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Work/Life Balance: The Guilt-Free Plan

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | May 4, 2011 | Work/Life Balance

I always assumed I’d be a stay-at-home mom. That is — until our first child was born. Although I loved being a mom, I missed my work — and we needed the paycheck. So, back to work I went.

We had an amazing caregiver arranged for the baby. But leaving her that first day was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I worried: Was I being selfish? Would the baby be OK? Was I making a mistake?

I looked up the research, and found that children placed in quality child care develop just fine. All things being equal, children of working parents turn out to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted. It’s the parents who are stressed-out, exhausted and feeling guilty about — well, everything.

It helped me to learn that kids don’t need perfection — just Good Enough. Once upon a time, I thought it was possible to be a Perfect Parent. One doctorate and four kids later, I’m here to tell you that Perfect Ain’t Possible — and it’s not good for your kids either. Once you’ve ditched the guilt, you can focus on creating a work/life balance that works for you.

My Top-10 Parenting Tips for Work/Life Balance:

  • Prioritize. Health, family, relationships and work come first. Cut out nonessential activities and chores.
  • BREATHE. Don’t let toddler meltdowns or grumpy bosses get the best of you. If you’re centered and happy, your kids (and maybe your boss) will be too.
  • Mommy and Daddy are #1. Kids need their parents to have a strong relationship. Make regular time for you as a couple.
  • Simplify. Do you really need to spend a month planning the “perfect” birthday party, when the kids will enjoy pizza and cake at the park just as much?
  • Find meaning. Make your efforts worthwhile. Rewarding work and “paying it forward” make the tough days easier.
  • “This too shall pass.” It’s extra-challenging to juggle work and kids when they’re little. Hang in there — it gets easier.
  • Get healthy. We’ve heard this before, but we all need to hear it again: Focus on healthy foods, exercise and getting enough sleep. You’ll feel better — I promise.
  • Plan and strategize. Prepare for your upcoming day, week and month. Use a single-digital calendar for all of the family’s appointments and events, with important work dates included.
  • “Bulk Up.” Buy in quantity. Cook and freeze. Buy birthday and holiday gifts on sale to stash.
  • Flextime at work. Dream up your ideal work arrangement, and make a proposal to your boss. Lots of companies reward valued employees with flextime and other family-friendly arrangements. But you’ve gotta ask — and show how it will be worth their while.

If you stay focused on the important stuff, your work/life balancing act will be a lot easier. No guilt required!

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A licensed child psychologist, Dr. Heather provides valuable, and always humorous, insights on our blog.