It is unlikely that many working parents are surprised by the fact that the juggle between work and family is more often than not a struggle, and now a total nightmare. Our wellbeing is compromised because of it.
I’m not convinced it has to be this way. Working and caring for women doesn’t have to be as clear cut as it use to be. The global crisis we are experiencing now is a bizarre opportunity to change cultural expectations and attitudes that permeates workplaces, communities and families that women and men can and do work and care for their children. It eases the rigidity of outdated stereotypes about mothers and fathers and men and women. It chips away, very effectively, at the narrow notion that men work and women care.
‘And, just like that, on one ever asked a stay at home mum what she does all day ever again.’
How is your own work/life balance right now?
My answer? A constant work in progress. It isn’t static because neither work, or children, are. Whether I’m struggling or juggling changes daily, sometimes hourly. And while I’m loath to pretend I have achieved the elusive nirvana of total work-life balance, when I take a step back, for the most part I am able to work and parent without my mental health being compromised. (Mostly, sometimes.)
Flexibility. This is the absolute game changer. Of course there are certain tasks and projects in which total flexibility isn’t always possible because of client deadlines but being flexible and adapting to what each day throws at me is something I have to be open to.
Part-time work. I find working full-time hours and trying to be a present and engaged parent is difficult. By challenging the notion that big, serious projects must entail a full-time commitment is something that I feel very strongly about and something that I felt that I wasn’t able to do when I was employed but I do all the time now I’m self-employed
A supportive co-parent. We try to approach work, home and the childcare equally. It use to be an attitude but now it’s a reality for us and thousands of working parents and it’s the only way to keep life going and stay sane.
Cut corners. We had to go into lockdown a week before the UK Government announced everyone had to so I signed up for a weekly meal delivery box because everyone was going crazy and stock piling food. The meal box has been an absolute life saver, the best decision I’ve ever made and something I want to continuing doing for as long as I can. I cannot put a price on the time and mental energy it has saved. Four nights a week we don’t need to think about what to plan or buy for dinner and we have left overs to freeze or have for lunch. My 4 year old helps choose the meals online, loves unpacking the box when it arrives on a Saturday, she gets all the items out of the bag and prepares any easy parts.
Right now the washing seems to be at an all time low, probably because we are wearing comfy clothes all the time. We don’t need to iron anything, we don’t need to drive anywhere, we order online as much as possible and we don’t need to get much ready the night before.
Another way to save time or actually make time is to outsource tasks, especially when it comes to your business, this can be the only way to keep it going, keep yourself visible and grow your business.
I am no poster-parent for work life balance and there have been plenty of times when I’ve been the opposite, when it feels like I’m drowning in work and family stuff and can’t meet all the demands. Occasionally those times just need to be ridden out: accepted as inevitable.