Working and parenting is a hard balance in the best of times. These days though, it can be harder than ever. You are only one person and there are a lot of demands on your time and focus from both the family side and the work side. How do people do it all?
The truth is, no one does it all but some people get to do more because they do a good job organizing and prioritizing different aspects of their life at different times. When you are able to do this, you are able to focus fully on the most important task at hand.
This not only makes you a better parent or employee in the moment, but it also allows you to do what you need to do so you can focus on the other aspect of your life at a later time. Who knows, if you do it well enough there may even be a little extra “me time” left over.
To help be the best parent and the best worker you can be, here are five tips for working Chicago parents.
1. Find a reliable daycare
During the week, parents with younger kids or kids who need a place to go after school need to find a reliable daycare for their children. This is an absolute must. When you are paying for childcare, there are a few things you want. You want it to be safe for your kids, first and foremost, and you want it to be stimulating so they’re not just sitting around playing on devices or watching TV.
You also want a daycare that you can count on to be there when you need it and take care of things on their own. If the daycare is calling you about every little issue, that’s usually not great. And, this is Chicago so if the daycare shuts down as soon as there is a snow flurry, that won’t help you out either.
A reliable daycare is worth its weight in gold, It keeps your children safe and allows you to focus on work when you need to during the weekdays. The good news is, there are a lot of great daycares in the Chicagoland area. This Cool Things Chicago article covers the best daycare providers in Chicago
2. Make the most of your weekends
On the weekends, working parents need to maximize family time. Sure, there may be a few weekends here and there where a work emergency pops up and costs you your Saturday but, for the most part, using weekends to unplug from the office and spend time with the family is key.
Luckily, in Chicago, there are a ton of fun, family-friendly activities to do with your family on the weekend. What’s even better is that many of them are free! Chicago is home to two amazing zoos (Brookfield and Lincoln Park) which have animals and events year-round. Hanging with the family in Millennium Park or on Navy Pier is also a rite of passage for any Chicago kid.
There is also Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium, and both the Chicago and Bronzeville Children’s museums if you want to add some learning into your family time. If you are looking for pure fun, check out the LEGOLAND Discovery Center or one of the city’s kid-friendly escape rooms or indoor sky diving facilities.
3. Meal prep
Everyone has to eat but cooking healthy and delicious meals each day can take a big chunk of time away from both your work and your family. If you’re not coking, chances are you are going or ordering out and that can take a big bite out of your wallet. For these reasons, it makes a ton of sense for working parents to meal prep.
Meal prep means taking time one day or evening (Sundays usually work great) to put together all the ingredients to quickly any meals or making the meals themselves and refrigerating or freezing them for the week. This way, you know are eating good, budget-friendly meals that won’t take your entire evening on a weekday to cook. Also, when you meal-prep on Sundays, you can get the kids involved and make it fun for the whole family.
4. Make schedules or lists
Different things work for different parents so this isn’t a how-to on making the perfect schedule or list for your family or your job. The point here is that every working parent should strive to find the best organizational system for them and their family and stick with it as best as possible.
This might include work and home to-do lists to help you keep the most important priorities straight or a calendar that clearly differentiates work and home time. Try some different things out to see what works best and once you think you have it, try and use it for your whole family. The more everyone can follow a clear weekly routine, the better everyone will be able to function.
5. Reward yourself
Lastly, it is so important for working parents to remember to take care of themselves. It is easy to get so wrapped up in work and parenting that you neglect your own physical and mental health needs. This is bad for everyone though. No family or boss wants a sick or stressed out person in their home or office.
If you feel guilty about taking time for yourself (you shouldn’t but we get it), make your me-time a reward for killin’ it as a parent or worker. Just nailed the presentation at work? Have a glass of wine to celebrate. Just got the kids on the bus without yelling and screaming? Take 15 minutes to close your eyes and do some meditation. Reward yourself and everyone in your life will be better off.
For any working parent, just getting through the day is challenging enough. With these helpful tips, hopefully, it will make each day a little easier. When things get easier, you become a better working parent and that’s great for everyone in your life.