As a full-time working mom with many therapy clients in the same boat, I’ve heard about and experienced first-hand some of the common challenges faced by busy, hard-working parents. Finding the time to do it all can at times feel very overwhelming. When you add social pressures and financial stress to the mix, it can start to feel impossible to manage everything on your plate. When we start to feel that way, it can be really hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but there is hope! Here are a few of my top tips on how to manage your time and stay on track with your goals as a busy, working parent:
1. Prioritize: You can’t do everything at the same time and not every task on your list is urgent! Try to break down your to-do list into short-term, medium-term and long-term tasks and go from there. What needs to happen today? Can anything wait until next week or even next month? Sometimes when we’re anxious to cross everything off the list, each item can feel like an emergency. More often than not, once you take a deep breath and start sorting through your list, you’ll come to realize that this isn’t the case and it will be easier to get started.
2. Get organized: Find a system that works for you. I personally prefer to use a hard copy planner and Post-it notes, but whatever works for you is fine! Whether it be an app, the Notes feature on your iPhone or any other tool, use it to keep yourself organized and on track. Make updating your system a part of your daily routine. For example, when you get to the office each morning and have settled in, take out your planner and glance at your list. Even though you are at work, are there any personal items that you can quickly check off on your lunch break or in the few minutes before the rest of your co-workers arrive? It can be as simple as placing an order on Amazon or replying to an email to cross something off your list that’s been lingering.
3. Remember why you set this goal: When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and with the urge to quit, try to reflect on why you set this goal in the first place. Working full time and running a private practice along with being a hands-on parent is hard and on the days that I want to throw in the towel, I try to remember why I signed up for it all in the first place. That usually helps put things back into perspective so that I can regain my momentum and keep on going!
4. Take a break: As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup, so practice self-care on a regular basis and take a break! This doesn’t have to be extravagant. For example, you can try going for a walk around the block on your lunch break, using a vacation day on a regular weekday while your kids are in school or waking up before the rest of your family to enjoy your coffee and morning paper in peace. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something that makes you feel good and that rejuvenates you. Although it may not always feel that way, you matter both at work and at home, so make sure to prioritize yourself from time to time to refresh and regroup.
5. Just because it’s on social media, doesn’t make it real: The internet is flooded with images of these seemingly perfect moms and dads with neat and tidy houses, well-dressed kids preparing gourmet meals following an hour-long workout who also claim to have demanding full-time jobs. Remember to take what you see on social media with a grain of salt and don’t let these images get you down. While there are exceptions, most working parents struggle with balancing all of their responsibilities, so no matter what you see online, know that you are not alone.
6. Find a support system: Who do you turn to for support when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Whether it’s an online forum, an in-person support group, other parents at the local park or your spouse, try to find some like-minded people who can help you through those tough moments. There’s nothing worse than feeling alone when things are difficult in life, so be sure to have a support system in place.
There are no magic tricks to getting it all done, but I hope that the tips outlined in this article are helpful. I often challenge clients in my practice to utilize them and they usually find them helpful and stress relieving. While there are no one-size-fits-all ways to manage your time and anxiety, these are some good tools to start with!
By Kira Batist-Wigod, LCSW, MPS-H