Work life balance: The importance of getting home for kids’ bedtime
For many, being recognised as successful at work is important. However, an increasingly demanding work culture coupled with ambitious and sometimes practically impossible targets, is bumping up the hours worked by the UK workforce. Striving to be successful, employees are often busting a gut to stay on top of their huge workloads, arriving at their desks early and leaving late.
The charity Working Families and childcare group Bright Horizons found this to be the case, and through their own research identified that parents are struggling to juggle their work; only one in three are able to go home on time every day, with two in five working parents consistently staying late to work extra hours in the evenings or weekends. Put simply, it’s becoming more and more common to find a work-life imbalance.
A good work-life balance is one where the amount of focus and time given to work is balanced with other aspects of home life, such as relaxation and raising a family. While the exact balance between work versus personal life varies from person to person, and may depend on factors such as age, it’s important to try and keep it as even as possible.
The Mental Health Foundation have raised alarms over the damage that a work-life imbalance can have on mental wellbeing, as neglecting factors such as spending time with family, that are able to make one resilient to mental health problems, is a cause for concern.
Not only is a work-life balance important for employee’s own mental health, but it’s also important for their young children’s health and development. The aforementioned Working Families study of 2,700 adults uncovered a worrying statistic; around three in five parents regularly miss their little one’s bedtime due to working late.
Having a consistent bedtime routine in place is important for children’s sleep. Sleep is known to be vital for everyone’s health, but most importantly for children. Sleep is the primary activity of a child’s brain during early childhood due to the rapid development and growth that they will pass through in such a short period of time. Not only that, but the quality and quantity of sleep achieved will directly impact both their mental and physical development. Independent sleep expert, Dr Neil Stanley can’t stress enough that ‘for a child, sleep is the most important thing they can do.’
A study by Pediatrics has found that children who go to sleep at inconsistent times, perhaps due to parents returning home from work at unpredictable times, often get less and lower quality sleep, which can be harmful to the brain’s development. Going to bed late can also be a big problem for children between the ages of 3 and 7 and can increase the likelihood of behavioural problems. This is thought to be due to the irregular bedtimes disrupting the normal circadian rhythm, which then also disrupts a child’s physical and mental functioning.
While the evidence is clear and suggests that if work does spill into personal life and causes for children to have inconsistent bedtimes, their development and wellbeing may suffer, working parents need not fear as the effects do appear to be reversible.
In order to ensure children are getting a quality night’s sleep in line with the recommended sleep duration for their age, it’s important to prioritise being present for bedtime, where possible, to work towards establishing a consistent bedtime routine. The predictable daily structure is helpful for children to relax and drift off to sleep, while also helping them to establish basic self-discipline. Bedtime is also a great opportunity for parents and children to connect and routines can include steps such as switching off all screens ahead of time, taking a warm bath, reading to them and dimming the lights.
Bedtime can be tough at times, but persistence in building and maintaining a consistent routine will pay off. Certain stages of a bedtime routine promote closeness between parent and child, help to soothe children to sleep. A carefully thought out bedroom layout can make the practicality of bedtime that little bit easier. If space is plentiful, having a bedside table and lamp next to the bed, along with a comfy chair for reading magical bedtime stories, is ideal. However, this isn’t always possible in smaller bedrooms.
This needn’t be a problem as there are many beds out there designed to maximise space, such as practical and stylish cabin beds. As these bed designs are raised from the floor, parents can make small adjustments to the routine, such as using clip on bedside lamps to make for a much smoother transition from storytelling to sleep. All bedtime routines will be unique in their own way, but parents can rest assured their persistence in sticking to a routine will benefit the health and development of growing children.