Every so often, a new article comes out asking whether women can have it all – or more fundamentally, whether women can have thriving careers and happy home lives. Some are feminist musings, others social condemnations, but few offer tenable solutions to balancing professional responsibilities and family relationships. Ultimately, small changes are often the best way to improve this balance.
From turning errands into entertaining educational opportunities to exercising with your family, there are plenty of ways to build those little extras into your day without busting your schedule open. Here are 4 simple changes you can make to make the most of every moment.
Make More Meals
Eating meals together is one of the most lauded activities in the pantheon of family bonding moments, but getting everyone to the table – never mind cooking something – can seem like too much after a long workday. If we reframe cooking as both a bonding and educational activity that we can do with our kids, though, it becomes less of a chore and more of an exploration, an adventure.
Cooking meals together squeezes in family time, but also helps expand your children’s palates, discourages picky eating, and helps kids learn vital life skills such as how to safely use a knife or stove, how to make simple meals, and how to think about good nutrition and dietary balance. Learning these skills young will put them well ahead of many peers who arrive at college still dependent on mom or a microwave.
Many working mothers squeeze in exercise by waking up before everyone else. It’s a good strategy if you want to read a book or get some work done, but exercising doesn’t need to be a solo activity – everyone in your family needs to stay active.
Exercising together is a great way to spend time with adult parents because seniors benefit significantly from exercise. Even a gentle walk at the local park or track can help maintain bone health and immune function, boost mental clarity, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, if your parents are in an assisted living facility or living on their own, exercising together is a great way to spend time with them and catch up with each other without being distracted by kids or chores.
Parents not up for exercising anymore? Your kids will push your fitness to new levels. Exercise with your kids and help them build healthy habits, improve their sleep, and skip those crack of dawn solo runs. Isn’t it more fun to play tag with your kids or have a pick-up soccer game than to drag yourself to the track at 5 AM? Plus, your kids will always remember how much fun they had running around with mom – and if you can get your spouse involved too, even better. Not everyone’s parents do that kind of thing with them.
Educate On Errands
Errands – it’s a loaded word. We associate it with a slog, with obligations and boredom. Kids hate being dragged along on them, complain about how boring they are, and ask you to buy things they don’t need. Many working parents would do anything to pawn grocery shopping or picking up the dry cleaning off on anyone else.
Instead of trying to shirk errands, find ways to make them fun and educational while doing them with your kids. Sure, you might not normally weigh your fruit in the produce aisles, but take the opportunity to teach your kids how to use the scales or ask your kids to sort the grocery cart by color or food group. In line, distract kids from the snacks and balloons by playing storytelling games that boost vocabulary and verbal comprehension. When you’re engaging with your children in positive ways, you’ll find errands are over in no time.
Let Them Lead
As your children age, let them help set the terms of engagement. Have a family meeting and talk about what needs to be done, whether it’s taking grandma to the doctor or store, cooking meals, or getting projects done. Then let them decide what they want to do, if there are things they’d like to do together, like go to a sporting event or shop for supplies, and give them responsibilities.
Don’t forget, creating opportunities for your kids to bond with each other, say by sharing in the cooking together as they get older, is also a valuable way to enhance your family relationships. It gives them a sense of investment in the family and gives you all something to talk about over the meal, and a concrete way for you to mentor and praise their developing skills.
Spending time with your family forms the foundation for lifelong relationships and the little things really add up. Having it all doesn’t mean doing everything possible at all times – it just means making the most of the moments your family does have together.