We all want to do the best we can for our kids, and that may mean both parents are out of the house working. As more Americans have two working parents, families look different than they used to. In 2015, 46% of American households had both parents working full time, while another 23% had one parent full time and the other part time.
The good news is having a career that provides us with healthy challenges and creative outlets makes us happier, not to mention making us positive role models for our kids. That doesn’t mean it’s not a struggle to balance work and home life, but there are ways to manage it. Between balancing time commitments, chore and household responsibilities, and focusing on the quality of the time you spend as a family, you can still raise happy, healthy children.
No matter who you’re parenting with — a current or former spouse, your own parents, or even extended family — figuring out a way to balance responsibilities is important. Not only for the kids, but for your sanity and well-being as well. The first step is to discuss what your priorities are. When there are only so many hours in a day or a week, what gets the top priority in your calendar?
Obviously for working parents, a top priority is your job. We have to go to work, that’s a given. But approach your work life from the perspective of what your other life priorities are. Are your kids involved in after-school activities? Perhaps one parent can go to work early while the other gets kids ready for the day. Then roles reverse in the afternoon, where that parent is now off work early to pick kids up and go to events or organize dinner. Even a one-hour shift in both your schedules can mean your kids get two more hours a day with the adults they love most. Discussing the ability to be flexible with your employer is a great place to start.
There is more to life than just school and work schedules. Also consider family activities like church, volunteer work, or other activities you’ve dedicated to. Agree on how much time you want to spend on them and make space in the calendar. The same goes for your personal hobbies or self-care time; studies show it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself too.
Getting it All Done
Now that you agree on what is the most important, decide how you’re going to tackle everything on the to-do list. The easiest way to do this is to outsource your life. The more things you can put on autopilot, the more time you can dedicate to afternoon adventures and bedtime stories.
Here are just a couple to consider:
Meal kits are a great way to outsource a huge time-consumer for most families. You can choose just dinners, or even lunches and snacks. The sky is really the limit, depending on your family’s budget. There are talented chefs and nutritionists around the Black Hills who offer meal services as well, if you’re looking to stay local.
Get help with household chores. Hiring someone to clean for you even once a month to do a deep clean is helpful. That way you can focus on the smaller daily tasks like dishes and you don’t have to worry about spending an entire weekend doing floors or scrubbing bathtubs.
Pick one weekend day a month where you get a babysitter or drop the kids off at an activity so you can spend time with just you, or with your significant other.
Not all of us have the financial resources to simply pay for more time in our day. It will take some time upfront, but getting organized ahead of time can streamline the small things in life so you can get back to hanging out with your kids.
Meal plan for a couple of weeks, including grocery lists. Pick some easy meals like crock pot or instant pot dump meals you can just set and forget, or meals that make leftovers like casseroles.
Order groceries ahead of time to save yourself time perusing the aisles. Many stores have apps that allow you to select your groceries and a time to pick them up. Bonus, this will also prevent impulse buying, which your monthly budget will appreciate.
Set up a chore chart for the family. As the saying goes, many hands make light work. Keep the bigger tasks for the adults, but kids can get involved too. We’ve even come up with some ideas on how to make chores fun so your kids will be more likely to pitch in!
If you have friends or family that also have kids, try to swap playdate duties so once in a while. Have all the kids in one place for a couple hours on the weekend so you can have some alone time, and vice versa. It’s a great way to help another family while getting the time you need, too.
If you find you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything that has to get done, be open with your partner. There may be ways they can help you balance or things they can pick up at home if you’re swamped at work. Just remember to come to the conversation without blaming them for not picking up more — communication is important.
Focus on Quality Over Quantity
We’ve all heard it: it’s quality, not quantity, that matters. Well, the old saying proves true when it comes to time with our children. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that the emotional and mental health of our children is higher when parents put family first. This includes quality time doing activities that they are interested in. If you’re stuck for ideas, we’ve put together a few lists you can do in the winter and in the summer.
Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty for prioritizing your career. Being fulfilled outside of the home can make us happier parents, which results in happier children. The key to all things is balance, so be mindful your work life isn’t bleeding into the time you spend with your kids. Shut off your notifications, or better yet, put your phone on the charger in another room. Physically distancing yourself from work lets you do so emotionally, so you can fully immerse yourself in your family for the time you have.