Work/Life Balance for Parents is Impossible

I’m just going to come right out and say it — work/life balance with kids is a myth. Just like the Abominable Snowman, the Loch Ness Monster and the aliens at Area 51, it is pure legend. In fact, you have a better chance of getting video of the Loch Ness Monster and an exclusive interview with one of those aliens than you do of achieving sustainable work/life balance with young children.

Our life is a perfect example. I work full-time and squeeze in some part-time work, too. My wife works part-time but on many weeks it feels full-time. We don’t have family around, so we do it all. Each day my wife and I wake up and ask each other, “What needs to be dealt with today?” After school events, shopping, chores, homework and housework eat up the vast majority of our awake time. That leaves very little time for “life” time.

I’m convinced that the best you can ever hope for as a working parent is to create some semblance of a workable system in your home that provides some sort of structure. On many days — and if you’re lucky, weeks — that might enable you and your family to get into a flow. However, as any parent knows, a crazy week of school events, a child’s illness or a demanding project or boss can change all of that in a heartbeat. That also means that holidays, weekends and vacation are sacrosanct. That is the nectar of parenting — the nirvana that we plan for, pray for and look forward to. Those are the moments to cherish, relish and make memories of.

I found this STUDY from the Pew Research Center about this issue. It says that the number of homes where both parents work full-time has risen from 31% in 1970 to 46% today and while those families are better off financially than families where only one parent works or one, the full-time parents struggle to perform their parenting duties and a majority say they do not spend enough time with their children.

Why is this? Is it because we’re all so full of ambition for our careers that we place our professional advancement above our roles as parents? Is it because our expenses are so high that we need two full-time earners just to keep up? Or is this just the way we live in 2015 with the expectations and demands on everyone?

It’s probably a combination of each.

And it’s stressful as hell. I put a premium on being with my wife and kids. It is the best part of my life so naturally I crave it and want it to be the majority of my life. It takes planning and flexibility but I do the best I can to spend as much time as I can with my wife and children. We build in family time whenever possible and my wife eschew our own passions — I haven’t played tennis or done yoga in years — in order to spend that time with our boys.

For us, my wife and I manage the work/life balance by working together as much as possible to get things done. Truly, that’s the only way to make many households function. I know dads who pitch in on any and all chores — laundry, diapers, cleaning, etc — while still working full-time. I know other dads who seem stuck in a 1950’s time warp where they rely on their wife to do the cooking, cleaning and everything else.

Finally, I think one of the biggest caveats about work/life balance is for a working parent of young children to ever think that things will one day get better. It probably won’t. This is what it is. You have to work. You have to parent. You simply do the best you can at both, make sound, reasoned decisions and get done what you can, when you can. If you cannot enjoy the moments today — chaotic as they may be — you will be missing out by always dreaming of a better day tomorrow.

(Photo credit: Viewminder / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND)

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