As we try to manage work/life balance, some of the basics that can really help are often missed. One that I check that’s in place is the family diary.
Now, before you switch off with a yawn to the back of the hand I’m only going to mention briefly the mechanics of doing this. To be honest this is an individual preference though I will offer some suggestions to sign post you through the process. Certainly being told to schedule time to sit and have a talk with your partner or support network can seem to make for pretty dry reading. Yet it is the benefits that I want to highlight for you.
One of the often neglected areas of your new parenting life (be it a first or third child) can be about organising time, yours, the family’s and your partner’s.
Why? Because in my experience these ideas are begun with the best intention but not adhered to. The shared calendar exists but is rarely checked. Or you forget to add to it, something gets in the way, a phone call, email, text or some other distraction. Perhaps it’s true for you that you fear adding a work commitment that may even, you believe, provoke a negative response at home. It’s safe to say that under the new pressures of parenthood one more stress point is the last thing you may need. It’s this part of you that I’m going to invite to re-experience the benefits of planning your and your family’s time. My aim is for you see how it can help and improve your work/family lifestyle.
In a world that doesn’t concede many things this is a simple but massive gesture of appreciation
So, here are my top 4 reasons why this needs to become a ‘must’.
1 . It gives you a chance to get what you want
That may have come across a little cold, but what I want you to hear is that by having a plan over a week or a fortnight it’s far more likely you can slot in something that’s important to you. As I’ve written before (How to Get Back in the Driving Seat. You can read it here) our new family life decreases the free time we have for our hobbies and activities. It can be for many the first thing that goes and soon enough they evaporate entirely. Life rolls on and months later it feels harder to return to the things that helped you recharge and disconnect for a brief while.
Having a plan or schedule will give you the opportunity to begin to rebuild that back into your life. Admittedly it may not be with the same frequency as before, however anything is better than zero.
2. Being clear and honest about your work commitments
This may not seem as though it’s a big issue, and it does vary on your personal situation, but when we are managing a heavy workload and a demanding home life, getting short or last minute notice can be a further stressor. Long gone are the days where a last minute phone call or text to say you’ll be late because of a meeting will be welcomed warmly. It doesn’t take a lot to see that for a stay-at-home parent who may not have had a grownup conversation all day may struggle to be understanding or sympathetic.
Naturally the unexpected can happen and that last minute changes can occur. But, truthfully, are they really unpredictable? It’s going to take a slight tweak of thinking but it’s just about seeing a meeting that starts at 4pm and judging whether it could overrun. Rather than believe it should be ok, relieve the stress of anxiously looking your watch and flag up that it might run late. This will then allow your partner to make arrangements for the day. Being prepared allows them to schedule their own day so they can manage it as best they can.
3. It gives your partner to share what they would like to do
This is a big one. One that the majority of clients silently nod their heads in acknowledgement. Why is this so important? Life can get pretty hectic and at times feel relentless, your partner may not be getting the time they need to recharge. By sitting down and talking through the week or fortnight allows them the space to share what they would like to do. And together find creative ways to blend their goals and wants with their family and work commitments.
Parenting can swallow you up and it’s easy to lose sight of what we need to reconnect with ourselves. Perhaps it’s just an hour kid free to meet friends, or get to the gym. The thing is less important than creating the window for your partner to be heard and feel that it’s not an endless rotation of work, children, home. This will go a long way to make them feel valued. In a world that doesn’t concede many things this is a simple but massive gesture of appreciation.
4. You’ll see you have more time than you thought
Pretty much that really. We can get so caught up with being busy we can convince ourselves that we have no free time. Now I’m not suggesting you’ll find a whole day free but you may be surprised to see that there are some slots in your week that you can make more use of. But you’ll only know by giving this a go.
Here then is my best suggestion for getting this in play.
You can do every week but I suggest doing this every fortnight. It allows for you test it out and give it enough time to see what’s working and what isn’t.
Between you and your partner or support network commit a time in the week to sit down and chart the key upcoming events. I prefer to get a big sheet of paper and map out the next 14 days and add meetings, commitments be they work or family. Begin to populate what you know. Then discuss whether there are any conflict points that need to be addressed. Bearing in mind my ideas above, have a think about the meeting and work commitments. And always be generous with your time estimates. It’s often better to under-promise and over-deliver.
Then start to talk through what you’d like to get done personally in the fortnight. Perhaps, get to the gym three times, or just arrange to see friends on a particular night. See these are movable and adjustable looking to see where they can fit in rather than being overly strict. As I said, anything is better than nothing.
Allow everyone to voice what they would like and see what can be arranged. If for whatever reason not all requests can be met then roll those over to the following fortnight. Be flexible and patient as you learn to find what feels right for you.
Put it into practise
I’m convinced that you’ll benefit in so many ways by working with this method. You can adjust it and play around finding what works and what doesn’t. You can keep to my paper and pen idea or do it all on the iPad, that really isn’t the important factor. I want you to focus on the benefits that doing this will bring.