Creating Work-Life Balance as a Parent in 2019
‘Work-Life Balance’. It’s not just the latest buzzword or hot topic. It’s not just something that’s all the rage, or even something new. Perhaps it seems like that for some, but it has existed as long as the concept of working for money has. It has always been an important factor in our wellbeing, but not always seen this way or valued for what it was.
Thankfully, it seems now that more and more people are not only acknowledging it as a real thing but now actually appreciate how important it is to get it right, and to make the adjustments needed to achieve it. “Don’t Confuse Having A Career With Having A Life”- Hillary Clinton
What is work-life balance?
To balance one’s life so that you can have a fulfilling career, while also maintaining happy and healthy relationships with the people that matter most, and of course not to mention the other leisurely pursuits that bring you pleasure – this is the essential goal, and it is achieved through wise use of that most precious commodity that we all possess but have no control over, time.
Spending our time and focus wisely.
That’s what it boils down to – spending our time and focus wisely. Of course, depending on what point you are at in your journey of life, wisely can mean different things. It can mean catching up on sleep after a wild weekend, it can mean reading, it can mean playing an instrument, surfing, or just sitting on the couch binge watching the latest show you’ve managed to get yourself emotionally invested in. But I can only speak from my perspective, and for me that is one of a working father of 3 children. ‘Wisely’ for me, means time spent with them.
When I became a father 9 years ago, a new perspective on life had suddenly shifted my thoughts, priorities and actions in a new direction, and time became even more precious.
The awareness of how quickly we are heading in ‘that’ direction became stronger than ever. As any father knows, returning to work after just 2 weeks of bonding with your new born is very difficult, and almost feels like you’re going against the grain of what feels natural or right. But of course you quickly get back in to the swing of things, picking up where you left off – the emails, meetings, calls, numbers, but now all surrounded by this new perspective.
A healthy work-life balance. What does it look like and how do we get there?
First and foremost, is the company you work for. This is the most obvious and practical factor in achieving a healthy work-life balance, and thankfully more companies are responding to the shift in attitudes and need for healthier balance.
If you’re already mindful of the balance of work and the time you spend with those most important little people, that’s great, but you can’t actually do anything about it unless you are afforded the chance through flexibility and progressive and positive leaders and policies. If you’re like me and lucky enough to have an employer who is onboard with this, then you’re in the right place. If not, maybe you could start the conversation. Why not? Only good can come of it. And if you’re currently considering a change or looking for a new direction in your career – make sure the company’s culture and outlook on this is something you give serious thought and consideration to.
We tell ourselves we can’t take the time to do things like get to the kids’ Christmas play, or to take a few days over the summer just to hang out with them or take a day to be at home when they are sick. Carried by the momentum of our hectic days, we convince ourselves we have to do or go to certain things simply because we’ve committed to it in our heads or to others, but the fact is we control what we do. Appointments can be rescheduled, meetings can be moved and things won’t fall apart. You’ll get it all back. But what you won’t get back is those precious moments we will eventually regret missing. Some people are unfortunate in that they don’t see this until they are much older and the kids have grown. Be one of the lucky ones that realise this earlier in life.
Nowadays, it’s not just enough to allocate and spend time with your kids. With today’s constant distractions, we need to also make more of a conscious effort to give our focus and attention. Time and attention used to go hand in hand, but not anymore. Up until quite recently, this wasn’t a problem, at least not the problem it is now. Every second person you see now aren’t present and aware of their surroundings as a result of the device in their hand. Unfortunately, children are now being negatively affected by this behaviour, from babies up to teenagers. This isn’t just in the home. You can see it everywhere, from restaurants to playgrounds. I have seen countless examples, but most recently, while in the park, I watched a child in a playground travelling down a slide with the joy-overload on his face and looking at his Mammy for the reaction, but it was missed because the device had all the attention. “Did you see me?!” ……“yeah…very good”, replied the mother in that zombie-like monotone, while never taking the eyes off the screen. She was spending the time, but her focus was elsewhere, so she might as well have been elsewhere. No one is perfect and we’re all guilty of it to an extent, but being more mindful of this, breaking small habits and doing things like putting it away or on silent at key quality times, will make a world of difference for you, but more importantly for them.
Once we have some healthy perspective things should start to fall in to place. The right perspective naturally enables us to more easily recognise and give more energy and time to the things that matter most. Nothing will give you this like children. Your concern for their health and happiness along with your newfound perspective and appreciation for time will quickly shrink the things you thought mattered up until now.
So, as we continue on our journey things can over-power us, take over and force us to lose focus on what matters, but with these foundations in place they will empower us to easily correct our course and continue on our journey with a healthy balance. For in our latter years, we will measure ourselves not by wealth, achievements or career success, but by our level of happiness and content.
And with that, I find it fitting to leave you with some lyrics of a great song called A Satisfied Mind:
How many times have you heard someone say
“If I had his money, I could do things my way”?
But little they know that it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind
Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old
Or a friend when you’re lonely, or a love that’s grown cold
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind
When life has ended, my time has run out
My friends and my loved ones, I’ll leave, there’s no doubt
But there’s one thing for certain, when it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind
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