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Work/life balance: parenting

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While this blog is mainly aimed at parents, it’s important to stress from the outset that a healthy work/life balance should be the goal of everyone, regardless of whether they have children or not. We all have commitments, outside interests and a life away from work, but the majority of articles written on the subject seem to focus on “family life” above those who don’t have those responsibilities, and so, advance apologies for this.

As if the quest for a better work/life balance wasn’t hard enough, for parents of younger children it can even more of a minefield, given their eating and sleeping schedules are traditionally much earlier than our own. As the classic 9 to 5 job disappears, leaving the office promptly is also becoming a thing of the past. While flexible hours and locations are great, the work culture of many companies has become a greyer area, where the employee leaves when their work is done rather than when the clock strikes 5.

Staying late to finish something, even for 15 minutes for commuters who might miss a train, can have the knock-on effect of committing the parenting sin of “missing bedtime”. Because kids’ bedtimes often involve some kind of ritual (a bath, stories in bed etc.), a lot of parents can be consumed by guilt if they miss it. Not all them – I know at least one father who will park around the corner from home if he’s accidentally home early to make sure he misses (the hell of) bedtime!

Explaining to little people exactly why you miss bedtime sometimes and what work actually is can be difficult – there’s even a book out to make this easier called Tick Tock Till Bedtime, which also celebrates working parents and helps make the challenges faced by them more understandable for young children. It not only enables parents to have a conversation about the world of work, but also readies children for the positive message that careers are important – for both parents – and sows early seeds about the importance of getting the balance between work and home life right.

Research shows that almost a third of parents miss bedtime at least three nights a week, due to working late. But parents aside, there have also been countless surveys on the negative impact on mental health of working long hours, and plenty of articles about presenteeism still being an issue, so while adding children into the mix is one extra obstacle, it’s never been more important for all of us to continue striving for that healthy work/life balance.