You thought your life was already full and every day was busy, but now you've returned to the paid workforce and somehow there are never enough hours in the day! Kids sleeping late is no longer a blessing, the morning pace is frantic and getting dinner ready at the end of a work day takes military planning and precision.
An essential part of balancing work and family is the ability to manage multiple pressures, whether they come from work and your employer, your children and/ or relationship, or all of these at once.
Prepare your children, your partner and your family for your return to work
Include your family in your decision to return to the paid workforce and they will be more likely to be supportive of, and assisting with your day-to-day demands. Make sure to celebrate your achievements with them rather than focusing on the difficulties and extra demands that your new role includes.
Getting your children on board is often a struggle, so explain your new commitments to each of them and explore how these will impact upon their day-to-day lives. Will there be new carers, play dates or aftercare at school? Who will pick them up and drop them off? How will your presence in their lives change?
Quarantine uninterrupted time with each family member where possible when you’re not working - domestic duties can wait.
Be realistic about what you can do with the time you have. The tasks you were able to manage when you were not working will no longer fit into your working week.
Establish boundaries with your employer
It's increasingly acceptable nowadays to talk about work-life balance so, to avoid misunderstandings down the line, ensure you are quite clear about what you can or cannot do at work by talking about your priorities with your employer and work colleagues right from the start.
Think about the limitations of your dual home/ work responsibilities. Confirm with your employer whether you can or will take work calls on your non-working days, and how flexible you are with taking on extra responsibility when work is busy. Is there a clear, open and agreed understanding of what you’ll do if your children are sick on a day you’re expected at work?
Think about and be sure of your answers before these situations actually occur and avoid conflict and hostility. For you personally, having these matters clearly negotiated and agreed upon will make it much easier for you with regards to decision making, e.g. when your child has a soaring temperature at 6 am, the necessary decisions can be made without guilt, as expectations have been managed upfront and much stress is avoided.
Flexibility works both ways. Unexpected situations do arise where personal and work priorities overlap, so maintain your integrity and recognise that these challenges do impact on getting the work done and can disadvantage your employer and/ or your work colleagues. Be flexible, where and if you can, to work out an alternative solution, and make sure you make up any time owed proactively to demonstrate respect for their pressures and deadlines.