Let’s be frank, some people thrive in the role of full time parent and I’m totally impressed and sometimes envious. In my case it was never an option and whilst it’s been tough at times, I’m so incredibly grateful that I’m busy and loving my job – now that my babies are huge teenagers and need me rather less than I need them!
Running a business is not for all. Neither is working full time, but juggling a fulfilling career around your children, ideally in my view working four days a week, can offer you the best of both worlds. As a working parent, you’ll most likely feel there aren’t enough hours in the day, but effectively manage your time and life will be a little easier.
My advice would be:
1. Be disciplined about working hours – ideally speak to your employer and negotiate starting early and getting back early, in time for the school pick up and evening routine.
2. Ensure the kids understand they come first but work is sometimes important too – they need to respect this. When my boys were a little older, we’d all sit together at the table; they’d do their homework and I’d do mine. This gives you time together but also helps to instil the importance of work.
3. Employ a cleaner over child care every time. It’s stupid having a nanny take the kids to the park while you tidy the house. Who wants to spend Saturday morning hoovering when they could be out in the fresh air having fun with the kids? Time is of the essence so spend it wisely.
4. Bedtime is sacred – quality time with the children is essential after school but they need to go to sleep so you have a tiny moment to relax (with wine) before you collapse! You might be tempted to let them stay up later but remember routine is important and so is your winding-down time.
5. Swimming pool Fridays. Take the kids swimming after school when you are really tired – sounds counter-intuitive but really is effective. Then, straight into PJs, treat them to supper in a cafe and pop them into bed early when you get home. With full bellies, they’ll be exhausted, leaving you a little time to yourself before your hectic weekend starts.
6. Book evening help from partner/Mum/babysitter once every couple of weeks – even if you have nothing planned. It’s great not to have to rush home sometimes; work late, go for a drink, or go late night shopping. You time. Enjoy your free time and try not to feel guilty.
7. Holidays need to be a rest for all, so avoid turning it into your usual home routine in a different location. Make sure you travel with friends who have children the same age – not only will the little ones keep each other entertained, the adults can share the chores – taking it in turns giving each other the night off.
8. If you are single don’t ever think it’s worth dating someone who does not understand your lot. You may be craving adult company but your kids will always come first and basically there is very little spare time to waste.
9. Ban phones/laptop/screens during family mealtimes – use your imagination – talk and sing along to music or dance around the kitchen – whatever floats your boat but do it together – technology does not often bond families. Yes, you might get a few grumbles at first but they’ll soon get into it and might even find it fun!
And 10. Just appreciate how incredibly lucky you are – yes you are probably permanently exhausted and a little stressed out – but it’s fantastic to have a family AND a job if that’s what you want…we are the lucky ones!
…But I’d love to hear from any of you with another voice? If you are a full time mum and loving it – why don’t you write up your top 10 list of how to survive? Or possibly a small business person working from home?