How to Balance Work and Family Life
Modern family life for the parents can be akin to juggling spinning plates whilst running over a bed of coals – working and bringing up children isn’t for the faint-hearted. However, whether it’s a case of economic needs-be, or a desire to grow your career, knowing the important tricks of balancing work and family can be the key to workplace and home life success.
Balancing work and family is exactly that – a balance - and the scales look different for every family. It is important to remember that what works for one family won’t necessarily work for another. Similarly, what works whilst your children are young will be different to what works when they are teenagers. Therefore, balancing work and family is about finding out what works for you. Nonetheless, there are some key ingredients to a healthy work-family balance.
Know Your Rights
It is important to know what your rights are, and how these are protected, when balancing work and family life. Broadly speaking there are rights governing maternity leave and pay, paternity leave and pay, joint or shared parental leave, unpaid time off to look after your child, adoption leave and pay, and additional rights such as being able to attend or accompany antenatal appointments. The rules governing parental working rights can be a little complicated in terms of dates – we recommend taking a look at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for more detailed information. For more information of each type of specific leave, see here.
You should also look at the employer-specific policies pertaining to parental terms and conditions applicable in yours, and the other parent’s workplace. You may find one is more generous than the other, which can affect the choices you make.
Furthermore, you should also be aware that everyone has the right to request flexible working. Flexible working may help you to juggle pick-up and drop-off times more appropriately.
Once you know your rights, and how things will work in your workplace, then you are able to begin spinning those plates.
Be Confident in Your Childcare
Next you need to consider your childcare. Before you take any further steps, once again you should find out what help you are entitled to. This will help you plan your childcare needs not only for this year, and next, but to future-proof it as your family grows and changes. To find out what help you may be entitled to with childcare, here and here will soon have you fully clued up.
Then you can consider which childcare options will work best for you according to the ages and needs of your children, and the childcare provisions available to you. If you can feel confident in your childcare choice then you will perform better at work and home, without any background worry.
For all childcare provision you should do your homework, and ensure you’re making the most suitable choice for your family. For example, an individual working standard office hours with one baby may find a nursery setting is best, whereas a couple who work varying shifts may be better suited using a childminder, or their trusted Sitters babysitter who can work on a more flexible basis.
Be There When it Matters
For many families, balancing work and family means being there when it matters most. Again, what this looks like in practice will differ from family to family. For some children it is incredibly important that one parent is there for Sports Day, for others they’d rather have a family member in the audience for their show. Your employer might be happy for you to leave at 2.45pm every day in February but need you manning an exhibition stand with long hours come October. Some kids will be happier in summer camp, whilst others need their downtime in their home. Being in tune with the individual needs of your family and work responsibilities will enable you to prioritise where you are needed most.
Ditch the Guilt
Lastly, as a parent, you’re likely all too familiar with the pangs of guilt. Balancing work and family life is about compromise. You simply cannot do it all. What matters is that you do what’s best for your family – and then let go of any lingering guilt. There is no right or wrong. Just make sure you feel every bit of the superhero you are for juggling it all, and don’t forget to carve out some time for yourself in amongst it all.
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