6 Tips for Balancing Work and Family Life
The busiest time in life is when the children are small, working life is busy and your career is rising, and your leisure time is filled with hobbies. In Finland, we call these the “Rush Years.” Years with young children are really rewarding but also demanding for working parents. How can we support parents during their busiest time in life?
I work on the Valamis marketing team and I have two adorable daughters. As Mother's Day is right around the corner in Finland, Germany, and the US, I stopped to think about parenthood, especially maternity, and how to best combine work and family life.
Watching and supporting the growth of children is a unique time. Parenting means unconditional love; Family is like your own team that is always on your side, even when they can sometimes test your nerves.
When mothers and fathers play a big role at home and at work, balancing these two aspects of life can be challenging, but it is certainly possible.
Tuomas Kurttila, Ombudsman for Children in Finland, works to improve the well-being of families. He has found that 40 percent of mothers are worried about their coping skills. He writes that one significant reason for this is the challenges mothers face in reconciling family life with work responsibilities. Household responsibilities as well as a lack of sleep are also cited as factors that almost all parents of small children have to face. How then can we support parents during their busiest time in life and also help them to be successful at work and at home?
Work Can Be a Parenting Resource and Vice Versa
Work can reduce parental worries and stress if work and family life are in balance, work can ease the stress, Kurttila says. if work and family reconciliation is successful, Kurttila says.I have noticed personally that when my work and family life are in balance, I can better worker at the office and better parent at home
How flexible the employer is with parents in the work community also has a big impact on the balancing act between family and work. When I have the feeling that there is flexibility and understanding from my employer, it is easier to get on with everyday life.
"I've thought that during these busy years my family and work are my Yin and Yang; they must be balanced and they can balance each other out."
- Mother of two children
Flexible working hours and the opportunity to work remotely have had a significantly positive impact on my everyday life. When my firstborn starts school at ten on Tuesdays, I work remotely in the morning or and take advantage of my flexible working hours to get her safely to school. Similarly, I have utilized this with several children's doctor visits and other important appointments. It feels that there is support and understanding when it’s needed. Also in our office, every now and then employees bring their children into work.
Additionally, when the workday is finished, I can break away from my working thoughts, for example, by going swimming or taking a bike ride with my kids. At home we face different kinds of joy and challenges when we are raising our children than we do at work. The difference between the two communities can counterbalance each other, and this gives you strength.
Journalist Anna Erkko published a book called, ”Career Mom’s Survival Guide. Stories from the Queens of the Rush Years” (free translation) (HS, February 11, 2019). In the book, she encourages tolerance for chaos as well as enjoying working during the rush years. Erkko also mentions that being a parent can teach us many useful skills for working life, such as interpersonal skills, efficiency, and prioritization.
Track Your Well-Being
It is worthwhile to observe your own well-being. Nowadays, we can use various devices and applications to track how well we recover from everyday stress during the night, and as a result, we can try to improve our sleep quality, workouts, or eating habits. For example, the First Beat study has provided me with valuable information on my own heartrate recovery, and I will consider ordering it from our LaaS online service again this year. The main idea of the LaaS (Leadership as a Service) service is that employees can request (supervisory) services to support their work when they feel they need it.
"Laugh and hug a lot, whenever it is possible - this reduces stress and helps you keep going :)"
- Mother of two children
Parenting and Continuous Learning
Parenting itself is continuous learning. If not every day, at least weekly, parents learn new things they haven’t faced before, sometimes making good decisions and sometimes decisions they can learn from. Learning about parenting young children is often about teaching basic needs such as security, eating, and sleeping. With older children, you teach them responsibility without limiting their freedom and independence too much.
Continuous development of one's own skills in working life is a prerequisite for in every industry. When a parent is returning from parental leave back to work, it is important for him/her to have the opportunity to update their skills easily. Learning can be employer- or employee-oriented, but the main thing is to provide resources: time, relevant materials, and the right environment. Microlearning, which means studying small bits of information at a time, is one useful method to learn with our busy parenting and working lives.
“I used to be a lot more serious before. Now that I have children, I can do fun activities with them and I have my own hobbies. I’m happy like a child!”
- Mother of two children
How to Combine Work and Family Life?
I asked for tips for combining work and family from my colleagues and friends, and I came up with some from my own experience. Below is a summary of what I think are the best tips for reconciling work and family life, that are useful for the whole family.
- Plan and anticipate. One family has a family “control board”, where they mark the events and schedules of the upcoming week every Sunday: School messages, parents' work schedules, nursery, hobbies, and other activities. The menu for the week is also planned in advance. This family's matriarch dreams of moving the “control board” into an electronic format, making it accessible for everyone on a smartphone.
- Everyone participates. Each member of the family can participate in different household chores according to their age. The play-age (1-4 years) child can help to clear their toys, the preschool-age (4-6 years) assist in the kitchen, and the school-age (7+ years) take care of their own possessions and activities. Doing things as a family can also activate everybody to explore new kinds of hobbies and skills.
- Forget perfection. Everything does not have to be perfect and sometimes doing less is good enough. Try to be gracious to yourself because no one is perfect; if you don’t have the energy to go jogging or vacuum, then rest today and try again tomorrow. Work is never-ending at home and in the workplace, so prioritize tasks, do the most important task first, and then the rest when you still have time. Also, try to avoid comparing yourself to other parents or families, because no one else is like you or your family, nor do they work in exactly the same way as yours.
- Take advantage of the help and support available. Enjoy all the help and support available and also take advantage of the benefits offered by your employer and society, such as flexible work hours, remote working possibilities, part-time work, or partial child care leave. You don't have to do everything yourself. I’m extremely lucky since my parents live nearby. They are invaluable support and help out almost on a weekly basis. Flexible working hours is an excellent employee benefit that makes life much easier. You can also delegate tasks to outside support, for example, by hiring a cleaning service. Delegate and trust others.
- Take care of yourself. Everything starts with your own well-being. When you get enough sleep, you eat relatively healthy and occasionally exercise, you are putting in place the pieces to improve your own well-being. Sounds obvious? In my experience, mothers often prioritize their own needs last. Take good care of yourself, so you can better manage your work and be a better parent at home.
- Remember the order of importance. Think about what is most important in your life and prioritize your time accordingly. Children grow up fast. On the other hand, you should be able to enjoy your work. Work can be a resource to improve family life and vice versa.
Mothers are real everyday heroes and superstars. You are the best mom for your children, whether you are working or at home. In the end, I want to reference a line from my youngest child, and wish all mothers a wonderful upcoming Mother's Day! <3
"How is it possible that our family happened to get the best mom of all the moms in the world?"
- Sanni, 5 years
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