By Danielle Barfoot, mom to a boisterous teen and freelancer who writes about parenting and education. She writes regularly for Impaq Education, a curriculum provider for home, tutor and school education.
There’s no universal formula for work-life balance, the relationship between your work and the other important things in your life, such as your family, social life, household chores, etc. It’s different for everyone, because every family’s situation is unique.
What most parents of school-age children can agree on, however, is that once the school holidays end, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Here are ten tips to help you find (some) balance if your life turns into a juggling act when the children head back to school.
Stick to a routine
Children thrive when they know what to expect and getting them into a routine for waking up, doing homework, taking a bath and getting to bed can relieve much frustration. Of course, not all the pieces of your life will fall into a routine, but if you get some day-to-day aspects to run like clockwork (most days), it’ll be easier to schedule other responsibilities around it.
School projects. Extra-curriculars. Dentist appointments. Work deadlines. Seeing what’s coming can help you make the most of your time – both at work and with your family. A colour-coded family calendar outlining everyone’s schedule for the month can help eliminate a lot of stress.
Establish anchor times
Family moments scheduled into the day, such as having dinner together, allows everyone to connect despite whatever else may be going on.
Manage your meals
Creating a weekly meal plan will prevent you from picking up takeaways on the way home. When planning your weekly menu, pick simple recipes the whole family enjoys and prepare double batches whenever possible, so you can cook once and eat twice. If your children are old enough, let them pack their own lunches.
Bond over homework
When your children sit down to do their homework, join them. Homework can provide an unexpected and even meaningful setting for sharing, exploring and learning together – if you offer your undivided attention. If homework tends to turn into a daily battle, Impaq has some tips on dealing with the drama here.
Trade time with a friend
Many parents face similar scheduling challenges, so talk to friends or other parents at school and see if you can take turns driving children to shared afterschool activities and other appointments. A community of trusted friends can really help take some of the pressure off.
Pay for help
Help is everywhere, especially if you have disposable income to pay for it. Shuttle services can take your children to and from school, sporting events and other activities, while hiring a tutor or au pair could solve any homework and extra-curricular issues.
Commit to one thing, not everything
While parent involvement and participation are valued, especially during the primary school years, you don’t have to volunteer for everything. And yes, you may buy bake sale items instead of spending hours in the kitchen – they taste just as good.
Quit your job
It may sound drastic, but if you feel that your role as parent has been diminished and that you only see your children when they are tired, grumpy and hungry at the end of a long day, you could consider home education. The home environment is less pressured, you can follow your own programme rather than the prescribed school schedule, and you can restore some balance by spending the best hours of your day together. Home education providers such as Impaq help make the switch seamless and offer all the support you may need.
Give yourself a break
When you’re in the middle of the madness of managing work, family, and everything in-between, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But remember, no parent is perfect, so don’t hold yourself to some unattainable standard. Instead, pat yourself on the back – you’re doing great!