Balance: a state of equilibrium or equipoise; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc. (Uh…nope!)
Integration: an act or instance of combining into an integral whole. (Closer? But sounds much calmer than my life, how about you?)
Juggle: to hold, catch, carry, or balance precariously; almost drop and then catch hold again. (YUP! That sounds like our house!!)
There are no easy answers, no magic wands. There are only so many hours in a day, days in a week, weeks in a year. Below are some tips that have worked well for us. As they say: YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). We share these tips with a sense of love and solidarity. Feel free to incorporate any things that resonate with you and let the rest roll on by. This is a judgement-free zone. It’s hard enough to be a working parent without feeling like you suck because you are not brewing homemade kombucha and homeschooling your kids in molecular biology while they train to be Olympic-caliber javelin throwers so they can maybe get into Harvard.
Block off time for yourself every single day. Earlier this year at the tech hub where Jugl is based, a famous CEO said that he meditated and walked for 2 hours every morning. TWO HOURS!!!! It took all my self-control to not get up and punch him in the face. If you have two hours for that every day… (I don’t even need to finish that sentence because that person is clearly not reading this!) In all seriousness though, whatever you need to do to keep yourself sane and happy, try to do some of it at a set time each day. For me, that is waking up at 5am most weekdays to exercise and reflect before the day is off to the races. There’s no other time that I have found to be pretty much entirely within my control. Thank goodness I am a morning person! It doesn’t have to be morning and it doesn’t have to be exercise, but the old adage about “putting your oxygen mask on first” applies here. There is no way in the long-term to be a good parent if you are an unhappy, burnt-out stressball. You do you – and please DO NOT feel guilty about it!
Don’t worry too much about balance on any given day. Some days, weeks or months will tilt in different directions, but I view this as part of living a full, productive life. If you reflect on a week or month, and feel the balance is off, then adjust, but day-to-day “balance” for me is not a realistic goal.
Plan two weeks ahead. My top time management tip for working parents is to plan out the family schedule in two-week increments (we do this every Sunday). I recommend mapping out the plan for all kids’ activities (what events, what they need to bring, who is driving), confirming evening plans and travel (including with your partner, if applicable) to determine whether you need extra babysitting hours, working on meal planning (we pick 2-3 recipes), etc.
The key to this tip is always doing it two weeks at a time.
The week that is about to start is usually pretty firm: there may be a few additions or changes, but the events closer in time tend to be front of mind. Planning NOW for the week AFTER that is where the system shines. By focusing on what is coming at you the FOLLOWING week, you can avoid the massive pain of preventable last minute “fire drills.” It is WAY easier to find a babysitter or ask a friend for help or switch around a carpool or event, etc. if you have a full week’s notice. It only takes a tiny bit more time to get the two-week habit set up, but the time and stress it saves you by not having to drop everything when you realize at the last minute there is a conflict that you could have reasonably foreseen is immense.
Keep your sense of humor. It won’t go perfectly every day, but that’s OK, and it’s an important message for our kids and our colleagues/employees to internalize that, too.
Endeavor to trade FOMO for JOMO. We can’t do it all. Not as parents, not as kids, not as employees, not as human beings. We will not read every book or watch every TV show. Heck, I think it would take me a year to finish every article I have saved in Pocket! We cannot take every trip or buy every purse or eat at every restaurant. It can be so hard when the “road not taken” is so blatantly, temptingly and constantly set out before you every time you open a browser or look at your phone. So, try to cultivate JOMO (the “Joy” of Missing Out) instead of FOMO (the “Fear”). As they say, comparison is the thief of joy. Be in the moment and practice gratitude. Both for ourselves AND because our children are watching and learning!
Don’t give up! How we spend our time is a direct reflection of our priorities. I think taking time to have a happy and full life outside of work (regardless of whether you have kids) is important, and I’m not ashamed of that at all. I have my best ideas about work when I’m relaxed and happy and often doing something else, like exercising. Don’t let work push you past your personal happiness balance over many weeks or months! And don’t quit. We need parents (especially moms!) to provide their leadership and perspective in the workforce.
Enjoy the end of summer and best of luck to you and your kiddos in the new school year. May you and your crew be as excited as I always was when I got a new backpack and picked out my first day of school clothes!