This Post was written by my husband, Daniel Barker.
Disclaimer: These opinions are based on my own experiences and what has worked for me. Every family is different, and there are some people who these tips do not apply to. This post should not be viewed as a one size fits all approach, but rather as general guidelines that hopefully will help some people who are similarly situated. Furthermore, these tips are written from the perspective of a husband and a father, but definitely are applicable to any mothers and wives who are looking for a balance in their lives as well.
When I started school at Brigham Young University in 2004, I never imagined that I would still be in school 10 years later in 2014. It seemed even less likely that I would be in school, working, and raising two children under the age of four. As you can probably guess, what I least expected is my current reality.
In August of 2009 my beautiful wife and I were married, and in September of 2010 our first little boy was born. I graduated in 2011 from BYU and immediately began Law School. In 2013 our second little boy was born, and we couldn’t be happier. Now, there is finally a light at the end of the school tunnel – as I will be graduating from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in a little over a month!
Out of necessity, I have worked both part and full time while in school starting from the time before I was married in 2009. There have been times where I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to keep moving forward, but my love for my family kept me going. As a result, I have had to take a deep look at my life and figure out ways to balance my work life, my school life, and most importantly my family life.
I am definitely not an expert, a psychologist, or anything with an –ist at the end – but I still feel like I have some insights and tips that could be helpful to anyone else who is experiencing something similar.
So now I want to share 4 tips for balancing your school, work, and family life, and I hope that in some way it will help you when you are feeling like you can’t find that important balance in your life.
Create Reasonable Expectations from the Start.
I love spending time with my family, and I hate disappointing them. There have been times when I have had to miss out on spending time with them because of work or school. There are also times when I have missed important milestones in my children’s lives because I have been too busy. I have been blessed with an amazing wife who always supports in me in everything that I do. I feel like a big reason for that is because whenever I start a new school year, or a new job, we sit down and set expectations. This includes letting her and my boys know when I have school, when I have work, and when I have nothing but free time. This has helped me and my wife to be able to plan out our activities and to spend meaningful time together. It also has helped to cut down on those surprise moments where I have to disappoint my wife or my boys because something unexpected comes up. This doesn’t mean that your expectations will always be met, but it does create a base to start from
Don’t Always Keep School and Work Life Separate from your Family Life
I have heard from a lot of well-meaning individuals that in order to balance my work, school, and family life, I have to create a complete separation between all of them. In my experience, that is not always the best option. I have found that when I try to keep everything that is going on at work and school from my wife, I become more and more stressed out. It always helps me to be able to tell my wife about the projects I am working on, or to ask her opinion about a case that I read. This gives us an opportunity to discuss things that we probably wouldn’t otherwise. This also helps my wife to understand why I am so tired or stressed out sometimes, and it also allows her to help me through those difficult times. On the other hand, not every conversation should be about work or school – talk about it, and then move on to something else.
Take Time To Recharge
There have been many times that I have been so overwhelmed with everything that I wasn’t sure if I could keep doing it all for another day. Shortly after being married and having our first son, I began working about 40 hours a week between two jobs. At one job I worked three days a week from 9-5, and at the other I worked 5 days a week from 9:00 at night until 1:00 in the morning. On top of that I was in school all day on the days that I wasn’t working. At that point I still struggled to find this balance between school, work, and family life, and I rarely gave myself the opportunity to sit back, relax, and recharge. Now, I realize that taking a moment to recharge is 100% necessary. If you get the chance to take a nap, take it. If you have a class where attendance is not required, skip it every once in a while (but make sure to get notes from a friend). If you work for a flexible employer, ask for days off every once in a while. And if you can afford to take a trip – even for just a day – don’t hesitate, just do it. I can’t emphasize the need to recharge enough.
Make the most of the time that you have with your family.
This can be very difficult. There have been many times after a long day of work or school, where I have come home and the only thing I want to do is have dinner, sit down on the couch, and not think about anything until the next day. There have been times when I have done just that, and I usually regret it. Sometimes when my little 3 year old comes up to me when I am lying on the couch and says “Pweeze play with me papa,” and I just think to myself that I don’t know if I can do it. Usually I give in and go downstairs and play with him for a while, and every time it is worth it. Seeing his eyes light up when someone agrees to play with him is worth so much more to me than getting a few extra moments to myself. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take time for yourself, because you should, but when you are able to do something with your family, do it, and you will see that it is time well spent. This is especially true on the weekends. Most of us are lucky enough to not have to work or go to school on the weekends, so it is a great time to plan something special – an outing to the zoo, a trip to the park, or even just a BBQ in your own backyard. Let your family know that they are special to you by making sure that they enjoy the time that you do have to spend with them.
As I mentioned above, these tips are not possible for everyone to follow. There are many dads and moms who have jobs that take them out of the state for extended periods of times, or who are unable to take days off. There may be times when you can’t balance your life as you would like to. That is okay. Finding that balance takes hard work, but in the end, it is definitely worth it!