By: Deanne Haines | freelance writer and mother of three
Every night after my children are in bed you can easily find me in my laundry room. Not because washing clothes is my favorite pastime, but it’s one tactic I’ve implemented in my quest to carve out more family time. I realized that if I do just one load of laundry a night it won’t pile up in an overwhelming heap to do on the weekend. This allows me more time on the weekend to spend with my family. It may seem a bit simplistic, but it actually has made a difference.
The truth is, being a working mother—inside or outside the home—is hard work. It takes a lot of planning and organizing to create a good work-life balance. If you find yourself part of this difficult balancing act called being a “working mother,” here are six strategies to help you in your personal quest for quality family time.
1. Lose the guilt. Whether you choose to work or do so because it’s a financial necessity, feeling guilty about it doesn’t help. “Cut yourself some slack,” says Patty Jackson, a family and relationship life coach at Joyful Living Center in Pewaukee. That is the first step in making positive changes. Once you lose the guilt you can become clear on what changes you want to implement in your life in order to incorporate more family time. “Everyone has good intentions,” says Jackson.
2. Get creative with household tasks. No one intends to make household tasks a priority over family time, but some chores seem never-ending. As Kelly Nommensen, of Mequon, points out, “My children still need clean underwear everyday and a clean bowl for their cereal every morning.” There’s no getting around that. One way to accomplish necessary tasks is to make a game out of them so your children will be more inclined to help. For example, write simple chores on individual slips of paper and put them in a bowl. You’ll be amazed at your children’s enthusiasm when they get to pick one and find out which job they get to do. Shannon Carr, of Thiensville, creatively combines giving her 4-year-old daughter, Megan, a bath with cleaning her bathroom. Since Megan likes to play with her bath toys after she gets clean, Carr takes those extra five or ten minutes to wash the sink, the mirror, and clean the toilet. In an effort to keep the rest of her house clean, Carr has turned her barely-used dining room into a playroom so there is one room that can accommodate all the toys. “I’m just trying to get as much clutter out of the house as I possibly can.” Carr recently has become what she calls a minimalist. “I’ve just started to throw stuff out. If I haven’t seen it or touched it in two months I just get rid of it.”
3. Combine calendars. Let’s face it: Our lives are run by our calendars. From appointments and meetings to children’s events and school functions, most of us would be lost without our Blackberries, Outlook calendars or appointment books. One important way to stay on top of things is to include work priorities and family events in one calendar. That way you can see at one glance what you have going on in both your worlds and possibly avoid scheduling a work meeting at the same time as your child’s championship soccer match.
4. Schedule family date nights. It’s important to have quality time when the entire family can be together, but that is often easier said than done. If your family is like most, everyone is busy with their own activities. Try scheduling a day and time when everyone can be together. Mark it on the calendar and make sure everyone sticks to it. Date nights don’t have to cost money, either. They can consist of a family bike ride, cooking a meal together, playing board games or visiting one of Milwaukee’s many parks.
5. Be in the moment. What matters most is that the time you are able to spend with your family is quality time. That means being in the moment. Turn off your Blackberry. Turn off your cell phone. For those who find it hard to leave work at the office, Jackson advises, “Make a commitment to set really clear boundaries. On that drive home be able to say, ‘I did enough.’ Once you do that you can start letting go of the work day and transitioning into the home day.”
6. Make the most of your time. Many moms feel that there is not enough time in the day. Perhaps setting your alarm thirty minutes earlier a couple times a week is all it would take to create a little more balance. Taking time to enjoy breakfast with your family or going for a cool morning walk around the neighborhood with your son or daughter are great ways to start the day off with family time.
“I’m a morning person,” says Sue Kahn, of Grafton. That’s a good thing since she starts work at 6:30 a.m. every day. Despite the early shift, though, she still manages to straighten her house in the morning. She has even started setting the dining room table for supper before she leaves for work. “It’s one less thing I have to do when I come home.” Kahn admits she doesn’t get everything done that she’d like to but stresses, “I guess we just kind of get through the day. And when you tuck your kids in at night, hopefully they have a smile on their face. You give them a goodnight kiss and you do it all over the next day.”
Article from Metroparent's September 2009 edition