Picture this: It’s 6:30 in the evening and the kids have long been home from school, past the point of destroying the house, arguing over a toy they haven’t played with in months, and are now clamoring for their ten-thousandth snack. You, on the other hand, have, not only a full plate of projects but also a launch deadline that is almost a week overdue and the client has been emailing and calling you daily to see if their website is ready. Sound familiar? This tipping point is a great moment to realize the problem, set some healthy boundaries, and make plans to have a better work/life balance. Read on for six tips to make your life just a little bit easier.
Keep it flexible
Remember that having kids means your life can change from one day to the next or even one moment to the next. Just roll with it! If you have a few hours to get caught up or get ahead, plan accordingly and don’t let them go to waste. Another part of going with the flow is to not sweat the small stuff. I was once in the middle of a Zoom meeting with about twelve other professionals and right as it was my moment to talk, my 3 year old burst into my office, gave me a tight hug around the neck, stuck his face in the screen and loudly announced to the group that he needed to go to the bathroom. Some things just can’t be avoided. I turned beet-red, apologized to the group and stumbled through my portion of the discussion. Thankfully almost everyone else on the call were also parents, so they understood and everyone got a chuckle out of it. The point is to remember to go with the flow, even through the embarrassing or frustrating moments.
Your family is your team and we’re meant to support each other, so we need to be honest about our workload and upcoming deadlines. If your spouse, partner or even a good friend is able to help a bit extra with the kids from time-to-time, and you need the assistance, speak up and let them know. Additionally, you should be upfront and honest with your boss (or yourself, if you are the boss) as well as your clients about how many hours you can dedicate to the projects on your plate. It’s so easy to say yes to everything that comes along (feast or famine, ammi right?), but delivering on all those yes’s can become overwhelming very quickly. Just remember to communicate your workload to your tribe and ask for help when you need it.
Use Screen Time
You heard me right. I’m a fellow parent saying it’s okay to use your tools. We’ve all been told to reduce our kid’s screen time, and I don’t disagree with that, but how realistic is it during Zoom calls with clients? I’m not saying to let your kiddos watch TV all day, truly. But setting them up with a few snack options and their favorite episode, learning app or video game a few minutes before your call will help tremendously with keeping you focused on the discussion and the kiddos distracted enough to let you.
It can be very tempting to wear pajamas and snack throughout the day when working from home, but that doesn’t create good habits or show our kids that we are in work-mode. Getting up and dressed each morning creates a mindset that this is work time. Additionally, it’s important to set specific office hours. When we have realistic work time, we can accomplish more, knowing that we have a hard stop at a certain time. My kiddos get home from school promptly at 4pm and come straight into my office to tell me about their day. It usually involves a silly story and some hugs, but I try not to schedule client meetings during that time, if possible, as I know each thing would distract from the other. Furthermore, creating structure in our sprint at work can help immensely in getting the client’s website to the milestone on time and on budget. Isn’t that what we’re all after anyway?
Have an office area
Having a dedicated kid-free office can be a tough one, since kids want to be where you are. You are, after all, their favorite thing to play with. If you can turn an area of your home into a space that is specifically for you to work in and nothing more, count yourself lucky and use it! If it has a door, even better! Knowing that when you leave that space, you are walking away from your work for the day and helping yourself to set boundaries, while also providing for better quality time with your kiddos.
This is not an exhaustive list of tips and I challenge you to find a healthy work/life balance that works for your specific situation. Change things up and see how it can affect all aspects of your life, your relationships with your kids or spouse/partner as well as your relationships with your clients.