Finding balance as a parent is so important that I made it the second chapter of my book, Raising Today’s Baby, 2nd edition. The chapter addresses ten areas that are vital to finding parenting balance with an infant: exercise, nutrition, appearance, rest, emotional support, recreation/hobbies, spiritual support, environment, goals and health. When I think about how I manage day-to-day parenting with older kids, there are two words that come to mind: organization and planning. Here are some practical tips to keep you well balanced.
Keep a calendar.
Keep a monthly dry erase calendar on the fridge with everyone’s important dates including doctor appointments, practices, and special events. Each person has a different marker color. Include your work and exercise schedule, so everyone knows where everyone else is. Once or twice a year, make doctors, dentist, and hair appointments so that everyone can be seen at the same visit. Plan for yearly vacation time and monthly family outings. Fun can be scheduled!
Meal prep and plan.
Each week make a list of meals and a grocery list to eliminate multiple trips to the store. If you work late, your family can start the meal. Prep for meals on the weekend by, for example, washing and chopping vegetables. Crock-pot dinners are an amazing time saver during work weeks. A few minutes of prep and dinner is ready when you get home.
Prepare for the unexpected emergency.
Every child will come down with an illness. Plan what to do when it happens. Perhaps Mom can take the first day off and then Dad the second. Maybe you can enlist a neighbor, friend, or grandparent to take a turn. As a military spouse, I was often on my own. I had a friend that agreed to be my back-up and I in turn was hers. I even had a back-up to my back-up… just in case.
Evening prep calms morning chaos.
Anything that you can prepare in the evening will make the morning easier. Pack lunches during dinner clean up time. Everyone is already in the kitchen and you only clean up once. Prep tomorrow’s dinner as well. Take showers and lay out tomorrow’s clothing before bed.
Consistent bedtimes for all.
We all know that kids do better with 10 hours sleep, but we rarely take time to consider if we are getting enough rest. Consistent bedtimes help to ensure that everyone can feel their best. If your family needs to be up by 6 a.m., kids should be in bed between 7:30 and 8 p.m. and adults between 9:30 and 10 p.m. Reading before bed is a great way to relax, but no electronic devices should be allowed in the bedrooms.
Plan for some “adult” time.
Find what feeds your soul and make some time for you. It may be a walk in the woods, a paint class, an exercise class, a massage, or an afternoon movie. You may need a date night or some alone time. Find some joy in your life. You are worth it, and it will make you a better parent.
Finding balance in parenting is challenging, but with planning and organization, it can be successfully done.