Balancing Family, Work, and School in Difficult Times

Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

Even in “normal” times, being a parent can feel like a full-time job. If you are the parent of an elementary school or junior high student, there is a lot to stay on top of — report cards, parent-teacher conferences, bullying… The list goes on.

For some, the time of life when parenting is most labor-intensive can coincide with the time when you are moving forward in your career, pursuing new challenges and the rewards that go along with them.

You may be working toward a promotion and a higher salary; you may even have to relocate to take that next step up the ladder. Or perhaps you have to go back to school to gain the skills or certifications necessary to qualify for the next level. Everything might seem to be moving so fast.

So how do you balance all that? How do you pursue your own dreams and ambitions, while at the same time supporting your children’s education and creating a loving, secure home for your family? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Put What You Can on Autopilot

With all these competing responsibilities, it helps to set up whatever you can to run on automatic. Use budgeting apps to make sure your finances are secure and put your bills on autopay status so you do not have to worry about staying on top of your monthly payments.

If you are old-school, use sticky-note reminders and wall or desk calendars. Set up your insurance so you know your health, auto, and home are covered in case of an emergency. Decide on your coverage limits, deductibles, and payments. Be sure you are not paying for more or less than what you need to safeguard the essentials.

Set Boundaries

Your time and space are both precious, so it is important to set boundaries and minimize distractions. Set up a dedicated workspace in your home and let other members of your family know when you are available and when you should not be interrupted, except in an emergency.

This is especially crucial if you are working remotely, as many have been during the pandemic. Some jobs will continue to be done remotely even after the virus eases.

Ideally, you will have your own room (with a “do not disturb” sign on the door). You might need to convert a spare bedroom or basement into a home office, clearing out old furniture or stored items in order to make room. Take inventory of these items, and discard what you do not need. If there are a lot, have a rented dumpster delivered and then removed, hands-free, once it is filled.

Set boundaries for yourself, too. As much as you can, stick to a schedule that allows you time to work, spend time with your family, and — if you are attending school, as well — studying and working on papers or projects.  

Protect your Financial Health

With all these competing responsibilities weighing on your mind, it helps to know your finances are secure.

As busy as you may be now, it is never too soon to start thinking about (and saving for) retirement. Once you start putting aside money for this, you can breathe easier, knowing you will have what you need down the road. Do your research now, so you do not have to worry about it later.

The same can be said for your credit. It is always a good idea to know where you stand and what you need to do to maintain good credit. Creating good credit habits now can ensure that you will have a resource to draw upon in case of an emergency, or if you want to make a major purchase, such as a car or home, in the future.

Make Tech your Servant, Not the Other Way Around

Be sure you have the right technology to facilitate everything you need to do, whether it is sufficient broadband, the right computer, a large enough screen, or an ergonomic workstation.

Tech is a great way to stay connected, whether it is through email, Zoom, FaceTime, or text messages. But it is easy to become a slave to that tech and run yourself ragged if you do not know when to set your phone aside or stop checking your email. Be sure your tech is serving you, not the other way around.

Set Ambitious but Realistic Goals

The more things competing for your attention, the easier it is to overextend yourself and set goals that are simply beyond your reach. Make sure your goals are realistic and you do not have too many irons in the fire. If you feel like you are starting to burn out, stop! Assess your priorities and pursue the ones at the top of the list.

It is important to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and block out a consistent time to sleep. Getting enough rest is often elusive for parents of young kids, so do everything you can to make it a reality. Resist watching TV, surfing the net, or drinking caffeinated drinks or alcohol close to bedtime.

It is no picnic being a parent in the best of time, let alone during a pandemic. Juggling the competing demands of parenthood, career, and academic pursuits can feel overwhelming. But there are steps you can take to stay in control and fight burnout.

By setting priorities and boundaries, working collaboratively with other family members, and setting a regular schedule, you can create a manageable path to personal and professional success.

This article is contributed by Ann Lloyd, Student Savings Guide