July 24, 2014

Q&A: Working parent readjusting to family life?

My partner is not always so happy to re-enter the family world upon returning from work. How do I help them adjust back in to our home every day?

Re-entering family life after being gone all day can be tricky. Especially now that you have young children at home. I have thoughts for the parent coming home and I have thoughts for the parent who has been home. Here you go…

Dear parent coming home from work:
You’ve had a long day. You’ve been giving it your all, and it’s likely you haven’t been sleeping enough, so I can imagine you are wiped at the end of the day. Ugh. And, unfortunately, when you have a baby and a toddler at home, going home is no longer the time when you get to completely unwind. Or rather, not in the way that you did before. When you leave work, you are going into a situation where the people who have been home are emotionally and physically drained. All of them are drained. Their emotional and physical cups are drained and they need some fresh energy to help them get through the last blast of dinner and bedtime.

My best suggestions are to:

1. Try not to expend all of your energy at work. Take some mini-breaks throughout the day so you are not quite as depleted when you leave work. It’s not like old times where you could go go go and then head home and crash. The people at home need you and they need fresh energy. Be mindful of resourcing yourself in little ways — good food, water, breathing, www.donothingfor2minutes.com, etc. throughout the day. It will make a difference.

2. Take time to shift out of work-mode before re-entering the home. Whether you do it in the car or before you leave the office, create some ritual that allows you to shift gears by taking off your “work” hat and putting on your “family life” hat on.

3. Check in. Send a text to your partner at home, with one or two appreciations and then give an estimated time of arrival (and please trust me when I say it’s best to give a time that is a little later than you think vs. earlier — a parent at home would rather be pleasantly surprised when you show up a bit early rather than annoyed that you are late). Then ask how things are going and what they are going to need from you that evening. It’s the parent at homes responsibility to check in and say clearly (and as kindly as possible) how things are going and what you will be needing that evening.

4. When you get home get LOW and SLOW. The people around you are exhausted and have been in their groove without you. It’s a tough combination. If you can come in, get something to drink and a snack and just go sit on the floor in a quiet, receptive and present state — (that means no phone, no computer, no asking questions — just sitting and relaxing and being open) the rest of the crew will start to settle in and you all can get back into a groove as a family. It will make it easier on everyone involved.

Dear parent at home with the children:
You’re exhausted. It’s wildly emotionally draining to be with young children all day. If you want to make life great for you and your partner her are things you can do throughout the day:

1. Get support. It’s too much for one person to be on all day with a baby and a toddler. All of you need fresh energy to keep things humming. Hire a mother’s helper or a babysitter to come in the afternoon to hang with the toddler, hold the baby, take both of them outside so you can catch your breath and make dinner. By doing this, you will not be as desperate for your partner to come home (and subsequently that partner will enjoy coming home more and sooner).

2. Make sure you are doing little micro-fill ups during the day — eat good food, drink water, check in with friends, take deep breathes, close your eyes for 1-5 minutes at some point during the day. Don’t go all day with the expectation that when your partner gets home you can catch your breath. It won’t work.

3. Upon arrival, give it a few beats. I am well aware that you want to hand the kids off as soon as your partner gets home. That makes complete sense. I caution you to slow down and recognize that if you can come together as a family first (see #4 above) you will buy yourself a smoother evening and more alone time. Everyone needs to come back into “resonance” after being apart for the day. Get down on the floor as a family, just be together for a few minutes making eye contact, hugging, playing, reading books (even if it’s just for five minutes) and then peal off. I guarantee you it will make it easier for everyone.

4. Be loving. Be appreciative. This goes for both of you but I’m saying it here. Everyone is tired. Everyone is overdone. Try to list a few appreciations so that everyone feels seen and cared for.

5. Be conscious of what part of your brain you are in when you are making requests for help. Our partners are hearing our tone more than our words. Get human and then ask for what you want. I guarantee your partner will want to give it to you.

Please share your thoughts below, I always love hearing from you!

Best wishes amazing ones!!

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    The rain it's sprinkling in south austin and I'm warm and cozy in my house with my kids. Although I've known the RE-entering into our home routine for awhile we stopped practicing it. I'm a mother to a 7 and 5 year old and Still get drained. My husband constantly travels so we are usually alone Monday thru Friday. Sometimes his returns keep him home for a week sometimes just 24 hours. We needed to read this again to remember how to be a family instead of a very grumpy on and wife and a tired and frazzled dad and husband. Thanks Carrie!! Lori Mannion
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