The Art of Juggling Work and Parenting

Gone are the days when parents had to choose between going off to work and staying at home with their kids, as these days an increasing number of Aussie parents are choosing to do both.

A 2011 survey by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that 20% of working mums with a child under 11 now work from home, as do 12% of working dads.

Juggling work and parenting can be extremely challenging, but it can also be quite rewarding if you can find the right balance. Here is a brief look at some of the best ways to go about it.

Get Organised

Mum of two wih a JobGetting organised will make it easier to distinguish between urgent matters and those of lesser importance, enabling you to focus on what needs to be done now rather than becoming overwhelmed.

Belinda Butler is a mother of two and author of parenting blog
‘Every Day Play’. She has some practical advice for parents.

She says "Do your best and don't expect to get it right straight away. Keep adjusting until you find a fit that works for you and your child."

Use the Resources You Have Available

Master the art of Work and ParentingIf there are resources available in your area, such as parks, libraries or council run activities; make the most of them, as this can save you time, money and energy. Finding ways to connect with other working parents can also be a great way to coordinate and combine your efforts.

Margaret Atkinson is a single mother of 2 young sons and author of parenting blog
‘Slugs, Snails and Puppy Dog Tails’. She points out that keeping your kids active will not only occupy them but also help use up some of their seemingly endless amounts of energy.

She says "Local parks and council run playgroups provide excellent stimulation for young children; they also help wear the kids out which gives me a chance to get on top of chores and errands."

Get Creative

Making arts and crafts is a great way to stimulate young minds as well as keep them occupied so you get some work done. Atkinson is a big fan of taking an artsy approach, and says "it's cheap and the kids love it."

Getting crafty with your kids is also a good way for you to take a break from your work, because stimulating those creative juices will often help boost your problem solving abilities.

Focus on Quality Time

You might not always have as much time as you’d like, but according to Atkinson the best approach is to focus on quality. She says "When it comes to work interfering with the quantity of family time you get, try making it about quality. Plan fun outings, make bedtimes more special by having a song or story ritual, or even get the kids involved in helping to prepare dinner."

Most kids don’t care what you do with them, as long as they have your attention.

Romina GarciaRomina Garcia is a mother of 4 and author of parenting blog ‘Martryhood’; like Atkinson, she believes that quality time is vital. Garcia says that working parents need to make the most of family time by being "present in the moment".

She advises parents that "When you’ve finished work and are at home with your family, leave your work behind and be in attendance mentally."

"Colour in with your children, run around the backyard and play tip… They just want you to play with them. So do it."

Save Time Where You Can

Juggling work and family life will be a whole lot easier if you save time wherever you can. For those who can afford it, making use of child care services can make a huge difference, or if you have friends and family offering help, take them up on those generous offers occasionally.

Garcia points out that you can also save a lot of time in the kitchen by thinking ahead and cooking in bulk. She says "I would cook up large batches of the kids favourite foods…and freeze them for future meals."

Buying non-perishable items in bulk will save you from having to shop quite as regularly, and shopping online is a great way to create some extra time when you need it. Co-ordinating errands and activities with other parents can also help, especially if you can establish a rotation style system.

Make Guilt-Free Time for Yourself

Many parents struggle to find time for themselves, but it is important that you do.
Atkinson says " is important to try and find a healthy balance between parenting and taking some time out for yourself, and also to know that you deserve it and shouldn’t feel guilty or selfish."

Butler agrees and adds "Kids need dedicated, kind, and loving parents to flourish, but parents need to be able to look after themselves so they can be that."

You need to be healthy and happy if you are any chance of being a good parent to your kids, so for their sake as well as your own, schedule some time in for yourself.

Put Family First

When you are juggling work and parenting, there will always be times when you need to prioritize one over the other. While you should do what you can to stay on top of your work, it is important to put your family first.

Garcia feels strongly about the importance of having clear priorities. She says "Choose family first, always, without hesitation."

Whether you need to get an extension on a deadline or bring your child with you to a meeting, make sure your kids always know just how important they are to you.

Enjoy It

As hard as it is to be a working parent, it also has its advantages. You will struggle to find a job anywhere near as flexible and getting to spend so much time with your kids will make it easier to form a strong and healthy relationship with them. So be sure you are making the most of this challenging role and enjoying it while it lasts, because in many ways it really is the best job in the world.