When you’re a mom or a dad, it’s impossible to avoid parenting duties interrupting and affecting your workday. You just have to roll with it and try to balance it all.
But let's flip the story and explore how to cope when work interrupts and affects your family time. Let’s face it: This is a common if not daily occurrence.
Deadlines, emails, conference calls -- work happens at all hours of the day and weekends too. When the going gets tough, it can leave the best of us feeling incredibly guilty that we aren’t spending the kind of quality time with our kids at home like we know we should.
Trust me, I spent years feeling that guilt, and still feel it to this day even though my kids are off to college and graduate school. The truth is there’s no way to avoid it. The merging of work and family comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur and/or a small-business owner -- or really any kind of business professional.
It’s not because we are workaholics. I’ve heard that label over and over through the years. It’s not about that at all. It’s about a work ethic and maintaining job security. There’s work to be done and we have to get it done if we want to keep working it!
What can you do? A lot, actually. Here are a few tips from a dad who has been there and done that:
1. Carve out a separate workspace.
When you have to do work at home, it’s important to have a place to go to do it. It doesn’t have to be a private office. Find a consistent place where you can get into the zone in order to put some parameters around the work. You’ve probably been told a million times not to do work in bed and I’m a big believer in that.
Find a separate space to get some work done. At the very least, it’ll help you keep from scattering your work materials all over the kitchen table, your bedroom or your bathroom. Leaving a trail of work materials all over your house will make you feel like you can never get away from those demands. Find a place to go focus.
2. Use flex time.
Not to contradict myself here, but also make sure you are as mobile as possible. Bring a smartphone with you to your kids’ sports event so you can be productive during the down times. Check emails and write up projects in between parenting responsibilities -- it doesn’t have to interfere with being a proper parenting participant.
We all know that there is a lot of flex time at these events. Mobile means productivity and efficiency -- requirements for a healthy balance. You can be there while still getting some work out of the way.
3. Include the kids with a parallel activity.
I used to do my work at night when the kids were doing their homework. That way I could help them and make a productive use of the time while they were concentrating. There are a number of ways to incorporate an activity for the kids while you are working away on a project -- it will make them feel a part of it all rather than disconnected. They will also emulate your focus as they get their work done too.
While none of these will eliminate the stress that comes from balancing work and family, they will certainly help soften the blow!
PS I recently discovered this song from when I was a teenager by then-superstar Donna Summer. Her lyrics perfectly capture that angst of having a career take time away from raising children. The song has even more meaning to me as a parent as I struggle with similar issues.