With such an intense barrage of messages urging parents to be shining beacons of perfection who can “do it all,” it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and be pressured into being a hamster in the proverbial parenting wheel.
However, even as I balance my work and family, the one thing I don’t have time for as a working mom is guilt.
I love my children and I love my job and I know I can do both, just not both all the time.
My kids are still young and as with most things in parenting, once life seems slightly under control, you can guarantee it is time for things to change. So when an important meeting is scheduled for an early morning or the kids need a chaperone for the field trip, I try to remember “It’s not everyday, its just one day – today,” and might as well make it a good one.
With only 24 hours in the day, to maximize my time as a working mom, I focus on:
- Quality Time: There have been reams of studies that show that it’s not the quantity of time you spend with your kids, but rather the quality of it. In fact, a recent report published in The Washington Post highlighted a large-scale longitudinal study of the time parents spent with their kids. The study found that the “the sheer amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out, and a minimal effect on adolescents…” So, while I don’t rush to attend every single field trip or bake up a storm for the bake sale, I do make it a point to read a book to my sons’ class when I can or help with a special snack – little things that add to special time with my kids. I know my sons appreciate me making the effort and are able to enjoy those moments with me because they see the whole effort is not making me bananas with stress, guilt or anxiety.
- Alone Time: One of the first casualties for working parents is alone time for yourself – that could mean waking up early to read the paper in silence or scheduling that class that you have ALWAYS wanted to take. You need to make time to do something you want to do and not just things you need to do. Take some time out – even if it’s just fifteen minutes a day- that is not focused on your kids’ needs or job demands. This simple act of alone time is restorative and helps maintain perspective and clarity in life.
- Surprise Time: Leave work early and go out to dinner, grab a forbidden donut in the morning if everyone can get out of the house on time, take a walk around the block at work or 5 minutes to checkout the roof deck. The kids will love the change in routine and the special time with mom and dad, and the break at work will help you refocus and engage.
- Being Present: And finally, be present. Between demanding jobs, long commutes and the everyday stresses of life, it’s easy to get behind and overwhelmed. When you are at work make the most of it, when you are with your family, do the same. There is no point in trying to be in two places at once, both suffer and so do you!
So, do it all, just not all the time.
How do you maximize your day as a working mom/dad? Share your tips for the other readers here.