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Working Parents: Does Your Schedule Reflect Your Values?

Elizabeth Grace Saunders

12/02/2019

A very wise friend once told me, “Talking about parenting is like talking about politics.” She’s right.

Because of the highly personal nature of parenting, individuals tend to have strong opinions of the way things “should” be as a working parent. Being pulled in different directions — the expectations from both work and home, and the stress that comes with them — can mean parents struggle with questions like: Can I make it home in time for dinner? Will I be able to help with driving to evening activities? Can I even arrive in time to tuck my kids into bed? How much work travel is too much? Is it OK to take time during the day to exercise if it means leaving before the kids go to school or getting home later? Is it OK for me to see my friends if I feel like I barely get enough time with my family?

As a time management coach, my role is not to critique your parenting style but to encourage you to live a life aligned with your values. Especially as a working parent, that requires you to be exceptionally intentional with your time. Part of that is developing — and living by — a values-driven schedule. A values-driven schedule requires you to determine what is most important to you and your family, and then craft your calendar around those priorities, rather than fitting your family and yourself in around whatever might land on your schedule. This helps ensure that you can feel overall satisfied with your time and parenting choices, instead of feeling guilty or frustrated that you’re not investing your time in the people and activities that matter most to you.

Here is a three-step process to create a values-driven schedule, based on strategies I’ve seen be effective for my clients who are working parents.

Step 1: Get Clear on What’s Most Important 

Begin by listing these key items:

  • The categories you want to include in your schedule: Consider time for work, family, exercise, learning, social activities, alone time, hobbies, etc.
  • The level of achievement you want in these areas: Identify your goals and the time commitment required. Going to the gym to work out for 40 minutes three times a week is a different time commitment than training for an Ironman, just as making time to see some of your child’s soccer games requires less time than coaching the team. Be realistic about how much time you’ll need for each category you’ve written down.
  • Essential rituals for yourself or your family: Maybe you want to be home for family dinner at least three nights a week, attend a service at a place of worship each week, and detach from electronics by 10 pm so you can connect with your spouse before bed. Jot these routines down and how regularly they should happen.

Your time choices not only impact you but also the other members of your family. As you make this list, have some discussions with your kids and spouse or co-parent about what matters most to them. For example, maybe your son doesn’t mind you heading to the office before he gets up, but it would mean the world to him if you leave work in time to see him in his school play.

This is also a really good time to identify what’s not important for you to do. Perhaps there are professional organizations where membership would be nice but the decreased time with your family isn’t worth the trade-off right now. Or you may have the ability to get outside help with some tasks such as house cleaning, lawn care, errands, or handyman items, so you can use that time working on your side gig or spending time with your kids.

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    Work/Life Balance

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