Balancing being a professional and a parent
Many parents have experienced a new appreciation for the need to balance their work and family lives. The pandemic’s movement restrictions has caused boundaries to become blurry with work, school and family life blended at home.
Parents have found themselves feeling overwhelmed. They experienced raising levels of irritability, impatience and subsequent guilt towards their children.
The narratives we hold, eloquently described by my colleague Dr Robert Chandler in his ‘I don’t have time for me’ article, has further obstruct us from finding our balance, as we believe we must be able to “do it all’ and ‘do it perfectly’. And that we ‘just don’t have the time’ to take care of ourselves.
Finding a balance between being a professional and a parent is not a final destination but an ongoing mindful balancing of these important roles. How do we find this balance?
- Be honest: Acknowledge the challenges you face. Notice your feelings without judgement. Recognise what you need and know your limits. It is only when we recognise our reality as it is, that we can do something about it. Verbalising your needs and giving names to your feelings in itself, brings a sense of relief. Sharing them honestly, may allow you the opportunity to get the help you need. Respect your children through being honest with them. They are often more attuned than given credit and may already be aware of how you feel. Rather than merely telling them that play time is over, ‘because it’s time’. While they are playing in the park, explain to them that you feel tired and need a moment to put your feet up before preparing dinner and therefore want to go home. This demonstrates that it is all right to say what you what you feel and need and teaches them to consider the needs of others.
- Take good care of yourself: Prioritising to take care of yourself, is one of the best things you can do for your children. Not only will you have more patience and energy to spend and enjoy quality time with them, but you will also cultivate within them the important value of taking care of one’s self. So, take that moment to enjoy a cup of tea in silence. Meditate. Take that walk. Have that coffee with the friend with whom you’ve been wanting to catch up. Join a parent support group or speak to a therapist. Do what you need to do to work the soil of your inner garden, so you can have flowers to share with your children.
- Ask for help: as the African proverb wisely states ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ – in raising children you need help. Prioritise and show up for the roles only you can fulfil. Your children need warm loving attention and quality time with you. If you have the opportunity, ask for help. Be grateful, rather than feeling guilty, for getting help with a ride to school, with schoolwork or the preparation of a meal. Remind yourself that your professional role also benefits your children. It enables you to take care of and afford opportunities for them. Openly discuss and collaborate with your spouse. Include children in household chores and responsibilities: the younger ones can put away their toys or feed pets and older children can take part in cleaning the house or take the dog for a walk.
- Spend quality time with your child every day. Be curiously and attentively present with your children. Do not try to multitask and avoid distractions whilst listening to your child. Put away and turn off electronic devices. Be mindfully present with your child. Hold family meetings where everyone’s voice counts. Get input on and discuss household matters, such as timetables and chores. Discuss family concerns and plan fun family activities reflecting each member’s preference. Take opportunities to catch up during the children’s bath time, around the dinner table or when reading bedtime stories.
- Play play play! The saying ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ has been so relevant of late. Many of us have experienced restrictions to the things that bring colour into our lives, e.g. going out, travelling and socialising. This, in addition to added stressors and the heaviness of the pandemic, may have caused life to become rather dull. Take time to be led in play by your younger children or if you have older children, find shared interests or fun board games to play. This gives you and your child then opportunity to connect and enjoy each other and may brighten up your day.
Author: By Ronette Zaaiman, MSc, Clinical Psychologist, The Lighthouse Arabia – Center for Wellbeing