Parenting can take over our lives, making us spend every minute taking care of our kids. Here’s how to balance parenthood with other parts of your life.
Some time ago, I could drive to the gym at eight in the evening and still make it home in time to shower and read a book. I could also run errands (plural!) and feel accomplished for having done so much, all before noon. I could even cook home-made pasta, spending hours in the kitchen with my husband.
Now with kids consuming so many hours of the day, my schedule has changed. I’ve needed to learn how to balance parenthood with life.
As it should. Taking care of kids is one of the most difficult jobs, one where we’re on-the-clock, round the clock.
How to balance parenthood with other parts of your life
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Still, is there a way to balance parenthood? One where we can still enjoy our former selves, past hobbies and even keep in touch with friends?
Yes. Here’s how:
With yourself and your hobbies
One of the first people that gets put on the back burner with parenthood is… ourselves.
And no wonder. We figure we don’t really need to keep up with our old hobbies. We make sure the kids eat dinner on time but don’t mind if we skip it for tonight. And we even fill every spare moment with tasks, feeling too guilty to spend that time on ourselves.
But, as they say, a happy mom means a happy family. Ease the guilt by telling yourself your kids need you to take care of yourself. Here’s how:
- Schedule a day for hobbies. Some hobbies you can squeeze during naps (like reading), while others need several hours (like hiking). It’s really okay to take a full day for yourself. Think of it as your parenting fuel, with periodic days to recharge. Hire a babysitter or ask your partner to assume solo parenting so you can devote a whole day to a hobby.
- Make hobbies a priority. Somewhere between sleep deprivation and kid-related costs, hobbies fall beneath other priorities. But rekindling hobbies feels refreshing, and the only way to make them happen is to treat them like priorities. Mark them on your calendar. Set aside room in your budget. Treat them as you would any other work meeting or dentist appointment.
- Decompress between the kids’ bedtime and your own. I long for the kids’ bedtime, just so I can finally have those precious few hours to myself. This is when you can get uninterrupted time to yourself to do as you please.
With your partner
Even with all the hours in a day, many couples still don’t get a chance to talk. John de Graaf, author of Take Back Your Time: Fighting Overwork and Time Poverty in America, writes:
Recent studies suggest that dual-income couples find only 12 minutes a day to talk to each other.
Twelve minutes! Seems incredible, but when you think about the long stretch of a workday, the commute, the errands, and the hours of sleep… and those 12 minutes don’t seem so surprising anymore.
Throw in a kid or two (or three!), and time with your partner seems even more scarce. It’s time to reclaim it:
- Go on a date night. Ah, the ubiquitous date night that everyone recommends. For a reason: couples need time together, and preferably to discuss anything not kid-related. As SSBE readers chimed in, date nights can be a night out for dinner or even a special meal at home after the kids are in bed. You need dedicated time just to be with your partner—no distractions, no work.
- Gather for family dinners. Okay, so you’re not exactly away from your kids. You have three mouths to feed and wipe while trying to discuss adult topics. Still, gathering everyone together at the dining table establishes a healthy family tradition while making sure you get to spend time with your partner.
- Make plans. You may not be able to wing a spontaneous hang out or even a dinner date this week. Make plans, instead. Jot down on your calendar a time to hang out with your husband. Maybe it’s to take a cooking class together, a trip over the weekend, or even to drop the kids off with grandma so you can hang out the whole day.
- Discuss anything but the kids. Preschools, what the kids ate, and who seems to have a stuffy nose… If these are the topics of your date nights, remind yourself to discuss non-kid topics too. It’s easy to forget what life was like before kids considering how time-consuming they can be. But beneath the diapers and play dates are topics you find interesting and worthwhile to share.
With your friends and family
How was your social life before kids? If it was like mine, you ate at restaurants with friends, maybe you met up a bar or went out dancing. You went to every family gathering, reunion or wedding.
With kids? It’s been a little bit different. I’ve missed a total of four weddings because of being pregnant or just having had kids. I don’t see my friends much. Family gatherings are rushed and I can’t stay past 7pm.
Still, it’s possible to rekindle relationships with your friends and family even if you have kids:
- Exercise with a friend. “Let’s take a dance class!” I texted my friend last week. It had been too long since I last saw her, and even longer since I’ve done something I enjoy—dancing. Plus it’s actually exercise, so the benefits are threefold: hobby, exercise, friend.
- Invite people to your home. If you’re like me, you have a baby whom you’d rather not tote around or wonder where he’ll sleep in people’s homes. Easy solution? Invite people to yours. Keep it simple—no fancy menus or meals. This way, your kids are comfortable at home and can nap if need be, while you can enjoy the company of others.
- Commit to regular, scheduled outings. Sometimes accountability is the best way to meet your goals, including maintaining a social life. Hang out with friends to try one new restaurant every month. Have monthly get-togethers with your siblings or close group of friends. These scheduled outings make it easier to maintain your social ties.
- Have lunch with co-workers. If you’re lucky to work with people you get along with, having lunch boosts your presence at work and helps you find something in common with the people you spend the most time with during the week. Sometimes, parents find it hard to attend happy hours in the evenings. Grabbing lunch or taking a walk breaks up your day and connects you with co-workers.
With your career
Kids and career seem to have a pull on you either way. If you’re at work, you feel guilty for not being with the kids. But being with the kids makes you feel like you’re passing up opportunities and responsibilities at work.
How can you balance parenthood with your career?
- Make mornings easier. No one likes fumbling around in the morning trying to make bottles while whipping up breakfast. Instead, wake up a few minutes earlier than the kids, even just to splash your face with water. You can get breakfast and yourself ready before their day starts.
- Pack the night before. You already know mornings can be brutal. Prepare the night before: plan your outfit, pack your bags and lunches, have everything to take with you by the door.
- Get enough sleep. I know, easier said than done, right? But once you’re sleeping, your days at work will zip with energy instead of drag.
- Use days off to be with the kids. Those vacation days don’t have to be designated only for vacations but for one-off days as well. Take the kids on outings and errands.
- Use your lunch hour for errands. At your desk during lunch? Use that time to schedule appointments or buy diapers (in the store or even online).
- Establish your limits. Whether leaning in or out, establish your limits. I applaud moms for aiming high, but not to the detriment of their health or relationships.
- Find support with your partner. Mothers pushing forward with their careers will have an easier time with the support of their partners. This might mean dads work a later shift so mom can work an earlier one. Or dad stays at home so mom can dedicate more time to her career.
No doubt, parenthood changes our lives. We have less time to ourselves, our hobbies, friends, family, partners and careers. For such little people, kids sure do take up a ton of our time.
But no matter how much our kids need us, it’s still possible—necessary, even—to balance parenthood with other parts of our lives. It may not mean living exactly how we used to, but we can still incorporate our hobbies and special relationships into parenthood.
I’ve yet to make that homemade pasta again, and I haven’t driven to the gym in years (though I can’t blame parenthood for that!). But we can still find ways to prioritize other parts of our lives, even with the time constraints and responsibilities of being a mom.
Get more tips:
- The Surprising Factor that Gives You Work-Life Balance
- How to Make Time for Yourself (Even If You Have Kids!)
- The Biggest Reason Parents Should Have a Life Besides Kids
- How to Have a Social Life (Even If You Have Kids)
- How Important Are Looks to You Now that You’re a Mom?
Your turn: How do you balance parenthood? What are the biggest challenges you face trying to balance parenthood with everything else? Share your stories in the comments!
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