Stay-at-home parents need work life balance too

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If you look at the standard conditions of a stay-at-home parents, you'll note that there's no allocated lunch break, no free tea or coffee, no weekends off (not even a night off), and no annual leave. You're on shift 24-7.

And yes, it is what we signed up for, but I'd guess that there aren't many people who could have predicted how all-consuming parenting would be, or how bone-tired they were going to be.

If staying home full-time was a paid job, we'd probably all say "no thank you".

Don't get me wrong, it's not all sweat-shop conditions in the parenting world. There are cuddles on the couch, good night kisses, and bearing witness to all those amazing 'first times', among so many other joyous moments.

But that doesn't mean you don't need a break too. As a stay-at-home parent, just how do you achieve this elusive work-life balance?

Here are a few tips to help you get closer to that happy place.

1. Get your partner on board

If your partner understands that a certain level of work-life balance at home will make you a better parent and better partner they will get on board with making it happen. Having a partner that is as committed to your wellbeing as you are to theirs and their children, will go a long way to achieving balance.

2. Structure your time

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If you are able to structure your day like you would a work day this will enable you to see pockets of time that could be used for yourself. Obviously the unpredictability of parenting a newborn or a toddler is hard to plan for, a loose daily plan will help reclaim a little bit of down time.

3. Enforce bed time

Regardless of how old or young your children are, enforcing a bed time will give you space in the evening to recalibrate. If you set a non-negotiable bed time for 7.30 you could potentially have three hours of free time, to spend it how you like, and still make it in to bed in enough time to claim 7-8 hours sleep. And if you've taken care of the fist item on this list, and your partner is supporting your efforts, you could head out of the house during that time, and then the world really is your oyster.

4. Do a play date trade

One of the great things about parenting is you meet other people in the same life-stage, often with children the same age. Think about setting up a regular 'play date trade'. For example, on a Thursday morning you have a friend's toddler over for a couple of hours, and the following week they take your toddler for the same amount of time. That way, once a fortnight you both get a morning off, without having to fork out for a baby sitter.

5. Find an interest completely unrelated to family life

I know it sounds trite to say 'take up a hobby', but if you have an interest or a passion that is completely separate from your family life you will find the time to do it. Think about starting a blog, joining a local craft group, running club or art class. These things can make you feel like yourself again.

When you are in this zone, you are not someone's mum/dad or wife/husband; you are just 'you' doing something that make you feel alive and happy.

Being a stay at home parent is one of the toughest gigs around, but also one of the most rewarding. Nonetheless, before anything else you're a human who still needs a break. Achieving that elusive work-life balance will pay dividends, not just for you, but for your entire family.