Being a parent is incredibly challenging, whether you are able to stay at home or trying to balance work and family life. It takes a lot of juggling, self-love, forgiveness, and patience to keep it all going.
As a single, working mom of three, I've had to develop a new relationship with time. Initially, my approach was to compartmentalize it, and as a result, feelings of not being "enough," or spreading myself too thin and not being present for my kids crept in, making it hard to enjoy successes in any arena.
So, I took a deep breath and tried a different approach. As I let go of self-imposed restrictions and ideas of what was "supposed" to be, I started to notice that it was possible—and even beneficial—to see time as more flexible and filled with opportunities to create connections and strengthen our relationships.
Read on for advice on how to spend your time more wisely, making sure to delegate some for work, self-care, your kids' needs, and maybe a bit of play!
1. Let your kids see your impact on the world at large.
The structure and rules we impose on ourselves to keep everything separate can sometimes cause more anxiety than relief for being organized. Often, we think keeping our work life separate from the time we spend with our children is the right thing to do so that they feel we are fully present. Let that sh*t go. Letting our kids know and see what we do for a living can give them a broader understanding of who we are.
As a child, I used to love going to my dad's office! The visits were rare and fast, but I always felt such excitement being there! I only wish that such experiences were longer so that I could get a better sense of what his job was about and the contribution he was making to society at large and to our family. It wasn't until he passed away recently that I met many of his employees and colleagues and heard about all of the opportunities he created for women and the way he championed equality in a very male-dominated business.
If you can't bring your kids to work, finding ways to show them what you do when you aren't with them can help a child not only feel more secure when you are apart but also get to know you better.
2. Let them see how hard you work.
My mother worked equally hard as my dad but seemed to be more capable of finding ways to creatively involve me in her businesses. Ultimately, she owned her own retail store, and as I got older, I worked for her during the summers. We went on buying trips together, and I learned all aspects of being a business owner. I knew early on that if I became a parent I wanted to make sure my kids really understood my "job" whether it was all the work I would do as a stay-at-home mom or a working one, and I have tried my best to stick to this intention.
3. Expose them different job styles.
There are so many kinds of jobs out there, and more and more people are finding that their schedule isn't always 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Often, as a writer and teacher my work hours occur at times when I am with my children. Although I feel there is a time to disconnect and focus on bedtime rituals, homework, and mealtime, I also feel that by seeing me work, my children are developing an understanding that there are all kinds of jobs out there and opening their eyes to the options.
4. Share your strategies, which will become blueprints for their life skills.
Working parents frequently feel that they need to keep their work "at the office" when they are home with their families. Although we may want to keep the stresses or difficulties with a co-worker out of our dinner conversations, it can be beneficial to involve your children in all facets of your job and subsequently your life. Think of the myriad issues we deal with at work. Interpersonal relationships, balancing budgets, expressing creativity, and more. These are all areas that we try to work on with our children outside of work, but perhaps our jobs provide a concrete example of how to navigate these things, and your kids may even have suggestions.