[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This is my contribution to the “Work-Life Balance” series for ELGL. My goal is to provide some practical tips to help with the balance conundrum in the short term. I fully realize that it will take long term and systemic policy change for us to find true balance between our public service careers and personal time.
For context: I’m the assistant city manager of a small suburb of Portland, and I also run ELGL in my free time. I have a husband, two daughters, and a dog named Michael Jordan.
Here we go:
Full Day School Care
If you have kids, finding a great child care situation is one of the first challenges you encounter as a parent returning to the workforce after taking parental leave. I’m a huge proponent of finding a child care facility that offers both preschool as well as before and after care.
This allows you to find a school where your child can grow and receive that critical early childhood education, without requiring you to run all over town driving them from preschool to a babysitter or nanny in the middle of your work day.
Take some time to research your options. Consider spending a bit more (because the facility offers early childhood education instead of care only) to save your sanity and provide your kid with stable care from infancy to preschool. Plus, this type of child care arrangement is a huge bonus if you plan on having more than one kid.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Four Day Work Week
When I had my eldest child, I negotiated a new work work that allowed me to stay home on Fridays. I thought I might like to have a day to “be a mom,” and this instinct was correct. In exchange for this schedule, I didn’t negotiate away any work, but did give up five hours of paid time.
I’ve kept this schedule for the past six years and it’s worked well. My husband works an 4-10’s schedule (four ten-hour days) and so he also has a four day work week, but with no penalty of reduced hours and compensation. We both fully recognize that it would be impossible for us to both work a 4-10 schedule because of child care drop off and pick up times.
To me, the benefit of balance from having an extra day off is worth the reduction in my compensation. It’s a temporary discomfort that results in my greater sense of balance.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
Early to Bed, Early to Rise
Believe Ben Franklin – if you want to find some balance in your world, try getting a full night’s sleep and giving yourself some time before your work day starts to enjoy some time doing an activity or hobby that you enjoy.
For me, it’s working on ELGL! I go to bed insanely early (like, before it’s dark out) so I can get up insanely early and work on ELGL, read headlines, drink coffee before my kids get up and my day gets into full swing.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
I’m a huge believer in family medicine. If you have kids in child care, they’re going to get sick. Like, a lot. And then in turn, you will get sick and your spouse will get sick (and any other person who comes in contact with your family).
In fact, I have seen my sick leave bank get into the single digits more times than I can count. And then when you have multiple kids, that sick leave bank depletes faster.
A family doctor can help you manage and control those nasty little colds and bugs that will knock your down and make it hard to get back up again. Our doctor will see a particularly contagious bug sweep through our family and allow for prescriptions and treatments for all of us to keep us moving.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
There’s nothing better than throwing a bunch of stuff in your slow cooker in the morning and coming home to dinner in the evening.
There are some great recipe sites out there and it will save your bacon more often than not to have a few favorites to fall back on when you have a busy week in front of you.
My fallback recipe – throw in some frozen chicken thighs, salsa, and taco seasoning. When you get home, shred with two forks and voila! Chicken tacos, chicken burritos, chicken nachos… super fast and easy.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
This is great advice from “Lean In.” Sheryl Sandberg nailed it when she said:
“When looking for a life partner, my advice to women is date all of them: the bad boys, the cool boys, the commitment-phobic boys, the crazy boys. But do not marry them. The things that make the bad boys sexy do not make them good husbands. When it comes time to settle down, find someone who wants an equal partner. Someone who thinks women should be smart, opinionated and ambitious. Someone who values fairness and expects or, even better, wants to do his share in the home. These men exist and, trust me, over time, nothing is sexier.”
Having a spouse who can match you one-for-one on child care, household work, and the balancing act is essential.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
In our household, we call the couple we pay to clean our house our “helper cleaners” because “everybody needs someone else to help them sometimes.” Having some extra help keeping the house clean is an expense that keeps our whole family sane.
I try to emphasize that everyone needs help in different areas of their lives, so my kids don’t take for granted that we have someone who does a deep clean of our house every couple of weeks.
But I can say that more than anything, having helper cleaners saves a lot of petty and nitpicking fights after a long week of balancing work and family.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]
My good friend Kory left a comment on my Facebook page on the day I went back to work after having my first child. This comment has stuck with me over the years.
Notably, he was the only guy to comment and his remarks were perfectly succinct and poignant and got me through that first day (and many other days after that when I was missing my kids).
I’ve also repeated Kory’s advice over the years to other parents returning to work after the birth of their kids. Kory said,
“…We are happy that our moms go back to work!… My quote in my calendar this week is from Eleanor Roosevelt, it says never ask anyone to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself. So go back to work, I know you’d ask others to do so!”
Thanks Kory, you’re awesome. And for all of you out there – when a friend or a colleague returns to work after parental leave, offer your own words of support and encouragement. It really sticks with people.[/vc_column_text][vc_text_separator title=”What do you think?” title_align=”separator_align_center” align=”align_center” color=”grey”][vc_column_text]
These are the hacks that I rely on to balance my career with my family. What are yours? Do you agree or disagree with anything on my list?