As a human being, juggling multiple responsibilities can often feel like a daunting task, especially when paired with the demands of being a parent and pursuing higher education. Ask me how I know! Everyone’s challenges are definitely unique and can often seem overwhelming at times, but with the right strategies and support systems in place, achieving a sense of balance between work, family, and personal pursuits is not only possible but essential for overall well-being.
Personally, I am a stay-at-home mother of three (17m, 8f, and 7m). My spouse is a 12-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces. We live in a small town in New Brunswick, with a giant dog who swears she still fits in my lap and our resident house panther. I am a solo parent about 3 months a year on average, and currently, I am in the beginning of the second deployment in a year. And to add to this particular brand of chaos, all three of my children are autistic. So over the years I have spent a lot of time learning how to juggle approximately all the things at once – and this is what I have learned.
For parents like myself who find themselves in the role of caregiver to special needs children while their partners are deployed, the responsibilities can be particularly intense. From managing medical appointments and therapies to addressing emotional needs, the daily tasks can be all-consuming. Adding to this the commitment of being a full-time student and possibly maintaining a job, it’s easy to see how the concept of work/life balance may seem like an elusive dream for so many of us.
Over the years, I have established some strategies that helped me along the way. While none of us have the exact same weight to carry, these are the tried-and-true methods that have carried me through the toughest times.
- Establish Clear Priorities: With so many demands on your time and energy, it’s not just important, it is ESSENTIAL to identify your priorities. Triage your day-to-day tasks. Determine what tasks are essential and focus on those first. Recognize that it’s okay to say no to non-essential commitments, and don’t hesitate to delegate tasks when possible. I can promise you, those dishes or that laundry can wait a couple extra hours.
- Create a Flexible Schedule: Flexibility is key when balancing multiple responsibilities. Trust your instincts and make note of the priorities you already set to help create a schedule that accommodates your needs and your family’s needs. This might include flexible work hours, transitioning to online classes, or arranging for childcare during critical times.
- Utilize Support Networks: Lean on your support network for assistance when needed. Whether it’s family, friends, fellow military spouses, or support groups for parents of special needs children, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Asking for help is the hardest thing to do, but it absolutely necessary, no matter what your particular brand of chaos might be. Building a strong support system can provide emotional support and practical assistance when managing day-to-day responsibilities becomes overwhelming – in the military community we call this our Family Care Plan. Find your people, and lean on your people when you need to.
- Practice Self-Care: You probably hear this a lot, whether on social media or on tv. But I promise, this isn’t just a trend. It’s easy to neglect self-care when juggling so many responsibilities, but taking care of yourself is crucial for maintaining your overall well-being. You need to make time for yourself. Maybe that looks like making time for activities that recharge you, like exercise, meditation, hobbies, or simply spending time with loved ones. Maybe that looks like setting a fantastic playlist on your Spotify and throwing yourself a dance party. Whatever you choose, it is important to remember that self-care is not selfish; it’s absolutely essential for being able to care for others effectively.
- Communicate Openly: Communication is vital in any relationship, full stop. Keep lines of communication open with your partner, children, friends, teachers, and employers. Be honest about your needs and limitations, and don’t hesitate to ask for support when necessary. No one can help you if you don’t let them know you need it.
- Seek Professional Help: This is one that I know sounds scary. But really, it’s okay to seek professional help when needed. In fact, it’s one of the most important factors. Whether it’s therapy, counselling, or seeking advice from academic advisors or support groups, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional assistance. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
- Celebrate Small Victories: Between the hectic schedules and endless to-do lists of life, it’s essential to celebrate those little victories along the way. Whether it’s completing a challenging assignment, successfully managing an awful day with the kids, or simply finding moments of joy amidst the chaos, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements. Every achievement is worth celebrating! Be your own cheerleader sometimes.
Finding work/life balance between school, kids, spouses, and everything in between can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. You can navigate these complex dynamics and find a sense of balance that works for you, and your family. Remember the words of the Doctor (yes, from Doctor Who – this author is a nerd, and apologizes to no one): “We’re all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh?” Your journey is a testament to strength, resilience, and unwavering dedication, weaving a narrative of courage and inspiration for others facing similar challenges. Embrace the complexity, find solace in the support around you, and continue crafting a story of triumph in the face of adversity.
Until next time!
Got a question? Email: [email protected]