I often receive questions from parents
on the topic of how to find and maintain work/life balance. My friends and I
also battle daily the war on work, laundry, errands, and meal preparation while
tending to our little troopers. I dream of the evening when I can soak in a hot
tub – candle lit and a glass of wine in hand – without Dexter pulling Paxton’s
hair out, the puppy tearing apart a dirty diaper, Ella refusing to do her
homework, and Mitch knocking on the door to ask where he can find his keys.
Sigh. Someday perhaps.

Dr. Carrie Holland is here to offer
quick tips for balancing your days so you have more time for you and for your
family.             -Dr. Julia Pewitt Kinder

Finding quality time to spend with family can be a challenge
when multiple responsibilities demand your attention. My husband and I struggle
with this as we work full-time (often nights and weekends), have a toddler and
a baby on the way, a yorkie- mix named Poppy, and an upcoming move to another
state. A few months ago I created a reminder list of easy ways I could enjoy my
family each day. By posting this list on our refrigerator, we remember every
morning to make the most of our day together.

1.  Turn off the TV. It sounds simple, and
really, it is. As a treat, Adam and I spend a few minutes watching Real
Housewives while we eat Ben and Jerry’s, but after the last spoonful of ice
cream is eaten, the TV is off. It’s easy to fall into the trap of vegging out
in front of the TV in silence; though we’re sitting next to each other, we may
as well be in different rooms. Before long, 30+ minutes have passed, one of us
has nodded off, and it’s time for bed. Use that time to talk instead.

2.  Eat dinner together. Granted, this does
not happen on a regular basis in my house. There are at least 2 nights per week
when one of us is away working. On those nights when I’m home but Adam is away,
between feeding Evan and wiping food off the walls, I make time to tell a story.
When Adam is home, we take turns cooking and playing with Evan . It may be
leftover spaghetti from a tupperware container, but it’s time to talk about the
day, plan for the next, and giggle as our son learns to use a fork.

3.  Go for walks. Admittedly, living in
Chicago this winter has not afforded many opportunities to go outside for a
stroll, but whenever the weather is decent, all four of us (Poppy included)
strap on our coats and head outdoors for fresh air. One of us pushes the
stroller while the other takes the leash. It’s good post-meal exercise and a
chance to visit with neighbors.

4.  Find a hobby you both enjoy, and DO IT.
. Adam and I met in the gym, and working out is what we do for fun
together. My friend laughed because on a recent Saturday when Adam and I were
both off, we scheduled a date with a personal trainer to learn some new
exercises. The trainer worked us over, and we had a great time while Evan
played with his pals at the gym daycare. Not a bad way to start our weekend,
and we left feeling fit (and sore).

5.  Say no. To phone calls, texts, emails, and
Facebook. A device is constantly vibrating, chirping, or beckoning when I get
home and my rule is to let it be (unless  it’s urgent). If I need to catch up with a
friend, I make that phone call during my half hour commute. Emails are returned
while at work. I try to limit Facebook to when I’m on the elliptical. It’s too
easy to spend precious minutes in front of a screen, when I could be reading
Evan a book.

6.  Leave work on time. This may be the
hardest on the list (for me) to do. But if I have no obligations at work, I
make every effort to walk out of the office at 5pm. There is ALWAYS more to do,
but I remind myself that it will still be there tomorrow, and as long as it is
not urgent, it can wait, so I can get home to my family.

7.  Do the ritual stuff together. Every
night around 7pm is bath time for Evan. The toys are put away, the lights dimmed,
and we wash the day away (along with whatever bits of food have managed to
sneak into Evan’s hair/eyebrows/nose). Adam and I share this duty: one bathes
and the other dries and dresses him. After bath, we read a story. Poppy sits on
the floor and listens intently as Evan turns the pages. One of us could be in
front of the TV or working on the computer, but we choose to make bath time a
family event.

8.  Outsource if you can. It took us years
to swallow our pride and hire professional house cleaners, but once we finally
did we never looked back. Yes, it’s an added expense and we budget for it, but
it beats spending one of our precious few simultaneous days off scrubbing
toilets on different floors of our house. Sure, the sink may not be as spotless
as if I did it myself, but I can accept that knowing I have an extra afternoon
to go to the park.

9.   Don’t feel obligated to go to every birthday
party, brunch, play date, etc…
On weekends, I sometimes try to cram as much
as I can into 48 hours by going to numerous social activities. All that fun can
be exhausting, and leave me with nothing left for my family. Yes, it’s important
to maintain friendships. However, when your schedules are overrun with social
engagements, you may have no time for your own family once the party’s over.
It’s okay to decline every now and then, and my guess is that your friends can
relate to being exhausted and strapped for time.

10. Make time for yourself. How many times have
you heard “You can’t take care of others unless you take care of yourself
first?” When I do something for me – whether it’s a massage, a haircut, or reading
a magazine for fifteen uninterrupted minutes – I feel centered and human. This
balance allows me to be present and available to my family, rather than
irritated and resentful. I know my family needs me, but I imagine they prefer
to have a pleasant, happy version of me rather than a burned out and exhausted
me. If it means getting up early to work out or staying up late to have dinner
with friends, so be it. We all need time for ourselves, and we all have the
same 24 hours to find it. Get creative, and I imagine you may find a few extra
minutes (maybe even an hour!) to devote to you,
which in turn will reflect in your own family’s wellness.

Contributed by Dr. Carrie Holland.

How do you find time each day to create
balance? Please share your tips with us!

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