For the majority of working professionals, finding quality time to spend with loved ones can be a delicate balancing act. But working parents do not have to wait until retirement to enjoy being in the company of their families. With some fine tuning, anyone can find ways to spend more time with their children, spouse, extended families, and friends.
• Eat dinner together every night. Eating dinner as a family enables everyone to be a part of one another’s day and discuss important issues facing the family. According to The Family Dinner Project, eating as a family can boost kids’ academic performance, lower their risk of substance abuse and provide an opportunity for parents to gauge the emotional and physical well-being of their children. Avoid activities that cut into dinner time and rearrange work schedules to accommodate nightly meals with the family.
• Switch work hours. Many employers understand the benefits of flex time. If possible, leave the office at 4 p.m. to make it home for family time, and then log back on remotely at 7 p.m. to finish the day’s work. Working from home also reduces commute time, which can free up more time to spend with loved ones.
• Put it on the calendar. Many families have to abide by a calendar to stay organized. Family time may fall by the wayside unless it is scheduled. Treat it as any important event so it becomes a priority.
• Work together. Family time need not be limited to recreation or leisure. Get the entire family involved in a chore or project so you can work together toward a common goal. Landscaping, painting a room in the house or even grocery shopping are some examples of chores that can be turned into family time.
• Enjoy family media. Instead of retiring to separate corners of the house with tablets or mobile phones in tow, find a TV series everyone can enjoy together. Spend some binge-worthy hours seeing how stories unfold, taking time to discuss each episode when it ends.
Family time is something that takes work, but making it a priority can offer real benefits.
Balancing professional responsibilities with commitments at home is challenging for many working parents, the majority of whom admit to feeling stressed about juggling work and family life. A 2013 survey from the Pew Research Center found that 56 percent of working mothers and 50 percent of working fathers find it difficult to balance their personal and professional responsibilities. While the same survey found that only 23 percent of mothers feel they spend too little time with their children, those figures doubled for fathers. Finding more time for family can seem impossible, especially as children get older and get more involved in school and extracurricular activities. Kids growing up and getting more active in school and in their social lives tends to coincide with parents advancing in their careers and taking on more responsibilities at work. But no matter how hectic family schedules become, parents and kids can work together to find more time for one another.
• Commit to nightly family dinners.
Family dinners do more than just ensure kids are eating healthy meals each night. In its “The Importance of Family Dinners VIII” report, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that, compared to teens who have fewer than three family dinners per week, teens who ate dinner with their families five or more times per week were one a half times more likely to say their parents knew a great deal or a fair amount about what’s really going on in their lives. The report also found teens who say their parents know very little or nothing at all about their lives were one and a half times more likely to have used marijuana and one and a half times more likely to have used alcohol than teens who said their parents know a great deal or a fair amount about their lives. Nightly family dinners need not include elaborate meals, but parents who find time to have dinner with their children at least five nights per week may end up knowing their kids better and helping their sons and daughters avoid risky behaviors.
• Inquire with your employer about telecommuting.
Telecommuting can be very family-friendly, allowing parents to cut out potentially lengthy commutes and spend more time with their children as a result. George Washington University in Washington, D.C. cites encouraging a better work-life balance for its employees in support of its telecommuting policy. The university notes that employees who have a better balance between their personal and professional lives may benefit from reduced stress and stronger overall health, which benefits the university by reducing healthcare costs. Parents who want to find more time for their families should inquire about telecommuting. Even if it’s just one or two days a week, the benefits can be considerable for both employee and employer.
• Move closer to work.
Commuting consumes a considerable amount of time. In its 2015 ThankYou Premier Commuter Index, Citi found that the average commute in the United States is 45 minutes, and that those commutes cost workers nearly $2,600 per year. By moving closer to their offices, workers can instantly create more time for their families and potentially save themselves considerable amounts of money. Parents need not reinvent the wheel to find more time for their family, which can greatly benefit kids and parents alike.