When you reflect back on the past year as a parent, do you remember feeling stressed out most of the time?
Was it a year where you did not enjoy your family as much as you wanted to?
Do you feel like the year sped by too fast and you don’t remember slowing down AT ALL to enjoy fun times or little special moments with your family?
If this sounds like you, then it might be time to resolve to make the rest of the year 2015 a more BALANCED year.
What Is Life/Family Balance?
Through my years of working with families, I have found that when parents are spending too much mental effort concentrating on one specific part of their lives, while ignoring other important life areas, they often experience overwhelming uncomfortable stress – what we think of as an imbalance in out lives.
Additionally, this feeling of stress is usually due to an imbalance in the following 4 areas:
- Family relationships
- Family fun
- Having a personal life and identity outside of the family.
This post aims give you 5 tips that you can start implementing TODAY in each of the above 4 areas so that you can reduce the stress you’ve been feeling – that’s 20 actionable items in all.
But before I give you the 20 tips, let me point out that having a balanced life DOES NOT mean that your goal as a parent should be to spend equal time on the above 4 areas (work/life, family relationships, family fun, and a personal life); it simply means that you need to be prepared to be wise and intentional with your time and give attention to the area that needs your consideration the most during that moment.
For example, if you have a large quarterly work project due during a particular week, then giving more of your time to this project during THAT WEEK is wise, but be prepared to devote more of your time to family relationships and personal time the next week. Become comfortable being flexible with your day-to-day priorities so that your overall family goals are being met in the long run.
20 Tips To Bring Balance Back Into Your Life
The following 20 tips are broken down into sections so that it is easier for you to concentrate on the area(s) that you feel like you need the most help. Feel free to skip a section that you feel you are functioning well in already or that don’t apply to you.
Family Relationships. Our relationships with our family members are very important and if we do not make it a priority to strengthen and build these relationships, then we run the risk of these relationships deteriorating. Use the following 5 tips to strengthen your relationships.
- Identify the relationships are most important to you and which ones do not add value to your family life. Take time out to make a list of your most important relationships – your kids, your spouse/partner, your extended family members, or your good friends.
- Make an intentional effort to carve out time during your week to nurture these relationships. As parents, we sometimes get lazy and put off spending time with our kids or spouse because we think we will do it next week; but then next week comes around and we find another excuse to spend time with our family. Don’t let this happen to you – make the effort to spend time with your important relationships WEEKLY!
- Learn to be ok with limiting time on relationships with other people who do not add value to your family life. If a friend (or even an extended family member such as a sibling, parent, or cousin!) only serves to cause you more stress or worry, then perhaps you should consider limiting the time you spend with them. You should consider spending less time with these people if you frequently find that you feel less positive and more stressed or annoyed after being with them.
- When spending time with your family, be mindful to focus on them in order tom communicate to them that they are a priority to you. Do not ask your son about his football practice and answer emails at the same time. When spending time with family, put down all distractions and focus on your loved one.
- Understand that building important relationships often includes impromptu bonding moments. This is just a fact of being a parent or spouse/partner – just when you have had a long day and are ready to relax, that is when your family member might need your time the most. And you need to be prepared to give them that attention. Kids especially need our time and attention even if we have had a long and busy day at work.
Work/Life Balance. It is natural for many working parents to feel pulled in two different directions when thinking about their careers – while at work you worry about home, and when you’re at home you worry about work. This is a common source of stress for many working parents. In order to reduce this stress, try the following 5 tips:
- Learn to mentally leave work thoughts and worries at work and family concerns at home. Working parents who practice this boundary between work and family on a daily basis, report being more productive at both work and home, enjoying their careers and families more, and feel a greater personal satisfaction.
- Realize that work projects never REALLY get done – once you complete one work project, you inevitably start another one. If you worry about EVERY work project you get assigned to at work, then you cannot have that work/family boundary described in tip #1. Learn to let go of the worry regarding normal work projects and only worry about the big projects that occur once or twice a year.
