One of the most frequent, burning questions I get asked by my clients is how to effectively balance their career and family. We are constantly searching for the magic answer as to how much we should work versus how much time we should give back to the family at home. Unfortunately, there is no magic answer to how much is too much at work and how little is too little at home. These factors depend on you, your family's needs and the dynamic of your life. Only you can begin to know what is essential to your happiness and sanity.
What if I told you there will never be perfect balance with your family and career? Would you give up? Would you quit your job? Of course not. Please don't get discouraged, I'm only suggesting that there cannot be complete and perfect balance because our work and family worlds are in a constant state of variation. Our home and work worlds are constantly changing and colliding, expanding and contracting -- as does the tide. You can, however, put systems in place to help organize your career and bring more harmony to your home while still taking amazing care of your family so that everyone is happy (including you).
Most of us work because we need the paycheck so that we can provide for our families -- therefore, the first thing you need to let go of is the guilt of being away. Stop feeling guilty about work when it is a necessity. Look at work differently for a moment, stop and feel a sense of appreciation for all it provides for you and your family. When we can look at something from a place of gratitude and lose some of the negative or guilt-driven feelings associated with it, our stress will become less. We also work because we need a creative outlet and a feeling of purpose; for some, work feeds the soul. When you do what you love for a living, work can be very rewarding, and when done in moderation, having a fulfilling job translates into a happier home life.
We live in the age where we can have it all, even though balancing a career and family can be challenging for moms and dads. Here are five ways to bring balance to your home and career that will ultimately help create more happiness, ease, function and harmony in all aspects of your life:
1.) Organize: Most of us keep great calendars at work. We keep track of meetings, projects and deadlines on our Outlook calendar or in our smart phone. Take the time to keep a calendar for your home life, too, even if it's not high-tech. Have a calendar or white board available and visible to the entire family, and get your spouse and kids to help out filling in important dates. Get in the habit of writing down everything: play dates, school functions, homework, grocery lists, doctor appointments, etc. When you can easily see at a glance what's going on each day at home, it makes it easier to plan your day at work. For example: Out of milk? Maybe you can run to the grocery store during a lunch break if you can see that your son has a baseball game after work and there will be no time in between.
2.) Be Realistic: Set realistic goals for yourself and your family and keep your expectations for perfection in check. Make a pact with yourself that it's okay if the dishes sit in the sink, the laundry piles up for a few days or the oil doesn't get changed at 3,000 miles. You don't need to have a perfectly spotless house in order to have balance. Be prepared to take all that life throws at you -- maybe the car broke down, or a deadline was moved up at work or a child becomes sick. Just because something doesn't get done, doesn't mean your world has fallen apart.
3.) Set Priorities: Now that you have a calendar for work and home, it will be easier for you to see where you have extra time. In those blocks of time it's important that you do fun things with your family or for yourself, even if it's only 20 minutes here or a half an hour there. Are the kids home for a school holiday? Block out an hour or two to play a game, go for a walk or make a nice meal. Involve your kids in preparing dinner and kill two birds with one stone! Making dinner together can be a nice way to spend time with your family during the eating and preparing. Maybe your kids are at a birthday party or sleepover; take that time to recharge your battery. Take care of yourself or nourish your relationship. The household chores can wait, take a relaxing bath or go on a date night, even if it's just for an ice cream.
4.) Just Say "No": We all know how to say no, but how often do we say yes or maybe when we really want to say no? The key is to learn to say no without hesitation and guilt. Once you've set your priorities with your work and home life, it will be easier for you to say no to things you don't really have time for or want to do. Understand that you can't be all to everyone. If you have put aside an afternoon on Saturday for your kids and a friend needs your help moving, get in the habit of saying no right away. Don't sugar-coat your "no" with a "maybe" or an "I don't know, let me check and get back to you." Maybes only give you one more thing to have to deal with later, and maybes leave the other person hanging.
5.) Keep Your Commitments: Stay in integrity, build self-trust and the trust of others. It's easy to over-commit at work and with your family. You want to do it all. The most important tip to take from this post in regaining control and balance in your life is to keep your commitments. If you are courageous and selective about the things you commit to, I promise you that your life will get easier. You will be able to free yourself from undue stress and guilt if you can reduce the amount of things you agree to do. Stop volunteering for things when you know you have no extra time. This all goes back to organizing your time, setting priorities and being able to say no.
Juggling a successful career and happy home life will probably always be a challenge for us as a society. We have certain expectations we think we need to live up to, and we tend to get overly judgmental with ourselves when we think we miss the mark. Be kind to yourself knowing that you're doing your best in the moment and practice forgiveness when things at home (or at work) get chaotic.
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