Working Parents: End-of-Day Tips for Transitioning from Work Life to Home Life
I consider myself to be very lucky with my child care situation. Not only do I have access to high-quality care, but the daycare center is also located right across the parking lot from my office which for the most part, couldn’t be more convenient. I spend no more than a minute on my “commute” from the Bright Horizons center to my office which means I get to maximize mine and Liam’s daily time together. I have a commuting buddy which has become increasingly entertaining as Liam has learned to express himself more and we have conversations in the car. “I Spy” games and deep (and hilarious) conversations about the characters in the Cars movie have become a regular part of our daily routine.
But, for sure there is a trade off. Because the center is near my work, child care responsibilities sit almost entirely on my shoulders. And, something I’ve discussed a few times recently with moms in similar situations, there is no “wind down” time between when the work day ends and when the night with your child(ren) begins. I’ve sometimes found myself envious of my husband who takes the train to work and has even a few brief minutes to read, listen to music or even stare out the window before transitioning to home life.
So what’s a parent to do that finds themselves with no or little down time between work and pick up? Here are a few things I’ve found to be helpful.
Gearing Up for Pick Up: Tips for Transitioning from Work Life to Home Life
1. Make a to-do list for the next morning before you leave work. This has really helped me to shut off my work brain when I leave the office each day. If it’s a particularly busy day and I’m going to need to log on again after Liam is in bed, I make a list that I take with me of emails to respond to or things to make sure I do that night. Having that information written down somewhere allows me to much more easily let go of the unfinished business of the day.
2. Plan ahead. Nothing makes me feel more unhinged on a weekday than not knowing what “the plan” is for a particular night. From the dinner menu to whether it’s a bath night or if we have any special plans or things we’ll do after work, I try to have the night mapped out and talk to Liam about it each morning so we each know what to expect after work. Turns out both preschoolers AND their working mamas thrive on routine and well established expectations.
3. Fuel up. Back in the early days as a working parent, I frequently found myself exhausted and famished when I got out of work which led to low energy (followed, of course, by incredible guilt) for the nightly routine. Now, I make sure I am fully fueled up before I leave work and it’s made a huge difference. I always have a granola bar and/or piece of fruit shortly before leaving work and make sure to fill up my water bottle (or after really long days, coffee mug) for the ride home. I also try to remember to fill up Liam’s water bottle so he too has some fresh water for the ride home each night.
4. Pack up for the transition. I walk about 50 feet from my office door to the door of Liam’s child care center but I still make a point to stop at my car before pick up, even if it’s out of the way, to make my official transition. Work bags get dropped off, snacks and drinks (for Liam and me) get strategically placed, toys strewn in the back seat get moved for easy reach. I make sure the car is ready to go so when I get back there with Liam, my only concern is getting him in and hitting the road. I’ve also started keeping a supply of comfy sandals and extra hair elastics so I can make sure I’m totally comfortable on the way home.
5. Take a minute (or two) for yourself. Being as close as I am to Liam’s center meant I often found myself racing from work to the center, not wanting to miss a minute more than I had to with him. As time has gone by I’ve come to realize that it is okay to hit pause for a second after work if I feel like I need it. On days where I’m particularly stressed or wound up, I’ll take a quick lap around the parking lot or do a quick stretch in my office before I leave. I’d much rather be a few minutes later for pick-up but feel ready to chat and play and handle the barrage of questions that now come my way on the ride home. If two minutes is going to help me be more present and engaged with him after pick up, I’m all for it.
What about you? How do you transition between work life and home life at the end of a busy day at the office?
Do you want more guidance on how to balance your work life and home life?
Use the below player to download, follow, and listen to Episode 2 of the Bright Horizons Family Matters Podcast: Making Modern Family Life Work. Click here to learn more about the Bright Horizons Family Matters Podcast.