- Let go of guilt. I know you have heard this before, but you really need to let go of the guilt of being a working parent. The fact that you care enough about your family to be reading a parent advice article like this one shows that you are the kind of parent that will not let work dominate their parental responsibilities, so allow yourself to enjoy being a working parent in 2015.
- Be prepared to be flexible. Need to leave work early for your daughter’s dance recital? Need to come home late one evening due to a dinner meeting with a client? It is ok to have a flexible wok/family schedule, just make an effort to make up the time spent away from your family as soon as you can.
Family Fun. Don’t remember the last time you laughed with your family? What was the last board game you played with our family? During 2015, resolve to include regular family fun time in your schedule using the following 5 tips.
- Make an effort to schedule family fun time. If you don’t schedule time for movies, picnics, vacations, etc. then this special time will not happen. Also be prepared for some complaining by your kids – its hard to please everyone! Remember to turn the complaining into a teachable moment for your kids and communicate to them that it is not about which movie you see, but IT IS ABOUT SENDING TIME TOGETHER AS A FAMILY.
- Haven’t had fun with your family in a while and don’t know where to start? make a list of fun activities. Get input from your kids. You don’t always have to plan expensive or elaborate adventures – you could even plan a daily family afternoon walk. What a great way to have fun with the family!
- Don’t worry about what other people will think of your family – just concentrate on having fun! Maybe other families might think dressing up as Star Wars characters and attending a Star Wars subvention is silly. If YOUR FAMILY finds enjoyment in this activity then it doesn’t matter what other people think!
- It takes practice to get back into the groove of carving out time for regular family fun. This is why scheduling family fun time is so important – so you do not have an excuse to put it off again. Make it a habit to have a movie night every Friday night at home or to go on a family afternoon walk each day.
- Let go of the guilt that making time for family fun takes away from “practical time” doing something else. Yes – you could be doing the laundry, catching up on a work project, or doing something else productive, but having fun with your family is so important in the long run to building strong relationships.
Personal Time. You can’t be a functional, contributing family member if you are not taking care of yourself first. Use the following 5 tips to bring more personal satisfaction into your life so that you can be mentally and emotionally available for your family.
- Cut out the bad habits that do not add value to your personal life. Are you watching too much tv? Are you spending too much doing things for other people? Identify areas that you do not enjoy in your life and resolve to replace them with things that you do enjoy.
- Avoid unsupportive/negative people. Take time to identify people who are draining your emotional well-being and positivity and limit your time with them. Surround yourself with people who support and love you and notice how you start enjoying your life again.
- Make your health and happiness a priority. As a parent, it is so easy to put our own health and happiness on the backburner; however, when we feel happier and healthier as an individual, then we are better able to take care of our kids and be there for our spouse/partner. Remember to take care of yourself first so that you are able to be the parent your kids needs you to be.
- Learn to say “no” and learn to ask for help when you need it. Parents get busy. You know that. The only way to prioritize personal time is to become comfortable with saying “no” when a competing item comes up and tempts you to spend time on that instead of on your personal time. In addition, ask for help in when needed. Ask your spouse or a friend to watch the kids so you can go for a jog.
- Create a weekly or daily ritual for personal time. Resolve to make personal time for yourself such as a daily jog or a weekly art class. Communicate this to your family and THEN STICK WITH IT.
I hope the above 20 tips help you enjoy your family and your life more this year.
Remember that an imbalance in the above areas is often unavoidable due to life’s unpredictableness. If life throws a screw ball your way that causes you to become unbalanced, just try to bring back your balance as soon as you can.
Learning the art of adding balance into your life as a parent is a difficult one – but one that is truly valuable because it allows you to be a better parent, spouse/partner, and individual.
Finally, if you found this article to be helpful, please pass it along to someone else who might need to read it. You can email it to a friend or share it on Facebook or Twitter so others can find the article and read it when they have the time.