The pandemic has brought an acceptance of both remote work and occasional interruptions. It has also brought about an increased understanding that we are at our best when we get our whole selves to work, rather than trying to switch between our parenting hats and work hats.
So, what’s the solution? Should we try to juggle both simultaneously, or should we try our best to fit our time into boxes neatly?
The truth is, no one will be as invested in your child as you want to be, so it is up to you to prioritise your time to do that well. Manage expectations for your availability and plan for times when you don’t need to be contacted by having alternative arrangements in place. You can then know that people will not be inconvenienced, but you can be fully engaged in what you are doing.
Never underestimate 30 minutes. In 30 minutes or less, you can plan a to-do list and delegate in a way that avoids feeling overwhelmed by what is on your plate. In around 30 minutes, you can brief someone to who you can delegate. In 30 minutes, you can do something with your child that is meaningful to them. In 30 minutes you can treat yourself to some technology-free time that gives you a boost.
Delegate well and plan ahead. This looks different for everyone, and you might want to keep some mundane jobs because they are important to you or you find them fulfilling. But otherwise, if someone can do something as well as you or better than you, consider if you can afford to outsource it.
It is likely that you would make more money than you save, and if it is the difference between you being able to enjoy time with your family or feeling too overwhelmed to give that time or not be stressed as you do it, then it is important to delegate.
If you’re feeling stretched for time, remember that even the mundane moments can be important opportunities. How do you handle being cut off when waiting in line? How do I treat that person who can’t repay me? What do I prioritise? Do they only see me rushing? Do they show kindness to others? Are they being challenged to question things and be aware of the world around them?
In the last couple of years, I realised that quality time did not only mean taking them out for a lunch or a babyccino. Any time can be made quality time if you can engage in conversation or be intentional in using it to teach valuable lessons. Thoughtful or serious conversations sometimes flow much more freely if they happen while going for a walk or in the car, rather than sitting across from each other, making direct eye contact.
Waiting for a plane or in a waiting room before an appointment can turn into a meaningful conversation. Even the car ride home from school can be filled with questions like: ‘What made you laugh today?’ ‘Who were you able to help today?’ ‘Can you name three things you are grateful for?’
Finally, remember: you might have many balls in the air, but know that while it is a (sometimes anxious) juggle, some of those balls are made of glass and need to be treated differently, and others can be dropped. Rather than balance and compartmentalisation, look for priorities and bring your whole self to everything instead.