Creating a Manageable Work-Life Balance for Parents in Challenging Times

Melanie Brosnan, LCPC

Work-Life Balance

Imagine this scene: You awake from your already disrupted sleep by your crying infant to begin what seems like the umpteenth day of the work-childcare balancing act. You stumble out of bed to console your child, then wander into the kitchen to have a “healthy” breakfast of a granola bar and pour the first of many cups of coffee to get your day started. After turning on your work computer while preparing breakfast for your baby, you realize you have a meeting in 15 minutes. At the same time, your 2nd grader wakes up and you need to prepare them for their busy day of e-Learning. As you rush to turn on cartoons to keep your baby occupied and click the correct links for your e-Learner, you take a minute to let out a long sigh, hold back the tears, and wonder if this chaos will ever end.

Assess Your Day

But what if I told you there was a way to improve this scene without too much effort or disruption in your life. It is definitely possible to create a healthy, manageable work-life balance if the above scenario resonates with you. One of the easiest ways to achieve balance is to take a look at what is important to you in your life and assess what you would like to keep, what could be added, and most importantly what needs to go.

Evaluate what is causing you stress in your life and what thoughts and feelings arise when you mentally go through your daily schedule. This can be further simplified by asking yourself whether or not you will say "yes" or "no" to a specific activity.

Areas to Examine

Common questions to ask yourself may include:
  • Am I keeping up with household chores?
  • Am I spending too much time zoning out with electronics (more than 2 hours per day)?
  • Do I spend time each day working on myself (journaling, meditation, stretching)?
  • Have I been engaging in at least 20-30 minutes of daily movement or exercise?
  • Am I making sure to eat well-balanced meals?
  • Do I get an appropriate amount of sleep each night?
  • Am I walking away from my work computer for at least 10 minutes every 2 hours?
  • When was the last time I saw friends for a social gathering?
  • When was the last time I did something I really loved?

Create a Plan

Once you have identified which areas are out of balance, you can begin to create a plan for improving balance. For example, if you are spending too much time rushing around in the morning, you might make a decision that you will no longer allow yourself to be rushed and consequently create a more structured routine.

Or maybe you feel you need more alone time to get yourself grounded every morning; this may lead you to adjust your schedule to go to sleep earlier in order to wake up before your kids to ensure adequate quiet time on a daily basis.

Make Adjustments

If you notice yourself feeling agitated or anxious after multiple stressful days at work, you may want to make sure to unplug from your work computer at an appropriate time so you can get outside and take a walk to clear your mind before engaging in any family activities.
Here are 9 ways to create a better work-life balance:
  • Engage in self-care frequently
  • Set boundaries with family, friends, and co-workers
  • Keep a time limit for electronics/social media use
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals (most of the time)
  • Make sure to get enough sleep
  • Learn to say no to activities that cause you to feel stressed or overwhelmed
  • Give yourself grace for “not doing it all”’
  • Allow yourself to have regular alone time
  • Make time for the things that add value to your life

Acceptance

Certainly, there will be pieces of your life, most likely centering around your job and family, that you cannot remove completely. For these non-negotiable items, changing your mindset or practicing gratitude can be helpful techniques.

Acceptance of a situation that cannot be changed is something I like to practice myself. Instead of feeling angry or irritated with something outside of my control, I make a choice to accept the situation as something undesirable (which will happen regularly throughout life) and focus my attention on something more positive.

Thankfulness

Gratitude can be used similarly, whereas one may choose to look at positive outcomes from a challenging aspect of life. For example, if you are thinking about work, you may want to identify the good that comes from working hard such as being able to afford your home payment, maintaining strong working relationships with others, having a sense of accomplishment, building discretionary income, being able to take vacations with your family, and having health insurance.

“We barely notice small changes until one day we look back to see how far we’ve come, ignited by something so small.”
-Anonymous

Give Yourself Grace

Whether you find yourself doing well in the area of work-life balance or realize that you may need some adjustments, it is important to note that making small changes over time will lead to recognizable differences in your life.

So, I encourage you to ask yourself the questions above and to be honest with your responses. It is through this honesty that you will be able to create a workable plan for establishing a healthier balance in your life, which will lead to greater satisfaction, happiness, and peace.
Ammirati Counseling is a boutique counseling group with offices in Bannockburn and Downers Grovers. Therapists also offer private therapy via remote online. They provide comprehensive care to children, teens, adults, couples, families, and the LBGT community.
Melanie Brosnan