What are some tips for balancing work and family life in today's competitive world? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
The first thing is - as the saying goes - to see the water that you swim in.
In one generation we have moved from a culture where the breadwinner - usually the dad - worked pretty predictable/fixed hours. Like my husband in his first job worked 7.2 hours a day and then went home (or billed for overtime). Now professional jobs tend to run to a longer day AND require a lot of online connection before and after work. Meaning some people are actually connected into work 16+ hours a day. AND we now generally assume that households will be dual-income. So both parents work (assuming a two parent household). When you see it this way you realize it doesn't leave much time for family life so you have to take control.
The happiest families I see are VERY thoughtful and planned about their hours - when they engage with work and when they don't. And when they can protect family time (think shutting down devices over meals, at a certain point in the evening, etc). And also how they balance that as a couple (assume two parent household). Giving themselves space to scale up and down as the needs of the family changes over time.
One thing that can really help with this - and its easy to say but hard to do - is to manage your costs tightly. Don't take on a bigger rent or mortgage that you can really afford or renovate your whole home or get a new car plan because it will make you more worried about work and less able to step back when you family needs you. Also be smart about your commute: you may not mind driving two hours a day to live in the perfect sport but you probably don't want to pay two extra hours of childcare for it. Lots of compromises.
Essentially this requires a mental shift from pre-kids - when could work like crazy all the hours you and your boss wanted - to a life when you have other really big priorities you also have to figure out.
The trick is to be able to adjust as you go. Not get locked in patterns that feel impossible to change and that make you unhappy or stressed.
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