When I was growing up, my dad worked over 60 hours - often over 80 hours - every week in his contracting business to keep a roof over our heads and everyone fed. Though I understood why he had to work so hard, I missed seeing him at ball games, plays and at home in the evenings. He told me years later that he hated missing those things too. As I raise my daughter, I realize the problems my dad faced, trying to balance work and home.
A common problem in individuals working full time or in a high-demand job, quality time with family can be considered a luxury that quickly falls by the wayside when work is demanding. Here are five ways to keep family time a priority and how to make it happen.
- Schedule it. It used to be that when you went to work with a company, you worked at that job for 40 years and then retired, so you gave everything to that company. That's no longer the case, so employers are more flexible about personal time. Schedule your family dinners, games, recitals and trips and stick with your schedule. Though you may occasionally need to skip something for work, attending these events will help you stay in a state of flow at work instead of stressing over missing every baseball game this season.
- Work it into the small spaces between. If your schedule doesn't allow it, work family time into those small spaces, such as driving your child to school or taking them to sports practices. Ask about their day, how their team is doing or what they think they need to work on. Then when you do have some free time, you have an idea of where to start to rebuild those connections, such as playing catch for a few minutes on a sunny afternoon.
- Make family time required. Is your thing family game night, family dinners or worship and brunch? Make that time required for everyone, adults and children alike. By doing so, you're not only more likely to pick a time that works better for your family when there's required overtime at work, but you're also more likely to focus on what's important during those times.
- Cut back on your obligations. Did you start going to Chamber of Commerce meetings when you first started, but have never had a client from that group? What about bringing snacks to the Monday morning meeting? Let go of obligations that aren't benefiting your family or at least get someone else to help share the load.
- Make routine your requirement. One of the first things you learn about babies is to keep a schedule and regular routine for them, a practice that works well through their growing years. If a new requirement makes you look at changing that routine, negotiate to have it work for your family by limiting the number of times a week you'll be responsible for it or getting some flexibility of schedule for other family times from your work.
By keeping these tips in mind, you can start spending more quality time with your family to build those bonds that make such a difference in your lives. Start today by taking up even just one of these tips, and you'll quickly find that your family is growing closer and happier as time goes on.