Work/Life What? Parents & the Elusive ‘Work/Life’ Balance

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First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 17th November 2014

Juggling a work/life balance, as either a mum or dad, is physically and mentally demanding.

My husband leaves the house before 7am and returns home between 6.30pm and 7pm, and later if he has meetings. This coincides with our children either getting up in the morning, or heading back towards bath or bed in the evening.

I work part-time, but much of this involves planning and preparation at home. I try hard to squeeze as much of it as possible into the hours between 9am and 3.15pm, but I often over-run, and have to continue into the evening. I applaud the full-time mothers out there because when I went back to full-time hours following the birth of our eldest daughter, I was practically on my knees with exhaustion.

This is the same as in so many households. I have lots of friends who, like my husband and I, work long hours at home. Once the kids are in bed, we collapse on the sofa and out come the piles of work and the laptops. How this counts as a work/life balance is beyond me – but if I try to do less, then I simply fall behind and panic.

It’s because of this that I am trying to have at three afternoons a week when I devote the hours of 3.15pm until bedtime solely to our girls. I hate the idea that they may grow up otherwise thinking that mummy did nothing but work, and that, as a consequence of this, work is a hindrance and not something that can be enjoyed.

I love my job, and I think that working is an important part of your sense of self. As a parent, you can lose that feeling of contributing to wider society. When you first have babies, you become cocooned in the world of them. And this is lovely, up to a point. But that return to work – which, if nothing else, means a return to experiencing That Friday Feeling – can remind you of who ‘you’ actually is.

Even when I only worked one evening a week tutoring, following the birth of our youngest, I had to set myself challenges to prevent being overcome by nappies and boredom. Whether this was training to run miles or writing a weekly blog – which eventually led to this column – I had to keep my mind and body active.

If only I still had the energy for the latter!

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