Working parents often feel like they are trying to juggle five plates, but can only keep four plates up in the air, so one is always crashing down. Many parents have found that the one falling is not always the same one, and they find themselves experiencing success in four areas of their lives, while one breaks on the floor.
So how do you fix the problem? Can you keep all the plates spinning at once? Or do you choose one plate to focus on at one time or another? Parents try to put the kids first most of the time, but it may not always work. One mother, Rena Seltzer, ACSW, has listened to advice she received from her mentor. “I think about the kids being in childcare as sharing my children with the universe,” she said. When she sees the loving relationship between her two year old and his daycare provider, Seltzer feels good that she can share the joy of her two-year-old with another warm and caring person.
It is important to note that there is no one way, no correct way, to achieve an artful balance in your life. You should figure out what works best for you and your family and use that method to your benefit. What are some of the strategies you might be able to adapt and work in to your life?
1. Build a Support Network
Ask for help and allow yourself to be helped and contributed to. Get your children involved–work together as a team. Between work and family, surprises are inevitable. Be prepared by creating back-up and emergency plans and always have a contingency.
2. Let Go of Guilt
Guilt can cause you to become immobilized in the present because you are dwelling on the past. Guilt can be very debilitating. By introducing logic to help counter-balance the guilt, you can avoid sabotaging your efforts toward balance and stay better on course.
3. Establish Limits and Boundaries
Boundaries are an imaginary line of protection that you draw around yourself. They are about protecting you from other people’s actions. Determine for yourself what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior from other people. Boundaries and limits define how you take charge of your time and space and get in touch with your feelings.
4. Determine Your Own Standards
Get rid of the notion of being a perfectionist. Make compromises. Figure out where the best places to make the compromises are without short-changing yourself, your spouse, your children, your boss, etc. Live by your own standards rather than someone else’s.
5. Be Flexible
Forgive yourself when things don’t get done. Understand that with children things change at a moment’s notice. Be ready and willing to assume responsibility for any of the tasks that need to get done at any time. Never get too comfortable, because as soon as you seem to get things under control, they change!
Natalie A. Gahrmann, a life coach, recommends that families begin this process by spending quality, focused time with your family. “Give them your full attention and develop rituals you can all look forward to,” she said. “Create relationships with your spouse and children that are not incidental, but rather, instrumental to your family’s success.”
One physician, who worked in public health, was attempting to reach an ideal work-life balance and faced a challenge one day when she was investigating an outbreak of food poisoning. The physician purchased some fast food, as a test, to search for the source of the outbreak. Then, she got a call from her kids’ school. The school was closing early; she needed to go pick up her children. The physician stopped to do an errand on the way home, leaving the kids in the car for a few minutes, and when she returned to the car, her kids had been chowing down on the test food. Since her kids did not get sick, she was able to rule it out as the source of the outbreak.
Overall, finding your ideal work-life balance is a continuous process. There will be some days when you test the food and forget to pick up the kids, and there will be other days when you stay home with your kids and put off testing the food.
Living a balanced life is about integrating those components of your life that are truly important to you and realizing that sometimes you need to make choices about what has to come first. Making choices is powerful and allows you to live a balanced life that makes you and your family feel happy and content.
Learn more about balancing career and family life: http://www.mommd.com/balance.shtml