The Daily Grind
It’s 6 p.m. on a weeknight and you’ve just arrived home after a hectic day. Do you go immediately to the nearest flat surface and lie down, or do you find a way to perk up so you can spend some quality time with your children? Millions of parents face this type of choice almost every workday.
If you’re like most parents, you force yourself to smile and act chipper although your bones may ache with weariness. You ask your kids about their day and make sure they complete their homework. You prepare dinner, throw in a load of laundry, clean up a mess in the living room and make sure lunches are ready to pack in the morning. Then, sometime around 10 or 11 p.m., you finally drift off to sleep. The next day, you go through the process all over again.
For families with one or more working parents, this routine has become increasingly common. By the mid-1980s, 59 percent of U.S. children lived in households where both parents worked, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics. By 1997, that figure had increased by 9 percentage points to just over 68 percent. Depending on which source you consult, the number now hovers between 85 and 90 percent nationwide.
Clearly, just about everyone is confronted with the daily challenge of balancing their home lives with their work lives. And often, parents become stressed by the need to earn money with the equally compelling need to raise happy, well-adjusted children. A person only has 168 hours per week for all activities, including sleep. It’s all too easy for mothers and fathers to feel that there just aren’t enough of these hours to go around.
Coping with These Demands
But as the daily grind inevitably unfolds, it’s important for moms and dads to give themselves credit for a job well done. It’s also important that they at least find small pockets of time to focus on themselves and their own relationship. Healthychildren.org, under the umbrella of the American Academy of Pediatrics, offers the following tips to help busy parents cope with the many demands on their limited time:
- Find Moments to Relax. Throughout each workday, find a few moments to fit in some relaxation, even if it’s a 10-minute walk or a lunch break at a nearby park.
- Take a Quick Break Before Changing Gears. If you often come home feeling tired or drained, find ways to put some distance between the day’s stresses and the loved ones waiting for you. Can you spare a few minutes to spend some time alone before going straight home?
- Reduce Your Cooking Time. Instead of cooking meals each night, try bringing dinner in a few evenings per week if financially feasible. This will help reduce stress and create more time for being present with children.
- Take a Team Approach to Some Things. Enlist the help of the entire family in completing chores that often serve as a time drain. After dinner, get the whole household involved in clearing the table and cleaning up. The more people involved in completing tasks, the quicker they will get done and the more time everyone will have just to be together.
- Be realistic. Sometimes, it can come down to a choice between clean laundry and a full fridge. If you don’t have time to get to the grocery store on a given week night, just accept that your weekly or bi-weekly shopping trip will have to happen on a Saturday or Sunday. The more you stock up during these off times, the less you will have to keep visiting the local market when you need to be available for other things.
- Use Your Weekends to Recharge. Don’t forget about much needed downtime. On the weekends, schedule an hour or two to relax by yourself, whether it’s taking a walk, visiting the gym or slipping into the local theater to watch that specia movie that your kids don’t want to see.
All in all, parents can’t be effective if they don’t first make the time to care for themselves. It’s easy to feel guilty about schedules that eat away our time, but any given person can only do so much in a given day. Know that it’s not only okay, but essential, to see to your own needs while seeing to your children’s. Be kind to yourself so you can be kinder to them.
Remember, You're Setting a Great Example
While today or even this week may be getting to you, remember the long-range benefit that you're delivering to your children. It has been said that “hard work never hurt anybody,” but I'm sure you can point to may times when that wasn't true. However, without question, the example you're setting for your children is an unbelievably important one. In all probability, your children are going to have to work for a living one of these days, too.The fact that you have been a first-hand role model for doing what has to be done to provide for them is something that they will never learn at school. Sometimes it’s the parents’ actual lives – not their actual words – that teach children the most important things in life.
"Our children are watching us live,
and what we are shouts louder than anything we can say."
Wilferd A. Peterson
Written by Lindsay Jones
Copyright 2014 / Good Choices Good Life, Inc. / All Rights Reserved
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