How to Improve Work-Life Balance as a Working Parent


Here's how to get work-life balance right as a working parent

When it comes to work-life balance, two areas affect working parents perhaps more than any other: productivity at work and presence with their families. Yet these two essential states are often in conflict and represent a critical conundrum—to be optimally productive in your career often requires being less present with kids and spouses, and vice versa. How can working parents overcome this apparent dichotomy to be happier both personally and professionally?

Here’s how to improve work-life balance as a working parent:

Be “on” in whichever arena you’re in.

A common complaint of working parents is feeling like they’re always distracted and unable to focus on what’s in front of them because of competing concerns. It’s true that there will almost always be “something else” vying for your attention when you’re a working mom or dad, whether you’re writing a report in the office or making pancakes for your family.

But since you really can’t accomplish more than one thing at once anyway, why not make peace with what you’re doing in any given moment and give it your full presence, rather than mentally traveling somewhere else? A singular focus will make you more effective to accomplish more at work, as well as really “be there” in your parenting role.

Set your work-life hours intentionally.

A practical way to achieve the tall order above is to designate specific time blocks for work time and family time—even if you work from home or for yourself. If you’re committed to your productivity on professional projects from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or whatever your “office hours” are, then let yourself off the hook from work during the hours of 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. (or whenever your bedtime is) and use that time to be present with your family. If you give yourself, your loved ones, and your career the gift of this separation, all can flourish without being in conflict with one another.

Use self-care habits to be more of both.

It may seem counterintuitive to suggest unplugging from both work and family to achieve greater productivity and presence. But the fact is that if you haven’t fueled yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally—taking care of your own needs and catering to some of your most vital personal preferences each day—then you won’t be in top form to knock out projects or connect with family members. If you’re feeling distracted when trying to crank out a business project or unable to engage one-on-one with your child because your mind keeps wandering elsewhere, then adding self-care may be the antidote to both forms of mental malaise.

This could mean doing more of anything that’s meaningful to you, whether that’s carving out some space for a brisk daily walk or swim, getting involved in a reading group, or resurrecting an enjoyable hobby on your lunch hour like knitting or scrapbooking. And it should go without saying (but often doesn’t for working parents): if you aren’t taking care of your basic physical needs for sleep and nutrition, that’s the first place to make changes.

By becoming more intentional about your focus and ensuring that you’re fulfilling your own needs too, you can ultimately feel less pulled in different directions as a working parent, boosting both productivity and presence.

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