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How to succeed as a working parent

Posted on 19 March 2015

A recent report* declared that working parents splash out £2,000 a year on ‘bribes’ for their children as it emerges that four in ten parents spend less than seven hours a week with them.  Half of these parents buy guilt presents for their children while a third worry they spend less time with their children that their parents did with them. 

According to the research the average working parent spends two hours a day with their children.  However 38% of the parents polled spend less than seven hours a week with their children. 

The research revealed this it is men who are more likely to spend the money on their children, with fathers spending on average of £1,371.45 on gifts, treats and days out for their children, whilst mothers spend £1,156.82. 

Half of the parents polled admitted that they do not spend enough one-to-one time together with their off-spring, while 43% said they do not get to spend quality time with their children until the week-end.  30% cited time pressures as the biggest barrier to spending quality time with their children, with a quarter of parents blaming longer working hours. 

Despite this, the study found 55% of working parents believe fathers are spending more time with their children now than 10 years ago.

Whether this applies to you or not, the fact is that you can’t opt out of 21st century life, and the stressors and pressures are always going to be with us.  There is no such thing as a working parent who is not busy nowadays!  However, there are a number of ways we can improve our sense of balance without moving to a shack on the Shetland Islands. 

8 tips to help balance work and family life

  1. Do not feel guilty.  If you have to work and there is no other way, get over the guilt. It doesn’t help anyone.  If you feel guilty and don’t have to work, don’t work!

  2. Quality time with your children is FAR more important than quantity.  Cuddling up on the sofa watching television together is absolutely fine
    Time shared does not have to be in-depth conversation.

  3. Find your own balance between work and family commitments.  Work out your own requirements and boundaries and stick to them.  If you feel out of control, be able to recognise this and know when changes need to be made.

  4. S-l-o-w Down.  Do you ever say to yourself “I'll stop when...”, “As soon as this...”, “I'll do that when...”? When you hear yourself saying that, slap yourself!  Slow down and smell the flowers!  Life is made up of moments so start to enjoy life moment by moment instead of being like a hamster on a wheel.   How can you do this?  One way is to simply start consciously paying attention to the present moment.  The more you do this, the more calm you will feel.

  5. Smile.  Smiling is one of the best actions we can take to trigger positive emotions and make life more manageable, no matter how busy it gets.  All you have to do to smile genuinely is to think of something or someone you love or something that makes you laugh.  When we smile, not only is it more difficult to feel anxious, afraid or stressed, we also spread the happiness to others.

  6. If you genuinely think that you are not succeeding as a working parent, that things are array, sit down and assess.  It does not help anyone if you keep complaining – something needs to be done.  A great way to establish what you need to do to balance your life is to draw up a circle and divide it into 8 sections.  Now brainstorm 8 roles that you “play” in your life.  For example, you might have roles of:  employee, daughter, friend, runner, voluntary worker, traveller, student...  Make sure that, whatever your main roles are, that one of the 8 is “Own coach” or “Own caretaker”.  Now write each of your roles at the edge of the circle at each “spoke”.  Score yourself for how you are performing each role from 0 to 10, with 0 being at the middle of the circle and 10 being at the outer edge, marking approximately where the score is with a small “x”.  Now join each “x” to each other and this will give you a very visual picture of where you have scored low.  It might be that you know already where your life is out of balance, but doing this exercise will reinforce that knowledge for you!  Once you’ve established which role needs attention, take one baby step towards improving your score for this role (i.e. this area of your life).

  7. Your requirements are not the same as your best friends.  Everyone has different needs and it is not useful to compare yourself to others.

  8. Be confident on your own value in both roles.

There is no secret remedy to juggling parenthood and work.  We often think that the next person has it better than us and that no-one else really understands but this is not true.  You may not realise but there are a lot of people out there who admire you for the way you balance things.

*Study by Green's (http://www.greenscakes.co.uk/).

Article by Zoe Sinclair from Employee’s Matter.  The views are the author’s own.