Commercials and situation comedies promote the image of the "super-parent"--the mom or dad who does it all, and with a smile. Yet the combination of working, taking care of family, and running a household singlehandedly is a recipe for burnout.
Though you may fashion yourself to be a supermom or dad and your kids may think you can do it, no one can juggle everything without proper support and rest. Try the following best practices to learn how to balance your responsibilities--and let some go--while still being the best parent you can be:
Take Time to Plan
The harried image of the stressed-out parent racing from office to school to soccer field to kitchen is one you want to avoid. Working parents have their hands and plates full--too full to rely on memory alone.
Running a busy household as a working mom or dad is a lot like running a company, and you wouldn't try to run a successful company flying by the seat of your pants. Instead, you would take the time to manage your team, review your resources, and plan your strategies. You should apply this same approach to your combined work and family life.
To do this, take some time at the beginning and end of each day for planning. Use a family calendar (either paper or electronic) to help everyone in the household work and keep track of their events and obligations. You can use different colours for different family members' entries. To help lighten your load, encourage family members to take ownership of their own agendas--help promote children's independence as soon as they are old enough to take on some responsibility.
Don't Over commit
The family calendar is also a useful tool to help the recovering supermom or dad to avoid taking on too much. By taking the time to plan as described above, you'll create a visual record of what each family member has agreed to do. If someone in the family has a lighter schedule than others at certain times, suggest ways to redistribute responsibilities so that they are shared more equally.
As a parent, you can also avoid taking on too much. Only you know how heavy your work commitments are in a given week, so you must take those into account when doing your personal planning. Don't agree to more than you can reasonably do.
See What You Can Delegate
Successful work/family balance must include delegation. Others likely won't volunteer to help you out unless you ask. Identify tasks that you can let go of, both at home and at the office. By sharing responsibilities, you provide others with a chance to deliver and shine while freeing up more time in your own schedule.
Schedule Time for You
A curse of the super-parent is never taking time out to rest and recover. But everyone needs breaks no matter how much there is to get done. And if you don't take them regularly, you may be forced to take a break when your health suffers from trying to do too much.
Schedule breaks in your work day, as well as at home. Ensure that you get enough time to refuel with healthy food and exercise. On especially jam-packed days, even a five-minute time out can make a difference in restoring your equilibrium, making you more effective when you do take action. Use your break time to do something restorative that you enjoy--something that's just for you.