Local Working Families Try to Find Balance
By Annette Benedetti
“Work-life balance,”everyone is talking about it, doctors are recommending it, and companies are touting it as the benefit that makes them the best place to be employed. According to the Business Dictionary, work-life balance is defined as a comfortable state of equilibrium achieved between an employee’s primary priorities of their employment position and their private lifestyle—but, what does work-life balance mean to professionals that step into the parent role as soon as they arrive home at the end of their workday?
Stay-at-home parents are the first to say that parenting is a full-time job. Breaks are far and few between and quite often concepts such as leisure, relaxation, and romance seem like a thing of the past. Many families have one or both parents working outside of the home, and before they can begin to consider finding work-life balance, they must figure out how to balance their professional and parenting roles to best find that balance.Heather and Matt Bussman live in Bend with their six-year-old son Carlo. Last December their family grew by two after Heather gave birth to twins, August and Nora. Both Heather and Matt work outside of the home, with Heather working as a teacher. When it came time for to head back to work after having the twins, they found life was admittedly busier than before. “Life was getting quite a bit easier with a six-year-old and then we started all over again with the twins,” says Heather, “It is tricky to balance our time with all three kids, let alone work.” Like so many working parents, the Bussmans are learning to juggle work and parenting duties. The hours of the day are
parceled out into time-slots for various tasks that need to be done. “…Even if [the twins] don’t nap much during the day we can pretty much count on the evenings to ourselves, and make up for lost time with our six-year-old,” explains Bussman, “As a teacher, I also have about an hour between the twins’ bedtime and Carlo’s bedtime to get some lesson planning or grading done and then again after Carlo’s bedtime for a few hours.” When asked about work-family balance, Heather says, “I’m not sure what balance looks like right now-we are mainly just surviving.”
Lisa Nasr is raising her six-year-old daughter Sayla, and 11-month-old son Nico, in Bend while her husband Basim works in Iraq. “My husband comes home twice a year,” explains Lisa, “Last visit he was home three weeks. I am not sure when he’ll be home next.”
Lisa was alone for the first nine months after Nico was born. She admits that the distance is difficult for everyone, especially Sayla. “Basim is such a hands-on and fun dad…he comes home bearing gifts and 100 percent free time to just be there for [the children],”
With her husband gone Lisa has to play the role of two parents and be both nurturer and disciplinarian. She is also in charge of getting the children to and from all of their activities and school, and has very little time on her own. As for work-family balance she says, “We are failing terribly at it.”
The work-family life struggles that the Bussmans and Nasrs face are not uncommon. Across the nation families with a variety of arrangements share the same stories and sentiments. While the challenge of striking a work-family balance can’t be completely eliminated, the strain it causes can be alleviated. Consider trying the following:
With young children in the home and careers to maintain, it can be hard to remember that children get older and careers change or start up again. Lisa encourages stay-at-home parents to keep this in mind and consider making time to take online courses and stay up-to-date with what’s going on in their field of work. She says, “Just as one makes an exit plan, there needs to be a re-entry plan.”
Whatever lies down the road, take steps to make the seesaw of here and now more enjoyable, and remember that the lack of balance in work-family life is only temporary.
Tips for Working Families
- Ask for Help: You don’t have to do it all. It can be difficult to ask for help, but you might be surprised at how many family members and friends are not only willing, but even eager to help.
- Be Kind to Yourself: Your expectations of yourself most likely exceed what is realistic. Instead of focusing on what you are not doing or accomplishing, focus on what you are excelling at. Take a moment each day to praise yourself and recognize how amazing you are.
- Get Organized: Prepare for each morning the night before, create a shared calendar with your parenting partner, and plan your meals out a week in advance. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s only a lot of work up front. Getting organized can give you time back in your day that you didn’t even know you had.
- Over Communicate: If you have a job, a relationship and kids, there’s no room for miscommunication. If you’ve got a case of mommy brain and can’t remember if you told your partner or employer something important, assume you didn’t. Write, call, e-mail, or tell key people in your life everything they need to know to keep life running as smoothly as possible.
- Limit Distractions: In a world filled with digital distractions and phones that travel with you, the interruptions are endless. Discover time you didn’t know you had by turning everything off! If you are dedicating an hour of time with your child, unplug completely and be present. Have a presentation due tomorrow? Close out your social media tabs and share those funny cat memes later.