Like it or not, we’re living in a “have it all” culture. You’re expected to not only crush your goals at work, but to be the perfect parent, spouse and friend. That sounds nice in our heads, but in practice, we just can’t have it all. We’re overworked, stressed and constantly feeling like we’re failing.
While there’s no cure-all for our fast-paced digital lives, I’ve found that we have to set boundaries between work and home life to preserve our sense of sanity. After all, if you’re answering emails while reading Liam a bedtime story, what does that show him?
Kids are very observant. While you might think nothing of shooting off a quick email on your iPhone, your kids might feel ignored. It also sets a dangerous precedent for work-life balance. If you want your kiddos to have a healthy sense of balance, it has to start with you.
The thing is, we’re more accessible than ever before. Work never stops, and that means it’s hard to strike a balance between your family life and work. Sure, smartphones are great, but they can make you feel like you never have a real break from work.
Follow these four tips to help you balance parenting with working in the digital age.
Boundaries set a firm line between your work life and your home life. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your work email while you’re at Olivia’s swim practice, you have to set healthy boundaries.
Commit to putting your phone away during set times — like family meals, reading time, homework help, soccer games and dance recitals. Time with your kids is precious. Don’t taint it by giving your kids half your attention. Instead, keep your phone silent and in your pocket during these times. Work email can wait — your kids want to connect with you right now.
Do you reallyneed to take work with you? If you’ve made a habit out of answering emails at dinnertime, it can be hard to break that cycle, but it’s possible. In fact, you should try designating “no phone” time in your schedule.
You don’t need to have your phone on you 24/7, even when you leave the house. Leave your work phone at the office over the weekend. If you’re using your personal phone, try muting work-related notifications. Or you could even lock your phone up until Sunday night! Trust me, it’s liberating.
Commit to keeping your phone somewhere that you can’t easily access. Instead, focus on bonding with your family over the weekend. Work to-dos can wait until Monday.
You’re a parent, so you already have the toughest job in the world. If you work outside the home, you have to get smart about how you manage your time and workload. After all, you don’t want to be the parent who misses your kids’ school play because you’re working overtime.
Technology allows us to be productive from nearly anywhere. When you commit to dedicated blocks of time for work, you can get more done. Start separating your workday into chunks: one for meetings, one for breaks and another for focused work time.
When you set aside specific hours to complete your tasks, you’re working smarter. That means you’re more motivated and focused to complete that report in one hour, not two. That also means you get to spend more time at home with your kids.
It’s tempting to work 24 hours a day, especially with work email on your phone, but it’s a recipe for burnout. Plus, it means you can’t be present with your kids. Prioritize your workday; focus on work when you’re at work so you can be present for your family after 5 p.m.
You might think, “A break? What’s that like?” I get it. Parents are busy and on the go. But the thing is, working yourself to death is counterproductive. If you burn through an assignment in four hours without stopping, you’re going to feel exhausted. Your work quality likely won’t be that good, anyway.
Take your lunch break, and go on a walk or do something fun with your kids. Take time away from work so you can recharge. It might feel like you’re wasting time, but breaks give your brain a chance to cool off, so you can come back to the office productive and motivated.
Nobody said parenting was easy. And in the digital age, it seems it’s getting harder and harder for parents to draw the line between their work life and home life. Balance is hard to achieve, but when you follow these four tips, you may start seeing improved clarity at work and better quality time with your family.