Tips for working parents
Working parents, in employment, business, or care-giving, are real life acrobats that walk the work-life tightrope, on a daily basis. The COVID pandemic has been a new, albeit unwelcome, addition to the show – which means working parents are now also juggling clubs while on the tightrope. I’m a new parent and have been on a very steep learning curve over the last few months. I thought I’d share some of the balancing techniques that’s worked for me, as I tried to work out the right mix of video conferences to baby play time.
Let’s be real, perfectionism isn’t perfect
I strive to be a perfectionist, both professionally and personally. This didn’t tie in too well with managing a baby while working from home during a lock-down. I spent a few weeks trying to be super woman. Extra hours to over-deliver at work. Non-stop cooking and cleaning sprints. Multi-task while multi-tasking. I didn’t seem to have time to sit down, enjoy quality time with my baby or just breathe. If that wasn’t a cue to set realistic expectations, I don’t know what is. I learned that sometimes you need to be practical rather than strive for perfection. Even if that means setting realistic expectations of when you can deliver at work. Accepting that when there is a baby, things will be messy and sticky to some degree at home. That it’s OK to order pizza or have a sandwich every now and then, if I’m too tired to cook. It’s a small price to pay to sit and play peekaboo with my baby. Have time to do yoga or go for a walk. Oh yes, it’s definitely worth it.
Taking charge of the inner voice
As a working parent, my brain tends to be in overdrive. If I’m not thinking about work, I’m trying to plan out the grocery shop or meals for the week, or stress about why my 10-month old’s teeth hadn’t come out yet. Tuning out that inner voice was a challenge when the lock-down meant home was the only place I could be in – to work, play, rest or think. Because coffee with a friend wasn’t an option, I had to improvise. Meditation is a great way to calm the mind. Yoga can be a spiritual experience for the body and the mind – a good yoga music playlist complements it quite well too. Whatever it is, it’s important to find a way to calm the mind so that you can live in the moment – enjoy family time or pretend to be in Istanbul while you try out a pide recipe.
Connecting with people
One of the hardest things about being in lock-down was being away from people – whether it’s your work mates, friends or family. I didn’t realise how important a role daily chats by the coffee machine or lunches/ dinners with friends played in my life. That meant taking the extra effort to maintain those relationships. Being open and vulnerable to really connect with people. It’s incredible how being a parent immediately puts you in this ‘club’ with other parents. People volunteer to help and support fellow parents, if you open-up and give them the chance. In tough times, a word of encouragement or advice from someone can make a difference.
Asking for help when you need it
Working parenthood often means having your hands full. There are times I try to work while balancing the baby on my lap. Get a few hours of work done while baby sleeps and its quiet. Pack the freezer with pre-prepped meals for when I’m too tired to cook. Working from home while in lock-down doesn’t mean an easier life. In fact, it’s probably a much tougher life for those of you managing home-schooling along with work schedules. It’s a tough gig. That’s why it’s important to ask for help – at work or at home. And it doesn’t mean you’re not a dedicated worker or parent. It means you’re a responsible one.
A positive mindset is gold
2020 has been full of challenges, with the pandemic breaking down status quos at work, home and life in general. Some days have certainly been harder than others. For me, a positive mindset has been the single most powerful tool in facing these challenges. On doom and gloom days, a positive mind can help you find a streak of sunshine to keep you going. That matters, because it means a bad day isn’t likely to overshadow your work or family time. In general, a positive mindset makes for a happier person.
No time like ‘Me time’
Over the last few months, I’ve come to realise how important self-care or ‘me’ time is. It’s helped me be a better employee and person alike. Self care could be something simple like taking an hour to read a book, chat to a friend or write a blog post. Anything that helps you recharge and be a better version of yourself, which inadvertently leads to work-life balance.
“Never get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life”Dolly Parton
These are some of the balancing techniques that helped me stay put on the work-life tightrope. I’m no ‘Cirque du Soleil’ performer, but hope these come in handy. If all else fails, remember Dolly Parton’s wise words – “Never get so busy making a living, that you forget to make a life”.
Image credits: Mohamed Hassan, Canva
© Jan Perera 2020. All rights reserved.