by children’s picture book author and mom, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.
As a children’s book author, my own children are both a blessing and a curse. Together they are my most potent source of inspiration, yet they are also the reason I have not written as many books as I might have had I not had to juggle three children alongside my career.
Balancing Family and Work
Managing family and work is hardly a unique situation – most parents out there face that same challenge every day. If you’re like me, you are constantly struggling with trying to be the parent you want to be and having the career you want to have – and ending up feeling like you are failing miserably at both. It isn’t easy, no matter what your arrangements are. But somehow, we do make it work, and though mistakes are always made, I’ve learned that parents who worry about how they are failing typically do a pretty good job.
Over the years, I’ve learned what helps create good work-life balance in my house, and I’m constantly testing new theories to improve upon that balance. I wanted to share some of my solutions with you – maybe there’s a pearl you could use in your own life.
1) Look for ways to blend work and life.
For a long while (until they hit their tweens), you are the most interesting person in your children’s lives, and they will do anything to be a part of yours. So why not find ways they can participate and help you which would also give you quality time with them? In my house, my writing career is a small business that requires a lot of work (in addition to the actual writing). There are promotional packages to assemble, photos to take, speeches to practice, ideas to brainstorm. In as many ways as possible, I involve my kids in these things. When it’s time to put together my packets of educator guides and reviews and brochures, my kids and I sit down assembly line-style, stapling, stuffing, gluing, and paper-clipping until the work is done. When I need to practice a speech or presentation, I’ll pick out the jokes and tell them to my kids as a practice audience – if they laugh, the jokes stay. If they don’t, I go back to the drawing board. I’ve also made my daughters my official photographers – they take my head shots, they photograph events when they come with me. It makes them feel like I’ve trusted them with a big responsibility – which is true – but it helps me tremendously. And, honestly, it is a ton of fun to have an eight-year-old tell you how to position your chin and which side makes your nose look smaller!
2) Find inspiration in your life.
This one might be easier for me than if you are, say, a firefighter or an accountant, but I think there are ways your children can affect the way you approach a problem, and when you are aware of how they have influenced you – and make them aware of it as well – it is a wonderful way to connect with them. In my case, CHICKS RUN WILD is a total autobiography. My children not only recognize their own habits in the story, but the illustrator of the book added a wonderful little touch – the chick’s nursery is actually decorated with pictures of chickens that were drawn by each of our children (my three and his two).
3) Do homework with your kids.
My daughters typically have 15 to 20 minutes of homework every night, and, obviously, I check their work to make sure they are doing everything correctly. I’m typically nearby while they are doing their homework in case they have questions along the way. But when I can, I actually sit down at the table and do some work of my own while they are working as well. For example, I might work on revisions to a manuscript or revise my brochures or postcards. When I’m done, I have the girls look over my work and give me comments, just like I would do on their homework. All of a sudden, homework becomes a shared activity that we all take part in, rather than something the kids do under my supervision – we are teammates.
4) Commit to 20.
Everyone’s heard that you should read to your kids for 20 minutes every night to promote a love of reading. I suggest taking that one step further – spend 20 minutes every night with each of your children, one on one. This shouldn’t be homework time or time for chores – this should be 20 minutes of the two of you talking only about the things that are important to you and that child. I’ve always asked my kids to tell me what their favorites things about the day were – it is amazing how quickly the 20 minutes go when your child is talking about things that matter to him or her.
5) Play hooky.
In CHICKS RUN WILD, every time Mama asks the chicks to go to bed and closes the door, the chicks run wild behind her back. And every time they get caught, Mama gets more and more frustrated until…she asks for an invitation to the party herself. Even though it is Mama’s job to enforce the rules, isn’t she so much cooler for being willing to break them every once in a while? Obviously, you can’t let your kids stay home from school every day, or stay up watching movies until midnight every night, but don’t underestimate the value of the occasional misdemeanor – your kids will love knowing that you are willing to be their partner in crime.
6) Don’t feel guilty for needing “mommy time.”
It took a long time for me to accept it, but I know now that I am a better mother for making myself a priority than if I single-mindedly focused on my children. All good parenting stems from sanity, and if you need headspace to maintain your sanity you should not feel guilty at all. And don’t let anyone judge what you do with your
“mommy time” – what you do is your business and no one else’s. Go out with friends. Go dancing. Read a book. Get a massage. Sit on your sofa painting your toenails watching GONE WITH THE WING. Just as your kids deserve 20 minutes of devoted time from you, you deserve 20 minutes of devoted time.
Bio: Mom and children’s book author, Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, sold her first story to Highlights for Children. Since then, she’s written many fiction and non-fiction books for children including The Mine-s-saur, Quackenstein, The Hog Prince, Ballots for Belva, Tightrope Poppy and her newest book, Chicks Run Wild. ** Chicks Run Wild teacher’s guide HERE.
Melissa’s Note: Thank you, Sudipta. We all can relate to the challenges of balancing our grown-up passions with young “chicks” at home! These are such great suggestions.
Readers, which suggestions resonate with you? I love the commit to 20 – this happens for us at bedtime. Jeff and I each do this with one girl and trade. But, I need to play hooky one day without feeling guilty! Thanks for giving us permission. 🙂