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  3. Working moms, especially new ones, often struggle to achieve work-life balance. Here are some FAQs

Working moms, especially new ones, often struggle to achieve work-life balance. Here are some FAQs

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As a working parent, you are eternally gripped by questions, questions and more questions. How can you deal with them? Find out in this article

Infant to Parent
Working moms, especially new ones, often struggle to achieve work-life balance. Here are some FAQs

Work-life balance might sound easy to read as a term, but it is the most challenging part of every working mom’s life. We understand!

To help you cope, we have come with a special series, You ask I respond. In this series, we pick the most common challenges faced by working moms and get one of India’s best psychologists to respond.

1. I am eternally worried if I am able to do justice to both home and office? how do I know?

First up, you must realize that work and home will each take precedence at different times in your life. So, take some time to think about what ‘success’ means for you. It is the key to feeling satisfied with how well you play your roles at home and work.

Next, list out all your priorities at work and home in two separate columns, then shortlist them to your top 3 to 5. These are the ones you will not compromise on; they are your goals and definition of purpose in life. This will allow you to be more flexible with all the other things on your list, and you will stop trying to do your utmost all the time. In short, you will befriend the imperfections in you.

And finally, evaluate your success based upon your top 3 to 5 priorities at home and work. You will realize it’s not worth chasing the ‘superhuman’ title. Just feel super satisfied with yourself!

2. How can I overcome mommy guilt, especially on days when i am overburdened by official deadlines and commitments? Do I often feel 24 hours a day isn’t enough?

Ah, mommy guilt! First of all, let’s find out who or what makes you feel guilty – it’s usually a comment. Yes, it is. A survey conducted worldwide by students of the Harvard Business School also revealed that most often the comment is made by a female! Run now and head for the escape route – distance yourself from these persons; try to see it from their point of view (remember that you have your own too); accept that all parents have challenges and yes, there will be times when you will miss out on certain things. Life is not perfect, and you don’t have control over external circumstances.

Let’s do some cause-and-effect analysis. Am I talking like your supervisor? What causes the guilt – that you are not the perfect parent you want to be? What does the guilt make you do? - Compensate? Become more indulgent and lenient? The time you discarded the guilt card and allowed yourself the feeling of exhaustion. You must admit that you will make mistakes. Unburden yourself right now, feel the surge of relief as you let go of your self-imposed stresses. Just let your family see and value your efforts to do your best, despite the occasional setbacks. Show off how resilient you can be!

Your physical health is fundamental to your very existence. Neglect it and you invite trouble – fatigue, low energy, illness. So, while you fiercely guard your family’s health, how about doing the same for yourself? Eat well, stay fit and choose a healthy lifestyle.

Family to the fore! Yes, you will sweat over those demanding work schedules and deadlines. But you don’t have to go it alone. Make your family your biggest ally. Invite them to help problem-solve. Let them know what your situation is even as you ask them for ideas on how to cope. You could well be in awe of how they rally around to help you. Knowing that you trust and depend upon them for support enthuses them into sharing chores, giving you space and time to complete your work. An added perk – your family will take pride in you!

3. How do I take time out to do what I love? Am I allowed to have me-time? Will people give me a stare if I state I want some me-time?

Remember, you are the most important person, first to yourself and then to your family and other people. Is that being selfish or self-centered? Certainly not! In fact, step up and claim your Me-Time. Because when you take good care of yourself, you are indeed in the best of health and frame of mind to brace up for the multiple responsibilities of home and work. In short, you will be able to handle the daily stresses with aplomb and applause!

But where is the time, you may ask? We talked about priorities earlier. Do not hesitate to put self-care on that priority list. Fight the resistance that may arise from guilt. It’s not your fault. Your life experiences may have influenced you to become this all-sacrificing person, always putting others before yourself. Do you ever stop to replenish your depleting physical and emotional energies? (unclear and unable to understand) You may not have had a choice then, but you have the power to make that choice NOW - to reconnect with yourself. Take courage and set out on this journey of self-healing.

Pamper yourself. Better still, your loved ones will begin to pamper you. Why? Because they will begin to see the positive effects it has on your relationships with them. You become a more patient, tolerant and relaxed partner and parent. In turn, your family becomes more helpful and supportive when you need to meet those dreaded deadlines at work

4. Do I have a healthy relationship with my spouse?

The pressures of home and work can take a toll on your marriage relationship. Counter the effects with some serious Us-Time. From quick stolen moments to a planned outing together, anything that works! Not occasional, not if time permits. Make it a routine, a must - to bust the preoccupations of work and family. Such time-outs can help melt away the excessive pressures that build up even through a normal day. A time of relaxation puts you in a calm emotional state, gives you a freshness that helps reduce the mountains to molehills; and renews your spirit to move on.

A common cause for marital conflicts is the differences in family practices that each partner brings into the home. When you and your spouse spend time listening to each other’s stories of how you were raised by your parents, you will better understand and accept each other. Gone are the fights and resentment (most of them!), replaced now with an eagerness to choose family practices that befit your newfound accord.

5. Is my child safe back home? Can I trust my nanny/creche/daycare?

This is by far one of the most pressing concerns of working parents and no matter what steps you take, you will always worry. However, there are a few things you can do to keep the worry low-key.

  • Hire a nanny or agency that has a good reputation and credentials. Visit the crèche yourself, ask questions to understand how they function. Make sure the caregivers and staff have been screened for child safety issues.
  • Establish a respectful and courteous relationship with the caregivers
  • Explain your expectations clearly and make sure they understand your standards of good care.
  • As far as possible stay home with a new nanny for a few days to help her get used to your child’s routine and also your style of childcare.
  • Take care of the nanny’s health. Make sure she has regular health check-ups.
  • Encourage your child to be respectful of the caregivers.
  • Look out for sudden changes in your child’s behavior. The changes could indicate unhappiness or discomfort about something. Your child will feel safe talking to you when you are attentive to his needs and emotions.

