Recognize the fact that you can’t do it all. Nor can you have it all. – You cannot work a 50-hour workweek, make your own bread, raise happy children, keep a perfect lawn, do your own taxes, write the great American novel, and get enough sleep. Ever wonder why so many Hollywood couples divorce? They have the same 24 hours that you do, and if they don’t budget their time, they start having the same communication problems. So set some priorities. Do you really need a new car/house/vacation in Hawaii? Do you really need to go out with your friends this weekend? Yes, you deserve to relax, but try to relax with your family. Keep in mind that the material things in your life will be around forever, but you only have one chance to raise your children. Spend as much time with your spouse and your children as you can.
Don’t assume that going back to work means no breastfeeding. — Many companies are more receptive to breastfeeding mothers, and you should not accept a negative reaction from them. We’ve known several mothers who breastfed for a year or more while working. See our Breastfeeding section for tips and suggestions.
Elicit and accept help. – Get your older children to help with the laundry and housecleaning, with meal preparation and yard work. Do these chores together in a fun and lighthearted way, and use the time as an opportunity for gentle teaching and positive communication. You can also arrange with neighbors to carpool, share cooking, or other activities. If you’re offered help, take it! Also — occasionally review who’s doing what, and then adjust responsibilities according to age, ability, time available, interests, etc. As much as you can, let people choose how they will help.
Don’t waste time and energy feeling guilty. — If you feel that you aren’t spending enough time with your children, then don’t waste energy on guilt. Instead, use that energy to make a change. You might not be able to keep up with every recital, but participate in as much of your child’s life as possible. Be wary of studies that say quality time is as good as quantity time, or that children in daycare do just as well as children who are at home. There are many factors involved, and one of them is the quality and quantity of attention children get from their parents. They really want you to just be there — as much as you can.
Keep communication lines open. — When parents are busy, they tend to listen to their children and spouses with half an ear. But your children and spouse have things to tell you, and they really do want you to listen to them. Once you allow the lines of communication to go down, it might be tough or even impossible to get them up again. So do your best to keep the flow going. See the Safer Child Communication page for more.
Involve your children in your work. — Talking to your children about your work not only helps to keep communication going and build tighter bonds — it also will help your children if they feel you’re leaving them to do something special and important. Keep your explanations short and simple, and stop if you see their eyes glaze over. Make it sound as positive and exciting as you can (this is not the time to complain; your children do not need or deserve to carry that burden). Take them to your office (or, if it’s at home, show them around). Let them talk to your co-workers and touch whatever equipment you use. And when they ask you what you did that day, tell them in age-appropriate ways (again, leaving out any negativity). Try to apply what you do to their lives, showing them how your job affects them.
Create special times with your children. — Talk to your children (and listen!), ask about friends, about their day. Set aside weekends as special time to spend with them. Plan ahead so that you can participate in their activities. And if you say you’ll be there, then BE THERE! See the Safer Child Just for Fun pages for suggestions on fun activities that don’t involve a computer, video game or television set. And don’t assume that you can’t play with your teen. You might not be able to play with toys, but you can play board games, bake or cook, try on makeup or learn to fix a car, go shopping, decorate a bedroom together, attend a ballgame or concert, learn a new language together — or go camping, hiking, bungee jumping, horseback riding…the list is endless. Be creative. Remember: Once these times are gone, they’re gone for good.
Don’t expect to keep a perfect house. — Alternate housekeeping jobs, and let a few things go if it means spending fun time with your children. If finances allow, consider hiring cleaning and gardening help. Manage your time, and learn to say no. Think about how much of an impact a project will have on you and your family.
Use work time wisely. — Find out ways to become a more efficient worker, and try hard to leave work on time, feeling happy. If you work in a company where overtime is valued, speak to your bosses. Many companies now have alternate arrangements for working parents; see if your company can accommodate you. You might have to accept that your bosses will not understand. But again, examine your priorities. Your children need and want you to be there. If you work at home, set specific times for working and don’t allow yourself to get distracted with things that can wait.
Make sure your job makes you feel happy. — So many people hate their jobs, and it can only cause stress on them and their families. Does your job stimulate you? Motivate you? Challenge you? Do you feel happy when you get there, work there, leave to come home? If not, consider making a change. That’s an awful lot of your life to spend unhappy, and your family will notice.
Take care of yourself:
|Exercise every day, if you can. If you’re too tired to exercise, you will probably find that a little exercise each day boosts your energy level. Exercise with your children. This will be good for both of you. See the Safer Child Sports and Fitness page. And, when working for long hours at the computer, make sure you take regular breaks, give your eyes a chance to refocus, and stretch all parts of your body. See Cornell University’s Ergonomics Web site for tips on how to make your workplace comfortable.|
|Eat well. Don’t skip meals, and maintain a balanced diet. Consider buying a slow cooker (they make nutritious meals for you while you’re at work!). See the Safer Child Diet & Nutrition page (there’s information there for you, too!).|
|Get enough sleep. Don’t stay up late watching television. Don’t read or do bills in bed. And don’t throw off everyone’s schedule by allowing everyone to sleep in on weekends (this is an inefficient way to catch up, plus you’re wasting the family time you have together!). Studies show that sleep-deprived people are more likely to have accidents, more likely to suffer high blood pressure, strokes and heart attacks. Set a bedtime for everyone (teen-agers, too!), and then stick to it.|
|Date your spouse. In all the rush, don’t let your relationship with your spouse falter. Take a night every few weeks or so, and go out on a date.|