Working parents are generally “over” it: overwhelmed, overburdened and overtired.
When it comes to their careers, they have all the same pressures and obligations as professionals without children. They’ve also got just as many things to juggle personally, from figuring out when to schedule their own medical appointments to making time for exercise.
But on top of all of this, working moms, working dads and other caregivers have a whole additional layer of responsibilities to manage. This includes family fun time with kids, sorting through the minutia of constant school emails and forms and figuring out what goes on hold when one family member after another falls sick with the flu and there’s no obvious child care remedy.
Parents with jobs outside the house or who work remotely from a home office need some fresh ways to approach the limited time they have available and new thinking styles that can ease their stress. Taking small steps toward better time management can help make life feel more manageable day by day.
Just don’t do it.
The best way for working parents to lighten the load and find more time for real needs is to discern which activities can be skipped.
No matter what age your children are, simply being a parent will expose you to a tidal wave of interesting things to do, people to meet and places to go. You’ll be making new friends along with your child, birthday party invitations will proliferate and you’ll encounter seemingly limitless options for family-friendly weekend adventures, especially around the holidays.
Would all of these opportunities be fun? Probably. Do you really have the time, energy and money to do all of them? Probably not. And the fact is, even if you do prioritize every one of these fun opportunities, you’ll likely end up tired and resentful, which will affect your ability to tend to the basics, like making sure your family has clean clothes to wear and nutritious food to eat.
The bottom line is, you can decide to simply not accept every invitation so that you have more time to devote to what’s most essential to you and your kids. Storing up energy may even boost your productivity at the office, too.
Decide what’s nonnegotiable.
Knowing that you’ll need to pick and choose from a range of possible ways to spend your time, it helps to have a framework of personal values to guide your decision-making. If you’re navigating without a map, tempted to detour for each suggested entertainment option or slowed down by guilt about every potential obligation, you’ll quickly find yourself sinking into quicksand.
Developing a list of values can feel like one more to-do item, but this doesn’t have to be complicated. Really, figuring out your values comes down to deciding what in your life is nonnegotiable. What is it that you and your family need to prioritize above everything else? What essentials must be taken care of before you can schedule in diversions? Once you’ve mapped out what’s truly nonnegotiable in your family life, you can use that to guide which requests you accept and which you reject.
Realize each stage is limited.
There’s another “over” that burdens parents: over-identifying with your child’s particular life stage and forgetting that this too shall pass. While it may feel like your baby will never sleep through the night or your toddler will never be fully potty trained, the fact is that these stages and others will end. Soon enough, you’ll have moved on to the next challenge of childhood, eventually dealing with an empty nest and wondering how it all went by so quickly.
This truth doesn’t make it any easier when you’re actually going through the pain of transitions, and this realization won’t make the discomfort pass any more quickly. But having an awareness that everything about kids is ultimately transitory, including childhood itself, can make the big picture more bearable.
When you find yourself feeling discouraged about the difficulty of a particular parenting stage or overwhelmed that you don’t have time to deal with what’s in front of you, figure out what you can do to help you get through the present family moment with less angst and anxiety, knowing it won’t last forever. Whether that means booking a sitter to allow some extra time for self-care, or enlisting your spouse to take over solo for one day of the weekend to help you recharge and feel some spaciousness in your life again, just do it.
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