So you’re thinking about starting a family but feel like you already don’t have enough hours in the day. What can you do to prepare for this life transition?
I’m glad you asked. As a time-management coach, I’ve found that wanting to start a family, or having a child and adjusting to that change, is a major reason that people reach out to me for help. Having a little person’s life to manage in addition to your own requires a serious leveling up of time-management skills.
There’s no perfect way to prepare—surprises and adjustments are inevitable—but here are four strategies that can help, as you consider this life change:
Clarify what you want
Different individuals have massively different views of what they envision in terms of parenting. There’s not a right or wrong scenario as long as your children are safe and loved. But you need to figure out what works for you (and your partner, if applicable). For example, you’ll want to think about how much you’ll want—and need—to work: full-time, part-time, or potentially not at all outside of the home.
You’ll also want to think about what you feel comfortable with in terms of travel, evening, or weekend activities. You’ll want to think about what kind of childcare situation makes you comfortable, and feels feasible, given your financial situation. Maybe even drill down to specifics like how often you want to eat dinner at home or participate in bedtime. It’s very possible that your answers to these questions may change, but it’s good to consider them in advance.
Assess your circumstances
Once you have clarity on what you want, then you’ll need to determine what possibilities exist within your current situation and which don’t. For example, if you have an hour or more commute, that may have an impact on how much you can participate in certain family activities. Or if you have a job that requires a high percentage of travel or always expects evening and weekend work, this will also limit family time.
You may be okay with these limitations, or you may be able to find creative strategies to make things work. For example if you have a long commute, you may leave really early so you can still be home for dinner, or you may figure out a way to have some work-from-home days. But if you take a good, hard look at your circumstances and realize they’re incongruent with what you want for your family, you may want to consider changes like moving closer to the office or getting a different position.
Remember: There’s no perfect time to start a family, and you can make things work in almost any situation. But certain circumstances can make the situation easier or harder.
Get your work in order
Often pre-baby individuals work until their work is done. But once you have a little person who you want to see—and need to pick up before daycare closes—getting out of the office on time becomes a much bigger deal. Also, obviously, babies take energy and tend not to sleep through the night. So you’ll likely not have as much energy to do work at night as you might have had before.
What this means for you is that having clarity on what needs to be accomplished and organizing your time in such a way that you can get it done during the day becomes essential. If you haven’t done so already, start to keep a list of your tasks and projects, begin to plan your day, and then execute on those activities, preferably ahead of schedule. Staying late or trying to work on the evenings or weekends can still happen. But it typically feels like it has a higher cost, post-baby.
Start practicing your new life
Once you’re better organized, start practicing your new way of life. Even before you have a baby, see if you can start to leave the office earlier. Challenge yourself by making a commitment to your spouse or friend to meet at a certain time after work or sign up for something like an exercise class after work.
This practice will help you see what it takes to leave work on time and to try to get everything done before then. If you’re currently working on the weekends, experiment to see if you can reduce or even eliminate this work. This practice to contain your work will help you to have more skills in place before your bundle of joy arrives and will also give you an accurate assessment of what is possible within your current circumstances.
You can’t completely prepare for becoming a parent. Unexpected things will come up, and you will experience a big adjustment. But with these four strategies, you can be better equipped for the change.