If you’re like many parents, you can’t make ends meet without working full-time. But it’s not easy to meet the demands of a career while still being there for your kids. If you work long hours in the health care industry, it’s even harder.
Going back to school online for your Master of Science in Nursing degree can help you further your nursing career while still finding time for the demands of full-time work and family life. Work-like balance doesn’t happen by itself, though. You have to make it happen by taking good care of yourself, decompressing once in a while, asking for help when you need it and multitasking to save time.
Put Yourself First
If you don’t make self-care a priority, you’ll soon find yourself so depleted that you have nothing left to give to anyone else, be they your patients, your spouse or your children. When you’re working 10 to 12-hour shifts, working on an advanced degree and caring for a family, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you don’t have any time to spend on yourself. But it’s at precisely these times that self-care is most important.
Make sure that eating well, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly remain priorities in your life, no matter how busy you become. If you’re already feeling the pressure, just imagine how much more frazzled you’ll become if you’re sleep-deprived, lacking in energy due to a poor diet and unable to blow off steam through exercise. If you’re working toward a leadership position in nursing, remember that failing to take care of yourself sets a bad example for the whole team.
Stress can easily become overwhelming if you don’t manage it. Make time to relax on a regular basis, whether that means scheduling a weekly bath, attending a dinner party with neighbors, hosting a barbeque, taking a day trip or taking the whole family on vacation once or twice a year. Whatever you do, make sure it involves putting your responsibilities entirely aside for a while. A vacation in which you stay home and do housework isn’t a vacation at all.
A key to managing stress is to keep your priorities in sight. In ten years, it won’t matter if you don’t get dishes done every night. As long as you and your kids are healthy and happy and the bills are paid, you’re a successful working parent.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help When You Need It
All parents, single and married, need help once in a while. If you need help to get the chores done or the kids to and from soccer practice, don’t be afraid to arrange for it. This might mean asking your spouse to lend a hand, or seeking help from another member of the family. You could offer to trade favors with other parents in your social circle. If necessary, you could even hire outside help for your family.
Recruit the Kids to Help with Housework
Giving your kids age-appropriate household chores eases your burden a little, but that’s not the best reason to do it. It also teaches kids responsibility and independence and helps them feel good about themselves. When your kids grow up and leave home, you’ll want them to be able to do their own laundry (even though they’ll probably keep bringing it home anyway). When you begin teaching these lessons early, your children will be better able to care for themselves as adults — and that’s the whole point of parenting, isn’t it?
Multitask Whenever You Can
When you’re a working parent, it can seem like there are too many tasks to get done during the day and not enough hours in which to do them. If you can multitask at all, you’ll be able to save some time for the things you want to do. Use your lunch break to pay bills, shop online or arrange for repairs and maintenance at home. If you’re going to school online or have other work to do at home, gather up the kids with their homework and work together at the kitchen table. You’ll be right there to help your kids if they need it, and they won’t feel neglected because you’re not shutting yourself away.
Maintaining good work-life balance when you’re a busy working parent requires good time management skills and a commitment to self-care. But when you’re balanced, you can meet the demands of your career with ease and still bring up healthy, happy, well-adjusted children. Once you get in the swing of things, it’s easy!
Elaine Morehead, MSN is a nurse anesthetist. She lives in Seattle with her husband and four children.
Image credit: CC by Leonid Mamchenkov