"Walking the Tight-Rope" - Coping With the Work - Home Balance
The work - home balance is a demanding task for all. Being a parent and working is hard, stressful and for some guilt-laden. It doesn't have to be that way. Here's how to walk the tight-rope. This subject affects both men and women. The stereotypical nuclear family is happily becoming more a thing of the past, as women play increased roles in all aspects of industry and employment. This has had a tremendous impact on the average family's income and finances, with more and more families becoming reliant on dual incomes to make ends meet. Equally, increasing numbers of men are choosing to stay at home and raise their children in the role of "house-husband".
Whether you are a dad or a mum, you are likely to be trying to ensure you make the most of your time with your children whilst trying to develop your career and do the best for your family. With the competing demands of work and home, getting this balance right is incredibly difficult. These difficulties are doubly difficult for Service families, where one or both parents spend long period of time serving away.
There is no one single solution for the dilemmas you are sure to face. If you look you will find many sources of advice, much of which conflicts. No one can tell you exactly what's right for your family. There are hundreds of "experts" throughout the world who offer good advice regarding families, relationships and parenting in general terms, however YOU are the expert on you and your family. YOU know what your circumstances are and what support is available from friends and family. Therefore only YOU can truly make an informed decision. Here are some questions and answers that may help you keep the balance:
When do you go back to work after having the baby?
How many mothers you know returned to work, having delivered their precious bundle of joy (baby) with a smile on her face and a spring in her step? Most are torn between feeling guilty that they are leaving their babies in someone else's care and the urge to escape the confines of home and get some regular adult contact.
This urge to return to the sane, vomit and nappy free world of work can be strong. The numerous pressures placed on you by finances, family and friends to return to work can be huge. Alongside these "gentle" pressures come the more overwhelming burdens that society can place on new mothers. Society places enormous demands to return to work, with workplace colleagues and employers placing further pressure upon you to hurry back as soon as you can, sometimes even suggesting that extensive absences will affect your career badly. The combination of these numerous pressures and demands can be incredible… so much so that many mums convince themselves that they will be OK leaving their children, when they would far prefer to remain at home for longer. This is not to say that leaving your baby early is going to permanently damage your child or you. You can get used to leaving your baby, but the guilty feeling can often linger.
This is not to say you should feel guilty. Modern research shows that babies and small children are able to bond with multiple carers and that children's social development can be enhanced through their relationships in nursery and pre-schools. You will also find that employment law dictates the amount of maternity leave you are able to take, and prevents employers from discriminating against women who have been on maternity leave.
Whatever you choose, it is important you make this decision based on you, your partner's and your child's needs as you see them. Remember you know you and your family better than anyone. Talk the options through together, making note of all the advantages and drawbacks for both options, possibly considering part-time work as a compromise.
More Information: Legal and Disciplinary Matters - Pregnancy
More Information: Parenting - Dealing with the Stress of Parenthood
Web site: Credit Action
Web site: Families Online - Work-Home Balance
Web site: BBCi on Parenting and Work
Work or Home? Do I have to make a choice?
Managing job and home, parenting your child or children and maintaining a social life can leave you feeling exhausted. Keeping abreast of all the conflicting demands can make you wish there were more hours in the day and eight days in the week (preferably a three day weekend!!).
This balance is not an easy one, but how you keep it is important to you, your child and your relationships.
There are advantages and drawbacks to every option. If you are working full or part-time, consider the following:
Have more money, because you are both earning, which may mean you have less money worries and can afford nice things.
Feel good about yourself. Earning, working, having a job, whatever way you look at it, can make you feel good about yourself.
Have more social contact - work colleagues and friends can offer an excellent opportunity to access adult contact.
But you may also feel...
Overworked and overwhelmed at the amount of work needed to maintain the balance between work and home.
Irritated that you are working the double shift - i.e. doing your work, coming home and doing ALL the household chores.
Unable to be there for the family as much as you'd like.
There is no definitive answer…we are all different and our families all have differing needs. Your options may also change, as your family grows larger or older. You may have more options if your partner is shore based and able to assist with home and family. However, more careful consideration and planning will be required if your partner is sea going, or likely to be deployed.
I'm happy to be back at work, but am dying of guilt - how do I cope?
