By Rachel Grunwell
“I wish I had spent more time at the office” – says nobody on their death bed: Ever.
Ponder this well-known quote and then consider how much time you spend with your loved-ones?
Judging by the results of Cigna’s recently-released 360 Wellbeing Survey, the issue of work/life/family balance is front of mind for a lot of Kiwis. A total of 52 per cent of people surveyed, feel they don’t spend enough time with their families. This is up from 45 per cent the previous year.
These stats come on the eve of the UN’s International Day of Families (May 15, 2017), which this year focuses on the role of families and family-oriented policies in promoting education and overall wellbeing of their members.
This year the Day is particularly focused on raising awareness around the role of families in “promoting early childhood education and lifelong learning opportunities for children and youth”, according to the UN’s website. The website further reads:
“The Day highlights the importance of all caregivers in families, be it parents, grandparents or siblings and the importance of parental education for the welfare of children. It focuses on good practices for work-family balance to assist parents in their educational and caregiving roles.”
As a wellness columnist and a busy working mum I often write about this topic.
One of the main reasons participants of Cigna’s survey felt they weren’t getting enough time with their families was financial pressure, which in turn led to longer working hours and bigger commitments.
This insight made me think about how my family approaches life/work balance and I thought I’d share some thoughts on how I juggle life - in the hope there might be something that resonates and may help people achieve this in their own lives.
Firstly, I must stress that life balance is different for everyone. We are all individuals, and you need to decide what’s right for you.
Next, I want to empower you that you do have the power to change your life – or at least the way you perceive this balance, at least.
My husband and I manage family/work life by sharing the load. We both equally work, cook, care for the kids, clean the house and taxi the kids around to activities. When we started our family my husband wanted to be involved in raising the kids too and so consciously decided to work less so he could be at home more.
Since the kids were born, he has opted to work 4/5ths of the working week. At the same time I decided to leave my full-time job so I could work on my own business and therefore be home and around for the kids after school hours.
While we may earn less, we knew it was what we wanted to do while our kids were young. As they get older and more independent, we are changing the balance a little.
I can’t lie that it isn’t still a juggle, the kids aren’t perfect and I’m not sure they realise how lucky they are having both parents around! But there’s pride in knowing that we are doing our best – and our best is good enough in our eyes.
This brings me to parent-guilt, which a lot of Kiwis suffer from. It is important to adjust your mind-set that your best IS good enough. Part of this work/life balance idea is ‘letting go’ of some idealised way of ‘perfect’. I found that there really is no ’perfect’ and that is ok for me.
If your commitments mean that you must work longer hours, perhaps endeavour to make the most of the time you have with your kids. When you are home mindfully spend time with loved ones. Do this by asking them curious questions about their day, try to eat meals together, and switch off technology so you can give them your full attention. Try to reflect and notice how lucky you are in these moments to have this time together.
Lastly, don’t take on this parent job ‘alone’. Just as this year’s UN day of families highlights the importance of all caregivers in families, let family members and friends help with things like reading, counting, talking about the world, mentoring and growing youngsters’ minds and perspectives. After all, it takes a village to raise a child, right?
And in the end when you are on your deathbed, you want to celebrate living your life well, not regretting being a workaholic at the expense of important relationships.
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