How to Find a Healthy Work-Life Balance

British families are finding it harder than ever to balance their home and work lives, according to a new survey. The Supernanny team asks Mums how they are coping with work - inside the home and out!

Work and Family - the delicate balancing act

British families are finding it harder than ever to balance their home and work lives, according to a new survey released this week.

The British Social Attitudes report found that 8 out of 10 working women and men yearn to spend more time with their families. They also feel under pressure, with 92% of full time employees saying they sometimes feel stressed about work.

Supernanny blogger and Mum Sue Macleod works four days a week as a marketing manager in London. She says the multiple demands of a family and job can be overwhelming. “We’re all trying to be Superwoman. You could hire help with everything – washing, ironing, picking up kids… but I would feel a failure if I didn’t do all that as well.”

Between careers, commutes and housework, Sue finds it hard to spend quality time with her family. “In a big city like London, you work long hours then have a one hour commute each way. By the time you get home you have an hour with the kids before they go to sleep – it’s just not enough!”

Sue Macleod with her daughterWe asked four mums for their tips on keeping the balance... 

  • When you first start a job, or return after maternity leave, make your family responsibilities clear. For example, ensure your colleagues understand your childcare pickup deadlines, and they know you will need prior notice to stay late. An understanding work environment will lessen your own guilt as well. 
  • Be flexible. If your employer allows it, try to work three or four days a week, and see whether you can work from home for a few days each month. 
  • Make a contingency plan, so that if both you and your partner aren’t able to pick up your kids in time, there are two or three people who will be expecting that call. 
  • If you can work four days, dedicate your day off to spending quality time with your child. Sue makes Friday ‘adventure day’ and spends the day swimming, cycling, walking, baking cakes and snuggling in front of a DVD with her four year old daughter, Charlotte. She says, “Charlotte doesn’t mind that I work Monday to Thursday, because we both look forward to adventure day on Friday.” 
  • Accept help. If you can employ someone to clean, iron or do the gardening each week, do it. If you have friends and family nearby who can come around and paint a room or mow the lawn, ask for help. It will free up valuable family time and take a load off your mind. 
  • Find an understanding partner! Ok, this one may be more difficult, but ensure your husband takes some responsibility for the household chores. Give him a list and thank him profusely (and accept he’ll probably never thank you for all you do at home!). 
  • Lower your standards. Don’t attempt to be Nigella Lawson in the kitchen – a simple, healthy meal is all your family needs. Quality time at the dining table will do more good for your family than a gourmet extravaganza. Don’t shut your children out of the kitchen whilst you prepare the meal, but get them involved in the preparation. 
  • Stay organised, and make sure you dedicate time each week to home admin, so that you don’t have to stress about the small things. 
  • Don’t expect to have time for yourself each day - if you do it’s an unexpected surprise! 
  • Make new friends. Babysitters and kids will kill off the spontaneity in your social life – no more after-work drinks! Instead, make friends with other parents and meet for picnics and barbeques with the kids. 
  • Finally, switch off. Leave your work stress where it belongs – at work – and switch into family mode when you leave the office.

Do you feel like your work and family life is out of balance? Share your stories and advice on the Supernanny Forum.

Related links

  • Making Time for the Family: Making time for a healthy family, work and social life can be challenging - to say the least. We have this advice and some useful links to get you started.
  • Government sends in "Supernannies" to help British parents: As Tony Blair announces plans to bring in “Supernannies” to help curb antisocial behaviour in 77 areas of England, the Supernanny TV show has moved online to give support and advice to British parents.
  • Family Routine: As seen on the Supernanny show, setting up a Family Routine may help your family use time more effectively. Your child will be reassured by the routine's structure, and everyone will know what's expected of them.
  • Same Page Technique: Sometimes, it’s mum and dad who need to think about where they could be going wrong. The Same Page Technique is used on the show to open communication between parents, get you thinking about what you each do right and acknowledge where you could work together.
  • One to One Bonding: In families where there are siblings, the One to One Technique has been used on the show to make sure each child benefits from individual attention...

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