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This is most probably an age-old struggle for mums: You need to make money, but who’ll look after the kids? You’re probably filled with guilt and desire to achieve the best work-life balance. Am I right?
With 75.1% of mothers with dependent children in work in the UK (April to June 2019), poor work-life balance can have adverse effects on their mental health. This can also adversely affect their children and general family life.
With a typical workday being eight hours long (twelve hours if you work in healthcare and some other industries), and time added for commuting, it may seem like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to balance both family and work.
Have no fear mama! There are ways to make your life more manageable.
With a few simple tweaks to your schedule and a re-evaluation of your life goals, you can find fulfilment without continually feeling like pulling your hair out or shutting yourself in a cupboard licking copious amounts of ice cream!
Work-life balance tips to help you
Below are some tips to help you achiever better work-life balance.
Let go of mum guilt
Mum guilt is very real but the truth is it won’t serve you and your child or children. Ask yourself if you’re really doing anything wrong.
Did you spend a few minutes hugging your child and wishing them a great day before heading out of the door, or did you choose to run out of the door at the crack of dawn to your office meeting without so much as looking at your child?
Search your soul and assess your situation. If you are the breadwinner and you don’t have much choice in your work start and finish times, don’t beat yourself up about it.
Instead, enjoy every free moment you can with your loved ones, while you continue to work towards a better future.
Get good quality childcare
If you’re going to work, you might as well leave your children with reputable childcare providers. If you’re anything like me, you would prefer to stay at home with your children without having to worry about your bills. But you and I know that bills are a fact of life.
Make a list of what qualities and services you would like your childcare provider to offer, and make sure your chosen provider ticks all the right boxes.
Have a family calendar
When my children were much younger and I had their different activities to attend, family calendars helped my sanity!
A simple paper-based family calendar will help you organise the whole family, keep track of school meetings, activities, birthdays and appointments. All you have to do is write down future engagements for the correct person, on the correct date, and look at the calendar to remind yourself of what’s what.
Below are some calendars that you could consider (valid until at least June 2021):
Prepare for your day the night before
This will at the very least help you prevent burnout!
Pick out your outfit for the next day so you don’t waste time looking for what to wear. Be sure to check the weather forecast to ensure you’re dressed appropriately.
Prepare extra dinner, enough for your lunch the next day, and have it packed ready the night before. This will save you time and money. You could also prepare you breakfast the night before if you need to cut food items for example. Again, this is will save you some time in the morning.
Pack your bag with your essentials the night before. Imagine getting into the office and realising you left your work laptop on your kitchen counter. That would be a bummer!
Keep things in their proper place
Have you ever woken up late, rushed to get yourself out to a meeting or wherever else, grabbed your bags, grabbed your keys… YOUR KEYS! You search high and low but you just don’t seem to find them?
Things like this can add extra time to your day and increase your stress levels before you’ve even left home for work. To minimise this, keep things in their proper place, so you don’t spend time working up a sweat.
Keeping things in their place will help keep you sane, as well as help get you out of the door on time for work.
Evaluate your career path
The best way to start changing how you approach the limited hours in your day is to evaluate your career path. Ask yourself: “Am I working in a career that I am truly passionate about? Is the trade-off between work and family worth the time I spend at the office?”
Asking yourself these types of questions (at any point in your career) will help you keep your priorities in check. The bottom line question is: am I able to attend to both my work and my family? If not, what needs to happen to find balance? Perhaps this means a change of career to allow for more quality time, money, or less overall responsibilities and stress.
Evaluate your commute time
I don’t know about you, but I always considered my commute time prior to applying for a job. It isn’t just the working hours that take away from your spouse or children. Commuting could cost you a couple of hours a day, while business trips could take away countless hours of valuable time that you could otherwise be spending with your family.
Prior to applying for a job you should seriously consider the commute time. Evaluating these aspects of the job will help you decide whether it’s worth it, and if not, what you could do to change that.
For example, you could ask your future or current employer if they would allow you more freedom with your work hours. Or you could ask if you can negotiate your contract to allow you to work from home to help cut down your commute time.
Seek a flexible contract
Flexible contracts include part-time, working from home, job sharing, staggered hours and annualised hours.
Working flexibly will reduce your stress and potential overwhelm, which will lead to you becoming more productive. When you work in a contract that suits you, you will feel more in control of your working day and more willing to increase your output.
A flexible working contract can be very beneficial to you. It can increase your job satisfaction, and keep you motivated to continue using your professional skills and at the same time spend quality time with your family.
Delegate to colleagues
By evaluating your tasks, you may be able to re-allocate your time and possibly cut down on late nights or early mornings at the office. Another important workplace strategy is to delegate tasks to others.
If you typically handle everything in your department, it’s time to get help by involving others. By delegating responsibilities to staff members, you not only empower your staff to have a more active role, but you also allow yourself more time to be home with your family.
If you’re not in a position to delegate, or you’re the one being delegated to, here are a few things you can do to relieve the pressure on yourself:
- Ask your boss the importance of any given task, in relation to your other duties. This will help you decide how best to allocate your time.
- Prioritise your tasks in order of importance.
- Speak up before things get too much for you. It could be that there is a more junior staff that your boss could ask to complete some tasks assigned to you, or they could decide to reassess company goals if they realise they were perhaps being too optimistic.
Take your annual leave
The body needs rest periodically. Taking some time off from work can help you to reduce your stress levels. There’s no point slogging away at the office only to get stress related illness or worse, which could potentially mean that you don’t get to enjoy the money you’ve earned.
When you take time off to recuperate you will be able to spend time with your family and build your social relationships. This will improve your mood.
Another benefit of taking time off work is that your general health and well-being will be better than if you work continuously without taking a break. This will help boost your immunity and prevent you from getting sick.
Evaluate your priorities
Before you are able to adequately balance your work and family life, you have to determine what’s most important to you: money and self-fulfilment or time with your family, or both (or whatever else!).
Once you know the answer to this question, you’ll be able to better navigate your way to a happy and balanced life.
Achieving work-life balance is essential for your mental health. If you don’t feel that your current job will give you that balance or flexibility you desire, it may mean that you need to consider other career paths.
Additionally, if your current employment contract doesn’t allow you any time off to recuperate it may be time to consider a new job at a different company (after trying to negotiate of course).
Feel free to share how you achieve your work-life balance.
I’d love to hear from you.
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