Work and Home: A Balancing Act for Parents Today

The following post is by contributor Christen Babb of Nurture Baby.

For many parents today, financial pressures continue to mount while the economy continues its  lethargic recovery.  Whether you’ve gone back to work full or part-time, away or at home, a paradigm change is created.

We’re challenged to balance our families’ changing  schedules and demanding jobs while maintaining our sanity.  Most of us already know the importance of staying organized, getting help from people you trust,  and learning when  to “unplug.”

But what other practical measures can we implement to relax and enjoy our families while at home?

This is current  struggle of mine, as I have gone back to work full time and with two young children at home.  In fact, it seems ironic that I speak from any position of authority, while frantically schlepping a breast-pump on a cross-country business trip and struggling to schedule meetings around  doctor’s  appointments, ballet classes, and preschool functions.

However, I do hope to leave you with some practical coping techniques to help create rhythm in your busy work-life schedule. I also hope to hear from you and encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by noodlemaps

Start Your Day by Eating a Frog

I must pay homage to Tsh Oxenrider for one of my all-time favorite posts on Simple Mom, Start Your Day by Eating a Frog. As Mark Twain said, “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

In essence, if you “eat a frog”, i.e. tackle the most dreaded item on your to-do list first thing in the morning, you feel productive and at ease with the rest of your day.

Many of us dread that “one thing” and perpetually put it off – whether it’s the monthly sales projections or that growing pile of laundry. When we mentally choose to do the worst first and save the best for last, it’s amazing how smooth the rest of your day goes.

I challenge you to read the rest of Tsh’s post. It truly revolutionized my working life.

Learn to Compartmentalize

Our male counterparts have this practice nailed. Meanwhile, we women tend to intertwine every aspect of our lives.  After all, we are the ones that keep it all together, right?

I’m not saying to ignore our God-given instincts – not all at.  I am saying that if we do find ourselves at a job that takes us away from our family for any given period, try to practice a healthy dose of compartmentalization.

That means, when you are at work (barring emergencies or your family’s needs, of course) spend those hours only focused on the tasks at hand. Don’t check personal email and avoid meaningless, time-sucking tasks that rob you from your daily work goals.

On the flip side, when you are at home, focus your energies on your family’s needs. Try to keep family dinners sacred (as casual as they may be) and take the time to simply “play” with your kids. If you have to “plug in” to check email or make a work deadline, make sure it’s after the kids go to bed.

Compartmentalization will make your work-life exceedingly productive and your precious time at home much more enjoyable.

Special Dates

Date nights are so important to maintaining a healthy relationship with our spouse. It keeps the lines of communication open and reminds us to enjoy each others’ company outside of the daily grind.

If you work out of the home, it’s equally important to take a day off every once in a while to have a one-on-one “mommy  date” with your children. Take a field trip to the zoo, paint pottery, have a picnic in the park. Make it special and about them.

Working moms don’t have the luxury of quantity time with our children,  but they can still create memories that will make a long-lasting impression.  Not only will your kids love it, but it also gives you something exciting to look forward to.

Photo by Catherine Ashare

Right now, working full-time is a season in my life. Like many moms today, I do not have the choice. Many, especially single moms, may not ever have the choice. It’s not ideal, but often times it is a reality.

Recognizing that a perfect balance is unattainable, you do your best to get through each day. These techniques can help keep a rhythm, though I admit, it might not always be harmonious.

While it’s a daily struggle, it has also given me perspective. It makes me appreciate my husband’s long working hours, and never take for granted time I have with my children.

It’s challenged me to set goals, work hard, and appreciate the special moments, for they are precious and fleeting.

I hope to hear from you, too. What techniques do you use to create a positive work-life balance, whether you work full, part-time, or in the home?

Online Knitting Class
Delightful kids' crafts delivered to your door!  See sample crates>>


  1. This a really nice post…I can totally relate to it because I am a full time working mother…my son is 13 months old now…I had joined work when he was 6 months and ever since then I have been trying to make the most of the time I have with him….Like you mentioned I feel that working has helped me to cherish the time I spend with my son…and it has also set me on a path of organizing, prioritizing, and routines which I somehow never followed before I had a baby 🙂
    I am not perfect in it and there are days when I go crazy….but on the whole it has added some structure to my life.
    Thanks for sharing your tips…it is very inspirational to working mother like me.
    Ranjeetha´s latest post: Books for Moms

  2. I love the ‘eat a frog’ analogy. It is so true that the day can get bogged down if there is that one task we are dreading…yet we spend all day thinking about it instead of actually doing it and putting it behind us!
    Suzanne´s latest post: homepage

  3. Christen, even though I work at home, the concerns are still very similar. In fact I’ve covered some of my strategies for keeping this balance in my soon-to-be released Healthy Home Business Guide.

    Especially since I work at home I have to focus on being present when I’m with my family and visa versa. It’s so easy to feel that siren pull of the to-do list or want to sit and watch a movie with everyone else when I have a deadline.

