Anyone who has an 8-5 office job, let me ask you a question…
Have you ever felt so helpless and sad for being away that long from your loved ones? That precious time you spent at your desk working would have been a treasured moment spent with your husband, daughter, son, mom, dad, sibling, bestfriend, or anyone that truly matters in your life.
I’m sure everyone can relate to this sentiment. Majority of us would rather spend our time with family than work. However, we all have different reasons why we are constrained to spend most of our time at work than at home. For me, I need to be at work because it pays me well. Not only that, I need to be at work because it allows me to grow professionally. You have other reasons and these are mine. I have so much more but believe me, it is not easy to choose work over family. It is a constant battle.
In my more than a decade experience as an employee of both private companies and the government, I have come to realize that with the right mindset and attitude, we can all attain the most coveted goal of “work-life balance”. Here are some of my personal tips on how to thrive as a working parent:
1. Determine your priorities.
Easier said than done, I know. But you know what? You cannot even start if you cannot identify your own priorities. For me, family comes first. That has always been my consideration in every decision I make.
“Will this affect my relationship with my husband?”
“Will this affect my relationship with my kids?”
“If I do this, will I be able to make it up to them?”
“Are there other opportunities available?”
By asking these questions to yourself, more or less you will be able to get an answer easily. We all have distinct situations, so the answer to these questions will always be different for you and me.
2. Spend your time wisely.
Every one of us has twenty four (24) hours in a day. That’s a given. How we spend those hours each day is very important. As a working parent with a full-time office job, we devote a minimum of nine (9) hours each day to our job. For the remaining fifteen (15) hours, we have to be very careful to ensure that this time is not wasted. “Time wasted cannot be regained.”
For me, due to circumstances beyond my control, I waste a total of 2-3 hours in my daily travel to and from work. So that leaves me with only 12 hours to cater to other aspects in my life. With this situation, what I do is that I make sure I devote at least 30 minutes to 1 hour of my FULL attention to my children everyday. I do this by eating dinner with them, assisting them with homework, playing with them, hugging and kissing them, reading bedtime stories, goofing around and whatever activities I can think of. Even if I’m dead tired and my body just wants to rest, I make it a point to spend time with them. This is non-negotiable.
Of course, do not forget to spend time EVERYDAY with your spouse. You may live under the same roof and see each other everyday, but what truly matter are the little things you do to each other. Giving a hug, a kiss (stolen ones are fun!), a massage, a stare (not the scary one!), or a simple compliment should do the trick! I make sure I give Joen something everyday. And I’m grateful that he does the same for me. These everyday simple gestures bond us together and keep us simply happy.
I also make it a point to call my parents as often as I can. Since I got married, I have stayed and lived in Manila. I rarely go home to our province in Laguna. Thanks to the power of technology, I can call them anytime and if I want to see them, I can video call them anytime. I cherish all the times we laugh our hearts out and talk about anything. I know they miss me as much as I miss them. So I also make it a point that I visit and see them as much as I can.
3. Don’t waste your leaves. They always come in handy.
I know a number of people who do not come to work just because they don’t feel like going to work. There are valid reasons for taking a leave of absence at work but there are also instances (Aminin!) that we just don’t have the inspiration and will to go to work. That’s alright. I think everyone experiences that once in a while. But please don’t make it a habit.
You can always put your earned leaves to good use. Schedule a family trip at least once a year. I’m not talking about an expensive trip but a trip that fits your budget and that will allow you to be together in a different place than home. Explore things together. Spend time together. Learn new things together. Remember that one of reasons why you are working is to provide for the family. This is one way of providing for them. It is not just financial provision that is important. I think what is more essential is the experience gained by each one of you from the trip and the feeling of togetherness.
4. Plan ahead then prepare.
You have heard this tip a thousand times. Planning is better than doing nothing at all. When it comes to work-life balance, it pays to plan your schedule. You may have a secretary or assistant at work who organizes your work schedule, but how about your other schedules? Write it down in a journal, planner or notebook. If you do not prefer writing it down, put it in your cellphone or laptop calendars. Whatever works for you, do it! Just make sure you plan ahead. Lay down all the work schedules, family events, check-up appointments, annual parties and get together, trips, your bucket list and whatever you can think of. This way, you can prepare for your plans.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ~Benjamin Franklin
5. Let go of the guilt. Make up for it.
Finally, we have come to this point. I think it is normal for us working mommies and daddies to have a “mommy guilt” or “daddy guilt”. When we decide to choose work over family, however noble the intention is, and regardless of assurances from your kids or spouse that they are okay, we still feel GUILTY… for not being there… for not choosing them… for smiling or laughing at work instead of smiling and laughing with the family. It is difficult. It breaks my heart every time I miss a family event, reunion with friends, lunch or dinner with my parents and siblings, a date with my husband, a party with my kids. I have missed a lot of opportunities with all of them, I confess! All because I had to perform my responsibility as a career woman, a lawyer, an employee.
But… the good news is… it is not the end of the world! As long as you are breathing, as long as you are alive, you have a chance to make it up to all of them. Let go of the guilt and do something. How? Well, it depends. For me, I often have impromptu dates with my husband. I bring home “pasalubong” for my kids. I message my brothers and ask them how they are doing. I send gifts (sometimes money) to my parents and they appreciate the gesture. I treat my friends to dinner. I visit them once I have free time. I am aware that these things I do for them won’t make up for lost time but what I want to make sure is that I spend as many moments as I can with them. These moments will be memories of how I spent time with them. This cannot be bought anywhere… cannot be ordered anywhere… cannot be taken away from them. I want to make them feel special and loved by me, in my own special way.
These tips I shared with you work for me. I cannot assure you that you will have a work-life balance if you do all these things but there is no harm in trying. Start slow. Just do one thing. Everything starts with a single step. Right? So, what are you waiting for? Stand up and do something right now. Good luck! I wish you all the best!
This is Attorney Mommy, at your service!