Chances are that you saw the viral BBC News video of South Korea expert Robert Kelly being interrupted on live air by his adorable kids (if not, please take a moment and enjoy). Parents around the world were quick to empathize with Professor Kelly, who described the moment as “pretty hysterical…catching a regular family off-guard.” As Kelly told the Wall Street Journal, “Yes I was mortified, but I also want my kids to feel comfortable coming to me.”
Trying to balance the full-time role of being a parent while also juggling other important obligations is no easy feat, so for this month’s Ask Our Experts post we asked a few of our working parent authors: What is your advice for busy parents on managing work-life balance?
“Embrace flexibility. When my first child came along, I desperately tried to hang on to my normal schedule. I soon discovered that was impossible. Once I finally gave in to the reality that it was virtually impossible for me to resume life exactly as it was pre-children, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. Allowing extra time in my schedule for sudden mishaps like tending to a sick child or a last minute trip to the market for diapers was tremendously helpful. Flexibility will ease your stress and reduce the pressure to be the perfect parent.”
But on the flip side…
“When work life and home life are both demanding, I find the best way to maintain my balance (and my sanity) is to develop a solid structure and regular routines. The brain’s rational region, the prefrontal cortex, can only make a limited number of decisions before it runs out of fuel. If you have to keep deciding where you need to be or what you need to do next, you will max out quickly, especially if you’re short on sleep (and what parent of young children isn’t?!). With set times for work, meetings, sleep, and meals, you delegate responsibility to a more robust and unconscious part of the brain called the basal ganglia, where we store our habits. That frees up the prefrontal cortex to focus on the things that truly deserve your attention, like the work you value and the family you love and makes it much easier to appreciate both without shortchanging either.”
– Friederike Fabritius, co-author of The Leading Brain: Powerful Science-Based Strategies for Achieving Peak Performance
Which works best for you? A regular schedule or being able to go with the flow? Leanne suggests a bit of both:
“My best advice is to learn to be a master at quickly filtering top priorities. I book my calendar 8 weeks out and ensure wellbeing and family time gets booked in first. If not, my yoga and self-care never happens. I also tossed my to-do list when I had my first child and work with 3 top priorities each day. Less is more is my new philosophy. I practice doing fewer activities with more depth, excellence and presence.”
– Leanne Jacobs, author of Beautiful Money: The 4-Week Total Wealth Makeover
Erica agrees that prioritizing your time with family is a must:
“Take as much time off after the birth of the baby as you can. When you return to work, try and be there for as many transition times with your child as possible: waking, sleeping, going out of the house, coming back to the house, and later, going to and returning from school or playdates. When you are with your baby, turn off your cell phone, tablets and computer – any distracting device. Be as much in the present with your baby when playing with them as possible.”
– Erica Komisar, author of Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters
What is your best advice for managing work life balance as a parent? Share with us in the comments or on social media!