    The other strategy I have to add is communicate. Talk to your children clearly about the challenges of a job/business and the advantages it brings. Even when they are pretty small. It helps them to have a chance to discuss what’s going on even if some things can’t be changed. It helps them to also find ways to grow up a little and help mommy out by letting you work on something because they know what it brings to your home life. Like new shoes and dinner out.

    And don’t neglect to talk about work goals, challenges with your spouse and how that impacts family life and visa versa.

    Finally, I can’t wait to read Tsh’s post. But first I need to go eat a few frogs this morning!
    Sarah Clachar´s latest post: Thinking 101- Put Down The Book And Step Away From The Screen

    • Sarah, I can’t wait to read your Healthy Home Business Guide. I’ll make sure to bookmark your blog and be on the lookout for it!

      You are so right about communication….it’s so simple but easy to overlook.

      Appreciate your thoughts!

  4. As a working mom of two (ages 7 and 4), I know that your advice is right on target, especially about compartmentalizing. I do my best to leave work at work, so that I can focus on the kids when I’m there. I’ve found that anything I need to do for work can always be done–even more effectively, I might add–the next morning instead of 6pm.
    Date nights have always been a problem for us, although for years I have heard/read the importance of having regular date nights. The trouble of finding a night that works (my husband is a graduate student and works full-time while trying to maintain a solid family life and eat dinner with us every night), finding a babysitter, paying said babysitter, etc…meant that we only got date nights about once a quarter if that. Only recently have we found a solution that works beautifully for us: lunch dates. Most days of the week I eat lunch at my desk and so does my husband, but about once a week we take an hour or so and go out to lunch together. It gives us that time to connect without the kids around, the meal is cheaper, no babysitter is required, and, frankly, we have more energy at that hour to give each other attention.

    As far as Mommy Dates, I also sometimes will take time to go have lunch with my kids at their schools. The school welcomes this and my kids love “hostessing” me and, as a bonus, I get to meet and talk with their friends. After school “dates” are another thing we do–usually going to get a Slushie together (Sonic has a 2-4pm Happy Hour where drinks are 1/2 price) or even going to the park for an hour before heading home gives us the time to reconnect with each other.

    Great post! It seems I don’t often get to read posts about working moms anymore, so it’s refreshing to see the reality acknowledged that some of us have to (or want to) work outside the home.
    wesleyjeanne´s latest post: 202

  5. Jen Snider says:

    I appreciate your post so much! Thank you!

    This year, I took a year of parenting leave so my daughter and I could move with my husband as he started veterinary school. We knew we could only afford to do this for one year. Next year, I’ll return to teaching full-time and my husband will commute home on weekends. So, I’ll be a single mom five out of seven days a week. My husband is amazing and, I know, even though he won’t physically be with us for five days, he will emotionally (and that is almost just as important). I’m thankful we’ll have Skype, emails, and phone conversations. As you suggested, we are also planning various date nights (around his test schedule, so that he can relax and enjoy them too).

    I have found that the more I can think through next year and give my fears to God, the more peace I have. I’m not kidding myself, I know it’s going to be hard, BUT I trust that it’s best for our family and that God will use this time to mold us.

    Thank you, again, for such a wonderful post!

  6. 1. don’t bemoan my life. honestly, I wanted to be a mother more than anything in my life and its the most important thing in my life so I celebrate that everyday. I haven’t had a job (looking) for almost a 1.5 year now…that sucks but I’ve been able to spend with my son that I wouldn’t have to chance to as a single parent. so I relish every minute I’m with him.

    2. don’t act like you are a unique and special snowflake. you’re not. what is different about today? we have many more resources than our ancestors did. my great grandmother lost her husband and youngest child when they were 35 and 3 to the flu. she still had 6 kids to raise on her own. with little to no family to help having emigrated from ireland. she ran a boarding house and as her other kids grew they all contributed to the household. my grandmother gave her all her earnings except 15 cents a day, 10 for the trolley to her job and 5 for a tastycake. my grandmother lost her husband to an enlarged heart due to rheumatic fever at age 35 with her oldest, my father, being 10. she worked and raised three kids on her own, as a secretary, from then on. how many people now adays survive or don’t even get those illnesses. how many women are lucky enough to have a better education than our ancestors and therefore, while still making less than our male counterparts, are capable of making much more than we could have as a church secretary? or a maid?

    we are extremely blessed to live in this time. I can focus on what I dn’t have or how hard life is, or I can focus on what is good in life. which is a lot!

    I try to maintain a happy attitude. I try to be spiritual. I try to help my son see his good and the good in his life. I try to help others do the same. and I try to be thankful, every day, for everything I have including the wonderful people in it. and I make an effort to show them that and build them up.
    Nina´s latest post: letters from the road v 3

    • Thank you for your thoughts. You are right….we have it so much easier than many of our ancestors. Both my grandmothers were left “husbandless” at a young age without an education or any working experience. It was hard, but they made it. We are extremely blessed to have the opportunities, technology, and assistance that we have today.

