Dual-income families are common today and it can bring a new dimension to caring for our children not experienced by our parents. For a start, the term ‘work life balance’ is often mentioned whenever someone has to leave office on time or decide to take on a less demanding job. Many working parents (both dads and moms) find it difficult to juggle the demands of work, family, children and for the sandwich generation, our parents. There is no one way to do it as every family is different with unique situations and different priorities. Let’s get started on a few thoughts:
1. Must both parents work?
In Michelle Obama’s speech in 2009, she said “In most families, both parents have to work, and even if people want to make the choice to stay home.” This applies somewhat to Singapore too, as childcare, education, medical and living costs are rising. However, it is still a choice. A choice to be weighed by both husband and wife and it needed not be the standard notion of stay-at-home mom. It can be the dad, or having one parent work part-time during certain age of your child.
2. Is only an occupation considered as work?
Work can have a much broader context apart from a job, what if one parent believe in volunteer work or want to take time to pursue studies or an interest? As much as parents need to care for their children, everyone is responsible for their own life and has a choice to make about what they want to do in life (of course, being married means you have to work it out with your spouse!)
3. Is there such a thing as balance?
The word ‘balance’ already has an undertone of something being imbalanced or out of sync and therefore needs working to make it ‘balanced’. Instead of trying to work out how many hours for each area of responsibility, there is less tension if life is seen as priorities, doing what we love and care about.
5 Tips to Achieve Work Life Harmony
1. Ask yourself what you care about. Cliché as it is, this helps. Instead of trying to do it all like your co-worker or imagine what Sarah Jessica Parker would do in the movie ‘I don’t’ know how she does it’, ask yourself what you care about. If you care about your children more than your work, then how you lead your life should reflect that. If you care more about money and career advancement, then be guilt-free when pursuing that (of course, taken to the extreme of not wanting to care for your kids at all, then why did you have them in the first place?)
2. There are two of you. For those who are not single parents, you have a spouse to help. Put aside your calculative and petty mind, i.e. don’t calculate ‘I did 3 hours of chores, you did 1.’, or ‘I picked up the kid thrice this week, you were never home early!’. Instead, couples are in it together for a lifetime and a life has different seasons for everyone. If it is a season for your spouse to focus on career, then it may be a season for you to focus on family. It goes back to (1) above, what each parent wants in their life and how they can support each other.
3. It doesn’t have to balance within a day. Instead of trying to work out and give everything its attention (be it chores, kids, parents, meals) within a day, it is easier to view the areas you care about in a week. Choosing a day to spend more time with children and coming back late on another day to work later is perfectly fine.
4. Whatever you want to do, you have to be alive and kicking to do it. Exercise, sleep, diet and healthy lifestyle is crucial. Even if you don’t care about your health (which you should care), being unfit, sleep deprived and loading your body with processed or junk foods won’t let you do the things you care about. Very soon, you may find yourself having to make ‘Getting Well’ the only thing you do as your body gives way to neglect.
5. Don’t waste time doing something that is nothing. Whether or not you have children, life is too precious to waste on gossip, keeping tabs on your peers’ career on facebook or finding out the latest on celebrities. Cut out all the noise, be passionate and pursue what you care about, and things can feel right and good.