7 Strategies to Better Balance Work and Family Life
Looking for ways to make the household or your life run more smoothly? Try these tips, tricks and time-tested methods for juggling work, home and — hopefully — a little free time.
Working parents like to try to do it all, but when you study the reality of what "doing it all" looks like, how much of it is done very well?
Christy Johnson, a guest blogger at the working-mom oriented website VendRaleigh.com and the owner/photographer of Raleigh-based Be True Design Image, has discovered that many working moms need to take a hard look at their expectations. "If the house is a little messy that's OK; you have to let some things go," she says, adding a quote from author Anna Quindlen: " 'When in doubt choose the kids, there will be plenty of time later to choose work.' "
Practice prioritizing, do what you can and let go of the rest. "I try to make sure what I'm doing every day lines up with my own priorities," Johnson says. If you are spending more time on your work and your priority is to maximize time with the kids, then it is time to rethink what's happening, she says, adding, "If you're not taking time for yourself, you're not going to be any good for everyone else."
2. Keep a routine.
Lauren Rieger of Charlotte understands the power of having a schedule. Rieger is a single mother and owner of a Charlotte-based concierge/organization business, Leave it to Lauren. "As a single mom myself, I feel like I never have enough time in the day," she says. Keeping a routine is how she makes everything happen.
3. Make a chore chart.
Rieger applies her same schedule logic to household chores, advising people to create a chore chart and accomplish the bigger tasks first, leaving time to relax later.
"The lineup includes daily tasks that need to be accomplished so you don't have to clean the house all at once," she says. "I'm all about time management. If it makes sense for you to hire a housekeeper to knock out the things you can't stand to clean, then go for it. Just save that money from your grocery shopping or dry cleaning funds."
4. Do things in small doses.
Greensboro-based Lori Fowler, who owns Ducks in a Row Home Organization, recommends managing all the paper that comes into the home. "We know there are things in those papers we need to respond to, but trying to weed those things out is not a skill a lot of people have by nature," she says.
Fowler advises moms to create three categories — to be filed, to be paid and to be answered —and then make the recycling bin their best friend. "When you get that stack, immediately make an evaluation," she says. Assign the items to one of the three categories or toss it. "If it builds up, it gets so overwhelming. We've all been there at some point," she says. "It's so much better to do in small bites, when it shows up."
5. Plan ahead.
We all know how easy it is to fall back on fast food or the microwave when juggling kids' activities or work or social events. "It's so much less stress if you have set meals for the week that you can pick and choose from," Johnson says.
Give meal planning a try. She likes to assign a theme to each night to help narrow the options. "It makes it seem much less overwhelming," Johnson says.
6. Use employer benefits.
Rieger recommends that working moms, whether single or in a relationship, try to maximize benefits through their employer. "A lot of companies now offer opportunities to help their employees balance work and life," she says. "Although you can't be sure until you are a part of a company or organization, try to align yourself with a company where the environment and the people you surround yourself with are similar to who you are and your life outside of the office," Rieger says. "This will encourage you to be your true self both at work and at home and achieve work-life balance."
7. Learn to say 'no.'
Last, but not least, try to be more selective about the number of activities your kids are involved in. "I think we all naturally overcommit ourselves all the time," Fowler says. Though it may seem almost impossible to say "no" to something for the kids, Fowler has learned not to overcommit. "Our kids do not need to be as busy as we sometimes get them to be," she says.
Fowler advises parents to reserve some time for everyone to sit down together and have a meal or spend other family time. "Be deliberate about it," she recommends. "It's one of the best things we can do for our kids."
Ginny Gaylor is a Greensboro-based freelance writer and editor and mom of one.