#1: Childcare. You must trust your childcare situation implicitly. You will only succeed in balancing work and parenting if you feel peace that your children are well cared for while you are at work. I have found that when I trust my childcare implicitly, I am better able to focus my entire mind on my job while I am working. This improves the quality of my work, and the job satisfaction that I feel, which makes me happier at the end of the day when I come home. If I'm happier, I can focus my entire mind on my family when I'm at home, increasing the quality of my home life and the life satisfaction that I feel. Win win.
Childcare looks different for everyone. Some spouses switch off, passing the baton so that one works while the other is off, and vice versa. Some hire gramma. Some use a daycare centre or a friend who stays home with his or her children. Whatever scenario you work out, has to be one you feel at peace about.
#2. Organization. Being organized is key to balance when meshing work and parenting. We have reusable lunch kits for each kid, with snack taxis and sandwich keepers and cutlery. I wash them every night so they're ready to go in the morning. We grocery shop with lunch kits in mind. Portable food. Sandwich ingredients. Nut free snacks. Making lunches for four kids before work takes only a few minutes if all we need to do is make four sandwiches and pull out yogurt, fruit, veggies, and granola bars and line them up on the counter (in descending order by age).
Each kid in our house has a mail folder. Permission slips, agendas, homework, library books; they all go in their folder. Unpack each backpack in the evening and fill it each morning. Boom.
Brent and I also have a shared google calendar on our iPhones so kids' appointments and activities (as well as our work schedules, which are all over the map) are easy to remember and easy to share.
#3. Routines. See above for related key elements in surviving work and parenting. Every weekend the kids clean their pet cages, the playroom, and their bedrooms while I vacuum, replace all the towels, and grocery shop. This doesn't take all weekend, so there's still plenty of time to play or go to soccer games or whatever, but ensuring certain tasks get done on weekends makes life easier.
We also have daily routines; after school is snack and homework time, then screen time. Daycare pickup is followed by a quick snack and a tv show before dinner. Bedtime is the same every night.
#4. Teamwork. Spouse support is probably the number one determiner of success when it comes to balancing work and life as a parent. Brent is a hundred percent supportive of me working as much as I want. That frees me to decide what works for me. Part time? Full time? From home? Outside the home? Whatever makes me happiest and helps us feed our family, he's supportive of.
A big part of teamwork is theoretical support but another huge part is boots in the dirt support. Brent does bedtimes. He makes meals. He does laundry and garbages and discipline and daycare pickup/drop off. He will get kids dressed or help with homework--whatever needs to be done. I don't mean he does it all, all the time. I mean we do it together; he's up for whatever it takes to make it work.
If a woman has babies and returns to work, yet still does all the housework and all the organizing and managing when it comes to getting the kids out the door, she will burn out. Any human doing it all will burn out. It's why we parent in partners, generally speaking (props to the single parents out there, pulling all the shifts and doing all the things!!!).
You can have roles. Brent is really in charge of garbages, for instance. If he wants my help, he asks. I'm kind of in charge of meals. If I want his help, I ask. But the point is that neither of us expects the other to do all the things. There is no I in team, baby!!!
#5. Flexibility. If a kid gets sick, you need the flexibility to stay home from work and care for him or her. If working part time no longer pays the bills, you need the flexibility to increase your hours. If you start feeling like you're doing all the things maybe you need to switch up some roles so you feel less burnt out. If you want to stay at home for a few years and return to the work force later when your kids are a bit older, bravo. If you want to shorten your maternity leave to split it with your husband, or because it suits you better, bravo to that, too. You're allowed to change the score, is what I'm saying.
I believe strongly that parents who work are more focused, efficient, and productive in the work force. They appreciate the value of their actions and know deeply how precious time is. So they rarely waste it. At work or otherwise. Women in the work force? Excellent idea. Imperative, actually, to the success of a community and a nation and a world. Those are just a few tips from a fellow mom in the trenches.