Mom, wife, friend, sister, employee, volunteer, daughter, support person… As parents, we balance plenty of priorities on a daily basis, so it’s no wonder we occasionally feel like the wheels are coming off. To help restore some balance to your day and feel like you’re kicking goals in both camps — rather than simply bumbling through another day — follow this expert advice.
Prioritize quality family time
The emphasis here is on quality time, not just time. “Often the most difficult part of balancing work and family life is finding enough time to spend with your loved ones,” confirms the University of Toronto’s Family Care Office.
“Family dinners are a great opportunity to sit down together and talk about your day, but sometimes it is impossible for everyone to be home at the same time.”
Here are some suggestions from the university’s Family Care Office to ensure at least 15–30 minutes of quality family time together on any given day:
- If your children are older, choose a time later in the evening when everyone will be home, and sit together and chat while sharing a hot drink and cookies.
- Walk around the neighbourhood at dusk, before the chaos of the nightly dinner-bath-book-bed routine begins.
- Play a favourite board game or card game one night per week as a regular family date.
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Manage your time more effectively
With so many demands and responsibilities in your daily life, managing your time effectively is more important than ever. Using a daily calendar or planner is crucial, as it allows you to dump every upcoming event — from medical appointments and parent-teacher interviews, to work meetings, personal errands and social events — into one spot. This gives your mind some mental space to breathe, as you’re not constantly wondering what’s coming up.
“What’s happening this weekend? How far away is John’s birthday party? And when is my doctor’s appointment again?”
We all respond differently to various methods and strategies for managing time, so as well as using a diary, try different time management systems until you find one that works. Some people like to break their to-do list down into 15-minute chunks, while others swear by numbering their daily tasks so they attack the most urgent things first. Just be sure to stay realistic about what you can and can’t get done.
Learn to switch off
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, most of us are struggling to stay on top of our increasingly busy and demanding lives. In fact, 58 per cent of Canadians report “overload” as a result of the pressures associated with work, home and family, friends, physical health, volunteering and community service.
“This overload can be heightened by new technologies that were actually intended to make our work lives easier. Through email, cell phones and other electronic devices, many workers are expected to be available 24/7, making achievement of a balance between work and the rest of our lives even more difficult,” CMHA reports.
Create a structure for your home life that involves switching off from working and then engaging with family. It could be as simple as turning off your phone as soon as you walk through the door from work or limiting computer and tablet time to a pre-dinner activity, with all technology switched off for every member of the family from 7:30 p.m.
Discuss various options with your family members first, and make a group decision about a technology structure that works best for everyone. By including your kids in the conversation, they’re more likely to follow suit rather than view the decision as just one more rule to follow.