You could consider the use of technology to monitor your home as an additional safety measure.

6. In my absence, is my child getting into the unknown?

That is truly a big fear for most working parents. Indeed, there are many risky and unsafe territories that your child may be lured into or tempted to explore. People, technology, gadgets, social media, pornography, can pose a serious threat to your child’s safety.

Here’s what you can do to allay your fears. We call it a three-stage process to connect and build your child’s trust in you:

Stage 1 - Build the practice of having open conversations with your child about anything and everything. Participate with interest and curiosity without passing judgments or giving advice (unless asked for). Your young child will learn to feel comfortable sharing her thoughts, emotions and experiences with you. During these conversations, talk about your concerns, have discussions on possible situations and how your child can deal with them.

Stage 2 - You must remember that your teen child may not be so forthcoming in sharing stuff about herself, but you must continue to be discreetly alert. Gently let him know that you notice a change in his usual self and that you are more than willing to listen and help. While doing so, make sure you are not sounding over intrusive as it could end up sounding like you are probing.

Stage 3 - Most importantly, let your child know that if ever something goes wrong and she is afraid to tell you about it, she must do so anyway. Yes, you will naturally be upset. Give yourself time to settle down, then work along with your child to solve the problem. Don’t forget to help her see what she can learn from her mistakes.

When there is connection and trust between your child and you, there is less of a chance he will indulge in risky behaviors. If ever he does make a mistake, he will not hesitate to talk to you about it, knowing that you will support him as necessary.

7. Is my child learning the right values?

As working parents, you have immense potential to model certain values that are unique to your situation. Everything that you do to sustain the rhythm in your home, is value – sharing, collaboration, problem-solving, supporting each other, being organized, managing time, hard work, equality, respect, following routines, to name a few.

To answer the question, yes, your child is learning many values.

  • It is important to remember that there is no such thing as ‘right’ values.
  • If a value is important for you, it’s right for you. Each family will practice a unique set of values, many of them will be reinforced by your child’s school. When your child grows up, he will pick up new values; and his beliefs may change.

8. How do I know if my child is being bullied by someone and how do I deal with the situation?

All children will experience some difficulties as they grow up. Your child will learn to deal with many situations on his own but there are a few that may leave her feeling scared and helpless. There will be obvious or subtle signs – typically any sudden changes in behavior such as making excuses or refusal to go to school, withdrawn behavior, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, physical complaints such as aches and pains, drop in academic performance, sadness. It’s easier to notice the obvious ones. Either way, your response is crucial.

If you ask too many questions, your child will shut down. Wait for things to settle down. If you sense the situation could get worse, take the first step. Reach out gently by saying, “Something seems to be bothering you. It could help if you talk about it.” Give him time to respond. If he prefers talking to someone else (which many children actually do), it doesn’t matter – encourage him to do so. Work as a team to help your child. He will observe and learn how to resolve such situations in the future.

9. How do I reconnect with my family after a tiring day at work?

A support network is a boon, especially for working parents in nuclear families. Raising a child in today’s world calls for several resources, many of which can be found within the social community. Knowing that there are reliable people and agencies available to support you, you can attend to your work and home with more confidence and peace of mind.

Get your spouse to partner with you in household responsibilities. Avoid equalizing the work; rather focus on each one’s abilities, strengths and comfort. Your attitude plays an important role. A demanding spouse, driven by to-do lists, can only provoke resentment. Your aim must be to collaborate, be flexible and accommodating.

Raise your child to become one of your strongest supporters. Teach him to do things for himself such as putting away his things in the right places, helping with simple tasks and yes, following rules and routines. Watch your child begin to manage himself and take on small responsibilities. You are not only helping him build his self-confidence but also saving time and energy for yourself. How great is that!

Reliable house help and tutors can take a whole load off your busy day. Imagine the extra things you can do for yourself and the family with the time and energy saved.

Remember that you are as human and vulnerable as your fellow mates. And it’s always a good idea to talk out your stresses. Family, friends and colleagues can be wonderful people to rely on when you need a shoulder to cry on. You will soon learn to match these persons with your specific needs. And you will in turn be a support to them.

10. How do I build a support network - spouse, family, friends, colleagues, house help? 

A support network is a boon, especially for working parents in nuclear families. Raising a child in today’s world calls for several resources, many of which can be found within the social community. Knowing that there are reliable people and agencies available to support you, you can attend to your work and home with more confidence and peace of mind.

Get your spouse to partner with you in household responsibilities. Avoid equalizing the work; rather focus on each one’s abilities, strengths and comfort. Your attitude plays an important role. A demanding spouse, driven by to-do lists, can only provoke resentment. Your aim must be to collaborate, be flexible and accommodating.

Raise your child to become one of your strongest supporters. Teach him to do things for himself such as putting away his things in the right places, helping with simple tasks and yes, following rules and routines. Watch your child begin to manage himself and take on small responsibilities. You are not only helping him build his self-confidence but also saving time and energy for yourself. How great is that!

Reliable house help and tutors can take a whole load off your busy day. Imagine the extra things you can do for yourself and the family with the time and energy saved.

Remember that you are as human and vulnerable as your fellow mates. And it’s always a good idea to talk out your stresses. Family, friends and colleagues can be wonderful people to rely on when you need a shoulder to cry on. You will soon learn to match these persons with your specific needs. And you will in turn be a support to them.

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