It is a constant struggle - trying to balance work and family life. I'm not sure there is ever really a "balance." Definitely a juggling act though! For this Gimme 5, I am giving you 5 tips to help you work toward that balance...
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1. Make Connections During the Day - My children attend the school that I work at so I feel I do have the best of both worlds. The "connections" I make during the day include: notes in my child's lunchbox or planner, a phone call to the teacher to check on him or her, an email to my husband. Once in a while I make arrangements to have lunch with one of the kids. We either pack lunches or I get us something from one of the local restaurants. We don't have much time, but just a few minutes of sitting together, facing each other, talking about our day, and giving him/her my undivided attention really seems to mean a lot - to them and to me. I also try to make a lunch for my husband each day. He does not expect this and on the days that I can't, he assures me it's not a problem. However, I feel good providing him with a mid-day meal that I know is healthy and made with love.
2. Make Moments Count - The time you DO have with your children or spouse - make it count! Make eye contact, really listen to them, snuggle, read stories, sing and dance together, ask about their day, sit down and eat dinner together. Go through the papers that come home in your child's backpack WITH your child. Talk about it. Talk on the way to school/work. Talk on the way home. In the evenings when my little ones take baths, I sit in the bathroom with them and read to them or we just visit. And with your spouse too, talk about your day, ask about theirs, hold hands and kiss every day, and go to bed at the same time.
3. Plan Ahead - I am CONSTANTLY thinking about what I am preparing for the next meal. A couple weeks ago I shared the planner I use - see HERE. This helps me to plan ahead and be prepared. I use the crockpot several times a week for our dinners. Our breakfasts vary from yogurt, fruit, and cereal to scrambled eggs and sausage with occasional McDonald's breakfasts before school once every week or two. I also make muffins or smoothies sometimes. On the weekends, I do more: pancakes, breakfast casseroles, steak and eggs. I try to always have a loaf of bread, string cheese, peanut butter, fresh fruit, cut up veggies, granola bars, hummus, applesauce, and lunch meat (I use Hormel Natural Choice lunch meats) so I can always throw together a quick lunch.
I often send my husband an email on Monday mornings that just reminds him what we have going on throughout the week. We have always discussed it ahead of time but an email helps us both remember. I have 3 calendars: my awesome planner, a family calendar hanging in our kitchen, and a large calendar by my desk at work. I use them all daily and make sure they all match at all times. I also take our school calendar and stick all those important dates in my planner, work calendar, and family calendar as soon as I receive it. That helps when we look ahead to plan for vacations or days that the children don't have school but we teachers do!
4. Make Mornings Manageable - One of my favorite resources as a working mom is Kristen Brown from Happy Hour Effect. She has practical advice for handling stress and chaos we face each day. I have her Morning Prep Checklist taped to my bathroom mirror. This checklist is to be done the night before to help you sleep better (not laying awake thinking about it) and have a more peaceful morning.
1. Set our your clothing for the next day (including accessories, undergarments, and shoes.)
2. Pack your lunch and snacks.
3. Gather your bag, keys, purse, phone, etc. into one spot.
4. Double check your to-do list for the next day.
5. Prepare kids' stuff (clothes, lunch, homework, backpacks.)
6. Prepare breakfast.
7. Load the car with needed items.
See more Happy Hour Effect and Stress Turnaround Tips at HappyHourEffect.com.
5. Accept Help - This is a hard one. Before I had kids, I was the kind of person that if someone said, "Call me if you need anything" my response would be to smile, nod and thank them with no intention of ever asking for any help. Then I had kids. That changed everything. Three difficult pregnancies and three premature births made me realize that I am a better mom if I am willing to accept help. I have also learned that PEOPLE REALLY WANT TO HELP! I know if a friend, colleague, or family member is in need I am always anxious to know what I can do for them.
My husband and I are both teachers. We have the same work hours. We drive the same distance to work. We have the same work schedule. I need his help and he sees that. He is great about helping with laundry, dishes, helping with homework, grocery shopping, and he makes several meals each week which helps out tremendously! We are also blessed with 4 grandparents who don't live too far away. When one child has a classroom party or field trip that I can't attend, often a grandparent is happy to step in! I am also so thankful for amazing coworkers that I also call friends. They step in to help out if I get sick and need to leave work early. They offer to give my children rides home from school. The message, "It takes a village..." is so true! Accept help. Ask for help if you need to.