      I hope that my post did not come across to negative…was not my intention. Just trying to shed some light on my personal experience as a working mom. Some days are easier than others… Thank you for your inspiration as well.

  7. I’m a full-time working mom of twin 3 year olds, and have a baby on the way. It is hard for me to find balance. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that allows a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I work four ten hour days (about 8 hours in the office M-Th, and a couple of hours at home in the evening), and I’m able to have Friday off. It’s not perfect, I get to be with them all day on Friday, but they want me at bedtime…

    I spend a lot of time trying to live on less, so that someday, maybe we can live on my husbands salary. I also try to make sure I’m not working to pay for the extras — I’m willing to sacrifice time with my children for health insurance and food and a modest home, but not for cable tv, video games and new cars.

    • Wow, I admire you so much! You are doing what you have to do for your family and I pray that this is just a season for you. 🙂 I am with you trying to figure out how to live on less!! Thanks so much for adding to this post.

  8. I think this article hits a lot of good points but has something of a major flaw. I think that with todays technology and resources its wrong to keep saying that Moms (because that is the target here) dont have a choice in choosing between working and being home with their kids. Its is because of this continued mindset that more companies dont allow their employees to telecommute. It is because of this mindset that more parents think they couldnt possibly make enough money working from home and spend time with their family. And yet Tsh, founder of this network is a perfect example of how you can make it work.

    I am one of those people who choose to leave a well paying job because I did not want to have to choose between making an income and spending time with my daughter. I’m not saying that one choice is better than the other, a lot of times you do what you think you have to do without exploring every option.

    I am told every day that working from home is impossible, that choosing to be home with my daughter only works if your husbands income is high enough. Because someone else told them they didnt have a choice.

    Please choose your words better. We all need support – whether we work from home or work out in the field. And we all have a choice. I felt this article was truly one-sided on finding balance from a working outside the home position, but as another commenter mentioned and as the first line led me to believe we all face the same struggle.

    • Thank you for your honest post. I knew when I wrote this post it could be a bit controversial because it’s a subject we all hold near and dear to our hearts. I am simply speaking from my personal experience understanding that everyone’s situation is different. I do have the opportunity to work from home two days a week. And I agree, sometimes, that balance can be even more difficult than working away from the home.

      For me right now, I really don’t have the choice. I wish I did. Some moms choose to work and I respect that. I love what Tsh has done and she is an inspiration to me, but speaking personally – without getting too deep into our personal details – our needs were immediate. My husband worked in the construction industry and work simply dried up. He had to start over in a new industry, new career, and it’s been a very tough road. Out of respect for the immediate needs of our family, I had to go back to work.

      I admire you for the choice that you made. We are working hard to get to the same place, as that’s where my heart is. 🙂

      Again, I appreciate your honesty and passion on this subject. I did not mean to offend or divide with my words, just speaking on the subject from my personal perspective understanding that every situation is different.

  9. The working dilemna will always be an issue, but the good thing is that many families are finding other options that work for them. I have an author friend who just released a book on this subject, plus I just wrote a series on surviving as a wahm, but is also good for a lot of moms in all situations. I will share both here!
    I applaud moms who seek to do the best for their family, whatever that decision may be!
    First post in the WAHM series The Struggle with the Juggle-WAHMs
    And my review on my friend’s book is below:
    Living the Balanced Life´s latest post: Good Enough is the New Perfect

  10. Thanks for this! While I agree that I CHOOSE to work outside the home, that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges and issues that we need to work through and find encouragement in. (Honestly, I think being a full time home mom would be WAY harder than my part time work schedule!)

    I love the practical reminders of the little ways we can seek connection with our kids and spouses. Just last night, we made a quick family outing after dinner (Free Cone Day at B&Js!) – it was a great reminder that we can still sneak in some fun on “work days.”

    I really struggle with compartmentalization. Here I am using my work time to read one of my favorite websites!
    Alissa´s latest post: Wordless Wednesday- Dance Party

  11. Great tips! My hubby and I have talked about swallowing frogs since the beginning of our nearly-20 year relationship. It was always a sort of in joke to us and it’s funny now that it’s so well known online. 🙂
    Magic and Mayhem´s latest post: Attachment Parenting 101- How do I defend my AP practices in a custody battle

  12. I appreciate the insight of this article and the conversations happening in the comments. I think for any parent the struggle to balance work with family is an ongoing one if you work out of the home or in the home. Each family and situation is unique and we all make the decisions we think are best suited to our situation. Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to balance it all but with tips like these we can reminded that there are ways to make things work.

    My biggest struggle in being self employed has been to learn to be unplugged when I’m at home. Even if we are there, kids see and know when we aren’t really “there” and pay more attention to our phones and laptops. I don’t want my son to feel as though he comes second to those. I want to live by example.
    Kimberly´s latest post: 3 Things Toddlers Can Teach You About Sleep Training