« To be able to get everything done, we have to organize our time efficiently and share tasks according to each person’s availability. »
Planning and a structured schedule are at the heart of the daily lives of Maryse and Jean-François, parents of 22-month-old Alyssa. Jean-François manages the fish counter in a supermarket, while Maryse is a full-time student at Université Laval, where she also has a few part-time contracts.
74% of fathers consider their employers understanding with regards to their responsibilities, while this number falls to 66% among mothers.
“I try to schedule my classes in the afternoon so that I can spend time with my daughter in the morning. I bring her to the daycare before lunch and Jean-François picks her up in the evening,” says Maryse. “To be able to get everything done, we have to organize our time efficiently and share tasks according to each person’s availability,” says dad.
“In spite of our efforts, time is a rare commodity for us,” adds Maryse. “I often have to work at home in the evenings, when Alyssa is asleep. After she was born, I also had to make choices, like refusing certain projects so that I could spend more time with her.”
“You need to act according to your priorities and to stop wanting everything all at once,” explains family coach Nancy Doyon. For example, living in an apartment may be less expensive than having a mortgage, and it demands less upkeep. And if your dream job requires frequent travel, you may need to decide to wait until your child is older. In the end, making do with less may make it easier to balance family life and studies or work. Lowering your expectations also helps you put things into perspective and tone down your desire for perfection. As a student, you can find out about the various resources associations offer within your university: low-cost daycare, activities for student-parents and their children (corn roasts, sugaring off, etc.), rooms that are made available to parents to study with their little ones, and so on.
Preparing to go back to work after a parental leave
The secret to a smooth return to work? Anticipating a change of pace. “It’s preferable to gradually get your child used to going to daycare about 3 weeks to a month before you actually go back to work. This time will allow your child to become accustomed to his new environment and also allow mom and dad to adjust as needed,” advises family coach Nancy Doyon. And it will help the first day back at work be less stressful for young and old alike.
Doyon also suggests taking a moment to re-evaluate the division of tasks between the parents and the older children, since moms on maternity leave tend to take on a large part of these tasks themselves.
Organizational psychologist Guylaine Deschênes advises planning a schedule for your various tasks (laundry, grocery shopping, meal preparation, etc.) and gradually putting it into action before you go back to work. This way, the entire family will be perfectly prepared come D-day!
The key to success: set up a routine, get organized, do things ahead of time and share tasks.
Don’t hesitate to ask other people for help and to offer some in return (carpooling, babysitting, small services, etc.).
Young children can also help around the house: they can put away their toys, make their beds, wash vegetables.