We’ve all seen the movie--the one where the mom or dad has a high-powered career and just can’t seem to make time for their families. The dad promises to take their daughter to the zoo on her birthday but spends the entire time on his work cell phone. The mom swears she will come to her little boy’s soccer game but doesn’t make it until the final whistle sounds because a business meeting ran late. The husband completely spaces on his wedding anniversary due to staying late at work finishing up a big project. The overworking parent is the bad guy of the movie and their neglected kids and lonely partners are their victims. The same cliche scenario plays out time and time again on screen, and unfortunately, in real life as well.
Unlike as is the case in many movies, you don’t have to be a high-powered executive to struggle to find the balance between work and family. It is no secret that it is difficult, if not nearly impossible, for some modern-day families to survive off of a single income.
In a two working-parent home, the day-to-day routine is often hectic. It seems that no matter what choices you make, one aspect of your life is going to go without the attention it needs. There is often simply not enough time and energy to be employee of the month and the world’s best dad/mom.
While perfection is impossible, it is important to find some kind of happy medium to ensure you are sufficiently taking care of both your career and your personal life. Here are some tips that are helpful in achieving a better work-life balance.
1. Be productive enough at work
If you want to be able to focus on home when you are at home, make sure you focus on work when you are at work. Make a checklist at the beginning of your day with everything you absolutely have to accomplish before going home, as well as a few extra tasks you’d like to finish. Don’t make your list overly ambitious--focus on making it doable.
At the end of the day, if you can look back at a completed checklist, you can leave work with a sense of accomplishment. Feeling that you have been productive at work will help you feel like you deserve to relax at home.
2. Leave work at work
I used to work across the hall from a female coworker that was married to a man that worked in the same building as us. She told me that the two of them had come to an agreement that once they stepped foot inside their house, there would be no more discussion of work, whether good or bad. I found this to be a good practice. It is important to have some time to breathe and get space from your work, and you can’t do that if work is the topic of your nightly discussions. Leave work at work.
3. Let it be known if the workload is too much
Once upon a time, I used to look at the professionals around me and feel inadequate. I felt that most everyone else were the experts, and if I was struggling with something, it was because of my own shortcomings. Experience has taught me that that is rarely true--if I’m having trouble keeping up, usually so is everyone else. And, if everyone is struggling, that means that something needs to change to make expectations more reasonable.
If your workload is dragging you down, say something (nicely and professionally, of course) to your supervisor. They may be able to point you in a better direction or offer solutions to the problems you are facing. And, if you are the one that speaks up and gets an extended deadline or reduced workload for you and the rest of your coworkers, you can revel in being the office hero for the day.
4. Practice self-care
Years ago, after one particularly taxing day at work, my supervisor recommended we all go home and take a bath or shower and enjoy the relaxing, cleansing effects of the water. As odd as her advice sounded, self-care was something we focused a lot on in that line of work, and it’s important in all professions. Find some healthy things that make you feel good and make sure to take time doing them every week.
As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Fill your cup by doing what empowers you. That is the only way you will be able to do your best in the workplace.
5. Remember What/Who is Important
One day I was complaining to a coworker how I felt everyone at work was against me. Management and my coworkers all seemed to be my enemies on that day. She responded, “Who cares? None of them will be at your funeral.” The response struck me as strange (and maybe slightly morbid) at first, but it has stuck with me ever since.
Of course, you do need to care what your boss/customers/coworkers think of you to a point if you want to keep your job. But the people who really matter are the ones that are going to be at your funeral (either physically or spiritually). In the end, your family and friends are the important ones. Make sure you take care of those relationships by giving them the needed time and effort they deserve.
If you are one of the many, guilt-ridden people who feel your family is paying the price of your over-working ways, don’t beat yourself up too much. It does take money to raise a family, and providing that money takes significant time and effort. Just be sure to find a balance between work and play that is optimal for you and your loved ones.