Get used to it. Guilt is an integral part of parenting. Maybe guilt is too strong a word, but it is a pretty safe bet that you will spend hours or even days of each year wondering whether you did the right thing, said the right thing, whether you are doing things properly or damaging your children without knowing. This is part of parenting. We all question what we do and continually re-evaluate whether we could have done something better. This is not because we are bad parents, it is not because we do not know what to do, it is because we care, because we love our children and want to do the best we can for them. Therefore we continually ask ourselves why, and feel guilty that we haven't scored a perfect 10.
This guilt can be especially strong for those mothers returning to work. Society and family can place all sorts of pressures and expectations on us. We are torn between working and staying at home, and are often offered no choice at all due to our mortgages and credit cards. There is not definitive cure for this condition, and no-one can offer an all-inclusive solution.
You are probably doing the best you can - no-one can ask more than this. If you do feel that you aren't getting the balance quite right, consider where you feel the gaps are… Are you struggling to be there after school? Do you have to rush to pick the baby up from nursery? Are you constantly late to work? If you are experiencing these difficulties consider trying to adjust your routine…discuss any difficulties with your partner, or your boss at work… remember there now exists government legislation aimed at supporting family life for those at work.
If you begin to feel the roles of work and parenting conflicting, or feel that you are missing something, it may be that you are trying to do too much too soon or too often. Working parents are often most guilty of one thing… being hard on themselves. Parents, working and non-working, frequently have unrealistic expectations of themselves, trying to do everything at once. Try taking a moment asking yourself these questions...
What is most important?
Doing the dishes, or reading the children a story and getting them to bed on time?
Vacuuming, dusting, washing, or talking to your teen about why she's been so stressed?
Getting the house tidy or giving yourself time for a cup of tea?
It is easy to say these things in theory, putting off the dishes may seem simple, however it must be recognised that the washing up fairy or the ironing pixie do not come out when the children are in bed, and that you will have to do them eventually. It must also be acknowledged that doing the dishes later will eat into your time, the time you desperately need to unwind after work and parenting all day. Ultimately the decision is yours, and the balance you strive to strike will be based on your situation, not dictated from a book or website.
Web site: Families Online - Work / Home Balance
Web site: Blue Suit Mom - for working mums
Web site: Fathers Direct - for working dads
How do I stay sane when I stay home?
Some regret spending their child's pre-school years at home and dedicating their energies to parenting to the point they lose themselves. This parenting choice, if choice it is, can require huge sacrifice, after all you are also an individual with your own needs. Should you opt for this option, you need to remember your own needs amongst those of the children. It is not uncommon for parents at home to become isolated from other adults and so focused upon their children that they begin to almost live their lives through them.
There are no definitive rules, no guidelines and no maps to show you the way. However here are some thoughts you may wish to consider...
Remember who you are and what you like - Try to keep up hobbies or interests. This may take some juggling but nothing worthwhile was ever easy.
Remember your friends - friends and workmates can have a tendency to fall by the wayside. This is quite natural...you may not be up to date on all the office gossip or latest industry developments, and their interest in baby care and toddlers may not be what you hope. This doesn't mean you can't keep in touch with your real friends, and continue networking with those at work you want to. Also, there are bound to be dozens of new parents in your area. If you attended antenatal clinics and workshops you are bound to have met one or two. If not there are likely to be parent and toddler groups in your area that are specifically designed to encourage new parents to network and support one another.
Get out as much as possible - obviously you may not wish to go out if there is a storm outside, or if your baby has a cold. However, excessive periods of time in the home, with no contact with other adults can be quite depressing, and compounds feelings of isolation and loneliness. Try to get out - parent and toddler groups, swimming groups, toddler gyms and the local library may be options to consider. Speak to you health visitor for information on what's happening in your area.
Break your day down into manageable chunks - much like a school timetable. If you break things down into bite-size pieces you are more likely to be able to cope.
Recognise what you are doing - professionally speaking. Consider what you do as a parent, recognising the different things you do in the context of different professions. You are working in pre-school education and child development each time you play, read a book or watch TV together, you are a health worker, monitoring your child's health, you are a dietician ensuring your baby eats the right things, and you are a facility manager by overseeing all these things together in your daily life.
New parents have many methods of coping during this period and what you try needs to fit into what you and your family need. If you do begin to feel isolated and low, contact your GP or Health Visitor.
