Oh, the elusive “work-life balance!” If you are preparing to welcome a baby or maybe your baby has already been born and you are anticipating a return to work, you might be wondering if work-life balance is even possible. The thing to remember is that balancing work and life is hard for plenty of people, even those that do not have children. While it is certainly difficult, you can find a set-up of your work and life where they might not feel exactly equal, but they can feel balanced and, more importantly, you can be happy. Read on for ideas about balancing work and life as a working parent.
Don’t Go At It Alone
The quickest way to burn out on both working and parenting is to try to do everything yourself. If your baby is not born yet, do your best to plan ahead. Talk with your boss and human resources staff at your job about your maternity leave and about the expectations for your work after the baby arrives. If you are accustomed to working really long days, consider whether the job will be a good fit for you after you have a child.
Before your baby is born, talk to your partner and, especially if you are single parenting, to other members of your community. Discuss dividing childcare with your partner. What are their and your expectations about how much each of you will contribute to parenting during the week and on weekends? Is it possible based on each of your jobs that one person might take on more hours of parenting or will things look like an even 50/50 split? Have the conversation now, keeping in mind that things could look completely different once baby makes their appearance and that it is a good conversation to revisit a lot as you figure out being a family of well-adjusted people.
Find quality childcare. One thing that will help you feel successful in your work is if you can focus on it while you are there. If you are comfortable with the people taking care of your baby, you will be better able to focus. Whether a family member, nanny, or childcare center is your main childcare provider, do your best to set up your childcare arrangement so that it is easy on you—in terms of both the logistics of getting baby there and compatible childcare philosophy—and feels good for the baby. If you have a partner or spouse, engage that person in choosing childcare so that the decision does not feel so big or overwhelming to you.
Becoming a parent is a huge life event: all of a sudden you are entirely responsible for the life of a needy new person. It is hard to know how you will feel about lots of things, especially work. Give yourself time to navigate these big changes and to overcome challenges. One thing to remember is that something that is difficult now—whether it’s breastfeeding, how your baby is sleeping, or finishing a big project once you are back to work—might resolve itself in a few days or weeks. Give yourself and your family grace in the midst of difficulty.
And along these same lines, if something is not working for you, it is okay to change it if you can. Maybe you and your partner decided on a mutually agreeable schedule before baby showed up, but now it is not working out. See if you can revisit that schedule and revise it in a way that works for everyone. Perhaps the role you had at your job is no longer a good fit, but you have an idea of a way to change your role that would serve both your employer and yourself better. It is okay to have a conversation with your boss about your ideas.
Give yourself time to navigate these big changes and to overcome challenges. Give yourself and your family grace in the midst of difficulty.
Don’t be afraid to adjust your own expectations. It is normal to feel overwhelmed when you are a new parent and to feel as though you are not performing as well at your job. Just like difficult developmental stages your baby might go through, challenges at work could easily be temporary. As discussed in this blog post, it’s okay to want to keep working as a parent. Many people find ways to make it work well for them.
If you find yourself in a toxic employment situation that feels incompatible with what you want your life to look like, you can make a change. Jobs are really different these days, with more remote and part-time work possible than ever. It is possible that you can think of creative ways to still do work you love, while having a bit more space for the parenting and self-care parts of your life.