Doing the Juggle — filling tanks, building relationships, working and responding to the needs of whānau 

Parenting has often been described as a ‘juggle’—of tasks, needs and responsibilities. How can we work  while raising young children, and also care for ourselves? It might sound like a trick question but there are things that can help; we don’t have to feel like we might drop the ball while juggling, so to speak.

  • Focus on ‘tank filling’. 
    When we are with our children, top up their tank with attention, warmth, fun and connection. This can be setting aside time at pick-up from their childcare setting before rushing back into more work or household tasks. Or, if they are home while we’re working, do this before an important phone call or task where we need our child to be more independent of us. A full tank makes this easier!  And then there’s our tank—it needs filling too. Snatching some time when our  child is in care to do something for ourselves, or giving ourselves little ‘treats’ in our work day such as our favourite coffee or tea, a quick walk, or a chat with a friend are great examples of topping up our own tanks. We can also be conscious of how we use our evenings—racing around cleaning, and ‘getting a jump on’ tomorrow’s work, or for relaxation, connection with our partner if we have one, and any little creative or inspiring tasks that light us up.  
  • Create routines, time-savers and simplicity. 
    Routines will help our mornings before childcare go smoothly, and make drop-offs easier. (Everyone knows what to expect when it’s “this, then this, then this”). Systems for housekeeping and organisation can be time efficient, and lighten some of the mental load. A weekly menu that simplifies decisions and shopping while still incorporating favourite foods can also feel like a form of self-care. We can also, if possible, look at what we can ‘outsource’—perhaps getting a cleaner, or doing ‘click-and-collect’ groceries, or a delivery. And one last idea—if we have toddlers or older children, we can involve them in some of the little house tasks. Together-time and empowerment for them, together-time and ticking the odd thing off for us. Win win! 
  • Watch that inner voice. 
    You know the one, the one that says “you’re failing on all fronts”. Juggling isn’t easy. Working, caring for our children, caring for our home, staying connected to our partners, friends and other whānau, exercising, having time alone…these would make up several full time jobs and we’re attempting them all in one week with finite hours. Every week! Not one of us can do every one of these things perfectly all the time. Lose the narrative that we should be, and tell yourselves kinder things: I’m doing the best I can; I’ve chosen excellent care for my children when they can’t be with me; my needs are important. A great question to ask ourselves is, “what would I say to a friend in my situation”? (There’s a high chance it’s nothing about failing or not being good enough). 
  • Ask for help when you need it. 
    Perhaps you need some care outside of your normal childcare hours. Who could you ask, or arrange a swap with? Or perhaps you need tips or a listening ear —remember that your child’s ECE setting is also a place of support for you. Chat to Kaiako or your the Centre Director and share your feelings and questions. And then there’s your workplace. Speak up if you need more support (so often we feel uncomfortable doing so, but we shouldn’t). A proactive call for help is so much better than a notification that we’ve ‘crashed’ and will be out of action.  
  • Lose the guilt, and set intentions instead. 
    Spent a lot of the day on work calls when your child is home? Guilt doesn’t serve us, but an intention to play with full attention in the space between dinner and bathtime will. Hurried the drop-off? Sitting at work feeling you’ve let your child down isn’t useful, but making a plan for how you’ll connect when you’re reunited will. Had to say no to a meeting as you are just too busy? Realise that feeling bad won’t make you less busy, or more ready for another meeting—working out how to get through some of your tasks, or just exhaling and moving on are both better options.  

Juggling many balls isn’t easy, but some planning and flexibility can make it achieveable, sustainable and enjoyable. Reset your expectations, review them from time to time and adapt when and where needed. And don’t beat yourself up about it. Give yourself some credit. You deserve it.    

Childcare that begins and ends with loving care