3 Tips for Busy Working Parents

Mother holding child smiling at desk with laptop
Mother holding child smiling at desk with laptop

A Juggling Act

Sometimes home life can feel like a giant three-ringed circus. Parents are the head ringmasters, trying to co-ordinate all the little players, juggling everyone the best that they can. Hoping no one misses their activities, everyone stays safe and the whole cast of players get where they need to go - and all the other parts to ensure that the show goes on. Because it must. All the while trying to avoid the big elephant parts of life that are moving and stomping around – further stressing the ringmasters who are just trying to survive.

Even more so, for working parent ringmasters who are managing the circus, and holding down jobs outside the home. And how about the last couple years we’ve all been through? Still coming out of a pandemic, with many families still navigating work-from-home setups, while at the same time trying to care for little ones. Maybe the word “circus” is too tame. One hungry over-tired lion (also known as a toddler) and the whole show could fall apart and come off the rails.

So how can we pull the circus together? Here’s a few tips to help you manage the show.

1. Find your people!

Often we feel like we need to do everything on our own. Yes, we are responsible for our children, and yes we signed up for this – but everything is better when it’s done in community. So, create that community for yourself. If you have family, reach out and ask them to help you. Maybe they could pick the kids up one day a week after school, or take them a couple hours over the weekend so you can get caught up at home. Switch babysitting times with a friend. Take their kids once a week, and then the next week – they take yours. Kids will have fun playdates, and parents can have a few hours to recharge and refocus. If you feel isolated, find community groups where you can connect, even online – so that you have places to share and ask for advice and support from others.

Build your tribe, and find your people.

We all are better when we do life together. Running the show is not a one-person job!

2. Decide on your “yes”

There are so many options and opportunities coming our way all the time. It’s usually really easy to say “yes” to things, especially when they sound fun. However, there are only so many hours in a week, and weekend. Especially for working parents, who have to optimize their time even more. Learn your limits, and decide what your “yes” will be, and learn how to say “no” without guilt. Too many “yes” decisions, as good as they may sound, can actually end up causing more pressure and stress on families. If you have small children, and you work all week – saying yes to everything on a weekend can leave everyone feeling more exhausted and disorganized.

Look at your family rhythm and decide what works best. Even what sounds like the best opportunity or adventure can fall short if you are stretched too thin. Leave space to breathe, and make sure you have time to rest and recharge from week to week. You can’t run on an empty tank!

3. Get organized

Organization is the best tool for busy families. Take a few minutes to sit down and plan out a schedule at the start of each week. First, take a look at what’s coming up. What do the kids have going on? Who needs to facilitate daycare or school pickups? What is the meal plan? Do you need anything from the store? Are there any special events that will be a change from the normal? Do any special arrangements need to be made?

Looking at the week from this high level will help you put things in place before the week begins, and will lessen stress. A few phone calls or texts to your support group, and communication with your partner will help start the week off well - and when those unexpected things come up (which they always do) you will manage, because you have the bigger plan in place. Secondly, do things to help organize yourself each day. Make the lunches at night while you’re still in the kitchen after dinner, lay out the outfits for the next morning, have the backpacks ready and packed by the door. Anything your evening-self can do, to help your next-day-self is a win. Getting out the door, and getting everyone where they need to be on time is no small feat. Anything you can prep and organize before that moment, will help you win. Build this into your daily routine and soon it will become part of what you do. The show must go on, and it will!

The show must go on

Parenting life is always going to be busy. It might always feel like a circus. But a circus doesn’t have to go off the rails. It can be busy and full of action, and the best part of your life all at once. Work on getting your circus under control, so you can all enjoy the show! And always, be kind to yourself and do the best that you can – that’s all anyone can ask.
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