Back to sea? Work - life balance for RN/RM Personnel
The Navy, like many employers, recognises the importance of balancing home lives with work requirements. For many years Commanding Officers have striven to consider the impact of deployments and exercises upon the lives of their crew and their families. This consideration, that for many years has been part and parcel of good resource management, is now recognised as an integral factor to in both Fleet effectiveness and retention.
Combining these traditions of good leadership and management with the recent developments in employment law regarding supporting family lives, the Navy has introduced a number of initiatives, these include:
TOPMAST - The purpose of TOPMAST is to maintain a balance between Fleet staffing needs and the Serving person's individual training and personal needs. Based on a squad system, TOPMAST aims to provide each member of the service with approximately one-year shore side to every two years at sea. Although not guaranteed due to service requirements and having to respond to developing circumstances worldwide, TOPMAST offers participating personnel greater opportunity to attain both their training and harmony requirements, whilst ensuring their ship retains operational capability. Initially introduced with the lower rates, the system will eventually benefit all Naval personnel.
Rebalancing Lives - A recently introduced policy to reduce the burden experienced by personnel whilst their ship or unit is in the UK, therefore developing a better balance between work and home. Naming issues such as boredom, wasteful working routines and uncertainty as targets that need countering, the Rebalancing Lives Team aims to introduce, develop and support Fleet based initiatives to enhance personnel's working routines and improve the overall quality of life for the Fleet.
So what do these policies mean to the serving person, and how do you balance the demands of work with your children's needs. Balancing work and home is difficult for anyone, but especially so for service personnel. This is particularly true due to the tendency to be absent for months at a time. Equally, short, frequent trips away can be unsettling for your children and need careful management. Here are some tips to help keep the balance.
When at home
Ensure you put time aside for the children - this may sound simple, but you will be having to juggle many conflicting needs and demands, such as catching up with the DIY or projects, having time with your partner, visiting family and friends and giving yourself a rest (if possible!). Amongst all these are the little people in your life, wanting to show you what they have done, drawn, painted and made. They are likely to have missed you and want to share all that they have done. Make sure you take time and give your children the opportunity to share all the things you have missed, and make sure you share with them what you have been doing.
Before going away
Be open and honest with your children and try to understand their feelings regarding you leaving. Reassure them that you love them and that you will come back. Talk about where you are going and what you are doing. Maps and pictures of where you are going, and a photo of you at work can do wonders in reassuring your children whilst you are away.
More Information: Supporting Children Through Separation
Whilst you are away
Communication is the key. Children love receiving letters. Even if your children cannot read, they will be able to have the letter read to them by your partner, thus bringing everyone closer together. Pictures and photographs of where you are will also help, as will regular e-mails and telephone calls where possible. Remember no matter how tough you may find it, they are likely to find it just as difficult.
The Navy has produced a booklet called "When A Special Person Goes Away", which includes ways to support your child whilst you are away by sharing how he feels or what he or she thinks you are doing.
Downloadable File: When A Special Person Goes Away (PDF)
To view the PDF file (Portable Document Format), you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader®. Click here to get your FREE download of the software.
When you come back...
Again, you are back juggling the different demands home life present. Try to remember that your child may have adjusted to you being away and will probably need some help to get used to your return. Give them time, be attentive, reassure them you love them and try not to change family routines.
More Information: Supporting Children Through Separation
More Information: Dealing with the Stress of Parenthood
More Information: Positive Parenting
Sources Of Advice And Guidance
Web site: BBCi Parenting Pages
Web site: Raising Kids
Web site: Parentline Plus
Web site: National Family & Parenting Institute
Web site: Blue Suit Mom - for working mums
Web site: Fathers Direct - for working dads
Working families offers a diverse and detailed amount of information for working parents and their families. These include fact sheets, guides and advice on all aspects of parenting and work.
Web site: Working Families
Who Can Help?
You can discuss any problems with your GP or Health Visitor. In an emergency call 999. Additionally, NPFS or RM Welfare can offer support to families experiencing difficulties.
Phone: 0808 800 5000 - NSPCC (24 hr)
More Information: Dealing with Parental Stress
More Information: NPFS / RM Welfare
More Information: RNCom Helpdesk
Web site: Home-Start
Web site: Parentline Plus
Web site: NSPCC