark to communicate your child’s activities.
If you yearn for a more balanced life, be prepared to make small changes over time rather than sudden drastic modifications. Finding the right balance for you and your family can be tricky. For parents, the importance of work-life balance starts with a little flexibility and give.
Balance your life with Petit Early Learning Journey
At Petit ELJ, we recognise the parent and other family members as the child’s first and most important educator. That’s why we welcome and encourage your participation in our activities and policies. Partnering with families establishes strong relationships.
If you’re seeking more balance to your work and home life, ask us about the different ways you can participate in your child’s daily routines and activities. Come for a tour at your nearest centre and discover how we develop strong partnerships and empower you as decision makers.