Balancing Work and Family

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting here as regularly is because I have had an exuberant amount of freelance work this month. As some of you may know if you read my “Family Comes First: The Challenges of Being a Working Dad” post - I am a graphic designer. I have a full time job where I have a boss, an ID badge and an HR department. I also work many hours a month of freelance to try and bring a little extra income into the house. Sometimes I have rather slow months where I’ll only have two or three short gigs but other months I’ll be so busy that I sleep very little and am irritable but we get to pay all of our bills on time and maybe even save some money towards our vacation fund.

This month has been one of those good (yet tired) months. When I have a month like this my work schedule looks something like: Monday-Friday I work 9:30 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. at my real job and then am home by around 7:00. I then start freelance work at around 8:00 P.M. and work until midnight or later on average. My weekends are more sporadic with the hours but I’d say at least 4-6 hours each day. With all these hours being worked it’s hard to find the time to do much else.

Now I’m sure plenty of you other Dads and Moms do the same whether it’s freelance work, crafting things for Etsy, working a second night job or whatever it is you do to bring extra income to your family. I wanted to write a little bit about how I (think I) make it work without neglecting being a good Dad or a good partner.

Although you may not always have the time to spend the entire day playing choo choo trains or going to the park with your child it’s important to balance work and parenting in a way that is financially sustainable and mentally healthy for both you and your child. The way I make it work is to have a schedule. Now this doesn’t need to be down to the minute with alarms going off on your iPhone but it’s important to have some sort of routine. If you don’t it becomes very possible to get wrapped up in your work. Here are some things that I do that help me balance in a way I feel works for everyone.

Monday thru Friday our whole family wakes up at around 6:30 A.M. It takes our troop one hour from wake up to pulling out of our driveway and in that time each one of us has duties. I look forward to this morning time as it is a great time for me to bond with Sierra as I won’t see her for nearly 12 hours after I drop her off at daycare. I am usually the one who gets her dressed, brushes her teeth and make sure she eats breakfast. Now although those seem like nothing it’s a nice routine that is just Daddy / Baby time every morning. Mama does basically everything else including make everyone’s lunches and makes sure Sierra has all her things she’ll need for the day at daycare.

Next we bring Mama to work and then it’s just Sierra and I for the 15 minute drive to daycare which although I’m driving can still be a bonding experience. We talk, sing songs and just enjoy the last few minutes before an extended time apart. Lastly is drop off at daycare. Although not the happiest time it is still a moment to be cherished everyday as Sierra is normally much more clingy and affectionate. She knows she won’t see her mom or myself for many hours once I leave. It is met with lots of hugs, kisses and even tears some times.

We have similar routines for after work. Like I said I put in a good 4-5 hours every night during busy months so it’s very important to take time every night to also spend with my family away from the computer screen. Almost every night we eat dinner together. We sit at the table, eat a home cooked meal and listen to music. We do all the normal things:  the “how was your day” conversations, taking turns making sure Sierra actually eats, etc. It’s a nice thirty minutes where we just enjoy one another with no distractions.

Next we do the bed time routine where one of us gets Sierra P.J.’d and then I read anywhere from 3 to 10 (if Sierra gets her way) books while Mama and Sierra both snuggle up in the bed. Lastly is goodnight hugs and kisses and I shut the door and start work right away. I get as much done as I can as fast as I can so I can still spend a solid thirty minutes or more with Lauren at the very end of the night (computerless) before we both pass out to wake up and start the routine over again.

Although collectively that’s only a couple of hours (if I’m lucky) a day during the work week we make the most of it. The weekend is a bit more relaxed and enjoyable. We don’t have as rigid of a routine and my trick here is to just do my work during Sierra’s nap and after she goes to bed for the night.

I do my best to work as much as I can so I can provide for my family but I also do my best not to let it get (too much) in the way of truly being there and accessible at all times. If any of you have any tips or tricks for balancing work and parenting I’d love to hear them!

-xo Craig