As a business owner and working mother of two school age boys, I know first hand the demands of balancing work and family. My boys attend different schools with different spring breaks which fall on consecutive weeks this year.  I find myself wondering how in the world I can manage to work for two weeks in a row while each of them is off school, needing to be occupied, entertained and kept away from twelve hours a day watching tv or playing video games.

 I am one of the lucky few who has the opportunity to work a flexible schedule.  What about the many thousands of other of working parents who have their kids off from school for spring break, professional development days and various other “no school days” while they have to work?  Parenting is a full time job.  Keeping track of sports practices, games, homework, playdates and doctors appointments can make a family schedule more complex that a work calendar and if you are a single parent or a dual income family, juggling family responsibilities with a full time job can be a challenge, if not downright overwhelming. 

With the increase in technology including voice mail, email, Blackberries, iphones, laptops and the like, employees are often asked to be available anytime, anywhere.   Now, more than ever, employees feel they must prove themselves and work harder so they can increase their value and escape layoffs.  When there are fewer employees to do more of the work, it can be  awfully hard to separate work from family obligations. 

So how can you cope with the demands of family and work? 

Here are the following tips we offer our clients:

1.  While at work, try to focus only on work and if you must deal with family responsibilities, like corresponding with the teacher, arranging snack for the sports team or booking doctor’s appointments, try to do it on your lunch hour so you can be more productive and avoid distractions. 

2.Try to give yourself time to separate and unwind from work on your way home. Listen to music, get caught up on personal phone calls (with a headset of course!)  or plan your evening in your head.  Turn work off.

3. Take a few minutes to take care of yourself before you jump into family mode. Change clothes, go for a walk around the block, take a quick shower,  or flip on the news for 5 minutes

4. Prepare and plan meals ahead of time so all you need is last minute preparation when everyone is tired and hungry.

5. Try to multi-task by throwing in laundry while preparing dinner.  Make cleaning up a family time with everyone pitching in to give you more time together in the evening.

6. Delegate chores and responsibilities so you are not doing it all.

7. If you must work at home, try to do it for a set period of time, preferably when they kids are in bed and but not right before you go to bed so you can relax before sleeping.  Make at least one night or a part of the weekend, work-free times.

8.  If you are overwhelmed, stressed or having difficulty balancing work and family, contact the EAP for professional assistance.

We have a wonderful worklife program as an optional part of our service.  Our worklife website is full of articles and resources on ways to balance work and family.  Our counselors can refer clients to resources for childcare, eldercare and families anywhere in the U.S