You knew things were going to change at some point in your life. Maybe you’re going back to work for the first time after being home for a few years. Maybe you succeeded in negotiating a part-time schedule after working full-time hours. Or now could be the right time for you to go back to school.
No matter what you’ve got coming up, any kind of work/life transition will probably throw you and your family out of your typical routine. It will take a while before you’re used to the changes in time and income and to the effect these changes create in your family’s lives.
So here are some tips I put together to minimize the pain:
Communicate the changes. It’s important for your family to understand that you aren’t making these changes just to torture them with extra chores. If you explain why the changes are happening, it doesn’t mean they’ll like the new routine, but if you point out how they’ll benefit, it may help. And reducing the element of surprise can make things easier, too. If your children don’t adjust well to disruption, explaining their new schedule in advance and then again as you implement the routine can ease some anxiety.
Negotiate and delegate tasks. Every household requires sacrifice and compromise. If you’re working less hours, you may not be able to eat out as often. If you’re working more hours, you may not be able to complete the same household tasks you did before. Your family may not want to contribute, especially if you’re asking more of them than you did before, but hard work and preparation for adult life are necessary to their development one way or the other, and so are the skills that come with negotiation and responsibility. You might need to compromise as well by letting some things (such as clean closets or your evening TV show) go.
Get organized. Once you’ve figured out how you can manage your new life, a visual reminder such as a chart or calendar can keep budgets, deadlines, chores, and routines in your mind when you feel too frazzled to keep track of everything mentally.
Ease in gradually. Can your spouse take some time off during the week you start your new job? Can you begin living on your smaller budget now? What about asking for a reduced schedule your first week on the job? Or what if you took a class or two now while you wait for the semester to start? The changes would be less sudden, giving everyone some time to adjust.
Hold a practice run. By setting everybody’s alarms and getting them fed, dressed, and packed up as if you had to be at work on time, you can determine whether or not the routine you’ve put together will actually work in real life. You could also find out if the caregiver will allow you to bring your children in for a day, a half-day, or even a visit to familiarize them with the center before they spend time there daily.
Do your research. If you’ll be spending more time at home, you’ll want to know about places you can take your children, activities you can do at home, friends your children can play with, and more. For those of you who are going back to work or school, find out what child-friendly resources, if any, are available from your employer to help you out.
Evaluate and renegotiate where necessary. Even if you’re as prepared as humanly possible, unexpected things will still happen. Take time after you’ve adjusted to your new routine to see what changes can make things go even better for your family, and be flexible enough to realize that changes are constant.